Purdue Polytechnic Englewood — a charter high school on the Near East Side of Indianapolis — becomes IHSAA baseball tournament-eligible in 2023. The Techies are part of a Class 3A sectional grouping with Beech Grove, Christel House, Herron, Speedway and Washington. Purdue Polytechnic Englewood (enrollment around 580) is a member of the Greater Indianapolis Conference (with Christel House, Eminence, Indiana Math & Science, Irvington Prep, Metropolitan, Riverside, Tindley, Victory Prep and Washington). IMS and Victory Prep are not expected to field baseball teams in 2023. Eric James, who is an IT Specialist at the school and coached offensive linemen for the past four Purdue Polytechnic Englewood football seasons, is the Techies first-year head coach for the third-year baseball program. James was an assistant to Ryan Broadstreet in 2021 and 2022. Player development is a priority for James. “At our school a lot of the students don’t come to the school for athletics,” says James. “The guys that do come out have a love of baseball. I want to see strides of improvement. That’s my satisfaction.” James is a 2013 graduate of Arsenal Tech High School in Indianapolis, where he played football, baseball and golf and participated for a short time in wrestling. He was an Information Technology major and Management Information Systems minor at Indiana State University, graduating in 2017. Purdue Polytechnic Englewood players participated in the Indianapolis RBI program in the summer and fall. “That allowed them to get more reps and opportunities to play the game,” says James, who is assisted by Donald Baker III and Derrick Strode and expects around 18 players for a varsity-only season at Purdue Polytechnic Englewood in the spring. “We’re trying to get some recognition so our guys can play at the next level.” The winter IHSAA Limited Contact Period is going on now. “We’re just trying to get in as much of the fundamentals as possible,” says James, who has his Techies improving their footwork, agility as well as catching and throwing techniques. “We’re putting emphasis on fundamentals and why they do things and how it effects them on the field. “We’re getting them as much baseball knowledge as we can.” James attended his first Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association State Clinic Jan. 12-14 in Indianapolis. He picked up many pointers on drills, strength and conditioning and more. “It was very informative,” says James. “I did enjoy my time there.” The Schweitzer Center at Englewood houses Purdue Polytechnic Englewood and Paramount Englewood (elementary). The schools are in the renovated P.R. Mallory Building. Techies athletics use the facilities at T.C. Howe Community High School located about two miles to the east. Purdue Polytechnic North is located in the former Broad Ripple High School. The Lynx have separate sports programs.
Illinois junior college baseball has long been a destination for Indiana players. Many have used the two-year institutions to springboard into a four-year school or the professional ranks. Our neighbors to the west sport 41 National Junior College Athletic Association programs in Division I, II and III (Regions 4 or 24). There is a difference between divisions. NJCAA Divisions I and II can offer up to 24 athletic scholarships. Division III schools do not. Most (but not all) junior colleges have other scholarship and financial aid options. Illinois’ NJCAA D-I teams include Frontier Community College (Fairfield), John A. Logan College (Carterville), Kakaskia College (Centralia), Kishwaukee College (Malta), Lake Land College (Mattoon), Lincoln Trail College (Robinson), Olive-Harvey College (Chicago), Olney Central College (Olney), Rend Lake College (Ina), Shawnee CC (Ullin), South Suburban College (South Holland), Southeastern Illinois College (Harrisburg), Southwestern Illinois College (Swansea), Triton College (River Grove) and Wabash Valley College (Mount Carmel). Wabash Valley went 59-9 and qualified for the 2022 NJCAA D-I World Series in Grand Junction, Colo. “We’ve been very fortunate,” says Wabash Valley coach Aaron Biddle, who is in his eighth season with the Warriors and first as head coach in 2023. “We’ve had some very good Indiana kids over the years. We’re just right across the border form Princeton, Ind. Getting into Evansville and going up to Indianapolis are great recruiting sources for us. “Our conference is real competitive.” John A. Logan, Kakaskia, Lake Land, Lincoln Trail, Olney Central, Rend Lake, Shawnee, Southeastern Illinois, Southwestern Illinois and Wabash Valley is in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference. WVC plays mostly D-I schools with a few D-II’s sprinkled in. “The more D-I opponents you have on your schedule the better it is for your (RPI) rankings,” says Biddle. What does “JUCO Bandit” means to Biddle, who started his college playing career at former NJCAA D-III St. Catharine in Kentucky and finished at NCAA D-II Kentucky Wesleyan. “Maybe he’s not be getting the offers he wants at (NCAA) D-I or a big school and he’s going to bet on himself and he’s going to go the JUCO route, grind for two years and get better everyday and definitely get that offer he’s not getting right now,” says Biddle. “We get to spend a lot of time with our guys. We get to be with them almost every single day. There’s not a lot of restrictions on how much practice time we have. “The big things is that in the fall, we get to play 14 dates. We get to play every weekend. Guys are getting all those extra innings and they’re getting to compete. That’s a big thing for us. “In baseball you’ve got to play to get better.” Biddle says the funnest aspect of his job is seeing players land at their dream school. South Suburban posted a 42-19 record in 2022. Kevin Bowers has been head coach at Lincoln Trail since the 2010 season. That was the sophomore season of Justin Hancock (who went on to pitch in the big leagues and is now an Indiana State University assistant). Bowers was on the LTC staff since 2001 and was an assistant to then-Statesmen head coach Mitch Hannahs (who is now head coach at Indiana State). Bowers coached at ISU for the 2000 season. Lincoln Trail is about 10 miles from the Indiana line and 40 miles from ISU. “The talent level is just off the chart,” says Bowers. “I’m certainly not knocking the state of Illinois. We’ve had a great deal of success with kids out of Indiana.” Bowers has a take on “JUCO Bandit.” “We develop an ‘ask no quarter, take no quarter’ mentality,” says Bowers. “We don’t want for a lot. We don’t need a lot. But we try to get a lot done. “’Bandit has that negative connotation to it. When you go to junior college your mindset is that you’re foregoing the 100,000-seat football stadium. There’s not a lot of nightlife. Campus activities are geared around the athletics. You develop a worker’s mentality. “There’s not a lot of thrills, but the talent at this level is crazy good.” Bowers said there was a time when junior college baseball was battling the perception that their players had got booted from another school or could not make grades. “Our guys are getting it done in the classroom and they’re getting it done on the field,” says Bowers, whose program earned a 2021-22 American Baseball Coaches Association Team Excellence Award for posting a grade-point average of 3.0 or above. “It’s a situation where academically you’re not going to lose ground.” Illinois’ NJCAA D-II squads are Black Hawk-Moline College (Moline), Carl Sandburg College (Galesburg), Danville Area CC (Danville), Elgin CC (Elgin), Heartland CC (Normal), Highland College (Freeport), Illinois Central College (East Peoria), Illinois Valley CC (Oglesby), John Wood CC (Quincy), Kankakee CC (Kankakee), College of Lake County (Grayslake), Lewis & Clark CC (Godfrey), Lincoln Land CC (Springfield), McHenry County College (Crystal Lake), Moraine Valley CC (Palos Heights), Morton College (Cicero), Parkland College (Champaign), Prairie State College (Chicago Heights), Sauk Valley CC (Dixon) and Spoon River College (Canton). Heartland (49-10) played in the 2022 NJCAA D-II World Series in Enid, Okla. The Mid-West Athletic Conference features Heartland, Danville Area, Illinois Central, John Wood, Lewis & Clark, Lincoln Land, Parkland and Spoon River plus Vincennes (Ind.) University. Also in 2022, Kankakee went 43-17, McHenry 40-18, Black Hawk-Moline 35-20, Lake County 32-20 and Morton 32-20. Illinois’ NJCAA D-III features College of DuPage (Glen Ellyn), Harper College (Palatine), Joliet Junior College (Joliet), Oakton CC (Skokie), Rock Valley College (Rockport) and Waubonsee CC (Sugar Grove). The Arrowhead Conference is made up of Black Hawk-Moline, Carl Sandburg, Highland, Illinois Valley, Kishwaukee and Sauk Valley. Oakton (34-28-1) competed in the 2022 NJCAA D-III World Series in Greenville, Tenn. Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference includes Lake County, Elgin, McHenry County, Moraine Valley, Morton, Oakton, Prairie State and Waubonsee. Since 1993, Triton is a two-time D-I World Series runner-up (1993 and 1994). D-II World Series titles were earned by Kishwaukee (1999), Lincoln Land (2000), Parkland (2002 and 2009) and Kankakee (2017). Parkland was also a runner-up in 2018. Joliet earned D-III World Series championships in 1994, 2008 and 2012 and placed second in 1995 and 2015. Oakton reigned in D-III in 2018 and Waubonsee was runner-up in 1996.
The Terre Haute Rex have been on the summer collegiate wood bat baseball scene since 2010. Terre Haute native Bruce Rosselli was there at the start. A 1976 North Vigo High School graduate and former Indiana State University track and field decathlete who went on to spend 17 years as an elite bobsled driver (he is a three-time national champion, two-time world champion and a winner in the Europa Cup and Americas Cup), was a volunteer assistant speed and strength coach for the Rex. He attended home games and put players through workouts at Union Hospital. “I worked on their speed and their psyche,” says Rosselli. “I took some of the things I learned from driving a bobsled like positive thinking and mental imagery. I had to slow everything down and learn to push away negativity. “I was teaching pitchers how to be confident on the mound and control the tempo of the game.” The Rex (which takes their name from a coffee brand established in 1879) was originally owned by the Indiana State University Foundation. In December 2013, Rosselli and partners — Brian Dorsett (field manager 2010-12), Bob Brown, John Newton, Ray Kepner and Kevin Hoolehan — bought the team. General manager Rosselli and Dorsett are principal owners of the Rex. Newton later stepped down, leaving the others as the current ownership group. Rosselli’s position is full-time and does everything from marketing to recruiting players. He sees the Rex as an asset to the community. In 2014, Rosselli and company had their first season with the Rex and a survey found that 63 percent of fans who exit a baseball stadium don’t know who won or lost the game. “They just know they had a good time,” says Rosselli. “That’s who we market to. The 37 percent are always going to be there. How do we get the 63 percent back every time? “It’s entertainment.” The Rex markets to a 40- to 50-mile radius of Terre Haute. The Wabash Valley represents about 500,000 people. Rosselli wants them to consider coming to ISU’s Bob Warn Field when they come to town to dine or go to Terre Haute Children’s Museum. “We have between-inning games with kids running and racing and dizzy bat,” says Rosselli. “The baseball game itself is secondary. “We’re putting on this big show.” Community members and sponsors are recognized. Low-cost, high-quality concessions is a priority. “We don’t want people coming here saying that food is no good so we’re going to eat somewhere else before (the game),” says Rosselli. “We bring $1.5 million to $2.1 million (annually) to the local economy every summer.” Stores, retail shops, gas stations, hotels and restaurants all benefit from having the Rex in Terre Haute. “Every $1 turns over seven times,” says Rosselli. Rosselli says some companies that partner with the team are looking for Return On Investment (ROI) and others do it as a service to the community. “They’re helping us provide entertainment for all of the Wabash Valley,” says Rosselli. “We couldn’t do it without them.” On the baseball side of things, Rosselli hires a manager to assemble a team of players from around the country. In 2023, it will be Harry Markotay. “We do want to have competitive play,” says Rosselli. “Since we’ve owned the team we’ve only had one year where we didn’t have a very good season.” The Rex went 37-23 in the Prospect League 2022. Terre Haute won Prospect League titles in 2015 (managed by Bobby Segal) and 2018 (managed by Tyler Wampler). Rosselli begins making recruiting calls as soon as the season is over. All position players on a roster of around 30 are committed and the focus for 2023 is to get more pitchers. Players stay with host families — some who’ve been with the Rex since Day 1. “They love having that experience with a player in their home,” says Rosselli. “They can go out there and root for them every game, know their name and their parents’ names. “It’s a friend for life.” Bruce and wife Cheryl Rosselli (a former world table tennis champion) have two children — Paige and Tony. Paige Rosselli (North Vigo Class of 2008) is a former Rex intern. Tony Rosselli (North Vigo Class of 2012) played a Indiana State University and with the Rex. He has had host families as a college and independent pro player. There are many moving parts and a short window between the end of the Indiana State season and the beginning for the Rex. Tractor trailers bring in trash cans. Beverage sales and souvenir sales must be set up. Up to 60 banners stored in Rosselli’s office across Third Street are put up around the ballpark. “We saw the stadium come alive,” says Rosselli. The Rex partners with ISU for Sport Management and Marketing students to do internships with the team. There’s also the opportunity work with the media company who broadcasts the games. “I want to see players go to the next level, but it’s also just as gratifying seeing our interns going to the next level,” says Rosselli. “Every year I say, ‘how do we make our team better and how do we make our staff better?’ One doesn’t run without the other. “There’s two teams here.” The owner/GM encourages interns to sit in with him on sponsorship meetings. They also get to rotate through different jobs such as ticket sales, retail and press box operations. They see the coordination between the PA announcer and on-field announcer. “It’s like an orchestra going on,” says Rosselli. Many Rex interns have gone on to serve in professional or college sports positions and not just in baseball. Austin Bishop went from the Rex to the NBA’s Detroit Pistons to the University of Illinois and is now Assistant Manager of Athletic Ticketing at ISU. Chris Poindexter was Communications Assistant and Intern Supervisor for the Rex and went on to become Video Production and Social Media Manager with the Bowling Green Hot Rods, High-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. “I didn’t get where I’m at without help,” says Rosselli. “So it’s sort of paying it forward. I can help somebody else do that they want to do.” Beginning in 2016, Rosselli was president of the Prospect League for five years. In that role, he dealt with disciplinary matters and led league meetings. He brought in an outside contractor to provide certified NCAA umpires and found vendors for league uniforms and baseballs. “I always thought in order for this league to grow we should all look to be in the black (at the end of the fiscal year) and not some teams in the red,” says Rosselli. “That was more of an attraction to outside investors. “Lowering the operational costs would help us all.” The Prospect League — with David Brauer as commissioner — will field 17 teams in seven states in 2023. Opening Day for a 58-game slate is to begin May 31. Additions include the Jackson (Tenn.) Rockabillys and an as-yet-to-be-branded club in Marion, Ill., once a member of the independent professional Frontier League. Finalists for the Marion team name include Angry Beavers, Fungi, Monkey Rats, Swamp Foxes and Thrillbillies. For the better part 10 years, Rosselli has been working to get a new stadium for the Rex — something similar to Kokomo (Ind.) Municipal Stadium. Rosselli said Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett was in favor, but the Terre Haute Convention Center came first. Rosselli says he would like to see a multi-sport complex on the east side of town. Add to that housing and retail spaces. “It’s about a $75 million project,” says Rosselli. “You’ve got to have a lot of ground — at least 150 acres. “I don’t want to be part of something done halfway. Let’s do it right. We’ve got to be able to grow it.” In August 2022, the Vigo County Capital Improvement Board approved the start of a process for a feasibility study for a sports and water complex. In November 2022, the CIB approved Brownsburg-based PROS Consulting Inc., to conduct that study.
Paul Gries has been a very active member of the Evansville, Ind., athletic community. The Pocket City native taught for 34 years in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation — 10 at Plaza Park (K-8) and the rest at Central High School. His main subjects were Physical Education and Health. Whatever the season, Gries was organizing and coaching youngsters in flag football, softball, baseball, soccer, basketball and more. In 1978, he accepted an invitation to join John Wessel’s Central boys basketball coaching staff. In 1980, he was asked to be a Bears baseball assistant. “We hardly had a program at all,” says Gries, who took over as head coach in 1981 and began working in earnest on Central’s field. “If you want to call it a field,” says Gries. “It was nothing. But I had dreams of what I wanted the baseball field to look like.” With the help of players, coaches and parents, a diamond which was named in honor of Gries in 2016 (Paul Gries Field was dedicated in 2017 a few days after Gries underwent heart surgery) was steadily-crafted. Gries, 79, was head baseball coach at Central for 21 seasons (1981-2001) before retiring at 58 and going into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2002. His teams went 408-196 and earned the first seven sectional titles in program history (1981, 1984, 1987, 1990, 1996, 1997 and 1998) plus the first two regional championships (1981 and 1987) and only semistate crown (1987). Central lost 4-1 to the LaPorte’s mythical national champions in the ’87 state championship game at Bush Stadium in Indianapolis. Gries coached in the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in 1987 and was named National Coach of the Year in 2000. “I had some good players (including 1985 graduate and future big league pitcher Andy Benes) and tied to get the most out of every player,” says Gries. “I was spending 14-hour days at Central High School. I was putting every ounce into it. “It just wore me out.” It was in 1987 that Gries was approached by longtime professional baseball man and Evansville resident “Singing” Ed Nottle, who had a daughter who was taught by Gries. Nottle wanted to help Gries and other coaches raise money for their programs. “We had car washes, candy sales and whatever you can image, but we were making making peanuts until Ed came along,” says Gries, who gathered all the high school and college coaches in town at the EVSC office and what came from planning sessions was the Friends of Bosse Field “Night of Memories.” What began as a group of former baseball professionals who wanted to ensure that the history of Bosse Field would not be forgotten while fundraising turned into the Tri-State Hot Stove League. Gries served with that organization for 31 years, including stints as vice president and president, and is still involved. One of the first “Night of Memories” guests was National Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra. Gries flew to New Jersey to bring Yogi to town. Over the years, Evansville native and Indiana Baseball Hall of Famer Don Mattingly aka “Donnie Baseball” was at the first special night and has only missed it on a few occasions. Gries coached Taylor Mattingly (Don’s oldest son) at Central. When Don was playing for the New York Yankees, he would get in the batting cage take swings after winter workouts by the Bears. “He’d say, ‘Paul, give me some situations.’ I’d, ‘man on third, tie game, one out in the eighth or ninth inning’ and Mattingly just hit those fly balls,” says Griese. “It was unbelievable how Mattingly prepared himself.” The next Tri-State Hot Stove League “Night of Memories” is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023 at Meeks Family Fieldhouse in the Carson Center at the University of Evansville. A paid autograph session is slated from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Central Time followed by a chat and live/silent auction at 6. Featured guests include Don Mattingly, Jamey Carroll, Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Barrett, Colson Montgomery, Elijah Dunham, Cameron Decker, Wayne Hagin, Denny McLain, Darrell Evans and Graig Nettles. “He’s unbelievable,” says Gries of emcee Hagin, who has been a play-by-play man for the Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants, Chicago White Sox, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets. “People love listening to the stories.” Among past guests: Mattingly, Carroll, Eickhoff, Barrett, Hagin, Gabby Allison, Rick Ankiel, Clint Barmes, Andy Benes, Yogi Berra, Raymond Berry, Lou Brock, Don Buse, Steve Carlton, Jack Clark, Roger Clemens, Danny Cox, Andre Dawson, Jim Edmonds, George Foster, Kyle Freeland, Steve Garvey, Bob Gibson, Goose Gossage, Mark Grace, Bob Griese, Kevin Hardy, Keith Hernandez, Whitey Herzog, Paul Hornung, Al Hrabosky, Andruw Jones, Tommy John, Jim Kiick, Harmon Killebrew, Lily King, Ray Lankford, Tony LaRussa, Johnny Latner, Larry Little, Gaylord Perry, Bobby Plump, Ozzie Smith, Bob Feller, Brooks Robinson, Scott Rolen, Enos Slaughter, Frank Robinson, Andy Van Slyke, Lee Smith and Brad Wilkerson. “They come from all over when they know Don Mattingly is here,” says Gries. “They can get close to him. People in New York can’t do that.” College/Pro Football Hall of Famer Griese (Rex Mundi High School Class of 1963 and Purdue University Class of 1967) has been to many “Night of Memories.” “We do this for the kids,” says Gries, who notes that the a non-profit group has raised close to $2 million for youth athletics and youth-focused organizations in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky in three decades. Gries says the event at its peak netted up to $90,000 in one day. Some of the money has been given to Habitat for Humanity. Gries says Mattingly, Bob Griese, Brian Griese (Bob’s son who now coaches with the San Francisco 49ers), Calbert Cheaney (a 1989 Evansville Harrison High School graduate who played at Indiana University, the National Basketball Association and now coaches with the Indiana Pacers) and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan (who played at Evansville College and the NBA and was a longtime NBA coach) all gave large sums to sponsor homes. A 1961 graduate of Evansville Mater Dei High School, Gries’ prep baseball coach was Len Will (an Indiana Football Hall of Famer). “He was the gentlest man that I know,” says Gries. “That was the example he shared with us (athletes).” On the basketball court, Gries eclipsed the 40-point mark three times including a single-game record of 44. That was long before the 3-point arc was put in place. Mater Dei was led on the hardwood by Ed Schultheis in Gries’ freshman and sophomore years and Tom Gore in his junior and senior seasons. Gries went to Indiana State College (now Indiana State University) for basketball and baseball during an era when freshmen were not allowed to play on the varsity. The injury bug kept biting him on the hardwood. He suffered torn cartilage working out early in his freshman year then experienced ankle and groin ailments as a sophomore and decided not to stick with the Duane Klueh-coached Sycamores. On the diamond, Gries earned three letters (1963-65, helping the Sycamores go a combined 37-24-2) playing for Paul Wolf (who wound up as a member of both the IHSBCA Hall of Fame and ISU Athletics Hall of Fame). One of his fond memories is playing catch with future IHSBCA Hall of Famer Tommy John and having John feed the pitching machine for him during preseason workouts before the 1961 Terre Haute Gerstmeyer High School valedictorian reported to spring training. Gries paced Indiana State in batting average, hits and runs as a junior in 1964 (.357, 25 and 20 ) and senior in 1965 (.413, 26 and 13). He hit .439 in conference games and was Indiana Collegiate Conference co-MVP with Ball State’s Merv Rettenmund (who went on to play 13 in the majors with the Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres and California Angels and coached for the Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres twice, Atlanta Braves and Detroit Tigers). “The great thing about Paul Wolf is that he was old school,” says Gries. Wolf was a minor league middle infielder 1926-33, including time with the Indianapolis Indians in 1930-31. He was able to pass on wisdom to Gries, who was a switch-hitting shortstop at Indiana State and moved to second base in his second of two pro seasons in the Washington Senators organization (1965-66). “Pee Wee” (he was 5-foot-9 and 157pounds) spent much of the 1965 Appalachian League season on the disabled list with a sprained ankle after a collision at home plate. It was during the Vietnam War era and Gries left baseball to joined the U.S. Army Reserves and got married for the first time. “I got to see the difference between high school and college and college and pro,” says Gries. “What a big step it is.” Divorced in 1989, Gries was single for 14 years and has been married to Mary, a fellow Catholic who moved to Evansville from Auburn, Ind., for 19 years. Gries has five children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. “They are the joy of my life,” says Gries. “I’m going to spend as much time with my kids as I can.”
Chris Geeser is entering his eighth season as a baseball coach at North Putnam High School in Roachdale, Ind. The 2023 season will mark his fourth in charge of the Cougars program. It’s is Geeser’s desire to put a “well-organized, hard-nose competitive team” on the field. “We’re going to play the game hard,” says Geeser. “We’ll run out ground balls and give it our best effort.” Geeser, 31, promotes sportsmanship and sees no room for showboating and bat flipping in baseball. “I’d rather see the passion than the flashiness,” says Geeser. A true-blue Chicago Cubs fan, Geeser counts former North Side pitcher Carlos Zambrano among his favorites. “He was so passionate,” says Geeser of a player who won 125 games and socked 24 home runs in 11 seasons with the Cubs. Geeser was born in Rockford, Ill., and moved to Martinsville, Ind., as a fourth grader. He played four years of baseball for the Martinsville High School. Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bill Tutterow led the Artesians in Geeser’s freshman year. Luke Moscrip was head coach the next season and Mike Swartzentruber (now a Lake Central) in 2009 and 2010. “I was a big fan,” says Geeser of Swartzentruber. “We had a lot of talent my junior and senior year. He was very detailed and very intense.” Geeser graduated from Indiana State University in 2015 and was hired to teach Business at North Putnam about a week before school began in 2015-16. North Putnam (enrollment around 445) is a member of the Western Indiana Conference (with Class 2A Brown County, 2A Cloverdale, 3A Edgewood, 2A Greencastle, 3A Indian Creek, 3A Northview, 3A Owen Valley, 2A South Putnam, 2A Sullivan and 3A West Vigo). Each WIC team meets one time during the season. The Cougars are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2023 with Cloverdale, Greencastle, Parke Heritage, South Putnam and Southmont. North Putnam has won four sectional titles — the last in 2007. With many North Putnam athletes involved in football, soccer or cross country, Geeser held IHSAA Limited Contact Period practices once a week in the fall. Those attending got a chance to throw and work on defensive basics and take plenty of batting practice. “The skill that falls off faster than anything is hitting,” says Geeser. Since the winter Limited Contact Period began the Cougars are spending one day on bullpens and defensive drills and the other on hitting (in the cage or at stations around the gym). “There’s not a whole lot of standing around at my practices,” says Geeser. “We’d like to get 100-150 swings.” Sharing facilities with winter sports means coming in before school or going later in the evening. North Putnam offers basketball, wrestling and swimming in the winter. Winter workouts have had as many as 20 attendees, but the average is around 12. Since Geeser became head coach the Cougars have fielded varsity and junior varsity teams and he expects the same in 2023. He guesses there might be 24 or 25 players in the program in the spring. While there are no recent graduates in college baseball, Geeser sees that potential for junior right-handed pitcher Jaylen Windmiller, who struck out 27 and walked five in 22 2/3 innings for a 2022 team that went 13-13. Geeser’s assistant coaches include returnees Cameron Brothers and Jackson Kendall and newcomer Anthony Rossock. Brothers and Kendall are North Putnam graduates and Rossock, who played at Anderson University, is a Greencastle alum. All three are North Putnam teachers. North Putnam Middle School fields a team in the spring made up of seventh and eighth graders (and sometimes sixth graders). North Putnam Youth Baseball League sponsors teams from T-ball to 12U. Geeser is actively involved with the organization. A number of renovations to the school’s on-field diamond last summer, including rolling and re-building the infield, mound and home plate areas. “I think our field’s pretty nice,” says Geeser. “We have really good lights.” A Musco Lighting system can be controlled by a phone app. Chris andy Lacey Geeser celebrated four years of marriage in the summer of 2022.
Ty Calloway and George Phares were on opposite sides as coaches of baseball and basketball in Indiana’s Howard County. Calloway, a 1968 graduate of Western High School in Russiaville was at his alma mater and 1965 Shelbyville Senior High School grad Phares at Taylor High School on the side side of Kokomo. Success came to both men and Phares (656-412 in seven seasons at Morristown and 31 at Taylor with an IHSAA Class 2A state championship for the Titans in 2000) was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2004. Calloway (662-310 with a 3A state title in 2012) joined his friend in the Hall in 2012 and retired after the 2013 season. Taylor’s diamond was renamed Phares Field in 2006. After retiring from the classroom, he helped out at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion on the staffs of Mark DeMichael and Chad Newhard for seven or eight years. Phares says he enjoyed his interactions with former Bethel University assistant and fellow IHSBCA Hall of Famer Dick Siler. Future major league pitcher Brandon Beachy went Northwestern High School in Howard County to IWU. Phares also volunteered at Taylor and Kokomo and could be seen in recent years helping each January with registration at the IHSBCA State Clinic in Indianapolis. He is also on Hall of Fame selection committees. As retirees, Calloway and Phares share a log cabin on Dewart Lake near Leesburg in Kosciusko County. They often spend New Year’s Eve there with wives Dallas Calloway and Martha Phares. Ty and Dallas are the parents of Wendy and Betsy. George and Martha have Jennifer, Tim and Susan. “We are the second-most famous George and Martha in the United States,” says Phares with a nod to the Washington’s. Recently, Calloway and Phares offered their views on a variety of topics related to baseball and education. Calloway was in the last eighth grade class that went through in Taylor Township prior to the completion of the high school. Ty’s two younger brothers — two and three years behind him — both went to Taylor. “My parents had to split time going to my games and their games,” says Ty, who got to compete against middle brother Mike on both the diamond and the basketball court. Mike’s class played a junior varsity schedule as freshmen then a varsity schedule as sophomores. There was one baseball game between the two schools where Ty was on second base and one of his teammates hit a deep fly to center field. “We didn’t have fences back then at Western,” says Ty. “Mike took off and I thought for sure it was over his head and I came all the way and stepped on home plate. All of a sudden, he did one of those ‘Willie Mays’ over-the-back catches. I had to retreat back. He threw (me) out at second. “I was at shortstop when we picked Mike off second base. That was an interesting game.” Ty and Mike guarded each other on the hardwood. There was one season of baseball for Ty at Ball State University in Muncie and summers with the Kokomo Highlanders. He went on to earn a bachelors and a masters degree at BSU. He applied in several places but was offered a chance to teach and coach at Western by Norm Llewellyn and took it. Calloway taught middle school Health and Physical Education. Beginning in the spring of 1974, he was JV baseball coach for four years. He was also a varsity assistant or JV boys basketball coach for about 20 years. Phares played baseball at Seymour High School as a freshman and the next three at Shelbyville. He went to Indiana State University and was cut from the team. He graduated with a degree in Mathematics and Physical Education and went to Morristown in 1969-70. “I had played (American) Legion baseball at Morristown and knew a lot of people there,” says Phares. “They hired me as a junior high baseball coach. I graduated from college on Sunday and Monday I started working. I was made head coach at the end of the first year. “Throughout my high school career I was always the head baseball coach.” Phares was also a varsity assistant in basketball at the beginning of his time at Taylor. Calloway says it was his raising with his brothers and sister that led to his philosophy as a coach. “My dad taught self-discipline and being responsible,” says Ty. “No matter whatever did give 100 percent effort and that’s what I told (our players) we’re gonna get.” At tryout time when it came down to cutting down the roster and Calloway had two players of equal ability, character would be the tiebreaker. Students and athletes on Calloway’s watch were expected to behave. “You can’t win with kids who have bad character,” says Calloway. “You’ve got to have good kids. “As much as you can you’ve got to be a good role model for those kids.” Between the lines, Calloway stressed fundamentals and saw to it that those were being taught at Russiaville Little League. Among those fundamentals was the proper throwing mechanics. “The teams that win games are the teams that play the best pitch and catch,” says Calloway. “That’s a fact.” Calloway organized practices where his player got plenty of repetitions and got better. “In high school baseball, reps is the key to winning,” says Calloway. “Sometimes I said we play too many games. We need a couple more practice in-between.” Calloway says games are where skills are showcased. Practices are where they are built. One Western player who got better even after being cut multiple times was Steve Bagby. He started as a senior then played in the outfield at Coastal Carolina University. “He was one of those kids who just kept getting better and better and better,” says Calloway of Bagby. “He matured and he worked on a skill.” Both former coaches talked about dealing with parents. “I was blessed,” says Phares. “I really didn’t have problems mount. I had parents who were unhappy. I tried to explain things to them and — for the most part — it worked out OK. “You try to be fair.” Calloway says he had few problems with parents during his lengthy career. “You went to be straight up with them,” says Calloway. “You want the administration to back you.” Phares, who later coached in the college ranks, made a point of being a straight shooter when a college coach came to evaluate of one of his players or even others in the area. “I was always honest with him,” says Phares. “High school coaches can’t lie to those college coaches. You gotta tell the truth. “Most parents would rank their kid better in their skill level than where they’re at. It’s just nature.” Calloway was the same way. He’d know an athlete’s potential and his maturity level and would share that with recruiters. “You’ve got to have the skill,” says Calloway. “And you have to have the strength and the speed. I’ve had a kid who had the skill and strength but was slower than molasses and couldn’t play at the (NCAA) Division I level.” Many parents and players don’t realize that a “full-ride” scholarship is a rare thing in college baseball with rosters of 30-plus and 13.7 scholarships at the D-I level (and less at D-II, NAIA etc.). Phares became a Brooklyn Dodgers fan in 1955 the year the team won the World Series and his home is full of Dodgers memorabilia. Through his relationship with Dodgers scout Dale McReynolds (who signed Bob Welch, Jeff Hamilton and Steve Howe), there is a photo of Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda standing with Phares and Calloway. It was the New York Yankees — who won plenty and were on the “Game of the Week” on TV with Dizzy Dean and Peewee Reese at the mic as Calloway was growing up that became his team. The coaching veterans are not fans of some of baseball’s changes reflected in Major League Baseball and moving down. “It’s changed for the worse,” says Phares. “Now the baseball game has become kind of a side show and all the antics of the players. “They all have to flip their bats, stare down and do this and do that. I just don’t like it. It’s television. That’s what they want. I can’t stand to watch the Little League World Series anymore. They’re encouraging those kids to act like (the bat-flipping big leaguers). “When they get to high school they’re got a bad attitude.” Calloway sees a lot of self-centered behavior. “The the Little League to the high school you’re starting to see kids where it’s about ‘me’ instead of ‘we.’” He sees it reflected in Kokomo shrinking at the neighborhood park level. Many are leaving for travel ball and the youth leagues have shut down leaving them to play at Championship Park. “We had a park in about every little area of town — UCT, Southside, Indian Heights, Northside,” says Calloway. “Local teams now are dwindling.” When Calloway was coaching he would often have his top players on a travel or American Legion team and then there was a focus on the others. “If I could devote time and make my 6 through 9 players better than your 6 through 9 players I’m going to beat you because baseball is consistently up and down the lineup,” says Calloway. “We would work in the off-season to develop these kids.” Phares always enjoyed going to clinics and attended about four every year. He went with a purpose. “My goal is to find one thing that we can use that will fit the Taylor Titan program that we can use to make us better,” says Phares. “I don’t think most coaches have a program. They play their games and they spend all winter going to these (showcase) camps and saying this kid throws 95 mph.” The way Phares sees it, a testament to a program is one that can do well with multi-sport athletes who have chosen not to specialize in one area. “(Taylor) didn’t have enough athletes and had to pass them around,” says Phares.
Ben Komonosky was a catcher at the NCAA Division I level and now he coaches them. Plenty of times, he has been asked to “be a wall” behind the plate. Komonosky, who played at the University of Evansville and is in his first year as a volunteer assistant at Indiana State University (also a member of the Missouri Valley Conference), says that’s the wrong mental picture. The idea is to stop the flying object and keep it in front of you. “Be a pillow,” says Komonosky. “Walls are bouncy and we don’t like that. “It’s like being a goalie in hockey. You don’t want pucks bouncing off you.” Ben is the son of Ward and Cindy Komonosky. Ward Komonosky played goaltender for the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Regina Blue Pats, Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders and Atlantic Coast Hockey League’s New York Slapshots. Ward Komonosky won 30 games and Prince Albert took the Memorial Cup in 1985. New York was coached by Dave Schultz, who helped the “Broad Street Bullies” Philadelphia Flyers win the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975. Besides leading drills for ISU catchers (receiving, blocking and throwing form various angles) for Sycamores head coach Mitch Hannahs, Ben Komonosky also coordinates camps. There was an instructional/showcase event in October and another is scheduled for January. Komonosky, who turned 25 in September, says he has settled in to living in Terre Haute, Ind. “There are a lot of friendly people,” says Komonosky, who is from Regina, Sask., where he played baseball, football, basketball and volleyball at Vauxhall High School in Alberta. He was with the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball as a senior in 2015. He spent the fall semester at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas. “It was not the right fit and I went back home (to Canada) for a bit,” says Komonosky. “That spring I took time off. I was falling out of love with baseball. “But then I felt I was missing something in my life and started training again.” The backstop landed at North Iowa Area Community College, where he played for Trojans head coach Travis Hergert in 2017 and 2018. “It was a great two years there,” says Komonosky. “I needed time to grow into the player I needed to be. I was able to get stronger and better in every part of the game.” Though North Iowa — based in Mason City — was not as hard-nosed a some junior college programs, Komonosky understands what it means to be a “JUCO Bandit.” “The majority of (junior colleges) are blue collar with a bunch of grinders,” says Komonosky, who notes the emphasis on development. “Half of their job is sending guys on to the next level.” Komonosky played in 111 games for NIACC in 2017 and 2018 and hit .282 with 11 home runs and 76 runs batted in. Jake Mahon, then an Evansville assistant coach, saw Komonosky at a North Iowa scrimmage and invited him to visit to UE campus. He went on to play in 88 games (81 starts) for the Wes Carroll-coached Purple Aces from 2019 to 2021 and graduated with a degree in Advertising and Public Relations and a minor in Sports Management. “I knew I wanted to stay around the game when my playing days were done,” says Komonosky, who spent the summer after graduating scouting for Perfect Game in Florida. In 2021-22, Komonosky was on the Jimmy Brenneman-led coaching staff at Frontier Community College in Fairfield, Ill. The Bobcats are a National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Division I program. “I loved it there,” says Komonosky. “It was really good baseball. Junior college is a really good route for a lot of guys. There’s extra development.” Komonosky specialized working with Frontier catchers while also assisting the hitters, recruiting, and strength and conditioning. In the summer of 2022, Komonosky served as manager of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League’s Michigan Monarchs. The team, based in Adrian, Mich., won the North Division and advanced to the playoffs and Komonosky was selected as GLSCL Manager of the Year. Komonosky played for the Western Canadian Baseball League’s Swift Current 57s in 2018 and the WCBL’s Regina Red Sox in 2019. He did not play in the COVID-19 summer of 2020. He was recently named as Regina Red Sox manager for the summer of 2023. Komonosky has been an assistant coach at 2SK Performance and with the Inside Pitch Baseball Academy — both in Regina. Ben’s family athletic roots in Indiana precede him. Grandfather Glenn Young, who went to Maine West High School in Des Plaines, Ill., played football at Purdue University and was a defensive back for the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers (1956).
IHSBCA HALL OF FAME 2022 BALLOT Coaches Brian Jennings (Retired) A 1987 graduate of Whiting High School and 1991 graduate of Indiana State University, Jennings began his coaching career at Whiting in 1996 and moved to Griffith High School in 1999 (retiring in 2022). His teams won 14 sectional and four conference and made a trip to the state championship game in 2001, losing to Indianapolis Cathedral. During his 27 years as a varsity coach, he won 448 games. He is a four-time conference coach of the year and one-time district coach of the year. Forty players went on to play college baseball and four in pro ball, including 2019 first-rounder Kody Hoese (Los Angeles Dodgers), and seven were selected as North/South All-Stars. He was served on numerous IHSBCA committees, coached in the 2012 North/South All-Star Series in Jasper and organized the 2016 games in Whiting. He has announced the IHSAA State Finals for several years on the IHSAA Champions Network via radio and television. He is currently an assistant principal at Griffith and resides in Whiting with wife Luann. Brian has two stepchildren — Ashley and Steve.
Lea Selvey (Retired) A graduate of Redkey High School, University of Evansville (bachelor’s) and Ball State University (master’s), Selvey spent his entire career at Jay County — five years as an assistant and 34 as head coach (retiring in 2022) — and won 530 games with seven sectionals and three regionals. His teams have won five Olympic Conference titles and he was named OC Coach of the Year three time. He also has an Allen County Athletic Conference crown to his credit. Selvey was a District Coach of the Year in 2019. He has served the IHSBCA as president, a regional representative and been on numerous committees and been an All-Star assistant twice. He’s also been a Regional Coach of the Year. Selvey has coached 14 All-Stars and had numerous players go on to college baseball with two being selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and two others playing independent pro ball and overseas pro baseball. He coached the 1992 NABF Topps Player of the Year. Selvey started the junior high program at Jay County and has been active with the Summit City Sluggers travel organization for nine years. He has also been involved with cross country, boys basketball and girls basketball over the years. Lea and wife Denise have three children (Josh, Kristen and Kyle (wife Leah) and currently teaches Science at Jay County High School.
Dean Lehrman (Active) A graduate of Heritage High School and Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, Lehrman was a four-year baseball letterman in high school and pitched four years in college. He has been a head baseball coach of 44 years — nine at Woodlan and 35 at Heritage (current). His teams have won 665 with 12 Allen County Athletic Conference titles along with eight sectionals, three regionals and one semistate. There’s been three Final Four appearances and a state runner-up finish (2007). He’s an eight-time ACAC Coach of the Year. He’s also been a District Coach of the Year and twice been on the All-Star coaching staff. He also coached football for 39 years, including six as head coach (40-26). Dean and wife Janice have three children (Camryn, Derek and Ryne) and four grandchildren. Dean retired from teaching math at Heritage High School in 2020.
Gary Rogers (Active) A graduate of Merrillville High School and Huntington College, Rogers has been a head coach of 34 years — 32 at Fort Wayne Bishop Luers and two at Leo (current) with 513 wins. His Luers teams won four sectionals, one regional, one semistate and one state championship (2008). He was the State Coach of the Year in 2008 and has twice been a District Coach of the Year. He has been on numerous IHSBCA committees and is very active in the Fort Wayne baseball community. He was a volunteer assistant at Indiana Tech for many seasons, worked the Wildcat League for 33 years and is on the board of the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association (he is an NEIBA Hall of Famer).
Kelby Weybright (Retired) A graduate of North White High School, he played three years at Blackburn College and earned a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University. Following one season as a North White assistant, Weybright spent six seasons as an assistant and 11 as head coach at Norwell High School. There he compiled a record of 243-93 before retiring in 2012 to coach his sons in travel baseball. His Norwell teams won two conference, seven sectional, four regional and two semistate titles. The Knights were Class 3A state champions in 2003 and 2007 and state runners-up in 2006. The 2006 and 2007 teams were a combined 64-2, including 35-0 in 2007 (the third unbeaten team during the IHSAA tournament era). That team finished No. 10 in the nation according to Collegiate Baseball/Easton Sports. Weybright was IHSBCA 3A coach of the year in 2003 and 2007 and Northeast Eight Conference coach of the year in 2006 and 2007. Twenty-two players went on to college baseball with six North/South All-Star Series selection (he was head coach in 2007 and series co-chair in Fort Wayne in 2011). Four players were taken in the Major League Baseball draft with two making the big leagues. Weybright has been on the IHSBCA executive council and served as the group’s president (2012-13). He remains active as a 3A poll voter. He is currently athletic director at Norwell and continues to work with the baseball team occasionally during the season and the summer developmental period. He resides in Bluffton with wife Lisa, a teacher at Norwell Middle School. The couple has three children (Garrett, 23, Jacob, 20, and Maria, 19).
Tim Terry (Active) A graduate of Clinton High School and Indiana State University (bachelor’s and masters), Terry has been a baseball coach for 43 years — 41 as head coach — with 620 wins and eight sectionals. His teams have won 20 or more games 10 times and he has been a conference Coach of the Year on nine occasions. He has twice been a District Coach of the Year, served as an IHSBCA All-Star coach twice and coaches several All-Staters and All-Stars. He’s been on many IHSBCA committees. Terry played football, basketball and baseball at Clinton and baseball and Indiana State before an injury sidelined him. He was a South Vermillion High School assistant in 1979 and 1981 and Turkey Run High School head coach in 1980. He became SVHS head coach in 1982. He has also coached many Little League, Pony League, Babe Ruth and travel ball teams. He’s been a varsity football coach for three years and girls basketball coach of 34. In three sports, he has 922 victories. Terry was an Industrial Arts and Physical Education teacher and has been South Vermillion athletic director for the past six years. Tim and wife Kim (an SVHS Science teacher) have four boys (T.J., Carlton, Cooper and Easton).
Kyle Kraemer (Active) A 1986 graduate of Terre Haute South Vigo High School, Kraemer was an IHSBCA first-team all-state selection as a senior and played in the North/South All-Star Series. He played four years at Purdue University under IHSBCA Hall of Famer Dave Alexander. As a senior, he was team captain and led the Boilermakers with 10 home runs. Kraemer will begin his 29th season as South Vigo in 2023. His record is 535-255-2. Coach K was also an assistant at Harrison (West Lafayette) in 1992 and South Vigo in 1993 and 1994. His first season leading the Braves was 1995. Seventy-five players have gone on to the next level, including eight professionals. There have been 64 all-conference selections (42 Metropolitation Interscholastic Conference and 22 Conference Indiana). Eight players have been on the IHSBCA Academic All-State Team, 12 in the North/South All-Star Series and five IHSBCA first-team all-state. He has coached teams to eight conference titles (six MIC and two CI) with 10 sectional and for regional crowns and two Final Four appearances. He was named MIC Coach of the Year six times and CI Coach of the Year twice. Kraemer is an active IHSBCA member. He has been District M representative for more than 20 years and acted as hosted of the 2006 North/South Series. He was an assistant for the 2008 series. He has been on the South All-Star selection committee on numerous occasions. He has served as a 4A poll panelist the past seven years. Kraemer teaches in the CTE department at South Vigo. Wife Valerie is a fourth grade teacher in Vigo County. The couple shares three children together — Koby Kramer (with wife Seyma), Ali Gonzalez (with husband Rigo) and Jacob Givens. There are also four grandchildren (Kali and Khali Kraemer and Liam and Leia Givens).
Dave Ginder (Active) A graduate of Carroll High School and Anderson University, Ginder is 426-147 in 20 seasons as Carroll head coach with seven Northeast Hoosier Conference, 11 sectional, four regional, two semistate and two state crowns (2010 and 2011). He was the State Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2011, NHC Coach of the Year in 2003, 2011 and 2013 and a District Coach of the Year in 2007, 2010 and 2001. Ginder is an active IHSBCA member, having served as an All-Star coach in 2011 and many years as a member of the 4A poll panel. He has also been involved in many local baseball camps and clinics and is member of the American Baseball Coaches Association and Northeast Indiana Baseball Association. Dave and wife Kristen reside in Fort Wayne and have three children (Langston, 23, Drezdan, 21, and Jantzyn, 18). Dave teaches mat at Carroll High School and Kristen is a Registered Nurse at Parkview.
Players/Contributors Wallace Johnson (Retired) A graduate of Gary Roosevelt High School (1975) and Indiana State University (1979), Wallace played for legendary coach Bob Warn at ISU and was co-captain on the Sycamores’ first Missouri Valley Conference championship team and first NCAA Tournament team. Johnson led the nation in hitting (.502) that season and hit .422 for his college career. He was inducted into the ISU Hall of Fame in 1985. Drafted in 1979 by the Montreal Expos, Johnson was a Florida State League MVP and helped Denver (1981) and Indianapolis (1986) and Triple-A championships. He made his MLB debut with the Expos in 1981 and became the team’s all-time leader in pinch hits (86). For his big league career, Johnson hit .255 with five home runs and 59 runs batted in over 428 games. After his playing career, he was third base coach for the Chicago White Sox for five seasons.
Drew Storen (Retired) A 2007 graduate of Brownsburg High School, he played for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Pat O’Neil and was a key member of the 2005 undefeated state championship team which the Indianapolis Star deemed “the greatest high school team in Indiana history.” He was the No. 2 pitcher behind Lance Lynn as the Bulldogs were also state runners-up in 2004. Storen was 26-2 in his high school career with a 1.61 earned run average and 270 strikeouts in 178 1/3 innings. He was all-state, academic all-state, a South all-star and a 34th round pick in the 2007 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He played at Stanford University and was a two-time all-PAC-10 selection, going 12-4 with a 3.64 ERA and 15 saves, throwing mostly in a relief role. As a draft-eligible sophomore, he was chosen 10th overall for the Washington Nationals in 2009. Storen enjoyed a nine-year career with the Nationals, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds. He went 29-18 with 99 saves. In 440 1/3 innings (all in relief), he struck out 417 and posted a 3.45 ERA. He pitched in two postseason series. He was 1-1 with a save against the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012 and 0-1 vs. the San Francisco Giants in 2014. Drew and wife Brittani live in Indianapolis with two boys (Jace, 5, and Pierce, 2).
Dave Taylor (Active) A standout player at Southmont High School and Wabash College (where he was team captain), Taylor coached Little League, Babe Ruth, high school, AAU and American Legion ball. During an AAU coaching stint in Florida he realized the level of travel baseball and how Indiana was underrepresented in this arena. He formed the Indiana Bulls with the vision of providing Indiana high school players with the opportunity to pursue their college and MLB dreams. In 1992, the Bulls sponsored two games and Taylor coached the 18U squad with future big leaguers Scott Rolen and Todd Dunwoody. He coached the Bulls four more seasons, served as president for 10 and officer for 20 and has been director since 1992. More than 170 Bulls players have been drafted (12 in the first round) and over 300 have received NCAA Division I scholarships. The organization has 22 national titles and a professional staff that works 12 months a year. There are currently 25 teams ages 8U to 17U. Several are coached by former professionals who played for the Bulls. Taylor resides in Brownsburg and is a leading insurance defense trail attorney, He has served 20 years as a certified Major League Baseball Players Association agent and represented more than 100 pro players. He continues to represent former players in various legal matters.
Bryan Bullington (Retired) A graduate of Madison Consolidated High School, Bullington was a two-sport athlete (basketball and baseball). As a pitcher, he was 6-3 with 74 strikeouts as a sophomore in 1997, 10-1 with 1.69 earned run average and 65 strikeouts as a junior in 1998 and 15-0 with 1.49 ERA and 127 strikeouts as a senior in 1999. He threw a one-hitter in helping Madison win a state championship in 1999 and was named Indiana Mr. Baseball by Hoosier Diamond. He was MVP of the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series and selected in the 37th round of the MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals. Bullington opted to attend Ball State University. In three seasons he was 29-11. He was Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2001 and 2002. When he left BSU, he held school records for single-season wins (11), career wins (29), single-season strikeouts (139) and career strikeout (357) and still holds MAC single-season and career strikeout marks. He was named to the BSU Hall of Fame in 2014. Bullington, a 2001 U.S. National Team pitcher in 2001, was the No. 1 overall draft selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2002. He’s just one of two Indiana players taken with the top pick. He logged 12 pro seasons (missing 2006 because of a torn labrum) with a 61-38 record, 3.68 ERA and 602 strikeouts in seven minor league campaigns. In five seasons with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, he was 46-48 with a 3.25 ERA and 550 strikeouts. He pitched in 49 MLB games with the Pirates, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays and Royals. Bullington lives south of Chicago with his wife and three children and is a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Jeff Samardzija (Retired) A 2003 graduate of Valparaiso High School, Samardzija is considered one of the best athletes in Indiana state history. He was runner-up for Indiana Mr. Football and a three-time all-stater and all-star in that sport. In baseball, he was runner-up for Mr. Baseball as a senior and was a three-year varsity letterman, an all-state honoree and center fielder. He hit .375 with five home runs and 37 runs batted in as a junior. As a senior, he hit .481 with eight homers and 50 RBIs. Samardzija chose to play football at Notre Dame and was invited to pitch for the Irish. He was a two-time All-American wide receiver and two-time All-American pitcher. He was a two-time runner-up for the Biletnikoff Award as the the college football season’s outstanding FBS receiver. Despite his football skills and the likelihood of being drafted as a first-round pick by the NFL, he opted to play baseball after pitching for the Irish for three seasons. Samardzija was selected in the fifth round of the 2006 draft by the Chicago Cubs and made his MLB debut in July 2008. He alspo played for the Oakland Athletics (2014), Chicago White Sox (2015) and San Francisco Giants (2016-20). He was an American League all-star in 2014. His career record was 80-106 with a 4.15 ERA and 1,449 strikeouts. He pitched 13 full seasons at the MLB level. Jeff and brother Sam represent a rate achievement in VHS history as all-state performers in both football and baseball.
A.J. Reed (Retired) A 2011 graduate of Terre Haute South Vigo High School, where he played for Kyle Kraemer, Reed was a three-time all-Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference honoree, first-team All-State (2010 and 2011) and Indiana High School Player of the Year (2011). He was also an IHSBCA South All-Star and the series MVP. He is listed in the IHSBCA record for walks in a season (first) and home runs in a season (sixth). Reed played three seasons at the University of Kentucky (2012-14). After his junior year, he earned the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Golden Spikes Award (for the nation’s top amateur player), Dick Howser Trophy and Player of the Year honors from ABCA and Baseball America as well as the John Olerud Trophy and several first-team All-America mentions and Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year. In 2012, he was on several first-team Freshman All-America lists. The Houston Astros selected Reed in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft and he was an All-Star in Minor League Baseball in 2015, 2017 and 2018. He was a two-time recipient of the Joe Bauman Award for leading MiLB in homers and was Rookie of the Year and MVP at Lancaster of the California League in 2015. Reed retired from baseball in May 2020 and resides in Riley with Shelby and their two dogs. He plans to return to college to finish his bachelor’s degree.
A former big leaguer living in southern Indiana is sharing his knowledge with young professionals. Kevin Mahar, who played at Lincoln Trail College (Robinson, Ill.) for head coach Mitch Hannahs (now head coach at Indiana State University) and at Indiana University for head coach Bob Morgan and briefly as a center fielder with the 2007 Texas Rangers, lives in Jasper, Ind., and has been a coach in the Cincinnati Reds organization since 2013. The 2022 season saw Mahar roving from level to level, including the big leagues, as outfield/baserunning coordinator and has been told he will be in that position in 2023. “Baserunning is about being aggressive and smart,” says Mahar. “We look for the ball in the dirt, take an extra 90 feet. “We put pressure on the pitcher and the defense.” The message to outfielders is straightforward. “Catch the ball,” says Mahar, who also teaches about getting in position, anticipation, reaction and game situations. “A lot of the stuff we do now is detail-oriented,” says Mahar. “We have drills that focus on technique and tempo.” Mahar has worked with players along with Reds special assistant and former Reds flycatcher Eric Davis. “He was an exceptional outfielder and was around a lot,” says Mahar of the man who played 17 MLB seasons. “Our goal is to make sure each player in exceptional at who they are. They all have a lot of ability, but each individual is different. We want to make them the best version of themselves and reach their capabilities. “We are not trying to create robots in the outfield. We allow them to play free out there.” Mahar was born in Pontiac, Mich., but grew up in Midland, Mich. “Jasper is very similar,” says Mahar. “Midland is a big, big sports town.” Among the sports in the town near Saginaw Bay and Michigan’s “thumb” are baseball, hockey and football. Mahar graduated from Midland High School in 1999 (he helped the Chemics to a Class A state title in 1998) then spent one year with Hannahs at Lincoln Trail and four with Morgan at Indiana (one as a redshirt). He earned second-team all-Big Ten Conference honors in 2004 before signing that year as a free agent with the Rangers. “He was great,” says Mahar of Hannahs. “We was a baseball guy. He knew how to get the best of (his players).” With adopted son Malik Chatman a defensive back on the Indiana State football team, Mahar still has occasional contact with Hannahs. “(Coach Morgan) was very, very detail-oriented,” says Mahar. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at if it wasn’t for him holding me accountable for my actions.” The 6-foot-5 Mahar was in the Rangers system through 2007, played for both the independent Kansas City T-Bones and in the Philadelphia Phillies organization in 2008 and was with the Phillies through 2010. He was mostly a first baseman his last two seasons. He assisted Andy McClain at Brebeuf Jesuit School in Indianapolis in 2011 and Jay Lehr at Carmel (Ind.) High School in 2012. McClain is now head coach at Indianapolis North Central and Lehr is a lead pitching instructor with several pro clients at Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind. Kevin and wife Atalie moved from Indianapolis to Dubois County — where she is from — about the time he joined the Reds. Atalie Mahar is employed by Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools and is a Health and Occupational Services teacher. There are three other children in the Mahar household — eighth grader Stella (13), fourth grader Nash (10) and Cecilia (1). Mahar, who recently got home from instructional league at Arizona, will be spending time with family while also teaching lessons a few days a week and planning for the 2023 season prior to gearing up for spring training after the first of the year. Mahar was hitting coach at Billings (Mont.) in 2013 and 2014 and hitting coach at Daytona Beach (Fla.) in 2015. After being away from coaching in 2016, he spent the next three seasons (2017-19) as bench coach at Dayton (Ohio) and was at the Reds summer camp then alternate site during the COVID-19 season of 2020. He was bench/gameplanning coach for Louisville (Ky.) in 2021. With the Bats, he gathered advanced scouting reports with information on opponent’s hot and cold zones and tendencies. Mahar has soaked up information along the way. He’s picked up things from many. Among them are Davis, Willie Harris, Juan Samuel, Billy Hatcher and Delino DeShields. These five played in more than 7,200 big league games. “I had some great coaches coming up and I continue to keep learning,” says Mahar. “There are always new techniques and new ways to reach kids. I’ve adapted drills I saw other organizations doing while I was roving.” Mahar also sees the way his players learn. Preferences include Visual, Aural, Read/write and Kinesthetic (VARK). “You learn how to reach each kid,” says Mahar. “Once you understand that, it makes our lives as coaches easier.”
Cameron Decker was a young baseball player at McCutchanville Community Park on the north side of Evansville, Ind., when he donned a Dodgers jersey. Flash forward about a decade later and Decker is with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. The 18-year old was selected in the 18th round of the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Dodgers. The draft was held July 17-19, he signed July 30 and last week finished a short stint in the Arizona Complex League. He came back to Evansville for a few days then headed back to Glendale, Ariz., for “bridge” league and Arizona Instructional League (which conclude Oct. 8). The Dodgers’ training complex is at Camelback Ranch. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder enjoyed a super senior season at Evansville North High School in 2022. He made 115 plate appearances and hit .447 with 12 home runs, five doubles, three triples and .617 on-base percentage as a righty-swinging shortstop. He bashed six homers in the Huskies’ first three games. “It was my goal going in to hit a lot of home runs,” says Decker of the offensive approach at the end of his high school career. “(After the hot start), I saw a ton of curveballs and balls. I switched my mindset to be less aggressive and more patient and take what comes my way. “As a pro, I’ve tried to hunt fastballs. In two-strike counts, I’m looking to put something in-play.” While he has not fully committed to it, Decker is considering becoming a switch hitter. “When I was about 12 I took a few (lefty) swing in the cage and my body felt well and not awkward,” says Decker. “I’ll sometime hit (lefty) in the cage to loosen things up.” Decker was selected to play in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series June 25-26 at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion and Evansville North head coach Jeremy Jones was head coach for the South. A University of Central Florida commit, Decker opted to go pro rather than attend college. “It was a combination of a lot of things,” says Decker of the factors that went into his decision. “Three years of college is a lot of time. You’re not guaranteed to be drafted again. Development in pro ball is higher than three years of college. “My dream since I was a little kid to play Major League Baseball.” Decker, who turns 19 on Sept. 22, is getting used to the transition from amateur to pro baseball. “I’m enjoying you a lot,” says Decker. “It’s a job and it’s a lot of baseball. We’re at the field 9 to 12 hours a day getting work in and playing games. “I’m around a lot of smart people who love baseball. It’s pretty cool.” The Dodgers have used Decker as a corner infielder but he has also gotten reps in the outfield and at shortstop and second base. Decker considers strength and the ability to cover ground in the infield and outfield and run the bases well as some of his best qualities. “I’ve always been a strong kid,” says Decker. “I’ve always had power regardless of my height. I’ve been working on being more mobile and loose. “It’s part natural strength. I also hit weight room three times a week for a whole-body workout.” Since the end of his freshman year at Evansville North, Decker has worked out with Tyler Norton, who is a strength and conditioning coach for the Dodgers and runs TNT Fitness and Performance in Fort Branch, Ind. Decker was born in Evansville and grew up on the north side. After playing at McCutchanville, he was with Highland and competed in the Indiana Little League State Tournament at age 12. Playing for father Chad Decker, Cameron went into travel ball with the Evansville Thunder. “Then it was time to go chase bigger things,” says Cameron, who was with the Canes Midwest coached by David Bear and Phil McIntyre his 15U and 16U summers and 5 Star Midwest coached by Jerry Cowan at 17U. Along the way, Decker impressed scouts including those with the Dodgers, especially after he showed well in an event in Jupiter, Fla. Dodgers Upper Midwest area scout Mitch Schulewitz (who pitched the University of Illinois-Chicago) signed Decker to his first pro contract. Cameron — the oldest of Princeton (Ind.) Community High School graduates Chad and Libby Decker’s two sons — comes from a family with a strong baseball pedigree. Grandfather Joe Don Decker played at Indiana State and in the Cincinnati Reds system. He was a 1962 spring training roommate of Pete Rose and went as high as Triple-A. Father Chad Decker set records at Princeton then went to the University of Central Florida as a pitcher. After developing arm problems, he transferred to Indiana University to study business and now sells dental insurance. Cousin Jeff Goldbach broke Chad’s Princeton hitting records and was drafted in the second round of the 1998 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs. He was tragically shot and killed in Greensboro, N.C., in 2021. Uncle Quinn Decker pitched at Indiana State and lettered in 1996. Brother Cole Decker (Evansville North Class of 2024) is a lefty-swinging and lefty-throwing outfielder who spent the summer of 2022 with the traveling Louisville Legends. The spring high school season was his first baseball season playing with his big brother. “We’re a very tight family,” says Cameron. “But summers are usually split with mom and dad trading off (to followed one brother or the other).” Libby Decker is a former social worker now in marketing. She holds degrees from Indiana State and UCF.