Jake Banwart, the head baseball coach at Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis since 2018, looks to the 2023 campaign with a mix of returnees and newcomers possession physical tools. But that’s not been the focus for the Falcons in the months leading up to the season. “It’s mindset,” says Banwart. “We definitely have some talent to work with in this group. The off-season can get pretty long and monotonous. We have established the mentality of not worrying about playing time and challenging themselves to get better on a day-to-day basis not only on the physical side but on their daily habits and mindset. “We’ve dove in quite a bit on the mental side.” Banwart is president and co-founder of Baseball Academics/Fastpitch Academics Midwest (BAM/FAM) — an organization he started in 2015 with Adam Gouker (the former Indianapolis Lutheran High School head coach who serves as vice president) that emphasizes the six-tool player (speed, arm strength, fielding, hitting for average and hitting for power plus the mental skill). BAM and FAM has around 450 athletes on 36 travel teams — 18 baseball and 18 softball — that train at Extra Innings Indy South. With the growth of all three and the addition of Dugout Coalition (which offers online mental training for coaches and players) and his one-one mindset and small group routine mindset training, Banwart wrapped an eight-year stretch as a classroom teacher about two years ago. Perry Meridian (enrollment around 2,300) is a member of the Mid-State Conference (with Decatur Central, Franklin Community, Greenwood Community, Martinsville, Mooresville, Plainfield and Whiteland Community). MSC teams play home-and-home weekday series. The Falcons are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2023 with Franklin Central, Arsenal Tech, Roncalli, Southport and Warren Central. Perry Meridian has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2007. Roncalli, Southport and Warren Central are also on the Falcons’ regular-season schedule. Michael Carter (Class of 2023) is committed to Franklin (Ind.) College and two or three others are expected to announce where they will play college baseball by the start of the season. Recent graduates moving on the college diamond include Class of 2018’s Jesse Wainscott (who has transferred from Eastern Illinois University to Arizona State University), Class of 2019’s Charlie Joyce (Hanover, Ind., College) and Sean Thomas (Franklin College), Class of 2021’s Luke Genier (Olney, Ill., Central College) and John Joyce (Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.) and Class of 2022’s Kellen Reed (Franklin College) and Mason Rohlman (Franklin College). There are typically 40 players to fill varsity and junior varsity roles for the Falcons. Perry Meridian is part of Perry Township Schools along with Southport High School and shares lighted Holder Field with Cardinals. The Falcons play JV games and run many practices on-campus. Banwart’s varsity assistants are Robbie Strader, Cortez Hague, P.J. Miles and Ryan Parrot. Sam Ahrens is the JV head coach. He is assisted by Joe Garmon. Southport Little League and Edgewood Athletic Association feed into Perry Meridian. Many players come from travel programs BAM, Top Tier Indiana (formerly Indiana Elite), Midwest Astros and Indy Clutch. Banwart, who met Gouker while both were attending Anderson (Ind.) University, began assisting in baseball and teaching at Daleville (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School and helped the Broncos to the 2016 IHSAA Class 1A state championship. He taught online while guiding Liberty Christian School in Anderson to a conference championship then moved to Perry Meridian, where he taught for three years. Perry Meridian has a large population that traces its roots to Burma. There is a Burmese American Community Institute in Indianapolis. Over the years, some have served as baseball student managers or athletic trainers. Baseball does not enjoy the same level popularity in Burma as soccer and volleyball.
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.
Lenny “Lefty” Johnston was part of the professional baseball for six decades. Born in Pontiac, Mich. on March 15, 1928, and graduated as a football, basketball and baseball standout from Arthur Hill High School (Saginaw, Mich.) and football and baseball star at Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo), Johnston was signed by the Chicago White Sox by Johnny Mostil and Doug Minor in 1952. Johnston stole 325 bases and led his league in stolen bags for six consecutive seasons (1953-58). He was The Sporting News Minor League Rookie of the Year for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox of the Western League in 1953. In 1956 — his second of 12 Triple-A seasons — Johnston led the International League with 182 hits for the Richmond Virginians. The last seven of his 15 minor league campaigns as a player was spent with the Indianapolis Indians (1960-66). The Indians won championships in 1961 (American Association), 1962 (American Association) and 1963 (International League South). Johnston was a player-coach in his last two seasons. At 35, hit .316 and finished second in batting in 1964. He smacked four home run and drove in 67 runs in 127 games. A lefty swinging and throwing outfielder, Johnston hit .304 in 76 games with the 1960 Indianapolis team managed by Johnny Hutchings and Ted Beard. The Indians were then a Philadelphia Phillies farm team. He hit .297 in 113 games for the Cot Deal-managed 1961 Indians (then a Cincinnati Reds affiliate). In 1962, Indianapolis was part of the Chicago White Sox system and the ties remained through Johnston’s career in Indy. He hit .270 with 45 runs batted in over 113 games for a ’62 team managed by Luke Appling (who went into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964). Rollie Hemsley skippered the 1963 Indians and Johnston hit .262 with four home runs and 30 RBIs in 115 games. Les Moss managed the 1964 Indians to a second place finish in the Pacific Coast League East. Johnston hit .206 in 81 games for the 1965 Indians (fourth in the PCL East). George Noga was the manager. Moss was back as manager in 1966. Johnston hit .251 in 94 games and the Tribe placed third in the PCL East. Among his other managers are Hobart, Ind., native Everett Robinson plus Don Gutteridge, Danny Murtaugh, Eddie Lopat and Rube Walker. Johnston will be enshrined in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame during the IHSBCA State Clinic Jan. 12-14 at Sheraton at Keystone Crossing in Indianapolis. The Hall of Fame and awards banquet is slated for 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 13 at the Sheraton. Other inductees will be Kelby Weybright, Drew Storen, Jeff Samardzija and the late Wayne Johnson. For questions about banquet reservations, program advertisements or events leading up to the ceremony, contact Hall of Fame chairman Jeff McKeon at 317-445-9899. Banquet tickets can be purchased at https://www.cognitoforms.com/Baseball3%20_2023IHSBCAStateClinic and can be picked up from Jeff on the night of the banquet at the registration table. Tickets must be purchased in advance. “Lefty” Johnston married for the second time in Indianapolis and had two sons — David and Danny (who is now caregiver for his 93-year-old father in Nashville, Tenn.). Johnston had three children from a previous marriage in Michigan and had three older children — Tommy, Janie and Kim. In total, he has five children, 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. According to Danny Johnston, his father “loves Florida and loved coaching there. “He also loved Bluefield, Va., where he spent part of three decades with the Bluefield Orioles coaching, mentoring and coordinating.” As a national cross-checker scout “Lefty” was responsible for Tito Landrum coming to the Orioles. Landrum hit the homer that gave Baltimore the lead in Game 4 of the 1983 ALCS and the O’s eventually made it to the World Series. “He was proud to have been a part of that,” says Danny Johnston. He resided in Indianapolis for 50 years during the winters and helped sell season tickets for the Indians and was a substitute teacher and sold insurance for Lincoln National Life. Johnston has been inducted into both Western Michigan’s Football Hall of Fame and Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2010, “Lefty” received the Herb Armstrong Award for his contributions to baseball and the organization, and he was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame. Johnston went into the Appalachian League Hall of Fame in 2020.
Roundtripper Academy in Westfield, Ind., is celebrating three decades in the baseball and softball training business in 2023 by launching an effort to help youths and young adults with mental or physical challenges to enjoy the diamond as participants. The Miracle League of Westfield powered by Roundtripper plans to bring all-inclusive baseball and softball fields by converting space on its grounds. Miracle League teams play on a custom-designed, rubberized turf field that accommodates wheelchairs and other assertive devices while helping to prevent injuries. A group of parents whose children have trained at the facility approached Roundtripper Academy owners Chris and Sue Estep with a request. “They have special needs kids that love baseball and are always there cheering on their brothers and sisters,” says Sue Estep. “We decided to make this happen. There’s a definite need in Hamilton County. We did the research and it’s definitely something we can do. “Baseball is what we do 14 hours a day, seven days a week, 365. Why not provide those opportunities to have a league (that’s inclusive to all athletes)? “We have so many amazing families that have come to us over the years and participated in teams and activities at our academy that it provides an opportunity for volunteers. That is a big part of these leagues to facilitate the games.” The Hoffmans are one such family that will benefit from The Miracle League of Westfield and the stewardship of the Esteps and Roundtripper. Adam (who trained with Chris Estep and earned a baseball letter at Butler University in 1997) and Jenna Hoffman’s son Lincoln Hoffman (14) plays for the Roundtripped-based Indiana Mustangs and is an eighth grader at Westfield Middle School. His sister Londyn Hoffman (7) was born with an undiagnosed medical condition. A gene change has caused developmental delay. A “Riley Kid” (Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis), Londyn just beat cancer for the second time. Baseball runs deep in the family. “We’ve always got backyard baseball going in the summer,” says Jenna Hoffman. Adam and Jenna were both raised in Minnesota and moved to Westfield 13 years ago. Her father — Michael Cummins — played in the Minnesota Twins system. “She has used a walker or assistive device to get around her whole life,” says Jenna. “It is her happy place watching her brother play baseball. “She lights up. She loves to hold the bat. She loves when big brother helps her run the bases and cheers her on. But that’s as close as she’s gotten to any organized sport.” Hoffman says there is a need for volunteers at games, including a public address announcer and “dugout moms.” “Every player will have a buddy that we refer to as Angels In the Outfield,” says Jenna. “They are there to make sure that child that is participating in The Miracle League has the best day of their life while they’re on the field. “Every player who gets up to bat hits a home run. We need energetic voices on gameday.” There are other Miracle League operations in central Indiana, but this would be the first one serving Hamilton County. “Our current goal to get the seed money to get the league started is to raise $700,000,” says Sue Estep. “Our ultimate goal is to continue to provide funding for this league so no child will have to pay to play in the league. “We’ll be able to maintain and do things long-term.” There are currently three fields at Roundtripper Academy (which opened its doors in 1993) — youth baseball/softball, middle school baseball and high school baseball. A local engineer is working on the site plan to fit in The Miracle League of Westfield field — which are smaller in size — as part of a multi-use area. “We’re going to turf our smallest field,” says Chris Estep, who notes that the surface will be short nap in the field to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers etc., with longer turf in the outfield. Miracle League fields tend to have fences 115 to 125 feet from home plate with bases 50 feet part and the mound 33 feet from the plate. He was on-board right away when approached about getting involved with Miracle League. “It is one of the coolest projects that we will ever be a part of,” says Chris Estep. “There’s nothing like helping kids. You get to see them smiling, playing and interacting. “I think it’s going to be something really, really awesome. I’m excited to get started on it. All the way around it is a feel-good project.” Chris Estep is also head baseball coach at University High School in Carmel, Ind. Sue Estep notes that the Miracle League of Westfield will also serve young adults that have aged out of school systems. “(We can) keep them engaged in the community, have social interaction and opportunities to make connections,” says Sue Estep. “We’re at the beginnings of this and we’ll take the league as far as it needs to go,” says Estep. “If we raise the funds and there is a need for additional, we will.” The goal is to get the league up and running in the summer of 2023 — even if its a condensed version. The Miracle League of Westfield will follow rules set up by The Miracle League (national organization). Rally For A Cause is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 6 at Roundtripper Academy, 16708 Southpark Dr., Westfield. There will be inflatables, food trucks, face painting, a balloon artist at music by Tommy Baldwin from 3 to 6 p.m. (free admission, donations welcome). An adult party follows. The Country Summer Band plays from 7 to 9:30 p.m., with headlinder Jai Baker 3 from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. There will be food and drink trucks (cost is $50 per person). Roundtripper’s Foundation — The Youth Sports Development Group — is hosting the event. To purchase tickets, please visit www.roundtripper.com. To learn more about The Miracle League of Westfield, visit www.miracleleagueofwestfield.com. There is an interest page for those who may have a child or young adult that wishes to participate.
Kelby Weybright is going into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. The organization voted Weybright in as part of the 2023 class (players Drew Storen and Jeff Samardzija and veterans committee selections Lenny “Lefty” Johnston and Wayne Johnson are the others) and he will be recognized at a banquet held during the IHSBCA State Clinic. The dinner is slated for 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13 at the Sheraton at the Crossing in Indianapolis. Weybright coached baseball at Norwell High School near Ossian, Ind., for 17 seasons — the last 11 as head coach. On his watch, the Knights went 243-93 with two conference, seven sectional, four regional and two semistate titles to go with two IHSAA Class 3A state championships (2003 and 2007) and one 3A state runner-up finish (2006). The 2007 team went 35-0. “It’s an award that truly represents the commitment and efforts of a lot of people in our community who gave of their time and talents to give kids an opportunity to learn and play the game of baseball and to play it at a high level,” says Weybright. “(It reflects) the kids who worked their tails off, coaches who gave of their time and talents, our community who supported those teams and our school who stood behind us. “I was fortunate enough to be the person who had the title of head coach.” Fundamental soundness was a priority for Weybright. “There were fundamental drills we did every single day. I’m sure kids got tired of seeing it. “Our practices were detailed down to the minute with what we were doing.” Success could be achieved if Norwell had strong pitching, made the “everyday” play and won as many innings as possible. “Whatever we were doing it was nine guys working as one as much as possible,” says Weybright. “I loved to look out at the baseball diamond and see a play happen and all nine guys moving in rhythm and going where they’re supposed to be. “It’s like a symphony playing.” Bunting and running were major parts of the Knights’ game. So was hustle. Many were the times when players went first to third or two players scored on a suicide squeeze bunt. “We tried to play like our rear ends were on fire,” says Weybright. “I wanted guys who played the game hard. I wanted guys who competed. When we went on the field or came off the field it was at a dead run. “We want to come out and have a great pregame. We wanted to be fast and crisp. We wanted the people in the other dugout to go, ‘Mmm, dang, we’re going to struggle today.’ “Those are the kinds of things our kids bought into. When you see team play that hard it carries over to different aspects of the game.” His teams were well-conditioned, frequently coming in for 6 a.m. Saturday workouts during the winter. But beyond baseball it was about getting teenagers ready to be fathers and productive members of the community. “We’re proud of watching these guys grow and become the men they are,” says Weybright. After the 2012 Norwell season, Weybright stepped away from his head coach post to guide his sons in travel ball and tend to his school responsibilities. After years as assistant principal and dean of students, Kelby was named Norwell’s athletic director in 2017. Those duties keep him busy though he does help out with the baseball program when time allows. When the Knights advanced to semistate a couple of years ago he found time to work with the infielders. He trades videos and ideas with current Norwell head coach Dave Goodmiller. “I still try to stay involved,” says Weybright, 52. Kelby and wife of 25 years, Lisa, have three children — Garrett (23), Jacob (21) and Maria (19). Garrett Weybright (Norwell Class of 2018) and Jacob Weybright (Class of 2020) both played baseball in high school. Maria Weybright (Class of 2021) was a four-year varsity cheerleader at Norwell. Kelby was born in Wooster, Mass., to Garry and Linda Weybright (who now live in Elkhart County) and moved to Indiana around age 5. Brother Teague Weybright is one year younger than Kelby. A 1988 graduate of North White Middle/High School in Monon, Ind., Before graduating from Indiana University, Kelby played three baseball seasons at Blackburn College in Carlinville, Ill. “It’s about an hour from Busch Stadium (in St. Louis),” says Weybright. “When I was in college you could actually buy outfield seats for five bucks.” Growing up as a big Gary Carter fan, Weybright cheered for the Montreal Expos or New York Mets. Listening to Jack Buck on the radio or attending game changed his favorite team in college. “I’m a diehard (St. Louis Cardinals) fan,” says Weybright. “I live and die by the Redbirds right now.” For questions about Hall of Fame banquet reservations, program advertisements or events leading up to the ceremony, contact Hall of Fame chairman Jeff McKeon at 317-445-9899. Banquet tickets can be purchased at https://www.cognitoforms.com/Baseball3%20_2023IHSBCAStateClinic and can be picked up from Jeff on the night of the banquet at the registration table. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
Weybright is a graduate of North White High School. Following graduation, he attended and played baseball for three years at Blackburn College before earning his bachelor degree from Indiana University. Following one season as an assistant at North White, Weybright spent six seasons as an assistant and 11 seasons as the head coach at Norwell High School where he compiled a record of 243-93 with two NHC, seven sectional, four regional and two semistate titles with an IHSAA Class 3A state runner-up finish in 2006 and 3A state championships in 2003 and 2007 before retiring in 2012 to coach his sons in travel baseball. The 2007 team went 35-0 and finished ranked 10th nationally (Collegiate Baseball/Easton Sports). The 2006 and 2007 squads went a combined 64-2. Weybright coached 22 players that played collegiately with six IHSBCA North All-Stars and four Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft selections. Two NHC Coach of the Year honors (2006 and 2007) came Weybright’s way as well as two IHSBCA Coach of the Year awards (2003 and 2007). He was recognized as a National High School Baseball Coaches Association District and National Coach of the Year in 2007. Weybright is currently athletic director at Norwell and continues to work with the baseball program during its summer development period and occasionally during the season as time permits.
Storen is a 2007 graduate of Brownsburg High School. As a freshman, he was the No. 2 pitcher (3-0, 1.17 earned run average) behind Lance Lynn on the eventual 2004 state runner-up. As a sophomore, right-hander Storen went 9-0 with 86 strikeouts in 57 innings and helped the Bulldogs to go 35-0 and win the 2005 state championship while earning a No. 2 ranking in the country from Baseball America. The Indianapolis Star called that team, “The greatest high school team in Indiana history.” For his career, Storen finished 28-2 with 270 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.61. At the plate, he hit .400 with 16 home runs. He was drafted by the New York Yankees in 2007, but attended Stanford University. In two seasons with the Cardinal, he was named to three Freshman All-American teams and was twice chosen first team All-Pac 12. He got the win in Game 1 of the 2008 College World Series. Storen led Stanford as a sophomore in saves, wins and appearances and was named team MVP for 2009. He finished his collegiate career with a 12-4 record, 26 saves, 59 appearances and a 3.84 ERA. As a draft-eligible sophomore, Storen was taken by the Washington Nationals as the 10th overall pick of the 2009 MLB Draft. In eight seasons with the Nationals, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds, he went 29-18 with 99 saves, a 3.45 ERA and 417 strikeouts. He made six postseason appearances for Washington in 2012 and 2014 with one win and one save. Drew and his wife Brittani currently reside in Carmel and have two boys — Jace (6) and Pierce (2).
Samardzija is a 2003 Valparaiso High School graduate is considered one of the best athletes in Indiana history. By his senior year, he was recognized as one of the state’s best football players and was the runner-up for the Indiana Mr. Football award. Samardzija was a three-time all-state player and was selected to the Indiana All-Star team. In baseball, he was a runner-up for the Mr. Baseball award as a senior, a three-year varsity letterman and an All-State honoree as a center fielder. He hit .375 with five home runs and 37 runs batted in as a junior and .481 with eight homers and 50 RBIs as a senior. As one of the nation’s top football recruits, he chose Notre Dame where he was also invited to pitch for the baseball team. Samardzija was a two-time All American wide receiver, a two-time All-American pitcher and a two-time runner up for the Biletnikoff Award given to the nation’s best receiver. Despite his football skills and the likelihood of being drafted as a first-round pick in the National Football League, Samardzija opted to play professional baseball after pitching for the Irish for three seasons. The right-hander was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the fifth round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He made his MLB debut for the Cubs in July 2008 and went on to pitch 13 full seasons. In addition to the Cubs, Samardzija pitched for the Oakland Athletics (2014), Chicago White Sox (2015) and San Francisco Giants (2016-2020). He was named an All-Star in 2014. Jeff and older brother Sam represent a rare achievement in VHS history with each being selected as All-State performers in both football and baseball.
Johnston graduated from Western Michigan University and was a minor league outfielder from 1952-67. He played for the Indianapolis Indians from 1960-1966 and played in the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and Washington Senators organizations. He was a career .286 hitter and had 525 stolen bases. He led his league in stolen bases six straight years (1953-58). He paced the International League in 1956 with 182. Johnston was a minor league manager for nine years and was the with the Bluefield Orioles in the Appalachian League and the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota, Fla., in an administrative role. In 2020, he was inducted into the Appalachian League Hall of Fame. Johnston served as a scout, scouting supervisor, cross-checker and minor league coordinator roles before retiring in 2019. He currently resides in Nashville, Tenn.
Wayne Johnson spent 12 years as a varsity assistant to Greg Silver at Mooresville before spending two stints as the head coach at Brownsburg High School. At the helm of the Bulldog program, he compiled 278 wins over 15 years. During his first stint from (1987-2000), Johnson-led teams took home sectional championships in 1988, 1992, 1995 and 1996. The Bulldogs were also regional champions in 1996. Then on short notice, Johnson was asked to return to coach Brownsburg in 2011 and won another sectional title. While Johnson’s victories and championships are impressive, his contributions to Brownsburg baseball far exceed his won/loss record. The 1990 Central Suburban Athletic Conference Coach of the Year was instrumental in the construction of Brownsburg’s home baseball field — Mary Beth Rose Park. Johnson partnered with countless members of the community to design and build the stadium and it has served to host over a 1,000 games since the spring of 1988. Rose Park is still considered a premier location to play baseball in Indiana. Johnson was a big supporter of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame and it fundraising efforts. He also owned a business, Johnson Sports Collectibles in addition to teaching for 39 years at Mooresville and Brownsburg High Schools. Johnson impacted many lives through the game of baseball and his presence is sorely missed. He is being inducted posthumously as he passed away on Dec. 19, 2018.
Inductees will be honored during the IHSBCA State Clinic. The ceremony is slated for 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, 2023 at Sheraton at Keystone Crossing. The clinic is Jan. 12-14. For questions about banquet reservations, program advertisements or events leading up to the ceremony, contact Hall of Fame chairman Jeff McKeon at 317-445-9899. Banquet tickets can be purchased at https://www.cognitoforms.com/Baseball3%20_2023IHSBCAStateClinic and can be picked up from McKeon on the night of the banquet at the registration table. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
Andy McClain has gotten a look at his prospects as the new head baseball coach at North Central High School in Indianapolis and he likes the Panthers chances to make noise on the diamond in 2023. “It’s a big school and a good program,” says McClain, who comes to Washington Township after four years at Lawrence Central. “We’ve got hungry kids. We’re setting high standards. I’m excited about it. “It’s a good opportunity.” North Central (enrollment around 3,875) is a member of the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference (with Ben Davis, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North, Pike and Warren Central). MIC teams play home-and-home series on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The Panthers are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2023 with Ben Davis, Indianapolis Cathedral, Indianapolis Crispus Attucks, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North and Pike. North Central has won 11 sectional titles — the last in 2006. “We play a competitive schedule,” says McClain. “The MIC and (Marion) County will help us make a run in the state tournament.” The fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period saw 40 to 50 North Central players participate in each session, allowing for scrimmaging. “It was different,” says McClain. “I’ve never had that. We were able to get a lot of things done. We feel like we’re in a good place from some of the things we were able to install in the fall. “There will be a lot of competition for positions. If the goal is to get them to compete you’re going to have that in your practice environment. That’s only going to make them better.” About the same number of athletes have begun weight room workouts and the next Limited Contact Period comes Dec. 5-Feb. 4. That’s where McClain will continue to emphasize energy, effort and execution. McClain plans to field three teams — varsity, junior varsity and C-team. He said he could have as many as 15 seniors — 10 with varsity experience. The Panthers went 14-9-1 in 2022. Jack Ferguson (Class of 2023) hit .412 and Micah Rienstra-Kiracofe (Class of 2024) .405. On the mound, Tristan Wilson (Class of 2025) won four games and Will Kaiser (Class of 2023) three. Besides McClain, the Panthers varsity coaching staff features Andrew Dutkanych III, Scott King and Gabe Hoffman. Dutkanych is the pitching coach. King returns to the staff. Hoffman pitched at Pike. Panther Park — North Central’s home field — recently was leveled and is scheduled to host sectional in the spring. Feeding the Panthers are baseball programs as three at three middle schools — Eastwood, Northview and Westlane. McClain, a 1987 graduate of Martinsville (Ind.) High School, where he played for and coached with Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bill Tutterow, has been a head coach at five other Indiana high schools — LaVille, Indianapolis Arlington, Brebeuf Jesuit, Norwell and Lawrence Central. Brebeuf was the 2012 Class 3A state runner-up and Norwell the 2013 3A state champion. McClain is a longtime emcee at the IHSBCA State Clinic in January. Since moving back to Indianapolis, McClain has coached travel ball in the summer for the Indiana Bulls. The 2023 season will be his fifth. He will lead the 15U Grey. John Zangrilli is an assistant and his son John Zangrilli (Carmel Class of 2026) his on the team. McClain has coached Nevan Tutterow (Franklin Central Class of 2025, grandson of Bill and son of Bryant) on the Bulls. The 2023-23 year marks McClain’s 33rd in education and a Science teacher at North Central. “The Biology department along has 10 people in it,” says McClain of the enormity of North Central. Daughter MacKenzie McClain lives in Victor, N.Y., and is scheduled to be married next summer.
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.”
Blake Beemer was hired as head baseball coach at NCAA Division I Butler University in Indianapolis in June 2022. Beemer, a former first baseman at Ball State University (2010-13) and volunteer assistant at Penn State University (2014-15) and assistant coach/recruiting coordinator at both Eastern Illinois University (2016-18) and Ball State (2019-22), brings a style to his players he describes as energetic. “They’ll get energy from me,” says Beemer, 31. “They’ll get dirt honesty. And I think that’s going to help build relationships. “Guys are going to know where they stand. They’re going to know I care about them. They’re going to know who I am as a human being. Really building those relationships in that foundation will allow us to build toughness and accountability. We’ll build it with with energy will build relationships.” As an assistant coach and the recruiting coordinator at Ball State over the past four seasons, Beemer helped the Cardinals to a 123-65 record with a Mid-American Conference regular-season championship and an appearance in the MAC Tournament championship game in 2022. “I learned under one of the best in the business under (Ball State head coach) Rich Maloney,” says Beemer, who earned two degrees from BSU — a bachelor’s degree in 2012 and an Masters of Business Administration in 2014. “I’ve had a chance to see success at a high level through him. “I think I know the state pretty well. I know what it takes to win him in major baseball. And I’ve got the energy to make sure this thing gets going. “It’s a cool opportunity. I can tell you I’m very humbled to have this chance. And it’s a neat opportunity. This place can be a rock show. I mean, Butler has everything from the academic side to the location to facilities we can we can really win. Not to mention it’s a great conference (the Big East which also includes baseball-playing members Connecticut, Creighton, Georgetown, St. John’s, Seton Hall. Villanova and Xavier). It’s a it’s a really cool opportunity.” The Bulldogs went 20-35-1 overall and 4-16-1 in the Big East in 2022. It was the last season for the retiring Dave Schrage. What does it take to win at the mid-major level? “First off you’ve got to you got to do the recruiting right.” says Beemer. “I mean you win with players and you win with people. So in recruiting we’re after land guys that that are tough. I think in college baseball, you win with toughness. “I think it takes execution. And at Ball State what we did there was we tried to get really good on the mound. And I think here we’ve got to get really good on the mound (at Butler). If you have some horses that can carry you along ways and baseball. “And so I think you’ll see an increased emphasis to help us get better on the bump and to get tougher and to execute at a high level. Baseball is the same everywhere, right? Good pitching, defense and timely hitting. If you do those three things, you’ll be alright.” With building toughness in mind, Beemer has his Bulldogs waking up at 5 a.m. for workouts. They’re doing sprint work and some other training to which they have not been exposed. “I think that there is a energy level that you have to be able to get through whether it’s strength training, speed training, conditioning or for our practice,” says Beemer. “I mean we’re having long practices that the energy has been great, but you build toughness that way. “We’re going to have games that are three and a half hours. We have to have great intent, great focus and great energy in the ninth inning the same as we do when we start the game. That day-in and day-out consistency, that’s where you build toughness.” With a national reputation at Butler, thanks in large part to the recent success of the Bulldogs basketball program, Beemer sees a expanded recruiting footprint for the private school. That means getting some players from the New York City or Washington D.C. areas. “It’s a great degree,” says Beemer. “We just came out in U.S. News and World Report as the No. 1 Midwest regional university in the country. It’s an unbelievable education and I think that speaks volumes across the country.” Beemer’s staff includes assistant coach, pitching coach Ross Learnard, assistant coach Bladen Bales and volunteer coach Dan Wilcher. Learnard pitched at Parkland College and Purdue University (he was a two-time All-American) and coached at Illinois State University and Purdue. His duties with the Boilermakers focused on pitching analytics and team operations. “(Coach Learnard) is really, really detailed and connects with our guys at a high level,” says Beemer. “He’s a great pitching mind I keep telling everybody. I think he’ll be in the SEC. He’ll be an elite pitching coach at one of the high-end jobs within the next seven years. just think I think he’s a stud. “He develops arms as well. He knows how to take care of the guys. He sees things that are really advanced level.” Bales was with Beemer at Ball State in 2022. Before that he coached at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Neb., and managed the Nebraska City American Legion junior team to a state runner-up finish in 2017. He has also coached the Lakeshore Chinooks of the summer collegiate Northwoods League. Bales played at McCook (Neb.) Community College and Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln. “He’s a tireless worker,” says Beemer of Bales. “He has a great eye for talent and recruiting. “I’ve known Dan (Wilcher) for years. We both grew up in Dayton, Ohio. And Dan helps lead our infield play, a lot of our throwing progressions and throwing programs and helps with field maintenance (at Bulldog Park). He’s our Swiss Army knife. He does it all for us.” The first two weeks of fall practice at Butler was for individuals. Team practice began on Labor Day and will go until mid-October with intrasquad games twice a week. After that, there will be a transition back to individuals. “Everybody’s new so it’s a clean slate for everybody is what I’ve been telling our guys,” says Beemer. We get to play outside opponents (Frontier Community College on noon Oct. 1 at home and Ball State Oct. 8 in Muncie). But every day is evaluation, whether it’s an intrasquad, in the weight room or just a BP session, our guys are always being evaluated the same way. “They’re evaluating me. They’re seeing what my coaching style is. They’re seeing how I instruct things. I think that in today’s world, just understand you’re always under a microscope. You’re always being evaluated. Our guys know that. And so every day we’re trying to have competition. We want to get better every day and and move this thing forward day by day.” Since his hire, Beemer has been getting his face in front of the community. Alums are coming back for the induction of the 1998 team (that won a then-school record 33 games) into the Butler Athletic Hall of Fame Sept. 24 and the Oct. 1 exhibition and Oct. 2 golf outing. The coach has been on the phone talking to alums and boosters and spoke on the air during an Indianapolis Indians broadcast. “We’ve got a great opportunity for this place to really take off,” says Beemer. “I’m proud of it really proud of being a Butler Bulldog and I’m very fortunate for it.”