Tag Archives: Jay Hundley

Columbus East grad Back enjoys ‘game within the game’ as baseball backstop

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Dalton Back was a coach pitch player when he chose his favorite position on the baseball field — catcher.
“The thing that I love about it most now that older is that it’s like a game within a game — calling pitches and locations, keeping track of baserunners and whatnot,” says Back, 20 and the veteran of two college seasons. “What kept me in it when I was little was just being involved in every pitch. It’s the most active position on the field. That’s what I like most about it.”
Born and raised in Columbus, Ind., to Dwayne and Jennifer Back, Dalton played in was in now Youth Baseball of Bartholomew County and was later part of two district championship and state tournament teams.
When it came time to play travel ball, Back went with the Blazers then the Evoshield Canes.
“They changed the way I saw baseball and how I played it,” says Back of Canes coaches Jay Hundley and Phillip Webb. “They turned me into the man and player I was back then and who I am now.
“They really grew the game for me. I appreciate that a lot.”
Back is a 2020 graduate of Columbus East High School. He earned three letters for Olympians head coach Jon Gratz.
“He’s very open-minded,” says Back of Gratz. “He did a lot of experimental stuff. He was very open and willing to learn. He didn’t see himself as a know-it-all in baseball.”
Columbus East went 25-5 and lost 3-2 to Hamilton Southeastern in the 2019 IHSAA Class 4A state championship.
Back, who batted No. 2 in the order and contributed a triple and two walks in that game, is convinced that Gratz’s inclination of listening to his players was a major contributing factor to the Olympians’ run.
“We would just brainstorm different ideas about what we could do better in certain areas like productivity in practice or how to hold each other accountable,” says Back, who was an all-stater in 2019 and all-Hoosier Hills Conference in 2018 and 2019 and missed his senior season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “(Gratz) allowed the players to lead which is very nice.”
At Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, Back played 76 games (65 as a starter) and hit .224 with seven home runs, 16 doubles, 37 runs batted in and 39 runs scored. He homered four times and enjoyed a pair of three-RBI games in 2022.
Back, a 5-foot-10, 200-pounder, is now in the Transfer Portal with two years of eligibility. His next diamond destination is still to be determined.
“I’m trying to stay relaxed and calm about it,” says Back of making a decision of where to play and study next.
He has participated in each of the College Summer League at Grand Park’s three seasons — Local Legends in 2020, Turf Monsters in 2021 and Tropics in 2022.
The league based in Westfield, Ind., is attractive to Back because the schedule is not too rigorous and there are helpful amenities.
“There are not so many games a week where you’re killing your body,” says Back. “I have access to Pro X (Athlete Development on the Grand Park campus) to hit and lift all the time.
“Everything is close around here. It’s easy to manage your time.”
A righty swinger, Back describes his offensive approach.
“The main thing that helps me is to just keep reminding myself to swing 80 percent all the time,” says Back. “A lot of times I swing way too hard and I’m trying to do too much with the baseball.
“If I have a slow heart beat, go 80 percent and I’m nice and smooth with my swing, a lot of times I can let the bat do the work. Most of the time that’s how I have success at the plate.”
As a college student, Back has studied Kinesiology (the science of human movement) and can see himself as a physical therapist after his playing career.
“I’ve always been attracted to human physiology,” says Back. “I got real big into the weight room in high school. I loved it. I was fascinated with how everything works and how the body recovers. With physical therapy I’d be able to stay around athletics and help other athletes.”
Dalton has an older brother — Joey Back (24).

Dalton Back (Miami University Photo)

Dalton Back of the 2022 College Summer League at Grand Park’s Tropics (Steve Krah Photo)

Pyne steps right into starting role as Indiana University freshman

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Josh Pyne decided early in life that he wanted to play college baseball.
And not just anywhere.
Pyne desired to play at Indiana University, having been born in Bedford, Ind., and grown up near Bloomington in Linton, Ind.
“We were a 25-minute drive away,” says Pyne, a 19-year-old freshman who has started all 31 games so far for the 2022 Hoosiers. “My dad a huge IU basketball fan and still is. I grew up an IU baseball fan.”
Pyne verbally committed to IU his freshman year at Linton-Stockton High School when Chris Lemonis was Hoosiers head coach.
Jared Pyne is a lineman superintendent for Greene County REMC. His wife, Brooke Pyne, works for a Navy contractor. Oldest son Jacob, 23, is a Daviess County REMC lineman. Daughter Adalyn, 17, is a Linton-Stockton junior involved in cheerleading and track and interested in animals.
Middle child Josh followed Jacob into motocross as the family criss-crossed the country on that circuit.
After Josh raced for a few years, along came baseball. He threw himself into the diamond sport, playing for the Smithville Scrappers at 9. Family friend Mike Vaughn coached that team and would be Pyne’s coach with the Indiana Nitro and Indiana Bulls through his 15U summer.
“I appreciate everything he’s done for me,” says Pyne of Vaughn.
Another summer with the Jeremy Honaker-coached Bulls was followed by a summer with Jay Hundley’s Canes Midwest team.
In the fall of his junior year at Linton-Stockton, Pyne was with the Jeff Petty-coached Canes National squad. The next summer he played for Johnny Goodrich’s Orlando Scorpions.
To help with the transition from high school to college, freshmen were brought on-campus last summer to take classes, get in the weight room and begin the bonding process. It’s a class that includes infielder Evan Goforth (Floyd Central), right-handed pitcher Luke Hayden (Edgewood) and outfielder Carter Mathison (Homestead). The latter has started in 29 games and appeared in 31 this spring.
Business Management major Pyne already had a relationship with one Hoosier, having played baseball and basketball with Kip Fougerousse (who was a 1,000-point scorer on the hardwood) at Linton-Stockton.
Josh and sophomore catcher/infielder Kip hang out a lot at IU.
“I go over to his house almost everyday,” says Pyne. “We play cards or get some food. We have a background like nobody else on the team.”
Pyne say it was a big adjustment going from high school to college, but that has been eased by the bonding, the leadership or older players and the coaching staff led by Jeff Mercer.
The biggest difference in high school and college baseball to Pyne is the pace of play.
“I see how much faster everything is,” says Pyne. “Balls are balls hit harder. Pitches are quicker. You have less reaction time.”
To adapt to this, the Hoosiers practice and train at game speed.
“You have to go full speed and push yourself to get used to that pace of play,” says Pyne. “Some drills uncomfortable because it speeds us up. But you have to be uncomfortable to be better.”
Pyne, who was a shortstop in high school and travel ball, has gotten used to “27 outs” when Mercer or assistant Derek Simmons laces balls all over the field and Pyne can get live reads off the bat at 100 mph or more.
Mercer has plenty of praise for Pyne.
“Josh is just an A ++ kid. I’m super proud of him,” says Mercer. “He’s a southern Indiana kid at IU playing his tail off. He’s an awesome dude. He’s very talented. He can have a great at-bat. He’s a great defender and baserunner and an awesome teammate.
“He’s everything a Hoosier should be.”
Pyne was a four-year letterwinner and four-time captain at Linton-Stockton playing for Miners baseball head coach Matt Fougerousse, Kip’s father.
As a senior, Pyne was an all-state selection and the team MVP. He was all-Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference three times and set a single-season school record with 50 hits.
As a basketball player for coach Joey Hart, Pyne was part of three IHSAA Class 2A sectional championships and played in the 2019 2A state championship game as a sophomore.
“I played basketball to keep in shape and for the fun of it,” says Pyne.
Josh recalls that Matt Fougerousse’s was always there for late-night batting practice after basketball games or practices.
“He helped me for those four years,” says Pyne. “He even stayed and coached me for my senior year when he really didn’t have to.”
Matt stepped away from coaching at the end of the 2021 season, giving himself more of a chance to see Indiana play.
Going into a Big Ten Conference series April 15-17 at Rutgers, righty swinger Pyne is hitting .301 (37-of-103) with four home runs, seven doubles (tied for second on the team), 31 runs batted in (second on the team) and 19 runs scored. He carries an OPS of .820 (.365 on-base plus .455 slugging).
Pyne produced a career highs three hits, four RBIs and two runs scored April 10 at Purdue. He rapped two doubles April 2 against Northwestern.
Indiana 13-18 overall and 2-4 in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers are 3-5 in April.
The team’s freshmen third baseman is confident IU will get rolling.
“We just need to compete on the mound and at the plate,” says Pyne. “It will all fall into place.
“We have the talent to do it.”

Josh Pyne (Indiana Athletics Photo)
Josh Pyne (Indiana Athletics Photo)
Josh Pyne (Indiana Athletics Photo)

At 24, Taylor U. grad Waddups coaching pitchers for Mount Vernon Nazarene

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Tucker Waddups got his first taste of coaching right out of high school. A half decade later, it’s his career.
Waddups, who is now pitching coach at Mount Vernon (Ohio) Nazarene University at the age of 24, graduated from Pioneer Junior/Senior High School in Royal Center, Ind., in 2016 and began giving pitching lessons to youngsters around Cass County.
“I really started to fall in love with it,” says Waddups of sharing his baseball knowledge. “I got work with guys one-on-one, see what made guys tick and do trial-and-error things. I’d what worked and didn’t work.”
A native of Logansport, Ind., Waddups grew up near Cicott Lake, played youth baseball at Rea Park next to Pioneer Elementary from age 4 to 12 followed by Babe Ruth League Baseball in Rochester, Ind., at 13U, the Jay Hundley-coached Indiana Outlaws from 14U to 16U, the Ken Niles-coached Indiana Mustangs at 17U and the Mike Hitt-coached Indiana Blue Jays at 18U. He was with the Mike Farrell-coached Brewers Fall Scout Team at 16U and Kevin Christman-coach Giants Fall Scout Team at 17U. He went to Farrell for pitching lessons from age 12 until the end of the high school career.
A right-handed pitcher-only in travel ball and college, Waddups was also a shortstop and first baseman at Pioneer while playing four years for Panthers head coach Rick Farrer.
“We still stay in-touch,” says Waddups of Farrer. “He’s a great man.”
Wads was a four-team all-Loganland, all-Hoosier North Athletic Conference and team captain at Pioneer, where he set career records for earned run average, strikeouts, wins, home runs and runs batted in. As a senior, he was Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association All-State, an IHSBCA North All-Star and Loganland and HNAC Player of the Year.
With a few exceptions, father Murl Waddups coached Tucker on most of his teams growing up. He got to have his father on his staff with the Nitro.
Waddups spent the fall of 2016 and spring of 2017 with the Anderson (Ind.) University baseball team. Dustin Glant (now pitching coach at Indiana University) was Ravens head coach until the end of the fall semester then Drew Brantley (now head coach at Indiana University Kokomo) took over.
A transfer to Taylor University in Upland, Ind., gave Waddups the opportunity to play for head coach Kyle Gould and pitching coach Justin Barber. With an extra COVID-19 season, he suited up for the Trojans for four seasons (2018-21).
“It was definitely a good experience playing for Coach Gould,” says Waddups. “He knows the game well. He’s won a lot of baseball games.
With Gould and Barber, it’s all about player development and getting guys better every year. They did a really good job of taking care of us and making sure we had everything we needed to be successful. It was four of the best years of my life.”
Waddups majored in Sport Management and minored in Coaching at Taylor.
In the summer of 2019, Joel Mishler gave Waddups the chance to coach at 13U team for the Indiana Chargers travel organization founded and directed by Mishler.
“I absolutely loved it,” says Waddups. “It was a blast.”
One of Waddups’ Chargers players was Kai Aoki, son of then-Notre Dame head coach Mik Aoki (now head coach at Morehead State University).
“I got to know Mik real well,” says Waddups. “I still talk with him.”
Chad Newhard had been a Taylor assistant and was affiliated with the Indiana Nitro and that relationship led to Waddups coaching at 15U Nitro team in the summer of 2020.
After wrapping his playing career in the spring of 2021, Waddups served as pitching coach for the college wood bat Northwoods League’s Hayden Carter-managed Kokomo Jackrabbits. Waddups pitched for Kokomo in 2017 and 2018 when Gary McClure was Jackrabbits manager.
“He knows how to win really well,” says Waddups of McClure. “He won a lot of games at Austin Peay (University).”
Waddups is slated to head back to the Northwoods League in the summer of 2022 as the pitching coach for the Travese City (Mich.) Pit Spitters. He got to know Traverse City manager Josh Rebandt through frequent meetings between Kokomo and the Spitters in 2021.
The coaching position at Mount Vernon Nazarene came about when Cougars head coach Keith Veale let friend and fellow Crossroads League head coach Gould know about a need for an assistant to guide pitchers and help with recruiting.
Veale and Waddups spoke during the Crossroads League tournament and Waddups saw an MVNU practice before the NAIA Opening Round and decided to take the job.
“I work every single day with pitchers and do their programming,” says Waddups, who also recruits and runs camps. “It’s definitely something I want to do the rest of my life.”
Home Designs by Waddups (formerly Waddups Improvements) is Murl’s business.
Kim Waddups runs a daycare out of her home.
“She taught me a lot about life,” says Tucker. “We’ve gotten really, really close since I went to college.”
Trey Waddups (Pioneer Class of 2018) is Tucker’s younger brother. He played baseball and basketball in high school and is the Panthers’ all-time scoring leader in basketball. He played one season of baseball and is in his third in basketball at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind.

Tucker Waddups (Kokomo Jackrabbits Photo)
Tucker Waddups (Kokomo Jackrabbits Photo)

Notre Dame’s Gumpf, Lynch together again with Bethesda Big Train

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Brady Gumpf and Ryan Lynch were youngsters when they were first baseball teammates.
The two buddies played in the summers for the Granger (Ind.) Cubs with Chris Hickey as head coach and Greg Lynch (Ryan’s father and former University of Wisconsin baseball player) as an assistant. Then came the Jay Hundley-coadhed Indiana Outlaws. That travel organization became the Evoshield Canes (now Canes Midwest). Both have earned All-American and all-tournament honors from Perfect Game.
“We car-pooled down to Indianapolis every weekend,” says Lynch of the trips to meet up with the Outlaws or Canes. “It was always fun playing against him at school.”
Lynch and C.J. Kavadas tried to coax Gumpf to play with them at Penn High School. But Gumpf stayed at South Bend (Ind.) Saint Joseph where his father – John Gumpf — was Indians head coach.
When it came time for college ball, 2020 high school graduates Gumpf and Lynch both landed close to home at the University of Notre Dame. Because of depth and talent for head coach Link Jarrett’s Irish, Gumpf did not get into a game and Lynch pitched 2/3 of an inning in the spring of 2021. ND went 34-13, won the South Bend Regional and lost to eventual national champion Mississippi State in the Starkville Super Regional.
This summer, righty-swinging outfielder Gumpf and left-handed pitcher Lynch were again teammates with the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League-champion Bethesda (Md.) Big Train, where Sal Colangelo was manager, Sam Bender hitting coach and Craig Lopez pitching coach. They were placed there along with Irish mates Matt Bedford and Danny Neri by Notre Dame assistant Rich Wallace.
In 28 regular-season games, Gumpf hit .290 (20-of-69) with three home runs, one triple, one double, 13 runs batted in and 18 runs scored.
“At the beginning of summer I was struggling a little bit at the plate, but I turned it around pretty easily,” says Gumpf, whose last game action came in the fall of 2019 for Team Indiana, coached by Prep Baseball Report Indiana’s Phil Wade and Blake Hibler. “It was the first time playing in awhile. I was still able to grow as a player and improve. It was mostly just getting the reps.”
Gumpf, a 6-foot-1, 195-pounder, split his defensive time for Bethesda between right and left field and did make an appearance at third base.
A catcher/outfielder in high school, Gumpf has been mostly an outfielder at Notre Dame.
“With my overall athleticism, I made the transition to that pretty easily,” says Gumpf. “I can still catch.”
Brady played at what is now South Bend East Side Baseball Softball Association before joining the Granger Cubs.
At Saint Joe, he was on the roster as a freshman as the Indians won the IHSAA Class 3A state championship in 2017. There was another sectional title in 2018. The 2019 season ended in the final game of the Griffith Regional with a loss to eventual 3A state champion Andrean.
Gumpf was honorable mention all-state as a sophomore and junior and all-conference second team in 2018 and first team in 2019.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic there was no 2020 prep season. Gumpf was invited to play in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., but was advised by Notre Dame coaches to take the summer off and train on his own.
Gumpf has declared himself to be a Management Consulting major.
Brady’s mother, Deanna Gumpf, is head softball coach at Notre Dame. Deanna and John also have a daughter — Tatum.
Lynch, a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, made regular-season mound appearances (seven in relief) for the 2021 Big Train and went 2-1 with a 5.54 earned run average. In 13 innings, the southpaw produced 22 strikeouts and eight walks.
“It was a good experience for me to get some innings in and to develop,” says Lynch, who pitched in mid-week scrimmages with ND substitutes last spring.
“I want to try to become a starter,” says Lynch. “I think I have the skill.
“We do have a lot of guys who started coming back and there are transfers that we picked up. I want to compete this fall and earn some kind of spot.”
Chuck Ristano is the Notre Dame pitching coach.
Lynch employs both a four-seam and two-seam fastball as well as a change-up, curveball and slider.
The lefty gets plenty of arm-side run on his fastballs. The four-seamer sat at 88 to 91 mph in the spring.
He tosses a “circle” change and gets his “12-to-6” curve to run in on lefties and drop a little bit.
The slider is harder than the curve — mid 80’s vs. about 75.
“One of my strengths is that all of my pitches look the same when they come out (of my hand),” says Lynch. “That’s good. That’s what I want — to keep the hitters off-balance.”
Lynch has decided on Finance as a major as he enters his sophomore year at Notre Dame. He moves back to campus this weekend and classes begin Monday, Aug. 23. Baseball activities are expected to begin shortly after that.
At Penn, Lynch was the 2020 Gatorade Indiana Baseball Player of the Year. Penn topped Saint Joe for the Northern Indiana Conference title in 2019.
The Greg Dikos-coached Kingsmen were Class 4A state runners-up in 2017 with freshman Lynch in center field. He pitched a no-hitter that same season.
Greg and Diana Lynch have three children — Kristina, Ryan and Brandon. Kristina Lynch plays soccer at Florida State University, where the Seminoles won a national title in 2018.

Brady Gumpf (University of Notre Dame Photo)
Ryan Lynch (University of Notre Dame Photo)
Brady Gumpf (University of Notre Dame Photo)
Ryan Lynch (University of Notre Dame Photo)
Brady Gumpf (Bethesda Big Train Photo)
Ryan Lynch (Bethesda Big Train Photo)
Brady Gumpf (Bethesda Big Train Photo)
Ryan Lynch (Bethesda Big Train Photo)
Brady Gumpf crosses the plate (Bethesda Big Train Photo)
Ryan Lynch (University of Notre Dame Photo)

Michiana Scrappers, Indiana Twins join Canes Baseball family

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A nationally-recognized travel baseball showcase brand has expanded in Indiana.
Canes Baseball has brought the Michiana Scrappers and Indiana Twins into the family and those organizations have rebranded to Canes Great Lakes and Canes Indiana.
Together with Canes Midwest, there are now three Canes Baseball entities in the Hoosier State.
Canes Midwest president Jay Hundley approached the Scrappers and Twins as Canes was looking to raise its profile in Indiana. Hundley’s Indiana Outlaws, which he founded in 2012, joined Canes a few years ago.
With President and CEO and 17U National head coach Jeff Petty and general manager and 14U National head coach Dan Gitzen based in the Virginia/Maryland/North Carolina area, Canes Baseball is one of the biggest travel programs in the country with thousands of players and a very large social media presence.
Canes Great Lakes has a training facility — The Scrap Yard — 4027 N. Home Street in Mishawaka. Canes Indiana works out in three buildings at 6727 S.R. 67 North in Martinsville (next to the Centerbrook Drive-In movie theater).
“It’s good we have this opportunity,” says Brian Blondell, president/director of player operations for the Scrappers and now Canes Great Lakes. “It gives us room for growth and the backing Canes has regionally and nationally.
“This makes the most sense for our kids. Nothing changes day-to-day. We just now have more leverage with Canes National and Canes Midwest.
The School of Hard Knocks Scrappers started in 2004 with one 15U/16U team and grew from there and became the Michiana Scrappers, drawing players from Michigan as well as Indiana. More than 130 players went on to play college baseball.
“It was hard with what you’ve put into it, the branding, colors (orange and black) and all the time and commitment” says Blondell of saying goodbye to the Scrappers identity for baseball. The organization has also been involved in softball, basketball and hockey.
In 2021, the Scrappers were represented by 19 baseball and four softball teams.
Recent tryouts for Canes Great Lakes brought out 203 players. Blondell says his part of the system could field up to 22 teams in 2022. That includes three at the 15U level.
Scott Haase, vice president and pitching coordinator for the Indiana Twins and now Canes Indiana, expects there will be around 14 teams wearing the familiar gold and black Canes colors for Canes Indiana in 2022.
Jason Clymore, the father of boy-girl twins born in 2009 who founded the Indiana Twins in 2012, was approached by Hundley about his organization becoming part of Canes Baseball.
Haase says the Canes were impressed with the Twins’ track record.
“Jason has been in the travel ball world for over 20 years developing athletes and are organization has continued to develop athletes each and every year so they wanted us to be the representative for Canes Indiana,” says Haase.
Twins players came from around the state and Haase says he expects that to continue with Canes Indiana.
“The difference now is those athletes that weren’t too sure about making that travel and now willing to make that travel,” says Haase. “It’s a national brand and that’s a big deal to our organization. There’s been immediate buy-in from everybody. We’ve been known across the state, but to be known nationally is a jump we’re more than ready for.”
For more information about Canes Great Lakes, contact at canesgreatlakes@gmail.com.
To know more about Canes Indiana, contact canesindiana@gmail.com.

Canes Baseball
Canes Great Lanes
Michiana Scrappers
Brian Blondell
Indiana Twins
Jason Clymor
Scott Haase
Canes Indiana
Jay Hundley of Canes Midwest (gray)

Even without minor league season, Roncalli, Louisville grad McAvene keeps on pitching

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Michael McAvene is doing his best to keep the momentum rolling in his baseball career.

The right-handed pitcher had to push the pause button during his high school and college days because of injury and now he’s at a standstill period as a professional because of the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down Minor League Baseball in 2020.

McAvene is a 2016 graduate of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, playing for three head coaches. He made a few varsity appearances as a freshman for Keith Hatfield in 2013, even more as a sophomore for Daron Spink in 2014, missed his junior season with the Rebels with elbow issues in 2015 and was part of an IHSAA Class 4A state championship team as a senior for Aaron Kroll in 2016.

As a University of Louisville freshman in the spring of 2017, McAvene was hurt in an April relief stint and soon found himself on the operating table. His next pitch in a collegiate game came April 2018.

After getting into seven games (five as a starter) and going 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA, 26 strikeouts and 15 walks in 17 1/3 innings as a U of L freshman, McAvene went to the bullpen when he came back from his surgery.

The righty made 34 appearances out of the bullpen his last two collegiate seasons, going 2-1 with nine saves, a 3.32 earned run average, 65 strikeouts and 18 walks in 43 1/3 innings. He was named second team all-Atlantic Coast Conference in 2019.

The Cardinals qualified for the NCAA Tournament 2017-19 and went to the College World Series in 2017 and 2019

U of L was ranked No. 1 in the nation during part of that stretch and McAvene was labeled as the team’s closer during the end of that run.

“I loved it,” says McAvene. “You have to have a certain mentality for (that role).

“It came easy for me to get the last out of the game, which in my opinion is the last out to get.”

It was while going for that last out that McAvene received an automative four-game suspension following his ejection for disputing an umpire’s decision in NCAA regional victory over Indiana University.

He counts it as part of his experience. 

“I definitely didn’t want to talk about it (immediately after the game),” says McAvene. “But you’ve got to be professional and not let emotions get in the way.”

McAvene cherished the atmosphere created at Louisville by head coach Dan McDonnell and pitching coach Roger Williams.

“(McDonnell) gets you to the point where you’d run through a wall for him and your teammates,” says McAvene. “That’s the culture.

“It’s a testament to the players and the type of people he brings in.”

Williams pushed his pitchers.

“He taught me what it takes to be successful at this level,” says McAvene of Williams. “He’s a very challenging guy. He expects us to be on top of our games at all times. He won’t accept less. He made us accountable.

“When it’s your time, you’re all that’s out there. You have to execute and do all you can to get your team to win.”

McAvene says Williams is one of the best game callers in the country and his scouting reports are second to none.

“(McDonnell and Williams are) two of the most legendary coaches in the history of college baseball and they’re just starting,” says McAvene, who was selected in the third round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago Cubs

Appearing in six games with the 2019 Eugene (Ore.) Emeralds, he went 0-0 with a 1.42 ERA, 20 strikeouts and four walks in 12 2/3 innings. Of 199 pitches, 126 were thrown for strikes.

The way the organization is currently formed, the next step on the ladder would be with the South Bend (Ind.) Cubs.

McAvene faced some hitters before spring training and he’s since had some competitive bullpen sessions while following the program laid out by the Cubs. He just hasn’t delivered a pitch in a game since Aug. 31, 2019.

“I have a pretty good player plan sent out by the Cubs,” says McAvene. “I just can’t replicate in-game reps.”

While some of his former Louisville teammates have been involved in the four-team Battle of the Bourbon Trail independent league in Florence and Lexington, McAvene has stayed in central Indiana to train.

The McAvenes family — Rob, Jennifer, Michael and Bradley — lived for years near Camby, near Mooresville, and now reside in Danville.

It’s about a 10-minute trip to Plainfield to work out at the home of his former Ben Davis Little League and Indiana Outlaws travel coach, Jay Hundley, along with pros Jacson McGowan (who played at Brownsburg High School and Purdue University and is now in the Tampa Bay Rays system) and Nick Schnell (who was Indiana Mr. Baseball at Roncalli in 2018 and is also with the Rays), Indiana University left-hander Zach Behrmann (Indianapolis North Central graduate) and others. 

McAvene was able to retire most high school hitters with a fastball and a breaking ball. 

While starting at Louisville, he began to get a feel for a change-up. When he went to the back of the Cards’ pen, he used a fastball, slider and curveball and, essentially, shelved the change-up on the shelf.

Given a chance to return to starting with the Cubs, McAvene again began working to get comfortable with throwing a “circle” change — a grip taught to him by a friend while he was with the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod Baseball League in the summer of 2018.

“I knew my curveball and my slider were only going to get me so far,” says McAvene. “The change-up sets apart good players from great players.”

Throwing from a low three-quarter arm angle, McAvene throws more two-seam fastballs than four-seamers.

“It has a sinker action,” says McAvene of the two-seamer that registers as a sinker on Cubs’ analytic equipment like Rapsodo and TrackMan. “My arm slot allows for a lot of downward action on it.

“I wanted to make sure I’ve got some lateral movement on it. The sink is an added bonus.”

McAvene’s curve has morphed. He used to throw the pitch in the traditional manner with a sweeping motion. 

“I switched the grip to a knuckle curve to get more depth,” says McAvene. “It pairs well with my fastball and slider.”

As for the slider, McAvene was throwing it at Eugene at 86 to 90 mph.

“It has a very hard and tight break,” says McAvene of the slider. “The movement is late and right at the very end.”

After the 2019 season, McAvene finished his Sports Administration degree, graduating magna cum laude in December.

McAvene, who turned 23 on Aug. 24, says he was hopeful that there might be fall instructional league with the Cubs this year. But since it’s already September and Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball are still figuring out the terms of their agreement, that looks improbable.

Born in the same Indianapolis hospital where his mother has spent 30 years as an ICU nurse (IU Health University), McAvene grew up in the Mooresville area. He was an Mooresville Little League all-star from 9 to 11 — the last two with his father as coach (Rob McAvene is now an independent distributor for Pepperidge Farms) — before his one year at Ben Davis Little League. 

Before attending Roncalli, Michael spent Grades K-6 at North Madison Elementary in Camby and middle school at Saint Mark Catholic School on the south side of Indianapolis.

Bradley McAvene (18) is a 2020 graduate of Indiana Connections Academy.

Michael McAvene pitched for the University of Louisville. (Prospects Live Video)
Michael McAvene is a 2016 graduate of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, where he helped the Rebels win an IHSAA Class 4A state championship as a senior.
Michael McAvene pitched at the University of Louisville 2017-19. He was the Cardinals closer at the end of that stretch. Louisville went to the College World Series in 2017 and 2019. (University of Louisville Photo)
Michael McAvene, a graduate of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis and the University of Louisville, was drafted by the Chicago Cubs and pitched for the Eugene (Ore.) Emeralds in 2019. (Photo by Aussiedi Photography)

Relationships key for Hundley, Canes Midwest Baseball

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Coaching continuity is one of the ingredients that helps fuel the Canes Midwest Baseball travel program.

In order to build relationships and develop players, coaching staffs tend to stay with the same group of players from their 14U through 17U seasons.

“If I’ve only been around these kids for eight weeks in summer, I don’t really get to know the kid and the family,” says Jay Hundley, Canes Midwest Baseball president and 17U head coach. “The cycle — I believe in that.”

Hundley recalls an emotional goodbye by himself and his assistant coaches to the Canes 17U team when they played their last game of 2019.

“We cried like babies for 25 minutes straight,” says Hundley. “(The players and their parents) became our second family.”

That bond happens through years of training (off-season workouts are done at Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind.), traveling and playing together. 

In 2020, Canes Midwest Baseball is fielding six teams — 11U (head coach Eric McGaha with help from Joe Haley), 12U (Jamie Nanny with Jeremy Sensenbaugh), 13U (Jeff Millington with Ryan Wolfe), 15U (Jeremy Honaker with Drew Koning and Drew Bertram), 16U (Phil McIntyre with David Bear) and 17U (Hundley with Phillip Webb, Ben McDaniel and Hunter McIntosh). 

McGaha (Mooresville), Honaker (Martinsville), McIntyre (Indianapolis North Central), Bear (Ben Davis), Webb (Western Boone) and McDaniel (Columbus North) are all high school head coaches. Sensenbaugh (Indianapolis Cathedral), Koning (Zionsville) and McIntosh (Columbus North) are also high school assistants. Bertram played at Purdue University and just graduated.

Hundley says there will be teams at each age from 10U to 17U when new squads are formed for 2020-21.

“We’ll only only ever have only one team per age group,” says Hundley. “We want to have the best kids and coaches. We’re trying to grow it the right way — slowly and surely.

“We’ve had the same coaches for almost 10 years.”

Hundley founded the Indiana Outlaws around 2012. A few years ago, that organization merged with Canes Baseball.

With President and CEO and 18U National head coach Jeff Petty and general manager and 14U National head coach Dan Gitzen based in the Virginia/Maryland/North Carolina area, Canes Baseball is one of the biggest travel programs in the country with thousands of players and a very large social media presence.

“The Outlaws were known in Indiana and surrounding areas,” says Hundley. 

While Canes Midwest Baseball is locally owned and operated, Hundley says the national Canes brand helps with outreach in getting better players and with exposure to college programs.

Canes Midwest Baseball does not have a huge board of directors.

“It’s like a mom-and-pop operation,” says Hundley. “It’s myself and our coaches. It’s about baseball at the end of the day. 

“We’re getting guys into college and developing our younger players. We build great relationships with families. We do it for the right reasons.”

Hundley says 21 of the 23 players on the 17U team in 2019 (members of the Class of 2020) made college baseball commitments.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 college season was cut short and players were given an extra year of eligibility. High school seniors missed the entire spring campaign.

The Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft was sliced from 40 to five rounds. 

On top of that, the recruiting calendar for NCAA Divisions I and II was changed so coaches can’t see players in-person until after July 31. The travel season is essentially over by then.

To deal with that, Hundley says Canes Midwest Baseball will continue to provide those college coaches with video and use the equity built built over the years between the travel group and the college recruiters.

“We have to vouch for our player’s character, but we can’t oversell a player who’s not a fit for the school or we lose credibility,” says Hundley. “(Recruiters) can see a guy’s talent, but can’t see what’s in his heart or between his ears.”

It’s typical that close to 90 percent of players are committed by the end of the 17U summer.

Hundley says that it used to be that the 17U summer was the most important for players bound for Division I Power 5 programs. 

That has changed to 16U and some players have even made verbal commitments as 15U players. At 17U, there are still D-I commitments made as well as at other collegiate levels.

“The landscape has changed so much,” says Hundley. “There may be a chain reaction for three or four years. There are a lot of guys that didn’t leave college because of not being drafted.

“The waters have gotten very muddy. I don’t think it’s going to get clear for awhile.”

The 17U Canes Midwest team has already participated in three events for 2020. This week, the squad goes to the Prep Baseball Report Midwest Premier Super 17 at Creekside Baseball Park — an invitational-only tournament near Kansas City. That will be followed by the PBR Indiana Upperclass State Games and Bullpen 17 Amateur Baseball Championships (both at Grand Park in Westfield), the PBR 17U National Championship at LakePoint near Atlanta. 

Depending on participation by college recruiters, Hundley says the 17U Canes Midwest team might also play in the next Bullpen Midwest Prospect League event at Grand Park.

With their bright gold attire, it’s usually not difficult to spot the Canes at a tournament.

Hundley is a 1997 graduate of Ben Davis High School and played for head coach Dave Brown. Later on, Hundley was a Ben Davis assistant for six years and followed Aaron Kroll to staff Roncalli High School in Indianapolis and was on his staff 2015-19. 

The Roncalli Rebels — junior Michael McAvene was the winning pitcher (who later played at the University of Louisville and was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2019) and sophomore Nick Schnell (who was selected as Indiana Mr. Baseball in 2018 and drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays that same year) —  won the 2016 IHSAA Class 4A state title. McAvene and Schnell are also Outlaws/Canes Midwest alums.

Other Outlaws/Canes Midwest players drafted in recent years include Jacson McGowan (Rays, 2018), Drew Campbell (Atlanta Braves, 2019), Andrew Saalfrank (Arizona Diamondbacks, 2019).

For the past 22 years, Hundley has been part of the concrete construction industry. He is the owner of Extreme Concrete Cutting, Inc.

The Canes Midwest travel baseball organization has six teams in 2020.
Jay Hundley (center) is the head coach and president of the Canes Midwest travel organization. The graduate of Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis started the Indiana Outlaws and later merged with the Canes.
Jay Hundley (right) with son Bronx Robert Hundley. Jay is the president and coach of Canes Midwest travel baseball.

Penn’s Lynch 2019-20 Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Ryan Lynch has long enjoyed using his drive to succeed to his advantage.

Ask the senior left-handed pitcher/centerfielder from Penn High School in Mishawaka what has made him into the Gatorade Indiana 2019-20 Player of the Year for Baseball and he doesn’t hesitate.

“My athleticism and competitiveness,” says Lynch, who is bound for the University of Notre Dame as a two-way player. “(Hitting) mechanics are something I’ve been working on. Before that I didn’t get too much into that. I used (athleticism and competitiveness) in overcoming some of the flaws in my swing.

“Competitiveness carries over from the batter’s box to the pitching mound. Competitiveness and composure. With the bases loaded and less that two outs, I trust myself to get out of a jam.”

At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Lynch has grown about an inch and packed on 20 pounds of muscle since entering high school.

Lynch, 18, has also gained the wisdom of others along the way.

“A lot of my growth has come with the upper class, especially at Penn,” says Lynch. “Niko Kavadas was a senior when I was a freshman. “He’s given me a lot of great advice. He showed me what it takes to be a Division I college athlete.”

Kavadas, a Notre Dame third baseman, is a candidate for the 2020 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He aided Lynch with hitting drills and mechanics, weight lifting tips and talked to him about the mental part of the game.

As a Penn freshman in 2017, Lynch went 7-0 with a 2.86 earned run average and helped Penn to the IHSAA Class 4A state championship game. A righty swinger, he also hit .350 with 26 runs batted in.

In 2018, he was 8-2 with a 2.07 ERA on the mound and hit .456 with 44 RBIs.

As a junior in 2018, his pitching mark was 5-1 with 1.61 ERA. He also hit .330 with 20 RBIs.

The 2020 season was taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For his three-year career, Lynch was 20-3 with a 2.18 ERA with 201 strikeouts and 79 walks. He also batted .378 and plated 90 runs.

Lynch thoroughly enjoyed his time in the Penn program headed by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Greg Dikos.

“It was my first time being with a true team with bus rides together and seeing each other at school,” says Lynch. “It taught me some valuable lessons about being a better teammate and a leader as well, working with some of the young guys who needed.

“It’s not being selfish. We’re trying to work as a team and get to that state championship.”

Lynch considers himself as a versatile offensive player — something who can be a threat with his speed, but can also pop the ball into the gaps or over the fence.

“Having a training mindset, I want to get as strong as I can but be flexible,” says Lynch. “It’s not being too big and slow so you can’t stretch doubles and steal those bases.

“Some guys will train for one thing or another. If (the team wants) me to hit for power, I know what to do. If they want me to use speed, I know what to do.

“I’ve worked on my launch angle as I’ve worked on mechanics. Hopefully that will help me hit more home runs along with the doubles.”

On the mound, Lynch possesses a moving fastball clocked at 85 to 90 mph and is able to locate his curve ball and slider.

He describes the action of the breaking balls in terms of a clock face — 11-to-5 with the curve and 10-to-4 with a slider.

“I’ve been trying to get my curve ball more 12-to-6,” says Lynch. “It’s hard for hitters to pick up.

“I love throwing the slider to lefties. That’s probably where it’s most effective. You get them to open up their hips early and roll over on it.”

Lynch verbally committed early to Notre Dame and the new staff headed by Link Jarrett honored that offer.

“Growing up really close to Notre Dame, I loved everything about it — that campus, the traditions,” says Lynch. “Going to football games was really fun.

“The importance of Notre Dame and how valuable an education from that university would be. That really sets it apart.”

Lynch will graduate from Penn with the Latin Academic Honors distinction Cum Laude (4.25 grade-point average or higher on a scale of 4.0).

As a member of Penn’s Student-Athlete Leadership Council, Lynch has taken the lead in the school’s commitment to education-based athletics, creating and implementing lessons such as social media responsibility and how to take care of yourself and your teammates. He has helped organize events ranging from building community to freshmen student-athlete mentoring.

Another plus about playing at Notre Dame is the competition and exposure Lynch will get in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“Everyone says great things about Coach Jarrett and the staff,” says Lynch. “I’m real excited to get into that program.”

The third of Gregory and Diana Lynch’s three children (Kristina is now playing soccer at Florida State University and football player Brandon is finishing his eighth grade year at Discovery Middle School), Ryan played for the Granger (Ind.) Cubs travel team from 9-13. To face a higher level of competition, he split his 13U summer with the Cubs and Ohio Elite. That team made it deep into the USSSA 13U World Series at Disney World in Florida.

In high school, Lynch played for the Jay Hundley-coached Indiana Outlaws (which became the Evoshield Canes Midwest).

Lynch says last summer was going to be his last with the Canes. With the cancellation of the 2020 Indiana high school season, the team is considering having a short summer run.

“I still have to get word with Coach Jarrett and his opinion on it,” says Lynch. “He doesn’t want me to rush back into anything. It’s something I will consider for this summer.”

Kristina Lynch was selected as the 2017-18 Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year in Girls Soccer and now plays that sport at Florida State University. She helped the Seminoles win the 2018 National Championship.

“She’s made a big impact in my life,” says Ryan of Kristina. “She’s set a great example of what it takes to be successful in all aspects of life. It’s not just hard work on the field. She can manage playing sports and taking extremely hard classes and help out in the community.

“She’s able to reach out and expand as a person.”

Brandon Lynch, 15, was a quarterback and linebacker in middle school and now moves on to the storied Penn football program.

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Ryan Lynch, a senior at Penn High School in Mishawaka, is the Gatorade Indiana 2019-20 Player of the Year for Baseball. He is on his way to the University of Notre Dame. (Penn High School Photo)

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Ryan Lynch, a senior at Penn High School in Mishawaka, is the Gatorade Indiana 2019-20 Player of the Year for Baseball. In three season, the left-handed pitcher/center fielder won 20 games and hit .378 with 90 runs batted in during his prep career. He is bound for the University of Notre Dame. (Penn High School Photo)

Baseball, friendship has Leyva assisting Bair at Anderson U.

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Carlos Leyva’s baseball connection to Matt Bair goes back more than two decades.

Leyva and Bair were Babe Ruth teammates in Anderson, Ind., at 13, 14 and 15. Rudy Mannie was the head coach. Leyva was mostly an outfielder and Bair a middle infielder.

In high school ball, Leyva represented the Phil Nikirk-coached Madison Heights Pirates while Bair was nearby with Terry Turner’s Anderson Indians. Both players graduated in 1995.

Leyva, Bair and Mannie were reunited when Bair became the head coach at Anderson Highland High School with Leyva and Mannie as assistants.

“It was cool to see that come full circle,” says Leyva of he and Bair getting to coach with a boyhood mentor in Mannie. “He was a big influence in both our lives.”

Madison Heights and Highland have since been consolidated into Anderson High.

After serving four seasons (2004-07) as a Scots junior varsity coach on the staff of Highland head coach Jason Stecher (current to Turner at Daleville (Ind.) High School and son of long-time Highland head coach Bob Stecher, who retired with more than 500 victories), Leyva was a varsity assistant for three years with Bair (2008-10).

So it was a natural when Bair took over as head baseball coach at Anderson University that he’d reach out to his friend.

“We really hit it off (at Highland) then he asked me to come with him to AU,” says Leyva. “We were getting the band back together.”

The 2020 Anderson season – though it was shortened to nine games because of the COVID-19 pandemic — was the third on Leyva with the Ravens.

His duties include working with outfielders, base running and assisting Bair with hitters. He also coaches first base when AU is at the plate.

Leyva has keys for his outfielders.

“The most important thing we can do is re-direct the ball back to the infield,” says Leyva. “We can shut down the other team’s offense.

“We focus on three goals at all times — keep the double play in order, limit the offense to one base at a time and with balls in the ground we’re 100 percent (no errors).”

The stolen base is a major part of Ravens baseball.

“We got progressively better as we implemented our system,” says Leyva. “We take pride in our base running.

“In a game where the defense has the ball we can take some control back on offense. We’re constantly studying what the game is giving us to see where we can find an advantage.”

Anderson, a member of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, swiped 105 bases in 45 games in 2018. Once Leyva and Bair had their system in place, the team lost to one of the more prolific teams in NCAA Division III, pilfering 109 in 37 games in 2019 and heisting 42 in nine contests in 2020.

“As a rule of thumb, the entire team has the green light,” says Leyva. “We live on those opportunities we’re creating.”

Bair runs the overall hitting system, including small group work in practice. Leyva spends time on the offensive side the outfielders.

“Our staff at AU is affluent in the game of baseball,” says Leyva of a group that also features Brandon Schnepp, John Becker, Jeff Freeman, Zach Barnes and Nate McKeon. “We dip our toes into each other’s pools at times.

“We have a rather large staff for a college team. That’s a testament to Bair and local guys who love the game and know what’s going on. Opinions and input is always welcome.”

Prior to joining the Ravens, Leyva spent seven seasons as an an assistant at Pendleton (Ind.) Heights High School (2011-17) under two Arabians head coaches — two years with Bill Stoudt and five with Travis Keesling. The PHHS program is now headed by Matt Vosburgh.

“That was awesome, spending time in the dugout with a Hall of Famer,” says Leyva of his experience with Indiana High school Baseball Coaches Association enshrinee Stoudt.

Leyva says Keesling’s ability to leverage the abilities of his coaching staff is one of his strengths.

“He had a football mentality with position coaches,” says Leyva. “He let the infield guy be the infield guy (and so on). He took over that managerial role of figuring out how to best put those pieces together.

“You see staffs being put together that way all over the country. He was early to that concept.”

Leyva fondly looks back on his days playing at Madison Heights for Nikirk (who is now secondary school principal at Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis).

“He was really big on personal responsibility and accountability and was really fair,” says Leyva. “He gave the guys opportunities.

“Those are qualities I’ve carried forward in my coaching career.”

Leyva has also coached travel baseball. He was co-founder and a head coach of the Indiana Magic in 2011-12 and was an assistant to Ryan Bunnell with Indiana Bulls 16U in 2013, Mike Farrell with the Indiana Outlaws (an organization started by Jay Hundley which is now part of Evoshield Canes Midwest) in 2014 and Mike Hitt with the Indiana Blue Jays 2015-17.

The Magic was comprised of players from Madison and surrounding counties and won 60 games in two summers.

Besides leading a Bulls team, Bunnell is also head coach at Westfield (Ind.) High School.

Farrell, who played at Indiana State University, is a veteran instructor and a scouting supervisor for the Kansas City Royals.

“That may have been as much fun as I’ve had in baseball.” says Leyva of his time coaching the Blue Jays. “We were a single (18U) team. The roster was all guys committed to playing college baseball at a high level and there were no egos.

“We just had a blast playing really good baseball. We were like 60-5 in three years.”

Thomas Hall, Leyva’s nephew, was on each of those travel teams. The Pendleton Heights graduate was selected for the 2015 IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in Terre Haute and played at Heartland Community College in Normal, Ill.

After graduating from Madison Heights, Leyva attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., for two years then transferred to Indiana University in Bloomington. He majored in Computer Information Systems and is a 2000 graduate of IU’s Kelley School of Business and has worked since 2008 for IBM as a System Storage Enterprise Client Technical Specialist.

Carlos and Julie Leyva have three children — fourth grader Mia (10), second grader Izzy (8) and kindergartener Cruz (7). Julie is on the front lines of the pandemic as a nurse practitioner.

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Carlos Leyva has been an assistant baseball coach at Anderson (Ind.) University since the 2018 season. (Anderson University Photo)

 

Mental toughness helps Roncalli grad, current Rays minor leaguer Schnell

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

It used to burn Nick Schnell when his every at-bat didn’t produce a hit.

He expected to catch every fly.

Then the Indianapolis-born Schnell encountered Roncalli High School head baseball coach Aaron Kroll.

“He helped me a ton on the mental side of the game,” says Schnell of Kroll. “Baseball’s a game of failure. He told me, ‘just believe in yourself’ and ‘ don’t get down on yourself because of one bad at-bat.’”

Kroll encouraged Schnell to become one of the Rebels’ vocal leaders and lead by example by always playing hard.

Schnell responded by helping Roncalli to an IHSAA Class 4A state championship as a sophomore in 2016 and solid seasons in 2017 and 2018.

The lefty-swinging center fielder enjoyed a monster senior season, hitting .535 with 15 home runs and 37 runs batted in for a 25-6 club that won Marion County and Ben Davis Sectional titles.

“I knew I had the capability to do that my senior year,” says Schnell. “I got on a roll and felt really good.

“I tried to repeat the same thing I was doing. I was playing with a lot of confidence.”

At one particularly red-hot stretch, Schnell went 12-for-15 at the plate with seven homers.

Schnell’s head-turning 2018 season ended in the first round of the Decatur Central Regional with a show of respect from Indianapolis Cathedral.

Leading 6-2 with two outs in the seventh inning with bases loaded for Roncalli and Schnell coming to the plate, the Irish intentionally walked the slugger and wound up with a 6-3 win.

Schnell earned Mr. Baseball honors from the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association and was Indiana’s Gatorade Player of the Year and the Indianapolis Star Player of the Year.

He had verbally committed to play at the University of Louisville during his sophomore season and signed with the Cardinals as a senior.

But with Roncalli’s season winding down and the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft looming, Nick had a decision to make.

“My parents (Jay and Angie Schnell) and I sat down and talked about it,” says Nick. “The professional route is the best for me to create a good career.”

The Tampa Bay Rays selected Schnell as a compensatory first-round draft pick (No. 32 overall) and sent him to their rookie-level Gulf Coast League team in Florida.

Right away, he saw a contrast in high school and pro baseball.

“The biggest difference was consistent velocity I saw (in the minors),” says Schnell. “I saw guys in the mid-90s, even 100. In high school, they were 80 to 85 and every once in awhile you’d see 90.”

While rookie league pitchers were working to control their stuff, even their sliders and curves would come in at 85 mph.

Schnell says it took him a little over a week to make the adjustment.

“It comes with adapting to the game,” says Schnell. “When you see it everyday it becomes second nature to you. It was a daily thing you knew was coming.”

Playing mostly center fielder and some right, the 18-year-old hit .239 with one homer and four RBIs and was 2-for-6 in stolen base attempts in 19 games. His season was cut short in late July with a small stress fracture in his wrist.

“It was a freak thing,” says Schnell. “It came from overuse.”

Rather than rush him back at the end of the season, the Rays let Schnell heal so he could participate in the fall instructional league.

He spent a month in Florida making up for time lost during the summer.

“My main focus was really developing more as a ballplayer — get some at-bats back and getting better in the outfield and getting a better jump on stolen bases.”

School was planning to study sports psychology at Louisville and he gravitated toward Rays minor league mental skills coordinator James Schwabach, who suggesting reading books like “Grit: A Complete Guide on Being Mentally Tough” by James Clear.

The lanky Schnell (he is 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds) considers versatility to be his strengths.

“I use my athleticism in all three outfield positions,” says Schnell, who was a starter in center for four seasons at Roncalli while hitting .473 with 25 homers and 109 RBIs. “I have all-fields hitting ability. I can hit to the opposite field or pull side.

“I’m not pull heavy. I use the whole field.”

Nick, the youngest of Jay and Amy Schnell’s three children, comes from an athletic family. His mother played volleyball at Kankakee Community College, where she met her future husband.

Oldest child Aaron Schnell (Roncalli Class of 2014) was three-time all-county in high school and played baseball at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Bailey Schnell (Roncalli ’15) played volleyball for the Rebels and then Western Michigan University.

Nick considers his father and brother as his biggest mentors.

“My dad got my brother and I into sports at an early age,” says Nick. “My brother is five years older. I followed him everywhere.”

Nick Schnell, who attended St. Roch Catholic School in Indianapolis Grades K-8, was a three-sport athlete through eighth grade (football, basketball, baseball). He played basketball his first two years in high school before deciding to concentrate on baseball.

Southport Little League on the south side of Indianapolis is where Schnell got his baseball start. He played there until he was 12.

Travel baseball teams included the Scott Schreiber-coached Blue Wave (a group of Roncallli-bound players) his 13U summer, the Dalton Jones-coached Indiana Twins (14U) and Jay Hundley-coached Indiana Outlaws (15U).

Schnell donned the uniform of the Indiana Bulls for two summers, playing for coaches Dan Held (16U) and Sean Laird (17U).

He spent two falls with Team Indiana and participated in an elite tournament in Jupiter, Fla., leading into his sophomore and junior years at Roncalli.

In the summer of 2017, Schnell was selected for the Perfect Game All-Star Classic in San Diego.

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Nick Schnell, a 2018 graduate of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, bats for the Gulf Coast Rays in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. Schnell was selected No. 32 overall in the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. (Cliff Welch Photography)