By STEVE KRAH
A young man with a head for business continues in what has been part of the family biz for generations.
Like his grandfather, Ralph Hartnagel Jr., and father, Ralph Hartnagel III, as well as uncles, aunts and cousins, Michael has continued to pursue athletics.
Also a tennis player while at Brownsburg (Ind.) High School, Michael Hartnagel’s latest athletic endeavors have centered around baseball.
After a season at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., he played three campaigns for Butler University in Indianapolis (2016-18) and has extended that fun since early July to the professional ranks with the Schaumburg (Ill.) Boomers of the independent Frontier League.
While working on his MBA, Hartnagel played in 51 games and hit .293 with one home run, 16 doubles, 26 runs batted in and 10 stolen bases for Butler in 2018.
For his three-year Bulldogs career, Hartnagel played in 156 games and hit .314 with three homers, 46 doubles, 70 RBIs and 15 stolen bases with five-hit games in 2016 against St. John’s and 2017 against Furman.
Through his first 22 games with Schaumburg, the righty-swinging shortstop was hitting . 264 with no homers, five doubles and five runs batted in.
“I’m living on that legacy of my grandfather and my dad,” says Michael, 23. “They pass that baseball tradition down in the Hartnagel family.”
The youngest of Ralph III and Chris Hartnagel’s three children (after Brett and Justin), Michael played is last two collegiate baseball seasons for head coach Dave Schrage.
“He changed the culture,” says Hartnagel of Schrage. “He helped me be level-headed and have a better approach on the field.
“The coaching staff at Butler helped tremendously with my game. There were a lot of small improvements I needed to make, both offensively and defensively. “
Hartnagel credits Schrage for helping him on both the mental and physical sides. With his offensive, he was able to gain some gap-to-gap power.
When Michael was at Brownsburg Little League (he played there from T-ball through age 12), his father coached and stressed fundamentals. The same approach was followed by for Butler assistant Brian Meyer in working with his infielders.
“We worked on some hand-eye coordination and footwork drills,” says Hartnagel. “That’s a huge part of defense — your hands, your eyes and your feet. If those three things can sync and coordinate, you can do a lot of great things out there.”
Last spring, Butler fielded at a .school-record 970 clip with 59 errors in 1,974 chances with 114 double plays.
Hartnagel was born in Indianapolis and raised in Brownsburg. He played travel baseball his first two high school summers for a team started and coached by his father — the Brownsburg Crusaders. Three Hartnagel brothers — Ralph, Gary and Jeff — played baseball at Ball State University. Ralph also played tennis at Concord High School and has coached the sport.
Michael Hartnagel was going to play for the Indiana Bulls in his junior summer, but a torn left labrum kept him off the diamond.
At Brownsburg High School, where Michael graduated in 2013, he played for head coach Eric Mattingly and recalls the lessons he taught him.
“He told us to enjoy it and have a lot of fun with our friends,” says Hartnagel. “We were to stay level-headed and consistent — not too many highs and not too many lows.
“He wanted to make us the best player he could — on and off the field.”
Besides playing for the family legacy, Hartnagel has relished the relationships he’s made in the game.
“What I enjoy most about baseball is the friendships I’ve made over the years,” says Hartnagel.
Friends made during Little League and high school are cherished as are those from high school and now pro ball.
“It’s a blessing that my road in baseball has led me to play at this level,” says Hartnagel. “In the Frontier League, a lot of these stadiums are really, really good and so is the competition. (Young fans) look up to you.
“Everyone’s friendly. We’ve been having a really good time.”
Since Schaumburg is about three hours from Brownsburg, Hartnagel has been able to have his family or girlfriend, University of Indianapolis student Maddison Hall, visit or go home on an day off. Justin Hartnagel is a salesman at CDW in nearby Chicago.
Brett Hartnagel is an engineer at Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis.
Ralph Hartnagel III is a business teacher at Avon High School and exchanges daily texts or calls of encouragement with Michael.
Chris Hartnagel teaches second grade at Stephen Decatur Elementary in Indianapolis.
Michael Hartnagel says he wants to extend his baseball experience, but does have an eye on the future.
“I would love to ride this out as long as a I can,” says Hartnagel. “Then I’ll find my next passion. I could see myself sales or maybe I’ll get my real estate license.”
Michael Hartnagel (right) celebrates the scoring of a Schaumburg Boomers run.
Michael Hartnagel (center) of the independent Frontier League’s Schaumburg (Ill.) Boomers shares a moment with parents Ralph and Chris Hartnagel. Michael played at Brownsburg (Ind.) High School, DePauw University in Greencastle and Butler University in Indianapolis before professional baseball.