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Phegley finding his way in baseball with Athletics

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Much was expected from baseball-playing Josh Phegley at an early age.

Sharing the same diamond with older brother John and his classmates, Josh was challenged.

Helping give that extra push was the boys’ father and coach — John.

“My dad was one of my biggest influences,” says Phegley, a Terre Haute native and catcher with the Oakland Athletics. “He wasn’t going to be the coach who just played his son. He was super hard on me and my brother. He expected you to be the leader and cornerstone of the field every time we were on the field.

“That’s what molded my brother and I into really good players.”

Josh’s early diamond path was supported by parents John and Joan and took him from Terre Haute North Little League to Terre Haute Babe Ruth League All-StarsT and travel baseball stints with the Terre Haute Indians (organized by his father) and the Indy Bulldogs.

Following in his brother’s footsteps, he was one of the few freshmen to play varsity baseball for coach Shawn Turner at Terre Haute North Vigo High School. In order to make that happen, Josh had to change positions.

While he had done some catching as a young player, he was a shortstop, center fielder and pitcher as he approached high school.

The Patriots had a need behind the plate and Turner led Josh know that was his ticket to varsity playing time as a frosh.

“It almost suited me perfectly. I stopped growing up and started getting wider,” says Phegley. “I have that build to be a catcher and I just wanted to be a varsity high school player.”

That’s when they went to a friend of the family. Brian Dorsett was a star at Terre Haute North Vigo and Indiana State University who went on to be a catcher in the majors for eight seasons. He still lived in town.

Dorsett had helped a young Josh with hitting lessons and Dorsett’s oldest daughter, Abby, was in Josh’s class. The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Famer agreed to help young Phegley with his catching skills.

“We tried to utilize all the resources we could find,” says Phegley. “Having an ex-major leaguer catcher in the same town was pretty beneficial for me.”

That spring he played in a lineup that included nine players who would go on to play NCAA Division I baseball. Besides the Phegley boys — Josh (Indiana) and John (Purdue) —  some of those include Blake Holler (Stanford), Max Hutson (Wichita State), John Cummins (Purdue) and Chris Macke (Ohio State).

Left-hander Holler was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels and pitched two seasons of minor league baseball.

Phegley played four seasons for Turner (who moved on to Richmond) and spent three high school summers with Terre Haute American Legion Post 346, managed by John Hayes.

Post 346 brought together the best players from Terre Haute North Vigo and their three closest rivals — Terre Haute South Vigo, West Vigo and Northview.

“(Hayes) was all about having fun and enjoy the guys around you,” says Phegley. “Playing unselfishly and having fun — that’s how you can become successful. American Legion baseball is the most fun I’ve had in the summertime.”

The summer after high school graduation in 2006, Phegley and Post 346 finished second to Metairie, La., in the American Legion World Series. The young backstop also earned MVP honors at the IHSBCA All-Star Series and was named as Indiana’s Mr. Baseball.

Phegley’s last season at Terre Haute North was the first for Tracy Smith as head baseball coach at Indiana University and Phegley became the first player he signed to play for the Hoosiers.

Smith (who is now head baseball coach at Arizona State University) also liked to have fun, but insisted that his players know about accountability and responsibility.

“College baseball is a different animal,” says Phegley. “There’s a lot of work and you have to take care of things (academically) so you can play. Going to school and a heavy (NCAA) D-I schedule is hard to handle.”

Smith emphasized the importance of doing it all.”

“Being a leader on the team means taking care of everything,” says Phegley. “It’s being organized and put together and being a good example for the other guys. Causing us to run extra sprints after practice because I turned an assignment in late is nothing to be proud of.”

As an IU freshman, Phegley started 42 times as the team’s primary catcher. As a sophomore, the right-handed hitter finished second in the nation with a .438 average and was a second-team All-American and Johnny Bench Award finalist. As a junior, he was named Big Ten Player of the Year by Rivals.com and was a Johnny Bench Award and Golden Spikes Award semifinalist. He was selected as a supplemental pick in the first round of the 2009 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago White Sox.

That’s when he began to see what a challenge baseball can really present.

“It doesn’t hurt to be drafted kind of high (38th overall) and knowing (the White Sox) were going to take the time and give you opportunities,” says Phegley. “They expect some ups and downs. That’s just baseball. You need to learn how to control the downs as well as the ups. You want to stay even keel and respect the process of the development.”

It’s easier said than done.

“You see a lot of guys getting lost in the minor leagues,” says Phegley. “It takes some years to get through it. I got drafted in 2009 and made my major league debut in 2013. You can get lost and forget what the final goal is

“Baseball is a game surrounded by failure. You can get consumed in day-to-day stats. It’s such a mental grind (especially in the ow minors). It can beat you up pretty good. It seems so far away. There are so many guys in front of you. How do I beat the masses that get drafted every year and get to the big leagues?”

Phegley got a serious surprise in his second pro season. In 2010, he was limited to just 48 games due to Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), a rare autoimmune disorder that lowers platelet count.

“Out of nowhere my body started killing my own platelets,” says Phegley. “We battled through that 2010 season, doing different treatments to try to get back on the field. They took out my spleen in November 2010 and it totally flipped it back. It’s always in the back of my head. It can come back.”

When Phegley came back, he began to rise through the White Sox system, finishing at Triple-A in 2011, playing the whole 2012 campaign there and then seeing his first MLB action July 5, 2013. He made 65 appearances with Chicago in 2013 and and spent most of 2014 at Triple-A Charlotte.

Two weeks before Christmas in 2014, Phegley was traded along with Chris Bassitt, Marcus Semien and Rangel Ravelo to the Athletics for Jeff Samardzija and Michael Ynoa. Phegley was in 73 games with Oakland in 2015, 25 in 2016 and 57 in 2017.

Phegley hit .256 with a home run and 10 RBI in 2016, a season shortened due to two stints on the disabled list with a strained right knee.

He spent two stints on the disabled list and one one the paternity list in 2017. Josh and Jessica Phegley, who married in 2012, have a daughter and son — Stella (2 1/2) and Calvin (4 months). They have resided in Noblesville since April 2015. The couple met while Josh was living with Smith and training in Bloomington and Jessica was finishing graduate school at IU. She has three degrees (psychology, nursing and a masters in health promotion).

Josh’s older sister, Jennifer, also lives in the Indianapolis area. As a college softball player at St. Mary-of-the-Woods 2003-06, she stole 58 bases (26 her senior season for the Pomeroys).

One of Phegley’s Oakland teammates is Valparaiso-born Sean Manaea.

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Josh Phegley, a 2006 Terre Haute North Vigo High School and former Indiana University standout, is now a catcher with the Oakland Athletics. He made his Major League Baseball debut with the Chicago White Sox in 2013. (Oakland Athletics Photo)

 

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Former Notre Dame two-sporter Sharpley trains all kinds of athletes

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Evan Sharpley played baseball and football at an elite level.

The Marshall, Mich., native represented Notre Dame on both the diamond and gridiron. The lefty-hitting corner infielder was good enough as a baseball player to be drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2009 and logged two seasons in M’s system and one more in independent pro baseball.

Before that, Sharpley was briefly a quarterback for the Fighting Irish, going under center for two games as the starter in 2007.

“I fell in love with the off-season,” says Sharpley. “I was the guy who was not doing to be outworked. I’m going to do one more rep than the guy I’m going up against. I always wanted to do more (than other ND quarterbacks).”

Along the way, he learned lessons about strength and conditioning and now he is passing that knowledge along to athletes and those interested in general fitness.

“I’ve been very blessed to see a large variety of training systems,” says Sharpley, who runs Sharpley Training in Elkhart with wife Jackie, the 2011 Miss Indiana. “I will pick and choose the facets that I really think are beneficial.”

Evan Sharpley, 30, pulls from his football and baseball backgrounds and morphs aspects of training for both. As a football player, he focused on pure strength with deadlifts, squats, bench presses and power cleans. On the baseball side, there was plenty of movement with plyometrics, box jumps, medicine balls, single-arm stability exercises and dumbbells in the mix.

Athletes — in either private or small group settings — are put through performance-based workouts that are customized to their needs. They do things to improve speed and agility, vertical leap and hand-eye coordination as well as conditioning and nutrition. All plans are tracked through a software system and modifications are made when necessary.

It also becomes very competitive and they’re always trying to do better than others in their group.

Athletes and general fitness clients alike get to use sleds, squat, deadlift, jump and throw.

“We use a lot of different methods,” says Sharpley. “There’s just a lot of movement. That’s what we were made to do. We were made to move. That we try to do here is build proper movement systems and then add speed and strength. It’s about creating that explosive strength.”

Sharpley coaches many high school quarterbacks in the Michiana area and had at least one head-to-head match-up every Friday night last fall.

In training baseball players of all ages, he starts with a base level evaluation across the board with hitting, fielding and throwing.

Sharpley knows that today’s athletes are very visual so hitters are gauged with slow motion video analysis.

“Once the athlete knows what it looks like and how they’re suppose to move, we can come up with the verbal cues to make those adjustments,” says Sharpley.  “I’m not at every game or practice, but they can hear those cues in their head.

“The self-coaching part is extremely important. They’re getting the work in here and that’s great. But that’s only a small portion of how they get better. They need to do things on their own. They need to be able to replicate when there’s is not someone watching their swing.”

Hitters are taught to swing hard and with a slight upper cut while applying the proper techniques.

“Gone are the days of hitting down and through the ball,” says Sharpley, noting that Hall of Famer Ted Williams cites the same philosophy in his book on hitting.

When Sharpley was 9 and growing up in Marshall (near Battle Creek), father Tom (who is now in his second season as head baseball coach at Marshall High School) started a travel baseball team called the Marshall BattleKids (later known as the Mid-Michigan Tigers). When Evan was older, he played a few travel seasons and got major college exposure with the Detroit area-based Concealed Security Dodgers.

One of Tom Sharpley’s travel players was Josh Collmenter, who went on to pitch for the South Bend Silver Hawks and is now in the majors.

Sharpley’s recruitment to Notre Dame actually started in baseball. Paul Mainieri, the head baseball coach at ND for his freshmen season before leaving for Louisiana State University, alerted the football program about Evan and the possibility of playing both sports.

Evan pulled off the double (something younger brother Ryan would also do with the Irish), but it was not easy.

Sharpley calls is a “juggling act.”

“It’s not like I stepped on campus and knew what I was doing,” says Sharpley of balancing academics, baseball and football as well as his social and spiritual lives. “There were certainly some growing pains. It took two years to find a structure that worked for me.

“Whether you are the starter of the back-up (quarterback), if you are in competition to play, you are expected to be at every workout (for spring practice). You are the leader of the team. I took that very serious, especially in the spring.”

Sharpley says Notre Dame football-baseball athletes Jeff Samardzija and Eric Maust were able to adapt a little easier since Samardzija was pitcher and knew when he would be playing and Maust was a punter. By the time wide receiver-outfielder Golden Tate played for Charlie Weis (football) and Dave Schrage (baseball), the spring-time demands had been slightly lessened.

What has also lessened for Sharpley since opening his business is the push-back he might have gotten from some high school coaches.

“I’ve never wanted to step on anyone’s toes,” says Sharpley.  “At the end of the day, I really don’t care if Penn wins or Concord wins. I want the kids I’m working with to be successful. I’m not trying to take away from what you’re doing. I’m trying to complement what you’re doing. A lot of kids want to do something extra, they just don’t know what to do. This place provides that.”

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Former Notre Dame baseball and football player runs Sharpley Training in Elkhart, Ind., with wife Jackie.