Tag Archives: Josh Brock

Baker receiving, offering knowledge as Manchester U. assistant

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

Kyle Baker has been on the job as a baseball assistant coach at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., for less than two months.
He took the full-time job after 1 1/2 years as a volunteer at University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he was also a player.
Baker has been involved in recruiting and is getting ready for practice to resume at NCAA Division III Manchester on Jan. 30. The Spartans open the 2023 season Feb. 25-28 with games in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Manchester is to play DePauw in a March 4 doubleheader at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis.
The home opener at Gratz Field is slated for March 8 against Olivet College.
Baker will be working with catchers and hitters and has talked with veteran Manchester head coach Rick Espeset (2023 will be his 27th season in charge of the Spartans) about how they will take on first base coaching duties.
While Baker sets up routines for infielders and outfielders, Espeset is crafting regimens for pitchers.
“I want to gain his insight on what practice plans should look like for Manchester,” says Baker. “(Coach Espeset) been doing it for a long time. He’s really good at what he does. I’m fortunate to learn from him.”
The rest of Espy’s staff includes Josh Brock and volunteers Keith Shepherd and Peter Shepherd.
Baker, who grew up in Monroe, Ind., traces his drive to coach to his senior year (2014) at Adams Central High School in Monroe, where he played baseball for Jets head coach Dave Neuenschwander.
“I learned a lot from Newy,” says Baker. “I enjoyed playing for him. I liked it so much I went back and coached with him.”
AC’s Lance Busse, Josh Foster (who is now head coach), Jalen Hammond, Joel Reinhard and Thad Harter also have a place in Baker’s heart.
Most of Baker’s time as a player was spent at catcher and he sees the connection between catching and coaching.
“You see a lot of big league catchers go into managing and they are typically successful because they know every facet of the game,” says Baker. “There’s always so much going on.”
Baker is demanding with his receivers.
“I expect a lot out of my catchers,” says Baker. “I tell them mid-play if a pitcher is not backing up (a base) where he’s supposed to be. You’ve got to remind them while watching the runners and trying to decide where the ball needs to be redirected. I expect them to compete at a high level all the time and be able to block the ball whenever they need to.
“The key to a successful baseball team is having a really talented and baseball-savvy catcher.”
Baker places receiving, blocking and calling pitches as high priorities for catchers and plans practices accordingly.
He throws in game situations like fielding pop-ups and backing up bases.
“Knowing where everyone is supposed to be on any given play is pretty high up on my list,” says Baker. “You really set your team up for success when you’re able to know what’s going to happen before it happens.”
Knowledge of each pitchers’ repertoire is key.
“What’s their best pitch and what are they’re not so comfortable with?,” says Baker. “How can you talk to them? Is this a pitcher that you can scold a little bit or is this a pitcher that you need to talk to more calmly?
“Just what type of pitcher are they and how are you going handle specific situations? There are 100 different situations.”
Baker also wants his catchers to develop relationships with umpires.
Before every game, they introduce themselves to the official and get their first name. They find out what they can do to make the umpire’s job easier that day.
“Ultimately, we want to have umpires that want to come back to our field and the person that they talked to the most has to probably be the nicest, too,” says Baker.
A topic in the catching world in receiving the ball with one on the ground. Baker is both new school and old school on this.
“When (runners) are on-base or there’s two strikes on the batter we need to be on two feet (because it allows more lateral movement than one knee down, which is a knee saver),” says Baker. “Why not use the best of both worlds?”
Baker says coaching college hitters often comes down to making one minor adjustment as opposed to a total overhaul of their swing.
“They’ve probably been successful at some point in their career,” says Baker. “What I teach may work for you, but it may not work for your teammate. It’s not a cookie-cutter approach.
“Coaching hitting is a really tough thing to do because it is so individualized. You get into it and see how they hit and react to certain things.
“If you’ve got a team of 50 players there’s probably going to be 50 different swings that you have to learn and adapt to as a coach.”
As a coach at NAIA’s Saint Francis, Baker gained an appreciation for giving college players a good experience from Cougars head coach Dustin Butcher and assistants Connor Lawhead and Kristian Gayday and for Butcher’s running game.
“That’s something I’ll probably keep forever because (Saint Francis) is very successful at it,” says Baker. “It’s aggressive and knowing when to run.
“We talked a lot about the ‘free base war.’ When the defense is not paying attention but the ball is still in-play why not try for that extra base?”
Baker attended the 2023 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Nashville.
This gave him a chance to network and bounce ideas off of other coaches.
“Nobody ever knows all the answers in baseball,” says Baker. “It’s just an endless pool of possibilities and outcomes. Someone in California many have seen something that I have not seen here in Indiana yet.
“There’s always stuff to learn at these clinics. Some of it you may use, some of it you may not use. It all just depends on how it fits your program.”
Baker is coaching athletes, but it goes further than that.
“I want to develop them as baseball players but also as student-athletes and people who are going to grow and maybe one day have their own families if they so choose,” says Baker. “Whatever they want to do in life. I want to put them on a path for their own success as much as I can.
“You’ve got to be a really good time manager when it comes to college. You typically find out right away if you’re going to be good at it or it’s something you need to improve upon.”
Baker has been dating Goshen (Ind.) High School and Goshen (Ind.) College graduate Lourdes Resendiz for more than two years.
Kyle’s parents are Richard and Yolanda Baker and he is the middle of three brother, between Randall Baker and Matthew Baker.

Kyle Baker. (Steve Krah Photo)

Brock grateful for opportunity to coach for Manchester, Espeset

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

Josh Brock is approaching two years as lead assistant baseball coach at Manchester University, an NCAA Division III program in North Manchester, Ind.
Brock, 40, came back to the Spartans full-time in January 2021. He had been an assistant a different times since 2013. He played for Manchester for four years (2001-04).
“I feel extremely fortunate to be around someone like Coach (Rick) Espeset,” says Brock of the longtime head coach and director of athletics.
Playing four seasons for Espeset and then being on his staff has impressed Brock about how the coach thinks the game.
“He has a level of baseball savvy,” says Brock. “He’s also preparing players for life after baseball.”
Putting it in football terms, Brock describes himself as the Spartans’ offensive coordinator while Espeset is defensive coordinator.
“I do the majority of the hitting and baserunning and work with outfielders since I played that position,” says Brock. “Espy works with the defense and makes all the strategic decisions.”
Brock also does the bulk of the recruiting.
The summer (roughly mid-May through August) is where Manchester coaches spent most of their time on the road. There’s also digital resources and the coaching network.
“There are alums and people in the baseball world who know and respect Coach Espeset (that recommend potential recruits),” says Brock.
Fall and winter is the time recruits are encouraged to visit the campus and to follow up on referrals.
The team conducts four weeks of fall practice (basically the month of September).
“We assess players and get the new guys acclimated,” says Brock. “Guys have a baseline they can use to transition into the off-season.”
At the end of the fall, players meet individually with coaches to receive an assessment and guidance on how they can develop.
NCAA Division III rules limit the contact time for coaches and players so there is no practice until it gets closer to the spring season.
What separates Manchester from some D-III program is that the offseason is truly “off.”
“We’re hands-off,” says Brock. “(Players) can just be a student and not worried about baseball obligations.
“Some of our guys are going to be in the weight room and the indoor cages all winter long. Some don’t pick up a baseball or bat again until (after Jan. 1). That’s their decision to make.”
Josh grew up close enough to Wayne High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., to have his father — Jerry Brock — take him to Generals’ batting cage on a regular basis.
There he met Wayne head coach Dave Fireoved.
“I was in awe of him,” says Brock. “He was always so good to us and a high-character guy. He loved the game and he loved his players.
“I couldn’t wait to get to high school to play for him.”
One of the coach’s sons — Mitch Fireoved — was the same age as Brock.
After four seasons at Wayne (1997-2000), outfielder Brock chose to play college baseball at Manchester.
There was a buzz around Espeset and his program after the Spartans won 70 games in his second through fourth seasons (1998-2000) with a Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament title in 1999.
Espeset and assistant Shawn Summe were regulars at Brock’s travel games. Two of his Fort Wayne Marlins teammates — Jared Kurtz (Fort Wayne South Side) and Brian Minix (Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger) — signed with the Spartans as did Ryan Carr (Norwell) and Eric Screeton (New Haven) of the rival Fort Wayne Indians.
Kurtz went on to play in the San Francisco Giants organization. Screeton became a coach, including leading the program at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.
Brock’s last season as a player was 2004 — the year Manchester won a HCAC regular-season championship and advanced to the D-III World Series.
He earned a Business Administration and Management degree from Manchester in 2005 and entered the professional world.
Along the way, Brock decided to change career paths and got a Masters in English Literature from Indiana University Purdue University-Fort Wayne as well as a Transition to Secondary Education and Teaching certificate from Taylor University in Upland, Ind., in 2013.
It was also 2013 that Brock was junior varsity baseball coach for Steve Sotir at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne.
When Espeset needed help at Manchester, Brock served as lead assistant in 2014 and 2015 and was a volunteer in 2016 while teaching at Summit Middle School, a part of Southwest Allen Schools as is Homestead High.
In two of the next three years, Brock was an Homestead assistant to Nick Byall while taking one year off to focus on his studies. He earned a Masters in Educational Leadership and Administration from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., in 2019.
“I’m grateful for my experiences and the accreditations I’ve been able to achieve,” says Brock.
He is hopeful his schooling makes him a better coach, educator and person.
Brock began teaching at Norwell High School in Ossian, Ind., in the fall of 2019. He helped out with Manchester baseball in the spring of 2020 and taught at Norwell through the fall semester of 2020.
When a full-time position came up at Manchester, Brock went back to the school as a full-timer.
Always looking for new ideas and things that will help players, Brock appreciated going with Espeset to the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention (the 2023 event is Jan. 5-8 in Nashville).
“It’s Candyland for baseball coaches,” says Brock. “I enjoy talking to other coaches.
“The ABCA is very giving group. (Members) are very giving with their time.”
Last winter, Brock spoke about middle infield play for a coaches clinic hosted by the Summit City Sluggers.
Brock is not married and has no kids.
“I’m the cool uncle,” says Brock, whose niece and nephew live with older brother Jeremiah in Hawaii.
Their parents — Jerry and AeSun — live in Fort Wayne. AeSun Brock was born in South Korea.

Josh Brock. (Manchester University Photo)

Josh Brock (7). (Manchester University Photo)

Byall, Homestead Spartans value preparation

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Keith Potter and Steve Sotir emphasized the fundamental parts of baseball — making the routine play on defense, pounding the strike zone from the mound and following an approach from the batter’s box — as head baseball coaches at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Nick Byall, who played for Potter and coached with Potter and Sotir, is carrying on the tradition while adding his own spin as the man in charge of the Spartans.

“We want to be polished and prepared each day,” says Byall. “When you’re doing (the fundamentals) well it makes the game even more fun.

“At the high school level, we can be really successful doing that.”

Byall, a 2000 Homestead graduate, spent 10 years as an assistant coach at his alma mater (two on Potter’s staff and eight with Sotir) and is in his fourth season as head coach in 2019.

Being competitive is also important to Byall.

“We’re always looking to compete — in a drill or a game,” says Byall, who heads up a program with around 50 players for varsity, junior varsity (JV Blue) and freshmen (JV Gold) schedules.

“We have a smaller senior class and kept a larger freshmen class,” says Byall. “We have 18 on the varsity roster most of the time. Some guys will swing between varsity and JV.”

The coaching staff features Shawn Harkness plus volunteers Josh Brock, Maurie Byall (Nick’s father) and Greg Wehling with the varsity, Austin Plasterer and Kyle Plasterer with JV Blue and Brian Landigran and Dominic Schroeder with JV Gold.

Harkness is pitching coach for the Spartan. He was a JV coach when Byall was a Homestead player.

Brock played and coached at Manchester University.

It’s more than the game that keeps Byall around baseball.

“I want to be a decent role model for (the players),” says Byall. “That’s why we do it.

“I enjoy the kids and the coaches I work with. If not, I wouldn’t do it.”

Homestead plays its varsity games on its campus with the JV teams playing on that diamond or at a field near Summit Middle School.

Marching band is a big deal at the school and the band has its own turf practice surface near the baseball field. The baseball team sometimes uses it when it’s facility is too wet.

There is no middle school baseball at Homestead, but many players participate in travel ball.

“We’ve got a lot of kids who enjoy baseball,” says Byall. “They’re pretty fundamentally sound.”

Senior Kade Kolpien has committed to Taylor University. Senior Will Ferguson has garnered some college baseball interest. Junior Eli MacDonald and sophomore Kaleb Kolpien and Carter Mathison are among younger Spartans getting college looks.

Recent Homestead graduates now with college programs include Justin Miller at Purdue Fort Wayne, Isaac Bair at the University of Indianapolis and Nick Davit and D.J. Moore at Huntington University.

Catcher Rob Bowen was selected in the second round of the 1999 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Minnesota Twins and made his big league debut with the Twins in 2003. He also played for the San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics.

Infielder Andre Jernigan went from Homestead to the Xavier University to the Twins organization.

Right-handed pitcher Taylor Kinzer played at Taylor then in the Los Angeles Angels organization.

Second baseman Ryan Wright played at he University of Louisville and in the Cincinnati Reds system from 2011-15.

Catcher Matt Singleton played at Ball State University and in the Athletics chain.

Outfielder Bobby Glover was a Parkland College, the University of Dayton and with the independent Windy City Thunderbolts (2012).

Left-hander Kyle Leiendecker went to Indiana University.

It’s IU and the allure of Hoosiers basketball that brought Byall to Bloomington.

He was a basketball manager for four years and got to see in the inner workings of big-time college sports and went to the 2002 NCAA tournament championship game with head coach Mike Davis. Byall’s first week on campus was Bob Knight’s last.

Byall earned an education degree from Indiana in 2005 and a masters in business administration from Taylor in 2010. He teaches Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics and U.S. Government at HHS.

Homestead (enrollment around 2,430) has charted a schedule that features Bellmont, DeKalb, Evansville Central, Fishers, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian, Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Canterbury, Fort Wayne Carroll, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne Snider, Fort Wayne South Side, Hamilton Southeastern, Indianapolis Cathedral, Mississinewa, Norwell, Wapahani and Warsaw.

For several years, Homestead has made a southern trip during spring break.

“It’s a chance to get away and bond a little bit,” says Byall.

The destination the past few seasons has been Vincennes, Ind. Treks have also been made to Terre Haute, Evansville, Cincinnati and Knoxville, Tenn.

The Spartans are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne South Side, Fort Wayne Wayne and Huntington North. Homestead has won 14 sectionals — the last in 2016. A 4A state runner-up finish was earned in 2008.

Byall is single and lives in the Homestead district.

“I’m real close with my family,” says Byall, the son of Maurie and Rosi Byall and younger brother of Troy Byall. His father owns Byall Homes, Inc., and has been building houses for 40 years. His mother is the Homestead treasurer and also the statistician for her son’s baseball team.

With three children, chiropractor Dr. Troy and wife Erica Byall have made Nick a proud uncle.

NICKBYALLKADEKOLPIEN

Homestead High School baseball coach Nick Byall (left) slaps hands with Kade Kolpien. Byall is in his 14th season as a Spartans coach — fourth as head coach — while Kolpien is in his senior season in 2019.

NICKBYALL

Nick Byall is head baseball coach at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Ind. He is a 2000 graduate of the school. (Homestead High School Photo)

 

 

Balance important to Manchester baseball’s Espeset

rbilogosmallBy STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Manchester University has enjoyed plenty of on-field success in the two decades since Rick Espeset arrived at the campus in North Manchester, Ind.

Espeset, who came from Minnesota, spent two seasons as an assistant then launched into a head coaching tenure that has yielded an 18-year record of 532-324-2.

In the last 17 years, the Spartans have a combined 10 conference and postseason conference championships.

Manchester, a member of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, has made two trips to the NCAA Division III World Series (2004, 2013) and come very close another time (2012).

What’s the secret sauce?

It’s not really a secret for Espeset, who also serves as Manchester’s athletic director.

“We get great cabinet-level leadership here,” says Espeset. “They are very supportive of athletics.”

It used to be the case at Manchester and many school’s on the Spartans’ schedule that baseball was sort of an afterthought with a football assistant being named baseball coach or the baseball coach coerced into also coaching football.

“Now everybody is just coaching baseball,” says Espeset. Most programs have an assistant or two that is considered full-time.

“You need good assistants who will put that investment into building a program,” says Espeset, whose current coaching staff includes Bryce Worrell, Josh Brock Caleb McAfee and Jordan Nieman. “One person can’t do it. I’ve had a bunch of good ones.”

Many of those men have left Manchester and taken head coaching jobs at other schools.

Another reason for Manchester baseball success as Espeset sees it is balance.

Espeset and his staff recruit motivated student-athletes who understand that athletics, academics and social life are all important to campus life. Baseball should not be the only reason a student wants to come to Manchester (enrollment around 1,300).

“We make it a high priority of not taking too much of (our players’ time) time,” says Espeset. “We don’t even try to organize (workouts) in the off-season. Our culture has produced motivated guys (who will do things to get better on their own).

“To me, it’s the perfect balance,” says Espeset. “Time away is one of the most underrated things.”

Time away from having a coach and his expectations gives players a chance to refresh mentally and physically.

“When you decide it’s important for you to do it, you’ll get something out of it,” says Espeset. “We don’t wear them out. They choose to do it.”

By NCAA D-III rules, teams have just 19 weeks (generally four in the fall and 15 in the spring) to get in practices and games. There are no athletic scholarships at D-III. All scholarships are for academics.

With the same man leading the program for so many years, continuity of leadership and direction have also set the Spartans up for a tradition of high expectations.

“They get passed down,” says Espeset, who just finished an eight-year run of having an alum as an assistant. “They feel pressure to continue success from other alums. They work extremely hard not to disappoint the guys they played with.”

Espeset wants to dispel a myth that D-III or NAIA that these college divisions are recreational where “anybody can play.”

“We’ve got guys who work as hard as anybody at any level,” says Espeset. “It’s really hard to get into our lineup. Once people grasp that, they gain an appreciation of what small school baseball is like.”

Winning is always sweet and that’s true at D-III, D-II, D-I, NAIA or JUCO.

“A dogile’s a dogpile,” says Espeset. “It’s the same no matter what level you’re at.”

When Espeset first came to Manchester, his recruiting base was pretty wide. With the Spartans having such a strong baseball reputation, the focus the past dozen or so years has been players within a 100-mile radius of campus.

“There’s plenty of talent in the northeast corner of Indiana to build a program,” says Espeset. “Outside the area, they have to show an interest in us.”

There certainly is interest. Espeset founds his email account working overtime with player who would like to don the black and gold.

And they just might.

If they are the right fit.

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Hunter Lane swings the bat for Manchester University during the 2016 baseball season. (Manchester U. photo)