Tag Archives: Josh Brock

Byall, Homestead Spartans value preparation




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.


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.


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


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.


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