Paul Condry was on the play-by-play call Friday, April 21 for his 20th baseball Senior Day at Bethel University in Mishawaka, Ind. A longtime broadcaster and founder of Regional Radio Sports Network and a member of the Bethel Athletics Hall of Fame along with wife Tonya, Condry began calling baseball home games for the school at the same time Seth Zartman came back to campus to be the Pilots head coach. “It’s one of the greatest relationships I have,” says Condry. “Seth is not only great to work with and accessible like no other, but he’s also my friend. “I can always ask him the tough questions. I can be on-point about whatever situation that’s going on that I may observe from my spot here in the press box. I’m going to get a straight answer. “He’s going to be honest with me.” Over his many decades of sports, Condry has had several coaches tell him things in confidence. “I’ve never betrayed that trust and I think (Seth) knows that,” says Condry. The press box at Richard C. Patterson Field inside Jerry Jenkins Stadium has become Zartman’s working space. “I respect his office,” says Condry. “We keep it nice and tidy for him. But it’s a great viewpoint. “The sight lines are amazing. It’s just a great place to broadcast baseball.” Being the “Voice of the Pilots” has allowed Condry to call the exploits of future major leaguer Justin Masterson and several other superb players. In the last week or so, he received from Jacob Ringenberg, a senior in 2007, who wanted to share his thoughts. “He poured out his heart about the baseball program and the ministry that is the baseball program,” says Condry. “It’s been fun to feel like I’m part of the family. “I know I’m part of the Zartman family.” Seth’s wife Anitra and kids Senica, Ty, Lyric and Evik spent much time at Bethel. Anitra helps Condry with the Indiana Football Digest. “It’s been a great 20 years,” says Zartman. “We’ve had a lot of fun together. Hopefully we’re going to do this for many more (years). “I can’t put into words what (Paul) means to my family.” Not only Zartman, but Condry has bonded with assistant coaches like the late Dick Siler and current pitching coach Kiel Boynton. One of Condry’s favorite calls came Friday, April 14 as Andrew Miranda socked a three-run walk-off home run in Game 2 of a doubleheader against Marian. The broadcaster’s words before the clout set the stage. “That was one of those calls I absolutely nailed,” says Condry, who let his audience know the count (0-2), position of the two baserunners (first and third with the double play in order) and number of outs (one) before lefty-swinging Miranda cleared the fence in right. “Like anybody who’s in this position you always want to prime yourself. This is potentially what could happen.” He cites the famed “Shot Heard Round the World” of the New York Giants beating the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951 — “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” “That’s one of the greatest calls in all of sportscasting because you listen to the couple of minutes before the actual home run and you can hear (announcer) Russ Hodges set up the play,” says Condry. “Someone was here and so-and-so was there and this was going on and that was going on and then he he gives you that historic (home run) call.” Condry grew up in Hobart, Ind., as a fan of the Chicago Cubs and broadcaster Jack Brickhouse but was also drawn to the Baltimore Orioles because they were often on the NBC Game of the Week. He appreciated Chicago Blackhawks play-by-play man Lloyd Pettit. “I listened to everybody when it comes to baseball,” says Condry. That includes Ernie Harwell in Detroit, Jack Buck in St. Louis, Bob Uecker in Milwaukee and Vin Scully in Los Angeles. “There’s some special people who put on the headsets,” says Condry. “We all love and grew up with those guys. They painted the picture like nobody else could.” At age 4, Condry knew he wanted to paint, too, and has been able to do that most of his adult life. “God has blessed me immensely,” says Condry. “How many people in America truly get a chance to do the only thing they every really wanted to do in life?” At 66, Condry called his 191st and 192nd athletic contests of 2022-23 on Senior Day. He also broadcasts high school football and basketball as well as college basketball and college volleyball. Condry, who is also in the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association and Indiana Football Coaches Association halls of fame, puts together the Indiana Football Digest, writes for the RRSN website and the Indianapolis Colts and on and on. The 17th annual Griddy’s award show is Sunday, April 23. “I feel like I’m working two full-time jobs,” says Condry. “And I’m loving every minute of it.”
A Pacific Northwest native has found his fit in the Upper Midwest. Kiel Boynton, who was born and raised in Oregon, is now heading into his eighth season as an assistant baseball coach at Bethel University in Mishawaka, Ind. Boynton, 38, shares his time between worship leader at Grace Church in Granger, Ind., and helping head coach Seth Zartman with the NAIA-affiliated Pilots. While Boynton’s main focus on-campus is pitching and infielders, he handles more of the out-of-state recruiting with his network while Zartman concentrates in Indiana. “I’m working the phones a lot,” says Boynton. “Recruiting on the West Coast is a little rough sometimes (with the time difference), but my family at home has kind of gotten used to the fact that around a certain time I go into recruiting mode. “The travel just depends on the player. If I’m interested in the player I’m definitely going to try to go and see him.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bethel coaches have learned to make some judgment calls on recruits through viewing video. But in-person is best. “We would always love to see them live because a video can make a kid look really great or a video can make them look really bad,” says Boynton. “When you’re out-of-state, you’re trying to maybe sell the school a little bit more than selling the finances. If they’re in-state we kind of know that they’re going to qualify of additional potential scholarship (money) depending on their grades and their family’s income.” As a coach, Boynton sees pitching and defense as his strength and lets Zartman concentrate on the offensive part of the game. “I’m big on the mental side,” says Boynton. “It’s important to see how they respond to adversity and different things.” In practice, Boynton puts his pitchers in high-pressure situations. It may be a closer coming into the game with less than two outs and runners in scoring position. “My heart rate’s up and I’ve got to figure out how to stay calm and be able to do that,” says Boynton of the hurler’s task. “We’ll put them on a bike between innings. They’ll have to go real fast and get their heart rate up and then we immediately send them to the mound and have have to pitch and calm themselves down. “They learn how to overcome that and still get outs.” Sam Riggleman, who was head coach at Bethel (1995-99) and has more than four decades of experiences and a college coach, gave Boynton some advice year ago about pitchers and adversity that stuck with him. “He doesn’t give his pitchers multiple chances to succeed because he wants them to have to learn to deal with adversity and failure,” says Boynton. “When he puts them in a situation like that, they get the outs or they don’t get the outs. “It’s all that mental side that comes into play. They pitcher needs to know the situation (and where and how to deliver his pitches).” Boynton looks on his coaching career and has witnessed constant change in himself. “When I first started coaching I just wanted to win,” says Boynton. “It was not as much about building relationships. When the team would lose, I would take it personally. It was like I didn’t do my job or I failed. I would get really frustrated.” Through the influences of Zartman, Riggleman, Dean Stiles, Mike Manes and others, Boynton’s coaching philosophy has morphed. “I am not just worried about what they do on the baseball field,” says Boynton. “I heard a long time ago a coach say that if you’re a good coach, you get invited to weddings. “I started really wrapping my head around that. If a player invites me to their wedding that means that I meant something to their life. Whether or not they were successful on the field they knew that I cared about them enough that they wanted me to be a part of the biggest day of their life.” Kiel (pronounced Kyle) and wife Faith have two children — son Parker (12) and daughter Aubrie (3) — with one on the way. As a right-handed pitcher/infielder, Boynton played for Stiles at Crook County High School in Prineville, Ore., since his tiny Christian school — did not have baseball. He also played football and basketball. Boynton was born with mild form of Cerebral Palsy that effects the muscles on the right side of his body. “The right side will get to a certain strength and that’s about it,” says Boynton. “When I lifted in college you could always see that my left side was stronger. My left leg what take the primary force of my squat. “My mom (Teri) and dad (John) did a great job of not letting Cerebral Palsy be a crutch for me,” says Boynton. “They always encouraged me to just work harder. I played pretty much every sport growing up.” Even with the weakness, John Boynton made his son a right-handed pitcher. “It’s made a big impact on my coaching career,” says Boynton of CP. “I don’t like laziness or pitchers who kind of take time off. In my own life, I never did that. “I want my players to work twice as hard.” Patrick Tubaugh, who has been a Director of Baseball Operations for Bethel, also has Cerebral Palsy. Boynton is a diehard fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers thanks to his father who grew up in southern California, played at Los Angeles Bible College (now The Master’s University) for Pete Reese and had a tryout with the Dodgers. An EMT director job got him to move to Oregon. “I grew up hearing about Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and all the great Dodger legends,” says Boynton. “I grew up listening to (play-by-play announcer) Vin Scully. I’ve been following them ever since.” Each Christmas Faith adds an item to Kiel’s Dodger collection. “She’s running out of things to get me,” says Boynton. The younger brother of Cy and Shannon followed his sister when he attended Cedarville (Ohio) University and played four seasons (2003-06) for the Yellow Jackets. “Coach (Greg) Hughes took that gamble on a kid with Cerebral Palsy and I’m very appreciative,” says Boynton. By that time, Reese was the athletic director at Cedarville. He was a middle infielder and pitcher and earned undergraduate and masters degrees in sport management with a minor in Bible, and coached at the school 25 miles east of Dayton for five — one as an assistant to Hughes and four on Manes’ staff. During that time, Boynton met Zartman as a competing coach or someone at the same site on a southern trip. Among the pitchers he coached were the Ledbetter twins of Indianapolis — David and Ryan. Boynton met Justin Masterson, who pitched at Bethel in 2004 and 2005 and hails from Beavercreek, Ohio, when he used Cedarville facilities to train during part of his big league career. Boynton left Cedarville and went back to Oregon, where he was a pitching coach at Corban University in Salem, where he was born, for about three years. He was also involved in youth ministry. During his time in Salem, Boynton received a call from Zartman letting him know of a potential assistant coach job at Bethel. There was prayer and family discussion and about a week later, Boynton and let Zartman know it was a good fit and he was ready to move to northern Indiana. Economic uncertainty at the time led Zartman to tell Boynton not to make the move with his family in case the position was cut. The following year with things stabilized, Zartman called again and the Boyntons came back to the Midwest. He started at Bethel in January 2015. Boynton says about three-quarters of his income comes from his worship director position. “The two jobs really work great with each other,” says Boynton. “My coaching job is pretty much Monday through Saturday. My worship leader job is also a Monday through Saturday thing, but the one day that they actually really need me to be doing something is Sunday.” Bethel, a member of the Crossroads League, is to open the 2022 season Feb. 4 against Lourdes in Hot Springs, Ark.
But there are still plenty of Indiana connections for the former pitcher.
Thompson is a 2000 graduate of Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., where he was a Liberal Studies major and Business minor while pitching for head coaches Sam Riggleman (1998 and 1999) and Mike Hutcheon (2000) learning from Bethel assistant and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Famer Dick Siler.
As an elementary student, Thompson was always writing out lineups and plays. At first all he wanted to do was play baseball. When that time was over, he turned his attention to coaching.
“I’ve always loved baseball and sports,” says Thompson. “God’s gifted me in that capacity.”
Thompson is a 1995 graduate of Cowden-Herrick Senior High School in central Illinois. His graduating class had 33 students. With too few boys to have a football team, the Bobcats played conference games in the fall and the rest of the schedule in the spring with a healthy American Legion schedule in the summer.
Left-hander Stults, an Argos (Ind.) High School graduate, was in the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves.
Right-hander Humen also pitched at Rice University and Oral Roberts University and made it to Double-A with the Miami Marlins and also logged mound time in the Kansas City Royals system and in independent ball.
Left-hander Kloosterman, an Elkhart Central graduate, competed in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
Before leaving for Air Force, Hutcheon and Thompson recruited Justin Masterson out of Ohio to attend Bethel. They later faced him in the Mountain West Conference when Masterson transferred to San Diego State University. He went on to pitched in the bigs for the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals.
At MNU, Thompson’s coaching staff includes former Huntington (Ind.) University pitcher and Taylor University (Upland, Ind.) assistant Colton Punches as pitching coach. He was recommended by Trojans head coach Kyle Gould.
Cam Screeton, a Rochester (Ind.) High School and Indiana Wesleyan University (Marion, Ind.) graduate and former head coach at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., is a graduate assistant working with MNU Pioneers hitters.
In a program with around 60 players (varsity and junior varsity), Elkhart Central alum Brycen Sherwood (Craig Sherwood’s nephew) is a sophomore second baseman and Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School graduate Jake Bisland is a sophomore catcher.
Chad Jenkins, a teammate and roommate of Thompson at Bethel, is MNU’s Sports Information Director.
Thanks to Jenkins’ efforts, the Pioneers stream home baseball games in HD with a center field camera.
MNU’s last game before the shutdown of the 2020 season was March 13. Thompson opted to start the 2021 campaign Jan. 29 at Wayland Baptist in Plainview, Texas.
“It’s a little out of my comfort zone and not ideal, but we’ve been off long enough,” says Thompson of the early start. The Pioneers, a member of the NAIA and the Heart of America Athletic Conference, typically open in mid-February.
Players left campus at Thanksgiving and are due back Jan. 10 for COVID-19 protocol with the first practice Jan. 10 and in-person classes resuming Jan. 12.
The other Indiana connection is at home. Ryan’s wife Kristie is a graduate of NorthWood High School in Nappanee, Ind. The Thompsons have six homeschooled children (three boys followed by three girls) — Ty (15), Kade (13), Beau (11), Bailee (9), Kamryn (8) and Taylor (6). A homeschool hook-up on Fridays in Olathe has allowed the kids to explore different sports.
Hardy teaches his youngsters how to play the game. But the teaching and the mentoring to does not end with a game or practice.
“I’m very involved with the boys,” says Hardy. “I’m not just a coach between the lines. I’m their coach all the time.
“I’ll help in any way.”
Hardy has his own remodeling business and he has some of his players help with cleaning up job sites, painting, drywalling and other handy skills.
“It keeps them out of trouble,” says Hardy. “We’re constantly stressing the importance of being a good person.
“It’s God, family, baseball and the classroom. It’s the total package.”
For players wishing to go to college, he will do what he can to make that happen.
“I’ll help in getting them tutoring,” says Hardy. “We stress the student-athlete.”
Former major league pitcher Justin Masterson, who lives in Fishers, Ind., came by practice last week to talk about faith, family and baseball with the IPA crew.
Hardy has watched his players come so far in the time he has been at Irvington Prep.
“Now that my (original class of) freshmen are juniors, I’m seeing a pay-off,” says Hardy. “That’s my satisfaction.
“That’s a W in my book.”
The inner-city high schools in Indy include Indianapolis Public SchoolsArsenal Tech, Crispus Attucks, Shortridge and Washington. Besides Irvington Prep, others include Herron, Howe, Manual, Providence Cristo Rey, Purdue Poly and Tindley. This spring, Howe and Washington did not field a baseball team.
What is now known as Irvington Prep Academy opened in 2006 as Irvington Community High School. The original location was on East Pleasant Parkway and is now home to Irvington Community Middle School on East Pleasant Run Parkway. IPA is housed in the former Children’s Guardian Home on University Avenue.
Baseball and softball teams play about three miles away in Irvington Park on Raymond Street.
Before landing at Irvington Prep, Hardy was an assistant to Jerry Giust at Broad Ripple.
The IPA Ravens went against the Broad Ripple Rockets a couple times before the latter IPS high school was closed.
Giust was the one who suggested that Hardy look into becoming a head coach.
“He knew I had been around the game for a long time and saw the enthusiasm I approach the game with and my knowledge,” says Hardy of Giust. “I loved him for it.”
Hardy graduated from Broad Ripple in 1997 after moving from South Bend, where he grew up. He went to South Bend Washington High School for three years and was drawn to swimming to fight his asthma. He was also drawn to baseball. He competed in summer ball before leaving for Indianapolis. Washington’s varsity and junior varsity both won summer titles.
“I loved the way the game was broken down,” says Hardy, who played as a sophomore and junior in a program then led by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Ric Tomaszewski, who learned much from South Bend coaching legends like Jim Reinebold and Len Buczkowski and LaPorte’s Ken Schreiber.
“The knowledge T gave us was phenomenal,” says Hardy. “He told us everybody has a job to do.”
Players at each position were supposed to know the duties of the other players on the diamond.
Rain in the first half of the season means IPA will be trying to make up many games leading up to the postseason.
The Ravens are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Eastern Hancock, Heritage Christian, Indianapolis Howe, Indianapolis Scecina Memorial, Knightstown and Triton Central. Irvington Prep has been competing in the tournament since 2013 and has not won a sectional title.
Hardy and fiancee Sandi have been together for seven years. They have one child together — Isaiah. He has three other children (Josiah, Iyanah and Ariyana) and she has two (Sylvanna and Gianna). Josiah plans to play baseball next year at Herron.
Davon Hardy (foreground) is the head baseball coach at Irvington Preparatory Academy in Indianapolis.
Former major league pitcher Justin Masterson delivers the baseball during an Irvington Prep Academy practice.
Former major leaguer Justin Masterson visited coach Davon Hardy and his Irvington Prep Academy baseball team to talk about faith, family and the game.
Founded in 2013 by Robert Lewis Jr., The BASE was started in Boston as a outgrowth of that city’s Astros youth baseball program.
Lewis began coaching the Astros in Boston’s Villa Victoria public housing develop in the 1970s and the president was in Indiana’s capitol to talk about the organization that has now expanded to Chicago, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.
Rob Barber, president of The BASE Indy, spoke about the need and the vision of the group.
Tysha Sellers, executive director of the Edna Martin Christian Center, explained a community partnership.
Milt Thompson, attorney and a familiar voice on Indianapolis TV and radio, told the folks how they can lend financial support.
Indiana native Chuck Harmon, the first black man to play for the Cincinnati Reds and a long-time leader in the sports world who died March 19 at 94, was remembered and honored.
“It’s Cheryl’s cousins that I grew up with and had a tremendous impact on our family,” said Barber, who grew up in southern Indiana and played baseball at Indiana University. “It’s probably a big reason why I’m here today.”
Barber talked about walking about from his former long-time occupation and that The BASE is where he’s supposed to be.
“There is a movement happening on the near northeast side of Indianapolis,” said Sellers. “There’s 12,000 people within Martindale-Brightwood. There are a number of people within this community that believe there is a vision to be a thriving community.
“We can come together and make things happen with partnerships. (Young people) are only looking for opportunities to succeed. And they sometimes need people to help connect the dots. We don’t do it alone.”
Sellers, who was born and raised in Martindale-Brightwood, said the Edna Martin Christian Center focuses on education, financial stability for families and community health.
“We want them to move on to college and career and be successful so that they can come back and invest in a community at a higher level in order for us to break the poverty cycle,” said Sellers. “This is about us empowering this community. This is about us working with the community.
“They’re not only going to rebuild this community, but others as well. They’ll come back to wherever they came from to give back to that area.”
There are many other partners, including Play Ball Indiana (part of Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) and universities around Indianapolis.
Barber, who coached Jeff Mercer (the current Indiana University head coach) when he was younger, took some players from The BASE Indy to their first collegiate baseball game in Bloomington in March.
“I cannot believe how well those young men handled themselves and how polite they were,” said Barber.
One of those youngsters — a player at Arsenal Tech coached by Bob Haney named Josh Morrow — has dreams of being an astrophysicist. Some of the debate at the ball game was about gravity on MIrars.
Barber believes that such high aspirations can be obtained through The BASE Indy and its partners.
He spoke about most people being born on second base with their children coming into the world on third base.
Many of those who The BASE Indy will serve have not even gotten up to the plate.
“One of the things that The BASE is extraordinary at doing is equipping and strengthening the legs of the kids so as they get to first base, they have the resources they need in life to begin to be successful and knock down some of those barriers,” said Barber.
Relating a conversation that he had with Irvington Preparatory Academy coach Davon Hardy, Barber heard about the struggles some of the players have to go through just to get to school and the baseball diamond.
One has no electricity at home.
Another is without food.
A third has a father who is incarcerated.
“What priority would baseball be in there life?,” said Barber, echoing Hardy. “At The BASE — before we can get to the part of teaching the baseball skills (former big leaguer Justin Masterson and scout Mike Farrell are among those who will lend their expertise while Indianapolis Indians president and general manager Randy Lewandowski is also involved) — it’s about giving them an incentive to do something.
“There are some walls we’re going to have to run through to create some opportunities and I’m OK with that. I’m a baseball person. But I’m also passionate about doing the right thing.”
Barber said the The BASE has a proven methodology. But it’s a four-letter word that drives it.
“The thing that drives it is love,” said Barber. “It’s that simple.”
That love in Indy is going to headquartered in Martindale-Brightwood.
“We want to raise their expectations,” said Barber. “I was the first person in my family to go to college.”
A passionate advocate of the baseball community, Thompson also talked about raising the bar.
“Expectations are set so low sometimes we don’t know how low we set them,” said Thompson. “How can we achieve anything unless we’re lifted up?”
Thompson, who has represented several professional athletes, recalled a conversation he had with Indiana basketball legend Oscar Robertson.
“Milt, what would Magic Johnson do against me?,” said Thompson of Robertson’s reply. “It’s mentality. It’s how you think. You set your expectations higher.”
Thompson talked about how one of his school counselors told him that he was best-suited to work with his hands.
“I didn’t get bitter. I got better,” said Thompson. “That was the best advice I ever heard. My first 10 jury trials, during closing arguments, I was using my hands.
“You set the bar higher, you can go get it.”
Thompson said it is necessary to be honest with yourself in all adversity.
“It’s not always easy,” said Thompson. “You’ve got to take a chance.
“We’re going to fill in the gap. We’re going to do unnecessary things because they are necessary.”
Thompson said the dialogue is being changed in inner cities.
“We don’t have underprivileged kids anymore we have under-appreciated kids,” said Thompson. “That’s the people we’re talking about. They have every have every possibility of greatness. They’re going to use their hands when they talk.
“Want to play the game? Want to pitch in? There are several things we can do.”
Among those things are hosting a fundraiser for the Urban Classic (which will be staged in Indianapolis for the first time in July), sponsor a college tour or career day, serve on an advisory board (education, baseball/softball or life skills/career), connect your personal contacts to The BASE Indy and make a donation to the cause.
Justin Masterson put the wraps on his professional baseball playing career in 2017.
A 6-foot-6, 235-pound right-hander possessing what was often a devastating sinker pitched for the Boston Red Sox (2008-09, 2015), Cleveland Indians (2009-14) and St. Louis Cardinals (2014).
“Mr. Clean” appeared in 25 games with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians in 2016. He also pitched in the minors for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations.
Before any of that, the Kingston, Jamaica-born, Beavercreek (Ohio) High School graduate spent two seasons at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Ind. (he was an honorable-mention NAIA All-American in 2004 and National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association All-American in 2004 and 2005), and one at San Diego State University (2006).
At Bethel, he was a combined 20-8 on the mound with 185 strikeouts posted earned averages of 2.09 in 2004 and 1.59 in 2005. With a bat, he clubbed a team-best 10 homers in 2005.
Justin and wife Meryl Masterson (her maiden name is Ham) celebrated 11 years of marriage Nov. 3, 2018. The couple resides in Fishers, Ind., and have three children — 7-year-old Eden and 4-year-old twins Cruz and Nadia.
Philanthropists, the Mastersons founded a non-profit, Fortress Foundation, in 2013 with business partner and former Bethel teammate Matt Zappasodi. Justin Masterson is chairman, Matt Zappasodi director, Meryl Masterson co-chair and Emily Zappasodi treasurer.
Masterson also partnered with the One Child Matters baseball project in the Dominican Republic in 2008, spoke at the Pentagon’s weekly prayer breakfast in 2009 and worked with Bright Hope in 2013.
He has also indicated that he will support The BASE Indianapolis. The group brings baseball and educational opportunities to urban youth.
Recently, Masterson agreed to an IndianaRBI Q&A session.
Q: What are some of your fondest on-field memories at Bethel College?
A: Let’s see. Justin Gingerich, fellow pitcher, hitting a bomb off of me in fall ball. And — no! — he didn’t have much practice leading up to that moment. I think that was the fall of our sophomore year.
I felt all the emotions during a doubleheader. We were facing Marian, I think for the conference, and I start the first game and we did well and won. Game 2, we are winning and I am brought in to close out this game. Control was a little off, I think I walked the bases loaded, then their best hitter at the time — don’t know his name, but he had a solid beard and long hair — he came up and crushed one into the trees for a grand slam. The day started on a high note and ended on a low note. There are so many incredible memories!
We set a record in wins my freshman year (44 in 2004) and it was a pleasure to play with some great players.
One game, I am still trying to figure out if it was true or folklore, but Marcel Guevara, a well-sized left-handed Venezuelan, crushed six or seven homers in a doubleheader. And the joke remains that Marcel hit a guy with a ball over the fence during batting practice, we looked at Marcel and said, ‘You hit that guy!’ He responded with, ‘He shouldn’t have been standing there.’ Fun times!
Q: What are some of your fondest off-field memories at Bethel College?
A: My time started with incredible roommates. First year I had my cousins Dan and Aaron Hamrick, along with Kyle Feller and Matt Savill.
The next year it continued with my cousin Aaron and we added Logan Halley and Aaron Engbrecht.
Along with the fact that my older sister (Mandy) was at Bethel, this made for the baseline of a blessed college journey.
One of my favorite things to do was to join my cousin Dan for open gym basketball just about every evening. Even the days I had two-a-day baseball practices, Dan would still drag me to open gym, but I didn’t fight too hard either.
Meeting my wife, Meryl, has to be near the top of fondest memories at Bethel. I was a sophomore and she was a freshman. We were together in perspective of fine arts, that is we were both taking the class and she noticed me well before I noticed her, but once I noticed she was noticing me, well, lets just say we celebrated 11 years of marriage.
I could go on for days and know there are plenty that I am forgetting. Enjoying myself I did!
Q: What was your favorite class or classes?
A: Anything with Dr. Bob Laurent! There were other great professors and enjoyable classes but he — just like he has for thousands of students and people in his lifetime — impacted my life in lasting ways that were helpful in molding me into who I am today.
Q: What else can you tell us about your studies at Bethel or San Diego State? What was major?
A: At Bethel, I was taking a smorgasbord of bible classes and when I went to San Diego State those that transferred turned my major into a criminal justice/psychology/sociology major.
I worked hard in all my classes, but school was honestly a means for me to grow and develop socially, physically and mentally as I continued my journey to the Major Leagues.
Q: Who were the toughest hitters you faced in the big leagues?
A: One most people will agree with — Miguel Cabrera. I believe he is one of the best hitters because he can do anything with a bat and is willing to do what the situation dictates. He can hit a home run, but is satisfied with a base hit that scores a run. Not afraid to take a walk if the pitcher is giving it to him.
If you haven’t heard of him that is understandable, also means you are not a Tigers fan. Don was the king at just dropping balls in over the infielders’ heads. (Kelly) would bat in the 9-hole against every other pitcher, but would hit in the 4-hole against me. It culminated to 2013, I gave up three runs in each of my games against Detroit. Those runs came from Downtown Don’s two three-run home runs. If he wasn’t an incredible guy, I might be more upset about it!
Q: Who were some of the best that you got out regularly?
A: I do not remember the best. I would say the majority of right-handed hitters I fared quite well against with my low three-quarters arm slot and heavy sinking action.
I do remember my first playoff series against the angels and facing Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero each game. I did not get them out every time, but fared decently well against them, at least we won that series so I didn’t do too terrible!
Q: What do you think it’s been like for her to be a baseball wife?
A: A journey! It is such an interesting world to navigate as a professional athlete’s wife.
That world ranges from ladies who, by the way they talk, are out on the field making plays, to ladies who are some of the kindest, most humble people you will ever meet.
Of course, my wife is a part of the kind, humble spectrum and she was and still is well-respected by all who crossed her path. Not only do they have to deal with each other, but they have to deal with their husband who may or may not have fared very well that night.
I think my wife’s husband made that part of the gig a little bit easier. Not because he always performed well, but because the game was just that — a game! And he answers in third person!
Q: What are you doing these days?
A: I am available. What do I mean by that? I have dug a ditch, I have milled some logs, I have done some speaking, I have done some leading, I have done some lessons, I am coaching second grade basketball and the list can continue.
I did not want to jump into anything too permanent right away after deciding not to play anymore.
What do most of my days consist of? Lots of family time, reading, writing and some bootleg guitar playing!
Q: What about Fortress Foundation?
A: A refuge to those in a time of need. We are trying to go where God is leading us to impact spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
Meryl and I started the foundation in 2013 and do not plan on it lasting forever but wanted a way to be good stewards of God’s financial blessings through baseball and also have a way to hold the organizations we work with accountable.
Matt Zappasodi and I are going to India soon to impact lives in a positive way
Q: Do you keep in-touch with other former Bethel teammates or classmates?
A: We have been blessed to have the Zappsodi’s around and have also had chances to keep in touch with many Bethel people over the years.
One of the great things about baseball is that you travel to a lot of neat cities and with Bethel alumni being scattered throughout the country, lets just say the joke in the clubhouse was that I knew someone in every city that we went to.
And if I had time I loved meeting before the game or after the game for a late night bit to eat. Many opportunities have arisen though the friendships that I made at Bethel.
Q: You say you live in or near Fishers, Ind.? Is that near where Meryl is from?
A: Meryl is from the mean streets of Mishawka and I hail from two minutes east of Dayton. We could live anywhere after we were married and (the Indianapolis area) kind of splits the difference between our families. Ten years later, we are still here and it is a pretty good place to live.
Justin Masterson (foreground) captures the scene at a fall retreat in Brown City, Mich. Masterson is a member of the Bethel College Athletics Hall of Fame and former Major League Baseball pitcher. He is kept busy doing many things, including making impact spiritually, emotionally, and physically through the Fortress Foundation.
A group of concerned community leaders have been making a difference in the urban areas of Boston with The BASE and it is starting to branch out in Indianapolis.
The BASE is a not-for-profit organization that provides free-of-charge baseball and softball training and competition plus mentoring, education and life support to inner-city young men and women.
It helps them overcome the negative stereotypes and barriers that come with single-parent homes, government housing and poverty and to enjoy athletic and academic achievement.
These young people from “at-risk” areas are given a chance to believe in themselves because someone else believes in them.
A video for The BASE puts it this way: “Too many people keep saying what our young folks can’t do and where they’re going to end up … We will strive and achieve.”
Founded in Massachusetts by Robert Lewis Jr., The BASE seeks to change mindsets and perceptions by providing opportunities to these kids.
“Every child deserves to be educated, safe, healthy, warm, fed and un-abused,” says Lewis. “(The BASE) is a passion point. You can take an opportunity and find things young folks love to do. It could be baseball, football. It could be arts or technology.
“Our young folks have to participate in the 21st century work force. They have to be educated and skilled to do that.”
With support from many, programming is free to these young people.
“Money isn’t going to be the determining factor to keep them from playing the greatest game in the world,” says Lewis. “Every child can love a great game and also participate at the highest level.”
Lewis and The BASE celebrated the 40th year of the Boston Astros at Fenway Park — home of the Boston Red Sox. The BASE has a facility in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood and a stadium complex with first-class learning facilities is in the works.
The BASE carries this motto: Success Begins Here.
“Excellence is the new minimum and we’re going to keep pushing,” says Lewis. “I got into this to really change the trajectory for black and Latino boys.
“That’s a moral standard. That’s where we start. How do we solve problems?”
Lewis counts former Red Sox and current Chicago Cubs executive Theo Epstein as a friend and financial supporter of The BASE and the organization is now in Chicago with plans to open a clubhouse later this month in Grant Park.
Lewis says The BASE has no bigger fan than famed writer and broadcaster Peter Gammons, who calls the organization the “best urban baseball program in America today.”
Leading the charge to serve urban youth in central Indiana through The BASE is Rob Barber.
“We consider them to be under-served assets,” says Barber of the young people. “Help and love is on the way.”
Barber, a former Indiana University player and long-time member of the baseball community, is the president and chief executive officer of The BASE Indianapolis. He is working to form partnerships with individuals and businesses.
He’s gone inside baseball circles, including Play Ball Indiana, Major League Baseball-backed Indianapolis RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities), travel organizations, high school and colleges. He’s also gotten the ears of politicians, civic leaders and more.
A launch team has been formed and board, staff and advisory positions are being filled. Current and former big league ballplayers with central Indiana ties lending their support include Tucker Barnhart, Justin Masterson, Kevin Plawecki and Drew Storen. Barber says more are expected.
Barber has relationships all around the baseball community, including with instructors Chris Estep (Roundtripper Sports Academy) and Jay Lehr (Power Alley Baseball Academy), Indianapolis Indians president and general manager Randy Lewandowski, Warren Central High School head coach Emmitt Carney and Kansas City Royals are scout Mike Farrell.
Plans call for The BASE Indianapolis to build a clubhouse or two around the city where kids can come year-round for assistance — whether that’s with their athletic skills or homework. The group partners with many colleges to provide scholarships.
Last summer, the Indianapolis RBI team played in the Pittsburgh Urban Classic. The GameChangers Baseball Club, based in Canonsburg, Pa., and led by Elkhart (Ind.) Central High School and Bethel College graduate Greg Kloosterman and business partner Kristi Hilbert, has also partnered with The BASE.
(Kloosterman) loves the model that we have,” says Lewis. “You earn your spot. It’s not based on pay-for-play. It’s a loving commitment.
Later, Barber worked with Jeff Mercer Sr. (father of current IU head baseball coach Jeff Mercer Jr.) and helped form the Indiana Bulls travel organization.
Barber founded USAthletic and was an assistant coach to Dan Ambrose at Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis the past seven years.
To concentrate on The BASE Indianapolis, he is turning over USAthletic to Wes Whisler and stepping away from his high school coaching duties.
In one visit to The BASE in Boston, Rob and wife Nichole met Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. The Barbers have two children. Mary is in graduate school in Nashville, Tenn. Alec is an accounting analyst for Roche in Indianapolis.
Rob took Alec to Boston and spent three days with The BASE. That convinced Lewis of the level of the elder Barber’s commitment.
Lewis and his Boston kids showed their appreciation when they came out to support Barber’s team at a tournament in Indianapolis. They were there with hugs and positivity.
“Folks like Rob are shifting the paradigm,” says Lewis. “Baseball is a game for everybody. We want to support him.
“I love Rob like a brother. He doesn’t have to do this at all. The safest thing he could do is keep going.”
“But it’s about family.”
For more information, contact Barber at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-840-6488. Contact Lewis at Rlewisjr@thebase.org.
Founded in Boston, The BASE serves urban youth through baseball, softball and educational opportunities and is expanding to Indianapolis. (The BASE Graphic)