Tag Archives: Kishwaukee College

Turner taking nothing for granted as Indiana Tech assistant

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com 

Gordon Turner grew up in Anderson, Ind., with athletic ambition.

Turner played at Anderson High School, where he graduated in 2005, then two seasons at Kishwaukee College in Malta, Ill., before transferring to Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Ind. He played one season (2009) on the field with the Warriors before an injury and spent eligibility put an end to the middle infielder’s playing career.

“I’m not going to lie, I cried,” says Turner. “It hurt.”

But the next day Indiana Tech head coach Kip McWilliams asked Turner to join the coaching staff. He’s been there ever since. The 2021 season is his 11th. It’s Williams’ 14th leading the Warriors program.

“Once you’re done playing, you can always spread the knowledge of the game to somebody else and make them better,” says Turner — aka GT. “I’ve got the privilege to be a college coach. Not everyone gets that opportunity. 

“I’m not going to take it for granted.”

Turner calls McWilliams the “heart and soul” of the Indiana Tech program and somebody who is always learning something new about baseball and passing it along.

“I’ve learned a lot from Coach Mac,” says Turner. “He has changed the culture. He looks into (recruiting) high-character guys who are coachable. He’s done a great job over the years. 

“It’s nothing but positivity. It’s a great environment. He’s got his standards and he holds his players and coaches to them.”

Indiana Tech has varsity and developmental players and the NAIA program typically carries a large roster that has counted as many as 65 players.

Turner is the head reserve coach and leads that team in games against NAIA, NCAA and NJCAA competition. 

But while some might be varsity and other junior varsity, all Tech players are on equal footing.

“We try to keep our guys involved,” say Turner. “Our developmental guys practicing with varsity. We keep them on the same page. We don’t want anybody to lose focus.

“It’s like family. You don’t want to leave nobody out.”

Turner notes that 2016 first-team NAIA All-American Brian Hakes started out on the developmental roster.

Tech has begun its 2021 season. A typical week at this time of the year means taking Monday off if the Warriors are coming off a weekend series. This gives players a chance to rest and to catch up with their studies.

There are sometimes mid-week games with practices to fix flaws and stay sharp.

“We try to get outside as much as possible,” says Turner. “Sometimes we use the turf soccer field and field fly balls and ground balls and do PFP (Pitcher’s Fielding Practice). 

“We work on anything (the coaching staff says) we need to work on.”

There’s also in-seaon weight lifting to maintain strength. 

Once the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference season starts, there are intense weekend series.

“It’s a grind for 55 games as a northern team,” says Turner. 

In the off-season, Turner has worked at camps both at Tech and other places.

He is also a substitute teacher in Fort Wayne Community Schools. This year, was at Lakeside Middle School, where cousin Alan Jones (who played basketball at Muncie Central High School and Taylor University and earned his masters degree at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne) is the principal. 

Turner, who received his bachelor’s degree from Indiana Tech in 2012, has taught multiple subjects, but favorite is social studies.

“There’s something about geography,” says Turner. “Show me a place and I’ll show you 10 different ways to get there.”

Turner has also helped Tech players in graduate school to get substitute teaching jobs.

Terry Turner, who has won two IHSAA state titles at Daleville (2016 and 2018), was the Anderson head coach when GT played for the AHS Indians.

“T-Squared — that’s what we call him — was very laid-back,” says Gordon Turner. “If he saw senior had leadership and were taking control of the team, he let it happen. He let us play our game.”

That doesn’t mean the veteran coach did not have control.

“He was holding guys accountable,” says Turner. “If you show up, he’s going to let you know.”

Turner played with some talented players at AHS. In his class was Michael Lucas (who went on to Lincoln Trail College and Ball State University) and Zane Sparks (who played at Kishwaukee and is now with the Anderson Police Department). A year ahead of Turner and his classmates was Brandon Meadows (who played at Anderson University).

Michael Earley, a Class of 2007 graduate, went on to play at Indiana University and in pro ball  is now on the coaching staff at Arizona State University.

Turner played at Kishwaukee for Josh Pethoud (now an assistant at Northern Illinois University).

“You really had to be tough to play for him,” says Turner. He had a lot of passion for the game and he knew how to accelerate guys’ games. 

“He was very intense, Off the field, he’d give you the shirt off his back. I had a very good relationship with that guy.”

Turner values relationships.

“There’s trust in knowing someone has your back at all times,” says Turner. “There’s someone to help you out during struggles.”

Since he was 15, Turner has occupied parts of his summer playing fast pitch softball. In recent years, he’s been with Anderson-based Diamond In The Rough.

Two nephews have excelled in sports. Lawrence North High School graduate Harold Jones is on the football team at Ball State. LN senior Anthony Hughes is a two-time IHSAA Wrestling State Finals qualifier.  

Turner lives in Fort Wayne with girlfriend Shelby Knepper. Together, they have a daughter — Aria Grace Knepper-Turner (2).

Tuesday, March 2 would have been Charles Turner’s 67th birthday. Gordon’s father died of pancreatic cancer Aug. 16, 2018 — about a month before his daughter was born.

“Before he passed away he told me that he was proud of me,” says Gordon. “I’m trying to be a better man as every day comes.”

Gordon Turner is in his 11th season as an Indiana Tech baseball assistant coach in 2021. The Tech graduate is in charge of the Warriors reserves. (Indiana Tech Photo)

Anderson native Shirley fitting puzzle pieces together as White Sox amateur scouting director

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Taking his ability to evaluate baseball talent and manage people, Anderson, Ind., native Mike Shirley is embracing the complexities of his new job as amateur scouting director for the Chicago White Sox.

Shirley, 49, took over his current role in late August. He was named assistant scouting director for the White Sox in November 2018. He began serving the organization as a cross checker in 2010.

As a cross checker, Shirley managed five or six area scouts.

“I was very active with a certain set of people, helping guide their schedule and my own schedule,” says Shirley. “As assistant scouting director, I was helping the director fulfill the entire (Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft) process.”

That meant helping to coordinate the entire amateur department while also acting as a national scout.

As director, Shirley is in charge of everything for the amateur scouting department.

“There’s so much more that goes into being a baseball scout than looking at players,” says Shirley. “There’s management of people, (molding) philosophy, understanding budgets and personnel and keeping everybody on track.”

Shirley notes that more attention is paid to the draft than ever before and there are so many pieces to the puzzle.

“I love the fact that scouting is so difficult some days to put all these pieces in order,” says Shirley. “That’s the most interesting part of the challenge that comes with it.”

With the training now available, players are now reaching the elite level at younger ages.

“Prospects now have currency and value as your organization changes and grows,” says Shirley. “The restructuring at the major league level has changed.

“The rebuild has changed the dynamic of what prospects mean. If your club is in a rebuild and it’s you know it’s not competitive let’s say in 2019, your processes become completely different.”

Clubs take into consideration drafting players that will give them the most currency in the market place.

“There are times now you’re drafting players you know — based on your cycle of talent from top to bottom — may be used as trade chips to get you to the next major league star,” says Shirley. “That’s really changed. There was a time 20 years ago when every team felt like they had a chance to win and every team was running for the title.

“We’re all trying to be competitive, but we also understand where are cycles of talent are (at any given time).”

With the 2020 season and June draft looming, where are the White Sox led by executive vice president Ken Williams and senior vice president/general manager Rick Hahn?

“We’re hugely in a position to be successful for the next five to eight years,” says Shirley. “It’s pretty well-documented we’ve in a rebuild process the last four years. It’s been trying times for everybody, especially for our fans, to stomach the tough days and the losses. I think we’re on the back of that now.

“Everybody is so excited about where we’re headed and what we’re capable of doing in the near future. Our young talent is significant. Our minor leagues is strong.”

Shirley is always taking in information from members of the White Sox amateur scouting department.

“The listening skill has to be sharp everyday,” says Shirley. “You have to be able to comprehend what these guys are doing and listen.

“There’s constant communication.”

During the season, area scouts are filing daily reports and messages are flying back and forth via calls, texts and emails.

A recent three-day recent organizational meeting at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., brought together all the scouting department and part of the player development staff.

“It was designed to get everybody in one room,” says Shirley. “We talked about philosophy, planning and where are evaluations are for the 2020 draft class.

“We listened to player development speak about players we’ve drafted in the past, where those players are at and shared information.”

It’s all about getting better and evaluating performance as scouts and player development folks.

“We did a good job here. We missed here,” says Shirley. “There’s constant evaluation of those two departments. We try to work together to make sure our decisions are tighter. Where are we missing? Where are we strong?

“You’re looking at it with full transparency. You’re not tricking yourself.”

Shirley has began conducting conference calls with his 17 area scouts.

“It’s a little deeper conversation than just what they submitted on the follow list,” says Shirley of a catalog of every player in a scout’s area that is likely to be drafted in 2020. “We want to listen to their voice.”

Scouts have been meeting with high school and college players and will continue to do so. These interactions help the White Sox put the make-up piece together in their draft evaluation.

Shirley says the club wants to know if a player is smart of lackadaisical, engaged or disengaged in the conversation or is a grinder.

“How do they go about their business?,” says Shirley. “What’s their family dynamic like? What’s their mom and dad like? Who influences them the most?”

Those pieces start to be put together via these conference calls.

“We’re always willing to take a risk on players who have elite talent,” says Shirley. “But if you don’t have elite talent and you have bad make-up, obviously there’s a red flag we try to stay away from.”

Scouts have been working on the 2020 draft for two years already. They were on the road again three days after the conclusion of the 2019 draft.

Most of the players who wind up in college, we’ve seen when they are in high school,” says Shirley. “The depth at which we follow these players is significant. The elite players we spend a lot of time on.”

There’s many ways to track players, including seeing them play in-person, video services, TrackMan and Rapsodo data and more.

“There’s so much more to the process than what your eyes tell you any more,” says Shirley. “We have multiple angles and multiple opinions.

“The sharing part among your departments becomes so tremendous. Everybody is in the boat rowing together trying to get to the destination.”

Born in Anderson, Shirley played at Pendleton Heights High School for Bill Stoudt, who was selected to the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006.

Stoudt-coached teams won 654 games with 14 sectional titles and three regional championship and 10 conference championships in 32 years as a head coach through 2012. He sent a number of players into college and professional baseball.

“He was tremendous,” says Shirley of Stoudt. “He built a program of high-end talent.

“He expected you to show up and held you accountable. He pushed you to be you best. He was demanding and his demand forced you to raise your expectations for yourself.”

Shirley graduated from Pendleton Heights in 1988 and played his freshmen collegiate season (1989) at Southwestern Michigan College in Dowagiac, Mich. As a “draft and follow” player, Jonathan Michael Shirley was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 45th round of the 1989 MLB Draft, played his sophomore season at Kishwaukee College in Malta, Ill., then played in the Indians system from 1990-94.

Having an elite arm in right field, Shirley was reluctantly converted to a pitcher. He hurt his arm, underwent Tommy John surgery and was released. He concluded his pro career with the independent Anderson Lawmen in 1995 (Mid-America League) and 1996 (Heartland League) while also completing his degree at Indiana University.

Mike and Kimberly Shirley have been married 22 years and have three baseball-playing sons.

Jaxon Shirley is at Lubbock (Texas) Christian University after starting his college career at Danville (Ill.) Area Community College and transferring to Oklahoma University. He was drafted by the White Sox in the 34th round out of Lapel (Ind.) High School in 2016 as a 6-foot-4, 190-pound second baseman. He is now a 6-5, 220-pound left fielder.

Caden Shirley is a freshman at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Colton Shelton is a Lapel senior.

Various ailments, including stress fractures, caused Caden and Colton to miss long stretches of development as high school players.

“Being a baseball man like I am and watching my own children suffer, it’s been one of the biggest challenges as a father,” says Shirley. “You see how hard they’ve worked through their lifetime and you see them lose almost two years of their careers and it’s very difficult.”

For years, Shirley has operated a training facility in Anderson called “The Barn.”

“There’s so many young, talented players in there that have bright futures,” says Shirley. “That’s why I’ll always stay connected.

“You want to give them the guidance and give your expertise.”

Players from youth through major league come to the facility to train.

Jeremy Hazelbaker, who has played in the big leagues, took swings at “The Barn” during Thanksgiving week.

Minor leaguer Nick Schnell (selected in the first round by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018) got in the cage before heading off to Florida.

Zack Thompson (a first-rounder for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019) and Drey Jameson (a first-rounder for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2019) have trained at “The Barn” since they were youngsters.

So has Cole Barr, a Yorktown (Ind.) High School product who slugged 17 home runs at Indiana University in 2019.

“It’s been a really productive situation,” says Shirley. “There are guys in there who are going to be the next Nick Schnell or next Cole Barr.

“It’s a special place. We don’t ever try to be famous. We’re not on Twitter. If you’re a baseball guy, the proof’s in the pudding. Are you making players or not? Are you helping players get to their goals?”

MIKESHIRLEY

Mike Shirley, a native of Anderson, Ind., is the amateur scouting director for the Chicago White Sox. He is a 1988 graduate of Pendleton Heights High School. (Chicago White Sox Photo)