About 4,000 teams are expected to play in Bullpen Tournaments events across the spring, summer and fall seasons at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind., and other diamonds. His part of that will keep Chris Gorman hopping. As Bullpen’s Director of High School Tournaments, he handles registration, scheduling and operations and also helps with staffing of interns and hourly workers and assists with youth tournaments when needed. Most of the 15U to 18U tourneys held in June and July and coordinated by Gorman are staged at Grand Park and Championship Park in Kokomo. Other local, high-quality off-site fields like Kokomo Municipal Stadium are also used. The majority of teams are from Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan, but there are those from outside. Gorman counts Director of Operations Cam Eveland and Vice President of Operations Michael Tucker as his direct supervisors. Born in Fort Wayne and raised in Auburn in Indiana, Gorman is a graduate of DeKalb High School in Waterloo, Ind. (2015) — where he played basketball — and Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. (2019) — where he was Sport Administration major and Marketing minor. Gorman has also served Bullpen Tournaments as an hourly Quad Manager, making sure games ran smoothly and on schedule. “This role helped me understand the operations and the standard that was needed to be met for all our events,” says Gorman. From there he was promoted to Assistant Director of Operations at Creekside Baseball Park in Parkville, Mo., a Prep Baseball Report facility just outside of Kansas City. The job allowed him to implement to apply the same standards set by Bullpen at Grand Park. “This role required me to have my hands in many different areas of our business and helped me understand the entire company as a whole rather than just from an operations standpoint,” says Gorman. Why did he choose this as a profession? “I knew I always wanted to have some sort of career in the sports world,” says Gorman. “I was always curious about how things worked behind the scenes, so when I started out as an hourly worker for Bullpen, I was able to get hands on experience of the behind-the-scenes work involved in running high quality events. “I learned to love the jobs I was asked to do so pursuing a sport operations role was something that interested me very strongly.” Gorman’s resume also includes Security Assistant for the Chicago Cubs, Tournament Director for PBR, Tournament Site Director for World Baseball Academy in Fort Wayne and Ticket Sales Representative for the Fort Wayne TinCaps.
The Terre Haute Rex have been on the summer collegiate wood bat baseball scene since 2010. Terre Haute native Bruce Rosselli was there at the start. A 1976 North Vigo High School graduate and former Indiana State University track and field decathlete who went on to spend 17 years as an elite bobsled driver (he is a three-time national champion, two-time world champion and a winner in the Europa Cup and Americas Cup), was a volunteer assistant speed and strength coach for the Rex. He attended home games and put players through workouts at Union Hospital. “I worked on their speed and their psyche,” says Rosselli. “I took some of the things I learned from driving a bobsled like positive thinking and mental imagery. I had to slow everything down and learn to push away negativity. “I was teaching pitchers how to be confident on the mound and control the tempo of the game.” The Rex (which takes their name from a coffee brand established in 1879) was originally owned by the Indiana State University Foundation. In December 2013, Rosselli and partners — Brian Dorsett (field manager 2010-12), Bob Brown, John Newton, Ray Kepner and Kevin Hoolehan — bought the team. General manager Rosselli and Dorsett are principal owners of the Rex. Newton later stepped down, leaving the others as the current ownership group. Rosselli’s position is full-time and does everything from marketing to recruiting players. He sees the Rex as an asset to the community. In 2014, Rosselli and company had their first season with the Rex and a survey found that 63 percent of fans who exit a baseball stadium don’t know who won or lost the game. “They just know they had a good time,” says Rosselli. “That’s who we market to. The 37 percent are always going to be there. How do we get the 63 percent back every time? “It’s entertainment.” The Rex markets to a 40- to 50-mile radius of Terre Haute. The Wabash Valley represents about 500,000 people. Rosselli wants them to consider coming to ISU’s Bob Warn Field when they come to town to dine or go to Terre Haute Children’s Museum. “We have between-inning games with kids running and racing and dizzy bat,” says Rosselli. “The baseball game itself is secondary. “We’re putting on this big show.” Community members and sponsors are recognized. Low-cost, high-quality concessions is a priority. “We don’t want people coming here saying that food is no good so we’re going to eat somewhere else before (the game),” says Rosselli. “We bring $1.5 million to $2.1 million (annually) to the local economy every summer.” Stores, retail shops, gas stations, hotels and restaurants all benefit from having the Rex in Terre Haute. “Every $1 turns over seven times,” says Rosselli. Rosselli says some companies that partner with the team are looking for Return On Investment (ROI) and others do it as a service to the community. “They’re helping us provide entertainment for all of the Wabash Valley,” says Rosselli. “We couldn’t do it without them.” On the baseball side of things, Rosselli hires a manager to assemble a team of players from around the country. In 2023, it will be Harry Markotay. “We do want to have competitive play,” says Rosselli. “Since we’ve owned the team we’ve only had one year where we didn’t have a very good season.” The Rex went 37-23 in the Prospect League 2022. Terre Haute won Prospect League titles in 2015 (managed by Bobby Segal) and 2018 (managed by Tyler Wampler). Rosselli begins making recruiting calls as soon as the season is over. All position players on a roster of around 30 are committed and the focus for 2023 is to get more pitchers. Players stay with host families — some who’ve been with the Rex since Day 1. “They love having that experience with a player in their home,” says Rosselli. “They can go out there and root for them every game, know their name and their parents’ names. “It’s a friend for life.” Bruce and wife Cheryl Rosselli (a former world table tennis champion) have two children — Paige and Tony. Paige Rosselli (North Vigo Class of 2008) is a former Rex intern. Tony Rosselli (North Vigo Class of 2012) played a Indiana State University and with the Rex. He has had host families as a college and independent pro player. There are many moving parts and a short window between the end of the Indiana State season and the beginning for the Rex. Tractor trailers bring in trash cans. Beverage sales and souvenir sales must be set up. Up to 60 banners stored in Rosselli’s office across Third Street are put up around the ballpark. “We saw the stadium come alive,” says Rosselli. The Rex partners with ISU for Sport Management and Marketing students to do internships with the team. There’s also the opportunity work with the media company who broadcasts the games. “I want to see players go to the next level, but it’s also just as gratifying seeing our interns going to the next level,” says Rosselli. “Every year I say, ‘how do we make our team better and how do we make our staff better?’ One doesn’t run without the other. “There’s two teams here.” The owner/GM encourages interns to sit in with him on sponsorship meetings. They also get to rotate through different jobs such as ticket sales, retail and press box operations. They see the coordination between the PA announcer and on-field announcer. “It’s like an orchestra going on,” says Rosselli. Many Rex interns have gone on to serve in professional or college sports positions and not just in baseball. Austin Bishop went from the Rex to the NBA’s Detroit Pistons to the University of Illinois and is now Assistant Manager of Athletic Ticketing at ISU. Chris Poindexter was Communications Assistant and Intern Supervisor for the Rex and went on to become Video Production and Social Media Manager with the Bowling Green Hot Rods, High-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. “I didn’t get where I’m at without help,” says Rosselli. “So it’s sort of paying it forward. I can help somebody else do that they want to do.” Beginning in 2016, Rosselli was president of the Prospect League for five years. In that role, he dealt with disciplinary matters and led league meetings. He brought in an outside contractor to provide certified NCAA umpires and found vendors for league uniforms and baseballs. “I always thought in order for this league to grow we should all look to be in the black (at the end of the fiscal year) and not some teams in the red,” says Rosselli. “That was more of an attraction to outside investors. “Lowering the operational costs would help us all.” The Prospect League — with David Brauer as commissioner — will field 17 teams in seven states in 2023. Opening Day for a 58-game slate is to begin May 31. Additions include the Jackson (Tenn.) Rockabillys and an as-yet-to-be-branded club in Marion, Ill., once a member of the independent professional Frontier League. Finalists for the Marion team name include Angry Beavers, Fungi, Monkey Rats, Swamp Foxes and Thrillbillies. For the better part 10 years, Rosselli has been working to get a new stadium for the Rex — something similar to Kokomo (Ind.) Municipal Stadium. Rosselli said Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett was in favor, but the Terre Haute Convention Center came first. Rosselli says he would like to see a multi-sport complex on the east side of town. Add to that housing and retail spaces. “It’s about a $75 million project,” says Rosselli. “You’ve got to have a lot of ground — at least 150 acres. “I don’t want to be part of something done halfway. Let’s do it right. We’ve got to be able to grow it.” In August 2022, the Vigo County Capital Improvement Board approved the start of a process for a feasibility study for a sports and water complex. In November 2022, the CIB approved Brownsburg-based PROS Consulting Inc., to conduct that study.
Bob Rutherford has been a supporter of youth sports for the majority of his 84 years. One can find him at all sorts of events involving athletes from Western High School in Russiaville, Ind. One of eight in the 1957 WHS graduating class and a 10-letterwinner (track, basketball and baseball), Rutherford carries a shiny lifetime pass that allows him to cheer on the Panthers at home contests. At baseball games he can be found behind home plate between the scoreboard and the backstop. He also has his favorite locations to view basketball, football and more. What is now Russiaville Youth Baseball League purchased land from Rutherford and expanded while he and wife Anna Mae moved to New London — which is two miles due north of Russiaville and 10 miles southwest of Kokomo. There is a baseball diamond in the back yard and batting cages in his garage at New London. “The minor league team needed a place to practice and we had 2.75 acres so we just built us a ball diamond out back,” says Rutherford, who was a volunteer Little League umpire for 14 years. Bob and Anna Mae have been married 56 years. They had three daughters (one died at 42). Rutherford goes all over the region — Championship Park (Kokomo), Kokomo Municipal Stadium, Grand Park (Westfield) and more — and is a fixture at Kokomo Post 6 games. When Post 6 is at home as it is this weekend for the regional tournament against Lafayette Post 11, he can be found in his favorite spot high in the third base side bleachers at CFD Investment Stadium at Highland Park. “I attend as many as I can,” says Rutherford. “I don’t miss any home games.” To say he is a loyal customer is an understatement. “I love the game,” says Rutherford. “I played it and I love it.” Though he never played at Highland Park, he did attend a tryout there for the Kokomo Dodgers following high school. He recalls seeing future Baseball Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda when he was the the minor league team. “That’s where he used to hit his home runs,” says Rutherford while pointing to a house beyond the Highland Park fence. After the Dodgers, the Kokomo Highlanders attracted baseball fans — including Rutherford — to Highland Park. Purdue standout Dennis Brady and Del Harris (who went on to coach in the NBA and go into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame) was were Highlanders in the late 1960’s. Rutherford played in front of large crowds during his fast pitch softball days at Foster Park. He worked at Delco in Kokomo. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1958-62 and belong to Kokomo Post 6, which is celebrating its centennial in 2022. Harold Rutherford — one of Bob’s four siblings — was the president of the first class at Western (a consolation of the New London Quakers, Russiaville Cossacks and West Middleton Broncos). In 1985, Rutherford helped start the Russiaville American Legion Post 412 Cubs. The team traveled far and wide and made some noise in a tournament in Pueblo, Colo. “They wanted to know where Russiaville, Ind., was,” says Rutherford of a team that drew players from Western, Northwestern and Clinton Central high schools. “Eventually they started coming up here and play ball. We’d roast a hog. They really enjoyed it.” Russiaville hosted wooden bat classic every year in July with teams coming from places like Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota and Ontario. “The kids really enjoyed what we tried to build out there,” says Rutherford. “You get to see them expand. That’s why I like Legion ball. “These kids are developing to the next step.”
2022 IHSAA SEMISTATES Saturday, June 11 (IHSBCA Ranking in Parentheses) Class 4A At LaPorte (Schreiber Field) Zionsville (22-12) vs. Penn (24-6), follows 11 a.m. Central Time 2A game. Semistate titles (most recent): Penn 4 (2017), Zionsville 1 (2016). Zionsville’s tournament trail: Noblesville Sectional: Zionsville 5, Noblesville 4; Zionsville 3, Westfield 2; Zionsville 6, Fishers 0. Lafayette Jeff Regional — Zionsville 13, Lafayette Harrison 5; Zionsville 3, Homestead 1. Sectional/Regional titles/State Finals appearances (state titles): 15/4/1 (1) — 2016. Eagles head coach: Jered Moore. Penn’s tournament trail: Penn Sectional — Penn 7, Elkhart 0; Penn 3, Warsaw 1; Penn 7, Northridge 5. LaPorte Regional — Penn 11, South Bend Adams 0; Penn 5, Lake Central 4. Sectional/Regional titles/State Finals appearances (state titles): 23/11/5 (4) — 1994, 1998, 2001, 2015. Kingsmen head coach: Greg Dikos.
At Mooresville (Pioneer Field) Columbus East (15-16-1) vs. Indianapolis Cathedral (17-10-2), follows 1 p.m. Eastern Time 2A game. Semistate titles (most recent): Indianapolis Cathedral 7 (2018), Columbus East 4 (2019). Columbus East’s tournament trail: Bloomington South Sectional: Columbus East 2, Bloomington North 1; Columbus South 6, Bloomington South 5. Jasper Regional — Columbus East 4, Mooresville 1; Columbus East 3, New Albany 2. Sectional/Regional titles/State Finals appearances (state titles): 20/11/4 (1) — 2019. Olympians head coach: Jon Gratz. Cathedral’s tournament trail: Pike Sectional — Cathedral 8, Lawrence North 0; Cathedral 11, Pike 1; Cathedral 10, Lawrence North 8. New Palestine Regional — Cathedral 14, Anderson 4; Cathedral 11, New Palestine 7. Sectional/Regional titles/State Finals appearances (state titles): 25/15/8 (3) — 2001, 2007, 2017. Fighting Irish head coach: Ed Freje.
Class 3A At Kokomo (Municipal Stadium) New Castle (18-5-1) (Receiving Votes) vs. Andrean (29-4) (1), follows 1 p.m. Eastern Time 2A game. Semistate titles (most recent): Andrean 8 (2019), New Castle 0. New Castle’s tournament trail: Yorktown Sectional — New Castle 4, Hamilton Heights 3; New Castle 6, Jay County 2; New Castle 3, Guerin Catholic 2. Oak Hill Regional — New Castle 9, Wawasee 0; New Castle 5, Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger 4. Sectional/Regional titles/State Finals appearances (state titles): 14/3/0 (0). Trojans head coach: Josh Cooper. Andrean’s tournament trail: Griffith Sectional — Andrean 10, Griffith 2; Andrean 18, Calumet New Tech 0. Griffith Regional — Andrean 5, South Bend Saint Joseph 3; Andrean 4, Glenn 0. Sectional/Regional titles/State Finals appearances (state titles): 30/15/9 (7) — 2005, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019. 59ers head coach: Dave Pishkur.
At Jasper (Ruxer Field) Silver Creek (29-6) (5) vs. Brebeuf Jesuit (25-4) (4), follows 1 p.m. Eastern Time 1A game. Semistate titles (most recent): Silver Creek 1 (2018), Brebeuf Jesuit 1 (2012). Silver Creek’s tournament trail: Madison Sectional — Silver Creek 9, Brownstown Central 0; Silver Creek 12, Scottsburg 1; Silver Creek 14, Corydon Central 2. Southridge Regional — Silver Creek 11, Connersville 3; Silver Creek 7, Evansville Memorial 1. Sectional/Regional titles/State Finals appearances (state titles): 11/3/1 (1) — 2018. Dragons head coach: Joe Decker. Brebeuf’s tournament trail: Danville Sectional — Brebeuf 10, Greencastle 0; Brebeuf 11, Danville 3; Brebeuf 12, Tri-West Hendricks 2. Danville Regional — Brebeuf 4, West Vigo 0; Brebeuf 8, Beech Grove 0. Sectional/Regional titles/State Finals appearances (state titles): 16/4/1 (0). Braves head coach: Jeff Scott.
Class 2A At Kokomo (Municipal Stadium) Wapahani (24-4) (3) vs. Illiana Christian (20-7), 1 p.m. Eastern Time. Semistate titles (most recent): Wapahani 3 (2017), Illiana Christian 0. Wapahani’s tournament trail: Frankton Sectional — Wapahani 11, Lapel 1; Wapahani 8, Monroe Central 4; Wapahani 15, Frankton 10. Carroll (Flora) Regional — Wapahani 9, Eastern (Greentown) 3; Wapahani 11, Carroll 3. Sectional/Regional titles/State Finals appearances (state titles): 18/8/3 (1) — 2014. Raiders head coach: Brian Dudley. Illiana Christian’s tournament trail: Whiting Sectional: Illiana Christian 19, Bowman Academy 0; Illiana Christian 3, Hammond Bishop Noll 1; Illiana Christian 16, Wheeler 4. Whiting Regional: Illiana Christian 11, Winamac 0; Illiana Christian 7, Eastside 0. Sectional/Regional titles/State Finals appearances (state titles): 1/1/0 (0). Vikings head coach: Jeff VanderWoude.
At Mooresville (Pioneer Field) Linton-Stockton (15-9-1) vs. Centerville (20-5) (7), 1 p.m. Eastern Time. Semistate titles (most recent): Linton-Stockton 0, Centerville 0. Linton-Stockton’s tournament trail: Mitchell Sectional — Linton-Stockton 11, South Knox 0; Linton-Stockton 11, North Knox ; Linton-Stockton 8, Mitchell 7. Evansville Mater Dei Regional: Linton-Stockton 4, North Decatur 0; Linton-Stockton 5, Forest Park 4. Sectional/Regional titles/State Finals appearances (state titles): 11/1/0 (0). Miners head coach: Josh Harden. Centerville’s tournament trail: Centerville Sectional: Centerville 4, Shenandoah 2; Centerville 14, Hagerstown 8. Park Tudor Regional: Centerville 6, Cascade 3; Centerville 8, Heritage Christian 2. Sectional/Regional titles/State Finals appearances (state titles): 9/1/0 (0). Bulldogs head coach: Tracey Crull.
Class 1A At LaPorte (Schreiber Field) Lafayette Central Catholic (25-6) (3) vs. South Central of Union Mills (21-9) (4), 11 a.m. Central Time. Semistate titles (most recent): Lafayette Central Catholic 9 (2016). Lafayette Central Catholic’s tournament trail: Lafayette Central Catholic Sectional — Central Catholic 13, Attica 1; Central Catholic 8, Riverton Parke 0; Central Catholic 10, Covington 0. Lafayette Central Catholic Regional: Central Catholic 12, Union City 2; Central Catholic 10, Rossville 0. Sectional/Regional titles/State Finals appearances (state titles): 18/15/11 (7) — 2004, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. Knights head coach: Tim Bordenet. South Central of Union Mills’ tournament trail: South Central Sectional: South Central 25, South Bend Career Academy 1; South Central 15, LaCrosse 3; South Central 10, Oregon-Davis 0. South Bend Washington Regional: South Central 7, Caston 3; South Central 6, Fremont 3. Sectional/Regional titles/State Finals appearances: 18/5/0 (0). Satellites head coach: Zach Coulter.
At Jasper (Ruxer Field) Tecumseh (18-12) (RV) vs. Shakamak (16-13) (RV), 1 p.m. Eastern Time. Semistate titles (most recent): Shakamak 8 (2021), Tecumseh 1 (2010). Tecumseh’s tournament trail: Cannelton Sectional — Tecumseh 9, Northeast Dubois 8; Tecumseh 11, Wood Memorial 2; Tecumseh 11, Springs Valley 0. Loogootee Regional: Tecumseh 11, New Washington 1; Tecumseh 4, Barr-Reeve 1. Sectional/Regional titles/State Finals appearances (state titles): 17/11/4 (1) — 2003. Braves head coach: Ted Thompson. Shakamak’s tournament trail: Shakamak Sectional: Shakamak 8, North Central (Farmersburg) 8; Shakamak 14, White River Valley 3. Morristown Regional: Shakamak 3, Rising Sun 0; Shakamak 7, Indianapolis Lutheran 2. Sectional/Regional titles/State Finals appearances (state titles): 27/14/9 (2) — 2008, 2014. Lakers head coach: Jeremy Yeryar.
Nick Floyd played baseball at Ball State University for four years. The 2015 graduate of Jimtown High School in Elkhart, Ind., pitched for the Cardinals from 2016-19 then experienced independent professional ball with the American Association’s Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats, The Battle of the Bourbon Trail’s Florence (Ky.) Y’alls (part of a COVID-19 pop-up circuit) and Pioneer League’s Idaho Falls Chukars. Now he’s seeing the college game from a coach’s perspective. Floyd, 24, leads pitchers for Indiana University-Kokomo. The Cougars are in the River States Conference (NAIA). He earned his Finance degree at Ball State in 2019, but was offered the opportunity to play pro ball then to coach when Drew Brantley was building his IUK staff and says it suits his temperament. “All the philosophies are still the same,” says Floyd, comparing his time as a college player and coach. “But now I better understand the little things that my college coaches tried to convey to us.” Floyd says he now appreciates those team rules set in place by Ball State head coach Rich Maloney. “Now I step back and look at the program as a whole and value the little things — like going about things the right way, being early to practice and everyone wearing the same thing on the road,” says Floyd. “Every player is supposed to get water only. Pop is not good for them. Everyone wearing the same color (at practice) is important for team unity. We want to be one cohesive unit instead of a bunch of individuals. “Not everyone’s the same. A little bit of individuality is totally fine. But it also needs to be structured and adding value to the group as a whole.” Maloney believes in building team culture. “That’s something he stresses a ton,” says Floyd. “He showed through his actions how I wanted to be as a coach.” As IUK pitching coach, Floyd reflects the two men who were his pitching coaches at BSU — Chris Fetter (now Detroit Tigers pitching coach) and Dustin Glant (now Indiana University pitching coach). Glant was head coach at Anderson (Ind.) University when Brantley was an assistant. “The No. 1 thing is attack,” says Floyd, who made 34 mound appearances (14 starts) for the Cardinals. “We want to pitch with the mentality of being the aggressor. I’m going to beat you on this pitch. It starts from the mental side of things. You have to have confidence in your own ability.” Floyd wants his pitchers to get ahead in ball-strike counts. He would rather they give up a bomb pounding the zone then walking the bases loaded and giving up a squib hit to score multiple runs. “We always go down in attack mode,” says Floyd. “Coach Glant taught me that.” Drey Jameson fanned a Ball State and Mid-American Conference-record 146 batters — 14.66 per nine innings — and was named MAC Pitcher of the Year before being selected in first round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. “Drey definitely attacked,” says Floyd. “He knew he was better than you and he was going to go out and show it. “That kind of mentality filtered through everyone (on the Ball State pitching staff).” As IUK prepares for a non-conference doubleaheader against Shawnee State today (March 1) and a three-game RSC series against Ohio Christian, Floyd and graduate assistant Justin Reed (a former IUK player who is also Cougars catchers coach) are working with about 20 pitchers including a few two-way players. “Right now we’ve built up about four starters,” says Floyd. “Other guys in longer relief could potentially starts. “One mid-week starter could come out of the pen on the weekend.” Jeremy Honaker (a Connersville High School graduate who has coached at Zionsville and Martinsville high schools, the University of Indianapolis and in the Indiana Bulls and Canes travel baseball organizations) and student assistant Nate James (a Castle High alum who played at Kankakee Community College before transferring to IUK) are the team’s other coaches. The Cougars play home games at Kokomo Municipal Stadium — a downtown park it shares with the summer collegiate Kokomo Jackrabbits and Kokomo High School. “Not many NAIA teams have access to a facility like that,” says Floyd. “We try to get outside any time it is remotely close to being good weather. “Last week we were shoveling snow for two hours just to get outside.” When getting outside is not possible, the team can use Cougar Gym, located downtown. The weight room is at the on-campus Student Activities and Events Center. Floyd accepted the job last summer while he was pitching for Idaho Falls and learning from Chukars field staff of manager Billy Gardner Jr. (a pro manager since 1995), pitching coach Bob Milacki (who pitched in the big leagues) and hitting coach Billy Butler (who was also a major leaguer). A few days after the season, he was in Kokomo. A former NCAA Division I player, Floyd compares that level to NAIA. “There isn’t a huge difference,” says Floyd. “The top-end guys on each are pretty comparable. “Most D-I lineups and pitching staffs are deeper talent-wise.”
Just over a month after being named head baseball coach at Indiana University Kokomo, Drew Brantley is busy laying the foundation for the Cougars system. Classes began Aug. 23. Brantley is overseeing two weeks of open field workouts before fall practice officially begins Labor Day (Sept. 6). There will be sessions six days a week for eight weeks culminating Oct. 30. Then the NAIA member Cougars move into the weight room and begin the build-up to the spring. There will be no games against outside competition this fall. There will be three scrimmages per week at Kokomo Municipal Stadium. “It’ll be heavy on individual development as a baseball player,” says Brantley. “We’ll compete in a game-like situations.” As the Cougars ready themselves for the River States Conference race, they will open the 2022 season with trips to play Louisiana State University Shreveport and Truett McConnelll University (Cleveland, Ga.). Brantley, who has been on staff the past three seasons including the last two as associate head coach, knows what he desires in an IU Kokomo player. “I want to get good people into the program,” says Brantley, who turned 29 on Aug. 22. “We want them to have the total student-athlete experience — athletically, academically and socially.” The idea is to achieve on the field and in the classroom and build friendships and contacts that will last long beyond the college years. Brantley’s staff includes Jeremy Honaker, Nick Floyd and Justin Reed. Honaker, who was volunteer assistant at the University of Indianapolis in 2020-21, will serve as a positional coach and also help with hitting and baserunning. Former Ball State University and independent professional right-hander Floyd is the Cougars’ pitching coach. Former IU Kokomo player Reed is a graduate assistant and assistant pitching coach. He will work toward his Masters of Business Administration, help in athletic communications and with the baseball team. Prior to coming to IUK to serve on head coach Matt Howard’s staff, Brantley was an assistant to head coach Rich Benjamin at Indiana Wesleyan University. “I worked with infielders and baserunners and assisted with hitters,” says Brantley. “My time at Indiana Wesleyan was awesome. The integrity of the program is held very highly there. I learned how you hold people accountable and how things are supposed to be done.” Brantley assisted at his alma mater Anderson (Ind.) University for five seasons with a stint as interim coach. Medical issues mean that he was only able to play his freshmen season for David Pressley before becoming a student assistant. “He was an awesome guy and a great role model,” says Brantley of Pressley, who followed American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Don Brandon as the man in charge at AU. “A large part of my coaching philosophy comes from (Anderson).” Dustin Glant later took over a Anderson Ravens head coach and was helped by Brantley. “I was able to learn a lot under Dustin,” says Brantley. “He showed me the ropes and what its like to conduct yourself professionally. It’s not just about baseball. “A lot of the success I’ve had has been because of the things he’s showed me and the advice he’s given me.” Glant is now pitching coach at Indiana University. At 22, Brantley was named interim coach at Anderson, where he earned his Secondary Education and Teaching degree in 2015 and MBA in 2017. Says Brantley, “Everyday I was doing the best I knew how.” The same applies in his current position. “It’s pretty neat being in this seat,” says Brantley, who guides a program in the town where he was born. Brantley grew up in Russiaville, Ind., and played T-ball through age 12 at what is now Russiaville Youth Baseball League. After that came travel ball with the Central Indiana Kings then three summers with Don Andrews-managed Kokomo American Legion Post 6. His coach at Western High School in Russiaville was Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Ty Calloway. After becoming a coach himself, Brantley came to learn how Calloway “coached ‘em up the right way.” “As a player, he held us to a really high standard,” says Brantley. “He was always on us in practice. Whatever we were doing that day we were going to give our best effort.” Brantley played three seasons for the Panthers, sitting out his junior year to recuperate from cardiac arrest. In his senior year of 2011, he was an IHSBCA Class 3A first-team all-state second baseman. “I have an incredible support system,” says Drew, who is the son of Chrysler employee Ron and dental receptionist Angie and younger brother of Alaina. Ron Brantley has been coaching baseball since he was 20 and will help out this fall at IU Kokomo. Brantley’s first experience as a baseball coach came with a Howard County travel team called the Indiana Flyers. He was with that team from the fall of 2012 through the summer of 2015. There was also a stint working for Chris Estep as a hitting and defensive instructor at RoundTripper Sports Academy in Westfield, Ind. “He gave me an opportunity to work with younger kids and allowed me to fail a lot,” says Brantley. “Being at RoundTripper was awesome.”
Jared Heard’s two-out single in the bottom of the seventh inning helped Indiana University-Kokomo (22-16, 10-8) to a walk-off 2-1 baseball victory against Brescia Saturday, April 17 at Kokomo Municipal Stadium.
It was the Cougars’ seventh straight victory — the longest current streak among Indiana’s 38 collegiate programs.
By beating Brescia 8-1 in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, IUK gave head coach Matt Howard his 100th career victory.
Indiana Wesleyan (36-11, 25-3) built a three-game lead in the Crossroads League standings with a four-game sweep of Huntington. The Wildcats have won six in a row.
Frank Plesac pitched a seven-inning complete game with 14 strikeouts as Bethel (13-30, 10-18) completed a four-game sweep of visiting Crossroads League foe Goshen and ran the Pilots’ win streak to five.
Indiana State (20-8, 7-1) finally played games at Bob Warn Field after opening the season with 24 on the road. The Sycamores swept a four-game Missouri Valley Conference series against Valparaiso.
Ellis Hanna II drove in four runs in a 12-1 win in the series finale. ISU has won five straight.
Clay Woeste collected nine hits, scored nine runs and drove in seven as Indiana University Southeast (32-13, 20-1) racked up 41 runs in a three-game River States Conference series sweep at West Virginia Tech.
Growing up playing sports in Zionsville, Ind., Michael Tucker knew what it was to be a teammate.
A center in basketball and catcher in baseball, Tulsa, Okla.-born Tucker played at Zionsville Community High School and graduated in 2008. Some of his closest friends to this day played on those squads.
“We had some great teams,” says Tucker, who played for head coaches Dave Ferrell and Shaun Busick in basketball and Darrell Osborne and Adam Metzler in baseball and counted Matt Miller as a mate on the court and the diamond. Miller went on to pitch at the University of Michigan and in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
Tucker was a standout hitter while playing catcher and first base for the Ravens and the Hall of Famer they called “Bama” for his first two college seasons followed by two with David Pressley.
Brandon impressed Tucker with his memory.
“He can tell you the situation — who was on the mound and the count — (from most any game),” says Tucker. “He was really fun to learn from.”
Pressley was a first-time head coach at Anderson. Tucker credits him with lessons on and off the field.
“I learned how to be a man,” says Tucker. “(Pressley) is a huge man of faith.
“He taught a tremendous amount of life lessons.”
Tucker also gained knowledge from Brad Lantz, who was an AU senior receiver when he was a freshman and went on to be a high school head coach at Guerin Catholic and Lapel and is now coaching in the Indy Sharks travel organization.
“I learned so much about catching, counts and what to look for,” says Tucker. “I learned more from (Lantz) than anyone else.”
Ground was recently broken for Championship Park in Kokomo, Ind., and that complex will also be used by Bullpen and PBR.
The 2021 summer will mark Tucker’s seventh with Bullpen Tournaments.
Hired by BT president Blake Hibler, whom he knew from working Prep Baseball Report showcases, Tucker started at Bullpen in time to experience Grand Park’s first full summer.
“I did everything,” says Tucker. “I tried to be a sponge. Being in baseball your whole life is completely different from the tournament industry.
“There’s learning the business side and scheduling.”
While at the Incrediplex near Lawrence, Tucker had done scheduling on a smaller scale and had become comfortable with software.
Tucker appreciates that Hibler lets him seek out processes.
“If I can find a better mousetrap, he lets me run with it,” says Tucker.
Bullpen is a very large operation.
“We’re a different beast in a lot of ways,” says Tucker, who notes that on any given weekend the company may have as many as 45 fields under its control, including those on and off the Grand Park campus.
Tucker says the key is getting the word out to teams, families and recruiters.
“You have to be able to communicate,” says Tucker. “Half of scheduling is the communicating of the schedule.”
With Hibler having a large part in brainstorming and development, Bullpen first used the Tourney Machine app and now works with Playbook 365 while also helping develop PitchAware and ScoreHQ.
Bullpen hires scorekeepers for every high school tournament game (15U to 18U) at Grand Park. In 2020, there was also video on six fields.
“It’s huge to have accurate data,” says Tucker. “We can overlay video with stats.
“(A college) coach can recruit from his office.”
But even though Bullpen is dealing with many moving parts, there are only a half dozen full-time employees.
“Guys are tasked to learn a lot of different things,” says Tucker. “But we never feel like this is something I can’t do. Our mentality is we’re going bust our butts and how do we solve this problem?
“Our guys do a tremendous job of being flexible.”
An example of teamwork and flexibility is the creation of the College Summer League at Grand Park, which came about when so many other leagues were canceling the 2020 summer season during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With many players reaching out, Bullpen saw the need and went to work to put together what became a 12-team league with most games played at Grand Park with a few at Kokomo Municipal Stadium and Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis.
The league was constructed with safety, NCAA and recruiting regulations in mind. Players were placed, umpires were lined up and jerseys were distributed in a very short time frame.
“We had about seven days to do it,” says Tucker. “We’re excited for it to come back (in 2021).”
As a D-III alum, Tucker was especially pleased that the CSL allowed top-flight players like Joe Moran (who pitched for Anderson and has transferred to Taylor University) was able to compete against D-I talent.
While the pandemic slowed the start of the 2020 Bullpen season, Tucker estimates that there were upwards of 80 percent in games played as compared to a normal year.
The fall included more contests than ever.
“Teams couldn’t play in the spring and that baseball hunger was still there,” says Tucker. “They wanted to play a little longer.
“We had a great fall.”
Weather plays a part, but the first games each year at Grand Park with all its turf fields are collegiate in February.
“If we get a warm-weather day our phone blows up,” says Tucker.
Activity starts to ramp up in March with the first 8U to 14U contests the last weekend of that month.
Of course, the pandemic will have a say in what happens in 2021.
“With all the uncertainty it’s tough,” says Tucker. “It’s going to be an interesting spring.”
A perk of Tucker’s position and location is the relationships he gets to build with high school coaches.
He has been bringing baseball knowledge to Bronchos ever since.
McTagertt played for head coach Mark Strader and served on the staffs of Tony Primavera, Ed Gilliland and Kevin Maxwell before taking the reins of the Lafayette Jeff program for the 2008 season.
“(Strader) is probably the best athlete that ever came through Lafayette Jeff,” says McTagertt. “He was very demanding. We respected the guy because you knew what he knew in baseball.
“We put so much intensity into practice. (Strader) got (to play for and) coach with (Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Paul) “Spider” Fields. (Strader) brought some of that fire to us.”
A shortstop and pitcher at Jeff, McTagertt was on the Purdue team for one season behind future big leaguer Archi Cianfrocco while working toward what would be an Education degree from Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI).
As a young coach, McTagertt marveled at Primavera’s game management skills.
“I don’t know if there was anybody better than him,” says McTagertt. “He knew everything in the game was going to happen before it happened.
“He was fun to learn from.”
Gilliland had played for and coached with IHSBCA Hall of Famer Ken Schreiber at LaPorte High School.
“(Gilliland) was a disciplinarian,” says McTagertt. “This is the way we’re going to do it. He had set routines. The kids worked hard for him.
“He liked to ride his top two pitchers a lot. It was the LaPorte Way.”
In a decade with Maxwell, McTagertt witnessed a strong organizer.
“(Maxwell) ran very structured practices,” says McTagertt. “Everything was written out. The kids had to know the practice plan.”
Along the way, McTagertt has continued to have a growth mindset. He has learned much about the game from networking, attending clinics and — in this pandemic year of 2020 — Zoom meetings and other online resources.
“We’re probably the most sharing group of coaches you’re going to find in any sport,” says McTagertt. “Tthere are so many ways to teach in baseball.
“You can always steal an idea or two.”
McTagertt was born in Greenwood, Ind., and came to Lafayette as a fourth grader. That first day in town he attended the Colt World Series at Loeb Stadium.
“It was a big place for my family,” says McTagertt, who started working at Loeb in 1988 and did so until the facility dedicated in 1940 was torn down to make way for the New Loeb Stadium.
“I didn’t know if I’d ever see this place,” says McTagertt. “It’s absolutely gorgeous.”
With construction of the new Loeb (also home to the summer collegiate Lafayette Aviators), Jeff was going to spend much of 2020 playing road games. But the COVID-19 pandemic took away the season. The Bronchos were just days away from tryouts when what became lockdown began. Individual workouts were distributed via computer.
In fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period practice, the focus was on individual skills and position development.
“We put a premium on teaching since we lost a season,” says McTagertt, who sent the Bronchos from the World Series to the weight room until Dec. 22 and expects to resume activities Jan. 4.
McTagertt’s 2021 coaching staff features John Ripke, Alex Igo and Sean McDonald as varsity assistants. Kevin Igo is the JV Red head coach and is helped by Brian McDonald and Matthew Koeppen. Tim Whitaker is the JV Black (or C-team) head coach and is aided by Daniel Nelson.
The Bronchos tend to have around 40 players in the program. On days when all three squads are in action, there might be 13 to 15 with the varsity, 13 with JV Red and the rest with JV Black.
The Bronchos are in an IHSAA Class 4A grouping with Harrison, Kokomo, Logansport and McCutcheon. Jeff won the last of its 17 sectional titles in 2013. The program has also claimed 12 regionals, four semistates, two state championships (1969 and 1973) and one state runner-up (1971).
For years, Jeff and Lafayette Central Catholic developed young players through the Lafayette Lightning.
About eight years ago — wanting to get more Jeff-bound youngsters involved in competitive play — Junior Broncho Baseball was established. The group fielded 10U, 11U and 12U teams that first year and now has teams from 8U to 15U.
That first 12U team were freshmen in the spring of 2020.
“There’s a wonderful working relationship city, parks department and baseball programs in Lafayette,” says McTagertt.
Scott and Fawn McTagertt (a McCutcheon High School teacher) have three children. Rileigh McTagertt is a junior Education major at Purdue who coaches tennis at Tecumseh Junior High School in Lafayette. She was in cheerleading, basketball and tennis at Jeff.
Ashlynn McTagertt played golf, basketball and softball for the Bronchos and is now a freshmen softball player at Danville (Ill.) Area Community College.
Drew McTagertt is a Tecumseh eighth grader who plays tennis, basketball and baseball.
Bringing instructors, athletic trainers and strength and conditioning experts under one roof, Pro X Athlete Development serves clients in Westfield, Ind.
Pro X (short for “Professional Experience”) celebrated its grand opening at it Grand Park facility in April 2019 after getting started in a temporary downtown location in 2017.
“We want to provide an all-inclusive training experience for our athletes,” says Joe Thatcher, former major league pitcher, co-founder and president at Pro X. “We provide sports performance so athletes can get bigger, stronger and faster. We have rehabilitation with Dr. Jamey Gordon. We have sports-specific instruction (for baseball, softball, golf and football).”
Thatcher, a Kokomo, Ind., native who worked with Gordon (who is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist as well as partner and Director of Athletic Development at Pro X) during his baseball playing career, wanted to replicate what he experienced in the majors.
“Everyday I walked into the clubhouse the coaching staff, training staff and strength staff knew what I was doing,” says Thatcher, who last pitched for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in 2016.
“We take any physical limitations barrier and it leads to better success in baseball training,” says Thatcher. “One of the stigmas is that we’re an indoor baseball facility. We are about true athlete development.”
Using the latest innovations in the field, Pro X develops a plan for each athlete while working to keep them healthy.
“We make sure you’re moving the way you’re supposed to while getting bigger, faster and stronger so your body can handle more force,” says Thatcher. “You have to decelerate or you’re going to get hurt.
“That only happens if you’re training the right set of muscles to do that.”
During the winter, Pro X has 10 to 15 professional players working out at the elite facility which features 60,000 square feet in total with over 35,000 square feet of open turf space, 22 batting cages (11 full), 3,000 square-foot weight room, golf simulators and much more.
“The sports rehabilitation/training area is the heart and soul of who and what we are,” says Thatcher of the place where athlete assessments and private-pay rehab sessions are performed. There’s a full strength staff.
“We saw an opportunity,” says Thatcher of a circuit that gave a place for several players displaced by the Coronavirus pandemic shutting down summer leagues. “We threw it together in about a month. It took a lot of work to get it up and running and a lot of flexibility with state regulations and COVID-19.”
About 100 players took advantage of a play-and-train option which allowed them to play in games — usually on Mondays and Tuesdays at Grand Park with occasional games at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis or Kokomo Municipal Stadium on other days — and train at Pro X Wednesday through Friday.
“(The CSL) is centrally-located which can be an advantage for us,” says Thatcher. “We’ve had a lot of really good feedback from college coaches who had kids in our league.
“We’re already starting to work on next year.”
The league has also featured players who graduated from high school in 2020.
“They’ve got to see what (college baseball is) going to be like,” says Thatcher. “They get on the field with the same field of guys you’re going to be competing against.”
The No. 5-seeded Turf Monsters bested the No. 2 Snapping Turtles 5-4 in the inaugural CSL championship game contested Friday, July 31 at Victory Field.