Tag Archives: Lafayette Aviators

Sailors brings experience as new Lafayette Aviators manager

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

Jamie Sailors knows baseball aptitude.
He’s witnessed athletes with a knack for the game since he grew up in Logansport, Ind.
Sailors moved to Brookston in the ninth grade and ended up as a 1991 graduate of Frontier Junior/Senior High School in Chalmers. The left-handed pitcher was chosen that year to participate in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series.
Tom Potts was Sailors’ head baseball coach at Frontier.
“He was also a football coach and very organized in his approach to practice,” says Sailors of Potts. “He was very likable. He always seemed to have a smile on his face.”
Sailors got to appear in two Colt World Series at Lafayette’s old Loeb Stadium and had numerous other games at the stadium that was built in 1940 and replaced by the new Loeb (home of the Lafayette Aviators and Lafayette Jeff baseball) in 2021 in Legion ball.
“What I remember about the old park is that it was historic,” says Sailors. “There were signs on the wooden outfield wall and a manual scoreboard in center field.
“There was a light pole in-play in left-center when I played.”
At 15, Sailors spent the first of four summers playing for Eric Harmon-managed Monticello American Legion Post 81 and regularly competed against Lafayette Post 11.
Logansport won the 1991 IHSAA state championship. That team featured John Curl and Willie Hilton.
Both were selected in the 1995 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft — Curl by the Toronto Blue Jays out of Texas A&M and Hilton by the Oakland Athletics out of Eastern Illinois University.
Sailors was drafted in the 13th round by the St. Louis Cardinals out of Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., in 1992. He was with the Rod Lovett-coached Cobras for one season
“He was a very good recruiter,” says Sailors of Lovett, who had the most pitchers drafted at any collegiate level in 1992. Three of them — Juan Acevedo, Shayne Bennett and Mike Grzanich — made it to the majors.
That first professional summer, southpaw Sailors played for the Arizona Cardinals. In 1993, he was second in the Appalachian League in strikeouts, fanning 81 in 77 1/3 innings for the Johnson City (Tenn.) Cardinals.
He split the 1994 season between the New York-Penn League’s New Jersey Cardinals and Midwest League’s Madison (Wis.) Hatters.
“I faced some really good players in the minor leagues,” says Sailors.
Along the way, the lefty played against future Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Jim Thome, MLB standouts Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez and long-time pro Ryan Jackson.
Joe Cunningham was Sailors’ manager at Arizona, Johnson City and Madison. Roy Silver was his skipper at New Jersey.
“I’ve been around really good players ever since I started,” says Sailors, who was recently named as manager of the summer collegiate Prospect League’s Lafayette Aviators for the 2023 season.
“It helps to recognize talent and character.”
Sailors, 50, reached out to Aviators general manager David Krakower and then met with him and team ownership and was hired to lead in a diamond space where he is very familiar.
He spent four seasons managing in the same circuit with the Danville (Ill.) Dans (2005, 2006, 2012 and 2013). He split the job with Jason Watson the final summer. Danville went 41-19 in 2006.
Future major leaguers that played for the Dans when Sailors was in charge include Louis Coleman, Mitch Moreland, Tanner Roark and Danny Worth.
So what called him to the Aviators post?
“I just want to get on a baseball field again with college players,” says Sailors is responsible for recruiting much of the 32-man roster. He is doing it through coach recommendations and information gathered on the internet.
“They’re coming from everywhere,” says Sailors of the diverse Lafayette roster. “College coaches have a good gauge of knowing what we’re looking for.
“I’m lucky I have enough connections and my network has expanded in the past few weeks.”
While about two-thirds of players are signed, Sailors says he is looking for pitchers and might have to wait until spring to sign some of them based on their spring workload.
Sailors’ coaching staff includes Doug Gove (pitching), Tyler Brown (hitting), Andrew Pratt (hitting) and volunteer James Smith (pitching).
Beginning in 2008, Sailors coached and/or was on the board of the Northern Baseball Club before that travel organization shut down. Brooks Sailors — the second of Jamie and Sarah Sailors’ three children — played for the Northern Stars and graduated from Frontier in 2020.
All but one of the players in his final travel season went on to college baseball.
Brooks Sailors is a catcher/infielder at Purdue Fort Wayne. He took 2022 as a redshirt year and has three remaining seasons of eligibility.
Jamie Sailors was head baseball coach at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville for five campaigns (2002-06) and UWP football assistant for three (2001-03) and pitching coach at Purdue University for two (2007-08).
Doug Schreiber — who is now head coach at Purdue Fort Wayne — then led the Purdue program.
“I learned a ton from him about how he thinks baseball and his managing of games and practices,” says Sailors of Schreiber.
One of Sailors’ Boilermaker arms was future big leaguer Josh Lindblom.
After leaving Purdue, Sailors served as strength coach at Delphi (Ind.) Community High School through the fall of 2015. He was the Oracles’ head football coach for three seasons (2009-11).
Sailors was head football coach at Frontier for six seasons (2013-18) and served as Falcons athletic director from the fall of 2015 to the fall of 2018.
He is in his third year as a physical education teacher and strength coach at Logansport Junior High School. He is also on the high school football coaching staff. The Mike Johnson-led Berries went 8-3 this fall.
The Sailors now reside in Battle Ground, Ind., just outside Lafayette.
In a very sports-minded family, Sarah Sailors (formerly Laurent) went from Watseka, Ill., to earn volleyball letters at Eastern Carolina University in 1993 and 1994. She now works for the State of Indiana in Child Protective Services.
Oldest child Madisen Sailors (Frontier Class of 2017) played two volleyball seasons at UW-Platteville and is now teaching and coaching in Wisconsin while attending graduate school at UW-Madison.
Fifth grader Ryne Sailors is the youngest.

Jamie Sailors.

Two years into new Loeb Stadium, Lafayette Aviators continue to enjoy community entertainment niche

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

A baseball and entertainment destination can be found in Lafayette, Ind.
The Lafayette Aviators came off the runway in 2016 at the old Loeb Stadium (which made its debut in 1940).
In 2021, a new Loeb Stadium was unveiled on the same site (Wallace Avenue and Main Street) next to Columbian Park Zoo and Tropincanoe Cove water park.
Only this time the field that the Aviators and Lafayette Jefferson High School baseball and soccer call home was flipped to face the other way and had a turf field and was more fan-friendly with its amenities.
David Krakower is Aviators general manager. His career stops include those in Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, independent pro baseball as well at the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, United Soccer League and on the business side with ESPN for college football.
Krakower took the time to talk about the Aviators as the franchise wraps up the second season in the new park in 2022.
“When I moved here in October 2020 it took me all of five minutes to know that between August and May Purdue runs this town and the Greater Lafayette area and that’s great,” says Krakower. “We wanted to carve out a niche. We can own this town from May to August when nothing’s going on at Purdue. So you make tickets affordable. There’s no charge for parking. You keep concessions and merchandise as reasonable as you can. A family of four can come out without spending a ton of money.”
Since the Aviators play in the wood bat summer collegiate Prospect League, players are not paid. That makes a difference in budgeting and operating expenses versus a professional team.
While the Aviators season is short (June 1-Aug. 6 for the regular season), there is a large local impact.
“The biggest thing I’ve noticed is the sense of community here,” says Krakower. “The fans know that they have such a limited window with these players. We’ve got two and a half months over the summer and then they’re back to college. (Fans) development an instantaneous connection to them.
“And then they watch them grow as they continue their collegiate careers or eventually get drafted and move on.”
Just this week, Krakower took a call from a former host family letting him know the latest on a player that stayed with them five years ago.
“There is a definite sense of community here — unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been,” says Krakower. “A part of that is they get attached to the Aviators and the brand.
“It doesn’t seem to matter what players we bring in, they fans seem to have an attachment to the name on the front of the jersey.”
As an example, Krakow points out that the 2021 Aviators set a record for most regular-season wins (41) and came within four outs of a league title while drawing 40,985 fans to city-owned Loeb. The biggest crowd was 2,049.
“It was as magical a season as we could have had without winning the championship,” says Krakower.
With two home dates remaining in 2022, the team has brought in 40,762 spectators and the club is 24-32 overall. The biggest house has been 2,193. There were 257 season ticket holders.
The Aviators have promotions and on-field activities going on at each home game. One of the most-popular dates of the season is when the team hosts a street fair with food trucks, player autographs and live music in June.
The team also wears specialty jerseys that fans can bid on like the colorful tops worn on Mexican Heritage Day or Wizardry Night. There are giveaway nights with plenty of Aviators swag — jerseys, caps and baseballs.
Ace The Aviator is a popular mustachioed mascot.
This week, there was a Lafayette Police Department National Night Out.
Ticket packages are sometimes tied in with the zoo or the water park.
The Prospect League allows 32 players per roster with a maximum of four from a particular school. With pitchers reaching innings limits, injuries or players shutting down early to get ready to ready to their university, there can be as many as 60 players who don the colors in Lafayette each summer.
Krakower, who maintains relationships with college coaches all over the country, has already began the process of recruiting for the 2023 season. If he has players on the team that he likes that have remaining college eligibility he will invite them to come back.
The Aviators have four full-time employees plus three or four interns in the spring and summer. On game days, there are 60 to 70 people in seasonal jobs. Some have been with the team since its inaugural season of 2016.
“I think we’ve got about 80 percent of our staff or seasonal staff from last year back this year because they love working at the new park,” says Krakower.
The Aviators are to host games Thursday (Aug. 4) vs. Terre Haute and Saturday (Aug. 6) vs. Illinois Valley. Saturday is Fan Appreciation Day. First pitch for both contests is slated for 7 p.m.

Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators general manager David Krakower. (Steve Krah Photo)
A shirt in the Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators gift shop. (Steve Krah Photo)
Loeb Stadium in Lafayette, Ind., during Lafayette Police Department National Night Out. (Steve Krah Photo)
The Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators play the Chillicothe (Ohio) Paints Tuesday, Aug. 2 at Loeb Stadium in Lafayette. (Steve Krah Photo)
Selections in the Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators gift shop. (Steve Krah Photo)
The Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators play the Chillicothe (Ohio) Paints Tuesday, Aug. 2 at Loeb Stadium in Lafayette. (Steve Krah Photo)
The Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators play the Chillicothe (Ohio) Paints Tuesday, Aug. 2 at Loeb Stadium in Lafayette. (Steve Krah Photo)
The Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators summer collegiate baseball team first took flight in 2016. (Steve Krah Photo)

Franklin Central grad Fitzpatrick blossoms at Purdue Fort Wayne

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

Cade Fitzpatrick got a chance to play regularly in his first baseball season at Purdue Fort Wayne and he took full advantage.
The 2019 graduate of Franklin Central High School in Indianapolis began his college career at Ball State University. He appeared 18 games over two seasons (2020 and 2021) and hit .192 (5-of-26).
He then transferred to PFW. In his first 50 games (47 starts, including 41 at catcher, five at designated hitter and one at first base) with the Mastodons, the righty swinger hit .321 (52-of-162) with eight home runs, three triples, six doubles, 33 runs batted in, 30 runs scored and a .915 OPS (.372 on-base percentage plus .543 slugging average).
Fitzpatrick, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, produced 16 multi-hit games on the way to leading the team in average and slugging and was named second team all-Horizon League catcher for 2022.
Through 32 games this summer with the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators, Fitzpatrick was hitting .288 (32-of-111) with four homers, one triple, five doubles, 17 RBIs and 17 runs and an .814 OPS (.355/.459).
Most of his appearances have come behind the plate — a position he first took to as a Little Leaguer.
“I love it,” says Fitzpatrick of catching. “A lot of people called it being the quarterback of the team because you’re the one that sees everything that goes on and you’re in control of the game.”
This summer Fitzpatrick has been allowed to call pitches and he appreciates the freedom.
“If me and the pitcher are working really well together we can get into a groove and then things start rolling,” says Fitzpatrick, who gets pointers from the coaching staff about the tendencies of opponents.
The same is true at Purdue Fort Wayne.
“The coaches get a pretty detailed scouting report,” says Fitzpatrick of the Mastodons staff that includes head coach Doug Schreiber, pitching coach Brent McNeil, catching coach Ken Jones and volunteer Justin Huff. “They spent a lot of time a lot of hours behind the scenes getting the different stats on different runners or what hitters can do.
McNeil tells the catchers and pitchers about the strengths and weaknesses of the other team’s hitters.
Jones passes along who the fast runners are and the ones who will try to pick up signs.
“(Coaches) print out a sheet or send a Google slide to the catchers or anyone who would be interested in receiving that information,” says Fitzpatrick.
Schreiber runs all the meetings and tells everyone what the pitchers and hitters bring to the table.
Huff does many behind-the-scenes jobs.
“I respect him very much for what he does,” says Fitzpatrick of Huff. “He puts in a lot of hours.”
Fitzpatrick spent the past two summers in collegiate wood bat leagues — 2020 with the Matt Kennedy-managed Snapping Turtles of the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and 2021 with the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League’s Alexandria (Va.) Aces, managed by Chris Berset.
With the Aces, Fitzpatrick got to use some of his free time to see the sites of nearby Washington D.C.
Born in Indianapolis, Fitzpatrick moved with his family from Pike Township to Franklin Township around the second grade.
Cade played at Franklin Township Little League (next to what is now Wanamaker Early Learning Center) then for a number of travel ball teams, including the Indiana Spartans, Indiana Pony Express, Indiana Prospects and Midwest Astros.
Chris Ulrey is the Midwest Astros founder and gave hitting lessons to Fitzpatrick.
Sometimes the lessons would involve minor tweaks to Cade’s swing and other times it would be a big fix.
“The interesting thing about a baseball swing is things can happen from week-to-week, day-to-day and you just have to make a small adjustment here and there,” says Fitzpatrick. “Sometimes you have to make a big adjustment. (Ulrey) would have been pretty good about being able to do that.”
Fitzpatrick’s freshman year at Franklin Central was the last season for longtime Flashes head coach John Rockey. Greg Schoettle, who had been an assistant since 2010, took over the program in Fitzpatrick’s sophomore year — his first on varsity.
“I absolutely love playing for him,” says Fitzpatrick of Schoettle. “He’s a great man. I would do anything for him. He was probably one of my favorite coaches to play with.”
Fitzpatrick describe’s Schoettle’s coaching style.
“He was very intent on winning, but also wanted to make sure that you enjoy yourself while you’re out there,” says Fitzpatrick of Schoettle. “He would be very focused on calling the right pitches, executing the right plays and just doing the little things right in order to win a game — but at the same time — he was relaxed enough to where you could enjoy yourself and joke around a little bit.
“It wasn’t like you were playing like super uptight all the time.”
Fitzpatrick, 21, has two years of remaining eligibility and is a Criminal Justice major.
“Ever since I was a little kid I’ve always been really fascinated with like police officers and military stuff,” says Fitzpatrick. “I’m not the kind of person that would like to just sit at a desk all day. I always have to be doing something and I figured that doing something with law enforcement would be a good fit.”
Tuesday, Aug. 2 was Lafayette Police Department National Night Out at Loeb Stadium. Fitzpatrick took time before the game to chat with some of the officers.
“I was just trying to get some feedback on like what they do from a day-to-day basis and their training and stuff like that,” says Fitzpatrick. “I like the way that everything sounds from the training aspect or having your own schedule. I think that would be pretty fun.”
While he could pursue a job as a patrolman or detective, Fitzpatrick has another preference.
“I would love to be a conservation officer (for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources) or with the (Department of Drug Enforcement), (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), (Federal Bureau of Investigation) or something like that,” says Fitzpatrick. “I think that would be something that I would enjoy a lot because I get to be outside every day.
“I get to help animals and stop those individuals who are trying to either poach them or harvest them illegally.”
Fitzpatrick notes that taking fish or game in-season is one thing but poaching or taking them out-of-season harms the ecosystem.
Cade is the son of Mike and Shelley Fitzpatrick. His father is a sales manager. His mother is an optician. Sister Chaney Fitzpatrick (19) – sister is heading into her sophomore year at Ball State.

Cade Fitzpatrick (Purdue Fort Wayne Photo)
Cade Fitzpatrick (Lafayette Aviators Photo)

Cade Fitzpatrick (Purdue Fort Wayne Photo)

Cade Fitzpatrick (Purdue Fort Wayne Photo)

Cade Fitzpatrick (Lafayette Aviators Photo)

NAIA RBI leader Bass, Taylor University heading into postseason play

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

T.J. Bass came out of the gate producing at the plate in 2022.
The righty swinger in his fourth baseball season at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., knocked in two run in the Trojans’ campaign-opening win against Kansas Wesleyan in Mesa, Ariz.
Heading into the Crossroads League tournament which begins May 7 at Taylor (note the change because of rain), Bass leads all of NAIA in runs batted in with 84.
Besides that, he’s hitting .382 (71-of-186) with 19 home runs, 14 doubles, 51 runs scored and a 1.254 OPS (.491 on-base percentage plus .763 slugging average).
“I need to start by giving credit to the guys batting before me,” says Bass of his big RBI total. “It seems like I come up with two or three guys on every time.”
Bass, who looks to be aggressive and barrel the ball up on the first good pitch he sees per at-bat, has been used by Trojans head coach Kyle Gould primarily in the No. 3 spot in the batting order with a few games in the 2-hole. He’s often found senior Nick Rusche (.337 with 63 hits) and freshman Kaleb Kolpein (.403 with 77 hits) — and for awhile — sophomore Camden Knepp (.282 with 44 hits)— reaching base before him. Rusche prepped at New Palestine (Ind.) High School, Kolpein at Homestead (Fort Wayne) and Knepp at Northridge (Middelbury).
“The back half the lineup has also been pretty good,” says Bass, a 2018 graduate of Greenwood (Ind,) Community.
Of his 19 homers, Bass has clouted three grand slams (vs. Reinhardt in Waleska, Ga., vs. Olivet Nazarene in Athens, Tenn., and vs. Indiana Wesleyan in Upland), four three-run bombs, seven two-run dingers and five solo shots. The enjoyed two-homer games against Reinhardt and Mount Vernon Nazarene.
Bass belted 14 circuit clouts in Crossroads League regular-season play.
Taylor (36-16) is the No. 2 seed in the eight-team Crossroads League tournament. Regular-season champion Mount Vernon Nazarene is No. 1.
The turf at Winterholter Field will also be the site of an NAIA Opening Round May 16-19.
“It’s incredible,” says Bass of playing at the facility located in the heart of the TU campus that was resurfaced after the 2021 season. “Coach Gould takes huge pride in how the field looks and it’s awesome to see so many fans come out.”
Bass has started in all 52 of the Trojans’ games in 2022, mostly in center field or right field. But he’s also been used as a catcher and first baseman. During his college career, he’s played everywhere but the middle infield and on the mound.
“It’s wherever the team needs me most based on who’s healthy if we need an offensive day or a defensive day,” says Bass. “Coach Gould does a good job of looking at Synergy in scouting teams.”
Taylor players watch videos of opposing hitters and pitchers to study their strengths weaknesses.
At 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, Bass has gotten physically stronger and faster since arriving on-campus thanks to off-season programs led by assistant coach Justin Barber as well as Gould.
When Bass arrived at Taylor in 2018-19, Josh Lane and Wyatt Whitman were seniors.
“They they were both huge role models taking a freshman and hour and a half from home under their wings,” says Bass. “They took the strain off.”
Bass was asked how they could help and if they could pray for him.
When Whitman moved on and acted jersey No. 11, Bass took it.
It was also during his first year at Taylor that Bass was undecided on a major. He landed on Elementary Education.
A camp counselor at a community recreation center since his junior year of high school and the son of high school teacher (Andy Bass) and pre-kindergarten teacher (Jenni Bass) with other educators on both sides of the family, T.J. sees that as a natural career path.
“I’ve been around teaching my whole life,” says Bass. “I really love to be able to work with kids and I like getting to know them and finding their interests.
“It didn’t feel like I would do as well with secondary (students). God was calling me to work with elementary.”
Andy Bass teaches Algebra II and Geometry at Greenwood Community, where he has been head baseball coach since 1998. Jenni Bass ran her own daycare for more than a decade and now works at Waverly Elementary School in the Mooresville corporation.
Timothy James Bass, 22, is the oldest of Andy and Jenni’s four kids. Sam Bass is two years younger than T.J. and living and working in Fort Wayne. Mary Bass is a Greenwood Community freshman. Claire Bass is a sixth grader in the Mooresville system.
T.J. was born and raised in Greenwood and played Little League baseball there. Around fifth grade, he played with the traveling Johnson County Jaguars. The summers following his freshman and sophomore years were spent with the Indiana Bulls. The next summer he played for the Indiana Nitro then was with Demand Command right before and right after his freshman year at Taylor.
Bass did not play during the COVID-19 summer of 2020. In 2021, he split his time between the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators and the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
With an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic, Bass plans to come back for a fifth season at Taylor in 2023. He expects to do his student teaching this fall.

T.J. Bass (Taylor University Photo)
T.J. Bass (Taylor University Photo)

T.J. Bass (Taylor University Photo)
T.J. Bass (Taylor University Photo)

Craig provides punch for Evansville Purple Aces

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

Tanner Craig has provided a productive bat for the University of Evansville baseball team since the 2018 season.
The righty swinger sports a batting average of .294 (128-of-435) with 18 home runs, 28 doubles, 76 runs batted in, 60 runs scored and an .859 OPS (.372 on-base percentage plus 487 slugging average) in 116 games.
In 2021, the 6-foot, 220-pound first baseman played in 54 contests (all starts) and hit .299 (60-of-201) with 12 homers, 14 doubles, 47 RBIs, 31 runs and a .929 OPS (.382/.547).
Thanks to the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility when the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the 2020 season — one in which he was named Collegiate Baseball’s National Player of the Week and Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week after slugging four homers in a season-openojvng series at Tennessee Tech — Craig is back for a fifth season with the Purple Aces in 2022.
What title best fits Craig as an offensive player?
“I would say I’m a power hitter,” says Craig, 22. “It’s role I’ve played at Evansville and other teams I’ve been on.”
Aces head coach Wes Carroll tabbed Craig as his regular No. 3 hole hitter in 2021.
“I just try to hit the ball hard every time,” says Craig. “I look for a pitch in the part of the (strike) zone I know I can hit it well and swing hard.”
While Craig has seen some exit velocity data, it’s not how he and other UE players often gauge their swings.
“With turf we can get on the field anytime we want,” says Craig of German American Bank Field at Charles H. Braun Stadium. “Ball flight — that tells you a lot about your swing.
“We played one game on (home) turf in the COVID year (then 34 in 2021). We’re very lucky to have it. That’s for sure.”
Craig appreciates Carroll for the way he tailors his approach to each player.
“He really cares for all of us as individuals,” says Craig. “He takes the time to learn how to coach us individually. He knows the best way to get to people.”
Carroll can be firmer with Craig because he knows he can hand it. Another player may need to be cajoled.”
Fall practice began Aug. 30, about a week after the first day of class. Individual work is about to wrap up. That will be followed by team practices and scrimmages. While there has been nothing formal, players have been keeping track of which color teams wins most.
The Aces are also slated to play exhibition games Oct, 9 against Western Kentucky University and Oct. 23 against Wabash Valley College — both at Evansville.
Last spring, Craig earned an Accounting degree and is now working toward a Masters of Leadership. He expects to finish the 18-month course in December 2022.
This summer, Craig played for the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators. In 26 games, he hit .386 (34-of-88) with 10 homers, seven doubles, 36 RBIs and 19 runs for a team managed by Michael Keeran. The team went a league-best 41-18 during the regular season and lost to the Cape Catfish in the best-of-three championship series.
“It was a great experience,” says Craig. “It’s a beautiful stadium (the new-look Loeb Stadium).
“It was really fun, my time up there.”
Craig was born in Florence, Ky., and grew up in Scottsburg, Ind., where he played Coach Pitch at what is now Scott County Youth League. He played travel ball for the Smithville (Ind.) Gators, Mark Peters-coached Ironmen (13U to 17U) and Jeremy Johnson-coached Evansville Razorbacks (18U).
He began attending schools in Austin, Ind., in sixth grade and graduate from Austin High School in 2017. Craig was a shortstop, third baseman and pitcher for Eagles coach Matt Bayes.
“He’s just a good coach,” says Craig of Bayes. “He’s really good at teaching a lot of aspects of the game.”
One of Craig’s teammates was right-handed pitcher Drew Buhr (Austin Class of 2019), who went to Saint Louis University then transferred to Bellarmine University.
Tanner, who turns 23 in December, is the youngest of Samtec production supervisor Todd and Morgan Foods senior buyer Jennifer Craig.
“They’ve been a huge support for me since I’ve started,” says Tanner of his parents. “They’ve always found ways to get me whatever I need. I can count on one hand the number of games my dad has missed in my college career.
“It’s always nice to see a familiar face in the stands.”
Morgan Dillard, Tanner’s older sister lives in Indianapolis and is in management with CVS Health. She is married with a daughter.
Quintin Craig, Tanner’s older brother, is a project manager of Crown Castle and lives in Louisville with his wife and daughter.
Peyton Craig, Tanner’s younger brother, is a Scottsburg freshman involved in Future Farmers of America.

Tanner Craig (University of Evansville Photo)
Tanner Craig (University of Evansville Photo)
Tanner Craig (University of Evansville Photo)
Tanner Craig (University of Evansville Photo)

Indiana Tech second baseman Snyder returns for extra college season

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

Mike Snyder has been given the chance to extend his college baseball experience and he’s taking it.
A 2016 graduate of Fort Wayne (Ind.) Northrop High School, where he played football, basketball and baseball, Snyder, who turned 24 on Aug. 4, logged two seasons at what is now Purdue Fort Wayne then moved a few miles south to Indiana Tech, where he redshirted in 2019 and competed for the Warriors in 2020 and 2021 and is coming back for one last collegiate go-round in 2022.
“I want to keep playing as long as I can and see where it takes me,” says Snyder, who was granted an extra year of college eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Snyder appeared on 59 games and started 56 for Indiana Tech in 2021, hitting .308 (64-of-208), 11 home runs, two triples, 13 doubles, 58 runs batted in, 44 runs scored and a .916 OPS (.368 on-base percentage plus .548 slugging average) from the right side of the plate.
The second baseman posted a .923 fielding percentage with 76 putouts, 103 assists and 16 double plays.
During the COVID-19-shortened 2020 slate, Snyder played in 15 games (14 starts) and hit .400 (20-of-50) with 10 homers, two doubles, 26 RBIs, 16 runs and a 1.523 OBP (.483/1.040). He fielded at a .943 clip with 25 putouts and 25 assists.
Snyder says barrel control is his best offensive quality.
“When I’m on and really doing it I can stay on the same plane and stay consistent,” says Snyder. “I’m in no way a contact hitter. I have my strikeouts. I’m more of a power hitter, especially being my size.”
Snyder stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 215 pounds and credits weightlifting for much of his power.
“The gym is a big part of my game,” says Snyder. “I try to lift as heavy as a I can. During season I can’t stay on a consistent week-to-week plan, but I lift whenever I have time.”
The average second baseman is rarely as tall as Snyder, but he knows of one ever lankier. Tech played in the 2021 NAIA Opening Round against Oklahoma Wesleyan University. The Eagles’ regular second sacker was 6-8, 236-pound Ryan Kouba.
“(Being tall) only adds range,” says Snyder.
Tech went 11-5 in 2020 and 35-27 in 2021 — the 13th and 14th campaigns with Kip McWilliams as head coach.
“He’s a winner,” says Snyder of McWilliams. He’ll do anything to win. He works us hard. He keeps us accountable throughout the day.
“He makes sure we stay on our studies so we’re eligible to play.”
Snyder is on pace to earn a Sport Management next spring.
In two seasons at Purdue Fort Wayne, Snyder got into 80 games (56 starts) and hit .252 (56-of-222) with two homers, 14 doubles, 18 RBIs and 31 runs for then-Mastodons head coach Bobby Pierce.
“He was just a really nice guy,” says Snyder of Pierce. “He was really laid-back and relaxed.”
At Northrop, Snyder was on football varsity for three seasons, first for head coach Tim Martone then Jason Doerffler. He was a safety and quarterback prior to switching to wide receiver as a senior. He was a shooting guard in basketball as a freshman and sophomore for Barak Coolman. Football-related injuries took away his junior and senior seasons on the hardwood.
Snyder dressed with the baseball varsity as a freshman then played with the Bruins’ top team for three more springs. His head coach was Matt Brumbaugh.
“He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had,” says Snyder of Brumbaugh. “I like the way he went about the game.
“He went about everything with passion.”
Born in Fort Wayne, Snyder moved with his family to South Carolina then back to the Summit City about the time he was starting school. He played T-ball and travel ball out of what is now Wallen Baseball Softball before traveling with the Midwest Gloves and Royville. During his high school years, he was with the AWP Cubs organized by Cisco Morales and coached by Alex McKinstry (father of Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Zach McKinstry), Fort Wayne Rams and Team Indiana coached by Phil Wade and Blake Hibler.
Snyder played for the Fuquay-Varina (N.C.) Twins for three straight college summers — 2018-20 — and earned Carolina-Virgnina Collegiate League all-star selections each and CVCL MVP honors in 2020. That summer he hit .427 (35-of-82) with nine homers, 27 RBIs, 26 runs and a 1.327 OPS (.510/.817). On defense, he had 25 putouts, 21 assists and eight double plays. He was CVCL Player of the Year in 2018, hitting .404 with eight homers, 41 RBIs, 37 runs and a .702 slugging average.
He played briefly in the summer of the 2021 with the Prospect League’s Lafayette Aviators. In five games, he hit .250 (5-of-20) with one double, one RBI and one run.
Industrial cable salesman Jerry and marketing manager Betsy Snyder have three children — Garrett, Mike and Mackenzie. Factory worker Garrett Snyder (26) played football, basketball and baseball at Northrop and one season of basketball at the the University of Northwestern Ohio. Mackenzie Snyder (21) played volleyball and basketball at Northrop and is now on the women’s basketball team at Wittenberg (Ohio) University.

Mike Snyder (Indiana Tech Photo)
Mike Snyder (Lafayette Aviators Photo)
Mike Snyder (Indiana Tech Photo)
Mike Snyder (Lafayette Aviators Photo)

Michigan middle infielder Bertram spending summer with Lafayette Aviators

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

Riley Bertram is spending the last summer before his final college baseball season in the same town where he began playing the game as a boy.
The 21-year-old switch-hitter has been leading off and playing shortstop for the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators at new Loeb Stadium.
Through 17 games for head coach/manager Michael Keeran’s Aviators, Bertram was hitting .273 (15-of-55) with two doubles, eight runs batted in, 12 runs and four stolen bases.
Bertram, a 2018 Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School graduate who has played three seasons (2019-21) at the University of Michigan (he started 31 of the 37 games in which he played in 2021 at second base), was born in Noblesville, Ind., and introduced to the game while father Vince Bertram was the principal at Lafayette Jefferson High School.
“I’m a middle infielder,” says Riley. “I play both second base and shortstop — whatever position the team I’m on needs.”
A year ago, Bertram was with the Josh Galvan-coached Tropics in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
Riley is the youngest of Project Lead The Way president and CEO Vince and Western Governors University advisor Jill Bertram’s four boys, behind Josh, Ryan and Drew.
Josh Betram played basketball and baseball at Lafayette Jeff.
Ryan Bertram played three baseball seasons at Evansville (Ind.) Harrison High School and one at Zionsville Community. He was part of the University of Southern Indiana’s NCAA Division II national championship team in 2014 and later an assistant coach at Southern Illinois University and director of operations at Campbell University in Buis Creek, N.C.
Drew Bertram played at Purdue and was a manager for the Boilermakers when Mark Wasikowski was head coach. Drew is a Purdue graduate and is going to graduate school at the West Lafayette school.
It was in the back yard with his brothers that Riley first experimented with switch-hitting. He has been doing it in games since about 13.
At Michigan, Bertram has played in 70 games (49 as a starter) and is hitting .236 (43-of-182) with 14 doubles, 26 RBIs, 30 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. On defense, he has 95 putouts, 136 assists, five errors and a .979 fielding percentage. He led the team in stolen bases in 2021, swiping eight in nine attempts.
Bertram has played three seasons for Wolverines head coach Erik Bakich and assistant Nick Schnabel. Pitching coach Steve Merriman and volunteer coach Brandon Inge joined the staff for the 2021 slate.
“I’m very fortunate to have this coaching staff,” says Bertram. “They know what they’re talking about.
“Coach Bakich is awesome to play for. He is trying to find the best for you. He knows everything about your family. He has your back. He’s someone you could reach out if you need to get something off your chest. He does a good job of building a culture.”
Schnabel works with Michigan infielders, including Bertram.
“He knows the game at a higher level than a lot of people,” says Bertram of Schnabel.
Merriman has made a point of bonding with all UM players and not just pitchers.
“At the college level you need to have at least a baseline relationship with all players if you want to have a culture,” says Bertram. “Everytime Coach Inge talks you have to listen because whatever he’s going to say is going to beneficial to your performance.
“He keeps things loose. He’s bought into the culture Coach Bakich and Coach Schnabel have built.”
Bertram is on pace toward a Communication and Media degree from Michigan in the spring of 2022. He was named Academic All-Big Ten in 2021.
Riley played Little League baseball in Evansville, Ind., when his father served as superintendent of schools. After the family moved to Zionsville, he played for Zionsville Baseball Club and was with the Indiana Bulls travel organization from 15U to 18U, playing for teams with Dan Held, Sean Laird, Jered Moore and Jeremy Honaker as coaches.
Bertram played four seasons for Moore at Zionsville Community and was part of IHSAA Class 4A sectional champions in 2016, 2017 and 2018, regional winners in 2016 and 2017, a semistte title-taker in 2016 and state runner-up in 2016.
In 2018, Bertram was an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Honorable Mention All-State selection and IHSBCA North-South All-Star as a third baseman as well as a Rawlings-Perfect Game Honorable Mention All-American.
“I’ve always been close with Coach Moore and his family,” says Bertram. “Jered was not only was my coach, but I’ve reached out to him for many things.
Last week I texted him about hitting facilities in (the Lafayette) area and he hooked me up.
“It’s a really strong relationship.”

Riley Bertram (University of Michigan Photo)
Riley Bertram (University of Michigan Photo)
Riley Bertram (University of Michigan Photo)
Riley Bertram (University of Michigan Photo)

Young Hammel now in charge at Benton Central

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jarrett Hammel has quickly transitioned from student-athlete to educator-coach.

Ten months after pitching his last game for Valparaiso (Ind.) University he was announced as the head baseball coach at Benton Central Junior/Senior High School in Oxford, Ind. 

“I’m super-excited to get after it,” says Hammel, who was originally hired as pitching coach but became a head coach candidate when Jon Vernon opted to spend more time with family and focus on his duties as Benton Central’s head volleyball coach. “We want to do everything with a purpose. 

“Baseball is not like other sports.”

The son of Donovan (Ill.) Elementary fourth grade teacher Todd Hammel and Morocco Elementary first grade teacher Pam Hammel, Jarrett received an Elementary Education degree from VU and began the 2020-21 school year as a fourth grade teacher at Prairie Crossing Elementary in Oxford.

At South Newton — a K-12 school in Kentland, Ind. — Jarrett got a chance to help with younger kids as a high school junior and senior.

“I knew I wanted to be a positive role model — someone to look up to,” says Hammel. “I look up to my parents a lot. They made a lot of sacrifices for me to be where I am today.

“They’ve always had my back.”

Coming from a close-knit family where both sets of grandparents live within 15 minutes, Jarrett counts younger brother Jay as his best friend. They grew up pushing each other in academics and athletics. 

With 1,195 points, 6-foot-4 Jarrett Hammel was the No. 1 all-time scorer in South Newton boys hoops history until he was surpassed by younger brother Jay Hammel with 1,363. The 6-6 Jay is now a 21-year-old junior right-hander on the Quincy (Ill.) University baseball team and a Multimedia Journalism major.

A 2016 South Newton graduate, Jarrett Hammel played baseball for Glenn Donahue and basketball for Mike Hall. 

Hammel was born in Lafayette, Ind., and grew up in Brook, Ind., where he still resides. He knew Donahue as a youth baseball coach who moved up to the high school ranks. 

Jarrett played four high school summers of travel ball with the Indiana Nitro.

His first college baseball season was spent with head coach Rick O’Dette at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. When the school closed, he transferred to Valpo U., and played for head coach Brian Schmack.

Hammel was a high school sophomore when he appeared on O’Dette’s radar. He became a mentor to the pitcher.

“I learned a lot in the year I was (at St. Joe),” says Hammel. “My outlook on life has changed because of him.”

O’Dette stressed being a good example and always staying in contact with people who are close to you.

“Don’t let conversations get stale,” says Hammel. “You never know when they made need you or you may need them.”

Once it was announced that St. Joseph’s was closing, Hammel recalls that O’Dette was worried more about getting us placed than his own career. O’Dette landed at Saint Leo (Fla.) University.

Hammel played summer college ball for the Lafayette Aviators in 2017 and 2018. Brent McNeil (now pitching coach at Purdue Fort Wayne) managed the team to a Prospect League title in 2017. Will Arnold (now with Prep Baseball Report Arizona) was in charge in 2018.

While Hammel was at South Newton, Valpo also had interest in him and Schmack welcomed the southpaw when he became available.

What did Hammel learn from Schmack?

“Just being a man and owning up to your mistakes,” says Hammel. “Never put the blame on someone else.”

It’s about responding to adversity — something that is plentiful in baseball.

From his personal life, Hammel has learned to greater than his ups and downs.

“When things are not going your way in life you can’t put your head down and go through the motions,” says Hammel. “You have to ride the wave. Life is full of highs and lows.”

He also learned important concepts about teamwork and time management while playing NCAA Division I baseball.

As left-handed pitcher, left-hander Hammel hurled for Valpo at Alabama State March 11, 2020 and was announced as the head of the Bison program Jan. 12, 2021. 

The 23-year-old Hammel conducted his first winter practice session where he engaged with 15 athletes (many BC baseball players are involved in winter sports) and dished out baseball and life lessons. 

Hammel expects his players to be role models.

“I told them that someone is always watching your every move,” says Hammel. “You’re high schoolers now. Be good people and go hard with everything you do.”

Benton Central (enrollment around 550) belongs to the Hoosier Athletic Conference (with Benton Central, Lafayette Central Catholic, Twin Lakes and Rensselaer Central in the West Division and Hamilton Heights, Lewis Cass, Northwestern, Tipton and Western in the East Division). 

The Bison are in an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Maconaquah, Northwestern, Peru, Twin Lakes, West Lafayette and Western. Benton Central has won 25 sectionals — the last in 2009.

While the COVID-19 pandemic took away the 2020 season, Benton Central fielded two teams in 2019 and Hammel says he expects to have about 30 players for two squads in 2021.

Hammel is in the process of finding assistant coaches. He would like to have a Benton Central alum on his staff. Bringing in coaches from Newton County is not practical since Brook is in Central Time and Oxford is in Eastern Time.

In looking to his feeder system, Hammel likes the youth program already established and plans to place players in competitive summer leagues and with top travel organizations.

“We want to get them out of their comfort zone and change their outlook on life,” says Hammel, who also plans to start a fall baseball program at BC.

“We went to keep kids at it and try to perfect their craft year-round,” says Hammel. “We’re trying to maximize everyone’s potential.”

Recent Benton Central graduates in college baseball include Matt Taylor and Taylor Varnado with Marian University in Indianapolis. Knights head coach Todd Bacon went to BC.

There’s also Alex Thurston at Valparaiso U., and Payton Hall at Oakland City (Ind.) University.

Benton Central senior Dalton Rennaker is a Marian commit.

Jarrett Hammel, a 2016 graduate of South Newton High School in Kentland, Ind., and 2020 graduate of Valparaiso (Ind.) University, has been hired as head baseball coach at Benton Central High School in Oxford, Ind.

Butler volunteer Montgomery places premium on relationship building

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Bailey Montgomery was well on his way to an engineering degree when he decided that the call to stay in baseball was just too strong.

Montgomery, a 2015 Vincennes (Ind.) Lincoln High School graduate, was heading into his last season as a player at Western Illinois University in the spring of 2019 when he decided to change his major to General Studies with a Mathematics minor, which allowed him to graduate and pursue a coaching path.

“It’s what I was passionate about,” says Montgomery. “I couldn’t leave the field.”

At 24, Montgomery has been a volunteer coach at Butler University in Indianapolis since August 2020 after serving as hitting coach for the summer collegiate Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators in 2019 and hitting/outfield coach and recruiting director at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill., in 2019-20.

Montgomery places an emphasis on developing relationships with players.

It’s really something I’ve been trying to hang my hat on,” says Montgomery. “I know how important it is at my age that I build trust with the guys. I want the guys to know I truly care about their development and their individual plan.

“Understanding that individual person is so huge.”

The Butler staff is headed by veteran Dave Schrage with full-time assistants Matt Kennedy (hitting coach and recruiting coordinator) and Ben Norton (pitching coach).

Montgomery enjoys listening to Schrage’s stories and soaking up his diamond wisdom.

“It’s something different everyday,” says Montgomery. “Coach Schrage and Coach Kennedy have given me so much freedom. They’ve allowed me to grow as a young coach.”

Montgomery has some keys as a hitting coaching.

“It’s about making everything repeatable and letting them know what we expect from each guy to make our offense as complete as we can make it,” says Montgomery. “We keep it simple and get them to be confident in what they need to do.”

Kennedy and Montgomery have Butler hitters keeping journals that allow the coaches to follow the process and learning methods for each player.

“There’s not one way to skin a cat,” says Montgomery. “It’s understanding where they’re at.

“Being able to manage people is ultimately going to define how successful they are.”

Butler wrapped up two months of fall practice — which included individualized work and intrasquad scrimmages — in October. 

“We had a tremendous fall,” says Montgomery. “We maximized the time with our guys.”

All students left campus after Thanksgiving and are not expected back until late January.

To keep the Bulldogs on track, there have been Zoom calls.

The 2021 season is due to begin Feb. 19. The Big East Conference will go to four-game weekend series. As of now, Butler will be allowed to keep the non-conference games now on the its schedule.

During the Christmas break, Montgomery has stayed in Indianapolis and conducted lessons for players middle school age and younger (the NCAA is not currently allowing camps or lessons with high schoolers).

“I’m getting as many hours in the (batting cage) as I can,” says Montgomery.

Born in Evansville, Ind., Montgomery grew up in Vincennes. He played on Cal Ripken League teams coached by father Ross Montgomery until age 12. When Bailey played travel ball for the Indiana Redbirds at 13U and 14U, Jay Wolfe was the head coach and Ross Montgomery helped.

Montgomery’s 15U, 16U and 17U summers were spent with the Indiana Nitro, coached by Eric Dill and Kris Dill. 

At 18U, Montgomery got a taste of college baseball atmosphere with the Jeremy Johnson-coached Evansville Razorbacks.

At Lincoln, Montgomery for a coaching staff led by Brandon Pfoff with Tim Hutchison, Chris Clements and Andy Pinkstaff as assistants.

“We were competitive on a daily basis,” says Montgomery of the Vincennes Lincoln Alices. “It got me ready for the competitive environment at Wabash Valley.

“Coach Hutchison (who is now head coach at Vincennes Lincoln) was and is a great mentor for me as well. We have daily conversations. We’re always throwing ideas off each other. He has a growth mindset.”

Montgomery hit .352 (31-of-88) at WVC for Warriors head coach Rob Fournier in 2016 and 2017 (a season that finished with a third-place finish at the National Junior College World Series) before coming back to coach.

“Coach Fournier is one of the best recruiting guys I’ve ever seen,” says Montgomery. “He’s helped me with the evaluation piece, conversations with recruits and things to look for.

“I’ve learned the value of relationships (with contacts and recruits). I’m thankful for those conversations.”

Through his experiences, Montgomery counts himself as a big advocate for junior college baseball.

“It’s continuing to grow,” says Montgomery. “It’s an awesome environment if you’re a guy looking to grow and develop.”

Montgomery, a righty-swinging first baseman, played played two seasons at Western Illinois (2018 and 2019), appearing in 88 games (77 starts) and hitting .296 with two home runs, 43 runs batted in and a .991 fielding percentage with 317 putouts and just three errors.

Ryan Brownlee (now assistant executive director for the American Baseball Coaches Association) was the Leathernecks head coach.

“Coach Brownlee is just passionate about what he does,” says Montgomery. “Handling relationships is what he does really well. He gets his players to buy in.”

While he was still playing, Montgomery was able to serve something of a behind-the-scenes look at being a coach from Brownlee with access to scouting reports and some recruiting communciation.

During his collegiate playing career, Montgomery spent summers with the Hannibal (Mo.) Cavemen (2016), Irish Hills (Mich.) Leprechauns (2017) and Quincy (Ill.) Gems (2018). He was going to return to the Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators as manager in 2020, but the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ross and Robin Montgomery have three children — Brittany, Bailey and Jade. Jade Montgomery is a softball pitcher/first baseman at Eastern Illinois University.

Bailey Montgomery is a volunteer assistant baseball coach at Butler University in Indianapolis. (Butler University Photo)
Bailey Montgomery, a 2015 Vincennes (Ind.) Lincoln High School, is a volunteer assistant baseball coach at Butler University in Indianapolis. He also played and coached at Wabash Valley College and played and graduated from Western Illinois University. He was a hitting coach for the 2019 summer collegiate Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators. (Butler University Photo)

Alum McTagertt keeps growing the game at Lafayette Jeff

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Scott McTagertt paid his dues before becoming head baseball coach at his alma mater.

A 1986 graduate of Lafayette (Ind.) Jefferson High School, McTagertt was still a Purdue University student when he became a Jeff assistant for the 1988 season.

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.

Teaching fifth grade STEM at nearby Sunnyside Intermediate, McTagertt drops by regularly to see the progress of the ballpark adjacent to the Columbian Park Zoo that mimics Kokomo Municipal Stadium (home to Kokomo High School, Indiana University Kokomo and summer collegiate Kokomo Jackrabbits) and is oriented the other way from the old Loeb (left field faces the pool and right field is closet to the zoo).

“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.

Jeff (enrollment around 2,080) is in the Northern Central Conference (with Anderson, Arsenal Tech, Harrison, Kokomo, Logansport, Marion, McCutcheon, Muncie Central and Richmond).

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).

Two recent Jeff players — brother Justin Walker Jr. (Purdue) and Jacob Walker (Parkland College in Champaign, Ill.) — have moved on to college diamonds. Current Bronchos Caleb Koeppen and Brady Preston have received college offers.

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.

The Junior Bronchos play often at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and Indianapolis Sports Park.

Elite players are encouraged to play for teams like the Indiana Bulls and Indiana Nitro.

“We take rest of the kids and run them through our practices and camps,” says McTagertt. “We get the best of both worlds.”

Utilizing diamonds at Armstrong Park and McCaw Park, Lafayette Youth Baseball is still going strong.

“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.

Scott McTagertt is the head baseball coach at Lafayette (Ind.) Jefferson High School — a position he’s held since the 2008 season. The 1986 Jeff graduated joined the Bronchos coaching staff in 1988.