The Mishawaka (Ind.) Brewers — a baseball team co-founded in the 1990’s by Shawn Harper and Alex Parker — took 2021 off and has rebranded as the Michiana Brewers. It is an organization works to provide an opportunity for high school seniors, collegiate baseball players and recent college graduates to play competitive ball with home fields in north central Indiana. With a focus on players in or about to enter college baseball with some former minor leaguers in the mix, the Michiana Brewers — renamed to reflect the wide area where the team gets players — will compete in the National Amateur Baseball Federation’s Major Unlimited Division and play an independent schedule. The South Bend semi-pro league consists of only two teams — the Brewers and South Bend Royals. Under the guidance of manager Harper and pitching coach/assistant Chuck Bowen, the Brewers plan to play around 30 games from Memorial Day weekend to second week of August in 2022. There’s typically one weeknight game (often on Friday) and a doubleheader or tournament on Saturday or Sunday. The season opener is to be a home game with the Fort Wayne Jackers. A home-and-home series is planned with the Chicago Suburban Baseball League’s Beecher Muskies. The 2022 Charlie Blackburn Major Division NABF World Series is to be played in Battle Creek, Mich. Harper and Bowen place the level of play on the Brewers’ schedule at just below summer wood bat circuits like the Northwood League. The Brewers recently secured Rex Weade Stadium at Harris Township Park in Granger, Ind. — home of Indiana University South Bend baseball — as one home field and hopes to also host games at John Glenn High School in Walkerton, Ind., and other locales. Now that a home field has been secured, the recruiting process has begun. Two John Glenn graduates — Calumet College of Saint Joseph baseball player Michael Machnic and Holy Cross College basketball player Billy Harness — have committed to the Brewers for the upcoming season. Harper (a 1991 graduate of South Bend John Adams High School who played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Len Buczkowski then played for and managed the Indiana University South Bend club team) and Bowen (a 2007 graduate of John Glenn where played for John Nadolny and went on to play two years for Joe Yonto at Ancilla College in Donaldson, Ind.) recently met with and received support from IUSB head coach Doug Buysse and South Bend Cubs Foundation executive director, 1st Source Bank Performance Center director and former South Bend Silver Hawks manager Mark Haley. Harper says he plans to carry a roster of up to 25 with some pitcher-only players. In the past, position players paid $200 to participate with pitcher-onlys paying $100. Sponsorships are being sought to cover team expenses. Commitment is something Harper expects from his players. “On the day of game, I want them to ask themselves if they are excited and can’t wait to get to the field,” says Harper. “If they are torn. If there’s a conflict at all, don’t play. “In 16 years I’ve never forfeited one game. I’m very proud of that.” Harper accepts players to miss 25 percent of the time as long they communicate that with him. In October, Harper was inducted into the National Semi-Pro Baseball Hall of Fame in Evansville, Ind., after being nominated by former South Bend Senators manager and the man he replaced as South Bend semi-pro league president — Ron Milovich. The best ways to contact are the Michiana Brewers Facebook page or by calling Harper at (574) 514-2028 or Bowen at (574) 780-0696.
In his second stint as head baseball coach at LaCrosse (Ind.) High School, Snyder expects his Tigers to say “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’am” and to keep their hair neat and jerseys tucked in. They must stay on top of their studies.
“Today’s society shies away from discipline,” says Snyder, who led LaCrosse for five seasons (2000-04 with IHSAA Class 1A top-10 rankings in four of those seasons and a West Central Sectional title in 2002) then took time off to raise his children. “There’s a way to win and it does take discipline.”
During his first Tigers tenure, 18 players went on to college baseball in five years.
“I push extremely hard with grades,” says Snyder. “That’s part of the discipline factor. I want people to say that’s a baseball player at the school.
“They know we’re different.”
Snyder derived this approach from the men he encountered along his baseball path. A 1986 graduate of South Central High School at Union Mills, Ind., he played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bob Schellinger and later coached with him. He also coached C-team boys basketball and was involved in Hanna youth baseball.
Snyder was on the Satellites high school baseball staff for 11 years before taking over the reins at LaCrosse.
While still a player, Snyder was on a world champion Junior Olympic team that featured IHSBCA Hall of Famers Ric Tomaszewski and Len Buczkowski plus Jim Dermody among the coaches. These men all ran extremely disciplined high school programs — Tomaszewski at South Bend Washington, Buczkowski at South Bend Adams and Dermody at Warsaw.
Teammates included LaPorte High School’s Scott Upp and Greg Perschke. Upp went on to be head coach at LaPorte, following legend Ken Schreiber and Perschke the head coach at Trine University in Angola, Ind.
One of Snyder’s best friends in coaching is Washington Township’s Randy Roberts. They share similar styles.
“I had a good upbringing,” says Snyder, 52. “I’m very appreciative of all the people that came into my life.”
While he came back to just in time to have the 2020 season taken away because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are plenty of positives surrounding LaCrosse baseball.
Nearly $60,000 — most of it donated — has been poured into the improvement of Tiger Field, which is located less than a mile northeast of the school building.
“It’s going to surprise a lot of people,” says Snyder of an ongoing project at the Dewey Township-owned facility that has added a new net back stop with a four-foot brick wall inside and stone outside plus updated dugouts, mound and plate areas and an infield sprinkler system with more to come.
Snyder is approaching 19 years with North Star Stone in Valparaiso, Ind. The company manufactures and installs stone products.
Snyder expects as many as 28 players (including 13 freshmen) this spring, meaning the Tigers will be able to field a junior varsity team for likely the first time ever.
Helping Snyder coach are Brian “Chico” Lipscomb, J.T. Snyder and Dan Snyder. Lipscomb was a standout at LaPorte who played in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. J.T., Eric’s son, and Dan, Eric’s nephew, played at South Central. Dan Snyder, who pitched and was the athlete of the year at Purdue University Northwest, is LaCrosse’s pitching coach.
Other former college or pro players have come in to help teach the Tigers.
Feeding the high school program is the Southwest County Conference — a youth league for ages 5 to 12 with teams feeding schools at LaCrosse, Wanatah, Clinton, Hanna and Union Mills. LaCrosse uses the softball field near Tiger Field.
“I’m a big part of that,” says Snyder. “I want to teach them everything I need them to know (at the high school level).
“We teach them how to bunt, lead off and steal. We treat the youngest kids just like they were freshmen.”
In coaching LaCrosse fifth and sixth grade boys basketball players this winter, Snyder took over a team with a 1.7 grade-point average. By season’s end it was 3.1.
“That’s why I’m involved at the lower levels,” says Snyder.
LaCrosse conducted fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period workouts and is just getting started with winter conditioning/practice given that so many baseball players also play basketball.
Eric and Sara Snyder have five children (two girls followed by three sons) — Alex (26), Danielle (25), J.T. (23), R.J. (21) and Eli (10). The four oldest were all South Central athletes — Alex in volleyball, basketball and softball, Danielle in softball, J.T. in baseball and basketball and R.J. in baseball and basketball. R.J. Snyder is an outfielder at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.
With lasting influences from two coaches, John Zangrilli decided that education and coaching were for him when he was still a teenager.
It was while learning and playing for Jeff Massey (baseball) and Ken Randle (basketball) that Zangrilli saw his career path. Massey was the head baseball coach for Zangrilli’s last three years at Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis, following Steve Goeglein. Randle was a freshmen/assistant coach, teacher and mentor.
Since graduating from Lawrence Central in 1994, Zangrilli has enjoyed many baseball experiences and encounters with successful diamond minds.
Zangrilli — aka Z or Coach Z since his father (Papa Z) and son (Little Z) are also named John — has coached in three central Indiana high school programs (two assistant stints at Carmel and head coaching tenures at Brebeuf Jesuit and Zionsville).
As a head coach, Coach Z-led teams went 247-81 with six sectional championships (2004, 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010 at Brebeuf and 2012 at Zionsville), three regional crowns (2005 and 2009 at Brebeuf and 2012 at Zionsville), one Final Four appearance (2012 at Zionsville), two Hoosier Crossroads Conference titles (2011 and 2012 at Zionsville) and one Marion County crown (2010 at Brebeuf in a an extra-inning game against Lawrence Central at Victory Field that Zangrilli calls the best game he’s ever seen).
“Coach Farley and Coach Morgan couldn’t be any more different in terms of their personalities
Intense,” says Zangrilli, describing Morgan as intense and Farley possessing an even-keel temperament. “Coach Morgan was extremely detail-oriented. Every moment of every day was organized. It’s the first time I was introduced to something like that. It was about understanding your role on the team. As a coach, I drew on that a little bit.
“I really enjoyed the way Coach Farley created a calm atmosphere for his athletes to relax and take what they had been taught and then go out and play the game.”
Zangrilli earned an Elementary Education degree with an endorsement in Physical Education and Health from Butler in 1998. He has worked in Carmel schools for 22 years and is now a Wellness Education teacher at Woodbrook Elementary School.
His first high school coaching gig was a three-year stint on the coaching staff of Carmel Greyhounds head coach Tom Linkmeyer in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Carmel lost 1-0 in 11 innings to eventual state runner-up Evansville Harrison in the 2000 State semifinals.
Born in central Pennsylvania, Zangrilli roots for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Penn State University. He came to Indiana early in his elementary school years.
At 14, Zangrilli worked for Jeff Mercer Sr., at Mercer’s Sports Center on the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
One of the first players to log more than one summer with the Indiana Bulls, Z was with the elite organization 1992-94. Mike Stein was head coach that first year. The next two years, Dennis Kas was head coach and was helped by Kevin Stephenson, Brent Mewhinney and Linkmeyer, who was also the Wellness Education teacher at Woodbrook prior to Zangrilli.
“They were imparting all this baseball knowledge on us,” says Zangrilli. “It was eye-opening. It was the intersection of talent and instruction and we took off. We had a great deal of success.
“Dennie Kas was the first guy I played for who instilled an appreciation for preparation,” says Zangrilli. “He had a real knack for reading the pulse of his team.
“He could walk in the dugout and know if they needed to be calm or pick up the energy.”
Zangrilli was head coach at Brebeuf for seven campaigns (2004-10) and Zionsville for three (2011-13).
“Between my years at Brebeuf and Zionsville it was an embarrassment of riches,” says Coach Z.
Among his assistants at Brebeuf were Andy McClain (former player and assistant under IHSBCA of Famer Bill Tutterow at Martinsville and head coach at LaVille and Arlington who went on to be head coach at Brebeuf, Norwell and Lawrence Central) and Tim Phares (son of IHSBCA Hall of Famer George Phares).
Standout Braves players included catcher Radley Haddad (Western Carolina University, Butler University, player and coach in New York Yankees system), outfielder Jack Dillon (Butler University), Tres Eberhardt (Xavier University), outfielder Nathan Koontz (Ball State University), catcher Mitch Overley (Ball State University, Wabash College), infielder/outfielder Ty Adams (University of Notre Dame), outfielder Kevin Simms (University of Dayton, Wright State University), outfielder Stevie Eberhardt-Gipson (Northern Kentucky University) and right-handed pitcher/catcher John Krasich (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology).
Right-hander Parker Dunshee (Wake Forest University, Oakland Athletics organization), infielder/outfielder Max Kuhn (University of Kentucky, Oakland Athletics organization), infielder Troy Kuhn (Ohio State University), third baseman Ben Kocher (Belmont University), outfielder Drew Small (Butler University), left-hander Alex Westrick (Xavier University) and outfielder Nick Barrientos (Wabash Valley College, Northwood University) are part of a long line of Eagles players who went on to college and/or professional baseball.
John and wife Jackie have two children. After the 2013 season, Z turned his focus to teaching as well as coaching Little Z and daughter Olivia (a travel volleyball player).
When former Butler teammate Matt Buczkowski (son of IHBCA Hall of Famer Len Buczkowski) became head coach at he — and all the returning Carmel talent — lured Zangrilli back into high school coaching.
Coach Z remembers Buczkowski’s request going something like this: “I’ve got a Ferrari of pitching staff. I need to have somebody help me drive it.”
Buczkowski inherited a stable of arms developed by former Carmel pitching coach Jay Lehr.
The spring of 2021 will be Coach Z’s fifth since returning to the Carmel dugout.
Zangrilli, Buczkowski and former Westfield and Carmel field boss and current hitting coach Eric Lentz represent more than 500 head coaching victories on a Hounds staff. Pitching coach Fred Moses came to Carmel from Lawrence Central with Buczkowski.
“My role is whatever they need as any given day,” says Zangrilli, who has been a pitching coach, first base coach and a camp coordinator. The past five years, he helped oversee the Carmel Pups.
“I’m a humongous believer in owning that inside part of the plate with the fastball,” says Welliever. “It seems to have worked.
“If you can throw the inside fastball, every other pitch is available to you.”
Welliever wants his hurlers to employ solid mechanics. But he is also unique in today’s deviating from today’s prevelant approach.
“My pitchers are always working on stuff, stuff, stuff,” says Welliever, who knows his players enjoy throwing hard. “Most people work on location, location, location.”
Welliever has his catchers set up on the inside black for bullpens about 60-70 percent of the time. Many of his hurlers go hard in and soft away though some have done the opposite.
“It’s OK if once in awhile you hit a batter,” says Welliever. “Don’t get upset.”
Breaking balls are also thrown hard.
“We’re trying to create as much spin on that ball so it breaks as late as possible and the hitter has the least amount of time to react to it,” says Welliever. “I think that’s the best way to do it.”
Welliever has his pitchers build arm strength with long toss and with burnouts aka pulldowns.
The 2008 Crawfordsville pitching staff racked up 397 (No. 3 in the IHSBCA Record Book; No. 1 Lafayette Jeff fanned 450 in 43 games in 1971).
Steven Rice fanned 198 batters in 2009 and finished his Athenians career (2007-10) with 521 K’s.
Welliever worked alongside brother-in-law and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Froedge through 2020.
“One of John’s strengths teaching the fundamentals of fielding,” says Welliever. “(Strong defense) helps pitchers.
“It gives them confidence to attack the hitters and throw strikes.”
Brett Motz, a 1995 Crawfordsville graduate, is now Athenians head coach. Motz played at the University of Evansville, served as a graduate assistant at Purdue University and was head coach at North Putnam High School before returning to his alma mater, where he is also the strength & conditioning coach.
The Athenians won Class 3A state championships in 2008 (32-4) and 2011 (29-6).
What keeps Welliever coming back?
“It’s working with the kids and getting them to the point where they’re confident about themselves,” says Welliever. “It’s seeing them succeed in baseball and in life.”
He has witnessed many former players giving back to the community as coaches at the youth and high school levels.
“It is the most satisfying thing,” says Welliever, who grew up around New Market, Ind., and is a 1980 graduate of Southmont High School in Crawfordsville, where he played baseball for Mounties head coach George Davis and counted Froedge and the Taylor twins — Dave and Dan — as teammates. Dave Taylor went on to help found the Indiana Bulls travel organization.
“We played a lot of baseball together,” says Welliever. “It was a really special group of guys.”
Dan Welliever, Rhett’s father, taught junior high and was a wrestling head coach and an assistant in baseball, football and softball at Crawfordsville.
Jamie Welliever, Rhett’s brother, is retired from teaching and has spent two tenures each as head baseball and head wrestling coach at Southmont.
Landon McBride (New Palestine)
A middle school coach for five years (seventh and eighth grade teams often play up to 20 games while feeding the high school program), Landon McBride joined the New Palestine High School staff for the 2007 season. He is the Dragons infield coach and helps with hitters on a staff led since 2012 by Shawn Lyons.
“The thing that jumps out at me the most about Coach Lyons is his absolute passion for his kids,” says McBride. “If you’re not in the inner circle you may not see that. But he does a great job of having his finger no the pulse of where our team is at and where each individual is at.”
McBride sees Lyons as steady.
“He doesn’t get too high; He doesn’t get too low,” says McBride. “He tries to keep our players on that even-keel, knowing there’s going to be ups and downs everyday.”
On game days, McBride serves as Lyons’ right-hand man, bouncing lineups off one another and trading ideas about strategy while also coaching first base.
McBride emphasizes fundamentals when it comes to his infielders fielding ground balls.
“We’re getting reps in every day — the way we think is the right way,” says McBride. “With hitting, we believe in going the other way. We’re utilizing our speed, bunt and steal bases when we can.”
McBride regularly throws batting practice.
“I’m 59 but I’m still chucking it in there,” says McBride. “I try to give them a little sense of velocity (by moving the L screen closer to the plate.”
When the varsity field is not available, New Pal baseball has been able to use the turf football field for long toss, tracking fly balls and taking grounders.
A 1980 graduate of Marshall High School in Indianapolis where he played three seasons for Bob Tremain and one for Brad Goffinet, McBride was a four-year player for Lynn Morrell at Marian University in Indianapolis — at the time an independent NAIA program.
McBride says he appreciates the discipline, structure and attention to detail that Tremain and Goffinet brought to Redskins baseball.
“(Coach Morrell) liked getting the ball into play and swinging away,” says McBride. “It was the pure joy of being around the game.”
Landon, a partner in Indiana Property Services which gives him the schedule freedom to coach baseball, and wife Shari McBride have three children — Ryan (30), Angela (28) and Wes (24). The boys played baseball and Angela was also an athlete at New Palestine.
Mike Zeilinga (New Palestine)
A 1976 New Palestine graduate, Mike Zeilinga coaches Dragons outfielders and leads the junior varsity.
Zeilinga began coaching boys basketball at New Pal in 1996 and led the freshmen for two seasons and the JV for four. He joined Al Cooper’s baseball staff in 2003. Cooper was a Dragons senior when Zeilinga was a freshman.
New Palestine earned a Class 3A state runner-up finish in 2003 and state title in 2004.
“The kids keep me young,” says Zeilinga. “I’ve always enjoyed teaching.”
Most Dragons practices begin with stretching and throwing followed by individual defensive position work and team drills (cuts, double cuts and knowing situations).
“Coach McBride is excellent about working with our infielders,” says Zeilinga. “He makes sure they are moving with every pitch.
“Coach Lyons trusts the coaches that he has. He and Coach McBride have coached together that they can read each other’s mind. They have that kind of chemistry.”
During the fall IHSAA Limited Contract Period (twice a week for two hours), 73 players were at workouts while participation was around 65 for recent winter sessions.
“All coaches at New Pal work very well with sharing athletes,” says Zeilinga. “That’s straight from the mentality of Coach (Al) Cooper (athletic director and former head baseball coach).
Zeilinga often works with New Pal outfielders and JV players.
Since varsity and JV teams tend to play on the same night, Zeilinga rarely sees the varsity once the regular season starts.
After each JV game, Zeilinga sends an overview of what his players did well or areas where they need improvement and share that with head coach Shawn Lyons and varsity assistant Landon McBride.
Like McBride, Zeilinga has noticed the head coach’s temperament.
“Coach Lyons doesn’t get real high or real low after a big win or a hard loss,” says Zeilinga. “He’s just a real gentleman of the game.”
Mike, who worked at Eli Lily & Company 35 years before retiring, and wife Susan Zeilinga have two children — Stephanie (a teacher at Franklin Central High School in Indianapolis) and Michael (who was the starting center fielder on New Palestine’s 2004 state championship team).
Kevin Hall (New Albany)
Kevin Hall is a 1986 New Albany High School graduate who was a scrappy middle infielder and lead-off hitter for John Buerger, but his association with Bulldogs baseball goes back to before he started school.
Hall, who credits his work ethic for being the youngest of 11, was a batboy for teams featuring older brother David and coached by Stan Sajko in the early 1970’s. Hall still has the tiny pinstriped uniform from those days.
“(Coach Berger) had an attention to detail,” says Hall. “John was very big on pitching and defense. He believed in the bunting game.”
With a few years off here and there, Hall has been on the New Albany baseball coaching staff since 1990. He has been Bulldogs head coach and IHSBCA Hall of Famer Chris McIntyre’s top assistant for more than two decades.
“We both have the same philosophy on winning and we’re teaching these kids how to be young men,” says Hall, who leads infielders while also helping with outfielders, hitters and catchers. “When kids get out of school they’re probably not going to be their own boss. They need to learn to take direction.
“We understand that this is the game of failure. If you give us effort, we’ll never get on you about that.”
Hall coaches first base with McIntyre in the third base box.
“Coach McIntyre has a mind like nobody I’ve ever met,” says Hall. “He can process things. He’s analytical. He’s a math teacher. He loves the numbers.”
One day, Hall brought a stop watch to time runners without McIntyre knowing it and — counting in his head — the head coach was only off the actual number by about 1/10th of a second.
“Our program wouldn’t be near where it would be without Chris McIntyre.”
Hall calls baseball “the fairest game ever.”
“Each team gets the same number of outs, same number of opportunities and deals with the same conditions,” says Hall. “There’s no clock.
“You just have to go play.”
Hall throws a good deal of batting practice to the Bulldogs.
“Our kids get a lot of live arms,” says Hall. “I just use aspirin and ice and go back and do it again the next day.”
When McIntyre was approaching New Albany’s all-time win mark, Hall helped organize a special night for him.
After the celebration, Mac pulled Hall aside and said, “Don’t ever do that again” and then thanked him the next day.
“He’s very humble,” says Hall of McIntyre. “He wants the kids to have that limelight and not him.”
With the loss of the 2020 season because of COVID-19, New Albany had time to upgrade its baseball field while also putting in a new softball diamond next door.
Kevin, a plant operator at Grant Line Elementary School in New Albany, and wife Melia Hall have a daughter together — eighth grader Anderson (named for Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson). Kevin’s two older daughters are Samantha and Stephanie. Melia’s son is Aidan.
The 2021 season will mark Ford’s 31st with the Kings. He has always led the infield defense and helped with hitting instruction at Cass, which finished as Class 2A state runners-up in 2009 (20-9).
“It’s pretty collaborative in our program,” says Ford, who coaches first base and sits next to Marschand when the coaches are in the dugout. “We get a sense of the style of play we’re going to use and we coach each of the areas based on what we’re trying to do for that season.
“We we like to put pressure on the defense (on offense). You can do that a lot of different ways. If we have plodders (on the base paths), we can bunt them over. If we have rabbits, we can have more stolen bases, double steals and taking of extra bases.”
Kings coaches like players to play to their strengths and learn to do things like hit behind the runner and put the ball on the ground up the middle.
“We want them to be well-versed in the approach they are going to be taking at the plate based on the situation,” says Ford. “We would really like our players to learn the strategies and the options.
“In practice, we put runners in position and they decide how they are going to score the run.
“Once they have a broader knowledge of how to play, they are going to enjoy it more and be more successful.”
A big part of the Cass offensive blueprint is to get accumulate freebies with dirt-ball reads etc.
“Our approach at the plate has to be to hit hittable strikes,” says Ford. “Early in the count we’re not going to hit his pitch. We’re going to hit our pitch.”
A goal in batting practice is for each player to figure out which pitch he hits best.
BP goal – each player to learn to figure out which pitch he hits best
“Hitting a pitcher’s pitch is giving him a freebie,” says Ford. “Hitting our pitch is somewhat of a freebie for us.”
As part of its SAFE-T offensive plan, Cass wants to score the game’s first run.
Going for the long ball is not a priority, especially at home games where it’s 330 feet down the foul lines and 408 to center field.
“There’s a lot of outfield grass and we’re going to try to pepper it rather than try to hit it out of the park,” says Ford.
Kings defenders focus a lot of on momentum changers.
“One of he biggest on defense is the double play,” says Ford. “We work a lot on turns, feeds and throws to first base while trying to help our pitcher.
“At the high school level, pitching can be a huge variable. Defensive positioning os based on the speed of our pitcher.
“I can’t tell (infielders) every pitch where to align so they have to be cognizant of signals between the pitchers and catcher and know what pitch is coming.”
The Kings also look to prevent opponents from taking the extra base by being in the proper position for cut-offs and double-cuts.
“We’re making sure to be in a good back-up position in case the throw isn’t perfect,” says Ford. “There are a lot of nuances in defense like where the first baseman takes the throw or where the third baseman goes based on the count. At the high school level, the drag bunt is a big strategy.”
Taking nothing for granted, Ford wants his infielders to back up throws from the catcher to the pitcher.
Ford, a 1970 Kokomo Haworth graduate played for for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Keith Slaughter. The 1970 Haworth Huskies were state finalists.
Bill Bright was middle infielder Ford’s coach at Indiana Central College (now the University of Indianapolis).
Steve and wife Julia Ford have been married since 1974 and have two daughters — Amanda (a local farm wife with a son and two daughters) and Melanie (who played four years of basketball at the University of Charleston and is now associate athletic director, senior women’s administrator and NCAA compliance officer at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va.). Amanda was a manager and Melanie a player for their father as a basketball coach.
Steve Ford was the girls basketball coach at Cass for 18 seasons, concluding in 2007-08.
Jim Kominiewicz has been there as an assistant for all of them. The 2021 season will be Komo’s 31st on the Kingsmen coaching staff. He has been in education for 38 years — eight in South Bend and 30 in the Penn system.
The current staff has Dikos leading the catcher, Kominkiewicz the infielders, Tom Stanton the pitchers and John Westra the outfielders.
“Greg is one of the best catching coaches in the state,” says Kominkiewicz, noting that Penn has produced its share of college backstops. “Catching is one of the hardest things to do. You’re involved in every play.
Kominkiewicz applauds Dikos for his willingness to keep learning and incorporating them into the Kingsmen program.
“Every year we try to do something better,” says Kominkiewicz. “We never stay the same. We try to change things up and keep the kids excited about it.
“Greg is always going to clinics. He’s the best.”
Kominkiewicz has noticed that many clinic speakers reinforce concepts already being taught by Penn coaches.
“It shows we’re doing things right,” says Kominkiewicz.
As an infield coach, Komo stresses getting the palm to the baseball and fielding through it. Time is spent on back-handing and picking up short hops.
Kominkiewicz graduated from South Bend John Adams High School in 1972, where he played baseball for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Len Buczkowski.
Komo’s first baseball coaching post was at South Bend Washington High School on the staff of IHSBCA Hall of Famer Ric Tomaszewski that also included pitching coach Larry Jackowiak.
“Rick was very intense,” says Kominkiewicz. “He’s a book. We spent a lot of time together. We’d come in on Saturday morning and leave at 4 or 5 in the afternoon.
“I learned a lot of baseball from those guys. Both of them were great coaches.”
A popular drill during the indoor portion of the preseason was a game called “27 Outs.”
As fielders got closer to making it to the finish, balls off fungo bats got harder.
“That’s why (Tomaszewski’s) team were good,” says Kominkiewicz. “They competed every practice.
“We do the same things at Penn. We compete. We test for sit-ups, push-ups and longest throws. We rate their at-bats (4 points for a line drive, 3 for a hard ground ball etc.). Pitchers try to throw the most strikes — things like that.”
Ground balls and double plays are often timed.
Splitting the team into three groups, the Kingsmen go nine outs per round. Losers do extra running or clean up the field.
“A lot of times our practices are harder than the games,” says Kominkiewicz. “But it’s got to be good practice — not just practice. We want to do it right.
“Our theory is we want to good game of catch, put the ball in play (on offense) and pitchers have to throw strikes. That’s what we stress.”
After Washington, Kominkiewicz went to Adams to coach football, wrestling, baseball and and weightlifting then went back to Washington to coach baseball.
Then came the move to Penn, where he also coached football for two years. He has taught and coaches football and wrestling and served as athletic director at Grissom Middle School.
Jim and wife Beth Kominkiewicz have four children — Ryan (38), Brandon (32), Jill (29) and Matt (21) — and seven grandchildren ages six months to 9 years.
Ryan, an engineer with Caterpillar, played baseball at Penn.
Brandon played football at Penn and the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne and coaches football at Fort Wayne North Side High School.
Jill is a dental assistant.
Matt played baseball and football at Penn and is on the football team at Saint Francis.
Kevin Fitzgerald (Noblesville)
A 1987 graduate of Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis where he played two seasons each for former big league pitcher Russ Kemmerer and Richard Bender, Noblesville High School assistant Kevin Fitzgerald served in the U.S. Marine Corps 1989-94 then was an assistant to Duke Burns at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis (2000-02), Dave Mundy at Sheridan (Ind.) High School (2003 and 2004) and head coach at Sheridan (2005 and 2006).
“He was fantastic,” says Fitzgerald of Kemmerer. “There were so many lessons I learned that I didn’t realize I was learning at the time.
“For him, it was really teaching about life and baseball was just the tool. He said baseball is played on a six-inch field — the six inches between your ears. There are no such things as physical errors — they’re all mental. You weren’t prepared.”
Bender, who had big shoes to fill replacing the popular Kemmerer, is credited by Fitzgerald for the opportunity to explore leadership.
Brett played four seasons at Huntington (Ind.) College (now Huntington University) for IHSBCA/NEIBA Hall of Famer Mike Frame, graduating in December 1995.
Before landing at Carroll, Brett was on his father’s Dwenger staff from 1996-2002.
Hershberger, who was an elementary physical education teacher for Windmiller, taught his players about focus and intensity.
“It started with him from the time you started playing catch until you got on the bus and went home,” says Windmiller. “All those things in between mattered. Not that you’re going to dwell on it afterward but this current pitch or at-bat is important.
“If you weren’t ready, you were going to hear about it from Lance.”
Hershberger reminded his players that there was a difference between baseball during the high school and summer seasons. There’s a finality to the high school season while the summer — though very important for development and exposure — is a series of games and unattached tournaments.
Brett did not feel the stigma of being a coach’s son.
“It may have just been the guys I played with,” says Brett. “In hindsight, it may be that dad handled it real well.
“I enjoyed playing for him. There were expectations with the way he wanted you to play. He was good at detecting an issue by watching you swing or throw.”
In his son’s eyes, Larry Windmiller was pretty even-keeled.
“He never got upset,” says Brett. “He was kind of in the middle all the time.
“He really let us play. We had a lot of kids with talent. We played loose and had a lot of success.”
The Dwenger Saints bowed out to Highland in the 1991 South Bend Semistate championship game.
At Huntington, Windmiller learned to play with intensity but not to let a mistake or a perceived bad call fester.
“The intensity of a baseball game is there,” says Windmiller. “It has to be. You learn the moments of the game where that’s appropriate. It cannot drive you into making a second mistake. You can’t carry your at-bat into the field. My red light was strike calls I didn’t agree with.
“Coach Frame was great as far as getting me to try to understand that I’m killing myself when I’m doing that. He helped me lose a little bit of the football mentality.”
Windmiller says he and his fellow coaches have matured over the years and tries set a good example for the players.
“When something bad happens, they are going to look at us,” says Windmiller. “We want to be cheering them on and saying let’s go to the next pitch.”
His first spring at Carroll, Windmiller coached junior varsity players with Mike Klopfenstein.
“JV’s great,” says Windmiller. “There’s no all-conference. There’s no media. It’s just young kids learning how to play baseball the correct way.”
At the JV level, win-loss record is irrelevant. It’s about developing. Between the spring and summer ball and getting in the weight room, a player can make big jumps from one season to the next.
Windmiller is a public address announcer for many Carroll sports, including football, boys basketball, girls basketball and wrestling. He has coached eighth grade football and seventh grade girls basketball in the system.
Brett took over the FWBF post after the passing of NEIBA Hall of Famer Dick Crumback in 2019.
The NEIBA presents the Dick Crumback Player of the Year annually to an area ballplayer. The honor comes with a $1,000 donation ($500 from the Crumback family and $500 for the FWBF) to the program of the recipient.
“It’s a pretty tight-knit baseball community in Fort Wayne,” says Windmiller, who has also been a Wildcat League coach.
Brett, a sixth grade science teacher at Carroll Middle School, and wife Kara Windmiller (secretary to Chargers athletic director Dan Ginder) live in the Carroll school district and have two daughters — high school sophomore Ryli and seventh grader Hannah.
Brett’s sister Kari played volleyball and basketball at Dwenger.
Hardy teaches his youngsters how to play the game. But the teaching and the mentoring to does not end with a game or practice.
“I’m very involved with the boys,” says Hardy. “I’m not just a coach between the lines. I’m their coach all the time.
“I’ll help in any way.”
Hardy has his own remodeling business and he has some of his players help with cleaning up job sites, painting, drywalling and other handy skills.
“It keeps them out of trouble,” says Hardy. “We’re constantly stressing the importance of being a good person.
“It’s God, family, baseball and the classroom. It’s the total package.”
For players wishing to go to college, he will do what he can to make that happen.
“I’ll help in getting them tutoring,” says Hardy. “We stress the student-athlete.”
Former major league pitcher Justin Masterson, who lives in Fishers, Ind., came by practice last week to talk about faith, family and baseball with the IPA crew.
Hardy has watched his players come so far in the time he has been at Irvington Prep.
“Now that my (original class of) freshmen are juniors, I’m seeing a pay-off,” says Hardy. “That’s my satisfaction.
“That’s a W in my book.”
The inner-city high schools in Indy include Indianapolis Public SchoolsArsenal Tech, Crispus Attucks, Shortridge and Washington. Besides Irvington Prep, others include Herron, Howe, Manual, Providence Cristo Rey, Purdue Poly and Tindley. This spring, Howe and Washington did not field a baseball team.
What is now known as Irvington Prep Academy opened in 2006 as Irvington Community High School. The original location was on East Pleasant Parkway and is now home to Irvington Community Middle School on East Pleasant Run Parkway. IPA is housed in the former Children’s Guardian Home on University Avenue.
Baseball and softball teams play about three miles away in Irvington Park on Raymond Street.
Before landing at Irvington Prep, Hardy was an assistant to Jerry Giust at Broad Ripple.
The IPA Ravens went against the Broad Ripple Rockets a couple times before the latter IPS high school was closed.
Giust was the one who suggested that Hardy look into becoming a head coach.
“He knew I had been around the game for a long time and saw the enthusiasm I approach the game with and my knowledge,” says Hardy of Giust. “I loved him for it.”
Hardy graduated from Broad Ripple in 1997 after moving from South Bend, where he grew up. He went to South Bend Washington High School for three years and was drawn to swimming to fight his asthma. He was also drawn to baseball. He competed in summer ball before leaving for Indianapolis. Washington’s varsity and junior varsity both won summer titles.
“I loved the way the game was broken down,” says Hardy, who played as a sophomore and junior in a program then led by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Ric Tomaszewski, who learned much from South Bend coaching legends like Jim Reinebold and Len Buczkowski and LaPorte’s Ken Schreiber.
“The knowledge T gave us was phenomenal,” says Hardy. “He told us everybody has a job to do.”
Players at each position were supposed to know the duties of the other players on the diamond.
Rain in the first half of the season means IPA will be trying to make up many games leading up to the postseason.
The Ravens are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Eastern Hancock, Heritage Christian, Indianapolis Howe, Indianapolis Scecina Memorial, Knightstown and Triton Central. Irvington Prep has been competing in the tournament since 2013 and has not won a sectional title.
Hardy and fiancee Sandi have been together for seven years. They have one child together — Isaiah. He has three other children (Josiah, Iyanah and Ariyana) and she has two (Sylvanna and Gianna). Josiah plans to play baseball next year at Herron.
Davon Hardy (foreground) is the head baseball coach at Irvington Preparatory Academy in Indianapolis.
Former major league pitcher Justin Masterson delivers the baseball during an Irvington Prep Academy practice.
Former major leaguer Justin Masterson visited coach Davon Hardy and his Irvington Prep Academy baseball team to talk about faith, family and the game.
“He was super-patient,” says Herrold of Buczkowski, son of late Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Len Buczkowski. “He wanted to stick with the process. “That’s something I didn’t do very well my first season (at Bluffton) after inheriting a team that was 5-24 the year before.
“(Hannah) wanted us just to compete. He always used that word. He wanted guys who would compete day in and day out.”
After high school, right-handed pitcher Herrold spent five years at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne (he was redshirted for one season) and his head coach was Billy Gernon for the first four seasons and Bobby Pierce for the last.
“They had completely different styles, but both had great ways of getting things done,” says Herrold of Gernon and Pierce. “I owe them both a lot.”
“Coach Gernon was the epitome of a college coach. You clock in, work hard and take care of your studies.
“Coach Pierce had more of a pro style coaching philosophy. He trusted us more to get the job done. He didn’t have to watch us like a hawk. It was more about growing as individuals and molding into a collaborative team.”
Herrold, who had Tommy John, ulnar nerve and sports hernia surgeries during his career, is also greatful for Mastodons pitching coach Grant Birely.
“Coach Birely made me so much better of a pitcher,” says Herrold. “I started feeling the ball better out of my hand and having more success.”
One of the highlights was a 4-1 complete-game loss against a strong University of Michigan team in 2009.
Gernon played for Bob Morgan at Indiana University.
“I met Bob Morgan,” says Herrold. “(Gernon) was a spitting image of Bob Morgan. He was intense. He worked us hard. He got the best out of our bodies.
“I also remember he had a plethora of life quotes. I use quotes everyday with my practice plan.”
During this limited contact period, baseball is coordinating with other spring sports for practice time in the “Concrete Jungle” portion of The Tiger Den.
“We use those two hours to the best of our ability, getting arms in shape so we can long toss with the 120- to 150-foot area we have,” says Herrold. “We focus on bullpens, conditioning and taking as many swings as a we can so we can hit the ground running when the first pitch comes.
“If it’s 40 or above, we’ll go out on the turf on the football field.”
Bluffton is in an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Adams Central, Churubusco, Fort Wayne Canterbury, South Adams and Woodlan. The Tigers have won four sectionals — the last in 2009.
Herrold is getting Bluffton players ready for the 2019 season with the help of assistants Kevin Powell (varsity), Eric Mettler (JV) and Ryan Crist (JV). Powell is a Norwell High School graduate. He teaches in the engineering department at Bluffton and helped place new railings and netting in front of the dugouts at the Tigers’ home field located northwest of the football stadium. Mettler (who pitched at Marietta (Ohio) College) and Crist are Bluffton graduates.
Herrold is a sixth grade science teacher at Bluffton-Harrison Middle School. He and wife Andrea (a Fort Wayne Bishop Luers High School graduate) have two children — daughter Finlay (5) and son Hayden (3).
Stacey Herrold and his Bluffton Tigers celebrate winning the Garrett Invitational in 2018.
The Herrolds (clockwise from upper left): Stacy, Andrea, Hayden and Finlay. Stacy is head baseball coach at Bluffton (Ind.) High School and teaches sixth grade science at Bluffton-Harrison Middle School.
Stacy Herrold enters his eighth season as a baseball coach at Bluffton (Ind.) High School in 2019. It will be his third as head coach of the Tigers.
That’s the goal of veteran baseball coach John Nadolny as he prepares players for his 17th season at John Glenn High School in St. Joseph County and 25th head-coaching campaign overall.
“‘Get better everyday.’ That’s what I say to these guys,” says Nadolny. “If you had a bad day today, tomorrow’s got to be better for you. Let’s find something positive in what you do everyday.
“This is such a mental game and confidence in high school is everything. You fail. You learn. You go on and get better.”
The coach knows that an average high school team with some confidence is going to be a superior team without confidence much of the time.
Nadolny wants his squad to improve as its progresses through fall ball to winter workouts to preseason indoor training to the first time they step outside in the spring. Then there’s the in-season adjustments.
“We get better at the year goes on every year,” says Nadolny. “We share a lot of kids athletically (at an IHSAA Class 3A school with an enrollment around 600). We don’t have a lot of travel baseball players. We’ve elevated some kids to a pretty good level.”
While Nadolny — aka “Nud” — will raise his voice when he deems it necessary, he is not the yeller and screamer he was as a younger coach — a result of mellowing with age and with the athletes he’s now coaching.
“Kids are a little bit more sensitive nowadays — to a point,” says Nadolny, a 1981 South Bend Riley graduate. “Not everybody is the same. I understand kids and I read kids now better than I ever did.
“We’ve had our success.”
In 24 years as a head coach (at both Riley and Glenn), Nadolny is 480-223. He has sent 36 players on to college baseball and had Josh Glenn (1995 by the Philadelphia Phillies) and Andy Groves (2003 by the Kansas City Royals and 2007 by the Colorado Rockies) taken in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Two of his former Glenn catchers — the ones that he trusted to call all the pitches — are now college coaches. Doug Buysse is head coach at Indiana University South Bend and Adam Piortowicz is an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Western Michigan University.
Nadolny has racked up eight sectional titles (1991 at Riley and 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2016 and 2017 at Glenn). Besides the sectional crown in the first year as head coach, Nadolny took three straight Wildcat clubs to the sectional championship game.
Nadolny’s Falcons reigned at the Kankakee Valley Sectional in 2016 and 2017 and have all 23 pitching wins back for 2018.
There have been four regional championships (1991 at Riley and 2003, 2005 and 2006 at Glenn) one Final Four appearance (2003 at Glenn). The Falcons lost to eventual state runner-up Western in the regional semifinals in 2016 and eventual state champion South Bend St. Joseph in the regional finals in 2017.
“Those were awesome weekends when you had to win two in a day and there was no class system. No one remembers those anymore,” says Nadolny. “You might win three games in the sectional then two at regional, two at semistate and two at state. Those days are long gone. You had to have two really good pitchers.”
The 13-team NIC includes Glenn, Bremen, Jimtown, Mishawka Marian, New Prairie and South Bend Riley in the South Division and Elkhart Central, Mishawaka, Penn, South Bend Adams, South Bend Clay, South Bend St. Joseph and South Bend Washington in the North Division. Nadolny says seeing strong pitching day in and day out in the conference has helped the Falcons at state tournament time.
The long-time coach does not take all the credit for the winning.
“I’ve been good because I’ve had good assistants,” says Nadolny, who has Joe Gambill as a varsity assistant. Gambill has been with Nadolny for all but one of his seasons at Glenn. Leland Travis (third season) and Brad Laskowski (second season) lead the junior varsity Falcons. Denny Stull was Nadolny’s assistant in all nine of his years in charge at Riley.
Nadolny sees himself as the product of the people who taught him the game over the years. Some of the ways, he loved and adopted. Others, he did not and did not make a part of his program.
“As I decided I was going to be a coach and a teacher, I kind of picked and pecked from everybody,” says Nadolny. “Everybody did things differently and tried to get the same result.
“I’ve was fortunate enough to play and coach against (Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association) Hall of Fame coaches like Ric Tomaszewski (South Bend Washington), Len Buczkowski (South Bend Adams) and Jim Reinebold (South Bend Clay). They were all successful. Why wouldn’t I follow some of the things they’ve done? I took my personality and the way I feel about stuff and it all blended together.”
After playing for Jackson Middle School in ninth grade, Nadolny was a three-year varsity player for Ralph “Peanuts” Pieniazkiewicz at South Bend Riley High School and then played four seasons for Dick Patterson at Bethel College in Mishawaka.
“I learned a lot from Ralph. I learned discipline,” says Nadolny. “He was like a second father to me. I played for him and coached with him (1987-90) and took the Riley job when he left.
Nadolny grew to appreciate Pieniazkiewicz as the years unfolded.
“I got to understand him a little more about where he was coming from as I got older — like you do with anybody else,” says Nadolny. “As your life goes on you learn to see things through other people’s eyes and you step in their shoes a little bit.
“It’s the process of learning and living and coaching. As a player, you think you know everything.”
Nadolny drew some lessons about relationships from observing Patterson.
“He knew how to treat people,” said Nadolny. “One thing about him is that he let us play. We were pretty good.”
As a senior in 1986, pitcher/first baseman Nadolny played for a Bethel team that won the National Christian College Athletic Association World Series in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Pilots had to win three games on the last day of the double-elimination tournament, which meant Nadolny missed graduation exercises.
“That was probably the happiest day of my life,” says Nadolny. “Anytime you’re on the field with a chance to play is a good day.
“There were a lot of good ballplayers at Bethel.”
The Pilots had a roster filled with South Bend area talent.
Steve Hosinski (LaVille High School graduate) Kevin McNamara (Mishawaka Marian) were NCCAA All-Americans. BC’s all-Mid-Central Conference selections included Hosinski, McNamara, Scott Holland (Plymouth), Rick Romeo (Adams) and Joey Underwood (Jimtown).
Hosinski won a then-school record 13 games while striking out 103 batters in 99 1/3 innings in 1986. Romeo set a then-BC mark with 58 walks.
Nadolny established standards at the time with 12 home runs and 56 runs batted in. His slugging percentage was .736 in 1986 and .623 for his college career. When he was a freshman, Scott Anderson (Penn) hit .469 — which still stands as the top single-season mark in Pilots history.
John learned from his big brothers and while playing for South Bend American Legion Post 357 and later in the Michiana adult league with the St. Joe AC’s.
After college, the youngest of the Nadolny offspring went into teaching in South Bend and became a Riley baseball assistant. He was with the Wildcats until 1999 then did some scouting before landing the coaching job at Glenn. He has also been a special education teacher at the school in Walkterton.
This fall, Nadolny has conducted optional open fields a couple times a week while planning a trivia night fundraiser. When fall ball wraps, work will begin in earnest on upgrades to the home and visiting dugouts.
At Glenn, it’s all about continual improvement.
John Nadolny is heading into his 25th season as a high school head baseball coach in 2018. It will be his 17th at John Glenn in Walkerton, Ind. He started his career at his alma mater — South Bend Riley. He has 480 career victories. (Gregory Ladewski Photo)
That’s South Bend Post 50 in 1977. “Machuca’s Marauders” went 18-0 during the tournament run, which included the state tournament and a win against Lafayette Post 11 in the championship game in Richmond and concluded at the American Legion World Series in Manchester, N.H.
Post 50 topped Boyertown, Pa., Santa Monica, and Hattiesburg, Miss. (twice) to finish as the best 16-18 baseball team in America.
More than 3,800 teams entered the double-elimination event at the local level in ’77 and the lone team standing at the end was from South Bend, Ind.
“We thought that was going to open the flood gates (to other national champions from Indiana Legion baseball),” said Mel Machuca, Post 50 manager in ’77, at a 40-year reunion of the title-takers.
It just hasn’t turned out that way.
Machuca has often been asked over the years how he won a national championship.
“If I knew that I would do it again,” said Machuca in response.
But that team 40 years ago certainly caught lightning in a bottle.
On the way to that special achievement, Post 50 beat the defending national champions (Santa Monica, Calif.) and the previous national runners-up (Arlington Heights, Ill.). Between the two, those loaded squads had 13 players that went on to be selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
The lone MLB draftee for Post 50?
It was Dan Szajko. The outfielder, second baseman and third baseman was picked by the Montreal Expos in the 27th round out of Notre Dame in 1982 and played in the minors through 1985.
Slugging third baseman Jeff Coker did have a brief minor league career after his Post 50 days.
Szajko was the youngest player on a ’77 Post 50 squad dominated by older guys. In those years, American Legion Baseball was 18-and-under (later changed to 19U).
“He was 16 and a gift from (South Bend John Adams High School coach) Len Buczkowski,” recalled Machuca. “Dan Szajko was the player to be named later.”
Two players hit .429 during the Legion tournament run — center fielder Szajko and shortstop Bill Schell.
Greg Heyde (15-1) won eight tournament games, Dave Hankins (15-1) seven, Dennis Janiszewski two and Dave Yates one to pace the pitching staff. Heyde were also left fielders.
First baseman Jim Andert, pitcher/center fielder Mike Clarke, pitcher/right fielder Jeff Kowatch, catcher Scott Madey, catcher Dom Romeo, catcher John Ross, pitcher Jeff Rudasics, pitcher/second baseman Will Shepherd, first baseman Mark Toles and second baseman Gary Vargyas were also a part of the champs. Bob Kouts was past commander of Post 50 and longtime Indiana baseball chairman.
Bill Barcome was assistant coach at American Legion Coach of the Year in ’77 (Machuca was Manager of the Year). Dan Toles was a bench coach during the tournament run. Todd Machuca served as batboy. Veteran reporter Forrest “Woody” Miller wrote about the team’s exploits in the South Bend Tribune.
Janiszewski died in 1996, Kouts in 2002 and Miller in 2009.
Machuca, who would coach Post 50 into the ’80s and went on to guide youth teams in Carmel, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, built what turned out to bea national championship team with a simple formula. He introduced it at the first ’77 tryout session.
“Baseball is a defensive game,” said Machuca. “Hitting wins games. Pitching wins pennants. Defense wins championships.”
Machuca and Barcome made sure players knew what they were doing on defense.
Post 50 was also well-armed for the task at-hand.
“I was blessed,” said Machuca. “I had eight pitchers (using four of them in tournament play).”
The squad that Machuca assembled became very close, which is in evidence all these years later as players gather to swap stories on the golf course, at dinner and at a South Bend Cubs game.
“What we had here in South Bend, the attitude was amazing,” said Machuca. “They were family.
“They took us for the ride. I didn’t play. Bill didn’t play. Everything was built on trust.”
Machuca interjected confidence from Day 1.
“‘You guys are the best I’ve ever seen. You’re going to win the state championship. Go home and be prepared to work for that,’” said Machuca of his words that day. “It seems that what we’ve lost is kids today aren’t willing to work together for a common goal.
“They want an advantage. They want to be guaranteed this and guaranteed that.”
In American Legion Baseball, the team you register is the team you take into the tournament. There are no add-ons or ringers.
“Whatever you start with, you end with,” said Machuca.
In ’77, there were no designated hitters or courtesy runners in American Legion Baseball and that’s the way coaches, players and organizers liked it.
Tryouts for the ’78 Post 50 team drew 400 eager youngsters.
Two decades after the national title, the Post 50 men of ’77 played a game against the Post 50 team of ’97. The “old” guys did well enough to get that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid reaction: “Who are those guys?”
Even folks in the local baseball community did not know about the national champions.
A seed was planted which grew into a book, co-authored by Machuca (No. 20) and player Will Shepherd (No. 11).
“I win innings, I don’t win games,” said Machuca. “Games are too big. Do what you can do at the time.”
In the Arlington Heights game, Post 50 got down 5-0 early. Machuca asked his players to come back with one run — two would be a bonus.
“‘We get one run and we’re going to win this game,’” said Machuca of that in-between half innings speech. “Once you get to the point of total confidence on the field, it’s hard to get beat.”
Shepherd looks back on the national title and still marvels at what he and his ball-playing buddies did.
“For my money what makes it special is that it was a legitimate World Series. It was a bracketed, countrywide tournament. One state champion moved on the regional and that one regional champion moved on.”
The 91st American Legion World Series Aug. 10-15 in Shelby, N.C. Games will be shown on ESPN3 and ESPNU.
South Bend Post 50’s 1977 American Legion Baseball national champions at a 40-year reunion dinner are (from left): First row — Will Shepherd, Bill Schell, manager Mel Machuca, assistant coach Bill Barcome and Jeff Kowatch; Second row — Paul Kazmierczak (member of ’75 and ’76 team), Mike Clarke, Jim Andert, Greg Heyde, Dave Hankins and Jeff Coker. Not pictured — Dennis Janiszewski (deceased), Scott Madey, Dom Romeo, John Ross, Jeff Rudasics, Mark Toles, Dan Szajko, Gary Vargyas and Dave Yates plus batboy Todd Machuca and tournament bench coach Dan Toles.
Dikos, 60, ticks off the trademarks of the Penn program: “Hard work. Teamwork. Discipline. Commitment.”
While the Kingsmen have numerous NCAA Division I commits in the 2017 lineup, including Niko Kavadas (Notre Dame), Nolan Metcalf (Kansas) and Trevor Waite (Dayton) plus NAIA two-sporter Matt Kominkiewicz (Saint Francis, Ind. for baseball and football), this is not a typical year.
“We have hard-working kids that come in and give it their all, play together,” says Dikos. “Comparatively speaking, with other athletes around the area, we just hold our own because we play as a team.”
Discipline means showing up on time consistently and following Penn’s athletic code of conduct year-round.
Dikos demands discipline in the school building and class room. His players are not allowed to cut class, get tardies or give the teacher a hard time.
“They know the first person the teacher goes to is me,” says Dikos. “If it gets to me, I know that teacher is frustrated. We’ll take care of it right away.”
Penn High School coaches expect their athletes “to be champions on and off the field” and that’s certainly the case in baseball.
Baseball-playing Kingsmen put in a commitment of quality time. Dikos and long-time assistant Jim Kominkiewicz no longer lead five-hour workouts. They’ve learned to get the job done in about 1 1/2. But players are expected to work. Athletes put in countless hours on their own in the fall and winter, working on skills and lifting weights.
The 2016-17 school year was the first for full-time strength and conditioning coach Matt Cates, who puts Penn athletes through sport-specific exercises either during the school day, before or after.
“Our kids have developed immensely,” says Dikos, a health and physical education teacher at PHS. “It’s going to benefit the freshman class this year the most because they’re going to have four years of Cates.”
Players are willing to put in the quality time because of their baseball adoration.
“It’s a difficult sport if you love it. It’s an impossible sport if you don’t love it,” says Dikos. “The kids that make it to their senior year really love it. They have fun doing baseball stuff.
“You just try to built that chemistry and that will lead to the fun.”
While early-season workouts are more regimented, as Penn gets deeper into the postseason, practices at Jordan Automotive Group Field tend to be more relaxed and players are encouraged to enjoy the experience.
Typical of tournament time, Dikos gave his tournament roster the day off Monday so he could work with his younger players. In many years, the Kingsmen have been practicing for the state tournament, the summer travel season and running a youth camp all in the same week.
In addressing players and parents at the beginning of each season Dikos makes one promise: The season will not be perfect.
“We go through the same things that other teams do,” says Dikos. “We have our same problems that other team do. We just try to deal with them as effectively as we can. We try to nip it in the bud.”
Working through those problems present a life lesson.
“You’re not going to get along with your soulmate every single day.,” says Dikos. “You’re going to have problems with you marriage, with your job. These are things you have to work out. These are values I hope are learned going through our program that kids can take with them in college and the rest of their lives.”
Dikos likes the way Paul Holaway puts it.
“We don’t expect perfection; we expect to be exceptionally good,” says Dikos in quoting his senior manager. “You never perfect baseball. It’s always a learning process and change. It’s a series of adjustments every level that you go up
“We (coaches) have that expectation that we’re going to win. Once you build that, the kids go in there expecting that same thing.”
“It really pumped our kids up a lot seeing their ex-teammates,” says Dikos. “I imagine there’s pressure in not letting those guys down, not letting the program down.
“But it’s certainly not emphasized by the coaching staff.”
Besides Kominkiewicz, who played for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Len Buczkowski at South Bend Adams (graduating in 1973) with his quarter century in the program, the staff features Tom Stanton (Penn Class of 2000), John Westra (Sturgis 2003), Elliott Lares (Penn 2014), Brian Lares (Penn 2008) and Collin McNamara (Penn 2014).
Positional coaches are Dikos (catchers), Stanton (pitchers) Kominkiewicz (infielders) and Westra (outfielders). The other help at the junior varsity or freshmen levels.
Trust is big for Dikos, who has come to rely on the opinions of “Komo.”
“He’s one guy you can depend on,” says Dikos of Kominkiewicz. “I know he’s going to be here everyday. He’s going to give it his all.
“One thing he and I have in common is we just want to win. We just try to put our best nine on the field regardless of who it is.”
The current Penn lineup is not the one that took the field at the beginning of the spring.
“It’s something a veteran staff is able to figure out,” says Dikos. “The parents expect their kids to be given a chance. The kids expect to be given a chance — unless it happens to another kid.
“They don’t understand why you stick with a kid for a few games. In reality, you’re giving them the kind of chances you give everybody. You play yourself out of a position. Some parents and players think it should happen faster or they should be given a little more time. “
All the coaching experience really helps.
“We might lose a game along the way trying to figure things out,” says Dikos. “That’s something parents will have a hard time getting a grip on.
“We’re thinking about making a state tournament run.”
Even in a school the size of Penn, there are multi-sport athletes. Dikos just doesn’t see as many as a he once did.
“It beginning to become quite the rarity but not because of (the coaching staff),” says Dikos. “We encourage multi-sport athletes.”
There are five of those on the 2017 baseball tournament roster
“In the past, it was a lot more,” says Dikos. But kids are beginning to specialize.”
Looking to children of Greg and Sally Dikos, sons Greg Jr. and Garrick were three-sport athletes through junior year at Penn and two-sport athletes as seniors. Daughter Sarah played multiple sports in junior high and found her talents led her to just volleyball in high school.
Dikos keeps the lines of communication open with Penn’s other head coaches.
“The only thing we ask is that the athletes tell us what’s going on and are respectful of everybody,” says Dikos. “We don’t want anybody short-changed. If the kids really want it, it’s workable.”
Greg Dikos (center) and long-time assistants Jim Kominkiewicz (left) and Tom Stanton (right) have helped Penn High School into the 2017 Class 4A Kokomo Semistate. Dikos is in his 30th season as head baseball coach and has 702 win and four state titles on his resume. (Steve Krah Photo)
Matt and wife Jennifer then moved to Colorado and he started coaching high school players. There was a two-year hitch as an assistant at Mesa Ridge and nine seasons as head coach at Fountain Fort Carson.
Buczkowski returned to central Indiana and served four seasons as head coach at Lawrence Central. Last summer, he was hired to be head coach at Carmel.
“All the places I’ve been I just continued to get better at the coaching craft,” says Buczkowski, 43. “It’s just who I am. It’s ingrained in my blood and my make-up. It’s how I go about my day as a teacher, husband and a father.”
As his experience has grown, his coaching style has evolved.
“When I first started out, I was a pretty strict disciplinarian,” says Buczkowski. “I took over a program that was 2-17 the year before. I had to change to culture of losing. I had to find out who wanted to play baseball and who just wanted to wear the uniform.”
When Matt took his new position, the Buczkowskis already lived in Carmel (Jennifer is a second grade teacher at Towne Meadow Elementary; brother Steve Buczkowski also resides in the district).
Matt knew about the community’s recreation and travel teams in the Carmel Dads Club as well as the work ethic and zest for success already in place. With the Greyhounds, he inherits a team from Dan Roman that has 15 seniors and is used to winning.
“These guys work hard,” says Buczkowski. “They give me a good effort on a daily basis. For the most part, they are mentally and physically tough. When you get that mix together it usually breeds success.
“Ultimately, my goal is to get the most out of my players.”
Buczkowski has learned that motivating young athletes is not “one size fits all” with all the different personalities on the squad.
“It’s about getting to know these guys and knowing which buttons to push,” says Buczkowski. “The longer I coach, I find it’s not just what you say but how they perceive how you’re saying it.”
The 2017 season will open with Carmelranked No. 1 in Class 4A. Buczkowski, his staff of varsity assistants John Zangrilli (former head coach at Brebeuf and Zionsville) and Brent Berglund, junior varsity coaches Eric Lentz (former head coach at Westfield and Carmel) and Greg Stiller and freshmen coaches Aaron Hahn and Sean Duty are anxious to compete in the strong Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference (other members are Ben DavIs, Center Grove, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North, North Central (Indianapolis), Pike and Warren Central) and a loaded Westfield Sectional (which also includes Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern, Indianapolis North Central and Westfield).
“We’re going hunting and we have some pretty good artillery,” says Buczowski of his talented Hounds. “We’re not hunting with slingshots.
“There’s definitely high expectations at Carmel.”
The program has won 13 sectionals (the last in 2016), five regionals and made two State Finals appearances, finishing as runner-up in 1997.
Something that’s different for Matt or brother Mike (who coached baseball briefly at Caston High School) from when their father or other South Bend coaching legends Jim Reinebold and Ric Tomaszewski were leading programs is all the organized year-round training. Most players have travel coaches and take private hitting or pitching lessons from instructors in addition to being taught by their high school coaches.
“We’re more a part of the process,” says Buczkowski. “Our job is important, but it’s not just one voice they’re hearing anymore.”
Buczkowski sees elite travel organizations like the Indiana Bulls providing exposure and training opportunities that high school coaches just can’t mimic.
“We want our guys playing (in the summer),” says Buczkowski. “That’s the most important thing for their development.
“Indiana baseball is in a really good place. There are really good players. It has a lot to do with the travel piece. Grand Park (in Westfield) has had a tremendous part in that.”
Matt Buczkowski enters his first season as Carmel High School head baseball coach in 2017.