“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.
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.
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.”
A former all-Big Ten Conference and professional infielder was hired in the fall of 2019 as head coach of the baseball program at Hamilton Heights High School in Arcadia, Ind., and was getting the Huskies ready when the 2020 season was placed on hold and — eventually — canceled because of the pandemic.
Recent Hamilton Heights graduates playing college baseball include Sam Fulton (Chattanooga, Tenn., State Community College), Alex Hewitt (Butler University in Indianapolis), Ike Peterson (Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.) and Reese Wills (Marian University in Indianapolis. VanOeveren says some current players are weighting their options.
“Recruiting is challenging for everybody because of COVID,” says VanOeveren. “I was recruited to numerous schools all over the Midwest. My advice: Don’t select the school just based upon baseball.
“Baseball comes to an end at some point for all of us.”
A 1991 graduated of Grandville (Mich.) High School near Grand Rapids, VanOeveren was initially recruited by Michigan assistant Ted Mahan (who went on to be head coach at Michigan State University) and Wolverines head coach Bill Freehan got involved near the end of the process. VanOeveren committed in May of his senior year.
“(Indiana Primetime) is good to the kids at Hamilton Heights, giving them the opportunity to play really competitive baseball,” says VanOeveren. “I love Finch Creek. We’re spoiled getting access to that place.
“We’re very fortunate to live in this area and have those opportunities.”
Besides VanOeveren, the 2021 Husky coaching staff features varsity assistants Brian Clancy and Brad Pitts, junior varsity head coach Adam Hughes and JV assistant Cole Meyer. Clancy, who played at Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill., was on the 2000 staff. Pitts, who had coached at Harrison High School in West Lafayette, is a newcomer to Hamilton Heights.
Husky Ballpark has received laser-leveling and upgrades to the irrigation system from Marschand’s Athletic Field Service and a new backstop is going up. VanOeveren says new dugouts and other improvements could come this summer.
Brad Pitts is an assistant bseball coach at Hamilton Heights High School in Arcadia, Ind.
“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.
As soon as Blake Marschand could put one foot in front of the other, he was stepping on a baseball field.
From a young age, Blake was helping his father groom diamonds and other facilities.
Greg Marschand, a 2017 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee, has spent countless hours on fields at Lewis Cass High School in Walton, Ind., where he is still head baseball coach and athletic director.
“My dad got this etched in me,” says Blake Marschand, who played football, basketball and baseball for the Cass Kings and graduated in 1998. “This is all I knew. There was no sleeping in on the weekends when I was a little kid.
“Sports have always been a big thing to the Marschand family.”
Over the years, Blake saw his father’s work ethic and heard him talk about having a company that builds and maintains these places to play ball.
MAFS works on baseball, softball, football and soccer fields.
On the natural side of things, it’s construction (laser grading, adding DuraEdge infield mix, building mounds and bullpens, complete tear-offs, re-grades, re-builds and more) and maintenance (aerification, fertilization, overseeding, top dressing, deep-tine aerification, edging etc.).
As a regional representative, Marschand applies DuraEdge-engineered infield mix. The product is used on many Major League Baseball fields and throughout the nation. There are three main varieties — Classic, Collegiate and Pro. Each mix is engineered to certain percentages of clay, sand and silt.
Marschand and his crew also perform maintenance on artificial-surface fields throughout the Midwest for Sprinturf.
“I’m not totally against synthetic (turf),” says Marschand. “It’s got it’s place.”
Marschand notes that some schools may not have had their fields built the right or does not have the right equipment or knowledge to maintain those fields correctly.
“If the fields are built using the correct products and materials, it makes maintenance a lot easier,” says Marschand. “Basketball courts get budgeted to be re-surfaced every year, but outside fields often get put on the back burner.
“Outdoor fields being laser-graded every two or three years would be similar to having a basketball court re-surfaced.”
It’s all about maintaining a facility. It cuts down on that big project.
MAFS has been to fields all over Indiana and continues to pick up new business.
“We thrive on building and developing that honest relationship with customers,” says Marschand. “We’re not a huge business. I just try to keep it to a small core group of (four to five workers). That way we can be efficient.”
Marschand says that the initial important step in field construction or maintenance is using the correct products such as DuraEdge infield mix and setting the correct grade.
“Looking into the future, that’s just going to help in maintaining the field,” says Marschand. “On a renovation project, it sometimes can be tricky because we have to match the existing grade of the way the field was laid out.
“We’re trying to determine what percentage of grade that is to give them that efficient surface run-off, which is what you want.
“On the DuraEdge side, we shoot for a two-inch cap,” says Marschand. “That will give you a really nice, quality skin surface.”
Marschand says the best time to do field renovation work is in the summer and fall because the weather tends to be nicer and teams are not on the field as often as they are in the spring.
Even though the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic has baseball — and other sports — canceled for the spring, MAFS has been busy working on fields.
But it’s not been a typical March and April.
“Usually springs are pretty stressful,” says Marschand. “Once you get those first sunny days, your phone’s ringing off the hook. Everybody wants you there that day. I get it. I’m not mad at them for that.
“The goal is to make your customers happy. You don’t want to keep them waiting.
“We’ve got all kinds of work in the books. I try to lay out my work on a first-come, first-served basis. When customers call I put them on a list and try to run down that list.”
There is not much grade work being done when it’s wet, but the crew can install mounds and perform other tasks.
“I also try to split it up so I’m not burning guys out on the same thing every day,” says Marschand. “That’s what’s so great about this work. It’s always something different. Every place is different and has its own needs.”
Marschand is appreciate of the relationships he has formed in the industry.
“Guys that are way more knowledgeable than me are always willing to talk and discuss whatever the situation might be,” says Marschand. “Having those relationships mean a lot to me and I’m very thankful.”
UPDATE: Since this story was published, the spring sports season has been canceled by the Indiana High School Athletic Association. The announcement came shortly after Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced that there would be no more in-person classes for the 2019-20 school year.
This was supposed to be the first week of the 2020 Indiana high school baseball regular season.
But the game is on hold while the world deals with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic through social distancing.
In a landscape that is ever-changing, many states have already closed down for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb has ruled that all Indiana schools be closed until May 1.
The Indiana High School Athletic Association has stated that there is hope for shortened regular season beginning with five required practices — rather than the usual 10 — after schools are allowed to re-open. The state tournament series would follow.
Right now, sectionals are slated for May 27-June 1 with regionals June 6, semistates June 13 and the State Finals June 19-20 at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
“Our players have been strongly encouraged to follow all local, state and federal guidelines in helping to not spread the virus,” says Froedge, an IHSBCA Hall of Famer. “We are beginning to ramp back up this week with anticipation of a May 4 start.”
The Athenians, ranked No. 3 in the IHSBCA Class 3A preseason poll, have been communicating via calls, texts and Zoom video conferences and had a meeting scheduled to share team and position workouts through Google Sheets that includes links to instructional and motivational videos, articles etc.
“The workouts are all the things they can do by themselves or with a brother or dad,” says Froedge. “The idea is that we’re all working in the same things remotely. They then long each day what they’ve done and share with teammates in various ways, short videos included.
“Our hope for the players — especially seniors in all spring sports — is that they will get some kind of season, however brief it might be. But even if we don’t have a season, we still have a team and are creating memories and imparting life lessons.”
The Indians were return seven starters from regional finalist squad and is ranked No. 2 in the preseason 4A poll.
“You feel for the kids, especially the seniors who have put in so much time and done what you’ve asked them to do for four years,” says Swartzentruber. “It’s hard trying to find the words to say to kids.
“But, in the grand scheme of things, people’s health is greater than playing a game. The trend is not very good right now. But we’re trying to stay positive.”
Swartzentruber has shared workouts that players can do in their basement, garage or driveway. He asks them all to find regular cardiovascular exercise.
“It’s all up to them,” says Swartzentruber. “We say whatever you do, make sure you do don’t put yourself in jeopardy from a health standpoint.”
Swartzentruber teaches seven classes and is now doing that from home since Lake Central adopted eLearning. Assignments are given through the Canvas platform.
“Its a little tricky,” says Swartzentruber. “I know there’s going to be some things lost in translation when you’re not face-to-face.”
Shane Edwards, head coach at 3A Oak Hill and a member of the IHSBCA executive council, has kept plenty busy fielding questions from other coaches from around the state.
“Coaches are nervous,” says Edwards. “They’re concerned and want to be informed.
“We’re kind of in the dark about where this is going.”
Edwards has stayed connected to his players with weekly emails to suggest workouts they can do on their own or with a parent or sibling. The Golden Eagles coaching staff uses group texts to stay on the same page.
“We still hold out hope that we’re going to play,” says Edwards.
With a late start and an abbreviated season, Edwards says many teams will be doing in May what they normally do in March and April.
“Usually by May, you feel comfortable with your lineup and pitching staff,” says Edwards. “So now do you try to get a lot of games in or make progress for when the tournament comes? It’s a delicate balance we’re all going to have to play.”
Oak Hill typically has in-season hitting sessions a couple of times a week during the season. Edwards says that time might be used to bring his young players up to speed on varsity baseball.
“You can’t replace game situations,” says Edwards. “I would want as much coaching time as I could have in those practice situations.”
Also an assistant high school principal, Edwards says Oak Hill is looking to supply some district students with laptops will begin online learning next week.
IHSBCA Hall of Famer Dave Gandolph is just three career wins shy of 800.
When he’s not home tending to projects ordering puzzles or watching TV with his wife, Gandolph has been going to Indianapolis Scecina Memorial High School two or three times a week to work on the Crusaders’ facility.
“I’m just by my lonesome,” says Gandolph, who has mowed grass and done work on Scecina’s new hitting building in the block house where the old weight room was located.
March 16 was supposed to be the first official day of IHSAA practice. During the Limited Contact Period, the Crusaders got a chance to work out on the grass.
2A No. 3-ranked Scecina’s first game was slated for this Saturday at the end of spring break.
Should the season begin in early May, Gandolph foresees his team hosting a Saturday doubleheader against Providence and then getting in one round of Indiana Crossroads Conference games before the postseason.
“I don’t get too hung up on planning,” says Gandolph. “It’s a day-by-day type thing anyway.”
He takes that same attitude about the milestone victory in his future.
“(No. 800) will come whenever it comes,” says Gandolph, who has been a his alma mater since the 2014 season after years at Center Grove, where he also taught for 40 years.
Gandolph says he has kept in-touch with players through texts and Twitter posts.
“I give suggestions to keep them busy and healthy and, hopefully, keep them positive,” says Gandolph.
While the team has not yet done any Zoom conferences, the Gandolph family has used the technology and is planning to do so this week to celebrate the seventh birthday of one of Dave’s grandsons.
Like many, Roberts has seen the levels of coronavirus restriction increase. Until the latest constraints were put in place, some players were going to the homes of teammates with batting cages at their homes and conducting their own practices.
“Parents are now following the guidelines that have been set down and keeping their kids at home,” says Roberts. “They’re in that better safe-than-sorry mode.”
Roberts says he has witnessed two extremes on social media regarding COVID-19.
“It’s not that big a deal and no more than flu and older people with prior health issues (are at risk) or on the other side, it’s serious, don’t mess with it,” says Roberts. “We’re expecting the worse and hoping for the best.”
Roberts says many of his players put in plenty of off-season work before the interruption.
“I keep hoping that this thing will level off and we can get back to school,” says Roberts. “Our boys and their parents were pretty devastated when they got sent home from school.
“If theres a glimmer of hope, the boys will start hooking up and getting in their time before I can be with them.”
Roberts has been home with two baseball-playing sons. Max Roberts is a pitcher in the Seattle Mariners organization. William Roberts is a 2019 Washington Township graduate who sat out a year while getting ready to go the junior college route.
Randy and William went to see Max, who was attending a Mariners “gas” camp in Arizona, when they began to shut things down and send players home as minor league spring training was about to start.
Roberts says some in his area have talked about playing two or three games a week prior to the sectional. If possible, he can see the Senators playing just about everyday leading into the postseason.
“My heart goes out to all these high school seniors in all spring sports if they don’t have an opportunity to participate,” says Turner. “It’s just an awful feeling.
“I guess I’m being selfish here, but in the last four years I’ve won two (1A) state titles (in 2016 and 2018). We have the possibility of a third one (with six players, including five starters, from the 2018 team). I was really excited about it. We have right group of kids with the right mentality.
“I have my doubts we’ll even get to see what would happen.”
Turner has had little contact with his players since the lockdown began and has been doing his best to teach online to his pupils at Anderson High School.
“I’m bored out of mind,” says Turner. “I can’t get out to talk to these kids. That’s the worst part.
“Some of the kids have texted me. I have great senior leadership. They’ve gotten together a few times to go throw and stuff. I tell them to do the best they can to stay in baseball shape.”
Daleville was fundraising to pay for its overnight trip to Jasper, but for safety-sake, Turner put an end to that.
Turner had beefed up the Broncos schedule to get them ready for the state tournament.
“I wouldn’t have done that unless I felt like I had a team that could compete,” says Turner. “I said, ‘let’s have a challenge.’”
Regardless of what happens this year, Turner says he has decided that 2021 is going to be his last spring as a coach and teacher.
“I have grandkids I want to spend some time with,” says Turner. “I have a bucket list I want to do.”
“I still think about him everyday,” says South Vigo head coach Kyle Kraemer. “It’s all perspective.
“The biggest thing is the fear of the unknown. There are so many what-ifs and unknowns. It’s just crazy.
“We are living through history. You’re talking about fighting something you can’t see.”
The Braves spent to winter building up a library of Hudl videos of themselves hitting and pitching that can now be used as references for at-home workouts.
“I’m trying to be prepared,” says Kraemer, who is hopeful that South Vigo might be able to play Conference Indiana opponents and some others prior to the postseason — if there is one.
When the IHSAA ruled this past winter that teams can have 10 summer practices with four contest dates, Kraemer says he didn’t think much about it.
“Now I think a lot of coaches are going to take advantage of that if possible,” says Kraemer.
Also a teacher, Kraemer says eLearning is to kick in Vigo County on April 6. This is spring break. There were eight waiver days prior to that.
Mark Schellinger, head coach at 3A New Prairie, has spent part of his days tending to eLearning — either from home or at the school — and has joined with his assistants in working on Harry “Bear” Tolmen Field.
“It was weird, knowing (players) could not be out there with us,” says Schellinger, whose Cougars are No. 10 in the 3A preseason rankings. (It’s tough for everybody, but it’s really tough for the kids.
“But we have to take a step back and see there is a bigger picture.”
Schellinger says safety and health are the first priority for players, followed by staying on top of their eLearning and then staying in shape, especially with throwing.
“We’re hoping to be proactive so we have a plan in place,” says Schellinger. “But it’s hard to make those decisions or make those plans.
“There’s just so much unknown right now.”
Should the season get started in early May, Schellinger says he favors playing as many regular-season games as possible.
“The kids want to play, especially in a short time span,” says Schellinger. “Hopefully our pitchers are ready for that.”
New Prairie does have pitching depth, though Schellinger hardly expects 100 from anyone out of the gate.
Receiving votes: Danville, Evansville Memorial, Griffith, Guerin Catholic, Hanover Central, Heritage Hills, Indian Creek, Indianapolis Bishop Chatard, Kankakee Valley, NorthWood, Norwell, Providence, South Dearborn, South Vermillion, Southridge.
2. Lafayette Central Catholic
3. Indianapolis Scecina Memorial
4. Lewis Cass
4. North Posey
Receiving votes: Blackford, Boone Grove, Covenant Christian, LaVille, Monroe Central, South Adams, Wheeler.
1. Washington Township
5. North Miami
8. Riverton Parke
Receiving votes: Clinton Central, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian, Fremont, Hauser, Loogootee, North Daviesss, North White, Rising Sun, South Central (Union Mills), Trinity Lutheran, Wes-Del.
“I have a lot of good friends that I never would have met if I was not involved.”
Abbott, who grew up in Carroll County and graduated from Delphi (Ind.) High School in 1979, began his coaching career as a teenager at the local Babe Ruth League level. He led a group of 13-year-olds to the state tournament in Noblesville.
He pitched at Huntington (Ind.) College (now Huntington University), graduating in 1983, and served one year as an assistant at Brookville (Ind.) High School (now part of Franklin County High School) followed by 21 years as a high school head coach at Eastbrook and Huntington North. His teams won more than 300 games, seven county championships, four conference titles, three sectional crowns, one regional title and made one Final Four Appearance (1999 with Eastbrook).
“I always thought the (Mid-Indiana) Conference was tough when I first started,” says Abbott. “The teams were all good because their coaches were really good.”
Abbott had the distinction of pitching the first no-hitter on the new lighted Delphi diamond when he was a junior for the Oracles. He played for three coaches while in high school — Greg Fisher, Dave Young and Mike Lane.
Long before Abbott was associated with high school baseball, he regular at the IHSAA State Finals and remembers seeing Paul “Spider” Fields lead Lafayette Jeff to its second state championship in 1973. Another found memory is going with his father and grandfather to the Colt League World Series, an event organized by Hall of Famer Harry Bradway and staged at Loeb Stadium in Lafayette. One year, he saw future big league pitcher Sid Fernandez compete there.
During the single-class era, Delphi played in an IHSAA sectional with Lafayette Jeff (coached by Fields), West Lafayette (coached by Hall of Famer Fred Campbell), McCutcheon (coached by Hall of Famer Jake Burton), Harrison and Lafayette Central Catholic.
Abbott and Burton first faced off back in the ‘70s Babe Ruth coaching days when Abbott was in Delphi and Burton in Dayton, Ind.
As a Huntington Forester, Abbott played for three head coaches — Jim Wilson, Fred Vonderlage and Tim McKinnon. Current HU coach and Hall of Famer Mike Frame was a third baseman and classmate of Abbott.
In Brookville, the hometown of Brian’s wife, Trisha Abbott, he got to work with another coach bound for the Hall of Fame — Jim Hughes.
“He was a good mentor to me,” says Abbott of Hughes. “He loved baseball. He loved sports. He was a positive person. He always had something good to say about everybody.
“He was one of those people you hate to lose.”
Abbott currently as a pitching coach at Huntington U. and held that position at Indiana Wesleyan University.
A math teacher for 37 years, Abbott currently instructs eighth graders at Riverview Middle School in Huntington. He holds master’s degrees in mathematics and administration from Ball State University.
He often drives to the nearby Crossroads League games himself. When Huntington makes weekend trips to places like Tennessee in February, Abbott and a friend get on the road about 2 a.m. and then come back to Huntington after the last game.
For several summers, Abbott has worked for Hammel Floor Service, sanding, re-lining and lettering basketball floors. He uses his math skills to put down and fill in the patterns.
“It’s really been neat,” says Abbott. “I’ve had a chance to go to a lot of different venues.”
“Growing up, he was a guy I respected,” says Abbott of Wooden, the coaching legend. “I read his book.
“I feel like I have a good feel of the high school land. I follow high school sports and I love baseball. Being in the association is a good role for me because I feel like I’ve got a pretty good feel for a lot of different things.”
After serving as associate executive director to Hall of Famer Bill Jones, Abbott has spent the past eight years at IHSBCA executive director.
He was nominated for Hall of Fame induction by the IHSBCA executive council.
“I was very humbled by it,” says Abbott. “I’m a mule. I’ve coached.
“It’s been a really good experience.”
Abbott got his start in the IHSBCA when future Hall of Famer Rick Atkinson of Mississinewa invited him to his first State Clinic.
“Little did I know what he was trying to do,” says Abbott. “I didn’t figure it out until about a year later.
“I kind of got drafted into service.”
Atkinson would take statewide IHSBCA office and turn over his district representative duties to Abbott, who led the group that fed the old Kokomo Regional for years.
In that role, he got to know one of the association’s founders and leaders in Jones.
“Bill was very thorough and very complimentary,” says Abbott. “He was very nice to me. He would take me underneath his wing and teach me things.”
Abbott has seen the IHSBCA membership grow. Each January, the association’s state clinic brings around 500 coaches to Indianapolis.
The latest renovation at the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper is almost paid off.
“We’ve been working real hard at that the last couple of years,” says Abbott. “The coaches association put in about a third of that money — in the $240,000 or $250,000 range.
Brian and Trisha Abbott have two children — Tyler (who is married to Chelsie and have a son named Quinn) and Briley.
Brian Abbott, the executive director of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association, will go into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in January 2020 as a contributor/coach. He is also an eighth grade math teacher in addition to serving as pitching coach at Huntington (Ind.) University.
Franklin College came on strong at the end of the 2019 baseball season and the Grizzlies came within six outs of going to the NCAA Division III super regionals.
After a 13-10 start, Franklin finished 31-15 and forced a second championship game in regional play in Sequin, Texas.
“We’re just very of our guys,” says Grizzlies coach Lance Marshall of his student-athletes. “They did their best when it mattered most.
“It’s just a tough, resilient group. The seniors are great leaders and great players.”
Franklin went 3-2 in Texas, besting No. 4-ranked Trinity (Texas) twice and going 1-2 against No. 25 Concordia (Texas). The Tornados scored four runs in the last two innings to win.
“We got shipped to the toughest regional in the country,” says Marshall, noting that No. 16 Texas Lutheran was also part of the field.
It was the deepest run the Grizzlies have ever made in the playoffs. In their previous NCAA D-III playoff appearances (2011 and 2018), they went 1-2 in the regional with wins against Frostburg State (Md.) in Marietta, Ohio, and Thomas More (Ky.) in Sauget, Ill. Losses came to eventual national champions Marietta in 2011 and Texas-Tyler in 2018.
“They led by example — on and off the field,” says Marshall of Claycamp and Naumovich. “They brought great energy, were positive and respected by teammates.”
Claycamp (.400, 4 home runs and 48 runs batted in) and Naumovich (.356-5-36 with 12 stolen bases) were offensive leaders in a lineup that also featured junior center fielder Quenton Wellington (.348-5-41 with 23 steals) and junior right fielder Ryan Bixler (.307-10-55 with 13 steals).
On a roster with just four players with hometowns outside Indiana, Wellington (Bishop Chatard), Bixler (Lewis Cass), Clark (Connersville), Stonebraker (Cascade), Nicholson (Greencastle), Sprinkle (Franklin Central), Sparks (Greenwood Christian) and Elmendorf (Indianapolis North Central) all played high school ball on Hoosier soil.
Claycamp, Naumovich and Bixler made the all-HCAC first team. Sprinkle was named to the Christopher M. Ragsdale Sportsmanship Team.
And the cupboard’s not bare for 2020.
“We’ve got a really good group of underclassmen returning,” says Marshall. “They’ve got experience on their side going forward.
“We’ll keep working hard and do everything we can to get back into the postseason.”
Franklin earned an automatic 2019 NCAA regional berth by winning the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament. The Griz topped Anderson 6-4 and Rose-Hulman 7-2 and 9-8 at Art Nehf Field in Terre Haute for the championship. FC repeated as HCAC tourney champs on a walk-off Wellington’s two-out, RBI single.
“We were fortunate to come out with a tournament championship,” says Marshall. “Coach (Jeff) Jenkins runs a great program at Rose. They’re always a formidable opponent.”
Franklin went 12-6 in HCAC regular-season action.
Marshall’s two assistant coaches for 2019 were hired in January.
Senior first baseman Drew Naumovich hit .356 with five home runs and and 36 runs batted in for Franklin (Ind.) College in 2019. The Grizzlies made their deepest run into the playoffs, reaching the second regional championship game and finishing 31-15. (Mike Lanke/Franklin College Photo)
Senior shortstop Sam Claycamp hit .400 with four home runs and and 48 runs batted in for Franklin (Ind.) College in 2019. The Grizzlies made their deepest run into the playoffs, reaching the second regional championship game and finishing 31-15. (Mike Lanke/Franklin College Photo)
Jake Burton has not changed the way he coaches much in more than four decades of leading high school baseball programs in Indiana.
Modeling his style after men like LaPorte’s Ken Schreiber and Lafayette Jeff’s Paul “Spider” Fields, Burton decided discipline would be the cornerstone of his teams.
“We’re demanding,” says Burton, who is in his 41st season of doing things his way — third at Twin Lakes High School in Monticello in 2019 after 37 at McCutcheon (1979-2015) in Lafayette and one at North Newton (2016) in Morocco. “The kid has to make sacrifices. We don’t allow long hair. It has to be an inch above the collar and off the ear.
“If they miss a practice unexcused, it’s a 20-mile run. You don’t play again until you get done.”
Burton hasn’t wavered from that approach since his first game in 1979.
“People say that’s crazy, but we’ve eliminated problems because kids don’t take a chance,” says Burton. “They don’t test you on those things. They know we mean business. We’ve not changed that.
“Not that these things make the program, but they establish a culture for the program.”
A two-game home-and-home series on consecutive nights is played within the division. Crossover games are then played with corresponding seeds in each division — 1 vs. 1, 2 vs. 2 and son on.
The Indians opened the 2019 season with a trip to Tennessee, where they met Halls, West Carroll and Tipton-Rosemark Academy (2018 Tennessee state runner-up among private schools).
“It was a good experience for us,” says Burton.
A year ago, a team rule was made that players could be away at the beginning of spring break through Tuesday and had to be back on Wednesday in order to travel to Tennessee and be ready to open the conference season against Lafayette Central Catholic.
Other non-conference opponents include Crawfordsville, Delphi, Eastern (Greentown), Frontier, Kankakee Valley, Lafayette Jeff, Maconaquah, McCutcheon, North Newton, North White and Tri-County.
The Indians are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Andrean, Hanover Central, Kankakee Valley, Knox and Wheeler. Twin Lakes has won 12 sectional titles — the last in 1993.
Twin Lakes was off to an 11-5 start in 2019, including 5-1 in the HAC.
“I think we’ve turned the corner a little bit,” says Burton. “We are winning games that we should win and competing well in all our games except for a couple.
“The kids seem to be confident that they can win. When I first got here that didn’t exist.”
Burton started out with 32 players in the program his first year and had 18 in the second season after some weeding out.
“They weren’t here for the real reason you play baseball,” says Burton. “You play sports to get better at it and enjoy the camaraderie, but also enjoy the competition.
“They were doing it as if it was just something to do rather than something they wanted to do.”
Retired as a school administrator, when he’s not serving as a substitute at Twin Lakes, Burton likes to play golf or pickleball before coming to the school.
Pickleball is a paddle-and-ball game similar to tennis played to 11. When he and his partner got down 10-1, the partner started talking about asking their opponent for a rematch. Burton wasn’t willing to concede defeat. He knew the game wasn’t over until one team got to 11.
Burton recalls a day in1984 at McCutcheon when his team was down 10-2 in the first game of a doubleheader.
The coach began pulling out his starters and telling them to get something to eat and be back for the second game.
Meanwhile, the subs started hitting doubles and singles and — all of a sudden — in was 10-10. The Mavericks went on to win.
“Baseball is a unique game,” says Burton. “There is no clock and that’s the neatest thing about it.”
There are 22 players for varsity and junior varsity in 2019 and the number is expected to rise.
“We’re building it back up,” says Burton, who had five seniors in 2017, three in 2018 and has four in 2019 (Zion Cosgray, Brock Deno, Graham Howe and Ethan Luzadder). The Indians have nine freshmen.
Burton is assisted by Brian Driver, Mike Hirt, Sam McVady, Jeremy Stinson and Trent Wright.
Pitching coach Driver played for Burton at McCutcheon in the early 1990’s and has coached with Burton at McCutcheon, North Newton and Twin Lakes. Wright serves as the first base coach. Hirt, McVady and Stinson are JV coaches. McVady played for Burton at Twin Lakes.
Since arriving, Burton has watched the Indians’ home field get a new drainage system. A new outfield was installed and leveled.
“We really take care of the field,” says Burton. “We make sure it’s immaculate and things are put away each night.
“We just take a little pride. You can play on a good field and get nice, new uniforms and kids start to feel a little bit better about themselves. It’s something that’s contagious and it spreads and we play a little bit better.”
Monticello Youth Baseball League — a part of the Town & Country system — develops players that will eventually get a chance to wear Twin Lakes uniforms.
Burton says the change from a single class to class sports is the biggest change he’s witnessed in his time coaching baseball in Indiana.
“I never was in favor of class baseball,” says Burton. “I liked it when you had one true champion.”
When McCutcheon was a state runner-up during the one-class system in 1994 it meant as much to Burton as when the Mavericks won 4A state titles in 1999 and 2003.
The 1994 state championship game was won 4-3 by Penn, coached by IHSBCA Hall of Famer Greg Dikos.
“That game hinged on one play in the top of the seventh,” says Burton. “We got our 2-hole and or 3-hole hitter on and our clean-up guy, Preny Rodgriguez had just hit one off the wall the last time up.
“We were down 4-2. Do we bunt here? I let him swing away and he hits into a double play. The next batter get a base hit to make it one run but we don’t get two.
“That’s just a decision a coach makes. It happens all the time.”
Burton was a Purdue University student at a time when Indiana coaching legends were still on the scene.
“Things have changed. Ken Schreiber, Jim Reinebold, Bill Jones, Paul “Spider” Fields — they set the tone on how baseball should be coached and played. I was lucky enough to be young enough to be going through college and seeing that.
“You don’t see that anymore. You don’t see people putting in the time like that.”
Burton’s teams have held the No. 1 statewide ranking four times and knocked off No. 1 on 10 occasions. His squads have been state ranked in 33 of his first 40 seasons.
He has coached 23 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series selections and a pair of Indiana Mr. Baseballs — Clayton Richard (2003) and Logan Sowers (2014).
Six former players were selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, including big leaguers Richard in 2005 and Nick Wittgren in 2009.
Burton has had 84 players play college baseball (10 are still active) with 10 first-team all-staters and 150 all-conference selections.
He’s sent former assistants/players have gone on to become high school coaches in Indiana.
Burton was chosen Indiana Coach of the Year in 1999 and 2003 and was runner-up in the balloting in 1994. He has been a conference coach of the year 13 times and a regional coach of the year eight times.
He has amassed 15 conference championships, 11 sectional title, five regional crowns and twice claimed semistate hardware.
In Burton’s one season at North Newton, the Spartans went 20-9 and won the program’s first conference championship in 26 years.
Jake and Brenda Burton have been married 47 years and have three children — Mike, R.J. and Beth — and seven grandchildren. Teacher Mike (Class of 1993) and project engineer R.J. (1995) played baseball at McCutcheon for their father. Teacher Beth in a 1999 McCutcheon graduate. Jake is currently a Tippecanoe School Corporation board member.
Jake Burton is in his third season as a high school baseball head coach in Indiana in 2019. It’s his third season at Twin Lakes High School in Monticello.
“Your mind is constantly in motion,” says Stambazze. “We do chalk talk and go through (defensive) scenarios. Every play, everyone has a responsibility. Who to back up is so important in this game.
“Remember, back-ups are your last line of defense.”
Stambazze says he wants to establish a solid base for the program in years to come.
“They can say I did it the right way and they can build off of that,” says Stambazze.
A familiar face and voice to athletics in the area covered by the Three Rivers Conference (Fulton, Kosciusko, Miami, Wabash and Whitley counties), Stambazze also serves as sports director and play-by-play announcer for WJOT-FM 105.9 in Wabash and WARU-FM 101.9 in Peru.
He was hired for the baseball job at Whitko this winter after the unexpected passing of head coach Mark Fisher at 35 on Oct. 15, 2018.
“Mark said he got into coaching for how I treated him in Little League,” says Stambazze. “I want to continue what he tried to set up.”
Fisher played for Stambazze as a boy in Huntington County Baseball and was close with Bob and Marla Stambazze’s sons, Jake and Bobby. Both sons are married with two children. Jake Stambazze played multiple positions for Indiana Tech coach Steve Devine and was an NAIA All-America honorable mention for the Warriors in Fort Wayne in 2005.
Bob Stambazze played baseball at Huntington North High School, where he graduated in 1971. The first three years, Paul Buzzard was Vikings head coach. Wally Stoffel began in Stambazze’s senior season and took the team all the way to semistate.
At Huntington North, Stambazze competed against Tipton High School and then-Blue Devils head coach Sherman. It wasn’t long after that Sherman became head coach at Huntington North and went on to a successful career that got him elected to the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
In Sherman, Stambazze saw a fierce competitor and someone devoted to baseball basics.
“He was very intense and everything had to be fundamental,” says Stambazze. “Like he did, I teach (fielders) to track the ball into the glove and ‘gator’ the ball with your right hand and glove. You always used two hands.”
Brimbury coached at Huntington North with Sherman then enjoyed his own success at Peru High School.
“I don’t know if anybody will play as aggressively as a Chuck Brimbury team,” says Stambazze. “He’s one of the more competitive and fun coaches to be around.”
Stambazze credits long-time Huntington University head baseball coach Frame for setting an example of how to handle pitchers and student-athletes.
“He was pitcher and he’s a student of pitching,” says Stambazze of Frame. “He does such a wonderful job with his staff. He has minimized stuff with his staff so they can do more. He breaks things down.
“His faith toward his players, it’s so important. I’ve always believed in telling parents, ‘they’re your sons and daughters, but they’re always going to be my kids.’”
Stambazze sold sporting goods for 32 years. He’s been an IHSAA-licensed official since 1975. This school year, he worked about 20 football games and eight basketball contests. He will be occupied this spring so he won’t be calling softball.
As for calling games on the radio, he does that for high schools in Wabash and Howard counties and Manchester University football and basketball.
“No one has more fun doing it than I do,” says Stambazze, who went on the air 13 years ago as a color commentator and moved over to play-by-play when there was an opening for that position. Uniquely, his color person rotates by the game.
He calls 80 to 90 basketball games a year between high school varsity and junior varsity and college. This past sectional season saw him pull through while dealing with acute laryngitis. He also hosts a weekly Coaches’ Show for during football and basketball seasons.
Stambazze was drafted by the U.S. Army in 1972 and served in Germany. where he played basketball, managed the AYA on base and coached swimming. He played for the Germany/American baseball team in the world tournament in Nicargua in 1973 and coached the European 14-16 All-Stars to the Big League World Series in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1974.
After his military service, Stambazze played in three world fast pitch softball tournaments and also served as Huntington County Baseball president. He has been head softball coach at Huntington University and an assistant at Indiana Tech and Wabash High School.
Stambazze took over the Wildcats in time to help with some winter workouts. His assistant is Preston Myers, who made a long daily commute from Lebanon, Ind., to assist with the Northfield High School boys basketball program and is doing the same with Whitko baseball.
There have been 26 players with just two seniors at recent practices for varsity and junior varsity teams.
“We have a good JV schedule with about 20 games,” says Stambazze.
The Wildcats are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Lewis Cass, Manchester, Oak Hill, Rochester and Wabash. Whitko won the program’s lone sectional crown in 2017 with Erik Hisner as head coach and Fisher as one of his assistants. Hisner then went to Northfield as an assistant and is now athletic director at Eastern High School in Greentown, Ind.
Whitko plays its home games on-campus. Since his youth, Stambazze has known the importance of grooming the diamond.
“I’ve always taken care of the field,” says Stambazze. “That kind of comes naturally to me. Our kids do a very good job. They had the rakes in their hands after practice.
“You’ve got to own your program.”
Stambazze has held a clinic for the Larwill youth baseball league and hopes to do the same for youth leagues in Pierceton and South Whitley. Those organizations cover T-ball to Pony League.
There is currently not junior high baseball at Whitko, but it’s something that Stambazze and athletic director Josh Mohr have talked about.
Stambazze opposes some of the rule changes Major League Baseball is implementing like limiting pitching changes and the like.
“MLB doesn’t need to manage the game,” says Stambazze. “That’s part of baseball. They’re trying to take the human element out of the game. That’s the greatest part of the game. Leave it alone.”
The coach does favor the idea of high school batters staying in the batter’s box and the pitchers not taking too much time between deliveries.
“You want to have a flow to the game,” says Stambazze.
The IHSAA pitch count (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days) came along in 2017 and Stambazze favors that. Prior to the restriction, he broadcast games when pitchers representing the same school threw 225 and 175 pitches in tournament play.
Scrimmage rules allow for four innings of 10 batters each. Stambazze says he is planning to use 10 pitchers for four batters apiece in Whitko’s scrimmage and then restrict them to 45 tosses in each of the Wildcats’ first two regular-season games and work up from there.
Bob Stambazze is entering his first season as head baseball coach at Whitko Junior-Senior High School in South Whitley, Ind., in 2019. He is a Huntington North High School graduate and is sports director and play-by-play announcer for sports director and play-by-play announcer for WJOT-FM 105.9 in Wabash and WARU-FM 101.9 in Peru. (Jan’s Photography Photo)