Tag Archives: Little League

Haney growing baseball with Arsenal Tech, RBI Indy

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Bob Haney grew up during a time when baseball thrived on the near east side of Indianapolis.

Through his efforts with the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program and as head coach at Arsenal Technical High School, he is working to raise the talent level and expectations around Indy and beyond.

With mentors and coaches like his father, Robert Haney (a Baptist minister), and John Gannon, Bob began playing and learning the game at Christian Park. He went on to be the only sophomore on an all-senior squad when Tech had 5,000 students.

Haney’s high school coaches were Dave George (father of former NFL quarterback Jeff George) and Ivan Moorman.

Flash forward more than three decades, and 1981 Tech graduate Haney saw that his alma mater — a school with an enrollment around 3,000 — did not have enough players to field a baseball team.

That was three years ago.

“The program completely fell part,” says Haney, who became Titans head coach for the 2018 season. “We’re on a mission to turn the program back around.”

It took until February 2018 with Haney teaching basic fundamentals for Tech to go forward with their schedule.

Haney says the numbers of players in the inner-city began to go down when District 7 Little League parks closed and the youngsters in those district were not exposed to organized baseball.

RBI, which counts Haney as baseball director is overseen by the Play Ball Indiana board.

The organization had 60 players — five teams of 12 each — playing on Sundays in 2011.

In 2018, there were more than 1,700 players (baseball and softball) participating with teams under the RBI umbrella, including those in high school baseball and in the RBI Sunday Showcase.

Started more than 20 years ago by men in New Palestine, Ind., the Sunday Showcase provides an extra chance to play and gives all-star teams the opportunity to prepare for tournaments.

The founders handed it off to some coaches in Zionsville, Ind., who then turned the reins over to Haney.

“They bring the communities to us,” says Haney. “Knightstown, Zionsville and Franklin are three that come to us every year.

“They bring us equipment and our parents don’t have to pay travel expenses. Our teams are getting better.”

There are four main RBI parks in Indianapolis — Christian, Forest Manor, Garfield and Rhodius. Efforts are being made to bring Riverside into the mix.

Haney says Forest Manor Park sat empty for seven years before RBI got involved and now serves more than 300 ball-playing kids.

“It’s packed now,” says Haney. “There’s an awful lot of activity.

“Kids would not be playing if it were not for the RBI program.”

Looking at the players coming up through RBI that are about to reach high school age, Haney sees a bright future at Tech as well as other places.

“The program is paying off,” says Haney, who has been instructing younger kids on Sundays.

Baseball and the community are also getting a shot in the arm with the launch of The BASE Indy, which will be headquartered in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood near Forest Manor Park.

The BASE Indy plans to stage its Urban Classic in early July. An RBI Super Regional is slated for late July at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.

There are four Indianapolis Public Schools high schools running now and three have a baseball teams in 2019 — Arsenal Tech, Crispus Attucks and Shortridge. Washington does did not field a team this spring.

None of those schools have a baseball diamond on their campuses. Tech shares Forest Manor Park with Attucks, Purdue Poly (a team with just freshmen and sophomores in 2019) and Tindley. Shortridge is at Arlington Park.

Of the other inner-city schools in Indianapolis, Manual has its own field while Irvington Prep Academy plays at Irvington Park while Providence Cristo Rey and Herron are at Rhodius Park. Howe did not have a baseball team this spring.

Haney is a production associate at the Honda plant in Greensburg, Ind. He is out the door most weekdays a little after 5 a.m. and begins work at 6:30. He is able to burn off his days off in two-hour increments and will leave two hours early at 1 p.m. during the baseball season.

He coaches the Arsenal Tech team then checks on the doings at the RBI parks.

“I love what I’m doing,” says Haney. “I feel like we’ve got things going in the right direction.

“There’s lot of work to do in the inner-city, but we’re looking to move RBI program statewide. Everybody wants to be a part of what we’re doing.”

Haney says Scottsburg and Muncie are two communities that have shown an interest in RBI.

At Arsenal Tech, Haney is assisted by Danny Turner, Stacy Fields, James Garmany and volunteers Warren Belton and Roger Rebeneck. Turner is a Howe graduate who runs the Indiana Styx travel organization. Fields and Garmany are Tech teachers. Fields is also an assistant varsity basketball coach at the school. Belton does many things in the RBI system, including umpiring. Rebeneck assists the most during the summer and fall months.

Arsenal Tech (enrollment around 3,000) is a member of the North Central Conference (with Anderson, Harrison of West Lafayette, Kokomo, Lafayette Jeff, Logansport, Marion, McCutcheon, Muncie Central and Richmond).

“We’re in an extremely tough conference,” says Haney. “The kids are getting to play in a lot of really neat places.”

The Titans are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Indianapolis Cathedral, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North, New Palestine and Warren Central. Tech’s lone sectional title came in 1970.

Most of the 2019 Tech squad is expected back for 2020.

Haney and wife Karri have four grown children — Jennifer, Robert Edward, Jeremiah and Jay. Karri Haney has battled breast cancer. Jay Haney played baseball at Warren Central and Perry Meridian high schools and for Vincennes University’s first Junior College World Series qualifier.

ARSENALTECHTITANS

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Bob Haney and Scott Kehl reunite on the same field at Christian Park in Indianapolis where they played as boys decades before. Haney is active in baseball at head coach at Arsenal Technical High School and baseball director for Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI).

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The 2018 Arsenal Tech Titans baseball team.

 

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Indiana’s Rader, Wertz to umpire at Little League World Series sites

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Two amateur umpires from Elkhart County will head to opposite corners of the map to make calls at Little League World Series events this summer.

Dale Rader from Elkhart and Jeff Wertz from Goshen are among the 92 volunteer umpires selected to work at the seven Little League World Series tournaments this year.

Representing the Central Region, Rader has been assigned to the Senior League Baseball World Series July 29-Aug. 5 in Easley, S.C., and Wertz to the Intermediate League (50/70) Baseball World Series July 30-Aug. 6 in Livermore, Calif.

Rader has been an umpire for 25 years and does only Little League games.

“I always turned down the IHSAA,” says Rader. “I never did it for the money. I just did it for the love of the game.”

Son Jeremy was 9 (he’s 34 now) and playing at Goshen Little League when Dale volunteered to help out the youngsters.

“It’s for the kids,” says Rader. “I don’t lose sight of that. I don’t let the parents or coaches lose sight of that.

“I remember when I played and I’m 61.”

Raider knows the impression that can be made at the ballpark.

“The impact of coaches and umpires have on kids, you remember forever,” says Rader. “I always make it a positive thing. In 25 years, I’ve never thrown out a coach or a player.

“There’s always ways to handle situations so you don’t lose control. If you have to throw somebody out, you’ve lose control.”

Rader sees the conference at the plate with coaches as very important.

“We always go over the ground rules and look at the fences at a strange park,” says Rader. “And they know where I stand. I always tell the coaches before the game, there’s six calls that the umpire makes — fair or foul, safe or out, ball or strike.

“Those are judgement calls that belong to me. Let’s keep it that way.”

Like all good umpires, Rader studies to rule book. When it comes to rules, the call has to be right.

This year marks Rader’s second assignment to a Little League World Series site. In 2013, he made calls at the Junior Baseball World Series in Taylor, Mich., a suburb of Detroit.

“It was one of the best experiences of my life,” says Rader, who remembers the ESPN trucks and how all the teams were housed together in the same hotels. There were players from the Czech Republic, Chinese Taipei (formerly Taiwan), Curacao and more.

“All those kids found a way to communicate when they were off the field and none of them could speak each other’s language,” says Rader. “It was really something to see.”

Raider remembers how each batter from Chinese Taipei would bow to him as they approached the plate.

He was in a crew with umpires from Germany, Puerto Rico and

Venezuela. The families got to know each other and had a grand time.

Three Raders — Dale, wife Cathy and 10-year-old son Ryne — are going to see what the 2018 Senior League Baseball World Series is all about.

Besides Jeremy and Ryne (who is heading into the fifth grade at Jimtown Intermediate), Rader has three other children — Carrie (39), Dale (31) and Wesley (30).

Wertz has been umpiring for 12 years.

He coached and managed at Goshen Little League for a few years and  saw the league was having trouble finding volunteers — especially umpires.

So he offered his services.

“I enjoyed it, people appreciated it so I stuck with it,” says Wertz.

To qualify for Little League World Series, an umpire must be recommended by their district administrator (in the case of Rader and Wertz, it’s Marlin Culp in District 14) and work a regional tournament.

Wertz had officiated at a few baseball and softball state tournaments and saw himself as ready to represent his district at a regional. He applied and was assigned at Kalamazoo, Mich.

An umpire supervisor recommended Wertz for the Intermediate World Series, he applied and was accepted to go to Livermore.

It’s going to be special in a few ways.

Besides the experience of working a big event, Jeff gets to take wife Tracy to the state where she was raised. The couple plan to head out early and see relatives and sites before the tournament.

“We’ll see some of the places she visited when she was growing up,” says Jeff. “I’ve never been to San Francisco.

“I’m excited to represent the umpires from our area and do a good job for the kids, give them a good experience.”

Jeff and Tracy have three children. Nathanael Wertz just completed his freshman year at Indiana Institute of Technology (Indiana Tech) in Fort Wayne. Philip Wertz just finished his fourth year of varsity baseball at Goshen High School and is bound for studies and baseball at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind. Kathryn Wertz is going into her junior years at Goshen High.

Jeff, who is employed in school psychologist by the Elkhart County Special Education Cooperative, has been the public address announcer for Goshen RedHawks baseball at Phend Field for the past few seasons.

Wertz describes what makes a good umpire.

“It’s someone who’s fair with a good, even temperament,” says Wertz. “You’re out there for the right reasons — for the purity of the sport, for the love of the game.”

The 1986 Goshen High School graduate credits Rader with his early umpire training at Goshen Little League.

“I have nothing but positive regard for Dale,” says Wertz. “He was our most experienced and knowledgable umpire.”

Wertz also counts men like Kerry Cripe, Brian Hollowell, Ray Caples and Walt Bukowski as respected colleagues.

DALERADER

Dale Rader, of Elkhart, Ind., has been assigned as an umpire at the 2018 Senior League Baseball World Series in Easley, S.C.

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Jeff Wertz, of Goshen, Ind., has been assigned as an umpire at the 2018 Intermediate League (50/70) Baseball World Series in Livermore, Calf.

Bringing opportunities through foundation is goal of Haley and company

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Bringing opportunity to youngsters is what drives Mark Haley and others as they plan for the future.

Haley, who managed the South Bend Silver Hawks for 10 Midwest League seasons (2005-14) and now runs the 1st Source Bank/South Bend Cubs Performance Center, guides a travel baseball program with seven teams in 2017.

Squads are divided by high school graduation class. There is one team made up of all Penn High School players.

The South Bend Cubs Youth Baseball Club is part of the Chicago Scouts Association I-94 Conference. Member teams play Saturday and Sunday wood-bat doubleheaders in Indiana and Illinois. Games are seven innings each with no extra innings.

“The emphasis is on good competition to show ability,” says Haley.

South Bend Cubs travel tryouts for the 2018 are scheduled for Aug. 2 at Four Winds Field.

Travel ball can lead to college baseball which could lead to the pro ranks.

But Haley knows it’s not for everyone.

“If you don’t have that passion it’s not worth it because you sacrifice things people don’t realize,” says Haley.

The baseball veteran is also part of a group of passionate community leaders looking to launch the South Bend Cubs Foundation. Application has been made for 501 (c) 3 non-profit status for an organization that will include baseball and softball travel teams plus bring baseball to youth in South Bend’s inner-city.

“We’re located in downtown South Bend, but we draw mostly from outside South Bend,” says Haley of Performance Center clients and travel ball players. “We want to change the whole culture and develop (inner-city kids) as athletes and as a community.”

To accomplish this, Haley and others have been meeting with South Bend city and school officials and educators.

“The community has to accept it,” says Haley. “We have to make it appealing to the kids.

“It’s going to be fun to watch. A lot of people will be getting involved that have not been involved in the past.”

The timeline for launching the program has not yet been determined.

“We’ve got to create the skeleton first,” says Haley. “We’ve got the muscle behind us.”

In addition, Haley is trying to help local Little League parks run local tournaments and help players transition from 50/70 to 60-6/90 fields, which usually happens near the end of junior high and the beginning of high school.

“Our goal every weekend is to have every baseball being used,” says Haley. “None sit idle.”

SBCUBSTRAVEL

Despite challenges, baseball is making its way in Gary

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

It’s not easy being a teenage baseball player in Gary, Indiana.

Area schools have closed, making for less opportunities in the spring.

Little League nationwide has dropped its Big League (ages 17-18) divisions for baseball and softball, leaving several players looking for a place to play this summer, including more than 250 in Indiana District 1 (Gary area).

American Legion (19-and-under) to the rescue.

Kevin Bradley and Ray Dix III know the situation well. The two men coached a Big League team together last year. This spring, Bradley is back for his second season as head coach at Bowman Academy and Dix has joined a coaching staff that also includes Lorenzo Scott.

Bradley, 44, is a veteran of the Gary Fire Department who first played T-ball at East Glenn. When that field was damaged, he and others moved to Midtown Little League (now Gary Metro Area Little League, where he is now president), also at 21st and Harrison. He went on to now-closed Gary Lew Wallace High School, graduating in 1991. He earned a scholarship to Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., as a third baseman, shortstop and pitcher (he still plays in an area adult league).

After one season, he returned home as a volunteer coach in various leagues. coached at Gary Roosevelt for seven years before coming to Bowman.

Bradley wants to be involved for the good of the youngsters and the game.

“To me it’s important to have a high school coach — in this city especially — that knows the game and loves the game instead of just having somebody because they couldn’t find anybody else to coach,” says Bradley, who uses baseball to teach his players life lessons like accountability. “Once you leave high school everything is about life. If they want to play on the next level, they have to know what’s expected of them from their college coach as far as work ethic and everything like that.

“At the next level, you’re in the world now. There’s no more mommy and daddy picking you up to go to school.”

Thirteen players — seniors Zavion Brown, Martrell Dixon, Darreall Payne, Antonio Price, Devin Russell and Charles Thompson III, juniors Joseph Moore, Langston Stalling and Aaron Whittaker, sophomore Jordan Adams and Keondre Pippins and freshmen Deysean Jenkins and Ezekiel Sankey — come from all over the city come to Roosevelt Park at 21st Avenue and Harrison St. for home games and practices. It requires some boys to take two buses to get there.

Bowman Academy is a charter school.

“Charter schools offer an alternative education to public schools,” says Dix. “Parents who are a little more concerned about what’s in a child’s text book will send them to Bowman. It’s just a matter of choice.”

One of three Gary high schools fielding baseball teams this spring (West Side and 21st Century are the other two) Bowman has already played doubleheaders at South Bend Clay and Delphi.

“We try to expose the kids to different areas,” says Bradley. “We go out and play someone different as opposed to playing all the schools around here.”

The original idea was to beef up the schedule to get ready for sectional play. Because of IHSAA sanctions against all Bowman athletic teams, there will be no postseason this year and next.

These games will get some players ready for the summer, where American Legion baseball is going to fill some of the void left by the departure of Big League baseball.

At least three American Legion teams are being formed under the name Region Legion Expos with ties to East Gary Memorial Post 100 in Lake Station. Donations are being sought to foot the bills for uniforms, travel, umpires and more. Dix is also looking for more coaches.

While Bradley began playing baseball at age 4, many Gary kids are staying away from Little League at Gary Area Metro (west of I-65) or Miller (east of 1-65) because leadership has changed so much over the years.

“We’ve also found the older the kids get, the less interested they become,” says Bradley. “They old enough to drive, get a job or a girlfriend, whatever. In the this area basketball is the king. So we battle everyday trying to get these kids interested in baseball

“We try to make it feasible for parents to afford to have their kids play. Even if they never played before, we just want to introduce them to the game.”

Bradley, Dix and Scott look at baseball as “serious business” and that’s why they’ve embraced the Legion baseball for those who want to continue playing the game in high school and beyond.

Dix, 33, grew up playing baseball in East Chicago Civic Little League. His family moved to right before his freshman year and he played at Merrillville High School.

“I learned so much baseball from (Pirates coach Fenton Macke),” says Dix. “He allowed me as a freshman to ask too many questions. He was amazing.”

Dix went on to attend Indiana University and began helping as a coach with his little brother’s team at Merrillville Little League.

“By the end of the summer I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and I was 19 years old,” says Dix.

Rahdric Dix went on to letter in basketball and baseball at Merrillville played baseball at Butler University and the University of Southern Indiana.

“My brother was an amazing athlete and a really good ballplayer,” says Dix, who went from coaching Little League in Merrillville to Lake Station. He was also an assistant for five years at Lake Station Edison High School. After a year off, he spent two years on the staff at Gary West Side — the same school that gave the baseball world 21-year big league pitcher LaTroy Hawkins.

Dix, who is working on his college degree, is concerned about all the potential idle youth caused by taking away baseball for older teens, but he is excited about the exposure that the ones who do get to play will receive. He plans to take his team to Illinois and Michigan and play 20 to 25 regular-season games this summer.

“The biggest hurdle we’re having is getting people to understand the giant change that’s come about,” says Dix. “I want to give as many opportunities to as many young men as I can (through American Legion baseball).

“The goal is to get kids seen (by colleges). Kids are going to get seen for $100. Everybody else is going to charge up to $1,000.”

Legion ball became an option when Dix came in contact with Indiana second district baseball chairman Joe Kusiak, who is looking to add teams around northwest Indiana.

There would have been multiple options if they cut off the program at 17U or 16U, but that would exclude players going into or coming out of their senior year or, for some, their freshmen year of college.

“It was the first league I saw that would allow our older kids to still play,” says Dix. “You don’t want to tell our kids they don’t have anything to do in the summer. That’s not the world’s greatest idea. They’ll find something to do that none of us would enjoy.”

Having organized baseball gives these young men a positive outlet.

“One of the things that scares me the most is when they go away to college and they have to come back here,” says Dix. “They’ve spent eight or nine months away from the situation, bettering their lives, and they have to come back here and they don’t have the structure they had when they were at school.”

Scott, a St. Louis native married to a local gal, played at Ball State University and then eight seasons in the minors, making it to Triple-A in the Marlins organization. He began coaching with Bradley last season at Bowman.

“We found a gem when they put us together,” says Bradley of Scott. “We have coaches here with the knowledge to teach. We’ve got a great group of kids. They are receptive to all of us.”

The coaches try to keep the communication at a high level. Bradley, Dix and Scott might all be saying the same thing but in different ways. If players are not grasping what they are being taught, they are encouraged to ask for an explanation from a coach they can best understand.

“You learn that every kid is different,” says Bradley. “I may have to find a new way to show this kid how to field this ground ball.”

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Bowman Academy’s baseball team pauses during practice Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at Roosevelt Park in Gary. The Eagles are (from left): head coach Kevin Bradley, Aaron Whittaker, Kiondre Pippins, Joseph Moore, Langston Stalling, Devin Russell, Jordan Adams, Antonio Price, Martrell Dixon and assistant coach Ray Dix III. Not pictured: assistant coach Lorenzo Scott, Zavion Brown, Ezekiel Sankey, Deysean Jenkins, Darreall Payne and Charles Thompson III. (Steve Krah Photo)