Ryan Pepiot has experienced quite a run in his life and career. Since November 2021, Pepiot has gotten married, made his Major League Baseball debut and landed his first hole-in-one. “I’ve had a pretty good 18 months,” says Pepiot, a right-handed pitcher with the Los Angeles Dodgers who began his third big league spring training camp at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., Wednesday, Feb. 15. The Indianapolis-born Pepiot was selected in the third round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft out Butler University (brother Kyle Pepiot is a senior outfielder for the Bulldogs in 2023; Ryan, a 2016 graduate of Westfield (Ind.) High School where he played for Ryan Bunnell, was recruited by Steve Farley and played at Butler for Dave Schrage) wed Lilia Poulsen in 2021. Pepiot, 25, met the New Orleans native at Butler where she was studying ballet. Lilia — cousin of draft-eligible Ball State University right-hander Ty Johnson — was a ballerina was in a professional LA-based touring company prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. “She’s going to get back into commercial dance when the season starts,” says Ryan of Lilia Pepiot. The couple resides in Scottsdale, Ariz., where a favorite restaurant — Ocean 44 (a seafood and steak eatery) — is within walking distance. “We like the oysters,” says Pepiot. May 11, 2022 was Pepiot’s first MLB appearance. The afternoon game in Pittsburgh was attended by no less than 15 relatives and friends. Among them was his wife, brother, parents, in-laws, best friends from high school, college teammates and close family friends. “It was the closet I played to home in a long time,” says Pepiot. “Indianapolis to Pittsburgh isn’t too far. Pepiot, who once wore the uniform of the Chris Estep-led Indiana Mustangs travel team roster, made nine MLB mound appearances (seven starts) for the 2022 Dodgers and went 3-0 with a 3.47 earned run average. In 36 1/3 innings, he recorded 42 strikeouts and 27 walks. He also went 9-1 for the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers. “I learned a lot about myself — physically, mentally, everything,” says Pepiot of his time in the majors. “I learned that I can pitch and compete at the highest level. “When I’m in the (strike) zone and attacking hitters I can give our team a chance to win ballgames. I learned how it all works being in that clubhouse with Hall of Famers and superstars. I got advice and picked their brains.” In LA, Pepiot is in the starting rotation mix with left-hander Julio Urias, right-handers Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, lefty Clayton Kershaw and righties Noah Syndergaard, Michael Grove, Andre Jackson and Walker Buehler. “We’re in a good group so it will be interesting,” says Pepiot, who is still considered a rookie. “I’ll be happy whenever I can pitch and in whatever role I’m cool with it.” Former big leaguer Mark Prior is the Dodgers pitching coach. He is assisted by Connor McGuiness. Pepiot’s “out” pitch is his “circle” change-up. He began developing the pitch — which runs away from left-handed batters and into righties — while playing for the Keene (N.H.) Swamp Bats in the summer of 2017. “I needed something,” says Pepiot. “I’ve continued to fine-tune it ever since.” Pepiot’s change-up — which is generally clocked at 84 or 85 mph or between 8 to 12 mph slower than his four-seam fastball — has been compared to that of Milwaukee righty closer Devin Williams. While Williams throws his at around 3,000 RPM, Pepiot’s comes in around 2,500. A slider is the other one of Pepiot’s three-pitch repertoire. MLB rules call for a pitch clock in 2023. Pitchers will have 15 seconds to throw a pitch with the bases empty and 20 seconds with a runner on base. Hitters will need to be in the batter’s box with eight seconds on the pitch clock. “It won’t be a big deal for me. I had it in Triple-A last year so I got used to it and I like to work fast,” says Pepiot. “The hard part is you might only have eight seconds to go through a sign sequence when the guy gets in the box.” While there is no such system in the minors, MLB uses PitchCom to relay signals from catcher to pitcher. With the system, the catcher has a pad on his knee cap which is programmed with pitches and location. The pitcher has a receiver in his cap which tells him the desired pitch. There is also the new pick-off rule. Pitchers will be allowed to disengage with the rubber twice per plate appearance. This number resets if a base runner advances within the same plate appearance. A third step-off with result in a balk, unless at least one offensive player advance a base or an out is made on the ensuing play. “That one’s a little difficult,” says Pepiot. How about that hole-in-one? Pepiot, who plays golf a couple of times a week, picked up the game after he was drafted. He was on the links often after COVID came along. Lilia’s parents live next to a country club near New Orleans. His ace came in the Justin Turner Golf Classic Feb. 6 at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He was using a 9-iron in the 182-yard par-3 hole.
Cameron Decker was a young baseball player at McCutchanville Community Park on the north side of Evansville, Ind., when he donned a Dodgers jersey. Flash forward about a decade later and Decker is with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. The 18-year old was selected in the 18th round of the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Dodgers. The draft was held July 17-19, he signed July 30 and last week finished a short stint in the Arizona Complex League. He came back to Evansville for a few days then headed back to Glendale, Ariz., for “bridge” league and Arizona Instructional League (which conclude Oct. 8). The Dodgers’ training complex is at Camelback Ranch. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder enjoyed a super senior season at Evansville North High School in 2022. He made 115 plate appearances and hit .447 with 12 home runs, five doubles, three triples and .617 on-base percentage as a righty-swinging shortstop. He bashed six homers in the Huskies’ first three games. “It was my goal going in to hit a lot of home runs,” says Decker of the offensive approach at the end of his high school career. “(After the hot start), I saw a ton of curveballs and balls. I switched my mindset to be less aggressive and more patient and take what comes my way. “As a pro, I’ve tried to hunt fastballs. In two-strike counts, I’m looking to put something in-play.” While he has not fully committed to it, Decker is considering becoming a switch hitter. “When I was about 12 I took a few (lefty) swing in the cage and my body felt well and not awkward,” says Decker. “I’ll sometime hit (lefty) in the cage to loosen things up.” Decker was selected to play in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series June 25-26 at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion and Evansville North head coach Jeremy Jones was head coach for the South. A University of Central Florida commit, Decker opted to go pro rather than attend college. “It was a combination of a lot of things,” says Decker of the factors that went into his decision. “Three years of college is a lot of time. You’re not guaranteed to be drafted again. Development in pro ball is higher than three years of college. “My dream since I was a little kid to play Major League Baseball.” Decker, who turns 19 on Sept. 22, is getting used to the transition from amateur to pro baseball. “I’m enjoying you a lot,” says Decker. “It’s a job and it’s a lot of baseball. We’re at the field 9 to 12 hours a day getting work in and playing games. “I’m around a lot of smart people who love baseball. It’s pretty cool.” The Dodgers have used Decker as a corner infielder but he has also gotten reps in the outfield and at shortstop and second base. Decker considers strength and the ability to cover ground in the infield and outfield and run the bases well as some of his best qualities. “I’ve always been a strong kid,” says Decker. “I’ve always had power regardless of my height. I’ve been working on being more mobile and loose. “It’s part natural strength. I also hit weight room three times a week for a whole-body workout.” Since the end of his freshman year at Evansville North, Decker has worked out with Tyler Norton, who is a strength and conditioning coach for the Dodgers and runs TNT Fitness and Performance in Fort Branch, Ind. Decker was born in Evansville and grew up on the north side. After playing at McCutchanville, he was with Highland and competed in the Indiana Little League State Tournament at age 12. Playing for father Chad Decker, Cameron went into travel ball with the Evansville Thunder. “Then it was time to go chase bigger things,” says Cameron, who was with the Canes Midwest coached by David Bear and Phil McIntyre his 15U and 16U summers and 5 Star Midwest coached by Jerry Cowan at 17U. Along the way, Decker impressed scouts including those with the Dodgers, especially after he showed well in an event in Jupiter, Fla. Dodgers Upper Midwest area scout Mitch Schulewitz (who pitched the University of Illinois-Chicago) signed Decker to his first pro contract. Cameron — the oldest of Princeton (Ind.) Community High School graduates Chad and Libby Decker’s two sons — comes from a family with a strong baseball pedigree. Grandfather Joe Don Decker played at Indiana State and in the Cincinnati Reds system. He was a 1962 spring training roommate of Pete Rose and went as high as Triple-A. Father Chad Decker set records at Princeton then went to the University of Central Florida as a pitcher. After developing arm problems, he transferred to Indiana University to study business and now sells dental insurance. Cousin Jeff Goldbach broke Chad’s Princeton hitting records and was drafted in the second round of the 1998 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs. He was tragically shot and killed in Greensboro, N.C., in 2021. Uncle Quinn Decker pitched at Indiana State and lettered in 1996. Brother Cole Decker (Evansville North Class of 2024) is a lefty-swinging and lefty-throwing outfielder who spent the summer of 2022 with the traveling Louisville Legends. The spring high school season was his first baseball season playing with his big brother. “We’re a very tight family,” says Cameron. “But summers are usually split with mom and dad trading off (to followed one brother or the other).” Libby Decker is a former social worker now in marketing. She holds degrees from Indiana State and UCF.
“The Best We’ve Got: The Carl Erskine Story” — a film by Ted Green — made its Indianapolis debut Thursday, Aug. 18 at the Tobias Theater aka The Toby. After the screening presented by Heartland Film, Green told why he chose the documentary subject. “I like to do films that celebrate the triumph of the human spirit,” said Green, a producer, director, writer and researcher who partnered with Indiana Historical Society and created a cinematic portrayal of the man who has impacted the baseball world and so much more. “I just found myself drawn to this 95-year old guy up in Anderson, Ind., who was able to sort of move social mountains — not through bombast, not through money, but through grace, through humility, through servant leadership — and I will tell you that the last two years spent during production were the greatest two years of education of my life. “Maybe just maybe niceness and decency can win in the end.” Esteemed broadcaster Bob Costas summed it up in his on-screen introduction: “It was a story told softly as you’re about to see and hear about a story that cumulatively speaks to a person who’s deeply admirable.” Erskine, who became known as “The Gentleman from Indiana,” was born Dec. 13, 1926 in Anderson, won 122 games as a right-handed pitcher for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers. Throwing an overhand curveball that Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully said could be seen in a snowstorm, Erskine struck out a then-record 14 batters in the 1953 World Series. “Oisk” — as Brooklyn fans called him — is the last living member of the 1955 team that won the World Series. That group is part of Roger Kahn’s celebrated book, “The Boys of Summer.” Hall of Famer and Indiana native Gil Hodges was also on that team. Erskine threw two no-hitters and the was the starting pitcher in the Dodgers’ first game in LA. But that’s just a part of Erskine’s tale. “When I was a little boy I had this feeling in my soul: Something good is going to happen to you,” said Erskine early in the film. I just had this feeling,” Carl and Betty Erskine will celebrate 75 years of marriage on Oct. 5. They raised four children — Danny, Gary, Susan and Jimmy. The latter was born in 1960 — less than a year after Carl retired from baseball — with Down syndrome. Rather than put Jimmy away in an institution, the Erskine showered him with love and treated him like the rest of the children. “We were an active family,” said Gary Erskine. “Jimmy was not left behind.” Jimmy got on to a school bus for the first time in 1972 and has gone on to lead an independent life. When Carl and Betty’s fourth child came along, Indiana had long took a dim view of the “feeble-minded” and in 1907 was the nation’s first state to enact compulsory sterilization to “prevent procreation of confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles and rapists.” Expected to live to around 35, Jimmy Erskine turned 62 this year. He worked at Applebee’s in Anderson for two decades and competed in Special Olympics for 50 (starting with the Indiana State Special Olympic Games in Terre Haute in 1970). The Carl and Betty Erskine Society raises money for the Special Olympics. The Erskine Personal Impact Curriculum (EPIC) is a set of materials for elementary, middle and high school students that uses stories from Carl’s life to “create lessons and activities with themes including empowerment, friendship, inclusion and leadership.” Thursday’s event was also a celebration of the Erskine connection to Special Olympics Indiana and helping to promote grace, humility, diversity, inclusion and servant leadership. When Carl was 10 and playing basketball in the alley with friends, 9-year-old Johnny Wilson wandered in. Carl’s question to the boy who happen to be black was, “Do you want to play?” It was the start of long friendship that lasted more than eight decades — one that will be commemorated with a mural in downtown Anderson in 2023. The boy who went on to be known as “Jumpin’” Johnny Wilson came from a family on welfare so he often ate at the Erskine house. Blacks were not welcome in some Anderson restaurants. They could not join the YMCA. They were restricted to the balcony of the movie theater. The Ted Green film made its world premier Aug. 11 at Anderson’s Paramount Theatre with an encore on Aug. 13. “Blacks were expected to be where they were supposed to be and the whites on the other side,” said Erskine. Carl’s parents — Matt and Berths — did not show that prejudice. General Motors Delco Remy inspector Matt Erskine “walked as easily among blacks as whites.” Bertha Erskine “was known for seeing the best in everyone and everything.” Said Carl, “She gave me the feeling that beauty is all around us. Don’t forget to look at it.” Carl went to the blacks-only swimming pool with Johnny Wilson. He didn’t go to places Johnny couldn’t and he sat in the balcony with his pal. They later played together on the Anderson High School basketball team. Wilson was chosen as Indiana Mr. Basketball in 1946 and went on to play for the Harlem Globetrotters and is in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. He competed in baseball, basketball, football and track and field at Anderson College (now Anderson University) and is in that school’s athletic hall of fame. Erskine, who was later head baseball coach at Anderson College for 12 years and is also in the Ravens Hall of Fame, shined on the diamond for Anderson High and Anderson American Legion Post 127. Throwing a tennis ball against a barn with a strike zone marked in chalk, Carl continually fanned his hero. Said Erskine, “I can’t count how many times I struck out Babe Ruth.” First discovered by Indianapolis scout Stan Feezle, Carl landed with the Dodgers after a stint in the U.S. Navy. The Dodgers were run by Branch Rickey, who signed the Hoosier hurler for $5,000. “I think there was an esteem there,” said Branch Rickey III of the relationship between his grandfather and Erskine. “He just had a deep, deep appreciation for what character could do individually. We loved what character could do for teams.” As a minor leaguer pitching against the big club, Erskine first met Jackie Robinson, who made a point of encouraging him his outing. Erskine made his Dodgers debut in 1948 and went on to toe the rubber for the franchise 335 times. Two Erskine-penned books are “Tales from the Dodgers Dugout” and “What I Learned from Jackie Robinson” and has been involved with Jackie Robinson Day activities with The Base Indy. One day after Erskine had shown kindness to wife and son — Rachel Robinson and Jackie Jr. — Robinson expressed his appreciation. “‘Come on, Jackie, it’s as natural to me as breathing,’” said Erskine of his response. But Jackie was always kind of surprised. He said to me, ‘this black and white thing doesn’t seem to bother you.’ I told him about Johnny my buddy. He said, ‘Carl, I see life divided. You seem to see life connected.’” When Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella was paralyzed in an auto accident in 1958, the first teammate to visit him in the hospital was Erskine. A man of faith who met Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Erskine was there at the start of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Erskine lent his talent to Dale McMillen aka “Mr. Mac” with the Wildcat League for youth in Fort Wayne, Ind. An insurance salesman and a bank president in his hometown, Carl has been a civic leader along with Betty. Anderson has Erskine Elementary School (a video message from Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda at the dedication appears in the film). There’s also was is now known as Anderson Youth Baseball & Softball at Erskine Park. The broadcast premier of “The Best We’ve Got: The Carl Erskine Story” is slated for 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22 on WFYI in Indianapolis with PBS stations around Indiana expected to follow. As well as being part of the Heartland International Film Festival Oct. 6-16 in Indianapolis, screenings are planned for Sept. 29 at Eagles Theater in Wabash, Ind., Oct. 13 at Muncie Civic Center with dates to be determined at Artcraft Theater in Franklin, Ind., and Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Competition. It’s one of the things Carter Lohman likes most about baseball. As a left-handed pitcher, the 2018 Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate enjoys the challenge of facing hitters. In four seasons at the University of Louisville (2019-22), he appeared in 38 games (30 in relief) and went 3-4 with a 5.59 earned run average, 62 strikeouts and 52 walks in 58 innings. The Cardinals went 134-65-1 during Lohman’s time with the program, including 51-18 and a College World Series appearance in 2019. Each season was preceded by the Omaha Challenge — a series of competitions to get the team ready for the season and focused on the goal of ending the season at the CWS. For a week or two, the red and black teams took part in swimming, tire flips, 100-meter dashes, lifting and running and more. There was a truck push around the Kentucky State Fairgrounds. Lohman was in the individual top 10 and on the winning team a couple of times. In high school, he played four varsity seasons (all but his junior year as a pitcher-only) for then-HSE head coach Scott Henson and the Royals did the Victory Challenge (the IHSAA State Finals are at Victory Field) early in the spring semester. “It helped make us mentally and physically tougher,” says Lohman. “(Coach Henson) pushed everyone to get the most out of themselves on the field. Our practices were scheduled nicely. There was no lollygagging. That was our time to get better. “At the same time he knew that baseball is fun so let it be fun.” He struck out 125 batters during his prep career and was ranked as Indiana’s top left-handed pitcher by Perfect Game. He also earned two football letters at HSE. Lohman has also enjoyed development at PRP Baseball at Mojo Up Sports Complex in Noblesville, Ind., working with Greg Vogt, Anthony Gomez and others and going against other players on Fridays. “It’s a good atmosphere for competing and getting better,” says Lohman. Dan McDonnell is Louisville’s head coach. Lohman worked closely with associate head coach/pitching coach Roger Williams. “He did not take a cookie-cutter approach (to each pitcher),” says Lohman of Williams, who has been at the U of L for 16 seasons. “The emphasis was on learning the game and becoming a better player.” Lohman learned about things like bunting scenarios and first-and-third situations. “I could go for days talking about pitch sequencing,” says Lohman. “You can use your pitches in different ways to get the batters out.” Lohman’s been good enough at it to get paid for it. The 22-year-old southpaw was signed Aug. 1 as a minor league free agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers is now at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., throwing regular bullpen sessions and expecting to make his pro debut soon in the Arizona Complex League. Lohman, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, throws from a high three-quarter arm slot. His four-seam fastball has gotten up to 96 mph. His two-seamer has similar velocity with more horizontal movement to the arm side as opposed to the glove side for the four-seamer. To get more feel for the pitch, Lohman positions his index finger to throw a “spike” curve ball. Thrown harder than his curve, his slider has more horizontal break. His uses a “circle” grip for his change-up. Born in Indianapolis on Christmas Day 1999, Carter is the oldest of Northwestern High School graduates Brian and Andrea Lohman’s four children. Brian Lohman, a sales engineer, played baseball and football in high school and lettered as a defensive back at Purdue University (1992-95). Andrea Lohman, an actuary, was a high school cheerleader. Griffin Lohman, 21, is a right-handed pitcher at Purdue. Ava and Sydney have played volleyball at HSE. The Lohman brothers were teammates briefly during Carter’s senior year of high school and with the Tropics of the 2021 College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. What was it like growing up with a ball-playing brother? “The biggest thing was playing catch,” says Carter. “We eventually passed up our dad so we had no one else to throw with.” Carter played recreation ball in Fishers until 8 then travel ball for the Fisher Cats, Indiana Bulls and Evoshield Canes (now Canes Midwest) at 16U and 17U. He met Jared Poland around 10 while both were on the Bulls. Right-hander Poland went on to pitch at Indianapolis Cathedral High School and was selected in the sixth round of the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Miami Marlins. “We definitely talk about (pitching),” says Lohman of some of his conversations with Poland. Lohman played briefly with the Indiana Nitro in the summer of 2018 before joining other freshmen on the Louisville campus. He had a short stint in the Cape Cod Baseball League with the Orleans Firebirds in 2019 and was with the CSL’s Snapping Turtles in 2020. In May, Lohman earned a degree in Exercise Science. “I’ve always been interested in how the body moves,” says Lohman. “It can help me on the field.” Away from baseball, the knowledge gives Lohman many options including athletic trainer, strength and conditioning coach and physical therapist. But now it’s about competing on the pitcher’s mound.
Eleven players who graduated from high school in Indiana were chosen in the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, which concluded its three-day run in Los Angeles Tuesday, July 19. There were 20 rounds and 616 players selected. Indiana University right-handed pitcher Jack Perkins (Kokomo High School graduate) was picked in the fifth round (154th overall) by the Oakland Athletics. Ball State University left-hander Tyler Schweitzer (Hamilton Southeastern) was chosen in the fifth round (161 overall) by the Chicago White Sox. University of Louisville right-hander Jared Poland (Indianapolis Cathedral) was taken in the sixth round (172 overall) by the Miami Marlins. University of Connecticut right-hander Austin Peterson (Chesterton) went in the ninth round (271st overall) to the Cleveland Guardians. Purdue University left-hander Jackson Smeltz (McCutcheon) was picked in the 10th round (300th overall) by the San Diego Padres. Indiana U. right-hander Bradley Brehmer (Decatur Central) was drafted in the 12th round (347th overall) by the Baltimore Orioles. Ivy Tech Northeast Community College right-hander Matt Peters (Fort Wayne Dwenger) was picked in the 12th round (353rd overall) by the Chicago Cubs. Righty-swinging Georgia Tech shortstop Tim Borden II (Providence) was chosen in the 16th round (493rd overall) by the Houston Astros. Evansville North High School switch-hitting shortstop Cameron Decker (a University of Central Florida commit) was drafted in the 18th round (555th overall) by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Westfield High School right-hander Gage Stanifer (a University of Cincinnati commit) was picked in the 19th round (578th overall) by the Toronto Blue Jays. Indiana U. right-hander Reese Sharp (University High) was selected in the 20th round (587th overall) by Baltimore.
Left-handed pitcher Zack Thompson, who was a star at Wapahani High School in Selma, Ind., and the University of Kentucky, made his Major League Baseball debut when he earned a four-inning save for the St. Louis Cardinals June 3 against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Thompson, 24, has made 10 starts for the Triple-A Memphis (Tenn.) Redbirds in 2022 and is 2-2 with a 4.67 earned run average. Zach McKinstry (Fort Wayne North Side/Central Michigan) has split his time between the minors and the big-league Los Angeles Dodgers and the lefty-swinging infielder is currently on the active roster with the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers. He made his big league debut in 2020. McKinstry, 27, is hitting .335 with three home runs and 20 runs batted in over 164 MiLB at-bats and is 1-for-5 with LA — the hit being a June 3 two-run home run off New York Mets right-hander Chris Bassitt. Right-hander Ryan Pepiot (Westfield/Butler) had made his MLB debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 11. He is back with the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers. Pepiot, 24, is 4-0 with a 1.77 ERA in nine appearances for OKC and 0-0 with a 3.18 ERA in three games (11 1/3 innings) in the big leagues. Many other players are also on active rosters in the minors. Right-hander Luke Albright (Fishers/Kent State) is with the High-A Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops (Arizona Diamondbacks). Albright, 22, is 3-2 with a 3.64 ERA in 10 starts. Third baseman Cole Barr (Yorktown/Indiana University) plays for the High-A Everett (Wash.) AquaSox (Seattle Mariners). Barr, 24, is hitting .172 with three homers and 17 RBIs. Right-hander Gabe Bierman (Jeffersonville/Indiana) toes the rubber for the Low-A Jupiter (Fla.) Hammerheads (Miami Marlins). Bierman, 22, is 2-2 with a 4.28 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts). Right-hander Garrett Burhenn (Lawrence North/Ohio State) takes the bump for the Low-A Lakeland (Fla.) Flying Tigers (Detroit Tigers). Burhenn, 22, is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in nine starts. Lefty-swinging outfielder Zach Britton (Batesville/Louisville) is with the High-A Vancouver (B.C.) Canadians (Toronto Blue Jays). Britton, 23, is hitting .206 with four homers and 11 RBIs. Right-hander Zack Brown (Seymour/Kentucky) is one step from the majors with the Triple-A Nashville (Tenn.) Sounds (Milwaukee Brewers). Brown, 27, is 1-0 with two saves and a 3.54 ERA in 17 relief appearances. Outfielder Drew Campbell (Jeffersonville/Louisville) swings from the left side for the High-A Rome Braves (Atlanta Braves). Campbell, 24, is hitting .266 with one homer and 22 RBIs. Left-hander Jacob Cantleberry (Center Grove/Missouri/San Jacinto) is with the High-A Great Lakes Loons (Los Angeles Dodgers) in Midland, Mich. Cantleberry, 24, is 2-1 with one save and a 6.10 ERA in 13 games out of the bullpen.
Right-hander Adysin Coffey (Delta/Wabash Valley) is on the Development List as a reliever with the Kannapolis (N.C.) Cannon Ballers (Chicago White Sox).
Coffey, 23, is 2-2 with two saves a 7.30 ERA in 13 games. Lefty-swinging outfielder Craig Dedelow (Munster/Indiana) takes his cuts for the Double-A Birmingham (Ala.) Barons (Chicago White Sox). Dedelow, 27, is hitting .226 with 13 homers and 35 RBIs. Lefty-swinging second baseman Clay Dungan (Yorktown/Indiana State) is with Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City Royals). Dungan, 26, is hitting .204 with three homers and 18 RBIs. Outfielder Elijah Dunham (Evansville Reitz/Indiana) bats lefty for the Double-A Somerset Patriots (New York Yankees) in Bridgewater, N.J. Dunham, 24, is hitting .346 with seven homers and 27 RBIs. Right-hander Parker Dunshee (Zionsville/Wake Forest) is spinning pitches for the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators (Oakland Athletics). Dunshee, 27, is 1-5 with a 7.24 ERA in 12 games (10 starts).
Righty-swinging outfielder Matt Gorski (Hamilton Southeastern/Indiana) is with Double-A Altoona (Pa.) Curve (Pittsburgh Pirates).
Gorski, 24, is hitting .290 with 19 homers and 46 RBIs. Left-hander Timmy Herrin (Terre Haute South Vigo/Indiana) takes the mound for the Triple-A Columbus (Ohio) Clippers (Cleveland Guardians). Herrin, 25, is 0-2 with one save and a 4.00 ERA in 17 relief appearances. Right-hander Bryan Hoeing (Batesville/Louisville) challenges hitters for the Triple-A Jacksonville (Fla.) Jumbo Shrimp (Miami Marlins). Hoeing, 25, is 7-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts. Lefty-swinging outfielder Jacob Hurtubise (Zionsville/Army) is with the Double-A Chattanooga (Tenn.) Lookouts (Cincinnati Reds). Hurtubise, 24, is hitting .299 with no homers and five RBIs. He has spent some time on the IL. Right-hander Drey Jameson (Greenfield-Central/Ball State) fires it for the Triple-A Reno (Nev.) Aces (Arizona Diamondbacks). Jameson, 24, is 3-5 with a 5.80 ERA in 12 games (11 starts). Catcher Hayden Jones (Carroll/Mississippi State/Illinois State) is also a lefty swinger and plays for the Low-A Daytona (Fla.) Tortugas (Cincinnati Reds). Jones, 22, is hitting .210 with one homer and eight RBIs. Righty-swinging catcher Scott Kapers (Mount Carmel, Ill./Valparaiso) is with the High-A Hickory (N.C.) Crawdads (Texas Rangers). Kapers, 25, is hitting .257 with five homers and 16 RBIs. Lefty-swinging first baseman Niko Kavadas (Penn/Notre Dame) competes for the Low-A Salem (Va.) Red Sox (Boston Red Sox). Kavadas, 23, is hitting .253 with seven homers and 31 RBIs. Right-hander Chayce McDermott (Pendleton Heights/Ball State) journeys around the circuit with the High-A Asheville (N.C.) Tourists (Houston Astros). McDermott, 23, is 5-1 with a 4.35 ERA in 12 games (six starts). First baseman Jacson McGowan (Brownsburg/Purdue) plies his trade with the Double-A Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits (Tampa Bay Rays). McGowan, 24, is hitting .276 with one homer and two RBIs. He has been on the IL in 2022. Right-hander Zach Messinger (Castle/Virginia) hurls for the Low-A Tampa (Fla.) Tarpons (New York Yankees). Messinger, 22, is 0-4 with two saves and a 4.85 ERA in 18 games (15 in relief). Right-hander Evan Miller (LaPorte/Purdue Fort Wayne) works mostly out of the bullpen for the Triple-A El Paso (Texas) Chihuahuas (San Diego Padres). Miller, 27, is 1-2 with two saves and a 6.59 ERA in 21 games (19 in relief). Lefty-swinging shortstop Colson Montgomery (Southridge) is with the Low-A Kannapolis (N.C.) Cannon Ballers (Chicago White Sox). Montgomery, 20, is hitting .295 with four homers and 23 RBIs. Righty-swinging infielder Nick Podkul (Andrean/Notre Dame) was with the Buffalo (N.Y.) Bisons (Toronto Blue Jays). Podkul, 25, is hitting .178 with two homers and nine RBIs. Left-hander Triston Polley (Brownsburg/Indiana State) has been a reliever for the High-A Hickory (N.C.) Crawdads (Texas Rangers). Polley, 25, is 6-2 with one save and a 5.67 ERA in 16 games (all out of the bullpen). Outfielder Grant Richardson (Fishers/Indiana) bats lefty for the Low-A Tampa (Fla.) Tarpons (New York Yankees). Richardson, 22, is hitting .207 with two homers and 16 RBIs. Left-hander Andrew Saalfrank (Heritage/Indiana) is a reliever for the High-A Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops (Arizona Diamondbacks). Saalfrank, 24, is 2-0 with a 3.52 ERA in 17 bullpen games. Andy Samuelson (LaPorte/Wabash Valley) pitched for the Rookie-level Braves (Atlanta Braves) until retiring June 11. Samuelson, 23, pitched 1/3 of an inning in 2022. Right-hander Caleb Sampen (Brownsburg/Wright State) pours it in for the Double-A Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits (Tampa Bay Rays). Sampen, 25, is 1-12 with a 5.02 ERA in nine appearances (five starts). He has been on the IL in 2022. Right-hander Reid Schaller (Lebanon/Vanderbilt) is part of the bullpen for the Double-A Harrisburg (Pa.) Senators (Washington Nationals). Schaller, 25, is 2-0 with one save and a 2.89 ERA in 14 bullpen contests. Lefty-swinging outfielder Nick Schnell (Roncalli) is back on the field after a long injury-list stint. He plays for the Low-A Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs (Tampa Bay Rays). Schnell, 22, was activated May 31 and is hitting .333 with no homers and six RBIs. The “Diamonds in the Rough” podcast features Schnell and Cole Wilcox. Left-hander Garrett Schoenle (Fort Wayne Northrop/Cincinnati) mostly comes out of the bullpen for the High-A Winston-Salem (N.C.) Dash (Chicago White Sox). Schoenle, 23, is 3-1 with one save and a 1.39 ERA in 14 games (13 in relief). Left-hander Avery Short (Southport) has been starting for the High-A Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops (Arizona Diamondbacks). Short, 21, is 0-4 with a 4.58 ERA in nine starts. Left-hander Tommy Sommer (Carmel/Indiana) is a starter for the Low-A Kannapolis (N.C.) Cannon Ballers (Chicago White Sox). Sommer, 23, is 2-4 with a 3.13 ERA in 11 starts. Right-hander Skylar Szynski (Penn) was drafted in 2016 and has missed much time because of injury. He is Low-A Stockton (Calif.) Ports (Oakland Athletics). Szynski, 24, is 1-1 with a 12.66 ERA in 15 bullpen games. Right-hander Nolan Watson (Lawrence North) is mostly a reliever for the Double-A San Antonio Missions (San Diego Padres). Watson, 25, is 1-2 with a 7.76 ERA in 14 appearances (12 in relief). Among those on the 7-day injury list are right-hander Sam Bachman (Hamilton Southeastern/Miami of Ohio) with the Double-A Rocket City Trash Pandas (Los Angeles Angels) in Madison, Ala., righty-swinging third baseman Kody Hoese (Griffith/Tulane) with the Tulsa (Okla.) Drillers (Los Angeles Dodgers), right-hander Michael McAvene (Roncalli/Louisville) with the High-A South Bend Cubs (Chicago Cubs) and righty-swinging third baseman Riley Tirotta (Mishawaka Marian/Dayton) with the High-A Vancouver (B.C.) Canadians (Toronto Blue Jays). Bachman, 22, is 0-0 with a 1.98 ERA in four starts. Hoese, 24, is hitting .284 with three homers and 21 RBIs. McAvene, 24, is 0-0 with a 40.50 ERA in one relief appearance. Tirotta, 23, is hitting .209 with three homers and 20 RBIs. Right-hander Tanner Andrews (Tippecanoe Valley/Purdue) with the Triple-A Sacramento (Calif.) River Cats (San Francisco Giants), right-hander Pauly Milto (Roncalli/Indiana) with the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Dash (Chicago White Sox) and righty-swinging third baseman Hunter Owen (Evansville Mater Dei/Indiana State) with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh Pirates) are on the 60-day IL. Andrews, 26, is 0-0 with an 11.12 ERA in four relief games. Milto, 25, is 0-0 with a 3.07 ERA in nine games (eight in relief). Owen, 28, is hitting .256 with no homers and five RBIs. He made his MLB debut in 2021.
Indiana native Gil Hodges has been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and he may be getting another posthumous honor. Hodges was born in Princeton in 1924 and grew in Petersburg in southern Indiana. He attended Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., and Bronze Star recipient as a part of the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II. He was involved in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. He was a slugging first baseman for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers before managing the “Miracle Mets” to the World Series title in 1969 and dying of a heart attack in 1972. In his 35 looks on a Hall of Fame ballot, Hodges obtained the necessary 75 percent of the vote from the Golden Days Period committee for enshrinement in Cooperstown. The induction ceremony is slated for July 24. Hodges was in the inaugural class of Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame inductees in 1979. A water-crossing structure in Columbus, Ind., might be among his next recognition. A resolution passed through both chambers of the Indiana House to ask the Indiana Department of Transportation to ponder renaming the passageway on I-69 over the East Fork of the White River the “Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge.” The bridge section is in Columbus. The resolution was co-sponsored by State Representatives Cindy Ledbetter (R-Newburgh) and Shane Lindauer (R-Jasper). “Resolutions don’t need to be signed by the governor,” says Adam Aasen, press secretary for Indiana House Republicans. “The bridge isn’t automatically renamed yet, although INDOT often takes these resolutions into strong consideration.” The famed son of Indiana already has several places bearing his name: • A bridge spanning the East Fork of the White River in northern Pike County on S.R. 57 is named for Hodges. • Princeton Community High School plays on Gil Hodges Field. • The diamond at Saint Joseph’s College, which closed in 2017, is also named for Hodges. • A large mural of Hodges stands at the corner of S.R. 57 and S.R. 61 in Petersburg. • There already is a Marine Parkway Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge and Gil Hodges Way in New York. • Randy’s Americana Cafe’ in Petersburg has a huge Hodges memorabilia display. A baseball-style lunch is planned in Gil’s honor on April, which would have been his 98th birthday. • Hodges wore 14. Both the Mets and Dodgers have retired that number.
Joe Kutch has long taken a leadership role in youth sports in and around Sullivan County, Ind. Kutch (pronounced Kootch) is entering his eighth season as head baseball coach at North Central Junior/Senior High School in Farmersburg. He was junior high coach for about five years before taking over the varsity Thunderbirds. After years as an assistant, Kutch became North Central’s head football coach midway through the 2021 season. The Thunderbirds won their two sectional football titles with Kutch on the staff — 2018 as defensive coordinator and 2021 as head coach/offensive coordinator. COVID-19 hit Kutch the first week of September and he was in the Intensive Care Unit for nine days and missed three football games. He is still on oxygen. But he still coaches, teaches Automotive classes at North Central (through a co-op with Ivy Tech in Terre Haute) and works for Sullivan Auto Group. The Nashville (Tenn.) Auto-Diesel College graduate got his teacher’s license through Ball State University and began teaching eight years ago. Kutch is an alum of Terre Haute North Vigo High School (Class of 1988). While still in high school he started organizing non-high school athletics. As an adult, Kutch once ran the Northeast Youth League, Tri-Towers Softball League (which once had 500 players and was a pilot site for Major League Baseball’s Pitch, Hit & Run contest) and is still on the board of the Southwest Youth Football League (formerly Quad County). Joe and Dianna Kutch have been married 28 years and have two sons — Austin Kutch (North Central Class of 2014) and Brayden Kutch (Class of 2017). Both played football and baseball for the Thunderbirds and graduated from college (Austin from Indiana State University and Brayden from Indiana University). North Central (enrollment around 260) is a member of the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eastern Greene, Linton-Stockton, North Daviess, Shakamak and White River Valley) for baseball and basketball. Eastern Greene and Linton-Stockton have been IHSAA Class 2A schools on the diamond. Shakamak was a 1A state runner-up in 2021. “I like the competition,” says Kutch, 52. “We take our sports serious. We compete every year in every sport.” In 2021, the Thunderbirds were part of a Class 1A sectional grouping with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eminence, Shakamak and White River Valley (the 2021 host). North Central has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2011. During the IHSAA Limited Contact Period, North Central has 26 athletes who have indicated that they plan to play baseball in the spring. “Most of my key players are playing basketball, like six of the starting nine,” says Kutch. “(Our numbers) will will drop when we get to mandatory practice (March 14).” Kutch, pitching coach Andy Fuson and hitting coach Brian Raber make up the current Thunderbirds staff. A few volunteers when official preseason practice begins. The Thunderbirds play home games on-campus. A ball over the right field fence could reach U.S. 41. A few years ago, infield dirt was upgraded. The facility has a grass infield with brick dust running lanes. About a decade, a brick press box was installed. The high school shares the field with the independent junior high program. “You need junior high baseball,” says Kutch. “You need a feeder system to keep your program going.” Connor Strain, a 2012 North Central graduate, pitched at the University of Evansville and in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system.
A Pacific Northwest native has found his fit in the Upper Midwest. Kiel Boynton, who was born and raised in Oregon, is now heading into his eighth season as an assistant baseball coach at Bethel University in Mishawaka, Ind. Boynton, 38, shares his time between worship leader at Grace Church in Granger, Ind., and helping head coach Seth Zartman with the NAIA-affiliated Pilots. While Boynton’s main focus on-campus is pitching and infielders, he handles more of the out-of-state recruiting with his network while Zartman concentrates in Indiana. “I’m working the phones a lot,” says Boynton. “Recruiting on the West Coast is a little rough sometimes (with the time difference), but my family at home has kind of gotten used to the fact that around a certain time I go into recruiting mode. “The travel just depends on the player. If I’m interested in the player I’m definitely going to try to go and see him.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bethel coaches have learned to make some judgment calls on recruits through viewing video. But in-person is best. “We would always love to see them live because a video can make a kid look really great or a video can make them look really bad,” says Boynton. “When you’re out-of-state, you’re trying to maybe sell the school a little bit more than selling the finances. If they’re in-state we kind of know that they’re going to qualify of additional potential scholarship (money) depending on their grades and their family’s income.” As a coach, Boynton sees pitching and defense as his strength and lets Zartman concentrate on the offensive part of the game. “I’m big on the mental side,” says Boynton. “It’s important to see how they respond to adversity and different things.” In practice, Boynton puts his pitchers in high-pressure situations. It may be a closer coming into the game with less than two outs and runners in scoring position. “My heart rate’s up and I’ve got to figure out how to stay calm and be able to do that,” says Boynton of the hurler’s task. “We’ll put them on a bike between innings. They’ll have to go real fast and get their heart rate up and then we immediately send them to the mound and have have to pitch and calm themselves down. “They learn how to overcome that and still get outs.” Sam Riggleman, who was head coach at Bethel (1995-99) and has more than four decades of experiences and a college coach, gave Boynton some advice year ago about pitchers and adversity that stuck with him. “He doesn’t give his pitchers multiple chances to succeed because he wants them to have to learn to deal with adversity and failure,” says Boynton. “When he puts them in a situation like that, they get the outs or they don’t get the outs. “It’s all that mental side that comes into play. They pitcher needs to know the situation (and where and how to deliver his pitches).” Boynton looks on his coaching career and has witnessed constant change in himself. “When I first started coaching I just wanted to win,” says Boynton. “It was not as much about building relationships. When the team would lose, I would take it personally. It was like I didn’t do my job or I failed. I would get really frustrated.” Through the influences of Zartman, Riggleman, Dean Stiles, Mike Manes and others, Boynton’s coaching philosophy has morphed. “I am not just worried about what they do on the baseball field,” says Boynton. “I heard a long time ago a coach say that if you’re a good coach, you get invited to weddings. “I started really wrapping my head around that. If a player invites me to their wedding that means that I meant something to their life. Whether or not they were successful on the field they knew that I cared about them enough that they wanted me to be a part of the biggest day of their life.” Kiel (pronounced Kyle) and wife Faith have two children — son Parker (12) and daughter Aubrie (3) — with one on the way. As a right-handed pitcher/infielder, Boynton played for Stiles at Crook County High School in Prineville, Ore., since his tiny Christian school — did not have baseball. He also played football and basketball. Boynton was born with mild form of Cerebral Palsy that effects the muscles on the right side of his body. “The right side will get to a certain strength and that’s about it,” says Boynton. “When I lifted in college you could always see that my left side was stronger. My left leg what take the primary force of my squat. “My mom (Teri) and dad (John) did a great job of not letting Cerebral Palsy be a crutch for me,” says Boynton. “They always encouraged me to just work harder. I played pretty much every sport growing up.” Even with the weakness, John Boynton made his son a right-handed pitcher. “It’s made a big impact on my coaching career,” says Boynton of CP. “I don’t like laziness or pitchers who kind of take time off. In my own life, I never did that. “I want my players to work twice as hard.” Patrick Tubaugh, who has been a Director of Baseball Operations for Bethel, also has Cerebral Palsy. Boynton is a diehard fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers thanks to his father who grew up in southern California, played at Los Angeles Bible College (now The Master’s University) for Pete Reese and had a tryout with the Dodgers. An EMT director job got him to move to Oregon. “I grew up hearing about Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and all the great Dodger legends,” says Boynton. “I grew up listening to (play-by-play announcer) Vin Scully. I’ve been following them ever since.” Each Christmas Faith adds an item to Kiel’s Dodger collection. “She’s running out of things to get me,” says Boynton. The younger brother of Cy and Shannon followed his sister when he attended Cedarville (Ohio) University and played four seasons (2003-06) for the Yellow Jackets. “Coach (Greg) Hughes took that gamble on a kid with Cerebral Palsy and I’m very appreciative,” says Boynton. By that time, Reese was the athletic director at Cedarville. He was a middle infielder and pitcher and earned undergraduate and masters degrees in sport management with a minor in Bible, and coached at the school 25 miles east of Dayton for five — one as an assistant to Hughes and four on Manes’ staff. During that time, Boynton met Zartman as a competing coach or someone at the same site on a southern trip. Among the pitchers he coached were the Ledbetter twins of Indianapolis — David and Ryan. Boynton met Justin Masterson, who pitched at Bethel in 2004 and 2005 and hails from Beavercreek, Ohio, when he used Cedarville facilities to train during part of his big league career. Boynton left Cedarville and went back to Oregon, where he was a pitching coach at Corban University in Salem, where he was born, for about three years. He was also involved in youth ministry. During his time in Salem, Boynton received a call from Zartman letting him know of a potential assistant coach job at Bethel. There was prayer and family discussion and about a week later, Boynton and let Zartman know it was a good fit and he was ready to move to northern Indiana. Economic uncertainty at the time led Zartman to tell Boynton not to make the move with his family in case the position was cut. The following year with things stabilized, Zartman called again and the Boyntons came back to the Midwest. He started at Bethel in January 2015. Boynton says about three-quarters of his income comes from his worship director position. “The two jobs really work great with each other,” says Boynton. “My coaching job is pretty much Monday through Saturday. My worship leader job is also a Monday through Saturday thing, but the one day that they actually really need me to be doing something is Sunday.” Bethel, a member of the Crossroads League, is to open the 2022 season Feb. 4 against Lourdes in Hot Springs, Ark.
Northeast Indiana Baseball Association plans to honor longtime high school coaches Dave Ginder and Dean Lehrman and former professional player Steve Finken as part of its Hall of Fame class of 2022. Heading into the spring, Dave Ginder is 335-118 in 15 seasons at Carroll with eight sectional titles, four regionals, three Final Four appearances state championships in 2010 and 2011. The 1991 Carroll graduate was a Chargers assistant for six years. Ginder graduated from Anderson (Ind.) University with a Mathematics and Secondary Education degree and is in his 21st year as a math teacher at Carroll. He also holds a Masters in Administration. Dave and Kristen Ginder, a Parkview SurgeryONE surgical case coordinator, have three children — son Langston (18) and daughters Drezdan (16) and Jantzyn (13). In 43 seasons (nine at Woodlan and 34 at Heritage, including 2020 COVID-19 year), Lehrman has 615 wins, 12 Allen County Athletic Conference titles with eight sectionals, three regionals, one semistate and three semistate appearances with a state runner-up finish in 2007. He’s also been a district coach of the year and twice named an Indiana High School Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series coach. Lehrman, who retired as a high school math teacher at Heritage in 2020, coached football for 39 years and was 40-26 in six seasons at head coach. Dean and wife Janice have three children — Camryn, Derek and Ryne — and four grandchildren. Finken is a graduate of Fort Wayne Elmhurst High School and was an All-American at the University of Michigan. He was selected in the 21st round of the 1988 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers and played in the minors from 1988-92. The infielder was in Triple-A with the Dodgers in 1991 and played his last pro season in the San Francisco Giants system. Overall, Finked hit .267 with a .373 on-base percentage, .431 slugging average, 49 home runs and 227 runs batted in for 473 games. Journalist Steve Krah will also go into the NEIBA Hall of Fame during a banquet at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 12, 2022 at Classic Cafe in Fort Wayne. Jeff Herring will receive the organization’s Colin Lister Award from the Hall of Fame for his 25-plus year of service to high school sports, specifically baseball. He has been an assistant coach at both Elmhurst and Wayne high schools.