A partnership between several groups will bring collegiate exposure and learning opportunities to players, coaches and parents tied to Indianapolis Public Schools and inner-city charter institutions. Representatives from National Scouting Report Midwest (Mark Galyean and Jamie Owens), Indy RBI (Mike Lennox and Bob Haney), ScoutUs Pro (Cory Wade), Roundtripper Sports Academy (Chris Estep and Reid Andrews), Indiana High School Athletic Association (Robert Faulkens) and Baseball Across Indiana (Dan Hill and Steve Krah) met recently to plan. Saturday, March 18 was set for a video and metrics combine, position/skill development camp and coaches clinic (during the combine and conducted by Roundtripper staff) at Roundtripper in Westfield. Registration is at 11 a.m. The event runs from noon to 4 p.m. Welcome/introduction and recruiting seminar is slated for 12-12:30 with dynamic warm-up at 12:30, 60-yard dash/pro shuffle at 12:45, warm up arms at 1:15 and overhand velocity/exit velocity followed by pitchers and catcher at 1:30. NSR will videotape key events and make them available to all that attend (including coaches). As of March 6, schools who had indicated they will attend included Arsenal Tech (where Haney is head coach), Crispus Attucks, Indianapolis Metropolitan, Irvington Prep, Purdue Polytechnic, Riverside and Tindley. More than 100 players are expected to participate in the free event. A ”coaches handbook” with practice plans etc., will be presented to all coaches who attend. “This can be the model for everybody,” says Faulkens, IHSAA Assistant Commissioner in charge of baseball. “I’m going to call folks in South Bend, Evansville and Fort Wayne to say you need to be here to see it because we’re probably going to do the same thing (in those communities).” Says Estep, “That would be cool. They could see it and say we want this.” NSR, a national company based in Birmingham, Ala., was founded in 1980 and helps student-athletes and families through the college recruiting process. “I talk to college coaches daily — our organization does,” says Galyean, NSR Area Director based in central Indiana. “We’re family-owned.” Other events are being planned and there is talk of having a game(s) — likely to be called the Oscar Charleston Classic — at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis — home of the Triple-A Indians. Galyean, who came to NSR as a father then a scout then a licensee, has known Roundtripper founder/University High School head coach Estep for many years and had his boys play and coach for Estep’s Indiana Mustangs travel organization. Andrews is Director of Athletics for Roundtripper and assistant coach at University. “We want to make these inner-city kids understand that they can play (college baseball) as well,” says Galyean. “I just want to give back to these kids. “It’s about helping them get what they need and get to the next level.” Galyean and his group place an emphasis placed on academics. “We talk about how important it is and the benefit of taking the ACT and SAT early,” says Galyean. “We talk about when to start the process. “We talk about how important grades are.” Galyean says he always gets positive feedback from parents after seminars that the importance of grades is stressed. The discussion includes finding a place that’s the right fit and that it is a four-year experience. “We want to make it the best four-year experience possible,” says Galyean. “It’s about what’s really true about the process. “We want to dispel all the myths and untruths of the procedure.” Owens is Digital Content Creator for NSR Midwest. Since 1996, Indy RBI has been the proud exclusive Indianapolis affiliate of Major League Baseball’s RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) initiative. Over 25,000 boys and girls ages 3-18 have played in Indy RBI, the area’s premier urban baseball and softball program. It’s the biggest affiliate in the country without a Major League Baseball franchise. Lennox is Executive Director at Indy RBI. ScoutUsPro is a global database connecting athletes with scouts, managers, agents and matchmakers. Wade, an Indianapolis Broad Ripple High School graduate who played 12 pro baseball including four in MLB, is Director of Baseball Operations for ScoutUs Pro.
A year ago, Gage Stanifer was preparing for his senior baseball season at Westfield (Ind.) High School. This week, the right-handed pitcher heads to Dunedin, Fla., for his first spring training camp. Stanifer made 10 mound appearances for Westfield (eight starts) and went 5-2 with a 0.74 earned run average, 83 strikeouts and 32 walks in 38 innings in 2022 and was selected for the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion as a North pitcher. As a junior in 2021, he hurled in 10 games (nine starts) and was 7-1 with a 0.94 ERA, 100 strikeouts and 28 walks in 52 innings. He was on the Shamrocks junior varsity as a freshman in 2019. The 2020 season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When not pitching, he started out as a third baseman and moved to the outfield. Ryan Bunnell is the longtime head coach at Westfield. Stanifer credits him for beneficial advice. “His biggest thing was teaching the players to have their own routine and stick by that,” says Stanifer, 19. “Knowing how I go about things has helped me a lot as a player.” Selected in the 19th round of the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, Stanifer signed with Midwest area scout Matt Huck rather than go to a junior college (he de-committed from the University of Cincinnati) and reported to Florida where he was in some live at-bat sessions and attending some camps. “They wanted some more one-on-one time to see how I work, just get a deeper look at me before sending me into games,” says Stanifer. “It was just getting me fine-tuned. “As long as I compete well in spring training and stay healthy I give myself a good shot of making the (Low Class-A Dunedin Blue Jays) roster.” A 6-foot-3, 202-pounder, Stanifer throws a two-seam fastball, slider and a splitter. He got the fastball up to 97 mph in 2022 and has been at 92 to 95 in recent throwing sessions. “I throw a ‘bullet’ slider,” says Stanifer. “It tunnels real well with my fastball. It drops off and disappears from a batter’s perspective a couple of feet.” The slider — his go-to off-speed pitch — is usually clocked at 83 to 86 mph. “The splitter has a lot more late depth — a little more depth than the change-up and a little harder as well (86 to 88 mph). It’s a good put-away pitch for lefties but I’m getting a lot more confident throwing it to righties as well.” What about his arm slot? “I’d say it’s pretty unique,” says Stanifer. “I kind of throw like a quarterback. I short-arm a little bit. I throw tight and compact. I hide the ball really well from the batters.” Stanifer attended quarterback camps with Ryan Pepiot and followed him in his baseball career through high school to Butler University and to the Los Angeles Dodgers. “We’ve stay in-touch,” says Stanifer, who is the fifth Westfield player drafted following Kyle Kramp (2009, San Francisco Giants), Kevin Plawecki (2012, New York Mets), Harrison Freed (2019, Giants) and Pepiot. “It’s cool to see someone you know have their hard work pay off.” Stanifer played football through eighth grade then stopped. He broke his collar bone in fifth grade and had numerous concussions. In the off-season, Stanifer went through some remote programming with North Carolina-based Tread Athletics and trainer Devin Hayes and was in-house Monday through Friday at PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind., since the first week of November. He has been going there since 2017, working with Greg Vogt and Anthony Gomez. Vogt is also the Rehab Pitching Coach for the Blue Jays and Gomez was recently hired as bullpen coach for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Another pitcher who has worked out at PRP — 24-year-old right-hander Michael Brewer — just signed with the Blue Jays. “I’m glad Mike finally got his opportunity,” says Stanifer of the 2018 Fort Wayne (Ind.) Snider High School graduate. “He’s a great person and a great player.” A collector of gloves (he has 14), Stanifer wore a mint green one in high school and has recently added a red, blue and baby blue to the collection.
Gage, who turns 20 in November, is the son of Butch and Melissa Stanifer. His two older sisters are former Westfield cheerleader Skyler (Class of 2017) and volleyball player Raigan (Class of 2019). Butch Stanifer played one year of football at Indiana State University then turned his attention to bodybuilding and was part owner in a gym before going into real estate. His father has taught his son about nutrition and weightlifting. “He’s given advice along the way about how to lift and eating the right food to stay healthy,” says Gage. Melissa and Skyler are also realtors. Skyler Stanifer is an Indiana University graduate. Raigan Stanifer is an IU senior speech pathology major.
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.
Jeff Samardzija grew up in a hard-nosed atmosphere. Father Sam’s favorite coach was Indiana University’s Bob Knight. His favorite team was the 1985 Chicago Bears. Dad played semi-pro hockey in the Windy City. “My upbringing was pretty intense with my dad,” said Samardzija Friday, Jan. 13, the day he was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. “Luckily I was the second son. He worked the kinks out with my older brother and I kind of loosened up a little bit on me. “I ended up having a good run there out of Valpo.” Sam Samardzija Jr., was an all-state football player who became an agent for Wasserman Baseball representing his brother. He is the first-born son of Sam and Debora Samardzija. She died in 2001 at 46. Jeff Samardzija, who turns 38 on Jan. 23, played wide receiver and helped Valparaiso (Ind.) High School to an IHSAA Class 5A state runner-up finish as a junior. The 2003 graduate was runner-up as Indiana Mr. Football and Indiana Mr. Baseball as a senior. McCutcheon’s Clayton Richard won both awards. “He is the standard,” said Samardzija of Richard, who went on to pitch in the big leagues and is now head coach at Lafayette Jeff. “Quarterbacks — they get all the love.” Samardzija, who is of Serbian decent, went to Notre Dame on a football scholarship and was also allowed to played baseball for the Fighting Irish. “My first two years in football at Notre Dame I wasn’t very good and didn’t put up very good numbers,” said Samardzija, who caught 24 passes for 327 yards and no touchdowns in 2003 and 2004 for the Tyrone Willingham-coached Irish. “I had a lot of success in baseball my freshman and sophomore year.” It was as a frosh football player that Samardzija received his nickname of “Shark.” “When you start freshman year you get hazed by the older guys,” said Samardzija. “I didn’t have beautiful, thick facial hair like I do now.” One day an ND veteran tagged him as “Shark Face” after an animated character. “I had a good football season and somebody on ABC — (Bob) Griese or sometime said, ‘The Shark is running through the middle of the defense,’” said Samardzija, who caught 77 passes for 1,249 yards and 15 TDs in 2005 and 78 for 1,017 and 13 in 2006 with ND coached by Charlie Weis. “From then on people started calling me Shark.” Samardzija did not pitch that much in high school. “When I got to Notre Dame they made me pitch because football didn’t want me to play the outfield,” said Samardzija, who went 5-3, posted a 2.95 earned run average and was named a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball Magazine in 2004 then followed that up with 8-1 and 8-2 marks in 2005 and 2006 for head coach Paul Mainieri. “It was a great scenario. You don’t have to do off-season conditioning in football. You don’t have to do fall ball in baseball. You get to pick-and-choose where you want to go. “Being on a full scholarship for football, the baseball coaches loved me. I was free. They didn’t ride me too hard. They just wanted me to show up on Saturdays and pitch. I threw a bullpen on Wednesdays. Everything else was football.” After Samardzija did well as a collegiate pitcher and then excelled in football as a junior he now had to decide if his path going forward would be on the gridiron or the diamond. “I had a dilemma on my hands,” said Samardzija. “I had given so much to football my whole life. It was never travel baseball. It was always travel football. “Baseball was always my release. It was never work and it was never a chore to be out there on the baseball field. “I had to fight for all my respect in baseball because I was labeled as a football guy.” With the National Football League showing interest, two-time baseball and football All-American Samardzija was selected in the fifth round of the 2006 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago Cubs. He made his MLB debut in 2008. He was with the Cubs 2008 into the 2014 season when he went to Oakland Athletics. That was the same year he was chosen for the All-Star Game though he did not play. Samardzija played for the Chicago White Sox in 2015 and San Francisco Giants 2016-2020. He won 12 games in 2016 and 11 in 2019. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound right-hander with a four-seam fastball that got up to 99 mph appeared in 364 games (241 starts) and went 80-106 with one save and a 4.15 earned run average. “It’s tough when you have to choose a path,” said Samardzija. “I made the right decision.” A gift from the family and more than 40 donors, Samardzija Field at Tower Park is a youth diamond in Valparaiso. Mostly off the grid in retirement, Samardzija is an avid fisherman and has spent plenty of time in recent years on the water. Sometimes “Shark” encounters sharks. “When I’m in Tampa we’ll get out there,” said Samardzija. “You don’t want to catch them, but sometimes they show up. “I’ve enjoyed kind of just pulling back. It was a go-go-go life there for a long time.” Samardzija and partner Andrea have two children.
Weybright is a graduate of North White High School. Following graduation, he attended and played baseball for three years at Blackburn College before earning his bachelor degree from Indiana University. Following one season as an assistant at North White, Weybright spent six seasons as an assistant and 11 seasons as the head coach at Norwell High School where he compiled a record of 243-93 with two NHC, seven sectional, four regional and two semistate titles with an IHSAA Class 3A state runner-up finish in 2006 and 3A state championships in 2003 and 2007 before retiring in 2012 to coach his sons in travel baseball. The 2007 team went 35-0 and finished ranked 10th nationally (Collegiate Baseball/Easton Sports). The 2006 and 2007 squads went a combined 64-2. Weybright coached 22 players that played collegiately with six IHSBCA North All-Stars and four Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft selections. Two NHC Coach of the Year honors (2006 and 2007) came Weybright’s way as well as two IHSBCA Coach of the Year awards (2003 and 2007). He was recognized as a National High School Baseball Coaches Association District and National Coach of the Year in 2007. Weybright is currently athletic director at Norwell and continues to work with the baseball program during its summer development period and occasionally during the season as time permits.
Storen is a 2007 graduate of Brownsburg High School. As a freshman, he was the No. 2 pitcher (3-0, 1.17 earned run average) behind Lance Lynn on the eventual 2004 state runner-up. As a sophomore, right-hander Storen went 9-0 with 86 strikeouts in 57 innings and helped the Bulldogs to go 35-0 and win the 2005 state championship while earning a No. 2 ranking in the country from Baseball America. The Indianapolis Star called that team, “The greatest high school team in Indiana history.” For his career, Storen finished 28-2 with 270 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.61. At the plate, he hit .400 with 16 home runs. He was drafted by the New York Yankees in 2007, but attended Stanford University. In two seasons with the Cardinal, he was named to three Freshman All-American teams and was twice chosen first team All-Pac 12. He got the win in Game 1 of the 2008 College World Series. Storen led Stanford as a sophomore in saves, wins and appearances and was named team MVP for 2009. He finished his collegiate career with a 12-4 record, 26 saves, 59 appearances and a 3.84 ERA. As a draft-eligible sophomore, Storen was taken by the Washington Nationals as the 10th overall pick of the 2009 MLB Draft. In eight seasons with the Nationals, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds, he went 29-18 with 99 saves, a 3.45 ERA and 417 strikeouts. He made six postseason appearances for Washington in 2012 and 2014 with one win and one save. Drew and his wife Brittani currently reside in Carmel and have two boys — Jace (6) and Pierce (2).
Samardzija is a 2003 Valparaiso High School graduate is considered one of the best athletes in Indiana history. By his senior year, he was recognized as one of the state’s best football players and was the runner-up for the Indiana Mr. Football award. Samardzija was a three-time all-state player and was selected to the Indiana All-Star team. In baseball, he was a runner-up for the Mr. Baseball award as a senior, a three-year varsity letterman and an All-State honoree as a center fielder. He hit .375 with five home runs and 37 runs batted in as a junior and .481 with eight homers and 50 RBIs as a senior. As one of the nation’s top football recruits, he chose Notre Dame where he was also invited to pitch for the baseball team. Samardzija was a two-time All American wide receiver, a two-time All-American pitcher and a two-time runner up for the Biletnikoff Award given to the nation’s best receiver. Despite his football skills and the likelihood of being drafted as a first-round pick in the National Football League, Samardzija opted to play professional baseball after pitching for the Irish for three seasons. The right-hander was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the fifth round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He made his MLB debut for the Cubs in July 2008 and went on to pitch 13 full seasons. In addition to the Cubs, Samardzija pitched for the Oakland Athletics (2014), Chicago White Sox (2015) and San Francisco Giants (2016-2020). He was named an All-Star in 2014. Jeff and older brother Sam represent a rare achievement in VHS history with each being selected as All-State performers in both football and baseball.
Johnston graduated from Western Michigan University and was a minor league outfielder from 1952-67. He played for the Indianapolis Indians from 1960-1966 and played in the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and Washington Senators organizations. He was a career .286 hitter and had 525 stolen bases. He led his league in stolen bases six straight years (1953-58). He paced the International League in 1956 with 182. Johnston was a minor league manager for nine years and was the with the Bluefield Orioles in the Appalachian League and the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota, Fla., in an administrative role. In 2020, he was inducted into the Appalachian League Hall of Fame. Johnston served as a scout, scouting supervisor, cross-checker and minor league coordinator roles before retiring in 2019. He currently resides in Nashville, Tenn.
Wayne Johnson spent 12 years as a varsity assistant to Greg Silver at Mooresville before spending two stints as the head coach at Brownsburg High School. At the helm of the Bulldog program, he compiled 278 wins over 15 years. During his first stint from (1987-2000), Johnson-led teams took home sectional championships in 1988, 1992, 1995 and 1996. The Bulldogs were also regional champions in 1996. Then on short notice, Johnson was asked to return to coach Brownsburg in 2011 and won another sectional title. While Johnson’s victories and championships are impressive, his contributions to Brownsburg baseball far exceed his won/loss record. The 1990 Central Suburban Athletic Conference Coach of the Year was instrumental in the construction of Brownsburg’s home baseball field — Mary Beth Rose Park. Johnson partnered with countless members of the community to design and build the stadium and it has served to host over a 1,000 games since the spring of 1988. Rose Park is still considered a premier location to play baseball in Indiana. Johnson was a big supporter of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame and it fundraising efforts. He also owned a business, Johnson Sports Collectibles in addition to teaching for 39 years at Mooresville and Brownsburg High Schools. Johnson impacted many lives through the game of baseball and his presence is sorely missed. He is being inducted posthumously as he passed away on Dec. 19, 2018.
Inductees will be honored during the IHSBCA State Clinic. The ceremony is slated for 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, 2023 at Sheraton at Keystone Crossing. The clinic is Jan. 12-14. For questions about banquet reservations, program advertisements or events leading up to the ceremony, contact Hall of Fame chairman Jeff McKeon at 317-445-9899. Banquet tickets can be purchased at https://www.cognitoforms.com/Baseball3%20_2023IHSBCAStateClinic and can be picked up from McKeon on the night of the banquet at the registration table. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
Ron Smith’s career has taken him away from his hometown. A 1974 graduate of Elkhart (Ind.) Memorial High School, he played baseball and basketball at Furman (S.C.) University, coached basketball at Miami University-Middletown (Ohio) and Middletown High School and was head baseball coach for 23 years at Furman, resigning after the 2016 season and still resides in the Palmetto State. “I love South Carolina,” says Smith, who is in both the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame and Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame. “But Elkhart will always be my home.” It was as a first grader that Smith began playing baseball at the City With A Heart’s Hawthorne Little League. He lived about two blocks away from Pierre Moran Park, wandered up one day and was on a team the next. After that came Studebaker Park and Babe Ruth League at Elkhart FOP Park. “We had good coaches throughout,” says Smith. “It was a great experience. “I was so fortunate to grow up in Elkhart.” It was also in elementary school that Smith learned from a coach that at his size he had better develop both hands as a basketball player. “I really took that to heart,” says Smith, who shined on the court for head coaches Keith Dougherty (Elkhart), Jim Powers (Elkhart Memorial) and Joe Williams (Furman).” The year before starting at Furman, Williams guided Jacksonville and Artis Gilmore to the NCAA championship game against UCLA. On the prep diamond, Smith played three years for Dick Siler — one at Elkhart and two at Memorial. “I took a little bit from all of those people,” says Smith. “Their influence was certainly impactful for me.” Smith was the starting shortstop in his sophomore season of 1972. Steered Siler, Elkhart won the Elkhart Sectional and South Bend Regional and bowed 3-0 to eventual semistate champion Hammond Morton in the semifinals of the South Bend Semistate. The following year Elkhart split into two schools. “I think we would have been a state championship team the next year,” says Smith. “But instead we split. Central and Memorial had two pretty good teams. But they did not have the pitching depth to be really good.” Smith says he would have loved playing as a teammate of Tom Calhoun instead of trying to fight through a Tom Eastman pick while guarding Calhoun in crosstown Memorial-Central rivalry basketball games. Beginning with the fall of 2020, athletic teams in Elkhart began playing as one and were called the Lions. The town again has one high school. “I was very happy to see a united Elkhart,” says Smith, who attended a few Lions football game with great nephew Quinn Rost (Class of 2025) as sophomore quarterback. “It’s really neat.” Smith is uncle to Jacquie Rost, who is head volleyball coach and an athletic director at Elkhart and married to head baseball coach Scott Rost. “I’m so proud of her and Scott,” says Smith. “(Class of 2021’s Dylan and Quinn) are the kind of boys I would love to have on my team. “They are ‘team’ guys.” Teachers — like Coe Strain — were also helpful to Smith along his journey. An ardent follower of sports, Mrs. Strain got choir singer Smith involved in drama. “I was probably the only athlete involved in the first musical,” says Smith. “But my senior year there were five or six. “I developed an appreciation. The teamwork that is required for a drama production or a musical is very similar to that in the athletic endeavor. “Everybody has to execute. Everybody has a part to play.” Smith, a three-year letterwinner in tennis, basketball and baseball, earned the Tim Bringle Memorial Award as Elkhart’s top senior male athlete in 1974. He was at Furman when he was selected in the ninth round of the 1977 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. He spent parts of five seasons in the Phillies system, including five a Triple-A. The first few years he was still playing basketball at Furman during the winter. After leaving college in his senior year, Smith went to spring training in Clearwater, Fla., with hopes of making the Double-A team in Reading, Pa. “I had a good spring and felt good about things,” says Smith, who was one of 175 minor leaguers competing for 125 roster slots on five teams. “They called me in and said you really did but we like this Ryne Sandberg. I said, ‘Sandberg can’t make the play in the hole’ — which is true — but they moved him to second base and he had a Hall of Fame career.” Smith also spent time playing behind future long-time major leaguer Julio Franco while also sitting near the manager when he was not in the game. “I listened and learned,” says Smith. When he was released as a player, Smith accepted an offer to manage the Phillies team in Helena, Mont., in 1982. “I think I was the youngest manager in all of professional baseball,” says Smith. When a new ownership/front office regime came to Philadelphia, Smith was among those to be let go. “That was fine,” says Smith. “I was really into coaching basketball. “I was ready to get out (of baseball).” Then came the opportunity to possibly coach baseball at Furman. Smith was enjoying his time at Middletown High when he was having a conversation with a mentor about his situation. “He said — first of all what does your wife want to do?,” says Smith. “Then think about this: How many (NCAA) Division I baseball programs are there in the country? How many high school basketball jobs are there?” In 23 seasons, he won 580 games with a Southern Conference championship in 2005. This at a school with high tuition and far less than the limit of 11.7 scholarships. “Furman is an expensive school,” says Smith. “It was hard to compete. “But I feel like we got as much out of our players as anyone. As a coach, you want to see them improve individually. As a team, you want them to have that synergy — that something that allows them to achieve beyond the individual components that they have because of their working together. “That is the most rewarding thing as a coach.” Upon taking over the program, Smith had four goals: graduate on time, grow up (develop as a person), get better (improve on the field) and win championships. “We faithfully stayed with that approach and as a result we had a tremendous graduation rate anybody who stayed for four years graduated,” says Smith. “I’m so proud of the players that came out of the program — really fine young men, successful family men and good people.” Ron’s wife — Elizabeth “Beth” Jordan Smith — died Oct. 25, 2021 at 58. Forty five former players came from all over the country to Greenville to attend Beth Smith’s memorial service. “It really meant a lot to me,” says Smith, 66. That validated my career in many ways.” Since his wife’s passing, Smith has been taking some time for himself and has been able to travel and play golf with friends. For the past three years, Smith has been a color commentator for Clemson (S.C.) University baseball home games shown on video Smith’s approach is to comment on the game like he’s watching it on TV with a buddy “It’s a lot of fun,” says Smith. Not a rookie to broadcasting before the Clemson gig, Smith was a radio color commentator for Furman basketball for six years. He’s also followed MLB. “I’m glad they’re going to have a time clock for pitching,” says Smith. “The games have gotten too long.” While he sees why some teams are based around power, there is more to the game than the three-run bomb. “I really enjoy some of that small-ball stuff that maybe people don’t appreciate nowadays,” says Smith. “I don’t think there’s a better game than baseball when the ball is in-play. There’s a lot of down time. “But when the ball is hit, it’s just a perfect game. If you field it cleanly, the guy is out by a step at first base. “What’s more exciting than seeing a guy hit a ball in the right-center gap and trying to stretch it into a triple? It’s great.” In May 2020, Furman announced the elimination of its baseball program. “It’s in a state of limbo now,” says Smith of Paladins baseball. “The field still intact and still pretty well maintained. “I’m hoping that in the near future it will be reinstated.”
IHSBCA HALL OF FAME 2022 BALLOT Coaches Brian Jennings (Retired) A 1987 graduate of Whiting High School and 1991 graduate of Indiana State University, Jennings began his coaching career at Whiting in 1996 and moved to Griffith High School in 1999 (retiring in 2022). His teams won 14 sectional and four conference and made a trip to the state championship game in 2001, losing to Indianapolis Cathedral. During his 27 years as a varsity coach, he won 448 games. He is a four-time conference coach of the year and one-time district coach of the year. Forty players went on to play college baseball and four in pro ball, including 2019 first-rounder Kody Hoese (Los Angeles Dodgers), and seven were selected as North/South All-Stars. He was served on numerous IHSBCA committees, coached in the 2012 North/South All-Star Series in Jasper and organized the 2016 games in Whiting. He has announced the IHSAA State Finals for several years on the IHSAA Champions Network via radio and television. He is currently an assistant principal at Griffith and resides in Whiting with wife Luann. Brian has two stepchildren — Ashley and Steve.
Lea Selvey (Retired) A graduate of Redkey High School, University of Evansville (bachelor’s) and Ball State University (master’s), Selvey spent his entire career at Jay County — five years as an assistant and 34 as head coach (retiring in 2022) — and won 530 games with seven sectionals and three regionals. His teams have won five Olympic Conference titles and he was named OC Coach of the Year three time. He also has an Allen County Athletic Conference crown to his credit. Selvey was a District Coach of the Year in 2019. He has served the IHSBCA as president, a regional representative and been on numerous committees and been an All-Star assistant twice. He’s also been a Regional Coach of the Year. Selvey has coached 14 All-Stars and had numerous players go on to college baseball with two being selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and two others playing independent pro ball and overseas pro baseball. He coached the 1992 NABF Topps Player of the Year. Selvey started the junior high program at Jay County and has been active with the Summit City Sluggers travel organization for nine years. He has also been involved with cross country, boys basketball and girls basketball over the years. Lea and wife Denise have three children (Josh, Kristen and Kyle (wife Leah) and currently teaches Science at Jay County High School.
Dean Lehrman (Active) A graduate of Heritage High School and Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, Lehrman was a four-year baseball letterman in high school and pitched four years in college. He has been a head baseball coach of 44 years — nine at Woodlan and 35 at Heritage (current). His teams have won 665 with 12 Allen County Athletic Conference titles along with eight sectionals, three regionals and one semistate. There’s been three Final Four appearances and a state runner-up finish (2007). He’s an eight-time ACAC Coach of the Year. He’s also been a District Coach of the Year and twice been on the All-Star coaching staff. He also coached football for 39 years, including six as head coach (40-26). Dean and wife Janice have three children (Camryn, Derek and Ryne) and four grandchildren. Dean retired from teaching math at Heritage High School in 2020.
Gary Rogers (Active) A graduate of Merrillville High School and Huntington College, Rogers has been a head coach of 34 years — 32 at Fort Wayne Bishop Luers and two at Leo (current) with 513 wins. His Luers teams won four sectionals, one regional, one semistate and one state championship (2008). He was the State Coach of the Year in 2008 and has twice been a District Coach of the Year. He has been on numerous IHSBCA committees and is very active in the Fort Wayne baseball community. He was a volunteer assistant at Indiana Tech for many seasons, worked the Wildcat League for 33 years and is on the board of the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association (he is an NEIBA Hall of Famer).
Kelby Weybright (Retired) A graduate of North White High School, he played three years at Blackburn College and earned a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University. Following one season as a North White assistant, Weybright spent six seasons as an assistant and 11 as head coach at Norwell High School. There he compiled a record of 243-93 before retiring in 2012 to coach his sons in travel baseball. His Norwell teams won two conference, seven sectional, four regional and two semistate titles. The Knights were Class 3A state champions in 2003 and 2007 and state runners-up in 2006. The 2006 and 2007 teams were a combined 64-2, including 35-0 in 2007 (the third unbeaten team during the IHSAA tournament era). That team finished No. 10 in the nation according to Collegiate Baseball/Easton Sports. Weybright was IHSBCA 3A coach of the year in 2003 and 2007 and Northeast Eight Conference coach of the year in 2006 and 2007. Twenty-two players went on to college baseball with six North/South All-Star Series selection (he was head coach in 2007 and series co-chair in Fort Wayne in 2011). Four players were taken in the Major League Baseball draft with two making the big leagues. Weybright has been on the IHSBCA executive council and served as the group’s president (2012-13). He remains active as a 3A poll voter. He is currently athletic director at Norwell and continues to work with the baseball team occasionally during the season and the summer developmental period. He resides in Bluffton with wife Lisa, a teacher at Norwell Middle School. The couple has three children (Garrett, 23, Jacob, 20, and Maria, 19).
Tim Terry (Active) A graduate of Clinton High School and Indiana State University (bachelor’s and masters), Terry has been a baseball coach for 43 years — 41 as head coach — with 620 wins and eight sectionals. His teams have won 20 or more games 10 times and he has been a conference Coach of the Year on nine occasions. He has twice been a District Coach of the Year, served as an IHSBCA All-Star coach twice and coaches several All-Staters and All-Stars. He’s been on many IHSBCA committees. Terry played football, basketball and baseball at Clinton and baseball and Indiana State before an injury sidelined him. He was a South Vermillion High School assistant in 1979 and 1981 and Turkey Run High School head coach in 1980. He became SVHS head coach in 1982. He has also coached many Little League, Pony League, Babe Ruth and travel ball teams. He’s been a varsity football coach for three years and girls basketball coach of 34. In three sports, he has 922 victories. Terry was an Industrial Arts and Physical Education teacher and has been South Vermillion athletic director for the past six years. Tim and wife Kim (an SVHS Science teacher) have four boys (T.J., Carlton, Cooper and Easton).
Kyle Kraemer (Active) A 1986 graduate of Terre Haute South Vigo High School, Kraemer was an IHSBCA first-team all-state selection as a senior and played in the North/South All-Star Series. He played four years at Purdue University under IHSBCA Hall of Famer Dave Alexander. As a senior, he was team captain and led the Boilermakers with 10 home runs. Kraemer will begin his 29th season as South Vigo in 2023. His record is 535-255-2. Coach K was also an assistant at Harrison (West Lafayette) in 1992 and South Vigo in 1993 and 1994. His first season leading the Braves was 1995. Seventy-five players have gone on to the next level, including eight professionals. There have been 64 all-conference selections (42 Metropolitation Interscholastic Conference and 22 Conference Indiana). Eight players have been on the IHSBCA Academic All-State Team, 12 in the North/South All-Star Series and five IHSBCA first-team all-state. He has coached teams to eight conference titles (six MIC and two CI) with 10 sectional and for regional crowns and two Final Four appearances. He was named MIC Coach of the Year six times and CI Coach of the Year twice. Kraemer is an active IHSBCA member. He has been District M representative for more than 20 years and acted as hosted of the 2006 North/South Series. He was an assistant for the 2008 series. He has been on the South All-Star selection committee on numerous occasions. He has served as a 4A poll panelist the past seven years. Kraemer teaches in the CTE department at South Vigo. Wife Valerie is a fourth grade teacher in Vigo County. The couple shares three children together — Koby Kramer (with wife Seyma), Ali Gonzalez (with husband Rigo) and Jacob Givens. There are also four grandchildren (Kali and Khali Kraemer and Liam and Leia Givens).
Dave Ginder (Active) A graduate of Carroll High School and Anderson University, Ginder is 426-147 in 20 seasons as Carroll head coach with seven Northeast Hoosier Conference, 11 sectional, four regional, two semistate and two state crowns (2010 and 2011). He was the State Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2011, NHC Coach of the Year in 2003, 2011 and 2013 and a District Coach of the Year in 2007, 2010 and 2001. Ginder is an active IHSBCA member, having served as an All-Star coach in 2011 and many years as a member of the 4A poll panel. He has also been involved in many local baseball camps and clinics and is member of the American Baseball Coaches Association and Northeast Indiana Baseball Association. Dave and wife Kristen reside in Fort Wayne and have three children (Langston, 23, Drezdan, 21, and Jantzyn, 18). Dave teaches mat at Carroll High School and Kristen is a Registered Nurse at Parkview.
Players/Contributors Wallace Johnson (Retired) A graduate of Gary Roosevelt High School (1975) and Indiana State University (1979), Wallace played for legendary coach Bob Warn at ISU and was co-captain on the Sycamores’ first Missouri Valley Conference championship team and first NCAA Tournament team. Johnson led the nation in hitting (.502) that season and hit .422 for his college career. He was inducted into the ISU Hall of Fame in 1985. Drafted in 1979 by the Montreal Expos, Johnson was a Florida State League MVP and helped Denver (1981) and Indianapolis (1986) and Triple-A championships. He made his MLB debut with the Expos in 1981 and became the team’s all-time leader in pinch hits (86). For his big league career, Johnson hit .255 with five home runs and 59 runs batted in over 428 games. After his playing career, he was third base coach for the Chicago White Sox for five seasons.
Drew Storen (Retired) A 2007 graduate of Brownsburg High School, he played for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Pat O’Neil and was a key member of the 2005 undefeated state championship team which the Indianapolis Star deemed “the greatest high school team in Indiana history.” He was the No. 2 pitcher behind Lance Lynn as the Bulldogs were also state runners-up in 2004. Storen was 26-2 in his high school career with a 1.61 earned run average and 270 strikeouts in 178 1/3 innings. He was all-state, academic all-state, a South all-star and a 34th round pick in the 2007 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He played at Stanford University and was a two-time all-PAC-10 selection, going 12-4 with a 3.64 ERA and 15 saves, throwing mostly in a relief role. As a draft-eligible sophomore, he was chosen 10th overall for the Washington Nationals in 2009. Storen enjoyed a nine-year career with the Nationals, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds. He went 29-18 with 99 saves. In 440 1/3 innings (all in relief), he struck out 417 and posted a 3.45 ERA. He pitched in two postseason series. He was 1-1 with a save against the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012 and 0-1 vs. the San Francisco Giants in 2014. Drew and wife Brittani live in Indianapolis with two boys (Jace, 5, and Pierce, 2).
Dave Taylor (Active) A standout player at Southmont High School and Wabash College (where he was team captain), Taylor coached Little League, Babe Ruth, high school, AAU and American Legion ball. During an AAU coaching stint in Florida he realized the level of travel baseball and how Indiana was underrepresented in this arena. He formed the Indiana Bulls with the vision of providing Indiana high school players with the opportunity to pursue their college and MLB dreams. In 1992, the Bulls sponsored two games and Taylor coached the 18U squad with future big leaguers Scott Rolen and Todd Dunwoody. He coached the Bulls four more seasons, served as president for 10 and officer for 20 and has been director since 1992. More than 170 Bulls players have been drafted (12 in the first round) and over 300 have received NCAA Division I scholarships. The organization has 22 national titles and a professional staff that works 12 months a year. There are currently 25 teams ages 8U to 17U. Several are coached by former professionals who played for the Bulls. Taylor resides in Brownsburg and is a leading insurance defense trail attorney, He has served 20 years as a certified Major League Baseball Players Association agent and represented more than 100 pro players. He continues to represent former players in various legal matters.
Bryan Bullington (Retired) A graduate of Madison Consolidated High School, Bullington was a two-sport athlete (basketball and baseball). As a pitcher, he was 6-3 with 74 strikeouts as a sophomore in 1997, 10-1 with 1.69 earned run average and 65 strikeouts as a junior in 1998 and 15-0 with 1.49 ERA and 127 strikeouts as a senior in 1999. He threw a one-hitter in helping Madison win a state championship in 1999 and was named Indiana Mr. Baseball by Hoosier Diamond. He was MVP of the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series and selected in the 37th round of the MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals. Bullington opted to attend Ball State University. In three seasons he was 29-11. He was Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2001 and 2002. When he left BSU, he held school records for single-season wins (11), career wins (29), single-season strikeouts (139) and career strikeout (357) and still holds MAC single-season and career strikeout marks. He was named to the BSU Hall of Fame in 2014. Bullington, a 2001 U.S. National Team pitcher in 2001, was the No. 1 overall draft selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2002. He’s just one of two Indiana players taken with the top pick. He logged 12 pro seasons (missing 2006 because of a torn labrum) with a 61-38 record, 3.68 ERA and 602 strikeouts in seven minor league campaigns. In five seasons with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, he was 46-48 with a 3.25 ERA and 550 strikeouts. He pitched in 49 MLB games with the Pirates, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays and Royals. Bullington lives south of Chicago with his wife and three children and is a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Jeff Samardzija (Retired) A 2003 graduate of Valparaiso High School, Samardzija is considered one of the best athletes in Indiana state history. He was runner-up for Indiana Mr. Football and a three-time all-stater and all-star in that sport. In baseball, he was runner-up for Mr. Baseball as a senior and was a three-year varsity letterman, an all-state honoree and center fielder. He hit .375 with five home runs and 37 runs batted in as a junior. As a senior, he hit .481 with eight homers and 50 RBIs. Samardzija chose to play football at Notre Dame and was invited to pitch for the Irish. He was a two-time All-American wide receiver and two-time All-American pitcher. He was a two-time runner-up for the Biletnikoff Award as the the college football season’s outstanding FBS receiver. Despite his football skills and the likelihood of being drafted as a first-round pick by the NFL, he opted to play baseball after pitching for the Irish for three seasons. Samardzija was selected in the fifth round of the 2006 draft by the Chicago Cubs and made his MLB debut in July 2008. He alspo played for the Oakland Athletics (2014), Chicago White Sox (2015) and San Francisco Giants (2016-20). He was an American League all-star in 2014. His career record was 80-106 with a 4.15 ERA and 1,449 strikeouts. He pitched 13 full seasons at the MLB level. Jeff and brother Sam represent a rate achievement in VHS history as all-state performers in both football and baseball.
A.J. Reed (Retired) A 2011 graduate of Terre Haute South Vigo High School, where he played for Kyle Kraemer, Reed was a three-time all-Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference honoree, first-team All-State (2010 and 2011) and Indiana High School Player of the Year (2011). He was also an IHSBCA South All-Star and the series MVP. He is listed in the IHSBCA record for walks in a season (first) and home runs in a season (sixth). Reed played three seasons at the University of Kentucky (2012-14). After his junior year, he earned the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Golden Spikes Award (for the nation’s top amateur player), Dick Howser Trophy and Player of the Year honors from ABCA and Baseball America as well as the John Olerud Trophy and several first-team All-America mentions and Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year. In 2012, he was on several first-team Freshman All-America lists. The Houston Astros selected Reed in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft and he was an All-Star in Minor League Baseball in 2015, 2017 and 2018. He was a two-time recipient of the Joe Bauman Award for leading MiLB in homers and was Rookie of the Year and MVP at Lancaster of the California League in 2015. Reed retired from baseball in May 2020 and resides in Riley with Shelby and their two dogs. He plans to return to college to finish his bachelor’s degree.
Development as ballplayers and beyond the diamond. That’s the aim for the Indiana Expos and Indiana Angels travel organization and Samp’s Hack Shack baseball/softball training facilities in Brownsburg and Plainfield. Isaac Sampen, 29, is co-owner of the Expos and Angels travel baseball organizations with his father — former big league pitcher Bill Sampen (Montreal Expos, Kansas City Royals and California Angels) — and Samp’s Hack Shack director of operations. “We try to push the needle in the positive direction,” says Isaac. “We’ve had success and we’re going to keep doing it.” Doing things the right way as Sampen defines it includes getting players to approach the game with respect. “We’re doing everything we can to help players reach their maximum potential and be part of a family,” says Sampen. “They do not just share a logo. “We’re all in on our players. What matters most that our players develop and get better. That’s the end-all, be-all for us. If our guys are getting better we’ll win games.” It starts with teaching baseball skills. But players are also challenged to excel in life. That may be the classroom, weight room or community. “We want to help them be good people,” says Sampen. “When kids know you legitimately care about them you can get more out of them on the field.” The Indiana Expos played their first games in 2016 with 15U being the oldest age division. The Sampens saw a need to have an organization led by coaches who did not have sons in the program. After meeting people who wanted the option to coach their sons with training and guidance from knowledgeable baseball people, the Indiana Angels debuted in 2022-23. The 2022-23 Expos have 14 teams 13U to 17U. The Angels have 17 squads 8U to 15U. The age divisions tend to vary year by year. Between travel teams and the training facilities, there are more than 60 coaches/instructors. Sampen’s 13U Expos played around 50 games over a dozen weekends April through July in 2022 and is expected to do the same at the 14U level in 2023. As he sees it, the biggest difference between high school players and the younger ones is communication. “At 14, they’ve had less time on Earth,” says Sampen. “Maybe it’s more elementary. They don’t have the same experience (as older players). “But I don’t like cookie-cutting things. I teach and challenge on a per-player basis.” Sampen is not loud with his communication. “I’m not a screamer or yeller — none of our guys are,” says Sampen. “I don’t think it’s effective. Sometimes it causes chaos.”. While 14-year-olds tend to be less mature, some are more advanced and similar to those a few years older. Expos/Angels players are expected to earn their role on the team and equal playing time is not the rule. They are given the freedom to fail. “We don’t want them to be robotic,” says Sampen. “We don’t want guys to feel stress to play. “We let them fail and then teach. We want them to win.” Sampen says most players — especially on the Expos side — have college baseball aspirations at minimum. The organization’s first three graduating classes (2020-22) saw 73 move on to college ball. Over the years, players have developed on the field but they’ve also done things like sending notes to people having a tough time. “It’s about thinking outside themselves,” says Sampen. “You’re getting outside your bubble.” In paying it forward, athletes have helped with camps during and after their time playing for the organization. “(Younger) kids look up to those guys,” says Sampen, who is now attached to a 14U Expos team. “They think it’s cool for us, it’s good to witness that. “(Older players) are thankful for the opportunities they’ve had.” Sampen, who has also been involved with Avon Baseball Club, is a 2012 graduate of Brownsburg High School. He led Indiana in home runs and was a Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Class 4A All-State first-teamer as a senior outfielder. He committed to play at West Virginia University then decided for Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., where he was a National Junior College Athletic Association All-American and national leader in slugging percentage. Sampen transferred to Eastern Illinois University (Charleston, Ill.) as a two-way player. Injuries ended his playing career. He shares his college experiences youngers players and he keeps it real. “I let them know about mistakes that I made,” says Sampen. “I warn guys. College baseball seems like its always roses. It’s not. It’s hard. I want to prepare them for the grind it is.” Sampen notes that parents are no longer there to lend daily support. In a game of failure, players must learn to cope — often on their own. There is new-found freedom at college, but also the choice of getting in trouble or keeping their nose clean. Isaac’s wife — Stacy Sampen — is a personal trainer and nutritionist based in Brownsburg. The couple has no children of their own. “But there’s about 400 of them on our 31 teams,” says Sampen. Isaac’s top baseball mentors are Bill Sampen and IHSBCA Hall of Famer Pat O’Neil (his Brownsburg coach as a freshman and sophomore). “I’ve learned a ton from my dad,” says Isaac, the oldest of Bill and Amy Sampen’s three sons ahead of Sam and Caleb (a pitcher in the Tampa Bay Rays system). “I’m blessed to have grown up with a guy who played at the highest level. “(Coach O’Neil) has been around the game for a long time and been around so many good players.” The original Samp’s Hack Shack opened in November 2009 at 17 North Adams St., Brownsburg. The Plainfield facility is at 1915 Gladden Road. Baseball and softball training is offered year-round for individuals and teams (even those outside the Expos and Angels).
Howard Kellman has called more than 6,600 games as a play-by-play broadcaster for the Indianapolis Indians. This week, Kellman stepped away from his longtime duties and travel to St. Petersburg, Fla., to broadcast on the radio for the New York Yankees Friday, Sept. 2 against the Tampa Bay Rays. Kellman, 70, saw Tampa Bay score a combined eight runs in the seventh and eight innings in a 9-0 victory. Christian Bethancourt socked a two-run home run in the seventh. The Panamanian was the Indianapolis team MVP in 2021. “It was a wonderful experience,” said Kellman while waiting for his flight from Tampa back to Indianapolis. “Working with (color commentator) Suzyn Waldman and producer Jack Maldonado were terrific. “I’ve know the Yankee people for a long time,” said Kellman, an Indiana Baseball Hall of Famer. “When there was this word that John Sterling might miss games I reached out to the Yankees and they told me to contact (general manager) Chris Oliviero at WFAN. I sent a CD of my work.” What is the difference between broadcasting Triple-A versus Major League Baseball? “Well, you’ve got the crowd and bigger ballparks,” said Kellman. “It was fun. “Remember, I grew up as a Yankee fan. This was a great thrill.” Kellman, professional speaker, award-winning sportscaster and author, hails from the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, N.Y., and graduated from Brooklyn College. He wound up in Indianapolis, called his first Indians game in 1974 and has been the team’s voice for all but two seasons since (1975 and 1980). It was not Kellman’s first time on the call for a New York team. He broadcast three Mets games in 2014. He filled in for three Chicago White Sox games in 1984. As he does for every contest, Kellman was meticulous in his preparation for the Yankees vs. Rays. “In this day and age it’s a lot easier with the Internet,” said Kellman. “You have everything available to you. I follow the Yankees close and I’m still a Yankees fan. “I got help from the Tampa Bay people from reading things online and also talking to their broadcasters (including Neil Solondz, Dewayne Staats and Andy Freed).” Stats worked in Oklahoma City and Freed in Pawtucket when those teams shared a league with Indianapolis. Kellman missed two home games with the Indians while in Florida. The team has not sent a broadcaster on the road in 2022. He was expected back behind the mic tonight (Sept. 3) as the Indians play at Louisville. Greg Rakestraw, Cheyne Reiter and Jack McMullen handled the game during Kellman’s absence.
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.