Tag Archives: Major League Baseball

Reinebold, South Bend Clay Colonials celebrate 1,000 wins

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

South Bend (Ind.) Clay High School got to celebrate its baseball past and present when the Colonials reached a milestone May 14 at Jim Reinebold Field.
The Colonials swept a doubleheader from visiting Bowman Leadership Academy. The first-game win marked the 1,000th since Clay joined South Bend Community School Corporation in 1964.
Jim Reinebold led the program to its first 503 victories from 1964-88. He helped found the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association and was a member of its initial Hall of Fame induction class in 1979. He established the Jim Reinebold Fall Baseball Camp in 1993 and it the developmental camp is still an autumn tradition.
“He was the GOAT,” says Joel Reinebold, one of Jim’s sons and the head coach at Clay since the 2014 season.
There have been many family connections at Clay over the decades. That continues with Denny Grounds, who played for Jim Reinebold in 1964, and his grandson, Colin Monsma, who is on Joel Reinebold’s 2022 team.
“We’re very, very young and very, very inexperienced,” says Reinebold, who at times has had four freshmen and two first-time high school players in his starting lineup. “But they know about the tradition of program and what is expected of them. They got a big kick of getting 1,000 wins on their watch.
“We stress pride in the program, taking care of what we have and appreciating what you have.”
All this during a time when there is talk of school closures in South Bend, including Clay.
“We don’t know anything,” says Reinebold of the rumors. “We just take it day by day.
“It would be a crime to shut it down. It’s a great school.”
When Jim Reinebold started at Clay, the team played on a diamond located on the site of the current field.
Joel Reinebold remembers watching “No. 4” and his teams from the monkey bars.
The Colonials then played at Bendix (Kennedy) Park and then at Clay Park before landing at what is now Jim Reinebold Field (so named following J.R.’s death in 2017) while Chip O’Neil, who is also an IHSBCA Hall of Famer, was head coach.
Since coming back to Clay, Joel estimates that the program and its supporters have raised more than $50,000 for upgrades to the facility.
How many hours has Joel spent working on it?
“I wouldn’t even begin to guess,” says Reinebold. “I wish I had a dollar for every hour.”
Clay will host a Class 3A sectional (with Mishawaka Marian, New Prairie, South Bend Saint Joseph and South Bend Washington) May 25, 26 and 30 and a 1A regional (with regional winners from the South Central of Union Mills, Caston, Fremont and Westville sectionals) June 4.
“I want a semistate (in the future),” says Reinebold. “It’s more work for us, but I’m glad we host the sectional and regional and can show off the field a little bit.”
Reinebold, who was the original groundskeeper at Stanley Coveleski Regional Stadium in South Bend (now called Four Winds Field), cares for a field which sports athletic bluegrass with a Washington Ball Mix for the infield.
“I like the coloring and texture,” says Reinebold. “It drains very well.”
Reinebold is always partial to Pro’s Choice infield conditioner.
“It helps the playability of the field and its prevents it from getting too hard or too soft,” says Reinebold. “It’s the same stuff I used at the stadium.”
After graduating from Clay and playing at Mississippi College, Reinebold was an assistant to his father then Dan Kasper at Clay.
He then helped Brian Buckley at Hillsdale (Mich.) College, served as an assistant at Penn High School (the Kingsmen won their first state championship in 1994) followed by a head coaching stint at South Bend Adams (1995-2000), another assistant stretch at Penn (2001-2012) and finally leading the program at Clay.
His current coaching staff includes pitching coach Kasper and former Adams player Nate Meadimber.
The Colonials have won 12 sectional titles, including in the first two years of the IHSAA state tournament (1967 and 1968).
Since 1967, only South Bend Riley boys swimming (29) has earned more sectional champions among SBCSC schools.
Clay reigned as state baseball champions in 1970. Jay Parker and Bob Schell were captains on that team and are part of a group of Colonials who were selected in the Major League Baseball Draft out of high school or college.
Besides Parker (Chicago White Sox 1970) and Schell (Chicago Cubs 1970), there’s Roger Benko (Chicago White Sox 1967), Gary King (Cleveland Indians 1970), Kent Juday (Cleveland Indians 1972), Andy Replogle (St. Louis Cardinals 1975), Bret Mitchell (Kansas City Royals 1977), Tim Hudnall (Montreal Expos 2002), Mike Wolff (Baltimore Orioels 1994) and Aaron Bond (San Francisco Giants 2017). Replogle pitched in the majors.
Joel Reinebold helps youth players in Indiana and Jamaica through his efforts with Rounding Third, a a non-profit organization he helped start with former South Bend White Sox/Silver Hawks front office man John Baxter and others.

South Bend (Ind.) Clay High School celebrates the 1,000th win since Clay joined South Bend Community Schools in 1964. The milestone came May 14, 2022. (South Bend Clay Photo)

Elkhart’s Tully makes MLB debut at Yankee Stadium for Guardians

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Tanner Tully’s Major League Baseball debut came Friday, April 22 at Yankee Stadium in New York.
The left-handed pitcher who played at Elkhart (Ind.) Central High School and Ohio State University was called up to the Cleveland Guardians as part of a move when three players were placed on the COVID 19/injured list.
Tully was with Cleveland for a series with the Chicago White Sox, pitched in New York and then returned to Triple-A Columbus the next day.
“Now we can work on getting back up there again,” says Tully, 27.
The lefty pitched the fifth and sixth innings, facing all nine hitters in the Yankees lineup, including seven right-handers.
His first two pitches to lead-off man D.J. LeMahieu — four-seam fastballs — were strikes (swing-and-miss and foul ball). The third — a slider — resulted in a groundout to shortstop.
Two of the first three deliveries to 6-foot-7, 282-pound Aaron Judge were strikes. The New York slugger worked a full-count and lined an opposite field pitch into the short right field porch for his second home run of the night.
Tully got ahead 0-1 on lefty swinger Anthony Rizzo and coaxed a flyout to center field.
The lefty went 2-2 on Giancarlo Stanton before yielding a single to left field.
Tully made seven pitches to Josh Donaldson, issuing a walk to Josh Donaldson and getting a visit from Cleveland pitching coach Carl Willis.
The first toss to lefty batter Joey Gallo wound up with a groundout to first base.
In the sixth, Tully got ahead 0-1 on Gleyber Torres before a flyout to center.
The count on Isiah Kiner-Falefa was 1-1 before another flyout to center.
Tully retired Jose Trevino on seven pitches, the last resulting in a foul pop-out to first base.
The southpaw wound up throwing 25 of 38 pitches for strikes for the Terry Francona-managed Guardians.
While he may throw a few more four-seamers than the others, Tully has tried to throw his four pitches — four-seamer, change-up, slider and curve — in close to equal amounts. He sat down with coaches in recent years and came to this decision.
“I throw off-speed a lot more than I used to,” says Tully. “It’s more about location and getting outs.”
Back in Columbus, where Andy Tracy is the manager and Rigo Beltran the pitching coach, Tully expects to start again sometime this week for the Clippers.
The day of a start, Tully is looked at for a solid five or six innings.
“You do everything you can and let the bullpen come in,” says Tully. “Baseball’s evolved a lot . It’s hard to face a lineup three times through.”
Even with scouting reports and video to study opposing hitters (who can also do the same with pitchers).
Tully says the Cleveland organization wants to keep pitchers like him stretched out so they can help as starters or as receivers at the big league level.
“I don’t care if start or I’m in the bullpen,” says Tully. “As long as I get to throw.”
The day after his minor league starts, Tully lifts weights to stay strong and does sprint work.
“You want to be explosive from Point A to Point B,” says Tully. “They call it fast-twitch. Long-distance running doesn’t really help. You’re not conditioning for long distance as a pitcher.
“I’ve grown into the last two or three years. It’s max effort when you’re out there. You’re out there for 10 or 15 minutes, you take a break and go max effort again.”
Two days after a start, Tully throws 25 to 30 pitches in the bullpen.
“I’m working on stuff I want to get better at,” says Tully, who lifts again the next day and then some more running the day before the next start.”
Tully throws some everyday between starts with some long toss on Day 2 or 4, depending on how he feels.
Tanner and wife (the former Taylor Hughes) live in Columbus. She is a former Ohio State volleyball player who just wrapped her career playing in Portugal and is now an auditor for Cardinal Health.
“I’m probably one of the only people in the country that get to live at home and play baseball,” says Tully. “Not many people get to do that.”
With Taylor working all day, Tanner spends his time working out, playing with the dog or doing things around the house. Off days — like Monday — are for relaxing.
Columbus plays in the International League. The Clippers have a six-game homestand April 26-May 1 against Louisville. Columbus is to visit Indianapolis June 7-12.

Tanner Tully (Cleveland Guardians Photo)

Elkhart’s Tully gets called to the big leagues by Guardians

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Nine years after he guided Elkhart (Ind.) Central High School to a state championship, Tanner Tully was called up to the big leagues.
The 27-year-old left-handed pitcher was promoted to the Cleveland Guardians Wednesday, April 20. He was one of three players added to Cleveland’s 40-man roster and 28-man active roster as replacements for pitchers Cal Quantrill and Anthony Castro and infielder Owen Miller, all of whom were placed on the 10-day COVID-19 injured list.
His last start with the Triple-A Columbus (Ohio) Clippers was April 15.
Tully, who was given jersey No. 56, did not pitch in Wednesday’s home doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox. Starting pitchers announced for the series finale at 1:10 p.m. Eastern today (April 21) were former Crown Point High School and Ball State University right-hander Zach Plesac for Cleveland and Dylan Cease for Chicago.
The Guardians were to begin weekend series at Yankee Stadium Friday through Sunday, April 22-24. As of Thursday morning, Cleveland had not announced its starting pitchers against New York.
As an Elkhart Central senior, Tully hit a home run to lead off the bottom of the first inning and struck out 13 batters while scattering five singles as the Steve Stutsman-coached Blue Blazers topped Indianapolis Cathedral 1-0 for the 2013 IHSAA Class 4A state championship at Victory Field in Indianapolis. Some of his high school teammates had played with him as a youngster with the Jimmy Malcom-coached Rip City Rebels. Jimmy’s son, Cory Malcom, went on to pitch at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
Tully was Hoosier Diamond magazine’s Indiana Mr. Baseball award winner in 2013.
The southpaw pitched for three seasons at Ohio State University (2014-16). He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year (2014). As a junior (2016), he was first team all-Big Ten, going 8-3 with a 2.34 earned run average and 76 strikeouts to 21 walks in 103 2/3 innings. For his OSU career, he was 18-10 with a 2.93 ERA in 46 games.
He competed for the Northwoods League’s Battle Creek (Mich.) Bombers (2014) and Cape Cod League’s Orleans Firebirds (2015) in summer collegiate ball and was selected by Cleveland in the 26th round of the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Tully has made minor league stops with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Niles, Ohio), Lake County Captains (Eastlake, Ohio), Lynchburg (Va.) Hillcats, Akron (Ohio) Rubber Ducks as well as Columbus.
Splitting his time between Double-A and Triple-A in 2021, Tully was 6-6 with a 3.50 ERA and finished second in the club’s minor league system in innings (113). The left-hander made six starts for the 2021 Arizona Fall League’s Scottsdale Scorpions.
At the time of his call-up, he had made 118 pro appearances (94 as starter) and was 32-40 with a 3.89 ERA. He had 428 strikeouts and 113 walks in 583 1/3 innings.
Tully is married to the former Taylor Hughes, who was a setter for the Ohio State volleyball team (2015-18).

Tanner Tully (Cleveland Guardians Photo)

Former pitcher Floyd seeing things from coaching side with IU-Kokomo

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Nick Floyd played baseball at Ball State University for four years.
The 2015 graduate of Jimtown High School in Elkhart, Ind., pitched for the Cardinals from 2016-19 then experienced independent professional ball with the American Association’s Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats, The Battle of the Bourbon Trail’s Florence (Ky.) Y’alls (part of a COVID-19 pop-up circuit) and Pioneer League’s Idaho Falls Chukars.
Now he’s seeing the college game from a coach’s perspective.
Floyd, 24, leads pitchers for Indiana University-Kokomo. The Cougars are in the River States Conference (NAIA). He earned his Finance degree at Ball State in 2019, but was offered the opportunity to play pro ball then to coach when Drew Brantley was building his IUK staff and says it suits his temperament.
“All the philosophies are still the same,” says Floyd, comparing his time as a college player and coach. “But now I better understand the little things that my college coaches tried to convey to us.”
Floyd says he now appreciates those team rules set in place by Ball State head coach Rich Maloney.
“Now I step back and look at the program as a whole and value the little things — like going about things the right way, being early to practice and everyone wearing the same thing on the road,” says Floyd. “Every player is supposed to get water only. Pop is not good for them. Everyone wearing the same color (at practice) is important for team unity. We want to be one cohesive unit instead of a bunch of individuals.
“Not everyone’s the same. A little bit of individuality is totally fine. But it also needs to be structured and adding value to the group as a whole.”
Maloney believes in building team culture.
“That’s something he stresses a ton,” says Floyd. “He showed through his actions how I wanted to be as a coach.”
As IUK pitching coach, Floyd reflects the two men who were his pitching coaches at BSU — Chris Fetter (now Detroit Tigers pitching coach) and Dustin Glant (now Indiana University pitching coach). Glant was head coach at Anderson (Ind.) University when Brantley was an assistant.
“The No. 1 thing is attack,” says Floyd, who made 34 mound appearances (14 starts) for the Cardinals. “We want to pitch with the mentality of being the aggressor. I’m going to beat you on this pitch. It starts from the mental side of things. You have to have confidence in your own ability.”
Floyd wants his pitchers to get ahead in ball-strike counts. He would rather they give up a bomb pounding the zone then walking the bases loaded and giving up a squib hit to score multiple runs.
“We always go down in attack mode,” says Floyd. “Coach Glant taught me that.”
Drey Jameson fanned a Ball State and Mid-American Conference-record 146 batters — 14.66 per nine innings — and was named MAC Pitcher of the Year before being selected in first round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“Drey definitely attacked,” says Floyd. “He knew he was better than you and he was going to go out and show it.
“That kind of mentality filtered through everyone (on the Ball State pitching staff).”
As IUK prepares for a non-conference doubleaheader against Shawnee State today (March 1) and a three-game RSC series against Ohio Christian, Floyd and graduate assistant Justin Reed (a former IUK player who is also Cougars catchers coach) are working with about 20 pitchers including a few two-way players.
“Right now we’ve built up about four starters,” says Floyd. “Other guys in longer relief could potentially starts.
“One mid-week starter could come out of the pen on the weekend.”
Jeremy Honaker (a Connersville High School graduate who has coached at Zionsville and Martinsville high schools, the University of Indianapolis and in the Indiana Bulls and Canes travel baseball organizations) and student assistant Nate James (a Castle High alum who played at Kankakee Community College before transferring to IUK) are the team’s other coaches.
The Cougars play home games at Kokomo Municipal Stadium — a downtown park it shares with the summer collegiate Kokomo Jackrabbits and Kokomo High School.
“Not many NAIA teams have access to a facility like that,” says Floyd. “We try to get outside any time it is remotely close to being good weather.
“Last week we were shoveling snow for two hours just to get outside.”
When getting outside is not possible, the team can use Cougar Gym, located downtown. The weight room is at the on-campus Student Activities and Events Center.
Floyd accepted the job last summer while he was pitching for Idaho Falls and learning from Chukars field staff of manager Billy Gardner Jr. (a pro manager since 1995), pitching coach Bob Milacki (who pitched in the big leagues) and hitting coach Billy Butler (who was also a major leaguer). A few days after the season, he was in Kokomo.
A former NCAA Division I player, Floyd compares that level to NAIA.
“There isn’t a huge difference,” says Floyd. “The top-end guys on each are pretty comparable.
“Most D-I lineups and pitching staffs are deeper talent-wise.”

Nick Floyd (Indiana University-Kokomo Photo)

PRP Baseball founder Vogt also Blue Jays Rehab Pitching Coach

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Greg Vogt spent years building a training business he calls PRP Baseball (Passion Resilence Process) and others noticed.
The Toronto Blue Jays were impressed enough to offer Vogt the job of Rehab Pitching Coach.
Vogt, a graduate of Carmel (Ind.) High School (2008) and Anderson (Ind.) University (2012), accepted and recently moved wife Whitney and three boys — Parker (6), Griffen (4) and Jackson (4 months) — close to the Jays complex in Dunedin, Fla.
The organization has established a new 65-acre Player Development Complex for Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball players about 10 minutes from TD Ballpark where the Blue Jays play spring training games.
Built during the COVID-19 lockdown, the facility has multiple tools to train and evaluate players including Trackman, Edgertronic, Rapsodo and HitTrax — all tools that Vogt and his staff use at PRP Baseball which is housed at Mojo Up Sports Complex (formerly known as Finch Creek Fieldhouse) in Noblesville, Ind.
That was a big part of making this decision, seeing their investment in player development,” says Vogt, who is in charge of players on the throwing side and is creating some bigger systems including arm care to keep athletes healthy. He regularly meets with pitching coaches and directors of player development.
A biomechanical lab with six or seven Edgertronic high-speed cameras allows the tracking of movement, force and other measurable elements that can give feedback to the pitcher.
“We can give them a real breakdown,” says Vogt. “(The camera) reads 1 second pitch and there’s like 30-second video.
“We can make adjustments to make movement or the pitching arsenal better.”
While getting to know faces of players and other Jays personnel, Vogt begins seeing pitchers in various stages of rehab early in the morning. They are split into groups. Depending on the day or their needs or programs, these hurlers may do some combination of throwing, weight lifting and medical treatment.
Vogt says PRP Baseball being the “home in Indiana and beyond for all high-level baseball training is still the goal and it continues to be executed.
“Our philosophy will be the exact same. We continue to have more college commitments and (MLB) draftees.”
So far, 58 players from the Class of 2022 who train with PRP Baseball — in-person or remotely — have made college commitments.
Vogt is still the Director of Operations for PRP Baseball and stays connected with his staff in Noblesville that includes Lead Hitting Coach Quentin Brown (who is also now a minor league hitting coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates), Director of Hitting Jake Douglass, Pitching Coach Christian Dukas, Director of Player Development for Pitching Anthony Gomez, Pitching Coach Marcus McCormick, Hitting Coach Noah Niswonger, Director of Camps and Floor Trainer Seth Story, Pitching Coach Tasker Strobel and Director of Sports Performance Bram Wood.
Gomez is handling more daily operations responsibilities with Vogt currently off-site.
Vogt is still Director of Operations for PRP Baseball and manages all systems and marketing.
“I can still take off the work load on some of the back end stuff like making sure we have space, sign-ups, programming software and building spreadsheets,” says Vogt. “Delegating to on-site staff very important to their growth as well.”

Greg Vogt (PRP Photo)

Shafer enjoys player development as Kankakee CC assistant

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Bryce Shafer faces a distinctive challenge as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for the Kankakee (Ill.) Community College baseball program.
A former right-handed pitcher at Northfield High School in Wabash, Ind., and Valparaiso (Ind.) University as well as in the Chicago Cubs system and independent pro ball (Frontier Greys and River City Rascals), Shafter is preparing for his seventh season at KCC — a two-year school and a member of National Junior College Athletic Association Region 4.
“Junior college is definitely unique,” says Shafer, 33. “You’re always recruiting and trying to get your guys recruited.
“Year to year, your roster changes so much.”
As the Cavaliers get ready for the 2022 season opener on March 4 at Southeastern Illinois College, four of Shafer’s sophomore pitchers — starters Kyle Iwinski (Purdue), Matt Lelito (Toledo), Dylan Wolff (Eastern Michigan) and reliever Gavin King (Eastern Michigan) — have already made commitments to NCAA Division I schools. Three others are close to declaring their next stop. Right-handers Iwinski (Griffith) and Lelito (Andrean) and left-hander King (Bluffton) are from Indiana high schools. Righty Wolff hails went to Joliet (Ill.) West.
Since 2016, Shafer has seen 25 of his pitchers move on to four-year schools or the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft — Eleven to NCAA Division I; six to NCAA Division II; five to NAIA; and two (West Noble’s Waylon Richardson and Dylan Dodd) to the MLB Draft.
Richardson was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies (2018) and Dodd was selected 96th overall by the Atlanta Braves in the third round in 2021. Last spring, the Cavaliers pitching staff broke the KCC single-season strikeout record with 491.
“It’s really about development,” says Shafer. “We have something going the full year-round. “There’s pitchers’ strength and speed development in the off-season. Now we’re now getting them ready for competition.
“It’s all about developing players and getting the most out of them. Junior college is a stepping stone. We realize we’re not a destination.
Shater, who is on a staff with head coach Todd Post and hitting/catching coach Nick Ulrey (a New Palestine graduate), uses networking to find players to develop at KCC.
“As a junior college, you get told ‘no’ a lot,” says Shafer, who looks at a roster full of Illinois and Indiana players but also has a two from Canada, one from Missouri and a shortstop — Beyonce Paulina — from Curacao.
“It’s about the connections you make,” says Shafer of the recruiting process. “You watch film. Some numbers help. Velocity is always nice. We look at mechanics. Can we clean him up and make him better?
“We look at the body type. How does he move?
“We always talk to their coaches. We get their whole background and make sure there’s not any red flags.”
Kankakee coaches Shafer, Post and Ulrey all weigh in on player evaluations.
“I pride myself in being able to look at a limited amount of video to see if this kid can be successful at this level and what can we do to make them better,” says Shafer. “We want good kids from good families that get good grades and want to be better at baseball. My goal is to get our players at their highest level of baseball.”
That means teaching the physical and mental sides of the game.
“We try to put our guys in difficult situations and how to handle it,” says Shafer, who earned a Psychology degree at Fort Hayes State University. “We teach pitchers what they need to think about and to avoid things they can’t control, focus on the next pitch and the hitters’ weaknesses.”
It’s about handling adversity.
“We do a good job of that here,” says Shafer. “It’s definitely a priority.”
Shafer grew up around Wabash and played travel ball for the Summit City Sluggers, Jarrod Parker, Kyle Leindecker, Scott Woodward and Rhett Goodmiller. Parker pitched in the big leagues. Leindecker played at Indiana University, Woodward at Coastal Carolina University and indy ball and Goodmiller Central Michigan University and Taylor University.
At Northfield, Shafer helped the Norsemen to the IHSAA Class 2A Final Four in 2006, and graduated in 2007. Tony Uggen, who is now in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, was his head coach.
“He was always very professional,” says Shafer of Uggen. “We had to have our shirts tucked in and look and act like ballplayers. It was a disciplined system. The basics were always there. We did things right.
“If you stay focus and disciplined the whole time, you can have a pretty good high school team.”
While he was barely 5-foot, 100 pounds, Shafer made varsity as a freshman.
“I thought I was getting cut,” says Shafer. “I had to out-work people because I was so small.”
By graduation he was 5-10 and around 150. In college, he grew to 6-1 and 185.
“I learned that you need to need to be big if you want to last,” says Shafer. “We play 56 games in 2 1/2 months at (KCC). Guys can break down if their bodies aren’t ready.”
At Valpo, Shafer played for head coach Tracy Woodson and pitching coach Brian Schmack (who is now VU head coach).
“He taught me to be calm, handle situations and embrace where you’re at,” says Shafer of Schmack. “Just remember the people — not necessarily the facilities.”
While attending the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Chicago in January, Shafer gravitated to mental performance presenters like Brian Cain.
“I got a lot out of it,” says Shafer. “That is the most under-accessed part of the game. To succeed at the highest level need to be mentally tough.”
Some of the books read by Shafer lately are “The Mental ABCs of Pitching: A Handbook for Performance Enhancement” by Harvey Dorfman and “The New Toughness Training for Sports: Mental Emotional Physical Conditioning from One of the World’s Premier Sports Psychologists” by James E. Loehr.
“It’s how champions think,” says Shafer. “If you can teach that to a young guy really, you’re doing something right.”
Bryce and wife Jill have two sons — Carver (4) and Callum (2).

Bryce Shafer (Kankakee Community College Photo)

Anderson grad Earley now guiding hitters at Texas A&M

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Michael Earley has a knack for developing elite hitters.
Spencer Torkelson was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2020 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft out of Arizona State University. His hitting coach was 2006 Anderson (Ind.) High School graduate Earley.
“Texas A&M hired a rising star in the coaching ranks with the addition of Mike Earley,” said former ASU coach Tracy Smith (who led the Indiana University program before his time with the Sun Devils) on the Aggies baseball website. “He is the best I’ve seen in my career at developing hitters. However, Coach Earley’s ability to build rapport by balancing toughness and genuine care for the players is what really makes him special. The Aggies are getting a good one.”
Earley, 33, played one season for Brian Cleary at the University of Cincinnati, three for Smith at Indiana and spent five in the Chicago White Sox system and one in independent ball. He coached in the Pac-12 Conference at Arizona State for five seasons — the last four as hitting coach — and was hired in mid-June of 2021 to mold hitters for Texas A&M in the Southeastern Conference.
“I could’ve stayed at Arizona State, but I wanted to explore and see what else was out there,” says Earley, who attended the 2022 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Chicago. “I talked to a few schools and ended up at Texas A&M. I could not be happier. It’s been a really, really fun time and a great experience.
“Head coach Jim Schlossnagle was a big draw for me. I think he’s the sharpest guy in the game and he’s someone I want to learn from and work for.”
Earley hit the recruiting trail right after joining the Aggies staff. Recruiting coordinator Nolan Cain directed hitters his way.
“He’s really, really good at finding talent and how to communicate,” says Earley of Cain. “I try to help him as much as I can.”
Coming to College Station and the Brazos Valley with his own ideas on hitting, Earley has also incorporated offensive ideas from Schlossnagle.
“It’s evolving every year,” says Earley. “I don’t think I’ve ever been quite the same every year though its the same base and foundation.
“I mean it’s (NCAA) Division I baseball. The SEC is a step up from the Pac-12, but there’s a lot of good teams and players in the Pac-12 as well. It’s not going to be anything too much different. It’s really a lot of hard work.”
Earley enjoyed his time with Torkelson, a right-hitting third baseman in the Detroit Tigers organization.
“He’s by far the best hitter I’ve work with to date,” says Earley. “If I ever work with one that again it will be like hitting the baseball lottery.
“He’s a generational talent for me. What separates him is not only is he just really, really good, he’s more competitive than anyone I’ve ever been around. He’s a Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant type. I’m gonna beat you and you’re not gonna beat me.”
The year before Torkelson went was the top pick in the draft, lefty-hitting outfielder Hunter Bishop was taken out of ASU with the 10th overall pick by the San Francisco Giants.
Arizona State has elite baseball facilities and so does Texas A&M, which plays in Blue Bell Park. Renovations are on the way for a stadium built in 2012.
“The SEC has become an arms race,” says Earley, who says new seating is coming along with a fresh hitting facility and weight room. “This place is already really, really nice.
“I don’t know how we’re going to upgrade it but we are and it’s going to be bigger and better. And then — I’m sure — in another 15 years we’ll probably do it all over again.”
Besides Schlossnagle, associate head coach Nate Yeskie, Cain and Earley as coaches, there’s a support that with a director of baseball operations (Jason Hutchins), director of player and program development (Chuck Box), sports performance coach (Jerry McMillan) and director of video and analytics (Will Fox).
Earley says analytics are very helpful when used the right way.
“You don’t want paralysis by analysis,” says Earley. “You find what works for you. There’s definitely a benefit in the game for analytics, but there’s an old word called competing and that can’t get lost.”
Nolan Earley, Michael’s brother, is a 2009 Anderson High graduate who played three years at the University of Southern Alabama and in the White Sox organization and independent ball (He played 96 games for the Frontier League Southern Illinois Miners in 2021). He is in Arizona running the Phoenix Hit Dogs.
“It’s a development-first travel program,” says Michael Early of the organization started in 2020. “Everyone says they are, but they’re actually not. They’re just trying to win and get the trophies. We’re actually trying the develop and I think it’s a success.”

Texas A&M assistant baseball coach Michael Earley at the 2022 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Chicago. (Steve Krah Photo)

Stoddard keeps communication flowing as North Central College assistant

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

More than five decades after he began, Tim Stoddard is still chasing championships.
The man who helped win a state basketball title at East Chicago (Ind.) Washington (1971), a national basketball crown at North Carolina State University (1974) and a World Series ring for the Baltimore Orioles (1983) has also been an assistant coach at North Central College in Naperville, Ill., for five College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin regular-season crowns (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021) with three CCIW tournament trophies (2017, 2018 and 2019) plus an NCAA Division IIII World Series appearance (2017).
Stoddard, who turns 69 on Jan. 24, works primarily with Cardinals pitchers — something he did the previous 22 seasons at Northwestern University (1994-2015), where he was on the staff of fellow Central Illinois Collegiate League alum Paul Stevens (now a University of Chicago assistant).
More than two dozen of Stoddard’s pitching pupils have been selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Three former Northwestern arms — J.A. Happ, Bo Schultz and George Kontos — have pitched in the majors.
North Central head coach Ed Mathey was leading the Northern Illinois University program when he became acquainted with Stoddard and brought his friend in as a part-time coach before the 2016 season. Mathey and assistant Joe Heller are the full-timers among Cardinals baseball coaches.
Without motion-capture equipment to analyze deliveries, Stoddard takes an “old school” approach with his NCC pitchers.
“We work on mechanics as much as anything,” says Stoddard. “We do a lot of throwing.
“The biggest thing about sports is repeatability.”
While some occasionally touch 90 mph, most throw between 83 and 87.
“Then you make sure your change-up and breaking ball is working and concentrate on throwing strikes,” says Stoddard.
The coach is a big believer in communication with his players. He encourages his hurlers to come back the next day to discuss what happened in a game or practice rather than doing it in the heat of the moment.
“I like having two-way discussions so I know what they’re thinking,” says Stoddard. “I don’t want to talk at them. I want to talk with them.
“I’ve made that approach since I started coaching. I never liked it when I was told what to do. It’s the thought process of what went into it.
“I’m trying to get them to pitch more than rare back and throw.”
Stoddard appreciates the receptiveness of his players.
“They listen,” says Stoddard. “That keeps me doing this. They respect what I say.”
North Central went 38-9 overall and 27-5 in league play and led the CCIW in team earned run average (3.41) and batting average (.309).
Unique to NCAA D-III baseball is a Triple-A program (they don’t use the term junior varsity), which allows players to develop with games and practices. North Central carried 50 players on its roster in 2021.
“The only way to get better is to play,” says Stoddard. “We get all these guys an opportunity to play and get better.”
Per D-III rules which restrict the number of active weeks during the school year, North Central players practiced with coaches in the fall and have been training on their own until team activities resume again in late January.
Stoddard has been inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame, Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame and Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
Jake Arzumanian, who is also in the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame, coached Stoddard on the diamond at East Chicago Washington and in American Legion baseball — both at Block Stadium.
“He was a great man,” says Stoddard of Arzumanian. “He treated me tremendously. He wanted the best for kids.
“He let us have fun and play.”
Indiana Basketball Hall of Famers John Molodet was Stoddard’s high school hardwood coach. Two of his Senators basketball teammates — Junior Bridgeman and Pete Trgovich — are also Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame inductees.
Another Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer — Norm Sloan — coached Stoddard, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Thompson, Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer Monte Towe and the rest the NC State Wolfpack to the ’74 national hoops title, breaking UCLA’s string of seven straight championships. Sloan is a graduate of Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis. Towe is an Oak Hill alum.
Sammy Esposito, a former big league infielder, was a basketball assistant to Sloan in ’74 and was also NC State’s head baseball coach. He is in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
As a 6-foot-7 right-handed pitcher, he made his Major League Baseball debut with the Chicago White Sox in 1975 and went on to make 485 mound appearances (all in relief). He was with the Orioles (1978-83), Chicago Cubs (1984), San Diego Padres (1985-86), New York Yankees (1986-88) and Cleveland Indians (1989).
Stoddard and fellow East Chicago Washington graduate Kenny Lofton — who played 11 seasons in the big leagues and is also in the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame — are the only two to have played in the World Series (2002 with the San Francisco Giants) and NCAA men’s basketball championship game (1988 with the University of Arizona).
Tim and wife Jane reside in Rolling Meadows, Ill. They have five children together — Laura, Anne, Ellen, Katie and Dan.

Tim Stoddard (North Central College Photo)

Ginder, Lehrman headline 2022 NEIBA Hall of Fame class

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

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.

Northeast Indiana Baseball Association.

Hancock finally dons Indiana State University uniform — as a coach

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A decade ago, Justin Hancock was planning to play baseball at Indiana State University.
When the 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher was selected in the ninth round of the 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the San Diego Padres out of Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., Hancock decided instead to go pro rather than transfer to ISU after his two years of junior college, playing first for Statesman head coach Mitch Hannahs and then Kevin Bowers.
Pitching for pay took fireballing Hancock through parts of seven seasons in the Padres system — some of 2012 and 2013 was spent with the Fort Wayne (Ind.) TinCaps — and three in the Chicago Cubs organization, including 10 games at the big league level in 2018. He went 0-0 with a 1.46 earned run average in 12 1/3 innings — all out of the bullpen.
Hancock was a starter until shoulder surgery in 2016 and then became a reliever.
Non-tendered in November 2018, Hancock signed on with the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japanese Pacific League for 2019 before retiring as a player.
“It was a good experience,” says Hancock. “My wife and daughter came (to Japan). Baseball over there is how baseball was in the ’80s and ‘90s here. There’s not too much power. They hit the ball in the gap and it’s fast-paced.
“It’s tough to strike out guys in Japan.”
Overall, Hancock saw action in 193 games during his professional career, including 96 starts on the mound. He finished with a 29-37 record, 450 strikeouts and a 4.07 ERA over 579 innings.
Hancock was reunited with Hannahs (who returned to his alma mater as ISU head coach in 2013) when he was hired in July 2021 as Indiana State’s pitching coach. The man who recruited Hancock — Brian Smiley — is associate head coach for the Sycamores.
“Mitch is just a very good influencer of the players,” says Hancock, 31. “He does a good job of getting the most out of the talent that comes here.
“He gets the guys to work hard and become better men. He’s just a really good person.”
While Hannahs, Hancock and Smiley share in rounding up players, much of it is coordinated by Smiley.
“Smiley does an awesome job,” says Hancock. “He’s a very good recruiter.”
While a few players have stayed on-campus, most have gone home and will not be back in Terre Haute until the second week of January. That’s when the Sycamores will really begin ramping up for the 2022 season opener Feb. 18 against Brigham Young in Port Charlotte, Fla.
Hancock helps his pitchers develop a daily routine and understand their place on the team.
“It comes down to knowing your role and doing that role very, very well,” says Hancock. “And it starts right now. We send these guys home for a winter break. You call them throughout the time they’re gone, but you don’t know what they did while they’re gone.
“You can see the guys who have bought in and those who haven’t (when they get back to campus). This time is very crucial.”
Being a first-time coach and new to the program, Hancock took the fall to evaluate his staff.
“I had not seen any of them throw live,” says Hancock. “I saw how they pitch and what some of their stuff does.
“At the D-I level, most of these guys have the stuff. We need to refine it.”
That means developing a secondary pitch that the pitcher can put int he strike zone.
“We want them to be able to throw a fastball down and away and to trust their stuff,” says Hancock. “You believe you can get ahead (in the count) with the stuff and get hitters out.
“With one or two good pitches, you can be a really good college pitcher.”
There are 22 pitchers on the roster now. He says that number will likely be 13 or 14 in the spring.
Hancock left Lincoln Trail with a fastball between 92 and 95 mph and increased his velocity over time with added strength.
“I was more of a late bloomer,” says Hancock. “I refined my craft and worked at it. It was about knowing my body and what it could do.”
A 2009 graduate of Defiance (Ohio) High School, Hancock learned about pitching fast from Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer and three-time state championship coach Tom Held.
“I touched 90 (mph in high school),” says Hancock. “Coach Held does an awesome job. Defiance has that reputation of always having ’90’ arms.
(Bulldogs pitchers) want to be that next ’90’ arm and prove people wrong just like I did.
Besides Hancock, graduates of the “Definance Way” to pitch in the majors include Jon Niese and Chad Billingsley.
Justin is married to a Terre Haute Vigo High School graduate (and former Lincoln Trail College and Marshall University basketball player) Tessa (Johnson) Hancock. The couple have a daughter — Ivy (who turns 3 in January). Tessa’s father — Howie Johnson — played basketball at ISU with Larry Bird and was also a softball teammate of the Hall of Famer.

Justin Hancock records first big league strikeout.
Justin Hancock 96.4 MPH slow motion mound mechanics.
Justin Hancock pitches for the Chicago Cubs in 2018 (Chicago Cubs Photo)
Justin Hancock (Chicago Cubs Photo)