Cody York, who is going into his second year as head baseball coach at Whitko Junior/Senior High School in South Whitley, Ind., in 2023, has been around the sport in northeast Indiana most of his life. Born in Fort Wayne, he played in Holy Cross and Hamilton Park youth leagues and four years at North Side High School, where he graduated in 2008. His head coaches were Bruce Miller as a freshman and then Randy Moss for the next three years. “(Moss) had a huge impact on my life,” says York, 33. “He showed me how to compete on the baseball field and what it takes to be good at it.” North Side head football coach Casey Kolkman (now at Heritage) showed York what consistency looks like. “No matter what happened — good or bad — he stayed even-keeled,” says York of Kolkman. “His demeanor never wavered one way or another. “I take my style from (Moss and Kolkman).” York also played basketball for the North Side Redskins (now Legends). After high school, York played one season each at Glen Oaks Community College in Centreville, Mich., for head coach Keith Schreiber and Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne for Kip McWilliams and now is a heavy equipment operator for the City of Fort Wayne. York’s first season of baseball coaching was 2021 as Whitko assistant. Whitko (enrollment around 415) is a member of the Three Rivers Conference (with Maconaquah, Manchester, Northfield, North Miami, Peru, Rochester, Southwood, Tipppecanoe Valley and Wabash). The Wildcats are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2023 with Central Noble, Churubusco, Eastside, Prairie Heights and Westview. Whitko won its lone sectional title in 2017. York’s 2023 coaching staff features varsity assistant Andrew Shepherd, junior varsity assistant Michael Ianucilli and volunteers Jacob Gable and Austin Roberson. The head coach got acquainted with his assistants through two Fort Wayne-based summer adult circuits (Carrington League and Men’s Senior Baseball League). Pitching coach Shepherd played at Wabash High School (Class of 2012), Ianucilli at Fort Wayne Concordia (Class of 2017), Gable at North Side (Class of 2015) and Roberson at Fort Wayne Snider (Class of 2012). York is also looking to hire a JV head coach. York helped coach middle school football at Whitko in the fall while his assistants ran IHSAA Limited Contact Period sessions. This winter, Limited Contact Period practices have been from 6 to 8 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays and dedicated to throwing, hitting and weight training. With nine starters being freshmen or sophomores, the Wildcats went 9-18 in 2022. Shortstop David Ousley (Class of 2023) is scheduled to sign with the University of Saint Francis (Ind.) Thursday. Ousley was a team captain in ’22 along with Isaiah Cripe (Class of 2024). Ousley and Cripe are expected back along with Class of 2023’s Brent Bowers, Jaxon Harper and Cody Adkins, 2024’s Logan Hoffman and Max Platt and 2025’s Easton Grable, Riley Harman and Breyden Kirkdorffer. The Wildcats play home games on-campus. A year ago, Whitko got a new scoreboard. New dugouts and batting cages are being installed. York is also the program’s hitting coach and wants his players to get more repetitions while staying mechanically sound. “I’m very meticulous when I’m in the cage with them,” says York. Plans also call for replacing infield dirt and outfield warning tracks with red brick dust. As a feeder system for the high school, York has established a middle school team that will play games Monday through Wednesday in the spring of 2023 so it does not interfere with travel ball schedules. Cody York is engaged to Alisha Withered. The couple each have 10-year-olds from previous relationships.
Building team chemistry is among the priorities for Josh Ulery as he takes over as head baseball coach at his alma mater — Peru (Ind.) High School. Hired in the fall to lead the Tigers program, the 1999 Peru graduate graduate has also been stressing fundamentals, conditioning and offensive approach while assessing his team’s strengths and weaknesses during IHSAA Limited Contact Period activities. “We want to hit the fastball and be aggressive in the (batter’s) box,” says Ulery of his hitters. “We want to swing hard but have a controllable swing.” This week, players were in the gym for Tuesday hitting. Fielding practice is slated for Saturday. Ulery wants his team — which has most varsity players back from 2022 — to be “tip-top defensively.” Thanks to moving to a new shift and role for the Peru Police Department (he went into police work at 25 and is now a detective) Ulrey is able to coach baseball in an expanded capacity. In the past he’s been a paid assistant and last year was a volunteer for Chuck Brimbury, who was his head coach when he was a standout right-handed pitcher/first baseman for the Tigers and offered a baseball scholarship to Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne (which he did not pursue). “A lot of my coaching comes through Chuck Brimbury,” says Ulrey. A four-year varsity performer, Ulrey was with Dick Keller for the first two years and Brimbury the next two. Peru went 22-5 in 1999. With many of that team returning in 2000, the Tigers won their only IHSAA Class 3A regional title. With an enrollment around 660, Peru is the largest school Three Rivers Conference (which also includes Maconaquah, Manchester, Northfield, North Miami, Rochester, Southwood, Tipppecanoe Valley, Wabash and Whitko). TRC teams see each other once during conference play. Peru is slated to begin the regular season April 7 against Bluffton in the Howard County Invitational. The slate also features at April 29 home doubleheader against South Bend Saint Joseph, a May 6 round robin at Western at May 13 Miami County Classic. The Tigers are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2023 with Bellmont, Maconaquah, Mississinewa, Norwell and Oak Hill. Peru has won five sectional titles — the last in 2018. Lief Astrup graduated in 2022. Returnees include several players who Ulery says have college baseball aspirations — Class of 2023’s Logan Gatliff and Fox Huppenthal, 2024’s Ian Potts, Matthew Roettger and Jackson Rogers and 2025’s Gavin Eldridge. “We have an amazing freshman class,” says Ulery, who could see as many as 17 representing the Class of 2026. “Those guys are really competitive. I can image a few pushing for varsity positions. “It should be an exciting and motivated year.” There have been 36 players at various open fields and conditioning. Ulery says he expects to keep up to 28 in the spring. His varsity assistants are Rob Hileman, Chris Beauchamp, Ron Potts, Adam Butt and Gary Loe with the varsity. Hillman works with hitters and fielders and coaches third base. Beauchamp is assistant hitting/outfielders coach. Potts is in charge of drill work. Butt and Loe do scorebook work for varsity and junior varsity. Jacob Loftus is head JV/catching coach. Jody Beauchamp (brother of Chris) is program pitching/first baseman coach and JV assistant. Ron Whitney is a JV assistant and also works with outfielders. Peru fields a junior high team of seventh and eighth graders that plays about a dozen contests in the spring. Jeff Dicken is the head coach. His assistant is Cody Hiles. Volunteers are Andre Ambrose and Joe Bockover. Former head coach Mike Stewart is the public address announcer for Peru baseball. Bob DeWire coordinates field maintenance at Tiger Field. Ulery says there is talk about a new field being put in — with turf and new lights — in 2024. But those details have not been set. Josh and wife Becky (formerly Mannies) have been married for 17 years. The couple has three children (a girl and two boys) — junior Jordyn, eighth graders Lukas and kindergartener Blake. Jordyn Ulery is a varsity cheerleader. Her mother is Peru’s varsity cheer coach.
Cory Blocker moves up from varsity assistant to head baseball coach at Southwood Junior/Senior High School in Wabash, Ind., in 2022-23. Borrowing a motto from another coach, Blocker wants the Knights to be “efficient.” “In practice drills, we’re not standing around but getting plenty of swings and taking game-like reps,” says Blocker, who wants to see efficiency in the field, on the mound and in the batter’s box. Southwood left 6.6 runners on base per game and committed 88 fielding errors in going 5-17-1 in 2022. “We want to make the plays behind our pitchers,” says Blocker. “We want to have an (offensive) approach and understand our job each time we go to the plate. We’ll try to put ourselves in the best position to achieve that job.” If the Knights have a runner on first base, the job will entail moving them at least to second base. “We want to make (opposing) pitchers work and make every out count,” says Blocker, who wants to see his hitters make contact and increase their batting average on balls in play. Pitching efficiency includes mechanics, throwing strikes and liming walks. Among Southwood returnees for 2023 is senior catcher Mo Lloyd, who hit .452 with 12 home runs and 40 runs batted in for 2002 and hitting .480 with 13 homers and 51 RBIs for a 22-7 team in 2021. Besides Blocker, the coaching staff features returnees Danny Lloyd and Christian Deeter and newcomers in pitching coach Kyle Zerfas and junior varsity coach Tanner Chamberlain. There were about 25 players in the program — varsity and JV — in 2022. Blocker is in his eighth year as a Southwood teacher. He instructs sixth grade math and is at the junior/high school building for the first time in 2022-23. He has been a baseball and football assistant for seven years. This fall, he was the special teams coordinator and running backs coach. The 2022 Southwood football team went 7-3. Because of when Blocker was named head coach and his football duties, there were no IHSAA Limited Contact Period activities in the fall. The Knights play home games on-campus on a facility sometimes called “The Launching Pad” for its cozy dimensions. Blocker says its about 280 feet down the foul lines. Wabash Little League serves Wabash County and feeds players to Southwood, Manchester, Northfield and Wabash high schools. Southwood (enrollment around 250) is a member of the Three Rivers Conference (with Maconaquah, Manchester, Northfield, North Miami, Peru, Rochester, Tippecanoe Valley, Wabash and Whitko). In recent seasons, TRC teams met each other once during the season. There is no conference tournament. The Knights part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping in 2023 with Caston, North Miami, North White, Northfield and West Central. Southwood has won five sectional titles — the last in 2021. A 2009 graduate of Huntington (Ind.) North High School, Blocker played four years of football, three of baseball and two of basketball. His head coaches were Rief Gilg (the Vikings went 8-3 in 2008, Blocker’s senior year on the gridiron), Russ Degitz and Eric Foister. “A lot of our time in baseball was spent with the little details,” says Blocker of Degitz. “He was a big fundamental guy. “They were all coaches that were hard on you but cared about you at the same time and made sure that was relayed in everything they did.” Blocker spent two years at Purdue University and four at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, graduating in 2015. Cory and Brittany Blocker have been married five years. The couple resides in Wabash and has three children — daughter Wrenley (3), son Wesley (1 1/2) and daughter Willow (almost eight months).
Shane Smith has coached baseball for 24 years and at every level from T-ball and 18U travel with the past two years as an assistant at Wabash (Ind.) High School. Smith can now add high school head coach to his list of diamond experiences. Last week he was board-approved to lead the baseball program at Manchester Junior/Senior High School in North Manchester, Ind., which is about 20 miles north of Southwood Junior/Senior High School. Oldest son Blake Smith (19) graduated from Wabash in 2022 and is now a freshman baseball player and Sport Management major at Manchester University in North Manchester. Shane and Tiffany Smith’s younger sons Ashton (18 and a senior) and Jackson (15 and a sophomore) are still in involved in baseball at Southwood, which is also in Wabash County and conference rival to Manchester. Ashton Smith played at Wabash the past two years. Daughter Ella Smith is a seventh grade softball player and dancer. “Baseball has been our family thing,” says Shane Smith, who celebrates 20 years of marriage to Tiffany in October. “This is an opportunity I’ve always wanted: to run a varsity baseball program. “I prayed about it. I talked to my family. They’ve been supportive. I don’t take it lightly and I appreciate it.” Smith was involved with the Wabash Pride travel program for eight years, serving as president for six. He also coached for the USA Prime. At Wabash High, he assisted Apaches head coach Jack Holley. They had met when Smith was 13 and playing for the Prep League Blue Jays coached by Holley. “He’s an Old School baseball traditionalist and he’s got a great heart,” says Smith of Holley, who played on Wabash’s 1986 state champions and then at Valparaiso University. “He’s got a great deal of knowledge, but he puts things in perspective. “It’s bigger than baseball. We’re dealing with people’s sons.” During his high school years, Smith also played for Wabash American Legion Post 15 coached by Steve Furnas and Oren Wagner. Smith is a 1999 graduate of Wabash. One of his high school coaches in his younger years was Todd Adams, a former Anderson (Ind.) University player who was in charge of strength and conditioning for the Apaches. “He was a physical specimen,” says Smith of Adams, who is now his insurance agent. “He poured everything he had into us. We were than more than just our stats. “He got the most out of us simply by showing he cared. He expected maximum effort and that’s who I am as a coach.” Rick Espeset, head coach at Manchester University, coached with Smith for four years in the summer and made an impression. “You can achieve success and all these goals but you have to stay grounded,” says Smith. “Everything we did was fun and maximum effort He was a relationship-first guy, too.” Ethan Espeset, Rick’s son, is a 2022 Manchester Junior/Senior High graduate. Manchester (enrollment around 475) is a member of the Three Rivers Conference (with Maconaquah, Northfield, North Miami, Peru, Rochester, Southwood, Tippecanoe Valley and Whitko). The Squires were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Carroll (Flora), Lewis Cass, Rochester, Wabash and Whitko. Manchester has won nine sectional titles — the last in 2016. The 2002 Squires were 2A state champions. Jack Rupley was Manchester’s head coach from 1998 until retiring at the end of the 2022 season. “Jack was very consistent as far as leading a program and its expectations,” says Smith. “I want to add to the already-strong history.” Smith plans to bring his unique strengths and passions to the Squires baseball program. “I like to play fast and put pressure on the defense,” says Smith. He notes that Wabash stole 140 bases in 2022 and that’s a realistic goal at Manchester. “I like the kids to play loose and fail with confidence. I’m not looking for them to be a robot. I’m going to empower my players to steal that base.” Smith passionate about serving others and he’s going to bring that to the Squires. Wabash conducted a “dad’s practice” with a fathers and male role models joining the players and Smith plans to do the same at Manchester. “We’re going to have a good time,” says Smith. He wants to have walk-up songs and “cool gamed experience” for his players. “I’m an Old School guy with a New School side to me,” says Smith. “I want to mix it up a little.” In just a few days, the Manchester Squires Baseball Facebook page already had over 100 followers. “Excitement is growing,” says Smith. “We want to do something special.” Smith expects eight players with varsity experience to return in 2023. That includes the top four in batting average (junior Garrett Sites .389, sophomore Ethan Hendrix .365, junior Evan Martynowicz .338, junior Gavin Martin .303) and leading base stealers (Sites 11, Hendrix 10, Martynowicz 8 and Martin 7). As a pitcher, Martynowicz went 2-2 with a 2.31 earned run average, 38 strikeouts and 13 walks over 42 1/3 innings. Smith has already attended Manchester sporting events to meet players and parents and reached out to Manchester Recreational Association and wants to offer coach and player clinics. “My main goal is to generate excitement in the community,” says Smith. “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care. I plan to support these kids and families and have a good foundation of a relationship way before the first day of practice.” The coach plans to have a call-out meeting in the near future. Manchester does not currently have junior high baseball. Smith says he would like to start that, perhaps through MRA. “We want to make sure (younger players) have a sound foundation,” says Smith. “We want to make sure in T-ball they fall in love with the game. So many times we overwhelm the kids and it becomes a job. “They have to have a great experience, continue to love it and have the confidence. Youth baseball is all about fundamentals and gaining confidence. “If we are going to have a true feeder system, the focus has to be development and long-term success over short-term success.” Smith works as a social worker and school safety specialist for Wabash City Schools. He is currently in the L.H. Carpenter Early Learning Center. He is also on the Wabash County’s Child Protection Team, which is an accountability piece for the Department of Child Services. Smith earned a Criminal Justice degree with a minor in Human Resources Management from Saint Leo (Fla.) University.
Jack Holley Jr. played baseball at Wabash (Ind.) High School and was on the state championship team coached by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Chris Rood. Holley was a sophomore when the Apaches won the title in 1986. Tom Dempsey struck out 12 as Wabash beat Marion 2-1. Jeff Wagner and Brent Johnson (game-winning double) drove in one run each in the top of the seventh inning. The first run was scored by future big leaguer Keith Shepherd and the decisive tally by pinch-runner Holley. Years later, Holley talks about the life lessons he learned from Rood and about leading the program today. “(Coach Rood) taught you so much baseball and more things outside the game than most people realize,” says Holley, who joined the baseball staff at his alma mater in the early 2000’s and has been head coach since the 2015 season. “It’s the discipline he instilled in me and his expectations of your as a player, student and a man. These are the things I try to utilize. “When you’re 16, 17, 18 years old you don’t realize the lessons you’re learning from any high school sport. Winning games is nice. I want effect men in a positive way and that’s probably more important.” Wabash (enrollment around 470) is a member of the Three Rivers Conference (with Maconaquah, Manchester, Northfield, North Miami, Peru, Rochester, Southwood, Tippecanoe Valley and Whitko). TRC play each other once and games on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In 2021, the Apaches was host of IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Carroll (Flora), Lewis Cass, Manchester, Rochester and Whitko. Wabash has won 10 sectional titles — the last in 2019 when the team went 18-7. Holley says the Apaches would have had 11 seniors for the 2020 season lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. Two members of that class — outfielder/right-handed pitcher Jared Holley (Manchester University after transferring from Kankakee Community College) and catcher/outfielder Kallen Kelsheimer (Huntington University) — are on college baseball teams. Holley says three current Wabash players — seniors middle infielder/outfielder Jared Brooks and first baseman/right-hander Chayden Beeks and junior right-hander/catcher Andrew Dillon — have been drawing collegiate interest. Brooks is all the school’s all-time leader in wrestling victories. Holley sees Dillon as his probable No. 1 mound starter in 2022. Other seniors include Colten Learned and Blake Smith. The Apaches went 15-14 in 2021, making Holley’s career mark 87-76-1. The 2022 coaching staff includes Kyle Kelsheimer (Kallen’s brother) as varsity assistant, Luke Helton as pitching coach, Nick Hentgen as junior varsity head coach and Andy Castro, Jordan Holley, Chandler Jones, Kent Montgomery and Shane Smith. Kelsheimer and Helton are teacher at Wabash. Helton is a Tippecanoe Valley graduate who played at Manchester U. All the rest are played for the Apaches. Justin Holley coaches the Wabash Middle School team. Started when Matt Stone was varsity head coach, the feeder team helps with the gap between Wabash Little League (T-ball through age 12) and high school. “It’s an awesome addition to our baseball program,” says Holley. “(Junior high players) get accustomed to what we teach. It’s a way to retain those kids and keep them interested in (baseball). “We were losing some of those kids. They’d go out for track and we’d never get them back.” There are typically 20 to 25 players — Grades 6-8 — who play 12 to 16 games in the spring. Middle school practices and games are at Chris Rood Field. “They usually practice before or after (the high school),” says Holley. “Someone from the varsity or JV staff can help them. They get to know us.” There is a junior/senior league serving all of Wabash County. Middle schoolers used to practice and play on that field. “There was a disconnect with middle school teams to our program,” says Holley. Jack Holley Jr. is in his 21st year as a Welding Technology teacher at Heartland Career Center in Wabash. He and wife of 29 years on Feb. 20, Misti, have four sons — Jack III (29), Justin (27), Jordan (24) and Jared (20). All four boys played baseball at Wabash. Jack and Jordan are U.S. Army veterans. Jack III has two boys with a girl on the way. Chris Rood Field is located on the Wabash campus and sits in a natural bowl. Spectators sit on a side of a hill looking down at the diamond. Trees were removed to place the field. A few years ago — needing a community service project — Holley’s students created the landscaped seating area around the press box. An outfielder and pitcher as a player, Holley graduated from Wabash in 1988 and went on to play for Paul Twenge at Valparaiso (Ind.) University. An ACL injury suffered on the football field as a freshman kept Holley off the diamond in 1989. He played for Twenge’s Crusaders 1990-93 — the first two years in right field and the last two in center. He was also a closer on the mound. In 1992, Holley hit .285 (41-of-144) with two home runs, eight doubles and 16 runs batted in and five stolen bases. Holley began coaching football at Wabash right out of college and was the Apaches head coach 2003-07.
Steve Swinson likes the kind of athletes he’s working with as the new head baseball coach at Southwood Junior/Senior High School, part of the Metropolitan School District of Wabash (Ind.) County. “It’s been really good transition,” says Swinson, who has been leading the Knights since January. “The players’ philosophies are pretty much on the same page as myself. “These are competitive, hard-nosed kids. They want to succeed. They want to be better. “It’s a winning attitude at Southwood. They don’t throw in the towel.” During the IHSAA Limited Contact Period, Swinson has been working with players who are not involved in basketball. Twenty eight have signed up for Southwood baseball this spring. “We lost lost five pretty good seniors and a lot of pitching (from the 2021 team),” says Swinson. “The big thing is being consistent. not walking a lot of guys and letting the defense play behind us.” The coach is confident his Knights will do their best to do just that. “They’re going to work at it,” says Swinson. “By the end of the year they’re going to figure some things out.” An advocate of arm care, Swinson wants to make sure he’s maintaining the health of his throwers. “I like the pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days),” says Swinson. “A lot of it’s on the athlete. He has to make sure to take care of his arm.” Swinson, who is working with a coaching staff of Cory Blocker and Dan Lloyd at the varsity level and Christian Deeter with the junior varsity, sees college potential in senior left-handed pitcher Koby Thomas, junior catcher Mo Lloyd and junior right-handed pitcher/outfielder Cole Winer. Southwood (enrollment around 230) is a member of the Three Rivers Conference (with Maconaquah, Manchester, Northfield, North Miami, Peru, Rochester, Tippecanoe Valley, Wabash and Whitko). TRC play each other once and games on Tuesdays and Thursdays In 2021, the Knights were part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Caston (host), North Miami, North White, Northfield, Pioneer and West Central. Southwood has won five sectional titles — the last in 2021. Carson Rich (Class of 2021) tossed a no-hitter in a 4-0 championship game win against Pioneer. Fundraisers will be held to help maintain and upgrade Southwood’s home diamond located north of the football field on the northeast corner of the campus. Swinson says the batting cage is top priority. Dugouts are likely to be re-painted with trimming and edging done to the infield. Stepping down at Eastbrook High School near the end of the 2019 season, Swinson did not coach at high school baseball in 2020 and 2021 but did lead Indiana Nitro travel teams both summers. He was head baseball coach at Eastern (Greentown) High School 2007-11 and has assisted at Western High School. Swinson has served two stints as head wrestling coach at Northwestern High School and is currently head wrestling coach at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind. A 1987 Kokomo High School graduate, he retired after 27 1/2 years with the Howard County Highway Department, where he was a supervisor/foreman. Swinson coached Southside baseball in Kokomo to the 1995 Bambino World Series in Abbeyville, La. His coaching stops also include Indiana Wesleyan University (football), Marion High School and Lewis Cass High School. Steve and wife of 29 years — Stacey — live in Greentown and have two children. Son Saxon Swinson (28) is in the IT department at Marian University in Indianapolis. Daughter Shayden Swinson (18) is a Manchester University freshman.
Shannon Floor has been coaching baseball for more than three decades. He began in the Wabash (Ind.) Little League and Junior/Senior League and later led travel teams with the Fort Wayne-based Summit City Sluggers and seventh and eighth graders at North Miami Middle/High School in Denver, Ind. He was asked to join the varsity coaching staff and 2021 was his first season as Warriors head coach. Floor credits three men for getting him to where he’s at as a coach — Carl Pace, Mark Delagarza and Troy Hudson. “They’ve been tremendous mentors to me,” says Floor. Pace, who is now head softball coach at Southwood Junior-Senior High School in Wabash, led Little League teams with Floor as his assistant. Delagarza is the founder of the Summit City Sluggers and has run the organization since 1996. He counts Floor as a 17U head coach. Hudson, the North Miami athletic director, ran the Warriors baseball program and brought Floor on board when Hudson moved up from assistant to head coach for 2017. The 2022 season will be Floor’s fifth at North Miami. In 2018, he guided middle schoolers in the spring and then took players into Babe Ruth ball in the summer and finished as state runner-up to New Castle and placed fourth at the Ohio Valley Regional in West Virginia. The following spring (2019), North Miami won its first-ever IHSAA sectional championship, besting West Central, Caston and Northfield to win the Class 1A tournament at Caston. Hudson stepped down after what would have been the 2020 season (canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic) and Floor was installed as head coach. Floor holds three things dear while guiding his team. “No. 1 is family,” says Floor, himself a married man with three ball-playing three sons. “No. 2 is team fundamentals and development. We want to rely on each other and make each other accountable. We also want to be succeeding in academics. “Then we work on playing good ball on the field.” North Miami had just over 20 players for varsity and junior varsity teams in 2021. “We could have 28 to 30 (for 2022) if everything holds up,” says Floor. “(Winning) has spring-loaded our program. It’s the first time the excitement has been at that level and the numbers started growing. “We want to keep going in that direction.” An IHSAA Limited Contact Period went from Aug. 30-Oct. 16 and the Warriors took full advantage of it. “We had a very good turnout,” says Floor. “We averaged 16 to 18 guys (in twice-weekly two-hour sessions) — about triple from last year.” Since North Miami is a small school with many fall athletes, one of the sessions was held on Saturday afternoons so it did not interrupt football activities. North Miami (enrollment around 290) is a member of the Three Rivers Conference (with Maconaquah, Manchester, Northfield, Peru, Rochester, Southwood, Tippecanoe Valley, Wabash and Whitko). Based on the IHSAA Portal, Maconquah and Peru are the largest TRC schools with around 660 students reach, followed by Tippecanoe Valley (around 570), Rochester (around 510), Manchester (around 500), Wabash (around 470) and Whitko (around 450). Below North Miami are Northfield (around 275) and Southwood (around 230). “For a 1A school it’s one of the tougher conferences,” says Floor. In 2021, the Warriors were part of a Class 1A sectional grouping with Caston, North White, Northfield, Pioneer, Southwood and West Central. Warrior Field — on the North Miami campus — has received upgrades in recent years, including new layers of soil. Last year, a nine-inning scoreboard and flagpole was installed. This year warning tracks, dugouts and bullpens are getting facelifts. The setting includes pine trees circling much of the outfield. “Its come a long way,” says Floor. “It is one of the most beautiful fields you can play on.” Floor’s assistants are Peru graduate Josh Donathan and North Miami alums Pat Masters and Chad Wright. Masters is a senior at Manchester University. Wright lead the JV Warriors. Besides the middle school teams, North Miami Youth League, a Town & Country Baseball-sanctioned organization in Denver, feeds the high school. The diamond is in Floor’s blood. “My entire family has been a baseball family,” says Floor, a 1988 graduate of Manchester High School in North Manchester, Ind. While he did not play the game in high school, Shannon did suit up until 16 and began coaching at 20. Shannon (51) is the oldest of three sons born to Gene (now deceased) and Rita (now known as Rita Slater and living in North Manchester) and is six year older than Shawn and eight older than Shane. Shawn Floor, who coached with Shannon, has two boys who played at Wabash High School and the next level — Jordan Floor at Jackson (Mich.) College and Trevor Floor at Indiana Wesleyan University. Shane Floor played, but has not done much coaching. He has girls who are not into sports. For as long as he’s coached baseball, Shannon Floor has been a cattle farmer — the last 15 years with his own farm. Shannon and wife Amy have been married of 17 years. Their sons are junior Kolton (17), eighth grader Karter (14) and fifth grader Keaton (10). Kolton Floor has been with the Summit City Sluggers since 8. The other two play baseball and other sports.
Just six seasons after playing his last baseball season at Tippecanoe Valley High School new Akron and Mentone in Indiana, Jarred Littlejohn became the Vikings head coach for 2021 after two years as junior varsity coach on Greg Prater’s staff. As he prepares for 2022, the former four-year outfielder tells what is important to him while leading the Valley program. “Our biggest thing is to make sure the kids are loose and having fun,” says Littlejohn. “If they’re tight, they’re not going to perform. “On offense, we want to be aggressive and get the pitch we’re looking for. On every pitch, we have an approach. We know we’re not going to be perfect.” And then there’s the moundsmen. “Pitching last year was the best part of our game,” says Littlejohn. “We knew what was working and stayed with it. Work ahead and don’t get behind in the count. “We had a good defense behind us. (Pitchers) knew we could make the plays in the field.” Littlejohn played for three coaches in high school — Ryan Moore his freshmen year, Brandon Cody as a sophomore and junior and Justin Brannock as a senior. “There has not been much stability in the baseball program,” says Littlejohn. “We’re going to try to bring that back.” Assisting Littlejohn, a machinist at Craig Welding & Manufacturing in Mentone, is Anthony Newcomer and Mike Bowers. An IHSAA Limited Contact Period opened Aug. 30 and closes Oct. 16. Littlejohn has been conducting open fields and weightlifting program that has consistently had six to 12 participants. Tippecanoe Valley (enrollment around 570) has many baseball players involved in fall sports. In 2021, there were 26 players taking part in varsity and JV games. The varsity went 12-12. The Vikings are a member of the Three Rivers Conference (with along with Maconaquah, Manchester, North Miami, Northfield, Peru, Rochester, Southwood, Wabash and Whitko). Last season, Valley was part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Jimtown, Lakeland, NorthWood, Wawasee and West Noble.The Vikings have won five sectional titles — the last in 2012. Tippecanoe Valley is fed by youth leagues in Akron and Mentone. Those organizations are a part of Town & Country Baseball of Indiana. Tanner Andrews, who is now a pitcher in the Miami Marlins organization, is a 2014 graduate who was selected in the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft out of Purdue University. Littlejohn says right-hander Owen Kirchenstien (Class of 2022) is expected to commit to junior college baseball.
Just at the varsity level, there are four players whose fathers played for Lehrman at Heritage. There are seniors Cody David (son of Chad) and Clay Gerardot (son of Matt) and sophomores Jackson Bearman (son of Wade) and Austin Buuck (son of Greg).
The 2021 season is Lehrman’s 43rd season as a head baseball coach — 34th at Heritage after nine at Woodlan.
At present, the 1973 Heritage graduate has 632 career wins. The ’21 Patriots are off to a 17-2 start.
“I got in this business because I love baseball and it’s a kids game,” says Lehrman, 66. “I wanted to pass that on to my sons and everybody in the neighborhood’s sons.”
The Patriots are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Bellmont (the 2021 host), Marion, Mississinewa, Norwell and Oak Hill. Heritage has won nine sectionals (the last in 2015), three regionals and one semistate — all but a 1976 sectional crown on Lehrman’s watch.
“A bunch of blue-collar, hard-nosed, out-work-you kids” with no superstars earned a state runner-up finish in 2007 (losing to South Spencer in the 2A title game).
Lehrman’s Heritage teams have won numerous conference titles and he has often been chosen ACAC Coach of the Year. He has twice been Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association District Coach of the Year and was on the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series coaching staff two times.
“In my mind we are still a 2A school although we’ve officially been 3A for several years,” says Lehrman. “It’s a numbers thing.”
Lehrman does not favor athletic specialization and embraces the idea of the multi-sport athlete. He enjoys a sense of cooperation between himself and fellow head coaches Casey Kolkman in football and Adam Gray with basketball and the sharing of athletes.
“I want my kids to be involved in as many sports as they can,” says Lehrman. “It seems that more and more they get funneled into one thing 365/24-7. That’s not good for kid. You get more kids getting burned out that way.
“We’re not pulling kids in different directions and telling them you’ve got to do this in the summer or you can’t play. I’m a firm believer that a kid has to be a kid. He’s got to be free to choose.
“He should be able to play football, basketball and baseball or whatever combination of sports you want to throw in there.”
Janice Lehrman has been a coach’s wife for all these decades.
“I can’t count how many uniforms she’s sewn back together and she still does it,” says Dean. “She just did it for a JV kid.”
Dean and wife Janice, who live in the country near Hoagland, have three children — Camryn, Derek and Ryne.
Camyn Klocinski is a social studies teacher at Summerfield Junior-Senior High School in Petersburg, Mich. She has traveled the world and is an expert on World War II.
Derek Lehrman is married with three children. He played football and baseball at Heritage (and was one of several IHSBCA all-stars coached by his father) and baseball at Eastern Michigan University and in the Detroit Tigers system.
He is now the Patriots hitting coach and serves on a staff with pitching coach Scott Lewis, a former left-handed pitcher from Van Wert, Ohio. Junior varsity coaches for 2021 are Heritage alums Jeremy Hullinger, Nick Bosler and Matt Saylor.
Ryne Lehrman (who gets his first name from Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg) played football and baseball at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind. He and his wife are traveling physical therapists and have one child.
Youth leagues in Monroeville and Hoagland as well as the Harding and New Haven areas feed into Heritage.
A 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, Lehrman used his mechanics, wrist and forearm to generate velocity as a pitcher. His boyhood idol was Nolan Ryan.
As a coach, Lehrman encourages his pitchers to change speeds and the eye levels of batters.
“No matter how hard you throw if that’s all you do, they’re going to catch up to you,” says Lehrman. “Kids today are trained on pitching machine and you can se the machine to throw 90 or 95 (mph) and they can work on that — boom, boom, boom.
“To me, the change-up is the next-best pitch behind the fastball.”
Among the pitchers to come through Heritage are Andrew Saalfrank, a left-hander who hurled for Indiana University and is now in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.
Branson Dossen, son of former pro Jarrod Dossen, played baseball at Heritage then Indiana Tech. The younger Dossen was a standout quarterback for the Patriots.
The IHSAA has been observing a pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days) since 2017. Lehrman has been tracking numbers for 43 years.
“We’re never going to hurt a kid,” says Lehrman. “I keep them in by book. At the end of the inning, I can tell you how many pitches he threw and what his first-pitch strike percentage was.”
Lehrman’s father — Donald — ran his scorebook for three decades and Dean now keeps it while his assistants coach the bases.
A teacher of mathematics after college, Lehrman retired from the classroom in June 2020.
“I was very blessed there because I had calculus and trigonometry,” says Lehrman. “I had good kids that wanted to be there and wanted to learn.
“That’s a huge reason I stayed in it for 43 years.”
He was coaxed back by alum Kolkman, who heads into his second season as Heritage head football coach in the fall.
“Casey was an eighth grader when I first started teaching here,” says Lehrman. “He asked me to help out. I said I’ll do it on one condition. I’m strictly a volunteer and as long as I’m having fun I’ll stick around and do anything you ask.
“Casey has turned the program completely around. Look for big things out of our football team the next couple of years.”
Heritage baseball’s full week began Tuesday, May 11 with a win against Bluffton. The Patriots are slated to visit Van Wert Wednesday, Jay County Thursday and Manchester Friday with a rare Saturday off.
Parkhurst is in he third year since coming back to lead the program he helmed 2013-15 (Kerry Yoder was head coach in 2012). He was Carroll’s athletic director 2011-19 then became business manager for Carroll Consolidated School Corporation.
A 2002 graduate of Clinton Central Junior-Senior High School in Michigantown, Ind., where he played two years for Dan Swafford and two for Rick Helbie, Parkhurst began coaching while attending Indiana State University, where he graduated as Physical Education/Health major in 2007.
“I had a real good relationship with (Swafford and Helbie),” says Parkhurst. “I was a catcher. I learned a lot from both of them. You pick up a lot of things you don’t realize.
“I still call Coach Helbie for advice about handling players and parents. I have a lot of respect for both of them.”
Student teaching for Parkhurst was done at Western High School in Russiaville with Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Ty Calloway.
At 23, Parkhurst was physical education teacher and the head coach for an IHSAA Class 1A state runner-up team.
“I’m still close with kids from Cowan,” says Parkhurst. “I get invited to their weddings.
“They say you can have an impact on the lives of kids, but you don’t realize the impact they have on yours.”
Parkhurst has particularly enjoyed working with the past couple Carroll teams.
“It’s been a great experience,” says Parkhurst, who is assisted in 2021 by former Carroll and Saint Joseph’s College player Seth Eldridge, Chris Seward (on his Cougar staff in both stints), Dan Butcher, Paul Redmon and Dave Mann.
The 2021 Carroll Cougars have 21 players to fill a varsity and junior varsity schedule. Parkhurst says some players will float between the two teams.
While no current players have made college baseball commits, junior Will Eldridge is among those being recruited.
Carroll plays its home games on-campus on a lighted diamond that recently got new dugouts and backstop and, a few years ago, an overhauled infield and irrigation system. The school has been 1A regional host for the last several years.