About 4,000 teams are expected to play in Bullpen Tournaments events across the spring, summer and fall seasons at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind., and other diamonds. His part of that will keep Chris Gorman hopping. As Bullpen’s Director of High School Tournaments, he handles registration, scheduling and operations and also helps with staffing of interns and hourly workers and assists with youth tournaments when needed. Most of the 15U to 18U tourneys held in June and July and coordinated by Gorman are staged at Grand Park and Championship Park in Kokomo. Other local, high-quality off-site fields like Kokomo Municipal Stadium are also used. The majority of teams are from Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan, but there are those from outside. Gorman counts Director of Operations Cam Eveland and Vice President of Operations Michael Tucker as his direct supervisors. Born in Fort Wayne and raised in Auburn in Indiana, Gorman is a graduate of DeKalb High School in Waterloo, Ind. (2015) — where he played basketball — and Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. (2019) — where he was Sport Administration major and Marketing minor. Gorman has also served Bullpen Tournaments as an hourly Quad Manager, making sure games ran smoothly and on schedule. “This role helped me understand the operations and the standard that was needed to be met for all our events,” says Gorman. From there he was promoted to Assistant Director of Operations at Creekside Baseball Park in Parkville, Mo., a Prep Baseball Report facility just outside of Kansas City. The job allowed him to implement to apply the same standards set by Bullpen at Grand Park. “This role required me to have my hands in many different areas of our business and helped me understand the entire company as a whole rather than just from an operations standpoint,” says Gorman. Why did he choose this as a profession? “I knew I always wanted to have some sort of career in the sports world,” says Gorman. “I was always curious about how things worked behind the scenes, so when I started out as an hourly worker for Bullpen, I was able to get hands on experience of the behind-the-scenes work involved in running high quality events. “I learned to love the jobs I was asked to do so pursuing a sport operations role was something that interested me very strongly.” Gorman’s resume also includes Security Assistant for the Chicago Cubs, Tournament Director for PBR, Tournament Site Director for World Baseball Academy in Fort Wayne and Ticket Sales Representative for the Fort Wayne TinCaps.
The Terre Haute Rex have been on the summer collegiate wood bat baseball scene since 2010. Terre Haute native Bruce Rosselli was there at the start. A 1976 North Vigo High School graduate and former Indiana State University track and field decathlete who went on to spend 17 years as an elite bobsled driver (he is a three-time national champion, two-time world champion and a winner in the Europa Cup and Americas Cup), was a volunteer assistant speed and strength coach for the Rex. He attended home games and put players through workouts at Union Hospital. “I worked on their speed and their psyche,” says Rosselli. “I took some of the things I learned from driving a bobsled like positive thinking and mental imagery. I had to slow everything down and learn to push away negativity. “I was teaching pitchers how to be confident on the mound and control the tempo of the game.” The Rex (which takes their name from a coffee brand established in 1879) was originally owned by the Indiana State University Foundation. In December 2013, Rosselli and partners — Brian Dorsett (field manager 2010-12), Bob Brown, John Newton, Ray Kepner and Kevin Hoolehan — bought the team. General manager Rosselli and Dorsett are principal owners of the Rex. Newton later stepped down, leaving the others as the current ownership group. Rosselli’s position is full-time and does everything from marketing to recruiting players. He sees the Rex as an asset to the community. In 2014, Rosselli and company had their first season with the Rex and a survey found that 63 percent of fans who exit a baseball stadium don’t know who won or lost the game. “They just know they had a good time,” says Rosselli. “That’s who we market to. The 37 percent are always going to be there. How do we get the 63 percent back every time? “It’s entertainment.” The Rex markets to a 40- to 50-mile radius of Terre Haute. The Wabash Valley represents about 500,000 people. Rosselli wants them to consider coming to ISU’s Bob Warn Field when they come to town to dine or go to Terre Haute Children’s Museum. “We have between-inning games with kids running and racing and dizzy bat,” says Rosselli. “The baseball game itself is secondary. “We’re putting on this big show.” Community members and sponsors are recognized. Low-cost, high-quality concessions is a priority. “We don’t want people coming here saying that food is no good so we’re going to eat somewhere else before (the game),” says Rosselli. “We bring $1.5 million to $2.1 million (annually) to the local economy every summer.” Stores, retail shops, gas stations, hotels and restaurants all benefit from having the Rex in Terre Haute. “Every $1 turns over seven times,” says Rosselli. Rosselli says some companies that partner with the team are looking for Return On Investment (ROI) and others do it as a service to the community. “They’re helping us provide entertainment for all of the Wabash Valley,” says Rosselli. “We couldn’t do it without them.” On the baseball side of things, Rosselli hires a manager to assemble a team of players from around the country. In 2023, it will be Harry Markotay. “We do want to have competitive play,” says Rosselli. “Since we’ve owned the team we’ve only had one year where we didn’t have a very good season.” The Rex went 37-23 in the Prospect League 2022. Terre Haute won Prospect League titles in 2015 (managed by Bobby Segal) and 2018 (managed by Tyler Wampler). Rosselli begins making recruiting calls as soon as the season is over. All position players on a roster of around 30 are committed and the focus for 2023 is to get more pitchers. Players stay with host families — some who’ve been with the Rex since Day 1. “They love having that experience with a player in their home,” says Rosselli. “They can go out there and root for them every game, know their name and their parents’ names. “It’s a friend for life.” Bruce and wife Cheryl Rosselli (a former world table tennis champion) have two children — Paige and Tony. Paige Rosselli (North Vigo Class of 2008) is a former Rex intern. Tony Rosselli (North Vigo Class of 2012) played a Indiana State University and with the Rex. He has had host families as a college and independent pro player. There are many moving parts and a short window between the end of the Indiana State season and the beginning for the Rex. Tractor trailers bring in trash cans. Beverage sales and souvenir sales must be set up. Up to 60 banners stored in Rosselli’s office across Third Street are put up around the ballpark. “We saw the stadium come alive,” says Rosselli. The Rex partners with ISU for Sport Management and Marketing students to do internships with the team. There’s also the opportunity work with the media company who broadcasts the games. “I want to see players go to the next level, but it’s also just as gratifying seeing our interns going to the next level,” says Rosselli. “Every year I say, ‘how do we make our team better and how do we make our staff better?’ One doesn’t run without the other. “There’s two teams here.” The owner/GM encourages interns to sit in with him on sponsorship meetings. They also get to rotate through different jobs such as ticket sales, retail and press box operations. They see the coordination between the PA announcer and on-field announcer. “It’s like an orchestra going on,” says Rosselli. Many Rex interns have gone on to serve in professional or college sports positions and not just in baseball. Austin Bishop went from the Rex to the NBA’s Detroit Pistons to the University of Illinois and is now Assistant Manager of Athletic Ticketing at ISU. Chris Poindexter was Communications Assistant and Intern Supervisor for the Rex and went on to become Video Production and Social Media Manager with the Bowling Green Hot Rods, High-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. “I didn’t get where I’m at without help,” says Rosselli. “So it’s sort of paying it forward. I can help somebody else do that they want to do.” Beginning in 2016, Rosselli was president of the Prospect League for five years. In that role, he dealt with disciplinary matters and led league meetings. He brought in an outside contractor to provide certified NCAA umpires and found vendors for league uniforms and baseballs. “I always thought in order for this league to grow we should all look to be in the black (at the end of the fiscal year) and not some teams in the red,” says Rosselli. “That was more of an attraction to outside investors. “Lowering the operational costs would help us all.” The Prospect League — with David Brauer as commissioner — will field 17 teams in seven states in 2023. Opening Day for a 58-game slate is to begin May 31. Additions include the Jackson (Tenn.) Rockabillys and an as-yet-to-be-branded club in Marion, Ill., once a member of the independent professional Frontier League. Finalists for the Marion team name include Angry Beavers, Fungi, Monkey Rats, Swamp Foxes and Thrillbillies. For the better part 10 years, Rosselli has been working to get a new stadium for the Rex — something similar to Kokomo (Ind.) Municipal Stadium. Rosselli said Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett was in favor, but the Terre Haute Convention Center came first. Rosselli says he would like to see a multi-sport complex on the east side of town. Add to that housing and retail spaces. “It’s about a $75 million project,” says Rosselli. “You’ve got to have a lot of ground — at least 150 acres. “I don’t want to be part of something done halfway. Let’s do it right. We’ve got to be able to grow it.” In August 2022, the Vigo County Capital Improvement Board approved the start of a process for a feasibility study for a sports and water complex. In November 2022, the CIB approved Brownsburg-based PROS Consulting Inc., to conduct that study.
Eastside Junior/Senior High School athletics has been a big part of Cade Willard’s world all of his 23 years. His parents — Aaron and Kerri Willard — have both been employed by DeKalb Eastern Community School District. Cade played baseball and basketball for the Butler, Ind.-based Eastside Blazers — Jason Pierce for the first two years (2014 and 2015) and his father for the last two (2016 and 2017) on the diamond and Ryan Abbott on the hardwood. A right-handed pitcher, Willard played three seasons at Purdue Fort Wayne (2019-21). He redshirted in 2018. He appeared in 92 games (all in relief) for the Mastodons. His head coach the last two seasons was Doug Schreiber. “Throughout my career I’ve been blessed with good coaches,” says Willard. Graduating in 2021 as a Business Management major and Marketing minor, Willard went to work at Eastside teaching Business and Computer Science and joined his father’s baseball coaching staff. After an IHSAA Class 2A state runner-up finish in 2021, Eastside won another sectional title in 2022. The Kelly Green & White went 26-7 in ’21 and 21-8 in ’22. Eastside (enrollment around 380) is a member of the Northeast Corner Conference (with Angola, Central Noble, Churubusco, Fairfield, Fremont, Garrett, Hamilton, Lakeland, Prairie Heights, West Noble and Westview). The Blazers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2023 with Central Noble, Churubusco, Prairie Heights, Westview and Whitko. Eastside has won seven sectional titles. Aaron Willard was a North coach and Owen Willard — little brother of former volleyball/softball athlete Madison (Willard) Shelter (Class of 2014) and Cade — was the MVP at the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series. At the end of the season, Aaron Willard kept his athletic director tag but passed the head coaching baton to Cade. His decision to pursue business or education and coaching was made during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I grew up around Eastside my whole life,” says Cade. “It seemed right. “It makes it more special being in your hometown.” Aaron and elementary P.E. teacher Kerri now have more time to see right-hander Owen pitch at PFW. Cade is also an assistant to Ed Bentley on the Blazers varsity boys basketball staff. Willard found time to lead IHSAA Limited Contact Period baseball activities (two days a week for two hours) in the fall and will do so again in the winter, beginning Dec. 5. He will roll right from basketball to baseball on some days. “In the fall, we got better, got in a routine and got our hitting philosophies down,” says Willard, who had eight to 10 high schoolers at each session along with a handful of junior high players. “On paper, we had our starting infield out there. “It’s important to get kids in before the holidays. We can see what numbers we have.” Cade wants the ones who are able to attend to get used to his practice structure. “The past few years we’ve been successful,” says Willard. “It’s about keeping the tradition alive. ““We’re always a scrappy team. I want to get our guys ready to compete. We have a few spots to fill. We were super senior-heavy last year. “For some it will be the first time playing varsity baseball. Toward the end of the season we’ll be alright.” Besides Owen Willard, Class of 2022’s Nick Snyder moved on to college baseball at Indiana University Southeast. Willard has a mixture of seasoned and younger assistant coaches. “I think it’s important to bring on experienced guys who know what to do in different situations,” says Willard. Eastern graduate Tony Emenhiser — who coached with Pierce and Aaron Willard — is back. Alum Gary Kaiser was also on Pierce’s staff. Conner Dove is junior varsity head coach and is assisted by Mike Gustin. Dove was an Eastside classmate of Willard. He was a teammate of Prairie Heights graduate Gustin at Trine University (Angola, Ind.). Willard expects to have around two dozen players for varsity and JV squads. Among returnees is Class of 2024’s Loden Johnson and Ryder Reed and Class of 2025’s Jace Mayberry. Pitchers will be asked to throw strikes and keep the ball low and away from he middle of the plate. “Free bases hurt,” says Willard. “You can throw two pitches for strikes and get away with it and be effective with three. “In our non-conference games we’ll see who can throw and who cannot throw. It’ll get us ready for rather get ready for conference in the later weeks. There will be a lot of juggling (of positions) this year for sure. We want to put the best lineup out there for conference.” Eastside plays home contests on-campus at Michael D. Fieldler Field. The diamond played host to a fall league and has had its dugouts upgraded with other projects in the works. Bobcat Youth League locations at Butler and Riverdale-St. Joe develop players that end up at Eastside. Fifth and sixth graders travel to play area teams, including in Hicksville, Ohio. Butler is about four miles from the Indiana-Ohio line. The non-conference high school season tends to include Ohio opponents like Archbold, Edgerton and Fairview. A youth camp is planned at Eastside for the spring. “It is important to get youth kids enjoying and playing baseball doing it the right way,” says Willard. “Dad — being AD — says that’s an area you could blossom in with time over the long run.”
When it comes down to crunch time, that’s when Gavin Knust wants the baseball. The left-handed pitcher likes to be called on in the latter innings to get out of a jam or nail down a victory. He’s done it for the past two seasons at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany. “I enjoy being the guy the team relies on,” says Knust, 20. “I want to help the team in any way possible to win a ball game.” In 2022, he made 22 relief appearances (16 of them scoreless) and went 4-0 with two saves, a 3.60 earned run average, 35 strikeouts and nine walks in 30 innings. The Grenadiers finished the season 40-15 overall and 20-4 in the River States Conference. The campaign ended in the NAIA Opening Round. As a true freshman in 2021, Knust came out of the bullpen 20 times and went 2-0 with a 3.50 ERA, 40 strikeouts and 12 walks in 36 innings. IUS (50-16, 26-1) earned its first trip to the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, in 2021 and Knust appeared in three of four games. Knust was 18 and pitching on one of college baseball’s biggest stages. And this after missing his senior season at Forest Park Junior/Senior High School in Ferdinand, Ind., because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 6 1/3 innings in Idaho, he yielded four hits and two runs while striking out nine and walking two. Older guys like Daunte DeCello, Hunter Kloke, Marco Romero, Derek Wagner (a Tri-West Hendricks High School alum) and Clay Woeste (Lawrenceburg) pushed Knust to be his best. “They were huge role models,” says Knust. “They took me under their wing and took care of me.” All the while, the Grenadiers fed off the words of head coach Ben Reel. “Coach Reel is a huge believer in ‘control the controllables’ — that’s all you can worry about. He tells us to play ‘our’ baseball. Don’t try to be anybody else.” After a 5-10 start, that 2021 team went into the postseason at 40-13. “We were the hottest team in the nation,” says Knust. “That’s all baseball is about — riding the hot streak.” Brandon Mattingly was the pitching coach at IU Southeast in 2022. “He’s a big believer in the mental aspect of baseball and breathing correctly,” says Knust of Mattingly. “He want you doing the same thing every pitch. Baseball is a game of repetition. “It’s a game where you don’t want to make it more complicated that it really is.” As a bullpen arm throwing between three-quarter and over-the-top, Knust relies mostly on a four-seam fastball, two-seamer and curveball. His four-seamer got up to 88 mph in the spring. “(The two-seamer) runs away from the barrel,” says Knust. “The curveball is more like a slurve.” After spending the summer of 2021 with the Ohio Valley League’s Madisonville (Ky.) Miners, Knust is now relieving for the 2022 Northwoods League’s Battle Creek (Mich.) Battle Jacks. Through games of July 20, the southpaw had made 15 appearances (10 scoreless) and was 2-1 with a 2.60 ERA, 15 strikeouts and eight walks in 17 1/3 innings. “It’s more about hitting my pitches, working on my spots and just becoming a better pitcher this summer,” says Knust of his in-game goals. Caleb Lang, an assistant at Concordia University Nebraska is Battle Creek’s manager. IU Southeast faced Concordia in Lewiston in 2021. Away from the diamond, there is also bonding and fun on a BC squad made up largely of NAIA players — including Concordia’s Joey Grabanski and Jacob Lycan and Indiana University-Kokomo’s Patrick Mills — with a few D-1’s sprinkled in. “We’re almost getting to the point where we’re a big family now,” says Knust. A few times, host families have allowed some of the Battle Jacks to use their boat to chill on the lake followed by cornhole and a cookout at their house. Knust was born in Jasper, Ind., and grew up in nearby Saint Anthony. He played T-ball at Pine Ridge Elementary in Birdseye. His only summer of travel ball came during high school with the Louisville-based Ironmen Prime. At Forest Park, Knust played football for head coach Ross Fuhs and baseball for Jarred Howard. “(Fuhs) was more of an understanding coach,” says Knust. “You could talk to him about anything in life. He’d always be there for you. “(Howard) got the most out of every player and he tried to make you a better person.” Knust, who has two years of playing eligibility left, is a Marketing major with a Professional Sales minor. “An IU degree in marketing is one of the best you can get,” says Knust. “I enjoy talking and getting to know people.” Gavin is the youngest of Steve and Melissa Knust’s three sons. Ethan Knust (27) works for a concrete company. Eli Knust (25), who played baseball at Huntington (Ind.) University and against Gavin in 2021, works at Memorial Hospital in Jasper and assists Ethan with a concrete side business. Steve Knust is a plumber. Melissa Knust is an oncology nurse at Memorial Hospital.
South Bend, Ind., native Dylan Brammer has pitched his forkball on multiple continents. For most of the past decade, the right-hander has played professional baseball in independent U.S. leagues and abroad. At 32, he’s still got his eye on his next pitch while sharing his knowledge with youngsters coming up in the game. The 2008 graduate of Mishawaka (Ind.) Marian High School who played at Ancilla College (Donaldson, Ind.), Vincennes (Ind.) University and the University of Northwestern Ohio started his pro career with the independent Frontier League’s Rockford (Ill.) RiverHawks in 2012. Rich Austin was the manager. Rockford was giving Brammer — who was a two-way player in high school and college — a shot at shortstop. “I was always a good hitter, but not a great hitter,” says Brammer. The RiverHawks discovered how hard he threw and sent him to the bullpen to see if he could harness his speed. By the time Brammer was released last day of transactions, he saw his future on the mound. “I know I can compete at that level as a pitcher, but I couldn’t throw strikes,” says Brammer. “I told myself I’m going to concentrate the next eight, nine, 10 years on my craft — pitching.” Brammer, who has Marketing degree from UNOH, worked a genetic software sales job in 2013. But he heard and headed the call of baseball and went back to the diamond. He played with he Pittsburg (Calif.) club for three seasons in the independent Pacific Association. Wayne Franklin managed the Pittsburg Mettle in 2014 while Aaron Miles was in charge of the Pittsburg Diamonds in 2015 and 2016. Brammer started 33 games for Pittsburg and went 16-9 with 206 strikeouts and 102 walks in 217 innings. In the latter part of 2016, Brammer landed with the Steve Brook-managed River City Rascals, a Frontier League team in the St. Louis suburb of O’Fallon, Mo. In four games (two starts), he went 2-1 with 13 K’s and eight walks in 17 2/3 innings. An opportunity to play overseas came in 2017 and Brammer was off to the Czech Republic to play for 3n2 International Stars at Prague Baseball Week and for Czech Baseball League’s Skokani Olomouc. A month break between the end of the regular season and the playoffs gave Brammer the opportunity to travel all over eastern Europe. In what is winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer south of the equator, Brammer played in Australia in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. The first two seasons he was with the Port Adelaide Magpies in the South Australia State League and won two Capps Medal awards as MVP. Port Adelaide went to back-to-back championship series. Brammer had games of 23, 21 and 19 strikeouts. He managed in both Port Adelaide and Perth. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he did not go back to club ball in Australia. The 5-foot-10 righty was with the New Jersey Jackals for parts of four seasons, winning 16 games, saving 18 and whiffing 184 while walking 90 in 218 2/3 innings. Brooks Carey managed the team in 2018 and 2019 in the Canadian-American Association. The COVID-19 season of 2020 saw the Jackals in the All-American Baseball Challenge. Carey guided New Jersey in the Frontier League in 2021. When the Jackals were not going to the playoffs, Brammer finished the season with the Atlantic League’s Stan Cliburn-managed Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. In nine games (all in relief) with Southern Maryland in 2021, Brammer went 1-0 with 16 strikeouts and six walks in 14 innings. A testing ground for Major League Baseball, the Atlantic League pushed the mound back to 61 feet, 6 inches, restricted infield shits and had Trackman call balls and strikes during the 2021 season. “It didn’t take that much time to adjust (to 61-6),” says Brammer. “My off-speed was up in the zone at 60-6. It broke a little more and stayed lower in the zone (at 61-6). They did me a favor.” Throwing straight over the top, Brammer uses four pitches — four-seam fastball, cutter, slider and forkball. “I have a heavy fastball that goes from 90 to 92 mph,” says Brammer. “I hide the ball really well and have fast arm speed.” Brammer’s family moved to Florida after his high school days and he has been there in the off-seasons since 19. He received an invitation to pitch in the Mexican League in 2022. With his girlfriend due to have a boy in December, Dylan opted to stay in Delray Beach, Fla., and teach baseball lessons while coaching the 12U East Boynton Blaze. He’s also staying sharp for his next playing opportunity. “I take pride in how serious I take baseball,” says Brammer. “I work at it daily.” Born in South Bend to Michael and Lisa Brammer, Dylan is the second oldest of 10 (seven girls and three boys). Brammer played at South Bend Southeast Little League and helped his team to the state tournament at age 12. When he got older, one of his summer teams was Mishawaka American Legion Post 161 coached by Jeff Moore. He played for Tim Prister at Marian High. “He was tough on us,” says Brammer of Prister. “I loved that about him. He expected a lot out of our class. “We took practices and games serious.” Marian was IHSAA Class 3A state runners-up in 2008, losing 5-1 to Crawfordsville in the championship game at Victory Field in Indianapolis. Brammer played shortstop and batted third that day, getting one of three hits off Athenians left-hander Cameron Hobson. Brammer drew interest from some NCAA D-I schools, including Butler and Michigan State. He says he did not have the grades to get into Butler and went the junior college route. Playing for Ancilla Chargers head coach Joe Yonto, Brammer hit .420 with 13 extra base hits in 44 games in 2009. At Vincennes U. in 2010, Brammer hit .372 with 18 extra base hits and a .428 on-base percentage for the Chris Barney-coached Trailblazers. VU went to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Baseball World Series in Enid, Okla. At Northwestern Ohio in 2011 and 2012, Brammer hit a combined .292 and posted a 1.21 earned run average on the mound with 61 strikeouts in 49 innings. The Racers head coach was Kory Hartman.
Johnny Maynard is not yet sure where he’ll throw his next regular-season collegiate pitch. But he is certain how he will approach baseball. The way he always has — with a strong work ethic and bulldog mentality. “It’s how I raised by my parents,” says Maynard, who turns 22 today (June 30). “Whatever you start you have to finish. I never quit anything ever. Always go full-out. “I really don’t care who I’m competing against, I know they’re not going to beat me. I’m a 5-foot-10 right-handed pitcher. I’m usually one of the smaller guys on the team. I have to work harder to the get the results and earn respect.” Maynard (rhymes with Play Hard), a 2019 Griffith (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School graduate who is now in the Transfer Portal after two seasons at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., (2020 and 2021) and one at NCAA Division I Radford (Va.) University. The Sports Management and Marketing major hurled 5 1/3 innings in six appearances for the 2022 Highlanders. Alex Guerra was hired as Radford head coach after the season. This summer, Maynard is pitching for the Coastal Plain League’s Jeremy Knight-coached Asheboro (N.C.) ZooKeepers. Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Maynard uses on four-seam fastball, one-seamer, curveball and change-up. The four-seam sits 87 to 89 mph and has been up to 92. “The one-seamer (finger on just one seam) I learned this year,” says Maynard. “My two-seamer was not moving the way I wanted it to. (The one-seamer) gets pretty good movement away from a lefty and has pretty good sink to it. It works off my (circle) change-up (which is generally thrown 82 to 84 mph.” Maynard employs a curve that is 1-to-7 on the clock face. “It drops off the table pretty well,” says Maynard. Born in Munster, Ind., Maynard moved to Griffith as a sixth grader. He played in Munster and Griffith youth leagues then went into travel ball and suited up for the Northwest Indiana Shockers, Steelheads, Cobras, Slammers, Hammond Chiefs and 18U Midwest Irish. At Griffith High, Maynard played four years for Panthers coach coach Brian Jennings, starting as a freshman. “He’s a great guy,” says Maynard of Jennings, who retired after the 2022 season. Lincoln Trail coach Kevin Bowers allowed the righty got to close some games for the Statesman. One of his highlights is slamming the door on highly-ranked John A. Logan during the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Maynard split the summer of 2019 between the Irish and Midwest Collegiate League’s Northwest Indiana Oilmen. He also got in a few innings with that Whiting-based team in 2020. He was with the Tropics of the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., in 2021, which allowed him to work at home and then commute two-plus hours to games. Johnny’s mother, Jen Maynard, is a cardiac tech in northwest Indiana. Father Mike Maynard is recently-retired and living in Florida. Sister Lauren Maynard played and coached softball at Purdue Northwest and is now in nursing school.
Baseball has been kind to a young man from Salem, Ind. It’s given him moments of joy and relationships and helped him earn a college degree. Xavier Haendiges (pronounced X-avier Hen-dig-us) says he will keep the game in his life even though his playing days are behind him. “It’s been fun,” says Haendiges, a 2019 Salem High School graduate who redshirted one year, played three seasons at Ohio University and earned a Business Analytics and Marketing degree with a sales certificate this spring. “I met a lot of people I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. “Being able to play the game of baseball and compete everyday has been awesome.” Haendiges has one year of eligibility left, but has opted to move on. “I don’t think my arm could handle playing another season,” says Haendiges, who has also dealt with an ailing back. A righty-swinging middle infielder, he started in 30 of the 31 games he appeared in for the 2022 OU Bobcats. The 6-foot, 170-pounder hit .299 (26-of-81) with one triple, five doubles, six runs batted in and 20 runs scored. In three years, he played in 47 games and hit .252 (31-of-123). Haendiges, who turned 22 on June 15, plans to move to Cincinnati in a few weeks and begin a job as a remote account executive with InSight — an IT solutions company. “Being in marketing and sales keeps me in that competitive mindset,” says Haendiges. “I have to compete for customers and against other salesmen. “I want to be able to challenge myself everyday.” He’s recently taken to golf to help scratch his competitive itch. Growing up in Salem, Haendiges played in the local youth league then began travel ball around 11 with the Indiana Bulls. “It’s a great organization,” says Haendiges. “I’ve had so many opportunities. “It’s led me through so many doors.” With the Salem High Lions, Haendiges played for head coach Brett Miller. “To be a coach you have to have a good personality and love the game,” says Haendiges. “He was a great mentor and a great coach.” Haendiges also played point guard for the Salem basketball team. Xavier is the youngest of Ron and Pam Haendiges’ two sons. Trey Haendiges is 10 years older than Xavier and runs Haendiges Insurance Solutions in Salem and recently made his brother into an uncle and his parents into grandparents. Trey’s affection for the Boston Red Sox has rubbed off on his little brother. “I follow the Red Sox heavily,” says Haendiges. “I’ve been watching the College Word Series. When I move to Cincinnati, I plan to catch some Reds games as well.” Ron Haendiges works at State Farm Insurance in Salem. Pam Haendiges is a former first grade teacher at Bradie Shrum Elementary — the same school that Xavier attended.
Gunnar Pullins sees his future as an event coordinator. Graduated May 7 from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., with a Marketing degree, Pullins has job possibilities all around. “I’m open to going anywhere in the country,” says Pullins, 22. But right now the young man who has planned cornhole tournaments for festivals around northwest Indiana is getting ready for a baseball event. A senior first baseman for the ONU baseball team, Pullins and his teammates recently won the program’s third straight Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament title (not counting the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season) and earned a berth in the NAIA Opening Round. “We want to be as far from home as possible,” says Pullins. On Thursday, Pullins got his wish as the Tigers learned that they will play at the site hosted by Westmont in Santa Barbara, Calif., for the right to compete in the 2022 NAIA World Series May 27-June 3 in Lewiston, Idaho. In the Opening Round, Westmont is the No. 1 seed, Indiana University Southeast No. 2, Olivet Nazarene No. 3 and Antelope Valley (Calif.) No 4. The event is May 16-19. Pullins, a righty swinger, is hitting .358 (53-of-148) with three home runs, three triples, six doubles, 35 runs batted in and 39 runs scored. In 51 games, he sports a .955 OPS (.455 on-base percentage plus .500 slugging average) and has 11-of-14 in stolen base attempts. This is his first season at first base and even though he has another year of eligibility it’s his last as a collegiate player. “My shoulder can only take so much more,” says Pullins. “I tore my shoulder senior year of high school. “I went went from throwing hard to throwing very soft.” He was a shortstop at Valparaiso (Ind.) High School, where he graduated in 2018. He played a lot of third base at Olivet Nazarene until he came to a decision with Tigers head coach Jeff Mullikin to move to the other corner to save his arm. A teammate had done the same in 2021 and did very well. From 2019-21, Pullins got into 80 games for ONU and hit .258 (25-of-97) with no homers, one triple, three doubles, 24 RBIs and 45 runs. He had a .652 OPS (.342/.309) and was 15-of-22 in the stolen base department. In a game of adjustments, Pullins has learned to make his share. Not only changing positions. But he has learned to adjust at-bat to at-bat and pitch to pitch. Olivet Nazarene has not faced a pitcher with velocity approaching 90 mph in awhile and is sure to see it in the Opening Round. “It’s about getting the foot down and the hands through the (strike) zone at a certain time,” says Pullins, who is preparing with batting practice against live arms and machines. “We do a 40/90 with one of our BP throwers 40 feet away and he’s chucking it and trying to find barrels.” Velocity is one thing and then there is adjustment when the ball breaks. “There are people who throw the ball straight and there are people who have movement,” says Pullins. “It’s easier to get a barrel on it and hit it hard somewhere when it’s straight.” Born and raised in Valparaiso, Pullins played travel ball with the Lake of the Four Seasons Warriors from Crown Point/Boone Grove area then the Cougars who became the Indiana Breakers around Chesterton then the Outsiders Baseball Club with Dave Griffin (the Purdue Northwest head coach). A varsity player for three of his four years at Valparaiso, Pullins recalls the beginning of practice with Vikings head coach Todd Evans. “He called us gentlemen everyday,” says Pullins of Evans. “It was a respectful way to start off our days.” Pullins played basketball as a Valpo freshman and tennis as a junior. Once he committed to Olivet Nazarene, he spent much of his time honing his baseball skills. Why ONU? “They gave me the best opportunity to get the education I wanted,” says Pullins. “And an opportunity to play right away as a freshman.” That first season, Pullins got a few starts and plenty of pinch-hit opportunities. “I could not get into a rhythm the COVID year,” says Pullins. “As a junior, I struggled confidence-wise.” Over the summer, he played slow pitch men’s softball. “I was putting a barrel on the ball,” says Pullins. “Something switched (in baseball). It was a click.” It hasn’t been all baseball and academics for Pullins, He’s been dating the same girl for most of his time in college. “I’ve met a lot of people and played intramural (sports) prior to senior year,” says Pullins. “They have a lot of events here — like every other week.” At the beginning of the year, there’s “Ollies Follies” — games and events with classes competing against each other. “It’s a lot of fun,” says Pullins. Gunnar is the son of Bub Pullins and Samantha Cardwell. He has two sisters. Alex is older. Lyric is younger.
Franklin (Ind.) College enjoyed a 25-14 baseball season in 2021. The Grizzlies hit .299 as a team with 152 extra-base hits (45 home runs) and 87 stolen bases. Of the top eight players in at-bats, six were seniors. Franklin’s fall workouts included many newcomers. “We worked a lot on team offense and defense,” says Jake Sprinkle, who is in his second season as a Franklin assistant coach in 2021-22. “We have a lot of new faces and we want to get those guys acclimated. “We had a lot of scrimmages, letting pitchers and hitters show what they’ve got.” NCAA Division III rules restrict coach-player contact in the winter. “We don’t have individual time,” says Sprinkle. “Seniors and leaders are setting up hitting and throwing groups. They’re making velo and exit velocity jumps and getting stronger in the weight room.” Sprinkle, who works for head coach and associate director of athletics Lance Marshall, has been hitting the recruiting trail and getting plans in place and equipment ordered for the spring of 2022. The season is slated to begin Feb. 26 against Albion at Grizzly Park. “This time of year we’re getting a lot of kids on-campus,” says Sprinkle of recruiting. “We’re trying to get some guys bought-in. We’re still working on 2022 (recruiting) class and reaching out to some 2023’s we’ve seen in the past.” The Franklin website lists a 2021 roster of 45 with 40 of those hailing from Indiana. Sprinkle, who turns 26 on Dec. 28, was born and raised in the Franklin Township section of Indianapolis. He played tennis and baseball at Franklin Central High School. Twin brother Ben was his tennis doubles partner and a baseball teammate. The Flashes were coached on the diamond by John Rockey. “He was an awesome guy,” says Sprinkle of Rockey. “He brought a ton of energy to practice. He taught us what we needed to do at a younger age and prepared guys for college. “We wanted to show up and work every single day.” Jacob Wickliff (now head baseball coach at Beech Grove High School) was a Franklin Central teammate of the Sprinkle brothers. Sprinkle was a right-handed pitcher at the University of Indianapolis. As a UIndy freshman in 2015, Sprinkle went 8-2 with 2.97 earned run average. He struck out 32 and walked 11 in 63 2/3 inning. Tommy John arm surgery caused him to miss the 2016 season and he was granted a medical redshirt before pitching for the Greyhounds from 2017-19. For his four college seasons, he was 22-9 with 3.86 ERA, 179 strikeouts and 68 walks in 240 innings. Sprinkle’s first four years were spent with Gary Vaught as head coach with Al Ready moving up to be head coach his fifth year. “(Coach Vaught) was so personable,” says Sprinkle. “He made everybody feel like they were special and created a personal bond. He would make sure people knew he was there for them. “(Coach Ready) is extremely dedicated and hard-working. He’s a guy who’s going to put his best foot forward, do his research and whatever he can to win.” Landon Hutchison was the Greyhounds pitching coach Sprinkle’s last few seasons. After his college playing days, Sprinkle was briefly in the United Shore Professional Baseball League in the summer of 2019 then spent a year as a UIndy graduate assistant. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Marketing/Information Systems and a master’s degree in Sports Management from UIndy. He joined Marshall’s Franklin coaching staff in September 2020. “(Coach Marshall) is an awesome guy,” says Sprinkle. “He’s extremely hard-working and does everything the right way. “He builds a championship culture — on and off the field.” Besides recruiting, Sprinkle is in charge of Grizzlies infielders and hitters and helps with pitchers. “With our infielders, we’re big on making the routine play,” says Sprinkle. “We re-set every play. It’s about being athletic. “The hitters’ approach is about being on-time and driving the baseball in the gap.” Last summer, Sprinkle coached a 17U travel team for Mike Chitwood’s Indiana Elite organization and will be leading a 17U squad for Chad Fowler’s Powerhouse Athletics group in the summer of 2022. “I thought that’s where my path would take me,” says Sprinkle of coaching. “I was very fortunate to have a lot of great coaches. “I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.” Sprinkle comes from a baseball-loving family. He and his brother grew up being coached by their father, Tracy Sprinkle with support from mother Lori Sprinkle and sister Malorie Sprinkle (a former Franklin Central softball player who’s now a Butler University freshman). Ben Sprinkle began went to Kentucky Wesleyan College for baseball before transferring to Franklin.
Tell Jack Parisi he can’t do something and that’s just the motivation he needs. “My whole baseball career — starting in high school, people said I’m never going to play college baseball and I’m never going to throw 90 mph,” says Parisi, a right-handed pitcher who four seasons at NCAA Division III Spalding University in Louisville, Ky. (2018-21), and is now at NCAA Division I Indiana State University for a graduate transfer year in 2022. “I bundled it all up, threw it aside and went to prove all these people wrong. “Once somebody tells me a goal of mine can’t be achieved I know they’re wrong and I go to work to make it possible.” Parisi, a 2017 graduate of Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., made 41 appearances (38 starts) for Spalding, going 21-8 with four complete games and a 2.97 earned run average. He produced 269 strikeouts and 107 walks in 218 innings while holding opponents to a .215 batting average. In 2021, the 22-year-old righty made 12 starts for Eagles head coach Matt Downs and pitching coach Tayler Sheriff and was 8-3 with two complete games and a 1.67 ERA. He racked up 96 K’s and 29 walks in 75 2/3 innings and foes hit .200. “He is definitely baseball-driven and has a positive mindset,” says Parisi of Downs. “He’s a great friend who I can have trust in.” “One of my best best qualities as an athlete is I’m goal-driven and willing to put in the work to get better,” says Parisi. “I have a strong mindset — on and off the field. I’m very in-tune with everything happening around me. “I’m a pretty focused athlete.” Parisi, a 6-foot, 210-pounder, decided to take his extra year of eligibility granted because the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the 2020 season, began getting calls and texts just minutes after entering the transfer portal. “I let it all come to me,” says Parisi. “Indiana State was one of the first teams to reach out to me. “They were very interested in me. This is a chance to play for a great coaching staff and great team. I want to prove that I can pitch against the best out there and get my (Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft) stock up and keep my name out there.” ISU head coach Mitch Hannahs indicated that he wanted Parisi to make a visit to the Terre Haute school’s campus as soon as possible. As a Sycamore, he gets to work with a staff of Hannahs, associate head coach Brian Smiley, assistant Brad Vanderglas and volunteer Justin Hancock while continuing to develop as a pitcher. Parisi moved to Terre Haute last week — about two weeks before the start of fall classes — to familiar himself with the ISU weight room and athletic trainers. He earned a Business Administration degree with a focus in Marketing and a minor in Communication at Spalding and plans to pursue a masters in Sport Management at Indiana State. Throwing from a low to middle three-quarter overhand arm slot, Parisi throws a four-seam cutter, sinker, change-up and two kinds of sliders. “My junior year of high school someone noticed that the ball was cutting out of my hand,” says Parisi. “I began calling my fastball a cutter.” His fastest pitch is the sinker, which has been clocked as high as 95 mph and sits at 90 to 93. He uses a “circle” change. His hard slider has a sharp bite at the end a tops out around 85 mpg. His soft slider is more of a “gyro” ball that moves across the plate like a frisbee and maxes out near 79 mph. Born and raised in Fort Wayne, Jack played from 4 until 12 at Don Ayres Little League then had travel ball stints with the Mark DeLaGarza-led Summit City Sluggers, AWP and the Javier DeJesus-coached Fort Wayne Diamondbacks. At Homestead, Parisi played for two Spartans head coaches — Steve Sotir as a freshman and Nick Byall the last three seasons. “I learned a lot from both of them,” says Parisi. “(Byall’s) a great guy and a great coach. He’s there for his players. He’s one of those teachers you can reach out to. “He’s looking out for your best interests.” During his college summers, Parisi has been with the Manatees of the Port Lucie-based Central Florida Collegiate League in 2018, Casey Harms-coached Waterloo (Iowa) Bucks of the Northwoods League in 2019 and trained with Greg Vogt at PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind., in 2020 and 2021. He credits his time at PRP last summer with developing his sinker and hard slider. Casa Restaurants director of operations Tom Parisi and wife Kathy Parisi have two sons — J.T. (28) and Jack. J.T. Parisi played baseball at Homestead then graduated from Indiana University and law school at Vandberbilt University. He is now a lawyer in Chicago.