Lenny “Lefty” Johnston was part of the professional baseball for six decades. Born in Pontiac, Mich. on March 15, 1928, and graduated as a football, basketball and baseball standout from Arthur Hill High School (Saginaw, Mich.) and football and baseball star at Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo), Johnston was signed by the Chicago White Sox by Johnny Mostil and Doug Minor in 1952. Johnston stole 325 bases and led his league in stolen bags for six consecutive seasons (1953-58). He was The Sporting News Minor League Rookie of the Year for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox of the Western League in 1953. In 1956 — his second of 12 Triple-A seasons — Johnston led the International League with 182 hits for the Richmond Virginians. The last seven of his 15 minor league campaigns as a player was spent with the Indianapolis Indians (1960-66). The Indians won championships in 1961 (American Association), 1962 (American Association) and 1963 (International League South). Johnston was a player-coach in his last two seasons. At 35, hit .316 and finished second in batting in 1964. He smacked four home run and drove in 67 runs in 127 games. A lefty swinging and throwing outfielder, Johnston hit .304 in 76 games with the 1960 Indianapolis team managed by Johnny Hutchings and Ted Beard. The Indians were then a Philadelphia Phillies farm team. He hit .297 in 113 games for the Cot Deal-managed 1961 Indians (then a Cincinnati Reds affiliate). In 1962, Indianapolis was part of the Chicago White Sox system and the ties remained through Johnston’s career in Indy. He hit .270 with 45 runs batted in over 113 games for a ’62 team managed by Luke Appling (who went into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964). Rollie Hemsley skippered the 1963 Indians and Johnston hit .262 with four home runs and 30 RBIs in 115 games. Les Moss managed the 1964 Indians to a second place finish in the Pacific Coast League East. Johnston hit .206 in 81 games for the 1965 Indians (fourth in the PCL East). George Noga was the manager. Moss was back as manager in 1966. Johnston hit .251 in 94 games and the Tribe placed third in the PCL East. Among his other managers are Hobart, Ind., native Everett Robinson plus Don Gutteridge, Danny Murtaugh, Eddie Lopat and Rube Walker. Johnston will be enshrined in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame during the IHSBCA State Clinic Jan. 12-14 at Sheraton at Keystone Crossing in Indianapolis. The Hall of Fame and awards banquet is slated for 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 13 at the Sheraton. Other inductees will be Kelby Weybright, Drew Storen, Jeff Samardzija and the late Wayne Johnson. For questions about banquet reservations, program advertisements or events leading up to the ceremony, contact Hall of Fame chairman Jeff McKeon at 317-445-9899. Banquet tickets can be purchased at https://www.cognitoforms.com/Baseball3%20_2023IHSBCAStateClinic and can be picked up from Jeff on the night of the banquet at the registration table. Tickets must be purchased in advance. “Lefty” Johnston married for the second time in Indianapolis and had two sons — David and Danny (who is now caregiver for his 93-year-old father in Nashville, Tenn.). Johnston had three children from a previous marriage in Michigan and had three older children — Tommy, Janie and Kim. In total, he has five children, 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. According to Danny Johnston, his father “loves Florida and loved coaching there. “He also loved Bluefield, Va., where he spent part of three decades with the Bluefield Orioles coaching, mentoring and coordinating.” As a national cross-checker scout “Lefty” was responsible for Tito Landrum coming to the Orioles. Landrum hit the homer that gave Baltimore the lead in Game 4 of the 1983 ALCS and the O’s eventually made it to the World Series. “He was proud to have been a part of that,” says Danny Johnston. He resided in Indianapolis for 50 years during the winters and helped sell season tickets for the Indians and was a substitute teacher and sold insurance for Lincoln National Life. Johnston has been inducted into both Western Michigan’s Football Hall of Fame and Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2010, “Lefty” received the Herb Armstrong Award for his contributions to baseball and the organization, and he was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame. Johnston went into the Appalachian League Hall of Fame in 2020.
Washington Township won the IHSAA Class 1A state baseball title in 2021 without hitting a single home run during the season. The Randy Roberts-coached Senators went 27-7 without leaving the yard one time. Randy’s father, Norman Roberts, who died in April, used to pester his son about all the bunting. “I just wished we didn’t have to,” says Randy Roberts. “But you’ve got to put the ball in play (with a bunt or a swing) and make (the defense) make the plays. “More often than not those routine plays are what costs the game.” Roberts, who has been head coach at Washington Township since the 1996 season, says hitting is hard and “bunting is just desire” and catching the ball with the bat. “Striking out has to be a fate worse than death.” Washington Township (enrollment around 260) is a member of the Porter County Conference (with Boone Grove, Hebron, Kouts, Morgan Township, South Central of Union Mills, Tri-Township and Westville). The PCC crowns round robin and tournament champions. The Senators won the round robin in 1999 (tie), 2001, 2006 and 2014 (tie) and tournament in 1999, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2021. The Senators are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping in 2023 with Bowman Leadership Academy, DeMotte Christian, Hammond Science & Technology, Kouts and Morgan Township. Washington Township has won 10 sectional titles — all since 1999 and the last in 2021. The Senators were 1A state champions in 2021 and state runners-up in 2019. That’s all on Roberts’ watch. Typically, Roberts has about 18 players to fill varsity and junior varsity rosters. Over the years, the coach has had young men come out that were not very good players but they came back year after year. “Those kids are the ones that go on and are successful adults,” says Roberts. “The fact is that they’ve committed to something and the easiest thing to do is quit. “That’s what most kids do.” The 2022-23 Senators did not participate in IHSAA Limited Contact Period activities in the fall and had some optional workouts this week. Assistant coaches for 2023 are Christian Lembke (Washington Township Class of 2010) and Nick Sutton. “He’s a good baseball man,” says Roberts of Sutton. “He loves the game.” Lembke, who played for Roberts, is a fourth grade teacher at Washington Township Elementary School. James Kirk (Class of 2023) was the Senators’ top hitter for a 5-16 squad in 2022 at .423 with four homers and 23 runs batted in. Nathan Winchip (Class of 2024) led the team in pitching wins with three and innings with 32 1/3. A 1978 graduate of Warsaw (Ind.) Community High School, Roberts earned an Education degree from Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind. The Lancers were then coached by Tom Roy. “He’s a very spiritual man,” says Roberts. “He’s just the kind of guy you’d want to be. “Coach Roy is the man to follow in his relationship with Christ.” When Roberts was in school Grace went to Puerto Rico on one of its spring trips. “I loved it down there,” says Roberts. A year after he graduated a director from Puerto Rico’s Wesleyan Academy was visiting Roy and Roberts, who was substitute teaching and working for the Warsaw parks department, learned of an opening for an elementary reading teacher and baseball coach. Roberts went to work for the school in Guaynabo for two years. The first year the baseball team lost in the first round of the playoffs. The next year brought the island’s private school championship. Private schools were separated into two divisions — A and B. Citizens interested in an education or having wealth sent their children to private schools to learn English. Public schools taught in Spanish. Division A schools offered scholarships and would often take the best ballplayers from Division B. “It was not very common for a Division B school to beat a Division A school,” says Roberts. After a regular season of about 20 games, it took three wins to earn the championship. The last two for Roberts’ team came against Division A schools, including Robinson School in San Juan featuring future big leaguer Eduardo Perez (son of Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Perez). “Puerto Rico was the job of my life — never to be duplicated,” says Roberts. After coming back to Indiana, Roberts worked and helped coach baseball at Wawasee. Then came the opportunity to teach young adults in the Middle East. He spent two years in Saudi Arabia and one in Dubai and made some money. There was no baseball, but he did play softball. “I got on a really good team that was like the Yankees of the Middle East,” says Roberts. “It was during the first Gulf War and there were a lot of military teams in the league. “It was pretty competitive.” Roberts came back to Indiana and worked at a pickle factory and substitute taught at John Glenn, Bremen and Plymouth. Then came the opportunity to teach and be an assistant track coach at Washington Township in the spring of 1995. At that time, grades K-12 met in the same building. In 1995-96, Roberts started a long run as a sixth grade teacher and transitioned to fifth grade. In 26 baseball seasons, he’s posted a mark of 472-261. What has made Roberts’ time leading the Senators worthwhile is the relationships. “The parents here in the community have just been phenomenal,” says Roberts. “They stood behind me. “If mower needs fixed, I call a parent. When we built the batting cages in the gym it was always with parental help.” When Roberts and an administrator did not see eye-to-eye it was the parents who were there to back the coach and educator. “They had a Facebook page and all these people are writing posts in support of me,” says Roberts. “It was kind of like my living funeral.” Roberts had offers to go to a bigger school over the years, but decided to stay put. “It’s been a good place,” says Roberts. “I’ve had principals that I’ve just been blessed and grateful to have worked under them the whole way. “They say everything happens for a reason.” Then there’s Roberts’ pride and joy — the Washington Township baseball field aka Senator Park. Located on the campus that sits along S.R. 2 on the east edge of Valparaiso, the diamond with a rustic feel features wood purchased from a smaller Menard’s store that was closing to make way for a bigger one. The first few quoted prices for the wood — $20,000 and $10,000 — were too high for the school’s budget. “Eventually they called me and said we’ll give it to you for $4,000 and we’ll not take a cent less,” says Roberts, who placed a $1,000 down payment on the wood and players, coaches and parents loaded three semi trailers. The next spring it spent five weekends and many hours after practice putting up fences and dugouts that have now been there more than two decades. “That’s our field,” says Roberts. “It’s just a great place for a ballgame. Down the right field line it’s elevated and you’ve got the trees. There aren’t too many infields where the grass is any nicer. “Is it a perfect ball field? No. The outfield slopes down terribly low. On the infield, the first base side is a little bit higher.” With Lake Michigan less than 20 miles to the north, a howling wind seems to be a constant at the high school and the adjacent Washington Township Little League. One of the program’s biggest benefactors was rental company owner and baseball parent who died in an automobile accident on July 10. “Whatever I need for 15 years — a sod-cutter, Bobcat, you name it, he was delivering it at 5 o’clock,” says Roberts. “Everybody ought to have a friend like Jimmie Lawson.” Eric Lawson — oldest son of Jimmie and wife Karen — was an eighth graders when came in the summer donning striped soccer socks. “I liked the looks of them so we went to stirrups the very next year,” says Roberts, who also coached Eric’s brothers Stephen and Alex. Eric graduated from Washington Township and went on the earn a Purple Heart while serving in the U.S. Army. “Those stirrups mean something,” says Roberts. “We wear those now in tribute to the entire family.” Middle school baseball is played in the ball at Washington Township where they don’t have football. “It’s like a seven-week baseball camp (beginning in early August),” says Roberts. “They’re taught everything. We don’t teach anything different than we do the high school kids.” Roberts has three children — Max, Sophia and William. Max Roberts is a 2016 Valparaiso High School graduate who was selected in the seventh round of the 2017 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft out of Wabash Valley College (Mount Carmel, Ill.) by the Seattle Mariners. The 6-foot-6 left-handed pitcher was selected in the minor league phase of the 2022 Rule 5 Draft by the Houston Astros and could start the 2023 season at Triple-A Sugar Land. William Roberts, a 6-foot-5 right-hander graduated from Washington Township in 2019 and pitched at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor, Mich., in 2021 and 2022 and is now at Purdue Northwest.
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.
Michael Dunkelberger did something last spring that many college baseball pitchers do not get to do — call their own pitches. The left-hander at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., says those decisions get made by coaches the overwhelming majority of the time. Dunkelberger, a 2018 graduate of South Bend (Ind.) Saint Joseph High School who turned 23 in August, was on a team full of older players thanks largely to the extra years of eligibility given because of the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season. That extra time led to wisdom which helped lead to the ability make the right decisions under fire. “It takes time to be able to call your own pitches,” says Dunkelberger, one of a handful on his staff given the chance to call pitches. “You have practice and bullpens and you talk through scouting reports.” At the beginning of the year, he scored well on an online cognitive test. “It showed how well you can instinctively learn and figure out what’s working well and what’s not,” says Dunkelberger, who credits Lipscomb pitching coach Matt Myers for helping him progress. “He was very similar to me in college,” says Dunkelberger of Myers, who was a lefty pitcher at the University of Tennessee. “He taught me about the mental side and how to go deep in games. “I was learning how to dissect the hitters swings and able to call my own game.” It was the first time in his college career he got to call pitches. It had been since the end of his days at Saint Joseph when Indians head coach John Gumpf allowed Dunkelberger and catcher/classmate Luke Houin to make those decisions. As a junior, Dunkelberger pitched a three-hitter as Saint Joseph beat Jasper 4-0 for the IHSAA Class 3A state championship. The lefty struck out four, walked two and hit two batters in a seven-inning complete game. “That junior year team was a lot of fun,” says Dunkelberger. “I grew up with those guys. We played together from 7 or 8 (on The Baseball Factory travel team) and went to the same high school.” Beating John Glenn 9-7 in extra innings in the Griffith Regional was a highlight of the state title run. “There were a lot of characters on the team,” says Dunkelberger. “(Coach Gumpf) he let us be ourselves and go out and play. We were a very talented team. A lot of guys on that team played college baseball.” Taking stock of his best athletic qualities, Dunkelberger puts experience and pitchability at the top. “There are guys that throw a lot harder than me,” says Dunkelberger. “I earned from an early age how to get guys out without having to throw hard.” Coming from an arm slot that’s close to over-the-top, Dunkelberger throws a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, change-up and slider. His four-seamer tops out at 92 mph. His two-seamer gets up to 90. His curve is of the 12-to-6 variety. His “split” change goes straight down. A new trend on the college scene is a “sweeper” slider and the southpaw throws one of those. Strength training in college allowed the athlete to come up to 6-foot and 215 pounds. Dunkelberger, who did not see action at Indiana University in 2019 and pitched at Kalamazoo (Mich.) Valley Community College in 2020 and 2021, made a splash in his first season with Lipscomb in 2022. He made 15 appearances (13 as a starter) and went 7-3 with 3.45 earned run average, 64 strikeouts and 18 walks in 78 1/3 innings while being named to second-team all-ASUN Conference. Cody Piechocki was Dunkelberger’s head coach at KVCC and with the summer wood bat Northwoods League’s Kalamazoo Growlers/Mac Daddies from 2019-21 (because of his spring workload Dunkelberger did not play in the summer of 2022). “He was great,” says Dunkelberger of Piechocki, who is also an associate scout for the Texas Rangers. “He helped me develop on the pitching side with command and velocity. “He reminded me of Gumpf, letting me be me. Through my failures, he stuck by me.” In nine starts at Kalamazoo Valley, Dunkelberger went 6-1 with a 3.24 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 50 innings and was named a National Junior College Athletic Association All-American. He was going to transfer to the University of Oregon. But COVID-19 changed his scholarship status and he decided to re-enter the recruiting process and he and KVCC roommate Collin Witzke wound up at Lipscomb. The Bisons — with Jeff Forehand as head coach — went 35-23 in 2022 after an 18-29 ledger in 2021. Dunkelberger has two more years of remaining eligibility and is getting ready for 2023 while he is on pace to earn a Business Management in the spring. Born in Grand Rapids, Mich., Dunkelberger came to northern Indiana around 3 and grew up in Granger. He played youth baseball in Clay Township and was with a Chicago White Sox-sponsored travel team after The Baseball Factory. Michael is the second-oldest of Scott and Laura Dunkelberger’s four children. Nick Boyd played football at South Bend Riley High School. Victoria Dunkelberger played softball at Penn High School. Penn junior Julianna Dunkelberger played volleyball as a freshman. Scott Dunkelberger played baseball at Riley and Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., and is now a pharmaceutical sales representative. Laura Dunkelberger works for the State of Indiana, finding resources for special needs children.
A former big leaguer living in southern Indiana is sharing his knowledge with young professionals. Kevin Mahar, who played at Lincoln Trail College (Robinson, Ill.) for head coach Mitch Hannahs (now head coach at Indiana State University) and at Indiana University for head coach Bob Morgan and briefly as a center fielder with the 2007 Texas Rangers, lives in Jasper, Ind., and has been a coach in the Cincinnati Reds organization since 2013. The 2022 season saw Mahar roving from level to level, including the big leagues, as outfield/baserunning coordinator and has been told he will be in that position in 2023. “Baserunning is about being aggressive and smart,” says Mahar. “We look for the ball in the dirt, take an extra 90 feet. “We put pressure on the pitcher and the defense.” The message to outfielders is straightforward. “Catch the ball,” says Mahar, who also teaches about getting in position, anticipation, reaction and game situations. “A lot of the stuff we do now is detail-oriented,” says Mahar. “We have drills that focus on technique and tempo.” Mahar has worked with players along with Reds special assistant and former Reds flycatcher Eric Davis. “He was an exceptional outfielder and was around a lot,” says Mahar of the man who played 17 MLB seasons. “Our goal is to make sure each player in exceptional at who they are. They all have a lot of ability, but each individual is different. We want to make them the best version of themselves and reach their capabilities. “We are not trying to create robots in the outfield. We allow them to play free out there.” Mahar was born in Pontiac, Mich., but grew up in Midland, Mich. “Jasper is very similar,” says Mahar. “Midland is a big, big sports town.” Among the sports in the town near Saginaw Bay and Michigan’s “thumb” are baseball, hockey and football. Mahar graduated from Midland High School in 1999 (he helped the Chemics to a Class A state title in 1998) then spent one year with Hannahs at Lincoln Trail and four with Morgan at Indiana (one as a redshirt). He earned second-team all-Big Ten Conference honors in 2004 before signing that year as a free agent with the Rangers. “He was great,” says Mahar of Hannahs. “We was a baseball guy. He knew how to get the best of (his players).” With adopted son Malik Chatman a defensive back on the Indiana State football team, Mahar still has occasional contact with Hannahs. “(Coach Morgan) was very, very detail-oriented,” says Mahar. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at if it wasn’t for him holding me accountable for my actions.” The 6-foot-5 Mahar was in the Rangers system through 2007, played for both the independent Kansas City T-Bones and in the Philadelphia Phillies organization in 2008 and was with the Phillies through 2010. He was mostly a first baseman his last two seasons. He assisted Andy McClain at Brebeuf Jesuit School in Indianapolis in 2011 and Jay Lehr at Carmel (Ind.) High School in 2012. McClain is now head coach at Indianapolis North Central and Lehr is a lead pitching instructor with several pro clients at Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind. Kevin and wife Atalie moved from Indianapolis to Dubois County — where she is from — about the time he joined the Reds. Atalie Mahar is employed by Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools and is a Health and Occupational Services teacher. There are three other children in the Mahar household — eighth grader Stella (13), fourth grader Nash (10) and Cecilia (1). Mahar, who recently got home from instructional league at Arizona, will be spending time with family while also teaching lessons a few days a week and planning for the 2023 season prior to gearing up for spring training after the first of the year. Mahar was hitting coach at Billings (Mont.) in 2013 and 2014 and hitting coach at Daytona Beach (Fla.) in 2015. After being away from coaching in 2016, he spent the next three seasons (2017-19) as bench coach at Dayton (Ohio) and was at the Reds summer camp then alternate site during the COVID-19 season of 2020. He was bench/gameplanning coach for Louisville (Ky.) in 2021. With the Bats, he gathered advanced scouting reports with information on opponent’s hot and cold zones and tendencies. Mahar has soaked up information along the way. He’s picked up things from many. Among them are Davis, Willie Harris, Juan Samuel, Billy Hatcher and Delino DeShields. These five played in more than 7,200 big league games. “I had some great coaches coming up and I continue to keep learning,” says Mahar. “There are always new techniques and new ways to reach kids. I’ve adapted drills I saw other organizations doing while I was roving.” Mahar also sees the way his players learn. Preferences include Visual, Aural, Read/write and Kinesthetic (VARK). “You learn how to reach each kid,” says Mahar. “Once you understand that, it makes our lives as coaches easier.”
Circumstances have caused Conner Tomasic to build his baseball and academic careers in unique ways. The 2018 graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind., went to Purdue University in West Lafayette for two seasons (2019 and 2020), transferred to South Suburban College in South Holland, Ill., for one (2021) and then came back to the Big Ten with Michigan State University (2022). The right-handed pitcher has another year of college eligibility, but his next move might be as an independent pro. This fall, Tomasic is a commuter student at Purdue Northwest in Hammond, Ind., while staying prepared for his diamond future. His major is Construction Engineering and Management Technology. Tomasic entered college as a Kinesiology major. Having had Tommy John surgery in high school he had worked with plenty of physical therapists. A Biology course at Purdue made him decide that was not the path for him. He followed some teammates and went with construction. “I like to see things in front of me and work with my hands,” says Tomasic. “It felt like a teamwork class. I felt comfortable with it. “You learned how to deal with people and work a job site. An associate degree was earned at South Suburban, a two-year school. But Tomasic also faced a bit of a curve. He had to switch his major at Michigan State to Psychology to stay eligible. A 6-foot-1, 185-pounder, Tomasic took the mound 17 times (nine as a starter) for head coach Jake Boss Jr.’s MSU Spartans. He went 4-4 with a 5.40 earned run average, 41 strikeouts and 26 walks in 65 innings. Because of the work load, Tomasic did not play summer ball, focusing on strength training. In July, he began traveling from Schererville, Ind., to PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind., to work with Director of Player Development/Pitching Anthony Gomez. The two have known each other since Tomasic — who turned 23 in August — was an eighth or ninth grader and Gomez was coaching in northwest Indiana. “We’ve always been close,” says Tomasic of Gomez. “It’s nice to work with someone who’s seen me grow up and develop. “He knows my delivery almost as well as I do. He knows what I need at the end of the day.” His PNW classes meet Monday through Thursday then Tomasic heads to central Indiana for workouts later that day or on Friday before returning to The Region. Tomasic has three pitches — a four-seam fastball, slider and change-up. His four-seamer was clocked at 92.9 mph this summer at 93 mph at South Suburban. His slider — often thrown between 77 to 79 mph — has evolved. “When I first started throwing it, it was a ‘gyro,’ says Tomasic of the pitch’s movement. “Now it’s getting mike more a ‘bullet’ slider. You can see the dot (as it rotates). “My change-up, some people think it’s a splitter. It depends on what it’s doing that day. The majority of the time it’s going to sink and have arm-side run. But sometimes it dives straight down.” Tomasic describes his delivery as “a little funky.” The arm angle is about mid-three quarter overhand. But the delivery comes low. “It’s something (opposing batters) don’t see that often,” says Tomasic. “My fastball plays up in the zone so it seems fast than it is.” Tomasic sees determination and focus as two of his best athletic qualities. “I’m a guy who know how to separate his sport from his daily life,” says Tomasic. “If I have a bad, I flush it. If I have a good day, I forget about it quick. “You’ve got the day ahead of you in baseball.” Born in Hammond and raised in Schererville, Conner is the oldest of Jerry and Dena Tomasic’s two children. Jennifer Tomasic (Lake Central Class of 2021) played basketball at Indiana University Northwest in Gary and Governors State University (University Park, Ill.). Jerry Tomasic was born in Yugoslavia before that country split and moved to the U.S. around 2. He played baseball but not past junior high and went on to play basketball at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa. Dena Tomasic works at Cheers Food & Drink in Munster, Ind. Conner played for the Dyer team that finished runner-up to eventual Little League World Series qualifier New Castle in 2012. When he was ready for a travel ball transition outside northwest Indiana at 15 to 16 he was unable to play for Top Tier because of his injured elbow. Tomasic shined as a two-way player at Lake Central and got to swing the bat for head coaches Mark Wasikowski and Greg Goff at Purdue and Steve Ruzich at South Suburban. As a three-year letterwinner and four-time scholar-athlete at LC, he played for head coaches Jeff Sandor and Mike Swartzentruber. The Indians won sectional titles in baseball and basketball in 2018 and Tomasic played a part while earning LCHS Pride, Hustle and Desire in both sports. He also earned 2018 Perfect Game All-American and All-Region Team honors. He was the Roger Maris MVP in leading Team Serbia to the title in the 2018 International Baseball Challenge Tournament in Whiting, Ind. In two seasons at Purdue, he hit .250 (3-of-12) with a triple in three runs batted and made one putout and five assists in the field. He pitched in 19 games (all in relief) with an 0-1 record, 4.30 ERA, 18 strikeouts and 11 walks in 25 1/3 innings. At South Suburban, the pitcher/middle infielder was an National Junior College Athletic Association all-region selection as he hit .392 with 60 hits, including eighth home runs, three triples and 12 doubles with 49 RBIs, 28 walks and 15 stolen bases. On the bump, he was 6-1 with a 4.64 ERA, 81 strikeouts and 22 walks in 64 innings. Tomasic played for the Northwoods League’s Bismarck (N.D.) Larks and Midwest Collegiate League’s (now Northern League’s) Northwest Indiana Oilmen in the summers of 2019 and 2020. Along the way the focus became pitching rather than two-way player. “I think I’m athletic enough,” says Tomasic. “I can pull it off.”
The record shows that Thad Frame has been a baseball coach since 2009. But the way the new Huntington (Ind.) University head coach sees it, his experience goes back much farther. “I grew up in it,” says the 36-year-old Thad, who follows father and 38-season veteran Mike Frame. “I feel like I’ve been coaching my whole life.” The oldest of Mike and Diane’s three children (there’s also Heath and Cora), Thad was a young boy when he began spending countless hours at the diamond or office with his father the Huntington Foresters head coach. Frame got his first real taste of coaching in Clemson, S.C. He played for the Southern Collegiate League’s Carolina Chaos and on the urging of former Huntington and Chaos player Andrew Drummond (who holds several school records including career batting average at .408 and is tied in career runs batted in with 155) took an opportunity to coach with the team a few summers later. “I was trying to find a new identity. It had always been just baseball,” says Frame, who took a gap year after his playing eligibility to complete Sports Management degree and seek his path. “I caught the coaching bug. Ever since it’s been my life. “It feels like I never worked a day in my life.” Before landing back at Huntington, Frame also spent a year at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) where Dan Simonds was head coach with Ben Bachmann (now athletic director at new Prairie High School) and Jeremy Ison as assistants and Brad Gschwind as graduate assistant. Thad Frame was Huntington U.’s starting shortstop for four seasons (2005-08) after doing the same at Huntington North High School (2001-04). His head coaches were Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Don Sherman as a freshman and Chad Daugherty his last three prep seasons. “When you’ve grown up in the coach world you see the impact a coach can have on young men (spiritually and athletically),” says Frame. “You’re absorbing that information. “I’ve been beyond blessed to have been around some of the best in Indiana.” Mike Frame (Huntington Class of 1983) is the member of four athletic halls of fame (Huntington U. in 2003, IHSBCA in 2009, Nettles Creek Schools/Hagerstown in 2017 and Northeast Indiana Baseball Association in 2019). While going 920-754, his Forester teams won 17 conference regular-season or conference tournament titles and made four NAIA national tournament appearances. There were 13 NAIA All-American honors with 85 all-conference athletes and seven professional players. He has also served the school as associated director of athletics. Mike Frame lost his right leg to COVID-19 but came back to coach. Thad Frame counts his father, Dennis Kas and Donnie Scott as the men who have molded him most as a coach. “My father has an old-school feel for baseball,” says Thad. “You’re going to have fun but it’s going to be intense.” IHSBCA Hall of Famer Kas coached Frame on the Indiana Bulls travel team and as am HU assistant and Scott was the manager with Thad as an assistant on the summer collegiate Northwoods League’s Battle Creek (Mich.) Bombers (2011) and Madison (Wis.) Mallards (2012). With Brian Colopy (who is now owner of the Northern League’s Battle Creek Battle Jacks and Kalamazoo Growlers) as general manager, Frame spent two summers in Battle Creek. The 2010 team went 20-50 and finished in last place. The 2011 Scott-managed club went 43-26 and won the league championship while Frame was able to take a bigger role with recruiting. “That was the most-important summer in my coaching experience,” says Frame. “We formed a team that was very athletic.” In the summer of 2012, Frame followed former fielder coordinator for the Cincinnati Reds and manager for Midwest League’s Dayton (Ohio) Dragons Scott to Madison. He was there a short time before coming back to join his father’s staff full-time and hit the recruiting trail. “The recruiting period in June and July is very heavy,” says Frame. “We are aggressive with our recruiting. There’s not a huge gap between NAIA and small NCAA. We go after guys on the fringe. We try to recruit some of the best guys in Indiana. “Our style is known in (the Crossroads League). We recruit athletes. We play the game fearlessly. We try to play the game fast. We want four- and five-toolers who can bunt, run and hit the ball over the fence.” Huntington led all NAIA program in stolen bases in 2022 with a single-season school record 134 (121 in 2021 had been the mark). The Foresters (27-23) also posted a .290 batting average, .397 on-base percentage, .491 slugging average, 65 home runs, 13 triples, 97 doubles, 175 extra-base hits, 777 total bases, 388 runs scored and 349 RBIs. Single-season school marks were also set in home runs, triples, doubles, total bases, runs, RBIs and runs per game (7.76). Huntington gets quite a few kick-backs from NCAA D-I. The current roster features middle infielder Langston Ginder (Ball State) and first baseman/pitcher Matt Wolff (Kentucky). Will Coursen-Carr, Indiana Mr. Baseball in 2012 at Fort Wayne South Side High School, finished his college career at Huntington after playing at Indiana University. He is now head baseball coach at South Side. Much of 2022’s squad is expected back in 2023. “We’ll be able to swing it this year at an elite level,” says Frame. There have been player-led workouts but the first official day of fall practice is slated for Tuesday, Sept. 6. It has not yet been determined, but Frame says the team may go longer than usual now that there is infield turf at Forest Glen Park. With Huntington University Board of Trustees member Tom Clounie (owner of Clounie Landscaping of Roanoke, Ind.) overseeing a $700,000 project, the field was also leveled and received a state-of-the-art irrigation system. “The outfield plays very true,” says Frame, who notes there had been a steep grade one one side for the history of the field. The Foresters played on the new surface in 2022. A major upgrade to The PLEX Fieldhouse is expected to be completed by November, according to the coach. The 2023 season opens Feb. 10 vs. Indiana University-Purdue University in Tuscaloosa, Ala. In 2022, Huntington went to its branch campus in Peoria, Ariz., for two weeks, built relationships and played four games Jan. 20-22. Thad Frame’s staff includes volunteer Mike Frame, pitching coach Brian Abbott (who is also the IHSBCA executive director) hitting coach Shea Beauchamp (who set school marks with 31 career home runs and is tied with Drummond with 62 single-season RBIs), fundraising coordinator Nate Perry and social media manager Andy Vaught. Donovan Clark has accepted a position at PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind., but is expected to come up to help the Foresters with speed training. Thad Frame is married to Dr. Krystle Frame.
Chad Patrick is in his second professional baseball season in the Arizona Diamondbacks system. He turned 24 on Aug. 14 and recently joined the Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops of the High-A Northwest League. Patrick has been pitching more than half his life. The right-hander was an 11-year-old at DeMotte (Ind.) Little League when he first took the mound. For years, he got pitching lessons from Joe Plesac and continued to develop as he moved up through Little League, Crown Point (Ind.) Babe Ruth Baseball and into high school. Born in Crown Point, Patrick moved from Hebron, Ind., to DeMotte for grades 1-7. With a chance to play ball with his cousins and to be another generation of his family to be educated there he came back to Hebron. Chad Patrick and Tyler Patrick graduated there in 2017 and Travis Patrick got his diploma in 2018. The Hebron Hawks were coached by John Steinhilber. “I like John,” says Chad Patrick. “He’s always been good to me.” Hebron amassed double digits in victories in each of the four seasons Patrick was on the varsity, including 21 his junior year of 2016 and 29 in his senior season of 2017 with a pair of IHSAA Class 2A sectional and regional titles. Patrick was named all-conference, all-area and all-state. With a chance a consistent playing time and development, the son of Dan Patrick and Jackie Edwards stayed close to home for college and went to NCAA Division II Purdue Northwest, which has campuses in Hammond and Westville. As part of the the PNW Pride, Patrick played for head coach Dave Griffin and they became close. “I think of him as my second dad,” says Patrick of Griffin. “He took care of me there. He was there any time I had a question. “Right when I met him he told me I had the stuff to be a professional baseball player. He sold me on going to Purdue Northwest instead of D-I opportunities. “He gave me that confidence.” In four college seasons (2018-21), Patrick appeared in 32 games (27 starts) and went 12-12 with a 3.36 earned run average, 211 strikeouts and 64 walks over 166 innings. Patrick has about a year to go to complete a Business Management degree. Griffin, who runs Dave Griffin’s Baseball School (a training facility with travel teams in Griffith, Ind.), has that kind of diploma. “At some point I’d like to do that on the side,” says Patrick. “Not for the money but to give back to kids and whatnot.” His pitching coach at PNW was Shane Prance. “He’s become a really good friend of mine,” says Patrick of Prance (who is now head baseball coach at Portage High School). “He helped me out last off-season and will probably help me this off-season. It depends if I spend it in Arizona or Indiana.” The righty spent the summer of 2018 with the Midwest Collegiate League’s Northwest Indiana Oilmen (Whiting, Ind.) and the summers of 2019 and 2020 with the Northwoods League’s Traverse City (Mich.) Pit Spitters. Patrick was selected by the Diamondbacks in the fourth round of the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He got into two games with the Low-A California League’s Visalia (Calif.) Rawhide and went 0-0 with 4.76 ERA, six strikeouts and one walk over 5 2/3 innings. Spring training for 2022 in Scottsdale, Ariz., saw Patrick break his right wrist. He was a part of pitchers’ fielding practice on a half field when he fell on concrete. He did a rehab stint with the Arizona Complex League’s Diamondbacks Black then moved on to Visalia and then Hillsboro. For the season, he had made eight appearances (five) and is 2-2 with a 2.08 ERA, 31 strikeouts and nine walks over 21 2/3 innings. Patrick is part of a five-man rotation. “I’ve got a routine now,” says Patrick, who does interval training and some light running or biking on the day after a start, long toss and a bullpen session on Day 2 and then does lifting and works on his pitches leading up to the next start and a chance to compete. “That’s my greatest asset,” says Patrick of his competitiveness. “I’m going to have my best stuff. Nobody likes to lose at what they’re good at. “What I’ve learned about myself (as a pro) is that it’s a grind and I have the will to work hard everyday. I show up everyday with a good attitude. It comes pretty easy to me. “If you love what you do you’re not working.” The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder uses three pitches form a three-quarter arm slot — slider, four-seam fastball and change-up. His slider runs away from a right-handed hitter. His four-seamer gets up to 94 mph. “My change-up, I just learned in it Visalia,” says Patrick. “It’s probably my best pitch right now. It just dives.” Dan Patrick works for Area Sheet Metal in Hobart. Jackie Edwards is a Registered Nurse. Chad has three older sisters (Katrice, Taylor and Shanan) and a younger brother (Cole). The girls were in various sports at Kankakee Valley. Cole participated in swimming and track and spent two years each at Kankakee Valley and Hebron.
By finishing 1-2 in the National Amateur Baseball Federation Regional in Fort Wayne, Ind., the Fort Wayne Blues and South Bend Royals earned the right to compete in the 108th NABF Charlie Blackburn Major Division World Series in Battle Creek, Mich. Fort Wayne edged South Bend 13-12 in the regional title game. World Series games will be played at Morrison Field, Nichols Field and C.O. Brown Stadium — all at Bailey Park. The Blues (part of the Fort Wayne Baseball Federation) have been assigned to Pool A and the Royals (members of men’s leagues in South Bend and Fort Wayne) to Pool B. There are four pools of four teams each. Pool play begins Wednesday, Aug. 3. Elimination games begin Saturday, Aug. 6 with quarterfinals at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. and semifinal play at 3:30 p.m. The championship is slated for noon Sunday, Aug. 7. The Berea (Ohio) Blue Sox won the World Series crown in 2019 and 2021. There was no tournament in 2020.
NABF WORLD SERIES At Battle Creek, Mich. Aug. 3-7 Pool A: Battle Creek Merchants, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Fever, Hattiesburg (Miss.) Black Sox, Fort Wayne (Ind.) Blues. Pool B: Hackensack (N.J.) Troast, Lombard (Ill.) Orioles, South Bend (Ind.) Royals, Manistee (Mich.) Saints. Pool C: Buffalo (N.Y.) Diesel, Beecher (Ill.) Muskies, Mahoning Valley (Ohio) Buckeyes, Sox Baseball (N.J.). Pool D: Berea (Ohio) Blue Sox, Chicago (Ill.) Clout, Addison (Ill.) Braves, Team Deb (N.Y.). Pool Play Aug. 3-5; Quarterfinals and Semifinals Aug. 6; Championship Aug. 7.
Brackets have been set for the 2022 American Legion Baseball Great Lakes Regional at Northwood University in Midland, Mich. Indiana champion Muncie Post 19 is scheduled to play its first game against Gladwin City (Mich.) Post 171 in Game 3 at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 3. Muncie will play again in the double-elimination event on Thursday, Aug. 4 at either 4 p.m. (Wednesday win) or 9:30 a.m. (Wednesday loss). The regional continues through Sunday, Aug. 7. The American Legion World Series is slated for Aug. 11-16 in Shelby, N.C. Muncie (19-11) earned the right to compete at regional by beating Terre Haute Post 346 by a 4-0 score Saturday, July 30 in Kokomo for the Indiana American Legion Senior Baseball State Championship. Jacob Pruitt tossed a no-hitter as the Kevn Zvokel-managed Chiefs won their first state title since 2008. Muncie went 4-1 in the tournament began in Rockport and concluded in Muncie.
AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL GREAT LAKES REGIONAL (At Midland, Mich.) Wednesday, Aug. 3 Game 1: Moline (Ill.) Post 256 vs. Eau Claire (Wis.), 9:30 a.m. Game 2: Aviston (Ill.) 1239 vs. Manitowoc (Wis.) Post 88, 12:30 p.m. Game 3: Muncie (Ind.) Post 19 vs. Gladwin City (Mich.) Post 171, 4 p.m. Game 4: Cincinnati (Ohio) Post 199 vs. Midland (Mich.) Post 165, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 4 Game 5: Game 1 loser vs. Game 3 loser, 9:30 a.m. Game 6: Game 2 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 12:30 p.m. Game 7: Game 1 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 4 p.m. Game 8: Game 2 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5 Game 9: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 loser, 11 a.m. Game 10: Game 5 winner vs. Game 8 loser, 4 p.m. Game 11: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6 Game 12: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 loser, 4 p.m. Game 13: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 loser, 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 7 Game 14: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 loser, 1 p.m. (Championship). Game 15: If necessary, 4 p.m.