Rob Jordan was to lead his first Tipton (Ind.) High School baseball season during the spring of 2020. But the COVID-19 pandemic kept the Blue Devils from playing a game. Jordan’s first on-field campaign as head coach was 2021. Most of the players from that team graduated, leaving very little varsity experience in 2022. “Last season was pretty tough on us,” says Jordan of year where Tipton went 2-18 with 27 players in the program. “We had a whole new pitching staff.” Jordan does expect most of his pitching to return in 2023, meaning they will have more experience. There is a big freshman class and the Blue Devils should have eight seniors (Zane Goodrich, Chase Higgins, Houston Nasser, Jack Nasser, Clark Rodibaugh, Joe Shelly, Eli Shook and Austin Smith). “We’ve got good young kids,” says Jordan. “With our veteran leadership, we hope it’s a breakout year.” Ten to 15 players — those not in a fall sport — have been going over fundamentals with Jordan at twice-a-week IHSAA Limited Contact Period fall practices. Tipton (enrollment around 450) is a member of the Hoosier Athletic Conference (with IHSAA Class 2A Tipton, 3A Hamilton Heights, 2A Lewis Cass, 3A Northwestern and 3A Western in the East Division and 3A Benton Central, 1A Lafayette Central Catholic, 2A Rensselaer Central, 3A Twin Lakes and 3A West Lafayette in the West Division). The Blue Devis were part of an 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Blackford, Eastbrook, Eastern (Greentown), Madison-Grant and Taylor. Tipton has won seven sectional titles — the last in 2009. Tipton plays its games on-campus. A new 30-by-30 college-style scoreboard was installed in the summer and new dugouts are nearing completion. Feeding the high school program are travel baseball teams plus Tipton Youth Baseball League (Little Sluggers ages 3-5, Pee Wee 5-8, Cal Ripken 9-12 and Babe Ruth 13-15). Right-handed pitcher Trayjan Phifer (Class of 2021) moved on to Cleary University in Howell, Mich.). Jordan says pitcher/first baseman Vince Hoover (Class of 2024) has been getting looks for colleges. Jordan’s coaching staff for 2023 includes varsity assistant Steve Cherry, junior varsity head coach Andy Hussong and JV assistant Brian Middleton and possibly two more. A 1988 graduate of Tri-Central Middle/High School in Sharpsville, Ind., Jordan played for Trojans head coach Dave Driggs. “We got a fair opportunity,” says Jordan of his prep days. “Politics wasn’t a factor for playing time.” At the time, there was a big rival between Tri-Central and Tipton and the Trojans are still on the Blue Devils schedule. At Missouri Valley College (Marshall, Mo.), first baseman/utility player Jordan played three seasons and learned about conditioning and hard-nosed play from Vikings head coach Ron Givens before an arm injury ended his career. Jordan coached youth league baseball before taking the reins at Tipton. Rob is foundation seed manager for Beck’s Hybrids. He and wife Laura had a daughter (Jessica) and son (Dylan). Dylan Jordan passed away in 2019 at 16. He was in the Tri-Central Class of 2022.
Tim Redford was a player at New Albany (Ind.) High School when he proclaimed that one day he’d be the Bulldogs head baseball coach. He just didn’t know that he’d be 24 when that proclamation came true. Redford, a 2016 New Albany graduate, was offered in the job that came open with the retirement of Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Chris McIntyre in July and was school-board approved in early August. The former catcher is also a first-year teacher with three hours each of Health and Physical Education each school day at NAHS. Redford is heading into the fourth week of IHSAA Limited Contact practice. Twenty players who are not tied up with fall or winter sports have been on Mt. Tabor Field for two hours on Mondays and Thursdays. “It’s nice,” says Redford of the limited contact. “I haven’t seen these kids play. I can figure out what we’ve got.” Redford says heavy weightlifting and conditioning will likely start after fall break. The past two years, Redford has been an assistant baseball coach at NAIA member Rheinhardt University (Waleska, Ga.). “I love the college level,” says Redford. “But there’s nothing like home.” Redford, who turns 25 in January, played for McIntyre. He was New Albany head coach for 26 seasons. “He helped us off the field as much as on it with becoming good husbands, fathers and citizens,” says Redford for Coach Mac. “A lot of these kids aren’t going to play college baseball and it’s important. “He did an incredible job.” Redford was a catcher at New Albany and then at Kaskaskia College (a junior college in Centralia, Ill.) and NAIA member William Woods University (Fulton, Mo.). He says this experience helped prepare him for coaching. “Catching is the hardest position in baseball in my opinion,” says Redford. “You’re involved in every play be the quarterback on the field.” Former Purdue University All-American Mitch Koester was Redford’s head coach at Kaskaskia. “He’s great coach and a very, very good recruiter,” says Redford, whose college decision out of New Albany came down to the KC and John A. Logan in Carterville, Ill. “He’s a players’ coach. He knows his stuff.” In two seasons at William Woods, Redford played for two head coaches — Brock Nehls (who went on to be pitching coach at Emporia State, Kan., University) and Chris Fletcher (who has helped start baseball at Moberly, Mo., Area Community College). Redford earned an associate degree at Kaskaskia, an undergraduate Exercise Science degree with a concentration in Sports Management from William Woods and a Masters in Sports Administration and Leadership from Rheinhardt. New Albany (enrollment around 1,840) is a member of the Hoosier Hills Conference (with Bedford North Lawrence, Columbus East, Floyd Central, Jeffersonville, Jennings County and Seymour). The Bulldogs were champions of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Bedford North Lawrence, Floyd Central, Jeffersonville, Jennings County and Seymour. New Albany won its 23rd sectional title at Jennings County. Redford is in the process of assembling his full coaching staff. “We want to make sure we get the right guys in there,” says Redford. Improvements at Mt. Tabor since Redford played include turf in fair and foul territory in the infield. “They’ve rarely have to cancel home games last two years,” says Redford. The facility also features in-ground dugouts, bleachers that wrap around dugout to dugout and a large press box with a locker room underneath. New Albany Little League gives a foundation of the high school program “Little League baseball around here has always been big,” says Redmond. “It’s got all the bells and whistles and a good reputation. “It’s super nice to have a community that supports baseball as much as this one. That’s for sure.” Shortstop Tucker Biven (Class of 2022) was an IHSBCA North/South All-Series participant and has moved on to the University of Louisville. Pitcher/shortstop Landon Tiesing (Class of 2023) has committed to Kent State University. Tim Redford III met Colleen Bayer at William Woods and recently purchased a house together. Tim III is the son of Tim Redford II and Marsha Redford and younger brother of Kyle Krinninger.
Matthew Alter can see a future in baseball coaching at the collegiate level. He’s already gotten a head start by assisting in travel ball while also a college player himself. The 2019 graduate of Indianapolis Lutheran School with two years of eligibility remaining at Hanover (Ind.) College is in his third summer with the Indiana Bulls. He assisted with Scott French’s 15U Bulls Black squad in 2020. That team featured Class of 2023 standouts Max Clark (Franklin Community) and Andrew Wiggins (Heritage Christian). Alter aided (former Anderson University assistant) John Becker with the 15U Bulls Grey squad in 2021 and is now helping Becker’s 16U Bulls Grey team. By summer’s end the group will have played about 40 games with tournaments at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., LakePoint Sports in Emerson, Ga., and Creekside Baseball Park in Parkville, Mo. “After college the plan is to be a college baseball coach,” says Alter, who turned 22 in May. “The quickest way to be an assistant is to be a pitching coach. But I’m also interested in being a graduate assistant.” Matthew’s cousin, Jared Broughton, is a college baseball coach. He most recently served for three years at Clemson (S.C.) University. Dick Alter, Matthew’s father, retired from Indianapolis Lutheran following the 2019 season after 40 years of coaching (about the last 25 years of that as a teacher). “There’s so many thing he taught me,” says Matthew of the shared wisdom shared. “The biggest thing my dad taught me is that baseball is the game of life. “It doesn’t matter what you did today, it’s what you do tomorrow and the next day.” Born in Carmel, Ind., Matthew the son of Dick and Karen Alter (who is president of Borshoff, a public relations and advertising agency in Indianapolis). The Alter family moved to the south side of Indianapolis when their son was 3. He played at what is now Franklin Township Little League (located behind the former Wanamaker Elementary School) and then was in travel ball with the Indiana Prospects and Indiana Pony Express. Alter played football, basketball and baseball (for his father) at Lutheran then went to Piedmont College in Demorest, Ga., where Broughton was associate head coach. Matthew says going to college to play baseball meant “going from being an only child to having 40 brothers.” He counts slugger Alex Christie (Center Grove) among his good friends on the team. As a right-handed pitcher, Alter made six relief appearances during the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season and went 1-0 with a 2.65 earned run average, nine strikeouts and six walks in 17 innings for the Piedmont Lions. Alter decided to transfer to another NCAA Division III school in Hanover. Grant Bellak is the Panthers head coach. Until leaving for another job, Thomas Murphy was HC’s pitching coach. “(Coach Bellak) and I have a great relationship,” says Alter. “He focuses more on hitters and infielders.” Murphy helped Alter in 2020-21 by helping him build up his lower half to utilize his power and increase velocity. Using a Core Velocity Belt and throwing weighted PlyoCare Balls with Driveline Baseball exercises were part of the routine. “(Murphy) helped us pitchers with the mental aspect of the game,” says Alter. “He is big on visualizing success and always trying to stay positive. It’s about keeping composure and maintaining positivity and self talk.” Alter pitched in 11 games (eight starts) in 2021 and went 5-0 with 45 strikeouts and 33 walks in 52 1/3 innings. In 13 contests (11 starts) in 2022, he was 5-5 with 45 strikeouts and 29 walks in 72 innings. The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference plays Saturday and Tuesday doubleheaders and Alter was the Saturday morning starter. “A lot of the teams (in the HCAC) are very similar,” says Alter. “They have a few good pitchers. But it relies solely on hitting. “That was evident in our conference tournament. There were a lot of high-scoring games.” Alter spent just over two weeks with the 2022 summer wood-bat Coastal Plain League’s Lexington County (S.C.) Blowfish before shutting it down for the summer with a tender shoulder. “It was from overuse,” says Alter, who did not play on any summer teams in 2019, 2020 and 2021. “But I did not tear my labrum.” Using a three-quarter arm slot, Alter throws two kinds of fastballs (four-seam and two-seam) plus a slider, change-up and curveball. He topped out at 87 mph with the four-seamer this summer. “The two-seamer is one of my best pitches,” says Alter. “It definitely moves. It starts at the middle of the plate and ends up outside to a lefty. It moves so much I’m able to fool hitters.” Alter employs a “circle” change and a 12-to-6 curve that he is able to throw for a strike in any count. A Communication major, Alter is on pace to graduate at the end of his fourth year in 2023. If he takes a fifth year, he says he will likely pursue a masters in Communication. Hanover does not have a graduate program in that subject.
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.
Ryne Foster has first-hand knowledge of many forms of college baseball. The 2004 graduate of Danville (Ind.) Community High School played for American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dr. Don Brandon at NCAA Division III Anderson (Ind.) University. Coaching stops have taken Foster to N’s Concordia University (Ann Arbor, Mich.), NCAA D-II’s Georgia Southwestern University (Americus, Ga.), National Junior College Athletic Association’s Cleveland (Tenn.) State Community College, NCAA D-I’s Bowling Green (Ohio) State University and NJCAA’s St. Charles Community College (Cottleville, Mo.). “It’s helped in the recruiting process,” says Foster of his familiarity with all those levels. “I kind of know what everybody’s talking about.” The son of former Danville head baseball coach Rick Foster (and wife Alice) and older brother of current Cascade High School head coach Ty Foster (a 2007 Danville graduate who played four years at Manchester University for Spartans head coach Rick Espeset), Ryne Foster has been the St. Charles Cougars staff since 2018-19. He serves as associate head coach/hitting coach for head coach Jeff Bolen. Foster, who was an assistant at Madison-Grant High School in Fairmount, Ind., before going into college coaching, was a volunteer/catchers coach for Danny Schmitz at Bowling Green, assistant/catchers coach for Mike Policastro at Cleveland State, assistant/outfielders for Bryan McLain at Georgia Southwestern and graduate assistant for Kyle Rayl at Concordia. Rayl is a former assistant at Anderson U. NCAA D-I rules do not allow volunteers to recruit off-campus. Foster has participated in the process at all the other places he’s been. “(Recruiting) is the most important part off the field in college baseball,” says Foster. “If you can get some good players you can do some good stuff.” Junior college is generally a two-year experience. With the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Charles currently has 18 third-year players — 13 of which started their college careers with the Cougars. With added years of eligibility in the NCAA and NAIA, it has many players staying in college baseball longer than anticipated. This — in turn — has trickled down to high schoolers looking for a place to play. “There’s really quite a back log and then you put the transfer portal on top of that,” says Foster. “The talent is phenomenal at a lot of places. It seems all arms throw 90 mph or above. “The thing that hurt the high school kids is an offer you would have gotten four or five years ago might not be there now.” St. Charles, which is in NJCAA Division I Region 16, gets players kicking back from all levels, including NCAA D-I. When Foster was in high school, he was aware of just one junior college baseball program in Indiana — NCJAA Division II Region 24’s Vincennes University. In 2022, there’s also NJC AA Division II Region 12’s Marian University’s Ancilla College in Donaldson and Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne. Missouri has 11 junior college programs (eight in NJCAA Division I and three in NJCAA Division II). Illinois sports 35 (10 in NCJAA Division I, four in NJCAA Division II and 21 in NJCAA Division III). “Knowing what I know now I would have done everything I could to find a junior college out of high school,” says Foster, noting that there are fewer restrictions on the number of hours a week an athlete can practice or play, tuition is cheaper and there is a chance in two years to go to a school they may not have been able to attend out of high school. “As coaches we’re able to be part of everything — academic monitoring, the weight lifting program and practice everyday with them,” says Foster. “There’s never a time other than family time I can’t work with you because you’re out of hours this week.” “Juco Bandit” appears on many Twitter profiles. What does it mean? “After being around it, it’s a term of pride for a lot of our guys,” says Foster. “It means a different level of toughness. Nothing handed to these guys and if it was, it was then taken away. It’s not the (NCAA) Division I life. There’s 2 and 3 a.m. leave times for a doubleheader. “It’s a different mindset. The guys come out to play ball. That’s why they’re here.” Foster and other St. Charles coaches do what they can to develop players for the next level. “We move them on to good Division I and Division II programs when they’re done here,” says Foster. “We’re always making connections with coaches at that level and they’re helping us out. “They know what kind of kids they’re getting out of junior college. They’re getting kids who are tough. It’s a big ask to come out of high school in play in the Big Ten, Big 12 or the SEC. There’s no substitute for experience.” St. Charles plays 25 to 30 scrimmages in the fall with 56 regular-season games plus the postseason in the spring. “We the fall for our sophomores to get exposure,” says Foster. “(Four-year school) come out and scout. We also get to see our freshmen and prepare for the spring.” Besides his baseball duties, Foster is also in charge of the St. Charles athletic fields (baseball, softball and soccer). They are all grass. “I starting learning with my dad being a high school coach,” says Foster. “It’s second nature. Many a spring break as a kid was spent out there getting the field ready.” Rick Foster is head boys tennis coach and boys basketball assistant at Danville. He coached Warriors baseball almost 40 years and now helps Ty on the diamond at Cascade. Ryne sees going into the profession as a natural. “I couldn’t think of myself doing anything else,” says Foster. “I grew up with it. My dad was old school. You do things the right way and play hard. It’s the same way he grew up playing. Nothing too fancy.” After playing tennis, basketball and baseball in high school (brother Ty played football, basketball and baseball), Ryne played both basketball and baseball his first two years at Anderson. In his fifth year, he came back to the Ravens basketball program. “I love guys who play different sports (in high school),” says Foster. “They can develop so much when they can focus in one area. They have all kinds of potential.” Foster relishes the chance to grow his baseball know-how and his network while attending the annual American Baseball Coaches Association Convention, which meets each January (the 2022 version was in Chicago). “You meet up with people from all over the country,” says Foster. “It’s a big fraternity. It’s pretty cool to be part of it.” Baseball brought Ryne together with the woman he now calls his wife. He was working for Pastime Tournaments at an event in Nashville and met Nikki, who was attending down from Minnesota for a bachelorette party. Ryne and Nikki Foster were wed June 22, 2021 in a Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. “She’s been with me through the coaching run in two different places,” says Foster. “She knows it’s not your normal 9-to-5 job. “It’s hard to find someone who understands the work.”
The week that Wes Rincker became school-board official as the new head baseball coach at Shoals (Ind.) High School, he attended his first Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association State Clinic (Jan. 14-16, 2022). “I learned a lot at that clinic even after coaching all these years,” says Rincker, who guided players for 14 years in various travel ball organizations in Missouri before moving to Martin County in 2018 to work as a supply technician at Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division. “I talked with (Jasper head coach) Terry Gobert and (Shakamak head coach) Jeremy Yeryar, picking up every little tidbit I can. “I know baseball. We’ll work on fundamentals, drill work, mechanics and conditioning and see how many guys have the tools we have to succeed. As an outsider I have a very open mind as who should play at what position. I just want to get them ready for the field. I’m excited to get it going. “(Athletic director) Bryson Abel and (assistant AD) Danielle Cornett taking a chance on me and I appreciate that.” Shoals (enrollment around 200 is a member of the Blue Chip Athletic Conference (with Barr-Reeve, Loogootee, North Knox, Northeast Dubois, South Knox, Vincennes Rivet, Washington Catholic and Wood Memorial). In 2021, the Jug Rox were part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Barr-Reeve, Loogootee, North Daviess and Vincennes Rivet. Shoals has not yet earned a sectional title. The Jug Rox have not won a sectional game in more than a decade. Rincker is a 1988 Shakamak graduate. He did not play baseball in high school. He retired from the U.S. Air Force after 26 year total in the military, including time in U.S. Army and U.S. Army National Guard. He was at Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster, Mo., and did did four combat tours — Somalia in1993, Iraq 2006 in 2008 and Afghanistan in 2011. Rincker coached baseball for American Legion Post 131 in Warrenburg, Mo., and the Lee’s Summit (Mo.) Saints — a Christian-base travel team then featuring former major leaguer Les Norman — and in Sedalia, Mo. He also officiated high school basketball and football. Wes’ parents — Lana Bush and Charles Rincker — are from Shoals. “It’s a quiet area,” says Rincker, who enjoys hunting and fishing with his father. “I just love it here away from the city hustle and bustle.” Wes and Amy Rincker are empty-nesters. Daughter Chelsea and husband Jerril Eisenbeck are in Fort Campbell, Ky., where he is an Army sergeant. They have two boys. Oldest son Luke Rincker recently graduated from Iowa State University and moved to San Marcos, Texas. He is in the Air Force Reserve. Youngest son Caleb Rincker lives in Sellersburg, Ind., and is in the Air National Guard. He is also on his father’s Shoals coaching staff along with Kent Hall and Adam Showalter. The first official practice date on the IHSAA calendar is March 14.
Trevor Forde saw the game from behind the mask as a player. The University of Indianapolis assistant baseball coach knows what makes catchers tick. Evanston (Ill.) High School graduate Forde (pronounced Ford like the car) was a backstop and played for former catchers Nate Metzger at Heartland Community College in Normal, Ill., and Gary Vaught and Al Ready at UIndy. After competing for Frank Consiglio and graduating from Evanston in 2011, Forde played for two National Junior College Athletic Association Division II World Series qualifiers (2012 and 2013) with Metzger. “Coach Consiglio taught me to put in the work,” says Forde. “The guys that out-work you will have more success. “(Metzger, who is now associate head coach and recruiting coordinator at Wright State University) gave me my first look and passion for coaching college baseball. He’s a special human.” Forde played for Vaught at NCAA Division II Indianapolis in 2015 and 2016 and then went right into coaching, beginning with as a graduate assistant in 2017 and 2018. He holds a bachelor’s degree and masters in Sport and Fitness Administration/Management from UIndy. Former Indianapolis backstop and longtime assistant Ready became head coach of the Greyhounds beginning with the 2019 season. “(Vaught and Ready) solidified that thought of coaching,” says Forde. “There’s a lot to be said why catchers get into the coaching realm. They see the whole field “They are really good at managing relationships. They work with all the pitchers. That guy steps out on the mound and he believes in you. You have that connection.” Forde says that ties in with coaching. “You’re dealing with so many personalities and getting guys to trust you,” says Forde. Many hats are worn by Forde the coach. He is in charge of Hounds catchers and also helps develop hitters and plays a big part in recruiting. “Since catcher is my former position, I take a lot of pride it that,” says Forde. “We’ve got a pretty good catching core. “In the simplest of forms I always tell catchers to make strikes strikes and we want to win the border line pitch. We’ve got to put ourselves in position to present the ball to the umpire well. We want to be on-time and have a subtle movement to manipulate the ball back to center.” Forde says every college catcher has to be able to control the running game. Throwing out would-be base stealers is one thing, but Forde shares the philosophy shared by Bellarmine University coach Larry Owens about limiting steal attempts. “That resonates with me,” says Forde. “We can show arm strength. The word can get out (to runners). If you limit the amount of attempts, the number of stolen bases is going to be reduced.” Forde says recruiting at this time of year is not as intense at the D-II level as it is in the summer and fall. “We’re tying up loose ends with guys we’ve had contact with and late bloomers,” says Forde. “Next year’s recruiting class is pretty much wrapped up for us.” In dealing with recruits, Forde tells it like it is. “We’re going to be brutally honest at times with guys,” says Forde. “We won’t present ideas that aren’t realistic. The more honest you can be with the guy — and especially with their parents — the better. “There are no grey areas. We are blunt at times.” UIndy is part of the Great Lakes Valley Conference with teams in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. Those three states plus Ohio, Kentucky and Wisconsin are at the core of the Greyhounds’ recruiting territory though the 2022 online roster also lists players from Canada and Colombia. “We’re doing a pretty good job getting in the right players who believe in what we’re trying to do,” says Forde. “We need guys who are the right fit.” In this COVID-19 pandemic era with players taking extra years of eligibility, Forde says it is important to know the players’ intentions about coming back or moving on. “He might (repeatedly) say ‘I’m coming back’ then he gets a job offer,” says Forde. “As baseball coaches we brought him into our institution to get a degree.” Forde and Ready are seeking well-rounded players and place a premium on defense. “Coach Ready said it best — we’ve got to play both ends of the game,” says Forde. “At some positions I’d take a lesser bat with a plus-glove. The game is meant to be pitching and defense. You’re only as good as that guy that you roll out on the bump. “I want my pitcher to be confident. If the ball is in-play their defense is going to make the play.” The Greyhounds go for moundsmen that understand how to pitch and that contact is not a bad thing. “We’re looking for bulldogs — guys that aren’t going to shy away from the moment,” says Forde. “That stems from our preparation. We teach guys how to pitch and how to read swings. “We want a complete pitcher.” Adam Cormwell is UIndy’s pitching coach. Scott Holdsworth is a volunteer assistant. Jacob Christie is a graduate assistant. The support staff includes athletic trainer Makenna McAteer, strength and conditioning coach Andrew Fallon and sports information GA Brady Budke. Indianapolis, which went 23-21 overall and placed second in the GLVC at 19-13, opens the 2022 season Feb. 18 at Greyhound Park against Notre Dame (Euclid, Ohio). A series at Lake Erie (Painesville, Ohio), where former UIndy assistant Landon Hutchison is now head coach, begins March 11.
Trevor and high school sweathart Emma were married in July 2020.
Calumet College of St. Joseph — a private four-year Catholic institution with about 380 undergraduates in Whiting, Ind., embraces a close-knit community. “It’s a family-oriented school and we have a family-oriented team,” says Brian Nowakowski, head baseball coach for the Crimson Wave since the fall of 2012. “We do everything together (including community service, meals and study tables). We don’t single out a single player for any misdoing. “When someone hurts we all hurt.” When Brian and Jeannine Nowakowski’s son, Bryce, required two open heart surgeries in the first year of his young life and then a heart transplant at 2, the CCSJ family rallied with support. Part of the cost of tickets to the Midwest Collegiate League (now rebranded as the Northern League) All-Star Game held at the Crimson Wave’s home park — Oil City Stadium — were given to the Nowakowski family. When Bryce was prepared for, underwent and recovered from his July 30, 2014 transplant at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, the school allowed the head coach to stay there while his assistants — younger brother Scott Nowakowski and Juan Alonso — led the CCSJ baseball team. “The school let me work from home and I never skipped a beat,” says Nowakowski, whose son is now 9. “I could never re-pay them back.” With Bryce’s medical condition and his mother recovering after beating cancer, Nowakowski decided it was best not to travel much during a 2021 season effected by the COVID-19 pandemic. “If I had COIVD I would not be able to go home,” says Nowakowski, who resides with his wife of 11 years and child in Dyer, Ind. The 2021 Crimson Wave only played games in the NAIA-affiliated Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference. “Competing in the CCAC is hard,” says Nowakowski. “We’re fighting for same kids in recruiting. All the teams are very competitive.” Olivet Nazarene University finished atop the ’21 conference standings. One feather in the Crimson Wave’s cap is Oil City Stadium, located on 119th Street in downtown Whiting with a unique oil refinery backdrop in the outfield. “It’s a great stadium,” says Nowakowski. “The City of Whiting does a great job keeping it up. It helps in recruiting.” Eight Calumet of St. Joseph players — Michael Biegel, Julian Espino, Kevin McCune, Thomas Montes, Cody Plebanski, Shaun Quinn, Glenford Wagner and Luke Woodward — made the 2021 CCAC all-academic team. A typical mix, the current Crimson Waves roster consists mostly of players from Chicagoland and the Calumet Region with some international students. “We find the best players we can,” says Nowakowki. “If you want to be a part of the school we’re going to take you. “We have affordable tuition. There’s no in-state, out-of-state or intentional. It’s all the same.” Located on New York Avenue in Whiting, CCSJ has an agreement with The Illiana, located across the street. In Oct. 1, the school broke ground on its first residence hall. In 2022, CCSJ is to open the season Feb. 25 at Hannibal (Mo.)-LaGrange. The following weekend the Crimson Wave plays a series at Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Ga. From there CCSJ goes to Lake Wales, Fla., to play in the Warner University Invitational and other games, including at Southeastern. CCSJ finished outdoor fall practice about two weeks ago. The Crimson Wave did drill work four days a week and competed in intrasquad games on the fifth day. Right now, players are at the Rittenmeyer Center four days a week conditioning with weightlifting and stability exercises. Besides Scott Nowakowski (in his seventh year at Calumet College of St. Joseph), the coaching staff also features Nick Relli, Nestor Carillo and Rocco Mossuto. Elli played for Nowakowski at CCSJ. Carillo (Morton Community College in Cicero, Ill.) and Rocco Mossuto (Saint Xavier University in Chicago) are both former head coaches. Nowakowski grew up on Chicago’s East Side and graduated in 1997 from St. Francis de Sales High School, a member of the vaunted Chicago Catholic League. “It’s tough competition,” says Nowakowki. “There’s no easy games in the Chicago Catholic League.” Nowakowski played for Pioneers head coach Al Lodl and was good enough as a right-handed pitcher to sign a free agent contract with the Minnesota Twins organization in 1997 and reported to spring training in 1998. He pitched in the minors that year and 1999 and then was employed in private sector jobs. But the diamond beckoned. “I’ve been a baseball guy most of my life,” says Nowakowski. “I missed the game.” Nowakowski got into coaching as an assistant to Pat Montalbano at Hammond Clark High School and was a Crimson Waves assistant to Tony Myszak for one year before becoming head coach. A few years into the job, Nowakowski earned an Organizational Management degree from CCSJ.
Shawn Jenkins played baseball in South Bend, Ind., as a boy. Now he helps boys and girls get better with bat, ball and glove as owner of Teddy BallGames, a training facility of the city’s northwest side. Jenkins, who had been taking his South Bend River Bandits Softball teams to Teddy BallGames and helped set up 24-hour access and an alarm system as an ADT employee, took ownership from retiring Mike Branch on Feb. 1, 2021. The father of three daughters (freshman Lexington, 14, and sixth grader Dellancey, 11, are ballplayers), Jenkins switched from coaching baseball to softball and is now also the head coach of that sport at South Bend Riley High School as well as overseeing the TB Tigers Baseball & Softball Travel Organization. Softball teams played several games in the fall while baseball — with many in football and other fall sports — took the time off. The 11U TB Tigers went 50-2, won eight tournaments and ended up ranked No. 1 in the county by Baseball Players Association in 2021. Teddy BallGames, located just off Cleveland Road at 4085 Meghan Beehler Court, has batting cages and training space for individuals and teams and is outfitted with Rapsodo, HitTrax and
equipment. There are currently about 75 members and Jenkins says there is room for 120. Jenkins went from South Bend to Chicagoland and attended Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights then came back to Indiana as a junior and graduated from the former South Bend LaSalle High School in 1991. His head coach was Scott Sill. “Scott Sill gave me a good foundation,” says Jenkins. After a junior college stint in California, Jenkins ended up playing baseball and basketball at Waubonsee Community College in Aurora, Ill. The baseball coach was Hall of Famer Dave Randall. “It was just a great program,” says Jenkins, who was a second baseman. “I was able to play for him and I really leaned a lot. I parlayed that into playing (NCAA) Division II baseball at Lincoln University (in Jefferson City, Mo.). The Blue Tigers were coached by Sergio Espinal, who grew up with Shawon Dunston and a teammate of Pete Incaviglia, Robin Ventura and Doug Dascenzo on a College World Series team at Oklahoma State University, was was selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago Cubs (1985 and 1986). Jenkins coached high school basketball in Louisiana and high school and college basketball in California then moved back to Indiana and was an assistant baseball coach at South Bend Washington High School for 12 years. He worked with former Maurice Matthys Little League teammate and best friend John Kehoe. Jenkins was 11 when Matthys won a district title a lost to Concord in sectional play. For more information on Teddy BallGames, call 574-329-1264.
As Ball State University develops baseball pitchers, one approach does not fit all. Each individual is assessed and brought along while keeping in mind what is best for them. “We’re not making a broad stroke,” says Larry Scully, the Cardinals pitching coach since August 2019. “Everyone is different in terms of their needs.” Scully, who began his coaching career in 1992 and has mentored 16 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft selections, uses the example of a freshman arriving on the Muncie, Ind., campus in the fall. That hurler is introduced to Bill Zenisek, Ball State’s baseball strength & conditioning coach. “He gets a measurement of movement for all the players,” says Scully. From this evaluation, which includes a TPI movement screening, specific exercises are prescribed that will help them become an efficient athlete. Players are introduced to proper nutrition and the weight room and learn that terminology. Rapsodo equipment is used during bullpen sessions and the motion-capture data is used for development as is Synergy slow-motion camera feedback. Then there’s the throwing program. “We get to see how the arm moves,” says Scully. As a part of that there is long toss. Some will go long and high and up to 300 feet the day after they throw and others will focus on mechanics and toss on a line for distance. Through it all, a pitcher’s delivery is checked for efficiency. How does he start? How does he drive down the mound? How does he finish? Since Scully is Driveline-certified, the Cardinals will use bands, PlyoCare Balls and mediBalls in training. Bullpen sessions may be geared toward refining a certain pitch or location. A pitcher’s workload — heavy or light in terms of innings or the number or intensity pitches — will also play into training. Fall ball began at Ball State the first week of September and just recently concluded. Pitchers worked alone the first two weeks and were then incorporated into team practices and scrimmages. Then adjustments were made during individual work. Until Dec. 3, pitchers will work eight hours a week, including strength sessions and 45 minutes a day Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays with their pitching coach. “We’ll try to maintain what they do well and get better to help us win,” says Scully. Before coming to Ball State, Scully spent five seasons at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., where he worked with Braves head coach Elvis Dominguez. “We were one of the top academic schools in the Missouri Valley Conference,” says Scully, who also served as Bradley’s recruiting coordinator. the 2019 Braves led the MVC in earned run average (3.37), fewest hits allowed per game (7.21) and WHIP (1.27). What drew Scully to the Cardinals? “Ball State has a rich tradition in winning and developing pitchers,” says Scully. At BSU, Scully joined head coach Rich Maloney, who became the 27th active NCAA Division I coach to earn his 800th career coaching win in 2019. To date, Maloney is 877-581-1 (546-337-1 in his second stint with Ball State) in 26 seasons. He has coached 65 players who were drafted 72 times. He’s coached six first-rounders with only one being drafted out of high school. The most-recent is right-hander Drey Jameson (34th overall pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2019). Maloney paid Scully a compliment during the interview process. “Everywhere you’ve been the pitching staff has gotten a bump,” says Scully of Maloney’s words. The 2021 MLB Draft was very satisfying for Scully. Three pitchers who the coach helped hone his craft were taken in the first seven rounds — Ball State’s Chayce McDermott (fourth round by the Houston Astros) and Bradley’s Brooks Gosswein (fourth round by the Chicago White Sox) and Theron Denlinger (seventh round by the White Sox). When looking at pitching potential, Ball State recruiting coordinator Blake Beemer is often drawn to athletes of a certain build. “They are long and lean with loose arm action,” says Scully. “Others might not be that, but they may be left-handed and can get left-handers out. “Blake does a good job of finding low-lying fruit. Here’s something we can probably fix (about the pitcher’s mechanics or pitch selection). “There’s a lot of moving parts. Everyone sees the final product, but there’s a lot of work that goes into it.” Prior to Bradley, Scully was pitching coach at Murray (Ky.) State University (2014), Lamar (Colo.) Community College (2010-13), assistant at Saint Louis University (2007), head coach at Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo. (2000-06) and assistant at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa (1999) and Indiana Hills Community College in Centerville, Iowa (1992-96). Dan Skirka was a Murray State assistant when Scully was there and is now the Racers head coach. Scully was born in Toronto and played at York Memorial Collegiate Institute in 1986. His head coach was Jim Ridley, who was later inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Ridley twins — Jeremy and Shayne — were teammates who wound up playing at Ball State and were both drafted in 2000 (Jeremy Ridley by the Toronto Blue Jays and Shayne Ridley by the Baltimore Orioles.). “Jim was a tremendous influence on me,” says Scully. “He was a terrific coach and a terrific person. “Some are just very lucky. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some very good baseball people.” A left-handed pitcher, Scully competed in the Junior Olympics at 18U and then played for and coached with Rick Mathews (now in the Colorado Rockies organization) at Indian Hills and played for Joel Murrie (now with the Los Angeles Angels) at Western Kentucky University. Scully earned an English Literature from WKU in 1992 and master’s degree in Sports Administration from the United State Sports Academy in 1994. “It was my intent to be an English teacher and baseball coach,” says Scully. “I learned that’s tough gig. Both require a lot of time. Now I’m helping daughter now with her grammar.” Larry and wife Shari have six children from 30 down to eighth-grader Ava. Shari Scully has taught for nearly 30 years and is employed as a sixth grade Language Arts teacher at Tremont (Ill.) Middle School.