Tag Archives: Muncie

Beemer brings energy as new Butler Bulldogs field boss

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

Blake Beemer was hired as head baseball coach at NCAA Division I Butler University in Indianapolis in June 2022.
Beemer, a former first baseman at Ball State University (2010-13) and volunteer assistant at Penn State University (2014-15) and assistant coach/recruiting coordinator at both Eastern Illinois University (2016-18) and Ball State (2019-22), brings a style to his players he describes as energetic.
“They’ll get energy from me,” says Beemer, 31. “They’ll get dirt honesty. And I think that’s going to help build relationships.
“Guys are going to know where they stand. They’re going to know I care about them. They’re going to know who I am as a human being. Really building those relationships in that foundation will allow us to build toughness and accountability. We’ll build it with with energy will build relationships.”
As an assistant coach and the recruiting coordinator at Ball State over the past four seasons, Beemer helped the Cardinals to a 123-65 record with a Mid-American Conference regular-season championship and an appearance in the MAC Tournament championship game in 2022.
“I learned under one of the best in the business under (Ball State head coach) Rich Maloney,” says Beemer, who earned two degrees from BSU — a bachelor’s degree in 2012 and an Masters of Business Administration in 2014. “I’ve had a chance to see success at a high level through him.
“I think I know the state pretty well. I know what it takes to win him in major baseball. And I’ve got the energy to make sure this thing gets going.
“It’s a cool opportunity. I can tell you I’m very humbled to have this chance. And it’s a neat opportunity. This place can be a rock show. I mean, Butler has everything from the academic side to the location to facilities we can we can really win. Not to mention it’s a great conference (the Big East which also includes baseball-playing members Connecticut, Creighton, Georgetown, St. John’s, Seton Hall. Villanova and Xavier). It’s a it’s a really cool opportunity.”
The Bulldogs went 20-35-1 overall and 4-16-1 in the Big East in 2022. It was the last season for the retiring Dave Schrage.
What does it take to win at the mid-major level?
“First off you’ve got to you got to do the recruiting right.” says Beemer. “I mean you win with players and you win with people. So in recruiting we’re after land guys that that are tough. I think in college baseball, you win with toughness.
“I think it takes execution. And at Ball State what we did there was we tried to get really good on the mound. And I think here we’ve got to get really good on the mound (at Butler). If you have some horses that can carry you along ways and baseball.
“And so I think you’ll see an increased emphasis to help us get better on the bump and to get tougher and to execute at a high level. Baseball is the same everywhere, right? Good pitching, defense and timely hitting. If you do those three things, you’ll be alright.”
With building toughness in mind, Beemer has his Bulldogs waking up at 5 a.m. for workouts. They’re doing sprint work and some other training to which they have not been exposed.
“I think that there is a energy level that you have to be able to get through whether it’s strength training, speed training, conditioning or for our practice,” says Beemer. “I mean we’re having long practices that the energy has been great, but you build toughness that way.
“We’re going to have games that are three and a half hours. We have to have great intent, great focus and great energy in the ninth inning the same as we do when we start the game. That day-in and day-out consistency, that’s where you build toughness.”
With a national reputation at Butler, thanks in large part to the recent success of the Bulldogs basketball program, Beemer sees a expanded recruiting footprint for the private school.
That means getting some players from the New York City or Washington D.C. areas.
“It’s a great degree,” says Beemer. “We just came out in U.S. News and World Report as the No. 1 Midwest regional university in the country. It’s an unbelievable education and I think that speaks volumes across the country.”
Beemer’s staff includes assistant coach, pitching coach Ross Learnard, assistant coach Bladen Bales and volunteer coach Dan Wilcher.
Learnard pitched at Parkland College and Purdue University (he was a two-time All-American) and coached at Illinois State University and Purdue. His duties with the Boilermakers focused on pitching analytics and team operations.
“(Coach Learnard) is really, really detailed and connects with our guys at a high level,” says Beemer. “He’s a great pitching mind I keep telling everybody. I think he’ll be in the SEC. He’ll be an elite pitching coach at one of the high-end jobs within the next seven years. just think I think he’s a stud.
“He develops arms as well. He knows how to take care of the guys. He sees things that are really advanced level.”
Bales was with Beemer at Ball State in 2022. Before that he coached at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Neb., and managed the Nebraska City American Legion junior team to a state runner-up finish in 2017. He has also coached the Lakeshore Chinooks of the summer collegiate Northwoods League.
Bales played at McCook (Neb.) Community College and Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln.
“He’s a tireless worker,” says Beemer of Bales. “He has a great eye for talent and recruiting.
“I’ve known Dan (Wilcher) for years. We both grew up in Dayton, Ohio. And Dan helps lead our infield play, a lot of our throwing progressions and throwing programs and helps with field maintenance (at Bulldog Park). He’s our Swiss Army knife. He does it all for us.”
The first two weeks of fall practice at Butler was for individuals. Team practice began on Labor Day and will go until mid-October with intrasquad games twice a week. After that, there will be a transition back to individuals.
“Everybody’s new so it’s a clean slate for everybody is what I’ve been telling our guys,” says Beemer. We get to play outside opponents (Frontier Community College on noon Oct. 1 at home and Ball State Oct. 8 in Muncie). But every day is evaluation, whether it’s an intrasquad, in the weight room or just a BP session, our guys are always being evaluated the same way.
“They’re evaluating me. They’re seeing what my coaching style is. They’re seeing how I instruct things. I think that in today’s world, just understand you’re always under a microscope. You’re always being evaluated. Our guys know that. And so every day we’re trying to have competition. We want to get better every day and and move this thing forward day by day.”
Since his hire, Beemer has been getting his face in front of the community.
Alums are coming back for the induction of the 1998 team (that won a then-school record 33 games) into the Butler Athletic Hall of Fame Sept. 24 and the Oct. 1 exhibition and Oct. 2 golf outing. The coach has been on the phone talking to alums and boosters and spoke on the air during an Indianapolis Indians broadcast.
“We’ve got a great opportunity for this place to really take off,” says Beemer. “I’m proud of it really proud of being a Butler Bulldog and I’m very fortunate for it.”

Blake Beemer. (Butler University Photo)\
Blake Beemer. (Butler University Photo)

‘The Best We’ve Got: The Carl Erskine Story’ makes Indianapolis premier

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

“The Best We’ve Got: The Carl Erskine Story” — a film by Ted Green — made its Indianapolis debut Thursday, Aug. 18 at the Tobias Theater aka The Toby.
After the screening presented by Heartland Film, Green told why he chose the documentary subject.
“I like to do films that celebrate the triumph of the human spirit,” said Green, a producer, director, writer and researcher who partnered with Indiana Historical Society and created a cinematic portrayal of the man who has impacted the baseball world and so much more. “I just found myself drawn to this 95-year old guy up in Anderson, Ind., who was able to sort of move social mountains — not through bombast, not through money, but through grace, through humility, through servant leadership — and I will tell you that the last two years spent during production were the greatest two years of education of my life.
“Maybe just maybe niceness and decency can win in the end.”
Esteemed broadcaster Bob Costas summed it up in his on-screen introduction: “It was a story told softly as you’re about to see and hear about a story that cumulatively speaks to a person who’s deeply admirable.”
Erskine, who became known as “The Gentleman from Indiana,” was born Dec. 13, 1926 in Anderson, won 122 games as a right-handed pitcher for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers.
Throwing an overhand curveball that Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully said could be seen in a snowstorm, Erskine struck out a then-record 14 batters in the 1953 World Series.
“Oisk” — as Brooklyn fans called him — is the last living member of the 1955 team that won the World Series. That group is part of Roger Kahn’s celebrated book, “The Boys of Summer.” Hall of Famer and Indiana native Gil Hodges was also on that team.
Erskine threw two no-hitters and the was the starting pitcher in the Dodgers’ first game in LA.
But that’s just a part of Erskine’s tale.
“When I was a little boy I had this feeling in my soul: Something good is going to happen to you,” said Erskine early in the film. I just had this feeling,”
Carl and Betty Erskine will celebrate 75 years of marriage on Oct. 5. They raised four children — Danny, Gary, Susan and Jimmy.
The latter was born in 1960 — less than a year after Carl retired from baseball — with Down syndrome. Rather than put Jimmy away in an institution, the Erskine showered him with love and treated him like the rest of the children.
“We were an active family,” said Gary Erskine. “Jimmy was not left behind.”
Jimmy got on to a school bus for the first time in 1972 and has gone on to lead an independent life.
When Carl and Betty’s fourth child came along, Indiana had long took a dim view of the “feeble-minded” and in 1907 was the nation’s first state to enact compulsory sterilization to “prevent procreation of confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles and rapists.”
Expected to live to around 35, Jimmy Erskine turned 62 this year. He worked at Applebee’s in Anderson for two decades and competed in Special Olympics for 50 (starting with the Indiana State Special Olympic Games in Terre Haute in 1970).
The Carl and Betty Erskine Society raises money for the Special Olympics.
The Erskine Personal Impact Curriculum (EPIC) is a set of materials for elementary, middle and high school students that uses stories from Carl’s life to “create lessons and activities with themes including empowerment, friendship, inclusion and leadership.”
Thursday’s event was also a celebration of the Erskine connection to Special Olympics Indiana and helping to promote grace, humility, diversity, inclusion and servant leadership.
When Carl was 10 and playing basketball in the alley with friends, 9-year-old Johnny Wilson wandered in.
Carl’s question to the boy who happen to be black was, “Do you want to play?”
It was the start of long friendship that lasted more than eight decades — one that will be commemorated with a mural in downtown Anderson in 2023.
The boy who went on to be known as “Jumpin’” Johnny Wilson came from a family on welfare so he often ate at the Erskine house.
Blacks were not welcome in some Anderson restaurants. They could not join the YMCA. They were restricted to the balcony of the movie theater.
The Ted Green film made its world premier Aug. 11 at Anderson’s Paramount Theatre with an encore on Aug. 13.
“Blacks were expected to be where they were supposed to be and the whites on the other side,” said Erskine.
Carl’s parents — Matt and Berths — did not show that prejudice.
General Motors Delco Remy inspector Matt Erskine “walked as easily among blacks as whites.”
Bertha Erskine “was known for seeing the best in everyone and everything.”
Said Carl, “She gave me the feeling that beauty is all around us. Don’t forget to look at it.”
Carl went to the blacks-only swimming pool with Johnny Wilson. He didn’t go to places Johnny couldn’t and he sat in the balcony with his pal.
They later played together on the Anderson High School basketball team. Wilson was chosen as Indiana Mr. Basketball in 1946 and went on to play for the Harlem Globetrotters and is in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. He competed in baseball, basketball, football and track and field at Anderson College (now Anderson University) and is in that school’s athletic hall of fame.
Erskine, who was later head baseball coach at Anderson College for 12 years and is also in the Ravens Hall of Fame, shined on the diamond for Anderson High and Anderson American Legion Post 127.
Throwing a tennis ball against a barn with a strike zone marked in chalk, Carl continually fanned his hero.
Said Erskine, “I can’t count how many times I struck out Babe Ruth.”
First discovered by Indianapolis scout Stan Feezle, Carl landed with the Dodgers after a stint in the U.S. Navy.
The Dodgers were run by Branch Rickey, who signed the Hoosier hurler for $5,000.
“I think there was an esteem there,” said Branch Rickey III of the relationship between his grandfather and Erskine. “He just had a deep, deep appreciation for what character could do individually. We loved what character could do for teams.”
As a minor leaguer pitching against the big club, Erskine first met Jackie Robinson, who made a point of encouraging him his outing.
Erskine made his Dodgers debut in 1948 and went on to toe the rubber for the franchise 335 times.
Two Erskine-penned books are “Tales from the Dodgers Dugout” and “What I Learned from Jackie Robinson” and has been involved with Jackie Robinson Day activities with The Base Indy.
One day after Erskine had shown kindness to wife and son — Rachel Robinson and Jackie Jr. — Robinson expressed his appreciation.
“‘Come on, Jackie, it’s as natural to me as breathing,’” said Erskine of his response. But Jackie was always kind of surprised. He said to me, ‘this black and white thing doesn’t seem to bother you.’ I told him about Johnny my buddy. He said, ‘Carl, I see life divided. You seem to see life connected.’”
When Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella was paralyzed in an auto accident in 1958, the first teammate to visit him in the hospital was Erskine.
A man of faith who met Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Erskine was there at the start of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Erskine lent his talent to Dale McMillen aka “Mr. Mac” with the Wildcat League for youth in Fort Wayne, Ind.
An insurance salesman and a bank president in his hometown, Carl has been a civic leader along with Betty.
Anderson has Erskine Elementary School (a video message from Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda at the dedication appears in the film).
There’s also was is now known as Anderson Youth Baseball & Softball at Erskine Park.
The broadcast premier of “The Best We’ve Got: The Carl Erskine Story” is slated for 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22 on WFYI in Indianapolis with PBS stations around Indiana expected to follow.
As well as being part of the Heartland International Film Festival Oct. 6-16 in Indianapolis, screenings are planned for Sept. 29 at Eagles Theater in Wabash, Ind., Oct. 13 at Muncie Civic Center with dates to be determined at Artcraft Theater in Franklin, Ind., and Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis premier of the Ted Green film “The Best We’ve Got: The Carl Erskine Story” was Thursday, Aug. 18 at the Tobias Theater aka The Toby. (Steve Krah Photo)
A memento from the Indianapolis premier of the Ted Green film “The Best We’ve Got: The Carl Erskine Story.” (Steve Krah Photo)

Southpaw Schweitzer gains strength, confidence with Ball State Cardinals

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

When Tyler Schweitzer stepped onto the Ball State University campus in Muncie, Ind., in the fall of 2019, he joined the baseball team at about 6-foot and 155 pounds.
Flash forward to the spring of 2022 and 21-year-old Schweitzer is 6-1 and 185 and at the front of the Cardinals’ starting rotation. He was to get the ball today (Thursday, May 19) at Miami (Ohio) to begin a four-game series to end the regular season.
Ball State (34-17, 28-7) trails Central Michigan (36-15, 28-6) for first place in the Mid-American Conference. Starting Friday, CMU plays three against visiting Toledo. The top four finishers in the MAC race make the conference tournament with the regular-season champion as host.
Schweitzer, a left-handed pitcher, dedicated himself to strength training.
“Most of it was from the weight room and eating a lot,” says Schweitzer, who credits Ball State baseball strength and conditioning coach Bill Zenisek for helping him with squats, lunges and dead lifts for his legs and rows and dumb bell presses for his upper body. “I’ve felt healthier in this weight range. I feel stronger. It makes me more confident in myself. I’ve gained a lot of the velo.”
Throwing from a three-quarter arm angle, Schweitzer delivers his four-seam fastball at 90 to 93 mph, topping out at 94.
“I try to throw it straight but it usually tails and sometimes it might cut,” says Schweitzer of the four-seamer. “My curve is 11-to-5. I throw a sweeping slider (with more vertical drop than horizontal movement). I have a circle change-up (that sinks).
“I’ve been messing with grips for a couple years now. I’ve found one that I’m comfortable with.”
Schweitzer, who is 9-2 in 13 mound appearances (all starts) with a 2.48 earned run average, 94 strikeouts and 26 walks in 76 1/3 innings, has become comfortable as the No. 1 weekend starter after being used in relief his first two seasons at Ball State.
“The relief role I liked a lot,” says Schweitzer. “Coach (Rich Maloney) would put me in stressful situations. I would have to calm the fire.
“Being a starter, I have a longer leash. I’m capable of getting in a rhythm and doing my thing.”
At the beginning of the season, a pitch count maximum of 70 to 90 was observed. Now it’s about what’s happing in the game.
“You’re on your own until Coach comes out there and takes you out,” says Schweitzer, who has two complete games. “It might be crunch time and the closer can come in and give us the win.
“It becomes very situational at the end.”
Schweitzer is OK turning the ball over to closer Sam Klein.
“When I know he’s coming in, the door is shut for the other team,” says Schweitzer of Klein. “For him to come into the game, I know we’re in a good spot.
Sophomore right-hander Klein (Bloomington North Class of 2020) is 3-2 with nine saves and a 3.51 ERA.
Schweitzer, who has been the MAC Pitcher of the Week three times, enjoys playing for head coach Maloney and pitching coach Larry Scully.
“(Maloney) is a successful coach and winning is fun,” says Schweitzer, who has helped Ball State post win streaks of 10 and 11 this spring. “When we lose we all take it very seriously and try not to do it again.
“(Scully) keeps it very light with all the pitchers. He brings a change of pace when needed.”
Schweitzer is a 2019 graduate of Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Ind. He helped the Royals win an IHSAA Class 4A state championship as a senior. His head coach for the first three years was Scott Henson with Jeremy Sassanella leading HSE in Schweitzer’s final prep season.
“He was the one who got my work ethic the way it is today,” says Schweitzer of Henson. “Coach Sassanella gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities.”
Schweitzer credits Sassanella for building a brotherhood culture that led to the 2019 state crown. The lefty pitcher three key relief innings during that 3-2 win against Columbus East.
Born in Indianapolis, Schweitzer grew up in Fishers.
He played travel for the Indiana Prospects, an unaffiliated team, The Cats (a merger of HSE and Fishers players), USAthletic and then back to the Indiana Prospects leading into his senior high school season.
At the request of then-Ball State pitching coach Dustin Glant (now at Indiana University), Schweitzer took off the summer of 2019 to rest his arm.
The southpaw played for the Matt Kennedy-coached Snapping Turtles of the College Summer League at Grand Park in 2020 and the Northwoods League’s Lakeshore Chinooks (Mequon, Wis.) in 2021. What he does this summer will depend on how many innings he gets with Ball State.
Schweitzer, who is pursuing a double major in Accounting and Economics, is a junior academically and has two years of eligibility remaining because of the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened season of 2020.
Joe Schweitzer, Tyler’s father, is an independent contractor who instills signs. His mother, Susan Binford, owns a furniture company that sells to schools and colleges. Stepmother Lisa Schweitzer is a sale representative for a graphics company. Tyler’s sister Lindsey Schweitzer (22) studies Chemistry at Purdue University.

Tyler Schweitzer (Ball State University Photo)

Tyler Schweitzer (Ball State University Photo)

Tyler Schweitzer (Ball State University Photo)

Retired big leaguer Lind using language as way to prepare for his next career

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

Indiana native Adam Lind enjoyed 14 seasons as a professional baseball player — 12 in the majors.
The lefty-swinging first baseman, designated hitter and left fielder donned the jerseys of the Toronto Blue Jays (2006-14), Milwaukee Brewers (2015), Seattle Mariners (2016) and Washington Nationals (2017) and took his last pro at-bats with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the New York Yankees system and Pawtucket in the Boston Red Sox organization in 2018.
His MLB managers were John Gibbons (two stints), Cito Gaston and John Farrell in Toronto, Ron Roenicke and Craig Counsell in Milwaukee, Scott Servais in Seattle and Dusty Baker in Washington.
All but 391 of his 1,334 career big league games were played with Toronto. He hit .272 with 200 home runs, 259 doubles, 723 runs batted in and a .795 OPS (.330 on-base percentage plus .465 slugging average).
In 2009, “Adam Bomb” won a Silver Slugger, the Edgar Martinez Award (best DH) and was an Unsung Star of the Year Award finalist after hitting .305 with 35 homers, 46 doubles, 114 RBIs and a .932 OPS (.370/.562).
His last three dingers came in the same Sept. 29 game — an 8-7 Blue Jays win in Boston. Lind went deep twice off Clay Buchholz and once against Takashi Saito.
While he logged 418 contests at DH and 249 in left field, Lind enjoyed it most at first base, where he fielded at a .993 clip and participated in 480 double plays.
“You’re more involved and closer to the action,” says Lind. “You can affect a game at first base.”
And there was April 20, 2012 when Lind started a triple play for the Blue Jays at Kansas City. Alex Gordon was on second base and Yuniesky Betancourt on first when Eric Hosner lined to Lind for the first out.
“I caught the ball in self defense,” says Lind, who stepped on first to force Betancourt and fired to second where Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar touched the bag to force Gordon.
Lind describes playing all those years in the American League East as good and bad.
“You see how good of a baseball player you are, playing 20 times each year against the Red Sox and Yankees,” says Lind. “You go against the best of the best — Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter.
“At the same time it’s why I never got into the playoffs (as a Blue Jay).”
In Lind’s lone postseason appearance — the 2017 National League Division Series against the Chicago Cubs — he went 2-for-3 as a pinch-hitter.
As his playing days were ending, Lind began thinking about getting back in the game — likely as a coach.
Meanwhile, wife Lakeyshia received Spanish lessons as a Christmas gift.
“I enjoyed that,” says Lind, who decided after retirement to enroll in the World Languages Department at the University of South Florida in Tampa and major in Spanish. The 38-year old father of three is now in his second semester of in-person classes after the COVID-19 pandemic made for a virtual experience. “I’m using school to qualify me and give me the tools to go into another career that I want to achieve. By earning a degree and being able to communicate with Latin Americans hopefully it will get my foot in the door (in baseball).
“My kids are young and I don’t want to be gone yet, but I would be a commodity. It used to be that 10 years in the big leagues almost guaranteed you could latch on. In my opinion that has changed quite a bit in the last decade.”
To accumulate credits in a shorter period of time and to immerse himself in the language and culture, Lind has decided to study abroad.
“I don’t like the word fluent,” says Lind. “I’m nowhere near that.
“I can at least communicate and get a point across.”
Plans now call for him to spend May 11-June 18 in Chile, where he’ll take two classes, live with a host family and take a few excursions including to the Andes Mountains. It’s possible Lakeyshia might be able to visit.
The couple met during the 2007 season and were married in Toronto in 2010. Their children are daughter Martinne (10), son Louie (8) and daughter Elodie (5). The two oldest kids are dual Canadian-American citizens.
Born in Muncie, Ind., Adam Alan Lind moved to Anderson as a youngster and played his first organized baseball at Chesterfield Little League.
The son of educators Al and Kathy and younger brother of sister Allison played in the Anderson Babe Ruth League and was with the John Miles-managed and Dan Ball-coached Anderson American Legion Post 127 team.
“He was a great grandfather figure and he had clout,” says Lind. “It was an honor to be a freshman and asked to play for that team.”
Attending a Ball State hitting camp and taking a growth spurt between his eighth and ninth grade years brought power to Lind’s game.
Taking batting practice in the fall of his freshmen year, he smacked one over the fence.
“It was the first homer I hit on the big field,” says Lind, who parked it an offering from Jason Stecher.
It was Stecher who had been his seventh grade basketball coach as a first-year teacher and was a baseball assistant to his father through 2001 when the Anderson Highland High School diamond was named Bob Stecher Field then took over the Scots program.
“(Jason) was not much older than us so he knew all our tricks when the coach isn’t looking,” says Lind. “Bob Stecher was an Anderson legend. He was a great man.”
A 2002 Highland graduate, Lind hit .675 with 16 homers and was named Indiana Mr. Baseball as a senior.
“It was a great honor,” says Lind of the statewide recognition. “It’s something I think about at times.
“It’s a cool memory.”
The lefty belted three in a game against visiting Noblesville as a sophomore. His senior homer total might’ve been larger.
“There was that fair ball called foul in Martinsville,” says Lind.
Heading into his senior year, Lind traveled far and wide with the Indiana Bulls.
“I loved that summer,” says Lind. “It was the first time I was away from my high school friends. I was playing with established players. It was a little intimidating being around higher level of competition.”
One of his highlights was a homer at the University of Tennessee against Georgia’s famed East Cobb squad.
Anderson Highland consolidated with Anderson High School after the 2009-10 academic year.
In 2002, Lind was selected in the eighth round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Minnesota Twins and opted instead for the University of South Alabama.
Lind did not study Spanish at USA. He told people his major was business.
“It was baseball,” says Lind, who played two seasons (2003 and 2004) for the Steve Kittrell-coached Jaguars and was drafted by Toronto in the third round in 2004.
He made his MLB debut Sept. 2, 2006. His first of 1,247 career hits was a double off left-hander Lenny DiNardo.

Adam Lind homers three time in Boston (MLB Video)
Adam Lind starts a triple play in Kansas City (MLB Video)
Adam Lind (Toronto Blue Jays Photo)

Wapahani, Ball State graduate Wilburn takes over Delta baseball program

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

The way Devin Wilburn sees it, life is about timing.
Just when he and his wife were looking to move closer to home and family for the arrival of their first child, a job opportunity opened up.
Teacher Devin and nurse Maddie Wilburn were living in Florida when the chance to come to come back to the Muncie, Ind., area came as daughter Tatum was on the way.
Tatum is now 2 months old and Devin (who turned 30 on Sept. 18) is the head baseball coach and a physical education teacher at Delta High School.
Delta (enrollment around 800) is a member of the Hoosier Heritage Conference (with Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon of Fortville, New Castle, New Palestine, Pendleton Heights, Shelbyville and Yorktown).
In 2021, the Eagles were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Guerin Catholic, Hamilton Heights, Jay County, New Castle and Yorktown. Delta has won 13 sectional crowns — the last in 2016.
The Wilburns reside in Selma, about 10 minutes from both sets of grandparents and in the same town where they graduated from Wapahani High School.
Devin went 24-9 and struck out 309 batters while while walking 79 in 203 1/3 innings while playing for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Brian Dudley and graduating in 2010.
“A lot of stuff fell in place,” says Devin Wilburn, who comes to the Eagles after spending the 2021 season as an assistant to head coach Kyle Gould at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., after one spring season (2020) as head coach at Countryside High School in Clearwater Fla.
Wilburn, who holds a Sport Administration degree (2014) and Masters in Sport Administration (2016) from Ball State University, was an assistant to head coach Rich Maloney at BSU in Muncie in 2019 after spending the fall of 2018 on Matt Bair’s staff at Anderson (Ind.) University. He was the pitching coach at Taylor 2015-18.
A left-handed pitcher, Wilburn played three seasons for head coaches Alex Marconi (2011 and 2012) and Maloney (2015).
At 20, Wilburn had a colon procedure and spent the better part of two years recuperating then returned to the diamond with the Cardinals.
“It was a cool ending to my career,” says Wilburn. “I working out with my best friend, Jon Keesling (who played at Wapahani then Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion).
“My ball was moving pretty good. Maybe I’ll give (a comeback) a shot.”
Wilburn made the team and in 27 mound appearances (26 in relief) went 4-2 for a 33-25 squad that played in the Mid-American Conference championship game in 2015.
“That last year I got to play changed my life in so many ways,” says Wilburn. It was through Ball State volunteer assistant Rhett Goodmiller that he was connected with Taylor.
The summer before joining the Trojans, Wilburn was the head coach of the Indiana Prospects 17U national travel team. The talented club featured future Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft first-round pick J.J. Bleday plus two others now in the minors — Gianluca Dalatri and Sean Mooney — with the help of father Bryan Wilburn.
Wilburn has formed his coaching philosophy through the men he played for and coached with — Dudley, Maloney and Gould — and more.
“Along the way you make it yours,” says Wilburn. “You learn from coaching conventions and podcasts and put your own spin on it.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some really good baseball teams and coaches.
“Coach Dudley and I have a real good relationship. He just does things the right way. He was my first mentor. I learned so much from him.
“He had such a high expectation for us. He let us shine with what we were good at.”
Devin, the only child of Bryan and Missie Wilburn, moved from Muncie to Selma in the fourth grade and his first teacher was Jason Dudley, Brian’s son and a longtime Wapahani baseball assistant.
“I was part of those good traditions that shape your life in so many ways,” says Wilburn, who counted three former Wapahani teammates in the wedding party when he married Maddie a little over three years ago. “I’m so grateful to go through that program.
“I look back fondly on my high school days.”
A youth baseball coach for several decades, Russell Wilburn had a field named in his honor in Muncie’s Chambers Park when Devin was a young boy.
Bryan Wilburn and brother Dan both played baseball at Muncie Central High School and Bryan went on to the diamond life at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and Dan to Valparaiso University.
After being recruited by Greg Beals, playing for Marconi and then Maloney, the latter hired him as an assistant.
“I wore many hats,” says Wilburn. “I got to work with catchers and some with outfielders. My end goal was to find a head coaching job at small college or high school.
“I wanted to be a well-rounded coach.”
Wilburn is appreciative of Blake Beemer, who was a Cardinals teammate and then a coaching colleague.
“I’m grateful for his mentorship,” says Wilburn of Beemer. “I also coached with Dustin Glant. He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever heard talk about pitching.”
Gould gave Wilburn his first crack at college coaching.
“He is probably the best mentor in my life,” says Wilburn. “I’ve learned so much from him from the baseball and the life perspective
“He opened my eyes in so many different ways. I could not be more grateful for the time I spent over there learning from him. (Taylor) is a wonderful place.”
It was at Taylor that Wilburn also got to be on staff with IHSBCA Hall of Famer Rick Atkinson and Justin Barber.
“Coach A forgot more about baseball than what I knew,” says Wilburn. “Justin and I had a good relationship when we recruited his players when he was with the Indiana Chargers.”
At Delta, Wilburn has hired former Ball State teammate Scott Baker as his pitching coach with other assistant hires pending school board approval.
The Eagles play on Veteran’s Field.
“We’ve got a couple of projects,” says Wilburn, whose been assessing Delta’s baseball needs since taking the job. “We’ve got a nice facility and a real supportive booster club.”
Feeders for Wilburn’s program include Delta Little League in Royerton and East Central Indiana junior high league run by Jason Dudley.
Current senior left-hander Nick Crabtree has committed to Taylor.
And Wilburn continues his love affair with the game.
Says the coach, “Baseball is what keeps me sane in life and forget the daily stress.”

Devin Wilburn (Delta High School Image)
The Wilburns (from left): Maddie, Tatum and Devin.
Devin and Maddie Wilburn with daughter Tatum.
Devin Wilburn (red pullover) with Ball State University head coach Rich Maloney (2), assistant Blake Beemer (24) and the Cardinals in 2019.
Devin Wilburn (right) coaches at Taylor University.
Devin Wilburn and the Taylor University baseball team celebrate a victory.
Devin Wilburn (second from left) with mentor and Taylor University head baseball coach Kyle Gould.

Ganger getting broadcast reps at Ball State and beyond

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Just like batters crave their cuts, broadcasters need their reps.

Nathan Ganger started getting his in high school and continues to hone his craft in college.

Once bitten by the sports play-by-play bug, he began talking into a tape recorder during Elkhart (Ind.) Christian Academy basketball games. 

The Michigan resident attended ECA all four years of high school.

“I absolutely loved it there,” says Ganger. “It was the perfect size for me.

“You get to know everybody in your class.”

Ganger attended the Elkhart Area Career Center as a junior (2017-18) and senior (2018-19) where Audio/Video Production instructor Warren Seegers taught camera operation and concepts like the “rule of thirds” and helped Ganger build the skills that allowed him to tell sports stories on WVPE HD3 88.1 FM and conduct interviews on Facebook Live.

“Mr. Seegers is awesome,” says Ganger. “Everything I learned over my two years I’m using now.”

Ganger got to interview South Bend (Ind.) Cubs President Joe Hart and Notre Dame men’s basketball associate head coach Rod Balanis.

He counts his Q&A with ND women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw after the 2018 national championship as a career highlight.

Before the interview began, McGraw was kind of standoffish and giving one-word answers. Then she began to respond to Ganger’s thoughtful questions.

“She realized I did my research,” says Ganger.

In two seasons working with the South Bend Cubs, Ganger was supervised by Chris Hagerstrom-Jones, who is now Assistant General Manager for Marketing and Media.

“I started as camera operator then I told my boss I wanted to get into broadcasting and learn everything,” says Ganger, who got to host the on-field pregame show, work with replay on TV broadcasts and occasionally operate the Four Winds Field video board.

“It was fun getting to learn all different sides of the industry,” says Ganger. “I want to be not just a broadcaster, but be as well-rounded as I possibly can.

“You can’t always rely on other people. You need to know how to do everything yourself.”

Ganger is now a second-year Telecommunications major at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. He’s on a path to graduate in the Spring of 2023.

In 2020-21, Ganger has done play-by-play or color commentary for Cardinals baseball, football, basketball and volleyball while also helping to create social media video content for Ball State Sports Link.

For his first Ball State Sports Link broadcast, Ganger was on the call for BSU’s football opener at Miami in Oxford, Ohio. With COVID-19 restrictions, it was a remote production. A monitor showed him the action which he conveyed to his audience.

“It was definitely different,” says Ganger. “Numbers on the screen is different than being at the game.

“I can’t be picky. Any opportunity I have to go for it.”

Ganger can’t say enough good things about Sports Link.

“It’s the best of the best for sports media anywhere,” says Ganger. “(Senior Director of Sports Production and Lecturer) Chris Taylor does literally anything he can to get us this opportunity.”

Ganger teamed in the booth with Ryan Klimcak (who shared Northwoods League TV Announcer of the Year honors in 2020 while working for the Bismarck Larks) on last weekend’s baseball Mid-American Conference homestand and got to call a walk-off win against Western Michigan.

According to Ganger, keys for a good broadcast include knowing the players’ names.

“Memorize those the best you can,” says Ganger. “In basketball — when they’re running up and down the court — you have time to look down at your score chart.”

For a radio game, Ganger is sure to give time and score every 90 seconds.

“You have to be the listeners’ eyes,” says Ganger. “You want to have descriptive words for everything.”

It’s important to pinpoint the ball and it’s trajectory. The broadcaster tells his audience where it was hit and if it’s a line drive or a slow roller. 

“We also build story lines,” says Ganger. “Why is this game important? What’s at stake? Throughout the game we recap what’s happened.”

The voice is to be used as an instrument.

“Be creative with ways to say things with voice inflection,” says Ganger. “You need a balance between sounding excited and not yelling all the time.

“I’m still learning. You can never be too good at broadcasting. It’s very competitive. You have to find ways to set yourself apart.”

Ganger used COVID quarantine time last summer to get in the reps that would help prepare for Sports Link broadcasts and to land an internship for the summer of 2021.

“I didn’t want to sit around,” says Ganger, who took old tapes of football, basketball and baseball games which he described by himself or with a friend and posted on YouTube. “I wanted to get better and be ready for games at Ball State and I wanted to get that internship.”

Ganger got it.

During the process of searching and interviewing, he encountered the Expedition League. It’s a 12-team summer collegiate circuit that plays a 64-game schedule beginning in late May.

It came down to choosing between the Mining City Tommyknockers (Butte, Mont.) and Sioux Falls (S.D.) Sunfish. Ganger chose the expansion Tommyknockers.

“I felt comfortable with (Mining City GM/Co-Owner) Dane Wagner,” says Ganger. “He showed a lot of interest in me from the day he contacted me. 

“He felt me feel wanted. The Expedition League makes a point of taking care of their interns.”

Southern Illinois University student Tyler King will be Ganger’s broadcast partner and the the two have been corresponding to get to know one another.

“It’s been cool for Tyler and I to be he first-ever voices of the team,” says Ganger.

Not only will the duo get to enjoy the first with a team playing at 3 Legends Stadium (a facility that debuted in 2017 which has gone from a capacity of 470 to 1,300), Ganger and King will get to know a wide swath of territory. 

Besides Mining City, the Lewis Division features the Badlands Big Sticks (Dickinson, N.D.), Canyon County (Idaho) Spuds, Casper (Wyoming) Horseheads, Souris Valley Sabre Dogs (Minot, N.D.) and Wheat City Whiskey Jacks (Brandon, Manitoba, Canada) with the Clark Division sporting the Fremont (Neb.) Moo, Hastings (Neb.) Sodbusters, Pierre (S.D.) Trappers, Sioux Falls Sunfish, Spearfish (S.D.) Sasquatch and Western Nebraska Pioneers (Gering, Neb.).

Nathan Ganger with the South Bend Cubs (South Bend Cubs Photo)
Nathan Ganger with the Mid-American Conference football championship trophy earned in 2020 by Ball State football. (Ball State Sports Link Photo)
Nathan Ganger (right) calls many contests for Ball State Sports Link, including volleyball. (Ball State Sports Link Photo)
Ball State University Telecommunications major Nathan Ganger calls several contests for Ball State Sports Link. Among his spring assignments has been BSU baseball. He has an internship this summer with the Mining City Tommyknockers college team in Butte, Mont. (Ball State Sports Link Photo)

Love lending a coaching hand at Grace College

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Justin Love has been offering his baseball expertise at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., since the spring of 2018 and was doing the same at nearby Warsaw Community High School for the prior 19 years.

As a Lancers assistant, Love is in charge of outfielders and base runners and assists head coach Ryan Roth with hitters. Roth works with pitchers and infielders. Assistant Ryan Moore handles catchers. Graduate intern Josh Thew is also on the coaching staff. Tom Roy is a special assistant to head coach.

Love first served on the Grace staff of Cam Screeton before Roth was promoted.

“I want my outfielders to be aggressive and to understand the game,” says Love, 45. “I want them watching hitters and understanding what pitchers are trying to do to hitters.

By doing this, the outfielders have a good idea of where the ball might go.

“Outfielders very aware of what’s coming (in terms of pitch type and location),” says Love, who leads drills for tracking and footwork. 

At this time of year, much of the work is done indoors. But the Lancers will bundle up and go outside if the weather allows.

“It’s definitely a challenge being an outfielder in northern Indiana,” says Love, who sometimes uses a light in the gym to simulate tracking a ball in the sun.

Love knows that coming from high school baseball, some of his runners are aggressive and some are timid.

He teaches them about getting a good lead-off without getting picked off. He wants them to know what the pitcher and catcher are trying do.

What made Love a good base stealer when he was playing?

“It comes down to confidence and feeling comfortable,” says Love, who instructs his Grace runners in the proper footwork and the mental side of the running game — what pitches and situations are best for stealing.

Love has his runners get a feel for how much time it will take them to get from first to second or second to third once the pitch crosses home plate. Then they calculate the pitcher’s delivery and the catcher’s Pop Time — the time elapsed from the moment the pitch hits the catcher’s mitt to the moment it reaches the intended fielder.

For Lancer hitters, Love and Roth go over the mental approach and the mechanical side. It comes down to hitting balls hard as often as possible and having gap-to-gap power.

Grace, an NAIA school, is scheduled to open the 2021 season Feb. 19 against Trinity Christian University at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.

Love was a standout outfielder at Northridge High School in Middlebury, Ind., and Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., where he graduated in 1998. He also spent the summer of 1998 with the independent professional Richmond (Ind.) Roosters then began his business management career while also coaching football (three years) and baseball at WCHS — first on the staff of Will Shepherd and then Mike Hepler.

A 1994 Northridge graduate, the 5-foot-9, 160-pound Love earned three letters each in football for Dennis Sienicki, basketball for Tom Crews and baseball for Rollie Schultz and Mike Logan.

Love, who is in the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame, was a three-time all-Northern Lakes Conference performer in football as well as an IHSAA Class 3A all-stater and team MVP in 1993. He set school records for receiving yards, receptions, interceptions and scoring and was chosen for the Indiana Football Coaches Association North-South All-Star Game. 

He helped Northridge to a basketball sectional title in 1993 — the Raiders’ first since 1975 — and was all-sectional and a team captain and defensive player of the year in 1994.

On the diamond, Love was a two-time all-NLC honoree and was all-state, all-regional and all-sectional as well as team MVP and captain in 1994. He set school records for stolen bases, runs, walks and triples.

Love considered a few offers to play football in college before setting on Ball State University for baseball. He played one season with Pat Quinn as Cardinals head coach and three with Rich Maloney in charge.

A four-year starter at Ball State, Love set a single-season stolen base record in 1997 with 44, leading the Mid-American Conference and helping him earn a spot on the all-MAC team. Overall his junior year, he hit .346 with 71 hits and 67 runs in 59 games.

As a senior in 1998, Love swiped 30 stolen bases to rank second in the MAC. The first-team all-MAC selection led the conference with 62 runs scored and was sixth with 120 total bases and 10th with nine home runs. He batted .344 in 57 games.

Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Cate was the manager in Richmond when Love hit .288 with three homers and 25 RBI in 95 games.

Love gives a nod to all his coaches — high school, college and pro.

“I appreciate every one of them — the time they put in to help me with my dreams and aspirations,” says Love. “They were passionate for the sport they coached.

“Pat (Quinn) was pretty direct. He knew the game. He had a fiery spirit to him. Rich (Maloney) was very intense, very knowledgable and very caring also.”

Justin and wife Rosemary have three children — Kendra (18), Jordan (16) and Spencer (12). Kendra Love is a senior volleyball and track athlete at Warsaw. Jordan Love is a sophomore soccer player and trackster. Seventh grader Spencer Love is involved with football, wrestling, track and baseball.

Justin Love, a graduate of Northridge High School in Middlebury, Ind., and Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., is an assistant baseball coach at Grace College, an NAIA program in Winona Lake, Ind. (Grace College Photo)

Alum Wells returns to coach Cowan Blackhawks

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Aaron Wells grew up in the Delaware County, Ind., community of Cowan, just south of Muncie.

“I have always taken pride in the fact that I was raised in Cowan,” says Wells. “I honestly believe that it is has always been one of the closest-knit communities. Everybody knows everybody and would do anything to help a neighbor in need at anytime.”

Wells, 27, was recently named baseball head coach at his alma mater and is to join the teaching staff at Cowan Elementary School in January 2021. He is currently finishing his tenure in the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township in Indianapolis at Rhoades Elementary.

Growing up, Wells played at what is now known as the Cowan Baseball and Softball League and then shined for four varsity baseball seasons as a catcher for Cowan Junior/Senior High School, playing his first three for Camden Parkhurst and his senior year for Seth Paul. As a senior in 2012, Wells was an all-state selection. 

“I was able to learn many aspects of the game from both coaches,” says Wells of Parkhurst and Paul. “I was able to learn how to actually ‘enjoy’ the game when I was playing with Camden. 

“During my first two years at Cowan, it was a very memorable time to be a Blackhawk baseball player. I was able to learn from some of the greatest players to ever come from the program during those years. Justin O’Conner, Jake O’Conner, Kirby Campbell, Cody Campbell, just to name a few. 

“I truly fell in love with the game of baseball when I was playing with those guys and playing underneath Camden. I learned how to compete at an extremely high level and also have fun at the same time. It is a mix that I still carry with me today.”

Paul taught Wells a different set of skills.

“We actually had a tendency to share some disagreements when I was playing underneath him,” says Wells. “He challenged me and pushed me mentally more than any coach had before. He made me not just love the game, but begin to understand it and what it takes to win. 

“Our team was not as skilled as the earlier Cowan teams my senior year, but we came together due to great chemistry and how well Seth prepared us. Being the (Hoosier Heritage Conference) champion in 2012 is still one of my favorite baseball memories. We did not win that conference title with skill alone, we won it with passion and hard work. It was a great year to exit as a Blackhawk.”

While in high school, Wells was with the Indiana Bulls and Indiana Mustangs as well as the Muncie American Legion Post 19 Chiefs.

Wells was at catcher/third baseman for two seasons (2013 and 2014) at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., for Rick Espeset. The 2013 Spartans went 39-7-1 and played in the program’s second NCAA Division III World Series.

“I learned so many things from Coach Espeset in the two years I was there,” says Wells. “The greatest part of coaching that I learned from Coach Espy was organization. 

“He was the most organized coach that I ever had the privilege of playing for. Every player knew exactly what to do and where to be every single day at practice and that was because of how well-oiled of a machine he created.”

Espeset posted daily practice plans that were down to the exact minute and he expected his players to follow that plan.

Another thing that got Wells’ attention is that Espeset had his seniors do the “grunt” work of baseball.

“It wasn’t the freshman carrying the bags to the buses or making sure the field was in perfect condition — it was the seniors,” says Wells. “This set a tone for me as a player because I knew the seniors were never getting out of the grunt work and that made me want to work even harder as a freshman.”

Wells also recalls an acronym that was a big part of the Manchester program — T.O.B.

That stands for “transfer of blame.”

“Teams that struggle to compete always have a ‘transfer of blame,’ which means they never take accountability for their own mistakes,” says Wells. “They want to transfer the blame to something or someone else. 

“I remember one instance where a player was late to practice and he came in and said, ‘my alarm didn’t go off’ and the whole dugout just responded T.O.B and that player knew that excuse wasn’t going to fly. 

“I only played two years at Manchester, but I learned so many things that I still carry with me today.”

Wells transferred to Ball State University in Muncie and received his Elementary Education degree in 2017.

In 2015 and 2016, Wells coached on Paul’s staff at Delta High School — also in Delaware County. 

“Seth and I are extremely competitive and I believe that was what helped us become successful together at Delta,” says Wells. “He knew my passion and knowledge of the game and allowed me to input my own philosophies and thoughts into the daily practices. 

“The experience with Seth allowed me to truly fall in love with the game as a coach rather than just a player. I started to experience the challenges of coaching that you never think of when you are just playing. He allowed me to observe him and shadow him to start to fully understand what it means to become a head coach.”

Another of Wells’ favorite baseball memories was when Delta won the 2016 IHSAA Class 3A Bellmont Regional and competed in the Kokomo Semistate.

Wells was an assistant at Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers in 2019 and 2020. Royals head coach Jeremy Sassanella made him a junior varsity head coach.

“I gained so much knowledge of how to be a coach from Coach Sass,” says Wells. “We began to start working together in late February due to a coach leaving the program in early 2019. 

“I immediately picked up on his genuineness as a person. He honestly cares and loves every single player and staff member in his program. His greatest strength I believe is how well he communicates with his players, staff, and most importantly the parents in the program. 

“He treats every single player in his program the exact same way no matter if they are a freshmen just entering the program or the 4A state final starting pitcher. He expects every player to control two things: FOCUS and EFFORT. If you control those two things he will never be upset with you and I respected that as a staff member.”

Hamilton Southeastern reigned as IHSAA Class 4A state champions in 2019. Of course, the 2020 season was taken away by COVID-19.

Wells’ coaching resume all includes three summers with the Indiana Prospects (2018-20). He was head coach for 14U for two years and 15U for one.

“My experience with the Prospects organization was a great one,” says Wells. “I was able to meet great people while I was coaching with them such as Shane Stout, Chad Hinds and Ed Woolwine. 

“These connections let me get to know families in the Indianapolis area where I was able to open my own catching school at (Woolwine-owned) Fishers Sports Academy for local up-and-coming or high school players in the area. I am still currently working with my catching school and excited to start up lessons very soon.”

Aaron married the former Valorie Flick Sept. 5 and the couple resides in Noblesville, Ind. She is a 2016 Cowan graduate. As a volleyball libero she helped the Blackhawks to the first IHSAA state title in any team sport in the fall of 2012. She collected 26 digs in the Class 1A championship match against Loogootee. 

Valorie went on to a standout career at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne and completed her first season a head volleyball coach at Daleville Junior/Senior High School in Delaware County in 2020.

Aaron is the son of Indiana Wesleyan University graduates Steve and Karen Wells and the younger brother of Matt Wells (who works for a South Bend area law firm and has a toddler with wife Kristin).

Aaron Wells, a 2012 graduate of Cowan High School in Delaware County, Ind., has been named head baseball coach at his alma mater.

West’s aim to make baseball better for Muncie Central Bearcats

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Getting more and better baseball experiences for the players in his program is the aim of Muncie (Ind.) Central High School head coach Norm West.

The 63-year-old has been in charge of the Bearcats since the 2018 season after three seasons as an assistant and three as head coach at Muncie Southside (which was consolidated into Central). 

“It’s a challenge at Central,” says West. “Most of my kids don’t have the financial means to do the travel stuff.

“It’s pretty tough for us to compete. We play one heck of a schedule.”

Muncie Central, an IHSAA Class 4A school with around 1,300 students, is a member of the North Central Conference. The Bearcats are in the East Division with Anderson, Arsenal Tech of Indianapolis, Marion and Richmond. The West Division features Harrison of West Lafayette, Kokomo, Lafayette Jeff, Logansport and McCutcheon. Divisions foes play each other twice then comes a seeded NCC tournament.

There has not been a junior high baseball program feeding Muncie Central for several years and that’s kept numbers down.

West, who started into high school coaching as a Southside assistant to P.J. Fauqher in 2008, says he hopes to correct the low participation numbers while building up the Bearcats in other ways.

“I want to leave the program better than when I got it,” says West.

There have not been many high schoolers in Limited Contact sessions because of fall-sports participation.

“Kids have got to be doing something,” says West. “I love to keep them in every sport they’re interested in doing.”

West has welcomes seventh and eighth graders to high school workouts.

“I’m just glad we’re getting to play again,” says West.

A self-employed masonry contractor, West has been added brick to the back stop and dugouts at Gene Bottorff Field — the Bearcats’ home diamond named for the former MC head coach and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer.

“I want to make it a drawing card,” says West of Bottorff Field. “I want my kids to have somewhere nice to play.”

The Bearcats have been thrilled when they’ve had the chance to play at Ball State University. Few players have enjoyed the opportunity to take to the diamonds of Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.

By sprucing up the Muncie Central facility, it will allow for travel teams to play their in the summer. 

A just-concluded fall league featured 84 players — including some middle schoolers — from 22 different Indiana schools with some coming from as far as Terre Haute, Columbus and Fort Wayne.

Playing mostly daylight to dark on Sundays, seven teams competed at Muncie Central. 

“Kids are starving to play,” says West, noting how all players lost the spring season and much — if not all — the summer to the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is a league designed to introduce kids to the high school game.”

It’s a also a revenue stream for the Bearcats program.

A 1974 graduate of Yorktown (Ind.) High School in Delaware County, West was a 5-foot-6, 155-pound left-handed pitcher for Tigers coach Joe Pena. 

West got many hitters out using a a pitch with screwball action, meaning it ran into left-handed batters and away from right-handers.

Though injury limited his college career one season season, he pitched 31 innings and made three starts for the University of Louisville. He went the distance in a 3-2 loss to Indiana and notched another complete game in a 4-1 win against Xavier. He also earned a start in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament against Southern Illinois.

West landed at U of L when former Yorktown catcher Randy Delph — three years older than West — went to play for the Cardinals and recommended the left-hander to head coach Jim Zerilla.

“Don’t tell me you can’t make it,” says West. “I did.”

And not by throwing hard or racking up large strikeout totals — a lesson for his current players.

“The No. 1 thing is to throw the ball over the plate,” says West. “I don’t care how hard how hard you throw it if you can’t control it.

“Try to miss the barrel of the bat and get weak ground balls and and pop-ups. They got by pitch count now. The best inning in baseball is five pitches with two groundouts and a pop-up.

“I try to get my guys to think about pitching instead of just throwing.”

West’s assistant coaches are Ken Zvokel (the Muncie American Legion Post 19 Chiefs manager) plus Dave Garrett and Ball State University student Garris Rehfus.

While there are no college players among recent Muncie Central graduates, West sees potential.

“There are a couple of younger kids who have a chance if they work their hind end’s off,” says West.

After the injury that ended his college mound days, West came back home to work and raise a family. Norm and Jan West — who have been married for 45 years have three boys who all played baseball at Yorktown — Kyle (Class of 1996), Cory (Class of 2000) and Clay (Class of 2007). There are also three grandsons and three granddaughters. All live close-by for grandparents to get quality time.

Norm West (in dark jersey behind head coach Jim Zerilla) pitched for the University of Louisville in 1975 after graduating from Yorktown (Ind.) High School in 1974. He has been the head baseball coach at Muncie (Ind.) Central High School since the 2018 season. (University of Louisville Photo)

Norm West, a 1974 Yorktown (Ind.) High School graduate, has been head baseball coach at Muncie (Ind.) Central High School since the 2018 season.

Former Yorktown catcher Tanner uses his experiences as instructor, coach

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Zeth Tanner was 6 when he got his first baseball lesson.

He received the foundation that led him to play in high school, college and, briefly, independent professional ball.

Tanner, 26, is now an instructor at Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind., and 5 Tool Academy in his hometown of Yorktown, Ind., as well as a coach with the Indiana Nitro travel organization.

Over the years, Tanner has soaked up diamond knowledge from Kevin Long (current Washington National hitting coach), Mike Stafford (former Ball State and Ohio State assistant), Mike Shirley (Chicago White Sox amateur scouting director), Michael Earley (Arizona State hitting coach), Mike Farrell (Kansas City Royals scout), Kyle Rayl (former Muncie, Ind., area instructor) and more.

“I believe in doing things the right way,” says Tanner, who primarily a catcher and designated hitter in the collegiate and pro ranks. “I don’t like kids talking back to the umpire. Treat people with respect.

“If the umpire makes a bad call, learn from it and move on.”

Playing for former head coach Mike Larrabee at Yorktown (Ind.) High School, Tanner learned the value of hustle. 

The coach gave his biggest praise to the power-hitting Tanner the day he hit a routine pop fly that resulted in him standing on second base when the second baseman mishandled the ball because he took off running at impact.

“You’ve got to work hard,” says Tanner, who was head coach of the 16U Nitro Cardinal and assisted by Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate and NCAA Division I Murray State University pitcher Carter Poiry in the spring and summer and is now an assistant to organization founder Tim Burns with the 16U Nitro Gold. “I’m not a fan of people who just show up to play and don’t do anything in-between the weekends.”

Last weekend was the first of the fall season for the Nitro, which will play most events at Grand Park in Westfield, and close out with a Canes Midwest tournament.

Tanner, who was born in Muncie and raised on a 40-acre horse farm in Yorktown, played for the Nitro when he was 18 after several travel ball experiences, including with USAthletic, Pony Express, Brewers Scout Team and Team Indiana (for the Under Armour Futures Game). 

Tanner has witnessed a change in travel ball since he played at that level.

“There are more team readily available,” says Tanner. “It used to be if you played travel ball you were good. Now it’s more or less watered down.

“You’ll see a really good player with kids I don’t feel are at his level.”

While the Indiana Bulls one of the few elite organization with multiple teams per age group, that is more common these days.

Older brother Zach Tanner played for the Bulls and went on to play at National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Lincoln Trail College (Robinson, Ill.), NCAA Division I Wright State University (Dayton, Ohio) and in the American Association with the Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats and the Grays of the Frontier League before coaching at NJCAA Division III Owens Community College (Perrysburg, Ohio) and NAIA Indiana Wesleyan University.

Zeth Tanner began his college baseball career at NCAA Division III Anderson (Ind.) University, redshirting his sophomore season (2015). David Pressley was then the Ravens head coach.

In 2016, Tanner helped Sinclair Community College (Dayton, Ohio) to its first NJCAA Division II World Series berth. The Steve Dintaman-coached Tartan Pride placed third. It’s the furthest Sinclair has gone in the JUCO World Series to date.

Tanner stays in-touch with Dintaman.

“He’s a very good coach and very into the mental game,” says Tanner of Dintaman. “He taught me a lot and has a lot to do with the path that I’m on.”

From Sinclair, Tanner went to NCAA Division II Urbana (Ohio) University and played two seasons (2017 and 2018) for Blue Knights head coach Jake Oester (son of former Cincinnati Reds middle infielder Ron Oester).

“He knows a lot of baseball,” says Tanner of the younger Oester. “He’s a very passionate guy.”

Urbana closed its doors at the end of the 2020 spring semester.

Tanner graduated Magna Cum Laude in Management from Urbana and then signed a professional contract with the Santa Fe (N.M.) Fuego of the independent Pecos League. 

“I really liked it,” says Tanner. “It was 100 degrees almost everyday. But it was a dry heat.

“The ball the flies out of the park like nothing.”

Tanner launched several homers in practice and one in the lone official game that he played.

He was dealt to the White Sands Pupfish (Alamogordo, N.M.). When he was sent to a third Pecos League team — Monterey (Calif.) Amberjacks — he decided it was time to come back to Indiana.

He finished the summer of 2018 playing with his brother on the Portland (Ind.) Rockets and played with that amateur long-established team again in 2019.

Tanner ended up as a Pro X Athlete Development instructor for baseball and softball offering catching, hitting and fielding private training sessions through a Nitro referral and interview with Jay Lehr

Former Muncie Northside High School and University of South Carolina player Mark Taylor is owner of 5 Tool Academy, where Zach Tanner (31) is also an instructor.

Zeth Tanner, a Yorktown (Ind.) High School graduate, swings the bat for Urbana (Ohio) University, where he played baseball and earned a Management degree.
Zeth Tanner swings during 2016 National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Wold Series home run derby. Tanner and Sinclair Community College (Dayton, Ohio) placed third in the tournament.
Zeth Tanner (right) gives catching instruction. Tanner teaches baseball lessons at Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind., and at 5 Tool Academy in Yorktown, Ind.
Zeth Tanner (foreground) teaches a catching lesson. Former Yorktown (Ind.) High School catcher Tanner teaches baseball lessons at Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind., and 5 Tool Academy in Yorktown.
Zeth Tanner is a coach in the Indiana Nitro travel baseball organization. He has been working with 16U teams.
Zeth Tanner, a graduate of Yorktown (Ind.) High School and Urbana (Ohio) University, is a baseball instructor and coach. He gives lessons at Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind., and 5 Tool Academy in Yorktown and coaches with the Indiana Nitro travel organization. He played high school, college and pro baseball.