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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.”
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’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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
A week later, the Yorktown (Ind.) High School graduate lashed a two-run double to aid in the A-Team’s 6-4 triumph against the Snapping Turtles.
How does the righty-swinging third baseman assess his strengths?
“Physically, I can do it all on the field — play defense, run and hit for power,” says Barr. “The average is coming along.
“I have athleticism. I was a middle infielder until last year. I have pretty good range (at third base).”
Barr, a 5-foot-11, 191-pounder, has listened to Hoosiers head coach Jeff Mercer and former assistant Casey Dykes (now a minor league hitting coach in the New York Yankees organization) regarding hitting and done his best to apply it.
“I kist want the ball to spin true,” says Barr. “I don’t want to flare or hook the ball. I look to put myself in a good position to be able to do that.
“If I can spin the ball, I can adjust and do other things.”
Mercer has been on the job since the summer of 2018 and Barr has benefitted.
“He has a lot of information to offer,” says Barr of his head coach. “We are like-minded. We are not afraid to work hard.
“We’re pretty competitive.”
In three seasons at Indiana, Barr played in 97 games (84 starts) and hit .258 (76-of-295) with 19 home runs, 64 runs batted in, 62 runs scored and a .389 on-base percentage.
He decided not to sign and came back to the Hoosiers.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the 2020 season, Barr started all 15 games at third base and was the regular No. 3 batter in the IU lineup. He hit .246 (14-of-57) with two homers, nine RBIs, 12 runs and a .366 OBP in 15 games.
The last game for a 9-6 team was March 11 against Cincinnati in Bloomington.
Barr stayed in shape and kept his baseball skills sharp while also keeping up with his studies during the quarantine. The Finance major and 2020 Academic All-Big Ten Conference honoree is now around 20 credits shy of his degree.
He is looking forward to in-person classes, which is scheduled to begin Aug. 24.
“Online classes — I’m not a huge fan of it,” says Barr. “It’s hard to learn business stuff and work through problems online.
“It’s hard to pay attention. I’d prefer to be in class in-person.”
He was honorable mention all-state in 2015 and 2017 and all-Hoosier Heritage Conference 2015-17. Perfect Game rated him as the No. 2 shortstop and No. 14 overall player in Indiana. For his prep career, he hit .333 with nine homers, 45 RBIs and 51 stolen bases.
Barr was a middle infielder and also pitched as a freshman, sophomore and senior.
“I was probably a better pitcher in high school than a hitter,” says Barr. “I had no real thoughts of pitching in college. Most pitchers aren’t 5-10 now.”
Cole was also a safety and wide receiver for the Yorktown Tigers as a freshmen, junior and senior.
Joe and Cherie Barr have four sons — Cole (22), Alex (20), Reid (17) and Drew (15).
Joe Barr is a plant manager at Magna Powertrain. Cherie Barr is a nurse at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital. Alex Barr is heading into his junior year as a Wabash College wrestler. Reid Barr will be a Yorktown High School senior and wrestler Drew Barr a YHS sophomore in the fall.
Melton was 21 when the corner infielder and outfielder came to Evansville in 1967 and hit nine home runs and drove in 72 runs. He made his Major League Baseball debut with Chicago in 1968 and led the American League in home runs in 1971 with 33.
Herrmann was a 19-year-old catcher in 1966 and was with Chicago briefly in 1967 before coming back to Evansville in 1967 and 1968. He stuck with the parent White Sox in 1969.
Cotton Nash, who had been a basketball All-American at the University of Kentucky and played in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers and San Francisco Warrior and ABA with the Kentucky Colonels, was played with Evansville in 1967, 1968 and 1970, belting 33 homers in the first season of the Triplets.
In a group shot, left-handed pitcher Lester Clinkscales is in the middle of the frame. His son, Sherard Clinkscales, was a standout at Purdue who was selected in the first round of the 1992 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Kansas City Royals and is now athletic director at Indiana State University.
Wirthwein captures roughly the first century of Evansville baseball in a book published March 2, 2020.
Through library files, digitized publications and the resources of the Society for American Baseball Research, he uncovered details about teams and characters going back to the Civil War, which ended in 1865.
Bosse Field, which is now the third-oldest professional baseball park in use (behind Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field) came on the scene in 1915.
Growing up, Wirthwein played youth baseball and then plenty of slow pitch softball.
He graduated from Harrison High School in 1972. He earned a journalism degree at Butler University in Indianapolis in 1976 and took job at The Brownsburg (Ind.) Guide, where he covered everything from sports to the city council and was also a photographer.
After that, he covered trap shooting for Trap & Field Magazine and had a short stint as editor at the Zionsville (Ind.) Times.
Desiring more in his paycheck, Wirthwein went back to Butler and began preparing for his next chapter. He worked toward a Masters of Business Administration (which was completed in 1991) and worked a decade at AT&T and then more than 20 years managing several departments at CNO Financial Group (formerly Conseco) before retiring in June 2019.
“I got lost for 30-plus years,” says Wirthwein, who has returned to his writing roots.
About three years before his last day at CNO he began researching his Evansville baseball book.
“I slowly assembled and had a manuscript shortly before retirement,” says Wirthwein, who is married with four daughters and resides in Fishers, Ind.
When it came time to find someone to produce the book, he found The History Press, a division of Arcadia Publishing that specializes in regional history.
It took a bit of digging to unearth the treasures from the early years. He was amazed that little had been written about the pre-Bosse Field era.
He did find details on teams like Resolutes, Blues, Brewers, Hoosiers and Blackbirds — all of which seemed to have monetary difficulties and scandals swirling around them.
“The whole 1800’s was just a mess,” says Wirthwein. “Teams were coming and going. Financial failures were everywhere.”
Jumping contracts was very commonplace in 19th century baseball. They were often not worth the paper they were written on since a player could get an offer for more money and be on the next train to that city.
To try to combat this, Evansville joined the League Alliance in 1877. It was a group of major and minor league teams assembled to protect player contracts.
It always seemed to be about money.
The 1895 Evansville Blackbirds led the Class B Southern League for much of the season. But, being nearly destitute, the club began throwing games for a sum that Wirthwein discovered to be about $1,500.
The Atlanta Crackers were supposed to be the beneficiary of the blown ballgames, but it was the Nashville Seraphs who won the pennant. Evansville finished in third — 4 1/2 games back.
In 1901, catcher Frank Roth hit 36 home runs for the Evansville River Rats of the Three-I League.
“The Evansville paper thought that to be a world record,” says Wirthwein.
The wooden park on Louisiana, which was built in 1889 near the Evansville stockyards, was in disrepair by 1914 when it collapsed and injured 42 spectators.
Seeing an opportunity, Evansville mayor Benjamin Bosse sprang into action.
“The city had bought this big plot of land,” says Wirthwein. “(Bosse Field) was built in a matter of months.
“He was ready.”
Unusual for its time, Bosse Field was meant to be a multi-purpose facility from the beginning and became home not only to baseball, but football games, wrestling matches and more.
Wirthstein’s book tells the story of Evansville native Sylvester Simon, who played for the St. Louis Browns in 1923 and 1924.
In the fall of 1926, he lost three fingers on his left hand and part of his palm while working in a furniture factory.
He came back to baseball using a customized grip on his bat and with a glove that was repaired using a football protector and played for the Evansville Hubs in 1927 and had pro stops with the Central League’s Fort Wayne (Ind.) Chiefs in 1928 and 1930 and played his last season with the Three-I League’s Quincy (Ill.) Indians in 1932. His bat and glove are at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Hall of Famers Edd Roush (1912-13 Yankees/River Rats), Chuck Klein (1927 Hubs), Hank Greenberg (1931 Hubs) and Warren Spahn (1941 Bees) also spent time in Evansville. Roush is from Oakland City, Ind. Klein hails from Indianapolis.
Huntingburg native Bob Coleman played three seasons in the majors and managed 35 years in the minors, including stints in Evansville.
The Limestone League came to town thanks to travel restrictions during World War II. The Detroit Tigers conducted spring training in Evansville. Indiana also hosted teams in Bloomington (Cincinnati Reds), French Lick (Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox), Lafayette (Cleveland Indians), Muncie (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Terre Haute (White Sox in 1945).
Wirthwein’s research found plenty about barnstorming black baseball teams in the early 1900’s.
In the 1920’s, the Reichert Giants represented Evansville in the Negro Southern League. The Reichert family was fanatic about baseball. Manson Reichert went on to be mayor (1943-48).
“(The Reichert Giants) played semipros when not playing league games,” says Wirthwein. “They lobbied hard to play at Bosse Field when the Class B (Hubs) were out of town, but they kept going turned down.
Games were played at the Louisiana Street park, Eagles Park or at Evansville’s all-black high school, Lincoln.
“They started playing games opposite the Hubs and outdrew them every single time. The Bosse Field people finally acquiesced.”
In the 1950’s, the Evansville Colored Braves were in the Negro Southern League and were rivals of an independent black team, the Evansville Dodgers. Games were played at Bosse Field and Lincoln High.
What about the “Global” disaster?
Evansville-based real estate tycoon Walter Dilbeck Jr. conceived of the Global Baseball League in 1966. It was to be a third major circuit to compete with the American League and National League. There would be teams all over globe, including the Tokyo Dragons from Japan, and the GBL was headquartered in Evansviile.
“It’s a pretty remarkable story,” says Wirthwein. “The guy just wouldn’t give up.”
Happy Chandler, commissioner of baseball in 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, was brought in as GBL commissioner.