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Grateful Gomez shares knowledge at PRP Baseball

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

Anthony Gomez is full of gratitude for a career in baseball.
The Director of Player Development for Pitching at PRP Baseball (Passion Resilience Process) housed at Mojo Up Sports Complex (formerly known as Finch Creek Fieldhouse) in Noblesville, Ind., joined the company in August 2020.
He recently gained more daily operations responsibilities with PRP Baseball Founder and Director Greg Vogt becoming the Rehab Pitching Coach for the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla.
Before coming to PRP Baseball, Gomez spent four years as a coach/instructor at Morris Baseball (now 5 Star Great Lakes) in northwest Indiana, working with Bobby Morris and Dave Sutkowski. In the summers, he coached for Morris Baseball (2017-19) and Chicago-based and Al Oremus-led Prairie Gravel (2020).
“I have thankfulness for Bobby Morris allowing me to work at his facility and the things that he taught me,” says Gomez. “That’s another another part that’s allowed me to be where I today.”
Gomez called his training group of 150-plus players raining from middle school to collegiate to professional levels the Region Jabronis.
“That was 22-year-old me being funny,” says Gomez of the satiric name. “A Jabroni is a term is to describe someone is all talk.
“We don’t want to be all talk. Let’s put in the work. I don’t want to hear you talking about it.
“Results always speak.”
Gomez, who has various certifications including OnBaseU pitching evaluation and Driveline Baseball and studied with Randy Sullivan at Florida Baseball Armory and taken the Brian Cain mental performance class.
“All coaches should be equipped to handle the psychological end,” says Gomez. “They can be mentors to them to handle stresses when they’re treading water.
“Ultimately, we’re trying to help people.”
Gomez, who has read “Old School vs. New School: The Application Of Data & Technology Into Baseball” by Eugene Bleecker is always growing his baseball knowledge. He shares his insight on the biomechanics of throwing, intertwining weight room work to benefit throwers and understanding human movement to help PRP Baseball athletes become more efficient movers on the field.
The man who turns 28 on March 4 is all-in for baseball and the development of players, particularly pitchers. There was a time when Gomez lost his zeal for the diamond.
A left-handed pitcher, Gomez was not planning to play baseball in college and was going to focus his attention on his studies.
Then just as his senior year at Munster (Ind.) High School was ending in 2012, Gomez received an offer from Vincennes (Ind.) University coach Chris Barney and a scholarship to play for the junior college Trailblazers.
Gomez saw a liveliness in Barney.
“He was filled with fire and passion for his coaching,” says Gomez of Barney. “He’s an energetic dude. He was ready to get after it each day. He would hold you accountable. That’s what you want from a coach.”
At Munster, Gomez played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bob Shinkan.
“That guy’s got a huge heart,” says Gomez of Shinkan. “He cares about his players down deep.”
After Gomez finished college, Shinkan allowed him to help coach at his alma mater.
“I have a lot of gratitude for him,” says Gomez of Shinkan. “He allowed me to help on staff and run workouts.
“I thought I’d be an actuary, but he helped put me on my current path.”
Looking back to Vincennes, Gomez was throwing a bullpen during his freshman year when his back lock up on him. It turned out to be a bulging disk and kept him from playing.
“I lost my passion for the game,” says Gomez, who decided to follow his original plan and told Barney he was transferring to Ball State University to be a student only and begin working toward an Actuarial Science degree and Computer Science minor.
Then George Bizoukas — longtime Highland American Legion Post 180 manager — let Gomez know that he was still age-eligible to play for his team that summer.
Gomez, who split his last two high school summers between Post 180 between the Downers Grove, Ill.-based Longshots Baseball, decided to give playing another try.
“George allowed me to have fun with the game,” says Gomez. “Without him I don’t know if I’m in the position I am now.
“It went phenomenal. I decided ‘I’m back.’ I’m going to work as hard as I can the rest of the summer and go to (Ball State) walk-on trials.
After seeing Gomez throw about 10 pitches in the bullpen, Cardinals coach Rich Maloney called the lefty that night letting him know he had made the team.
Gomez redshirted in the spring of 2014 and made one mound appearance in 2015 before being cut.
“Coach Maloney is someone I really respect,” says Gomez. “He’s a straight shooter. I was not meeting the expectations. I could be considered as a waste of a roster spot.
“(Maloney) is a phenomenal culture coach. We had an awesome tight-knit group (as 2014 Mid-American Conference champions). I still keep in-touch with those guys.”
Gomez grew up in northwest Indiana with a talent for baseball. His 15U summer (between freshmen and sophomore year), he played with the 17U Indiana Breakers.
“I made varsity the next year,” says Gomez. “I credit that to playing 17U ball as a freshman.”
In the summer of 2010, Gomez was on the Ed Woolwine-coached 16U Indiana Prospects.
Then came the two summers with the Rob Rooney-coached Longshots and Highland Post 180.
At PRP Baseball, Gomez spends the bulk of his time on the throwing floor. He estimates that there are close to 300 athletes just in the youth and high school groups.
Gomez is also in charge of running a remote service that currently has about 25 players. They send him weekly videos of them throwing, lifting etc., and they talk on Zoom and phone calls.
“It’s all about communication,” says Gomez. “I can’t coach what I can’t see.”
Anthony is the son of Edward Gomez and Karyn Condes and has two sisters and two brothers. His father played soccer at Indiana University. His stepfather is Michael Condes.

Anthony Gomez (PRP Baseball Photo)
Anthony Gomez (PRP Baseball Photo)
Anthony Gomez (PRP Baseball Photo)
Anthony Gomez collects data (PRP Baseball Photo)
Anthony Gomez with players at Mojo Up Sports Complex in Noblesville, Ind. (PRP Baseball Photo)
Anthony Gomez (PRP Baseball Photo)

Fun important part of baseball for Mikolajczyk, Munster Mustangs

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

As part of Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bob Shinkan’s coaching staff at Munster High School, Mike Mikolajczyk saw the importance of keeping the sport fun for players.
“You’ve got to be loose,” says Mikolacjzyk, who enters his 24th year in the program and first as head coach in 2022. Only IHSBCA Hall of Famer Mike Niksic and Shinkan have held that title before Mikolajczyk, who was Mustangs freshmen coach for 20 seasons and varsity assistant for three.
He is a 1989 graduate of Bremen High School in Midlothian, Ill., where he played four years of baseball for Braves coach Tom Johnson and earned all-conference and all-area honors as a junior and senior and was a team captain. He spent a half year with the baseball team at South Suburban College in South Holland, Ill. He later earned a bachelor’s degree in Teaching from Purdue University Calumet and a master’s degree in Arts and Language Arts from Governors State University.
Mikolajczyk (Mick-O-Lie-Check) teaches sixth grade Reading and Language Arts at Wilbur Wright Middle School in Munster.
In 2021, the Mustangs were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with East Chicago Central, Hammond Morton, Highland, Lake Central and Merrillville (host). Munster won its 13th sectional title — the first since 2016.
“We have 11 guys coming back from last year’s team,” says Mikolajczyk. “We will be pretty senior strong.”
The Class of 2022 includes right-hander Brady Ginaven (Indiana State University commit), left-hander Jake Thometz (uncommitted) and right-hander Will Moell (Johns Hopkins University commit) at the top of the mound rotation.
“I’m pretty excited about our top three pitchers,” says Mikolajczyk. “I could put those guys against anybody in northwest Indiana and we’ll be competitive.”
Another key senior is outfielder/first baseman Tyler Lukowski. Juniors drawing D-I attention are outfielder Kozy Denham and outfielder/shortstop Kevin Hall.
Recent graduates moving on to college ball include 2020 graduates in right-hander Costa Sirounis (Indiana University), right-hander Will Melby (Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs) and infielder Ronnie Nowak (Marshalltown, Iowa, Community College). From 2021, there’s right-hander/third baseman and IHSBCA North/South All-Star Bryce Schaum (Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis.), second baseman/catcher Ben Greiner (DePauw University) and middle infielder/outfielder Derrick Wiening (Purdue Northwest).
Munster (enrollment around 1,600) is located in Lake County and a member of the Northwest Crossroads Conference (with Andrean, Highland, Hobart, Kankakee Valley and Lowell).
The Mustangs plan to field three teams — varsity, junior varsity and freshmen — in 2022 — and Mikolajczyk estimates there will be 45 to 50 in the program. The first time Munster had paid assistants was four years ago.
Mikolajczyk’s assistants include Matt Backs, volunteers Brian Boliek and Adam Musielak with the varsity, Mark Dye with the JV and an as-yet-to-be-named freshmen coach.
Backs, who coached one year at Thornton Fractional North High School in Calumet City, Ill., and 27 years as Munster JV coach, will handle infielders and outfielders and coach first base. The Illinois State University graduate is a Project Lead The Way teacher at Wilbur Wright.
Boilek, who enters his fifth year on the staff who has more than two decades experience of coaching travel and American Legion ball, is a bench coach and handles strength and conditioning. He works in banking and finance.
Musielak was head coach for six years at Whiting (Ind.) High School and took the Oilers to the IHSAA Class 2A Final Four in 2019. He has 10 years of coaching experience for baseball, basketball and football. The Indiana University alum teaches Physical Education at Munster.
Dye is a Munster graduate who played at Earlham College In Richmond, Ind., and served a freshmen coach at Portage (Ind.) High School for six years. He teaches Social Studies at Munster. Infielders and catchers will be part of Mikolajczyk’s responsbilities.
Munster had 10 IHSAA Limited Contact Period sessions in September and early October with nearly 60 participants (not involved in fall sports). There were open fields and gyms with activity on Mike Niksic Field (which has a turf infield and grass outfielder), diamonds at Community Park, located next to the school and the home to Munster Little League and Munster Babe Ruth or the turfed football field.
“In fall workouts, we get an idea of who’s really dedicated to you and who’s not,” says Mikolajczyk.
An off-season weight program is baseball-specific and is geared toward flexibility and mobility.
“What we’re trying to emphasize is bigger, faster, stronger,” says Mikolajczyk. “We’re not trying to bulk up. It’s about maintenance and an injury-prevention type of thing.”
For the first time in program history, a 500-pound club (total for bench press, clean and jerk and deadlift) has been established to promote bonding and buy-in. Just before break, all 13 who attempted to qualify for a club made it and got a T-shirt. Qualifying is planned again in January and February.
Mikolajczyk says strength and conditioning training has drawn 30 to 35 participants each time without freshmen.
Little League (T-ball to age 12) and Babe Ruth (13-15) feed players to Munster High School. Several players are in travel ball with Morris Baseball, which is run by alum Bobby Morris.
Hal Morris, Bobby’s brother, is a Munster graduate who made it to the big leagues primarily as a first baseman (1988-2000) and is also in the IHSBCA Hall of Fame. More recently, outfielder Craig Dedelow played at Indiana University (2014-17) and is now in the Chicago White Sox organization.
The Manous brothers — right-hander Connor (Class of 2016) and outfielder Garrett (Class of 2019 — were both on the IU roster in 2021.
An avid golfer, Mikolajczyk is a 7-handicap on the links. He also enjoys hunting. He lives in Frankfort, Ill., with significant other Maribel Soto Piccinini. She has a son named Troy (26).
Tanya Mikolajczyk, who was married to Mike, died of colon cancer in 2019.

Mike Mikolajczyk with 2021 sectional trophy earned by Munster (Ind.) High School.
Mike Mikolajczyk (left) and Maribel Soto Piccinini.

Kouts still prioritizes ‘culture’ with Yager at helm

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

Randy Yager is now in charge of the baseball program at Kouts (Ind.) Middle/High School.
The new head coach says the Mustangs will continue to emphasize “culture” — something they did with Jim Tucker as head coach and Yager an assistant the past five years.
“We want to doing the right thing on and off the field,” says Yager, who was promoted at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. “Growing baseball players into young men, husbands and fathers and employees is more important than the current statistics.
“Their lives mean more to me than winning baseball games.”
Tucker and his wife have moved west. He is coaching junior varsity baseball at Douglas High School in Minden, Nev., and is on the phone multiple times a week with Yager.
The owner of Yager Construction in Kouts and Ace Hardware stores in Kouts and Hebron and the chairman of deacons at First Baptist Church of Kouts, Yager was born in Valparaiso, Ind., spent most of the first 20 years of his life in Florida then moved back to northwest Indiana.
He is a 1986 graduate of Ambassador Christian Academy in Fort Lauderdale, where he played baseball for four years.
At Kouts, Yager has also served as an assistant boys basketball coach for five years. His baseball assistants are Doug Murray, who was on Tucker’s staff for thee years, and son Hunter Yager (21). The latter holds the school record for baseball games played.
Randy and wife Traci have three children. Oldest Lauren (Yager) Kemp is 23 and the head softball coach at Kouts, her alma mater. Eric Yager (17) is a Kouts junior.
The Mustangs play on Keith Nuest Field, an on-campus facility named for the alum and longtime scorekeeper.
Randy Yager was a middle school coach this fall and there was no IHSAA Limited Contact Period baseball activity with so many fall athletes at Kouts (high school enrollment around 270).
The Mustangs are members of the Porter County Conference (with
Boone Grove, Hebron, LaCrosse, Morgan Township, South Central of Union Mills, Washington Township and Westville).
In 2021, Kouts was part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with 21st Century Charter, Covenant Christian (DeMotte), Hammond Academy of Science & Technology, Marquette Catholic, Morgan Township, Washington Township and Westville. The Mustangs have won five sectional titles — the last in 2011.

Randy Yager with Hunter Yager and Lauren (Yager) Kemp.

Semistates to determine IHSAA State Finals participants

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

Today (June 12) four semistates will be staged at LaPorte, Kokomo, Mooresville and Jasper to determine the teams competing int he 2021 IHSAA State Finals June 21-22 at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
Here is a capsulized look at Final Four teams in Class 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A:

IHSAA SEMISTATES
Saturday, June 12
LaPorte
(Schreiber Field)
Class 1A
Washington Township (25-7) vs. Cowan (15-13), noon East Time/11 a.m. Central Time
Class 3A
Hanover Central (28-3-1) vs. Norwell (20-9), 4 p.m. ET/3 p.m. CT

Kokomo
(Municipal Stadium)

Class 2A
Eastside (22-5) vs. Delphi (26-6), 1 p.m. ET/noon CT
Class 4A
Munster (22-11) vs. Fishers (22-12), 3:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. CT

South
Mooresville

Class 1A
Shakamak (16-7) vs. Borden (22-6-1), 1 p.m. ET/noon CT
Class 2A
University (23-9) vs. Providence (20-6), 3 p.m. ET/2 p.m. CT

Jasper
(Ruxer Field)

Class 3A
Brebeuf Jesuit (20-11) vs. Southridge (24-7), noon ET/11 a.m. CT
Class 4A
Mt. Vernon (Fortville) (26-6) vs. Jasper (29-2), 4 p.m. ET/3 p.m. CT

Team By Team
Washington Township Senators
— Head Coach Randy Roberts.
1A Washington Township Sectional — Kouts 7-1, Westville 4-1, Morgan Township 4-1.
1A South Bend Regional — South Central (Union Mills) 6-3, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian 10-1.
Sectional titles (10) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (5) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Semistate titles (1) — 2019. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2019 (Randy Roberts).

Cowan Blackhawks — Head Coach Aaron Wells.
1A Liberty Christian Sectional — Wes-Del 5-1, Daleville 4-3.
1A Carroll (Flora) Regional — Union City 3-0, Riverton Parke 9-3.
Sectional titles (7) — last one before 2021 — 2010. Regional titles (4) — last one before 2021 — 2008. Semistate titles (1) — 2008. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2008 (Camden Parkhurst).

Hanover Central Wildcats — Head Coach Ryan Bridges.
3A Kankakee Valley Sectional — Kankakee Valley 9-1, Culver Academies 10-0, John Glenn 8-4.
3A Griffith Regional — South Bend St. Joseph 6-1, Northwestern 18-1.
Sectional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2011. Regional tittles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2011. Semistate titles (1) — 2011. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2011 (Doug Nelson).

Norwell Knights — Head Coach Dave Goodmiller.
3A Bellmont Sectional — Marion 10-0, Mississinewa 13-2, Oak Hills 15-10.
3A Bellmont Regional — Wawasee 7-2, Leo 5-3.
Sectional titles (17) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (7) — last one before 2021 — 2013. Semistate titles (3) — 2006, 2007, 2013. State titles (3) — 2003 (Kelby Weybright), 2007 (Kelby Weybright), 2013 (Andy McClain).

Eastside Blazers — Head Coach Aaron Willard.
2A Eastside Sectional — Adams Central 3-1, Bluffton 16-1.
2A Whiting Regional — Wheeler 7-1, Central Noble 18-3.
Sectional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Regional titles (1) — 2021. Semistate titles (0). State titles (0).

Delphi Oracles — Head Coach Ryan Long.
2A Delphi Sectional — Fountain Central 14-2, Seeger 7-3.
2A Lafayette Central Catholic Regional — Rochester 12-5, Wapahani 7-2.
Sectional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2010. Semistate titles (1) — 2010. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — Delphi (Pat Lowrey).

Munster Mustangs — Head Coach Bob Shinkan (Indiana Baseball HOF inductee).
4A Merrillville Sectional — Highland 11-2, Merrillville 9-0, Lake Central 2-1.
4A LaPorte Regional — Valparaiso 6-3, South Bend Adams 9-2.
Sectional titles (13) — last one before 2021 — 2016. Regional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2010. Semistate titles (0). State titles (1) — 2002 (Bob Shinkan).

Fishers Tigers — Head Coach Matt Cherry.
4A Westfield Sectional — Hamilton Southeastern 7-1, Carmel 1-0, Noblesville 4-0.
4A Kokomo Regional — Homestead 8-4, Harrison (West Lafayette) 7-5.
Sectional titles (3) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Regional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Semistate titles (1) — 2018. State titles (1) — 2018 (Matt Cherry).

Shakamak Lakers – Head Coach Jeremy Yeryar.
1A White River Valley Sectional — White River Valley 14-0, Clay City 10-0, Bloomfield 4-1.
1A Morristown Regional — Southwestern (Shelbyville) 10-1, Oldenburg Academy 13-0.
Sectional titles (26) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (12) — last one before 2021 — 2015. Semistate titles (7) — 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015. State titles (2) — 2008 (Matt Fougerousse), 2014 (Chip Sweet). State runner-up (5) — 2004 (Chip Sweet), 2006 (Matt Fougerousse), 2007 (Matt Fougerousse), 2012 (Chip Sweet), 2015 (Todd Gambill).

Borden Braves — Head Coach Eric Stotts.
1A South Central (Elizabeth) Sectional — Lanesville 18-1, Orleans 3-0.
1A Lanesville Regional — West Washington 17-2, Loogootee 5-2.
Sectional titles (5) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Regional titles (1) — 2021. Semistate titles (0). State titles (0).

University Trailblazers — Head Coach Chris Estep (1 state title).
2A Cascade Sectional — Covenant Christian 7-3, Cascade 8-2.
2A Cascade Regional — Centerville 12-5, Parke Heritage 8-2.
Sectional titles (5) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (3) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Semistate titles (2) — 2018, 2019. State titles (1) — 2019 (Chris Estep). State runner-up (1) — 2018 (Chris Estep.

Providence Pioneers — Head Coach Scott Hutchins.
2A Eastern (Pekin) Sectional — Henryville 10-4, Eastern (Pekin) 11-0, Austin 10-0.
2A Evansville Mater Dei Regional — South Ripley 5-3, North Posey 8-6.
Sectional titles (19) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (7) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Semistate titles (1) — 2016. State titles (1) — 2016 (Scott Hornung).

Brebeuf Jesuit Braves — Head Coach Jeff Scott.
3A Brebeuf Sectional — Danville 5-0, Tri-West Hendricks 15-1.
3A Danville Regional — Indianapolis Bishop Chatard 10-0, Northview 17-2.
Sectional titles (15) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (4) — last one before 2021 — 2012. Semistate titles (1) — 2012. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2012 (Andy McClain).

Southridge Raiders — Head Coach Gene Mattingly.
3A Southridge Sectional — Pike Central 10-0, Washington 1-0.
3A Southridge Regional — Silver Creek 2-1, Evansville Memorial 7-2.
Sectional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (3) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Semistate titles (2) — 2018, 2019. State titles (0). State runner-up (2) — 2018 (Gene Mattingly), 2019 (Gene Mattingly).

Mt. Vernon Marauders — Head Coach Brad King.
4A Pendleton Heights Sectional — Muncie Central 19-0, Pendleton Heights 8-0.
4A Mt. Vernon Regional — Franklin Central 6-2, Indianapolis Cathedral 6-3.
Sectional titles (8) — last one before 2021 — 2011. Regional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 1971. Semistate titles (0). State titles (0).

Jasper Wildcats — Head Coach Terry Gobert (Indiana Baseball HOF inductee; 5 state titles).
4A Evansville Reitz Sectional — Castle 6-1, Evansville North 5-4, Evansville Central 10-0.
4A Jasper Regional — Floyd Central 2-1, Center Grove 7-4.
Sectional titles (39) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (26) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Semistate titles (14) — 1967, 1968, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2006, 2010, 2013, 2015, 2017. State titles (5) — 1996 (Terry Gobert), 1997 (Terry Gobert), 1998 (Terry Gobert), 2000 (Terry Gobert), 2006 (Terry Gobert). State runner-up (4) — 2010, 2013, 2015, 2017.

Nuest statistical attachment to Kouts baseball spans half century

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Andy Pafko and Hank Sauer were stars in the Chicago Cubs outfield, South Bend’s Bob Rush was the top pitcher, Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch was the manager and Bert Wilson was the radio play-by-play voice for the North Siders when Keith Nuest started keeping score for baseball games in 1950.

Nuest was 7 and living in Kouts, Ind., which is 12 miles south of Valparaiso in Porter County.

More than seven decades later, the 78-year-old Nuest has scored and tabulated numerous sporting events for the Kouts Middle/High School Mustangs.

This winter was his 53rd season of keeping the book for boys basketball (he has not missed a game in that span and tracked the digits for the IHSAA Class 1A state runners-up in 2020-21) and the 43rd for girls basketball. He compiles stats for basketball, baseball, softball and track and field.

Much of what Earl Mishler has on his high school baseball website — ETPearl.com — came from Nuest.

His interest in the sport and numbers once had Nuest scoring Chicago Bulls and Indiana University games on the radio. 

The 2020 season would have marked his 50th as statistician for Kouts baseball. But he doesn’t count that one since the COVID-19 pandemic took the season, making 2021 the half-century mark for that job.

But it’s not really a job. Nuest has never taken any pay for scoring or coaching baseball and minimal for basketball over the years.

It’s about helping the community and being close to things he enjoys.

“I’ve always had a love of numbers,” says Nuest, a 1961 Kouts graduate who went on to work 39 years in the financial department at Midwest Steel in Portage, retiring at 60. “Math always came easy to me.”

About five years ago, Nuest completed a 40-year run of coaching Kouts in high school summer ball. He ran the area league — which at various times included teams from Culver, Kankakee Valley, Knox, Renselaer Central, Wheeler, Valparaiso and beyond —  for about 25 years, scheduling all the games.

“I always tried to make it fun for the kids,” says Nuest. “Just being around the kids was enjoyable for me. I watched them grow and improve as individuals.”

In the spring, he has worked under 11 head coaches. Don Spoerner was the first. Jim Tucker is now in charge of the Kouts baseball program.

“I really love the game of baseball,” says Nuest. “I love the strategy that goes into it. Anything can happen on any given pitch. 

“People think bas ball is boring and slow. But you never know what’s around the corner.”

As a scorekeeper, Nuest came up with a way of doing it and stayed with it.

What makes it unique?

“I don’t know that there’s any specific thing, but you should be able to read it like a book,” says Nuest. “You should be able to tell  batting average and earned run averages of your team and your opponents.

“It all flows together. It you leave something out it’s like you left out a page.”

This spring, Kouts named its baseball diamond in honor of their longtime contributor.

“It’s a wonderful community,” says Nuest. “I was never a teacher at the school and never an official coach.

“It was kind of an overwhelming honor at the time. I’ve donated hours and hours of work. But I certainly never expected anything like this.”

Nuest was born in Valparaiso and except for a few years in Lake Village when he was in school and two years in Valparaiso when he married second wife Lana, he has resided in Kouts.

Keith and Lana were married 46 years and had a blended family of five. Lana Jeanne (Lawrence) Nuest died Aug. 6, 2020 at 77.

The 2021 Kouts Mustangs head into play today (May 10) at Keith Nuest Field against Covenant Christian (DeMotte) at 11-7. Kouts is in the 1A Washington Township Sectional.

The Kouts (Ind.) Mustangs baseball team plays at Keith Nuest Field. (Steve Krah Photo)
Keith Nuest in a familiar place — the baseball dugout for Kouts (Ind.) Middle/High School. He counts the 2021 season as his 50th as scorekeeper for the Mustangs. The 1961 Kouts graduate coached summer teams for 25 years. (Steve Krah Photo)

Acton, Fountain Central Mustangs prepping for 2021

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Pitching is the priority as Adam Acton gets his baseball team ready for the 2021 baseball season.

Heading into his fourth campaign as head coach at Fountain Central Junior/Senior High School in Veedersburg, Ind., Acton wants to get his hurlers on the mound twice a week during this time of year with many throwing 20 to 25 pitches.

There’s also flat ground work, strength training, running and band work.

“We try to mix it up and not make it mundane,” says Acton, who has been leading a small group through January workouts while other baseball players are in winter sports. “The pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days) needed to happen. Some coaches were killing the kids

“It forces teams to have a deeper pitching rotation.”

Other items of importance for Acton’s Mustangs are aggressiveness and alertness on the bases, making the routine fielding play and being smart in the batter’s box.

Fountain Central (enrollment around 300) is a member of the Wabash River Conference (with Attica, Covington, North Vermillion, Parke Heritage, Riverton Parke, Seeger and South Vermillion).

WRC teams play each other twice — home and away — in the same week.

The Mustangs are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Clinton Prairie, Delphi, Lafayette Central Catholic, Seeger and Western Boone. Fountain Central has won 10  sectional titles — the last in 2009.

Acton was an assistant to Rick Cosgray at Lebanon (Ind.) High School for two years prior to spending four as head coach at Southmont High School in Crawfordsville, Ind. (2005-08). He’s also coached in the youth leagues.

Adam and wife Alison Acton have been married 19 years and have four sons — Owen (15), Nolan (13), Garrett (10) and Caleb (8). Freshman Owen Acton and seventh grader Nolan Acton play football, basketball and baseball. Third grader Garrett Acton participates in archery, football and baseball. Second grader Caleb Acton plays baseball. Adam Acton was on the archery team at Purdue University.

Acton is a 1992 Lebanon graduate, where he played for Tigers head coach Keith Campbell.

After a year playing at Milligan College in Johnson City, Tenn., for Doug Jennett (who also head coach at Benton Central High School in Oxford, Ind.), Acton transferred to Purdue as a student. He then headed in the work force.

This is his third year as a Construction/Building Trades teacher at Fountain Central. 

Acton’s coaching staff for 2021 includes Ryan Hall (head football coach) and Tim Garbison (former FC head baseball coach). There are others who help on an intermittent basis.

Fountain Central’s home field is on-campus. The diamond was re-done about five years ago and re-graded in the last year. There is need for upgrading in the bullpens.

“It’s a pretty nice facility,” says Acton.

As a feeder system, the Mustangs have Fountain Central Summer League in Veedersburg that serves ages 4 to 12. 

A junior high team for grades 7 and 8 (and sometimes 6) normally carries 12 or 13 players. Some players are affiliated with travel ball organizations.

There are no recent FC graduates playing college baseball and no current commitments though Acton expects some in the coming years.

“We’ve got some talent in those two younger grades,” says Acton. “We’re going to be relying on them quite a bit (in 2021).”

The Acton family — on a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming — are (from left): First row — Garrett, Caleb and Nolan Acton; Second row — Owen, Alison and Adam. Adam Acton is the head baseball coach and a  Construction/Building Trades teacher at Fountain Central Junior/Senior High School in Veedersburg, Ind. 

Purdue Fort Wayne right-hander Madura experiences growth

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

It was not the way he would have scripted it, but Mike Madura saw positive gains when the COVID-19 pandemic halted the 2020 baseball season at Purdue Fort Wayne and sent him home to Munster, Ind.

Unable to get to a gym, right-handed pitcher Madura worked at home and added strength and weight to his 6-foot-6 frame. He now tips the scales at about 205.

While coronavirus did not make an internship with the Northwest Indiana Oilmen practical for the “Passport to Success” points required by Purdue Fort Wayne for his Business Economics and Public Policy major, Madura was able to pitch for the Midwest Collegiate League team for the second straight summer. 

On Sunday, Aug. 16, he threw eight shutout innings of two-hit baseball with eight strikeouts and two walks as the Oilmen beat the DuPage County Hounds in Game 2 of the MCL championship series. It was a must-win situation since DuPage had taken Game 1.

“It was awesome that atmosphere at Oil City Stadium (in Whiting),” says Madura of his 99-pitch outing. “I trusted my preparation.

“I had playoff experience. I pitched in Game of the semifinals (in 2019) and that definitely helped.”

Madura pushed his two-year mark with the Oilmen to 10-0. He was a starter and part-time reliever in 2019 and was strictly used as a starter in 2020 with Chris Cunningham as manager and Matt Pobereyko as pitching coach. 

Playing summer ball so close to home allowed Madura to continue working on his physical gains while also taking two summer courses. He is on pace to graduate from PFW in the spring. He plans to go to Fort Wayne this weekend and classes — some in-person and some online — are to begin Monday, Aug. 24.

The spring of 2020 marked Madura’s first with the NCAA Division I Mastodons. He made four mound appearances (all in relief) and went 0-0 with a 4.60 earned run average, 10 strikeouts and five walks and 15 2/3 innings.

It was the first season at Purdue Fort Wayne for head coach Doug Schreiber and pitching coach Brent McNeil.

“It’s awesome,” says Madura of playing for Schreiber, whose resume includes 18 years as head coach at Purdue in West Lafayette. “He’s got a lot of experience in Division I baseball.”

McNeil leads a pitcher development program that allows hurlers to work based on what their body is telling them.

“Listening to your arm, he really preaches that,” says Madura of McNeil. “Something I like about our program is recovery and sprint work.”

The Dons use Jaeger Sports J-bands, Driveline PlyoCare Balls and also sprint up to 60 yards to help with recovery and conditioning.

“It helps keep your legs in shape,” says Madura. “It helps with recovery by getting the whole body going.

“We don’t run long distance at all. We’re trying to be more explosive.”

This summer, Madura regularly threw his fastball (he has a four-seamer and two-seamer) at 87 to 89 mph and touched 90 a few times. Using a high three-quarter arm slot, he also employs a “circle” change-up and tosses a slider. 

“It has more of a slurve action on it,” says Madura. “It’s a two-plane break. 

“It depends on what I’m trying to do in that at-bat — get it over for a strike or, if I’m trying to put a guy away, I’ll throw it harder.”

Born with two webbed fingers on his left hand, Madura had surgery at about 2. His parents — Mike and Sherrie — bought him baseball gloves for a righty or a lefty and he ended up using the former though he does many everyday tasks with his left hand.

Madura was born and raised in Munster. He played his earliest organized baseball at the Hammond YMCA. From 7 to 9, he played both at Munster Little League and for the traveling Schererville-based Pro Style Rockers. Then came a few summers with the Sports Works Stars. That team was coached by his father — also known as Mike. 

The student-athlete who turns 22 in October is the sixth in a line possessing that name. When he was younger, it was easier to keep him and his father straight by referring to Big Mike and Little Mike. But the younger Madura — sometimes known as Michael — was 6-3 entering high school, 6-5 leaving it and grew an inch since going into college.

Is being tall an advantage?

Madura sees it as one.

“I have a lot more leverage on my pitches,” says Madura. “There’s a downward angle.

“It makes it that much harder on a hitter.”

Michael Madura was with the Northwest Indiana Hurricanes (father Mike as an assistant coach) at 12U and 13U.

Madura closed out his high school summers with the Hammond/Indiana Chiefs, playing for head coach Todd Iwema at 14U and 15U and organization founder Dave Sutkowski at 16U and 17U.

Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer/geometry teacher Bob Shinkan coached Madura with the Munster High School Mustangs and also had him as class aide.

“Coach Shinkan’s an awesome guy,” says Madura, who admired his ability to have fun while also getting his point across when it was time to get serious.

Madura played for the Chicago Suburban Baseball League’s Hammond Lakers (with Anthony Spangler as general manager) in the summers at Hammond’s Riverside Park before and after his freshman year at Central Michigan University. 

He redshirted there at CMU in 2018, transferred to South Suburban College in South Holland, Ill., and pitched in 2019 while completing his associate degree in Business Administration at the junior college. On the mound, he logged 42 innings in nine appearances (eight starts) and went 0-5 with a 4.29 ERA, 18 strikeouts and eight walks for the Steve Ruzich-coached Bulldogs.

Michael Madura is one of IT project manager Mike and nurse Sherrie Madura’s four athletic children. Tiffany (27) played volleyball at Olivet Nazarene University. Trisha (25) was a at Davenport University. Michael also played basketball until his sophomore year in high school. Kylie (14) is a volleyball and softball player at Munster High.

Mike Madura, a 2017 Munster (Ind.) High School graduate, is a 6-foot-6, 205-pound right-handed pitcher at Purdue Fort Wayne. He is 10-0 over the past two summers with the Midwest Collegiate League’s Northwest Indiana Oilmen. (Purdue Fort Wayne Photo)

Competitive drive fuels Indiana right-hander Manous

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Connor Manous has experienced gains during his three baseball seasons at Indiana University.

Manous, a right-handed pitcher, graduated from Munster (Ind.) High School in 2016 at 165 pounds.

“I was pretty skinny,” says Manous, who Manous earned four baseball letters and three monograms in basketball with the Mustangs. 

Through weightlifting, proper eating and maturity, the 6-footer now weighs 195.

Playing for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bob Shinkan, he struck out 106 batters in 64 1/3 innings and threw five complete games with a 0.76 earned run average as a Munster senior in 2016. He was Post-Tribune Player of the Year as a senior and a three-time all-Northwest Crossroads Conference selection. 

As a junior, Manous went 6-1 with an 1.56 ERA and 57 strikeouts. His sophomore season for the Mustangs produced a 7-1 mark, 0.48 ERA and 54 strikeouts.

“He was a real good mentor,” says Manous of Shinkan. “He was a good person I was able to talk to if I ever needed anything.

“You’re always able to have fun when you’re playing with him.”

Mike Hackett was head basketball coach during Manous’ Munster career.

Manous spent June to December of 2016 at the University of Miami (Fla.), transferred to IU and sat out the 2017 season.

At the start of his collegiate career, Manous threw a fastball that sat around 88 to 91 mph and occasionally hit 92 or 93.

Since Justin Parker joined the Hoosiers staff as pitching coach, he has helped make adjustments that has the righty sitting at 90 to 93. In 2019, he lit up the radar at 96.

“I’ve learned so much about pitching from him,” says Manous of Parker, who was brought in when Jeff Mercer was hired as head coach in the summer of 2018, making 2019 their first campaign in Bloomington. “He’s changed a lot of my career. He’s made me advance a lot more than I ever before.

“My velo jumped when he got to school. My curve ball got better. Growing up and maturing as a person — he helped with that, too.”

In three seasons on the mound for Indiana, Manous has made 40 appearances (three starts) with a 2-3 record, two saves, a 2.81 earned run average, 49 strikeouts and 20 walks in 67 2/3 innings. 

In the COVID 19-shortened 2020 season, the righty relieved in six of IU’s 15 games and was 0-0 with an 0.00 ERA. In eight innings, he fanned 12 and walked three.

What’s it like playing for a Mercer-coached team?

“It’s a lot of hard work and trust in the process,” says Manous. “Each day you’ve got to get better.

“You see results six months, a year later — as a lot of us have seen.”

During quarantine, Business major Manous tended to his online studies and worked out at the house then started training at Thrive Sport and Fitness Solutions — a facility co-owned by Mark Banter, Gloria Banter and Jesse Wilkening in Cedar Lake, Ind.

It was through Parker’s connections to Macon (Ga.) Bacon head coach Jimmy Turk that Manous landed with the Coastal Plain League team this summer. After logging a few innings with the Tropics in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., the hurler reported to Macon June 25.

In six relief appearances, Manous is 0-0 with one save, an 0.00 ERA, 13 strikeouts and four walks in 8 2/3 innings. A recent four-seam was clocked at 94 mph and he’s had a spin rate as high as 2,450. Throwing from a high arm slot, he also uses a 12-to-6 curveball and a “circle” change-up.

Like he’s done the past two seasons at Indiana, Manous has been working at the back of the bullpen.

His mindset — no matter where he gets into the game — is the same.

“Just be yourself and compete,” says Manous. “You don’t want to give up a run. That’s how I am in the first or the ninth inning. I don’t really change.

“You’ve got to be composed. The ball is going to be taken deep if you don’t execute your pitches.”

Manous, 22, cites his drive as his top athletic strength.

“I hate to lose in anything,” says Manous. “I’m always super competitive, It’s how I grew up.

“I hated losing to my dad or brother.”

Perry Manous is a computer software developer. Outfielder Garrett Manous (20) just completed his freshmen season at Indiana and plays for the Tropics in the Grand Park league this summer. Kelly Manous, wife of Perry and mother of the two boys, is a personal trainer.

Connor became the fourth Indiana pitcher on the Macon team, joining Ty Bothwell, Matt Litwicki and Braden Scott

Left-hander Bothwell (a Boone Grove High School graduate) is among the CPL’s strikeout leaders with 21 in 14 1/3 innings. Right-hander Litwicki (Lake Central) has whiffed 10 in seven innings. Southpaw Scott (Shakamak) has fanned 15 in 9 1/3 innings. The Bacon pitching coach is Josh Teichroew.

Manous did not play baseball last summer, but stayed at IU and worked to get stronger. In 2018, he played for the Cape Cod League’s Brewster Whitecaps with Jamie Shevchik as head coach and Scott Landers as pitching coach. The summer of 2017 was spent with the Northwoods League’s Kalamazoo (Mich.) Growlers with Cody Piechocki as head coach.

Born in Dyer, Ind., Manous played his first organized baseball at Munster Little League. He went on to play for many travel ball teams, including the Indiana Playmakers and, during three high school summers, Prairie Gravel. His manager was Sam Sorce. Al Oremus is the organization’s founder.

Connor Manous, a 2016 graduate of Munster (Ind.) High School, has pitched three baseball seasons (2018-20) at Indiana University, is this summer is with the Macon (Ga.) Bacon of the Coastal Plain League. (Indiana University Photos)
Connor Manous, a Munster (Ind.) High School graduate, has pitched three baseball seasons at Indiana University and this summer is with the Coastal Plains League’s Macon (Ga.) Bacon. (Indiana University Photo)

Allowed to return to practice, gratitude is the attitude for Morris Baseball

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

With the lifting of some COVID-19 restrictions, players at Morris Baseball in northwest Indiana can finally practice again and founder/president Bobby Morris couldn’t be happier.

“It’s as much fun as I’ve had on a baseball field in ages,” says Morris of a workout earlier this week. “The big reason is quarantine and the chaos going on around us.

“I feel a sense of gratitude. Our players feel a sense of gratitude — more so than in January or February.”

Morris says he hopes his organization with around 200 clients, including Chiefs travel teams, will help bring a sense of community and unity as the 2020 season moves forward.

“if we can spread a little positivity and a little gratitude, I’m all for it,” says Morris, who started his training business in 2011 and merged five years ago with the Hammond Chiefs, which mark their 30th season this year.

The first clients Morris had were 9-year-olds.

“Those kids are just now graduating and going on to play college baseball,” says Morris.

A relationship began when Brian Jennings brought Morris together with Chiefs founder Dave Sutkowski.

“It’s mutually a good fit together,” says Morris. “Dave has been pleasure to work with. We got some Chiefs coaches when we merged. They’ve been great mentors with our kids.”

The Morris Baseball mission statement: To recruit excellent talent and provide them with disciplined, well-organized, focused practices with superior instruction and place them in highly competitive opportunities to achieve principle-based success.

“If we produce great players, everything will take care of itself,” says Morris. “We make sure we have great practice facilities and plenty of practice time. 

“We try to produce well-rounded baseball players. I think we’re doing a pretty good job of it.”

Until recently, Morris Baseball and the Chiefs were housed at Franciscan Physician Network Schererville Family Health Center (formerly Omni Health & Fitness).

The organization just moved to a training facility at 1075 Breuckman Drive in Crown Point. Morris says the name for the new place will be revealed soon.

The new centrally-located home includes plenty of workout space plus classrooms, player’s lounge, kitchen and coach’s offices.

“For our kids it will be great,” says Morris. “We have internet at player desks. They can hang out there all day if they want.

“We prefer that they study and take batting practice.”

The Morris Chiefs tend to play many local games at the Crown Point Sportsplex, Central Park in Dyer, Ind., and Ho Chunk Baseball Tournaments in Lynwood, Ill.

“Our kids play a lot ,” says Morris. “We do a lot of practicing during the off-season. We play a lot during the season.

“One of our strengths is we keep our kids active throughout the year.”

This summer, the Chiefs’ 15 current teams (with manager): 2021 (Chip Pettit), 17U (Alex Triantafillo), 2022 (Bobby Morris), 16U (Trevor Howard), 15U (Andrew Lowe), 15U (Lee Turnbough), 14U (Shawn Donovan), 13U (Trevor Howard), 13U (Corderro Torres), 12U (Michael Scharnke), 12U (Alex Triantafillo), 11U (James Stovall), 10U (Derek Woerpel), 9U (Bobby Morris) and 8U (Bryan Lopez). 

Sutkowski and Mike Curiel assist Pettit with the 2021 squad. Pettit, who is superintendent of Duneland School Corp., was the first Indiana Mr. Baseball in 1992.

“It’s an extremely gifted group,” says Morris of the 2021 team. “(Pettit and Sutkowski) are two phenomenal sports minds.”

Assistants for Morris with the 2022 Chiefs are Morris Baseball general manager Mike Small plus Tim Horneman.

Bobby’s youngest son, Gavin (10), plays for the 9U Chiefs. Bobby also helps coach the 8U team.

Nick Amatulli has more than 40 years of coaching experience and helps with both of Trevor Howard’s squads. 

Some other Chiefs coaches are John Adams, Tom Blair, Brad Fedak, Brian Fernandez, Trent Howard, Dale Meyer, Kevin Peller, Brad Rohde, Kenny Siegal and Eric Spain.

“We don’t differentiate ‘A’ team and ‘B’ team,” says Morris. “It’s more geared toward the name of the coach. We don’t want the potential for the stigma there. It also incentivizes our coaches to play the game hard and represent themselves well.

“We want Chiefs teams to play hard and be smart players. Any given day, anyone can beat anyone.”

Three Chiefs alums are currently playing pro baseball — third baseman Mike Brosseau (Tampa Bay Rays) and left-handed pitcher Sean Manaea (Oakland Athletics) in the majors and second baseman Nick Podkul (Toronto Blue Jays) in the minors.

Other players who were selected or played in pro baseball (affiliated and/or independent) include right-hander Matt Pobereyko (Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Mets), infielder/outfielder Ryan Dineen (Houston Astros), left-hander Trent Howard (Baltimore Orioles), right-hander Dan Faulkner (drafted by Philadelphia Philies), left-hander Blake Mascarello (Phillies), left-hander Andy Loomis (Florida Marlins, Phillies, Orioles), outfielder Ryan Basham (drafted by the Blue Jays), right-hander Cesar Carrillo (San Diego Padres), right-hander Mike Ryan (Atlanta Braves), outfielder Mike Coles (Orioles), left-hander Jon Nourie (Padres), first baseman Matt Mamula (New York Yankees) and right-hander Neal Frendling (Rays).

Morris is a 1990 graduate of Munster (Ind.) High School where he played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bob Shinkan.

“Bob is an extremely decent man,” says Morris of Shinkan. “He has such a genuine, caring nature.”

Shinkan can also be strict and he expects his players to be disciplined.

“I had a great experience there with Bob,” says Morris. 

After high school, lefty-swinging infielder Morris spent three seasons at the University of Iowa playing for long-time Hawkeyes head coach Duane Banks.

“Duane was just a smart baseball guy,” says Morris. “At Iowa, they really believed in self starters. They threw you out there and expected you to compete for a position.

“That culture helped me a lot in professional baseball.”

Morris was selected as a third baseman in the ninth round of the 1993 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago Cubs and played nine minor league seasons (1993-2001), logging 636 games and hitting .290 with 36 home runs and 326 RBIs. He reached Double-A in the Cubs, Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds systems. By hitting .354 with seven homers and 64 RBIs, he was chosen as MVP of the 1994 Peoria (Ill.) Chiefs of the Low Class-A Midwest League. That team was managed by Steve Roadcap

Morris also played for teams managed by Steve Kolinsky, Dave Trembley and Bruce Kimm while with the Cubs, Joel Skinner, Jeff Datz and Max Oliveras with the Indians, Bobby Jones with the Rangers and Mike Rojas and Phillip Wellman with the Reds.

Men that stick out for Morris in his development include Trembley, Jimmy Piersall, Sandy Alomar Sr. and Joe Tanner.

While Trembley never played pro baseball, he managed (Orioles) and coached (Houston Astros) in the big leagues.

“Dave had a great habit for excellence,” says Morris, who won a High Class-A Florida State League championship with Trembley on the 1995 Daytona Cubs. “He expected a lot out of himself and a lot out of us and how we carried ourselves.”

Morris, who turns 48 in November, grew watching Piersall and Harry Caray call Chicago White Sox games on TV. When he learned Morris was from Chicagoland, Piersall became close to Morris as a minor league hitting/outfield coach.

“Jimmy took on a second grandfather role for me,” says Morris.

It was in the Cubs organization that Morris encountered Alomar.

“He’s as smart a baseball person as I’ve ever met,” says Morris. “He’s an absolute genius.”

Tanner was Morris’ first full-season hitting instructor and the inventor of Tanner Tees — a product used by Bobby and brother Hal Morris (a left-handed first baseman/outfielder who played 14 seasons in the big leagues).

“Joe was a was a renaissance man for baseball,” says Bobby Morris. “I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great influences.”

His earliest diamond influences came from brother Hal.

Hal is seven years older than Bobby. 

“We were constantly competing with one another,” says Bobby. “I was challenged a lot. We were always very close. As I matured and got into high school, Hal brought back stuff from his (college and pro) coaches and we worked on it. 

“That helped in fine-tuning my ability to hit at an early age.”

As youngsters, the brothers spent hours taking batting practice with father Bill pitching and mother Margaret chasing baseballs.

Bill Morris was a four-year baseball letterman Davidson (N.C.) College, went to medical school, did his residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, entered the U.S. Army and was at Fort Rucker in Alabama when daughter Beth (who went on to be a state swim champion at Munster High) and son Hal (who shined in baseball for the Mustangs) were born.

The family later came to northwest Indiana, where Bill was a pediatrician working at the Hammond Clinic, St. Margaret’s Hospital in Hammond and Community Hospital in Munster. He died at 82 in 2017.

“He taught us how to compete and how to be gentlemen,” says Bobby Morris of his father. “He was a class southern gentleman.

“My mom is still with us. She has probably shagged as many baseballs in her life as any big league pitcher.”

Bobby and Gloria Morris have three children. Besides Gavin, there’s recent Arizona State University graduate Gina (22) and Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis student John (19). Gloria Morris is a Hobart (Ind.) High School graduate.

“We’re Region rats,” says Bobby Morris. “I love northwest Indiana.”

The Morris family (from left): Gina, John, Gloria, Gavin and Bobby. Morris Baseball was established by Bobby Morris, a former college and professional player, in 2011. Five years ago came a merger with the Hammond Chiefs travel organization.

Kouts’ Tucker wears many hats — coach, teacher, husband, blogger, podcaster, wiffleballer

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jim Tucker wants to make a difference in the lives of kids.

His vehicles are the classroom and the baseball diamond.

Tucker teaches Language Arts and Reading to middle schoolers at Kouts (Ind.) Middle/High School and also serves as head baseball coach. The 2019 season will be his third leading the Kouts Mustangs.

As an educator, Tucker helps students along their path.

“I try to get the kids to be able to handle the real world,” says Tucker. “I tell them, ‘you can be who you want to be.’

“This is the toughest time in history to be a teenager. You can never shut it off.”

Tucker relates to his students and players through his ability to connect.

“I’m a storyteller,” says Tucker. “I get buy-in from the kids through stories, emotion and feelings.

“In coaching and teaching, I am a relationship builder and a communicator. The game is just an opportunity to becoming who we want to become.”

Some refer to that as transformational coaching.

“We’re here to shape the kids through baseball,” says Tucker. “We’re building a culture we are proud of from top the bottom. That’s what it’s all about.”

Tucker does not base his worth in his won-loss record — though he wants his players to experience winning.

“It’s about making an impact with these kids,” says Tucker, who was the fifth person named as baseball coach at Kouts when he took the job (John Hall took over the Mustangs softball program before the 2016 season).

His coaching staff includes two men — Randy Yager and Doug Murray — with little or no baseball background, but that’s not the priority.

“I’m more concerned with bringing in good men,” says Tucker. “True growth comes from the conversations after (players) fail.”

First-year volunteer coach Stefan Roney is a Kouts graduate. He was on the last Mustangs teams to win an IHSAA sectional championship in 2011 (Kouts reigned in the tourney held at Washington Township).

Kouts, a school of about 275 students, is in a Class 1A sectional grouping with 21st Century Charter, Covenant Christian (DeMotte), Hammond Academy of Science & Technology, Marquette Catholic, Morgan Township, Washington Township and Westville.

The Mustangs belong to the Porter County Conference (along with Boone Grove, Hebron, LaCrosse, Morgan Township, South Central (Union Mills), Washington Township and Westville). Boone Grove won the 2018 Class 2A state title.

Tucker played at Calumet High School in Gary, Ind., graduating in 2008. He then went on Chicago State University and pitched four seasons in five years, sitting out the 2011 campaign recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery and earning his English degree in December 2013.

His head coaches at Calumet were Larry Drake and Roger Azbill with Michael Caston leading the CSU Cougars Tucker’s first four years and Steve Joslyn his last.

Azbill approach baseball with a blue-collar mentality.

“I learned toughness,” says Tucker of Azbill. “He wanted you to show up everyday and do your job. You wanted to always try to get better.”

Caston was a Hammond, Ind., native who played at Valparaiso University. His pitching coach at Chicago State was former Lake Central High School, Tampa Bay Rays Triple-A hurler and Gary SouthShore RailCats player Neal Frendling.

What Tucker remembers most from his college baseball experience is playing teams from every corner of the country and seeing the different styles of playing and coaching.

The year he sat out as a player, Tucker traveled with the team and did laundry. But he also decided his baseball future was in coaching. He came away from each trip with page after page of notes.

Before college, Tucker had played travel baseball for Dave Sutkowski with the Hammond Chiefs (now the Morris Baseball Chiefs) and soaked up much about the game. He later coached with Sutkowski.

“He was very detailed,” says Tucker of Sutkowski. “Everything was broken down and position-specific. He was also very competitive.

“We run our stuff (at Kouts) very much like we did with the Chiefs.”

Tucker was the pitching coach for Dave Griffin at Purdue-Calumet for one season before joining Steve Strayer’s coaching staff at Crown Point High School leading up to taking the Kouts job in the winter prior to the 2016 season.

“It was awesome learning from (Griffin),” says Tucker. “He does it a little bit differently. He allows guys to do their own thing. He wants to serve as a guy to help you get where you’re going.”

During games, Tucker would see the wheels turning for Griffin.

“He would call things before they happened,” says Tucker. “He was always thinking ahead.”

Tucker was with Strayer at the time the Bulldogs boss suffered a stroke and marvels at how quickly he bounced back.

“I was so impressed how he could manage so many people,” says Tucker of Strayer. “He was very diligent in his planning.

“He always had that growth mindset. He was always learning and adding to coaching tool kit.”

Strayer was quick to share his faith and to ask the opinions of his assistants, making sure to give them ownership in the program and Tucker takes the same tactic with his staff.

Tucker is also part of the new Wheelhouse Baseball podcast. It is part of the Chicago-based Overtime Sports Network, which promotes its various podcasts and blogs.

With Tucker, best friend and former Chicago State teammate Jeremy Ratjaczyk and avid podcaster and Calumet College of St. Joseph graduate Mikey Kubacki Jr., adding to the chatter, Wheelhouse podcast focuses on historic Major League Baseball games, quirky stats and obscure players.

It’s buddies talking baseball with a sense of humor.

“We’re three goofy guys and we’re quirky,” says Tucker. “We try to be genuine.”

The first episode debuted Oct. 10 and was centered on Chicago White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle’s perfect game for the White Sox in 2009.

Episode 2 is to be about the 10 worst contracts in MLB history.

Episode 3 will feature former Hammond Bishop Noll Institute and current minor league pitcher Matt Pobereyko. Episodes generally premier each Wednesday morning.

While his baseball playing days are done, Tucker still competes on the fast pitch wiffleball field. He plays for both the Griffleball League’s GasHouse Gorillas and in the Leroy Wiffle Ball Association.

Griffleball has been around for eight years and has seven teams playing on Sundays at Bridges’ Scoreboard Restaurant & Sports Bar in Griffith. There is no base running. Wherever the ball lands determines the outcome of the at-bat.

Next year, the LWA is to have 14 teams and seven fields. Player do run the bases. If a team issues five balls to the opposing batter, they must lob the next ball in so there’s more offense.

Jim and wife Mysta Tucker have been married for a year and have two dogs.

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Jim Tucker, a 2008 Calumet High School graduate, delivers a pitch for Chicago State University. He played baseball for the Cougars in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013. He is now head baseball coach at Kouts (Ind.) Middle/High School. (Chicago State Photo)

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Jim Tucker is a teacher and baseball coach at Kouts (Ind.) Middle/High School. The graduate of Calumet High School and Chicago State University is also a husband, blogger, podcaster and wiffleballer. The 2019 season will be his third as head coach of the Kouts Mustangs.