Will Coursen-Carr was recently named head baseball coach at his alma mater — Fort Wayne (Ind.) South Side High School — and the 2012 Indiana Mr. Baseball Award winner and three-time program MVP is working to put the pieces together for the 2022 Archers. “I know most of the guys,” says Coursen-Carr, who has helped out with the school the past couple of years. “We have some gamers. They’re ready to go. We do have a good core group of kids who really love the game. “We’ll have our first open gym Dec. 8 and a call-out before that.” Evan VanSumeren, a South Side alum and former Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne outfielder, has joined Coursen-Carr’s coaching staff and others will be added. South Side (enrollment around 1,450) is a member of the Summit Athletic Conference (with Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne Carroll, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne Snider, Fort Wayne Wayne and Homestead). SAC teams play home-and-series in same week against conference opponents. There also tends to be a non-conference game at Fort Wayne’s Parkview Field. In 2021, the Archers were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Columbia City, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne Wayne, Homestead and Huntington North. South Side has won three sectional titles — 2012, 2018 and 2019. Senior right-handed pitcher Perry Stow has singed to play at the University of Saint Francis, an NAIA school in Fort Wayne. Foster Park and Elmhurst are Little Leagues on Fort Wayne’s south side that feed South Side High. Coursen-Carr is familiarizing himself with things like the IHSAA 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). “Is it perfect? No,” says Coursen-Carr. “But it makes sense. It protects student-athletes.” Coursen-Carr, 28, is involved with a new program on the southeast side called Youth Baseball Revival. Though not affiliated with the school system, it does focus on the basic skills of the game. “We want to get South Side kids involved at a younger age,” says Coursen-Carr. South Side plays its home games on Derbyshire Field on the old Elmhurst High School campus. There has been much reconstruction in recent years and new batting cages have been installed. “We take a lot of pride in the field,” says Coursen-Carr. An alum of Foster Park, the ASHE Centre and the Summit City Sluggers travel organization (with Dustin Sebastian as head coach and Mark Flueckiger as pitching coach), Coursen-Carr also participated in the Wildcat Baseball League until age 15 and worked the summer instructional program between his senior year at South Side and entering Indiana University. “It’s such a fantastic program they have,” says Coursen-Carr of Wildcat ball. As a left-handed pitcher, Coursen-Carr competed three seasons at Indiana (2013-15) and went 8-3 in 41 games (19 as a starter). He holds an International Studies degree from IU. He spent his final collegiate season at NAIA Huntington (Ind.) University in 2017 (where Flueckiger was Foresters hitting coach) and was 1-1 on the mound and hit .318 with five home runs as a lefty hitter. He also began progress toward an Organizational Leadership degree. Besides being named Indiana Mr. Baseball at South Side, Coursen-Carr was the Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year in 2012, a season which he went 10-1 with a 0.40 earned run average, 134 strikeouts and 21 walks in 70 innings while hitting .488 with four homers, 12 doubles and 36 runs batted in. He was chosen for the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series. He was also an all-SAC punter in football and lettered in basketball. Coursen-Carr is currently a long-term substitute History and Geography teacher at Wayne and is working toward his teaching license through online courses at Taylor University. Will is the son of Trine University professor Stephen Carr and General Motors line worker Amy Coursen. Older brother Theo Coursen-Carr is in the U.S. Army.
Beach Harmon has long wanted to pursue a career in sports. It’s only fairly recently that he decided to do it as a baseball coach. He’s doing it at the collegiate level. In his first semester of a two-year Master’s in Athletic Administration program, Harmon is a graduate assistant coach at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., where he holds undergraduate degrees in Sport Management and Criminal Justice and played four years. On a staff head by Ryan Roth, Harmon works with hitters and infielders while Justin Love guides outfielders and baserunners, Ryan Moore leads catchers and Josh Tew assists with pitchers and serves as director of baseball operations. Harmon was also recently named head coach of the New York Collegiate Baseball League’s Genesee Rapids (Houghton, N.Y.) with NAIA-member Grace’s husband-wife tandem of Josh Tew and Lancers softball graduate assistant Samantha Tew also joining the squad as pitching coach and assistant general manager, respectively, for the summer of 2022. Harmon found the job posted on the American Baseball Coaches Association website and applied. In 2020-21, Harmon assisted at Fort Wayne, Ind.’s Indiana Tech on the staff of NAIA-member Warriors head coach Kip McWilliams. “I learned a lot of offensive approach stuff (from McWilliams),” says Harmon. “It’s a lot more in-depth than what a lot of coaches teach.(Tech’s) offense generally shows that. They’re tough to get out. Indiana Tech hitters have approaches for each count and different styles of pitching and use scouting report with the hopes of gaining an edge. “It’s cool to see are hitters take advantage of it,” says Harmon. “I hope I can bring a little bit of that to Grace.” Last summer, Harmon was head coach for the Fort Wayne-based Indiana Collegiate Baseball Summer League’s Indiana Jacks. While in college, he coached four summers in the Wildcat Baseball League at New Haven and Leo. Harmon is also a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) and Performance Enhancement Specialist and served as a fitness coach and one-on-one trainer at New Haven Fitness Center. The son of longtime coach Beach Harmon Jr., Beach Tyler Harmon has spent most of his 25 years around the diamond. When the younger Harmon joined the Grace staff, his father took his place at Indiana Tech. Born in Fort Wayne, young Beach moved with his family to nearby New Haven early in his elementary school years. He played high school baseball at Concordia Lutheran High School in Fort Wayne — two years with Lance Hershberger as Cadets as head coach and two with his father in charge – and graduated in 2015. He was also on state championship hockey teams in 2012 (3A) and 2014 (4A). “Coach Hershberger was very big on small ball and situational baseball – that helped me throughout my time (as a player) and it’s helped me coaching. “We’d bunt anytime. That’s how we practiced, too.” Hershberger wanted his players to have a high Baseball I.Q., had them read them read the book, “Heads Up Baseball” by Dr. Ken Ravizza and Dr. Tom Hanson and gave them quizzes from it. Beach Harmon Jr., who has also been a high school assistant at New Haven and Fort Wayne North Side, taught his son and his teammates about situational baseball and also being a good teammate and being competitive on every pitch. “I’ve been around the game since I was 5 years old and picked up on things people see as minor that make a big difference throughout the game,” says Beach Tyler. A righty-swinging 6-foot-5 first baseman, Harmon went to Grace, where he played for Bill Barr, Cam Screeton, Tom Roy and Roth in a four-year playing career that concluded in 2019. Harmon says Roth emphasizes discipline. “There was a level of focus and intensity that helped us through the (2019 season),” says Harmon. “We made one of the best runs in school history.” This fall, Harmon has Lancer hitters taking plenty of cuts at Miller Field and getting comfortable in their offensive approaches.
Calumet College of St. Joseph — a private four-year Catholic institution with about 380 undergraduates in Whiting, Ind., embraces a close-knit community. “It’s a family-oriented school and we have a family-oriented team,” says Brian Nowakowski, head baseball coach for the Crimson Wave since the fall of 2012. “We do everything together (including community service, meals and study tables). We don’t single out a single player for any misdoing. “When someone hurts we all hurt.” When Brian and Jeannine Nowakowski’s son, Bryce, required two open heart surgeries in the first year of his young life and then a heart transplant at 2, the CCSJ family rallied with support. Part of the cost of tickets to the Midwest Collegiate League (now rebranded as the Northern League) All-Star Game held at the Crimson Wave’s home park — Oil City Stadium — were given to the Nowakowski family. When Bryce was prepared for, underwent and recovered from his July 30, 2014 transplant at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, the school allowed the head coach to stay there while his assistants — younger brother Scott Nowakowski and Juan Alonso — led the CCSJ baseball team. “The school let me work from home and I never skipped a beat,” says Nowakowski, whose son is now 9. “I could never re-pay them back.” With Bryce’s medical condition and his mother recovering after beating cancer, Nowakowski decided it was best not to travel much during a 2021 season effected by the COVID-19 pandemic. “If I had COIVD I would not be able to go home,” says Nowakowski, who resides with his wife of 11 years and child in Dyer, Ind. The 2021 Crimson Wave only played games in the NAIA-affiliated Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference. “Competing in the CCAC is hard,” says Nowakowski. “We’re fighting for same kids in recruiting. All the teams are very competitive.” Olivet Nazarene University finished atop the ’21 conference standings. One feather in the Crimson Wave’s cap is Oil City Stadium, located on 119th Street in downtown Whiting with a unique oil refinery backdrop in the outfield. “It’s a great stadium,” says Nowakowski. “The City of Whiting does a great job keeping it up. It helps in recruiting.” Eight Calumet of St. Joseph players — Michael Biegel, Julian Espino, Kevin McCune, Thomas Montes, Cody Plebanski, Shaun Quinn, Glenford Wagner and Luke Woodward — made the 2021 CCAC all-academic team. A typical mix, the current Crimson Waves roster consists mostly of players from Chicagoland and the Calumet Region with some international students. “We find the best players we can,” says Nowakowki. “If you want to be a part of the school we’re going to take you. “We have affordable tuition. There’s no in-state, out-of-state or intentional. It’s all the same.” Located on New York Avenue in Whiting, CCSJ has an agreement with The Illiana, located across the street. In Oct. 1, the school broke ground on its first residence hall. In 2022, CCSJ is to open the season Feb. 25 at Hannibal (Mo.)-LaGrange. The following weekend the Crimson Wave plays a series at Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Ga. From there CCSJ goes to Lake Wales, Fla., to play in the Warner University Invitational and other games, including at Southeastern. CCSJ finished outdoor fall practice about two weeks ago. The Crimson Wave did drill work four days a week and competed in intrasquad games on the fifth day. Right now, players are at the Rittenmeyer Center four days a week conditioning with weightlifting and stability exercises. Besides Scott Nowakowski (in his seventh year at Calumet College of St. Joseph), the coaching staff also features Nick Relli, Nestor Carillo and Rocco Mossuto. Elli played for Nowakowski at CCSJ. Carillo (Morton Community College in Cicero, Ill.) and Rocco Mossuto (Saint Xavier University in Chicago) are both former head coaches. Nowakowski grew up on Chicago’s East Side and graduated in 1997 from St. Francis de Sales High School, a member of the vaunted Chicago Catholic League. “It’s tough competition,” says Nowakowki. “There’s no easy games in the Chicago Catholic League.” Nowakowski played for Pioneers head coach Al Lodl and was good enough as a right-handed pitcher to sign a free agent contract with the Minnesota Twins organization in 1997 and reported to spring training in 1998. He pitched in the minors that year and 1999 and then was employed in private sector jobs. But the diamond beckoned. “I’ve been a baseball guy most of my life,” says Nowakowski. “I missed the game.” Nowakowski got into coaching as an assistant to Pat Montalbano at Hammond Clark High School and was a Crimson Waves assistant to Tony Myszak for one year before becoming head coach. A few years into the job, Nowakowski earned an Organizational Management degree from CCSJ.
When Brice Davis got the call that led him into professional baseball he was busy on the field. Davis was coaching third base for Indiana Wesleyan University in a doubleheader when the independent Frontier League’s Schaumburg (Ill.) Boomers manager Jamie Bennett, who pitched of the DuBois County (Ind.) Dragons and Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats coached with the RailCats, and outgoing hitting coach Derek Shomon reached out about filling Shomon’s spot since he had taken a coaching job in the Minnesota Twins organization. “They wanted to see if I’d get rattled,” says Davis of the timing. “It was a twisted joke.” But Davis impressed and after the twin bill received text messages and got a good review. The next thing he knew he is joining the Boomers for spring training and after that came a 96-game regular season and the fourth league championship in franchise history. “It was whirlwind,” says Davis of the 2021 baseball season began in early February with Indiana Wesleyan in Lakeland, Fla., and ending in late September with Schaumburg in Washington, Pa. “It was an incredible year and an incredible ride. “It was a really special group (at IWU). To be leaving them at that time was incredibly tough. I’m in awe that we got to share all those runs together.” Indiana Wesleyan wound up 2021 at 44-14, Crossroads League regular-season and tournament champions and an NAIA Opening Round host. Davis, a four-year starter at IWU and a 2013 graduate with a Sports Management degree, spent three seasons on the staff of Wildcats head coach Rich Benjamin (2019-21). “He’s a huge offensive mind and about hitting for power,” says Davis of Benjamin, who was an assistant at Fishers (Ind.) High School before moving on. “I saw it as an opportunity. “I wanted to see if I could hack it at the college level.” Davis first became a hitting instructor in 2009 (his training business is Davis Baseball LLC). But it was a big transition to working with professional hitters in 2021. “You’re helping prepare guys to be successful (in pro ball),” says Davis. “At the college level, you’re doing a lot of development. They’re making strides every single month to be the best versions of themselves and trying to stay locked in. “Guys at the professional level are already pretty talented. They want to take their skill level and apply it against a pitching staff (or individual). In both arenas the goal is to simplify life. You pick out an approach that is going to breed results and success.” The difference between high school and college and pro baseball is that the pros play everyday with much more travel and they don’t have as much time to work on their craft. “Learning how to hit when you’re only 80 percent or getting your two knocks comes in a lot of ways,” says Davis. “I was amazed how many guys played hurt.” How a player felt on any given day is how they prepared for that day’s game. That might mean more batting practice or less. “You can’t treat everyday like Opening Day,” says Davis. “It just doesn’t work like that.” Since Schaumburg is an independent league team, scouting is done differently. Major League-affiliated clubs have access to plenty of stored data on opponents. The only resource available to the Boomers staff was Frontier League TV (2021 was the first year that all league clubs broadcast games). Coaches and players spent a lot of time looking at video to find tendencies. The Evansville Otters were the only team who put pitching velocity on the screen during their broadcasts, leaving Schaumburg to study those videos when teams took on Evansville. In the league championship series against the Washington Wild Things, the staff was at a disadvantage. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Boomers had not played anyone on Washington’s side of the league during the regular season. Also, there was no radar gun reading available at Wild Things Park. “It was all hearsay. You had no more information than in a non-conference high school baseball game. It was ‘see it and hit it, boys!’ It was absolute gauntlet level from our staff and our players. It’s not copy-paste-print like it is at some of the other levels. It’s not like high school baseball where you can trade tapes. “It was a big learning curve.” Davis notes that the Frontier League is now partnered with Major League Baseball so maybe things will change for the better. Not all pro players take to information the same way. “This guy wants to know velo and out pitch and this guy wants to know as much as possible,” says Davis. “Other guys don’t want to know anything and just play the game.” And if a pro hitter doesn’t want info, it’s not up to the coach to shove it down his throat. “You have respect for what they’re trying to do,” says Davis. While Schaumburg players hail from all over the country, there are also a number with ties to the area, including former Indiana Wesleyan pitcher Isaiah Rivera from Des Plaines, Ill. “There are a lot of college players in the region,” says Davis. “You don’t want to miss on anything in your back yard. Chicago is a cool city with a lot of great athletes in it.” Davis says many have the misconception that independent ball is full of 27-year-old has-beens. But a good deal have been selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft and spent time in the affiliated minors. The Frontier League is unique because it puts players into Rookie, Experienced and Veteran eligibility classifications and there is a cap on veterans (those turning 29 by Oct. 1). Teams can also make just 30 transaction moves per season. “The world of independent baseball is fascinating,” says Davis. Another thing about 2021 in much of independent ball is that there was no season in 2020 because of the pandemic. “They’re learning how to play baseball again and getting their timing back,” says Davis. “It’s like they’ve been waiting for the prom for two years. “It was about managing emotions, telling them to enjoy the moment and don’t overthink it.” There was a time when Davis didn’t want to think about baseball. It stung too much when his playing career was over and he did not watch a game for two years. Brice’s father was a high school boys basketball coach for many years. Hagerstown, Ind., native Jerry Davis was a head coach at Triton Central and Wawasee and an assistant at Marion and Hamilton Southeastern. He came back to Indiana from Dallas, where Brice was born, to teach math and coach hoops. “I grew up in the gym,” says Brice. “My safe place to process life was listening to bouncing balls. That’s a sanctuary few people understand.” Davis, who did not play high school basketball to focus on baseball opportunities, joined the Hamilton Southeastern hardwood staff of Brian Satterfield and coached freshmen for two seasons. “Climbing up the hard way in basketball appealed to me,” says Davis. “Going to clinics and studying tape was a journey in itself.” Then came the call back to baseball and he answered it. “I’m in a better head space when I’m going to the field,” says Davis, who received words of encouragement that still resonate with him. Brian Abbott, the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association executive director and a former IWU assistant, approached Davis at the IHSBCA State Clinic when the latter was on Matt Cherry’s Fishers Tigers staff. “He was one of the first people who told me I needed to be in coaching,” says Davis of Abbott, the IHSBCA Hall of Famer. “It’s because of kids like myself. He said, ‘you belong in this industry. You might be the only person who gets to tell a kid that day that they matter. “You have a purpose to connect with kids.” Davis has taken that connection to heart. “I love teaching the game,” says Davis. “I know it’s what I’m supposed to be doing. A lot of good can be done by powerful teaching and coaching. “It’s a great profession.” Davis, who was part of Fishers’ first graduating class in 2008, was reunited with Cherry for three seasons (2016-18) as an assistant coach. The 2018 team made an IHSAA Class 4A state title run. “He’s single-most influential person in my life besides my dad since I was 15,” says Davis of Cherry. “He knows there’s more to people than baseball. He’s transformational.” Cherry, who had coached Davis prior to the 2016 season he needed a freshman coach. Davis accepted the invitation. “I’ll be darned if I wasn’t completely consumed,” says Davis. “I told (Cherry) the next year I want to be a varsity coach. I want to be with the older kids. I want to dive in and see where it could go.” In 2017 and 2018, Davis was Fishers’ hitting coach. The latter team set 21 school records. “We had all the fun in the world,” says Davis. Now 32 and living in Wheeling, Ill., Davis is teaching at area facilities, including Parkway Bank Sports Complex aka The Dome in Rosemont, Ill., and East Sports Academy in Itaska, Ill., and helping at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines. Owls head coach Bill Fratto is also an assistant/first base coach for the Boomers. Through it all, Davis has developed a fraternity of brothers at each baseball stage and keeps in-touch with people on his high school, college and pro path. Kris Holtzleiter, the new Eastbrook High School head coach, played and coached with close friend Davis at IWU. “Every season has a story whether it’s good or bad,” says Davis. “You must make the most of the moment you’re in. “It’s not about the championships or the trophies.” It’s the people.
First-hand familiarity with the subject and the desire to offer something of value to baseball players and their families led Aaron Mortrud to launch Midwest Recruiting, LLC in October 2020. Mortrud, a 1990 graduate of Bethany Christian School in Waterford Mills, Ind. (south side of Goshen), where his head coach was Dan Bodiker, played one season each for head coach Mike Frame at Huntington College (now Huntington University) and at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Oldest son Nick Mortrud went through the recruiting process while playing at Westview High School in Topeka, Ind. Midwest Recruiting, LLC helps market players to prospective colleges in an efficient, affordable way. Mortrud describes it as “Autotrader for Athletes.” “Recruiting is a sales process,” says Mortrud, whose day job is National Sales Manager for Starcraft Inc., and works of the office near his Shipshewana, Ind., home. “College coaches are buyers of a product — the student-athlete. How do you connect the buyer with the product?” Using his relationships with recruiters, Mortrud works for his clients to join the two parties. Once he got the ball rolling last fall, things took off like crazy. “I just picked up a kid from Australia who wants to play college baseball in the U.S.,” says Mortrud. So far three players have found a college baseball home — Kaleb Fritz (Lafayette Jeff Class of 2021) at Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne, Noah Perkins (East Noble Class of 2022) at Principia College in Elsah, Ill., and Carson Smith (Knightstown Class of 2022) at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne. Others are close to signing. Full Midwest Recruiting, LLC services cost $95. “What I’m trying to do is give as much honest and real information to families at the best cost,” says Mortrud. “Parents deserve to be told the truth about all facets of the game. A profile with a players’ vital data goes on a website that recruiters can go to for their specific needs. For example: One coach might be seeking a left-handed pitcher who throws in the high 80’s and has such-and-such a standard test score. Mortrud sees himself as an unbiased third party who has invested into quality measuring equipment that provides reliable numbers. “The only thing worse than no information is bad information,” says Mortrud. “I don’t want to waste a (college) program’s or a kid’s time. Let’s be honest from the beginning. “I have to maintain my credibility.” Players can also be seen at Midwest Recruiting, LLC-hosted recruiting events. The next ones are a Fall Showcase Oct. 2 and Scout Series Oct. 3 at Saint Xavier University in Chicago. The first is a pro-style workout and assessment. The second includes spots for teams and individuals. A Scout Series event is scheduled for June 25-26, 2022 at Huntington U. Mortrud has experience as a baseball parent and travel ball coach. He is now with the Midwest Pack (run by Westview head coach Jason Rahn) and was with the Eastside Irish before moving from central Ohio back to Indiana six years ago. “College baseball is a job,” says Mortrud of the long days and year-round commitment it takes at that level. “(Players and families) need to know what college baseball is. “This may not be for you. How bad do you really want to play baseball?” Ultimately, the decision is not for the parents but the student-athlete. “That kid’s got to decide what he wants to do,” says Mortrud. Nick Mortrud (Westview Class of 2021) — Aaron’s oldest son — made decision to not play college baseball. “I know what its like to come through the recruiting process as a parent with a kid who does not want to go on after you’ve spent all that time and money,” says Aaron Mortrud. Matty Mortrud (Westview Class of 2023) has more high school and travel ball to play before he might go to college. Midwest Recruiting, LLC is on Facebook and Twitter. In the past week, Mortrud shared on Twitter what it takes to make it at the NAIA and NCAA Division III levels. Those numbers appear below.
Collin Ledbetter was born and raised in Arizona, but the Midwest has also been pretty good to him as he has pursued higher levels of education and baseball. In the summer of 2021, the right-handed pitcher experienced his first opportunity to play for pay in the United Shores Professional Baseball League. The 25-year-old arrived this week back in his adopted hometown of Indianapolis where he will plot his future. Ledbetter is a 2015 graduate of Northwest Christian School in Phoenix. He arrived at the same time as head baseball coach and former Colorado Rockies minor leaguer Rod Bair and was with the varsity for four years. “We’re still great friends until this day,” says Ledbetter of Bair. “He had a great impact on me as a player and on my growth as a man as well.” Starting out his college baseball journey in the Valley of the Sun, Ledbetter joined the Dave Grant-coached Glendale (Ariz.) Community College team and pitched for the Gauchos in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. “(Glendale) has a great reputation — not only in Arizona — but around the country,” says Ledbetter. “I remember being intimidated going into the program. Coach Grant was a real encourager. “He always gave guys a chance to prove themselves and was always there for help when you needed it.” Ledbetter was recruited out of high school by Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich. David Mitroff was the Golden Eagles head coach at the time. In Ledbetter’s second year at Glendale, Mitroff moved to Phoenix and became a reference for the pitcher’s next move. Mitroff connected Ledbetter with coaching friend Rich Benjamin at Indiana Wesleyan University. After visiting the IWU campus in Marion, the player decided that it was the best fit for him and came to the Midwest. “(Indiana Wesleyan) was an up-and-coming NAIA program looking to add pitching depth,” says Ledbetter. “It was the right place for me. It is Christian and a private school. My faith is very important to me. “Coach Benjamin focused on creating an atmosphere where Jesus was first before baseball. Obviously, he wanted to win. He wanted us to use our talent to the best of our ability to God’s glory.” Kris Holtzleiter was the Indiana Wesleyan pitching coach during Ledbetter’s time with the Wildcats. “He’s one of the best encouragers I know,” says Ledbetter of Holtzleiter. “There’s nobody that doesn’t like him. He focuses on the positives, never the negatives. “As someone who is hard on myself and expects a lot out of myself, I appreciated that.” Ledbetter herniated a disc in his back that required surgery and redshirted in 2018 – his junior year — after playing in just six games. At about the same time, Collin’s parents Paul and Deb and younger siblings Lauren and Carson moved from Arizona to Indianapolis to be closer to extended family. Collin pitched for IWU — getting into eight games (five in relief) with a 0-2 record, 8.47 earned run average, 17 strikeouts and 10 walks in 17 innings – and received a bachelors degree in Sports Management in 2019. Wishing to pursue a Masters in Sport Management on an accelerated timeline with cost in mind, Ledbetter opted to transfer to Campbellsville (Ky.) University and used his redshirt senior season with the NAIA Tigers in 2020. “(Head coach Beauford Sanders and pitching coach Brett Neffendorf) loved to win more than anyone I’ve ever played for,” says Ledbetter, who pitched in three games and 2 2/3 innings with a 0.00 ERA during the truncated 2020 campaign. “That’s a great thing. That was important to me.” Ledbetter said the coaches were no-nonsense and helped players focus on short-term and long-term goals. After his time at Campbellsville was there more baseball for Ledbetter? He sure hoped so. “The goal was always to play professional baseball and keep playing as long as I can,” says Ledbetter. But there was plenty of uncertainty. Minor League Baseball canceled its 2020 season and many independent leagues followed suit. Ledbetter kept himself in shape and began training with Jay Lehr at Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind. “Jay really took me under his wing,” says Ledbetter, who had the chance to play catch with former big league pitcher Drew Storen and central Indiana minor leaguers like Parker Dunshee and Nolan Watson. “I saw a lot of development as a pitcher. “I started showing signs of improvement and that I had the stuff to play at the next level.” Ledbetter reached out to teams and leagues, including the four-team, Utica, Mich.-based USPBL (Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers, Eastside Diamond Hoppers, Utica Unicorns and Westside Woolly Mammoths). It was only a matter of hours when director of operations Jason Orenduff replied to his email and he soon found himself headed to Jimmy John’s Field in Utica, about 25 miles north of Detroit. Assigned to the Woolly Mammoths, the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder Ledbetter was a relief pitcher for a team co-managed by John Dombrowski and Taylor Grzelakowski. “They definitely had our best interests in mind at all times,” says Ledbetter. “It was a fun atmosphere at the field every day.” USPBL games were played Thursday through Sunday. There was no practice on Mondays and it was an optional weight room day. There were practices on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. “We were split into position groups,” says Ledbetter. “Pitchers went through an extensive stretching routine. As a reliever I had to be ready at all times. Tuesday was usually my bullpen days with 20-25 pitches and weights. Wednesdays I’d play catch and work on off-speed grips from 60 feet.” Ledbetter said gameday routines were based on the individual needs of each player. Some recovered faster than others. “We would hold each other accountable,” says Ledbetter, who made 21 mound appearances (20 in relief) with a 2-4 mark, three saves, 2.78 ERA, 23 K’s and 22 walks in 27 2/3 innings. While Ledbetter has received an invitation to return to the USPBL in 2022, the league does have a two-year cap. “Their goal is to push guys out of their as quickly as they can,” says Ledbetter. “They want everybody to be signed my an affiliated team. “They saw a lot of growth in me as a player. They want the best for everyone. They’ve encouraged me to look at my other options.” Taking a break to re-set physically and mentally, Ledbetter does not plan to begin throwing again for three or four weeks. Meanwhile he will pursue a part-time job and may give private lessons. He will also take the time to enjoy family. Paul Ledbetter is in the insurance business. Deb Ledbetter is a former flight attendant. Lauren Ledbetter (21) is a radiology technician. Carson Ledbetter (19) is attending trade school to become an electrician. Collin is not related to twins Ryan and David Ledbetter, but he has formed a relationship with the former pitchers at Heritage Christian High School, Cedarville (Ohio) University and the Texas Rangers organization. Ryan Ledbetter works for a company that has done business with Paul Ledbetter’s firm. Over time, Collin got to know both Ryan and David. “We hit it off,” says Collin. “We’ve kept in-touch ever since.”
Just over a month after being named head baseball coach at Indiana University Kokomo, Drew Brantley is busy laying the foundation for the Cougars system. Classes began Aug. 23. Brantley is overseeing two weeks of open field workouts before fall practice officially begins Labor Day (Sept. 6). There will be sessions six days a week for eight weeks culminating Oct. 30. Then the NAIA member Cougars move into the weight room and begin the build-up to the spring. There will be no games against outside competition this fall. There will be three scrimmages per week at Kokomo Municipal Stadium. “It’ll be heavy on individual development as a baseball player,” says Brantley. “We’ll compete in a game-like situations.” As the Cougars ready themselves for the River States Conference race, they will open the 2022 season with trips to play Louisiana State University Shreveport and Truett McConnelll University (Cleveland, Ga.). Brantley, who has been on staff the past three seasons including the last two as associate head coach, knows what he desires in an IU Kokomo player. “I want to get good people into the program,” says Brantley, who turned 29 on Aug. 22. “We want them to have the total student-athlete experience — athletically, academically and socially.” The idea is to achieve on the field and in the classroom and build friendships and contacts that will last long beyond the college years. Brantley’s staff includes Jeremy Honaker, Nick Floyd and Justin Reed. Honaker, who was volunteer assistant at the University of Indianapolis in 2020-21, will serve as a positional coach and also help with hitting and baserunning. Former Ball State University and independent professional right-hander Floyd is the Cougars’ pitching coach. Former IU Kokomo player Reed is a graduate assistant and assistant pitching coach. He will work toward his Masters of Business Administration, help in athletic communications and with the baseball team. Prior to coming to IUK to serve on head coach Matt Howard’s staff, Brantley was an assistant to head coach Rich Benjamin at Indiana Wesleyan University. “I worked with infielders and baserunners and assisted with hitters,” says Brantley. “My time at Indiana Wesleyan was awesome. The integrity of the program is held very highly there. I learned how you hold people accountable and how things are supposed to be done.” Brantley assisted at his alma mater Anderson (Ind.) University for five seasons with a stint as interim coach. Medical issues mean that he was only able to play his freshmen season for David Pressley before becoming a student assistant. “He was an awesome guy and a great role model,” says Brantley of Pressley, who followed American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Don Brandon as the man in charge at AU. “A large part of my coaching philosophy comes from (Anderson).” Dustin Glant later took over a Anderson Ravens head coach and was helped by Brantley. “I was able to learn a lot under Dustin,” says Brantley. “He showed me the ropes and what its like to conduct yourself professionally. It’s not just about baseball. “A lot of the success I’ve had has been because of the things he’s showed me and the advice he’s given me.” Glant is now pitching coach at Indiana University. At 22, Brantley was named interim coach at Anderson, where he earned his Secondary Education and Teaching degree in 2015 and MBA in 2017. Says Brantley, “Everyday I was doing the best I knew how.” The same applies in his current position. “It’s pretty neat being in this seat,” says Brantley, who guides a program in the town where he was born. Brantley grew up in Russiaville, Ind., and played T-ball through age 12 at what is now Russiaville Youth Baseball League. After that came travel ball with the Central Indiana Kings then three summers with Don Andrews-managed Kokomo American Legion Post 6. His coach at Western High School in Russiaville was Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Ty Calloway. After becoming a coach himself, Brantley came to learn how Calloway “coached ‘em up the right way.” “As a player, he held us to a really high standard,” says Brantley. “He was always on us in practice. Whatever we were doing that day we were going to give our best effort.” Brantley played three seasons for the Panthers, sitting out his junior year to recuperate from cardiac arrest. In his senior year of 2011, he was an IHSBCA Class 3A first-team all-state second baseman. “I have an incredible support system,” says Drew, who is the son of Chrysler employee Ron and dental receptionist Angie and younger brother of Alaina. Ron Brantley has been coaching baseball since he was 20 and will help out this fall at IU Kokomo. Brantley’s first experience as a baseball coach came with a Howard County travel team called the Indiana Flyers. He was with that team from the fall of 2012 through the summer of 2015. There was also a stint working for Chris Estep as a hitting and defensive instructor at RoundTripper Sports Academy in Westfield, Ind. “He gave me an opportunity to work with younger kids and allowed me to fail a lot,” says Brantley. “Being at RoundTripper was awesome.”
Mike Snyder has been given the chance to extend his college baseball experience and he’s taking it. A 2016 graduate of Fort Wayne (Ind.) Northrop High School, where he played football, basketball and baseball, Snyder, who turned 24 on Aug. 4, logged two seasons at what is now Purdue Fort Wayne then moved a few miles south to Indiana Tech, where he redshirted in 2019 and competed for the Warriors in 2020 and 2021 and is coming back for one last collegiate go-round in 2022. “I want to keep playing as long as I can and see where it takes me,” says Snyder, who was granted an extra year of college eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Snyder appeared on 59 games and started 56 for Indiana Tech in 2021, hitting .308 (64-of-208), 11 home runs, two triples, 13 doubles, 58 runs batted in, 44 runs scored and a .916 OPS (.368 on-base percentage plus .548 slugging average) from the right side of the plate. The second baseman posted a .923 fielding percentage with 76 putouts, 103 assists and 16 double plays. During the COVID-19-shortened 2020 slate, Snyder played in 15 games (14 starts) and hit .400 (20-of-50) with 10 homers, two doubles, 26 RBIs, 16 runs and a 1.523 OBP (.483/1.040). He fielded at a .943 clip with 25 putouts and 25 assists. Snyder says barrel control is his best offensive quality. “When I’m on and really doing it I can stay on the same plane and stay consistent,” says Snyder. “I’m in no way a contact hitter. I have my strikeouts. I’m more of a power hitter, especially being my size.” Snyder stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 215 pounds and credits weightlifting for much of his power. “The gym is a big part of my game,” says Snyder. “I try to lift as heavy as a I can. During season I can’t stay on a consistent week-to-week plan, but I lift whenever I have time.” The average second baseman is rarely as tall as Snyder, but he knows of one ever lankier. Tech played in the 2021 NAIA Opening Round against Oklahoma Wesleyan University. The Eagles’ regular second sacker was 6-8, 236-pound Ryan Kouba. “(Being tall) only adds range,” says Snyder. Tech went 11-5 in 2020 and 35-27 in 2021 — the 13th and 14th campaigns with Kip McWilliams as head coach. “He’s a winner,” says Snyder of McWilliams. He’ll do anything to win. He works us hard. He keeps us accountable throughout the day. “He makes sure we stay on our studies so we’re eligible to play.” Snyder is on pace to earn a Sport Management next spring. In two seasons at Purdue Fort Wayne, Snyder got into 80 games (56 starts) and hit .252 (56-of-222) with two homers, 14 doubles, 18 RBIs and 31 runs for then-Mastodons head coach Bobby Pierce. “He was just a really nice guy,” says Snyder of Pierce. “He was really laid-back and relaxed.” At Northrop, Snyder was on football varsity for three seasons, first for head coach Tim Martone then Jason Doerffler. He was a safety and quarterback prior to switching to wide receiver as a senior. He was a shooting guard in basketball as a freshman and sophomore for Barak Coolman. Football-related injuries took away his junior and senior seasons on the hardwood. Snyder dressed with the baseball varsity as a freshman then played with the Bruins’ top team for three more springs. His head coach was Matt Brumbaugh. “He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had,” says Snyder of Brumbaugh. “I like the way he went about the game. “He went about everything with passion.” Born in Fort Wayne, Snyder moved with his family to South Carolina then back to the Summit City about the time he was starting school. He played T-ball and travel ball out of what is now Wallen Baseball Softball before traveling with the Midwest Gloves and Royville. During his high school years, he was with the AWP Cubs organized by Cisco Morales and coached by Alex McKinstry (father of Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Zach McKinstry), Fort Wayne Rams and Team Indiana coached by Phil Wade and Blake Hibler. Snyder played for the Fuquay-Varina (N.C.) Twins for three straight college summers — 2018-20 — and earned Carolina-Virgnina Collegiate League all-star selections each and CVCL MVP honors in 2020. That summer he hit .427 (35-of-82) with nine homers, 27 RBIs, 26 runs and a 1.327 OPS (.510/.817). On defense, he had 25 putouts, 21 assists and eight double plays. He was CVCL Player of the Year in 2018, hitting .404 with eight homers, 41 RBIs, 37 runs and a .702 slugging average. He played briefly in the summer of the 2021 with the Prospect League’s Lafayette Aviators. In five games, he hit .250 (5-of-20) with one double, one RBI and one run. Industrial cable salesman Jerry and marketing manager Betsy Snyder have three children — Garrett, Mike and Mackenzie. Factory worker Garrett Snyder (26) played football, basketball and baseball at Northrop and one season of basketball at the the University of Northwestern Ohio. Mackenzie Snyder (21) played volleyball and basketball at Northrop and is now on the women’s basketball team at Wittenberg (Ohio) University.
Zyon Avery is known for taking several tools with him to the baseball field. A self-described “utility” player, the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder from Indianapolis grew up with catcher as his primary position, but he has also been used as a corner infielder/outfielder and more. “I move very well for my size,” says Avery, 21. “I move my feet and have very fluid hands. It allows me to play a lot of different positions. In travel ball and high school I played all over the place. “Coaches take advantage of my athletic ability.” Avery was a varsity starter at third base his first two years at Ben Davis High School and the top catcher his last two. He also saw time at shortstop and on the mound. The versatile athlete will call a new place his baseball home when he reports this weekend to NAIA member Louisiana State University Shreveport. He landed with the Brad Neffendorf-coached Pilots after spending the 2021 season at National Junior College Athletic Association affiliate Parkland College (Champaign, Ill.). Making most of his starts at first base, the righty swinger hit .355 (44-of-124) with 13 home runs, one triple, nine doubles, 45 runs batted in, 43 runs scored, four stolen bases and a 1.245 OPS (.487 on-base percentage plus .758 slugging average) for a team that went 36-17 under Cobras head coach Jon Goebel. Not able to get the credits to transfer to an NCAA Division I school, Avery decided to follow former Parkland teammate Trevor Burkhart to LSU Shreveport. “It’s the best fit for my family,” says Avery, the son of Dana and Kimberly and older brother of Jahmir (15). The Averys moved to Indy’s west side when Zyon was 6. Dana Avery is a maintenance, repair and operations buyer for Keihin. Kimberly Avery is a cargo shipment organizer for BDP International. Jahmir Avery is a freshman basketball player at Ben Davis, where Zyon graduated in 2018. Avery earned four baseball letters and was a three-year captain at Ben Davis. He was an Under Armour Preseason All-American and rated as the No. 2 catcher in the state of Indiana by Prep Baseball Report as a senior. As a junior, he led the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference with 22 doubles and 30 walks, earned All-Marion County and All-State honors and was named a Perfect Game Underclass All-American. As a sophomore, he was chosen as a Perfect Game Underclass All-American. After playing at Ben Davis — the last three seasons for Giants head coach David Bear — Zyon went to Ohio University where Edgewood High School (Ellettsville, Ind.) graduate Rob Smith was Bobcats head coach. Appearing in 25 games, Avery hit .192 with a .591 OPS (.283 on-base percentage plus .308 slugging average) as a freshman in 2019 and redshirted in 2020 following shoulder surgery. For a few months he was bound for Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla., but wound up at Parkland. Avery played for the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League’s Southern Ohio Copperheads (Athens, Ohio) in 2019, spent the summer of 2020 rehabilitating and split 2021 between a temporary contract with the Propsect League’s Danville (Ill.) Dans and the Kernels Collegiate League (Normal, Ill.). Born in Los Angeles, Zyon began playing at Ben Davis Little League after moving to the Indianapolis area. He played travel ball for Tony Page and the Indiana Mustangs at 10U and 11U, John Keller, Mike Wade and the Indiana Bulls at 12U to 15U, Eric McGaha and the Indiana Outlaws at 16U, Trent Hanna and the Cincinnati Spikes at 17U and Jeremy Johnson and the Evansville Razorbacks at 18U. Avery, who between redshirting and COVID-19 has three remaining years of college eligibility, was a Physical Activity and Sport Coaching major at Ohio. That degree was not offered at Parkland. He says he will begin at LSUS in General Studies. He turns 22 in October.
Notre Dame powered its way to a South Bend Regional championship and now the Irish know they will play host and No. 7 national seed Mississippi State in the NCAA Division I tournament‘s Starkville Super Regional (the Bulldogs went unbeaten in winning the Starkville Regional, which wrapped Monday, June 7). The winner of that best-of-3 super regional series June 11-14 at Dudy Noble Field/Polk-DeMent Stadium will advance to the eight-team College World Series in Omaha, Neb. Former Indiana University head coachChris Lemonis is the bench boss for the MSU Bulldogs. Link Jarrett is in his second season as head coach at Notre Dame (33-11). The No. 10 seed Irish lashed 49 hits with 23 for extra bases and 15 home runs in beating Central Michigan 10-0, Connecticut 26-3 and Central Michigan 14-2 Friday through Sunday June 4-6 at Frank Eck Stadium in taking the South Bend Regional. Irish senior first baseman Niko Kavadas (Penn High School graduate) belted two home runs and drove in four runs in the first win against CMU. The lefty slugger that smacked two homers and drove in eight against UConn. In the second game against Central Michigan, Kavadas hit one homer (his school record-setting 21st of the season) with one RBI. The other dingers rang off the bats of junior Carter Putz (4), senior Ryan Cole (3), junior Brooks Coetzee (2) and senior David LaManna. Indiana State saw its season end at the Nashville Regional hosted by Vanderbilt. The Mitch Hannahs-coached Sycamores lost 7-6 to Georgia Tech, beat Presbyterian 9-2 and lost 9-0 to Georgia Tech. Redshirt junior Jordan Schaffer (West Vigo High School) hit .367 with seven homers, one triple, 10 doubles, 34 runs batted in, 52 runs scored and 11 stolen bases for ISU (31-21). Indiana University Southeast was greeted by a large crowd when it got back to New Albany after its first appearance in the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. Playing May 28-June 1, Ben Reel’s Grenadiers (50-16) topped against Concordia (Neb) 4-2, lost 11-5 to Central Methodist (Mo.), bested Keiser (Fla.) 9-7 and lost 14-10 to Faulkner (Ala,). For the season, senior Matt Monahan (who missed the World Series because of injury) hit .428, junior Brody Tanksley (Bedford North Lawrence High School) drove in 70 runs and junior Clay Woeste (Lawrenceburg High School) stole 38 bases. Georgia Gwinnett — coached by former Saint Joseph’s College (Rensselaer, Ind.) assistant Jeremy Sheetinger — won the red banner as 2021 NAIA national champions. Sheets returned to coaching this season after serving with the American Baseball Coaches Association. He hosts the Dugout Chatter Podcast Powered by Stick & Ball TV.