By STEVE KRAH
Al Ready has been part of University of Indianapolis baseball for a long time.
Ready played for the Greyhounds in 2000 and 2001 and after two-year playing stint in professional baseball with the London (Ont.) Werewolves and Evansville (Ind.) Otters and and two years as head coach at Sauk Valley Community College, he joined the coaching staff of veteran UIndy coach Gary Vaught.
When Vaught retired at the end of the 2018 season (he was 808-533-2 in 24 seasons at UIndy and 975-666-2 in 29 campaigns overall), Ready was elevated from associate head coach to Greyhounds head coach.
“If Coach Vaught had wanted to continue to coach, I would have stood by him every step of the way,” says Ready, who turns 41 on Aug. 5. “He’s just a phenomenal person. He treated me like his own son over the years. He’s done a lot for me and my family. I’m going to miss him.”
Ready launches into his new duties with a coaching staff featuring pitching coach Landon Hutchison plus Trevor Forde, Scott Lawley and graduate assistants Storm Joop and Adam Vasil. All but Hutchison are former UIndy players.
The Greyhounds were 31-23 overall and 10-14 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference in 2018.
Looking far and wide, Ready and his staff are currently recruiting a few players to fill out the 2018-19 signing class while also working on 2019-20.
“I look for very strong academic student-athletes,” says Ready. “You can really stretch your dollars our if you are recruiting student-athletes who are able to receive both academic and athletic aid.”
At UIndy, academics is No. 1.
“I hope all of our players make it to the big leagues and make a million dollars,” says Ready. “But their overall quality of life is going to be determined by their degree and not by their baseball career.
“You’re coming in here to get a degree from the University of Indianapolis. You’re not coming here because we are giving you an opportunity to play baseball.
“If we don’t have the degree you’re looking for, I’ll tell them not to come here.”
UIndy offers the full amount of athletic scholarships allowed for NCAA Division II baseball — nine (Division I is 11.7). UIndy is one of four D-II programs in Indiana. University of Southern Indiana, Purdue University Northwest and Oakland City University are the others.
Ready says the Greyhounds typically dress about 35 at home and 28 on the road.
“The full-ride in baseball is kind of non-existent if you’re just talking in terms of just athletic dollars,” says Ready, who notes that players that can meet the stacking criteria of the NCAA coming out of high school can accumulate quite a bit of academic, athletic and aid money.
Pitchers are a priority on UIndy’s wish list.
“You’re only as good as the guy you roll out there on the mound,” says Ready. “We like arms. We’re only as good as the guy we’re going to be pitching that particular day.”
Offensive players are improved through training.
“We do a really, really good job of developing our offense,” says Ready. “Development, especially at the Division II level, is vital to your survival.
“You don’t necessarily get the kind of kids it takes to win a national championship at the Division II level right out of high school.”
The Greyhounds roster is typically a mix.
“How do we get them?,” says Ready. “Either right out of high school, bounce-backs from Division I schools or transfers from junior colleges.”
NCAA Division II allows a 45-day window in the fall for team practices. The limit is 15 hours per week.
“Our practices in the fall are really systematic,” says Ready. “We teach them our bunt coverages, first-and-third plays, pick-off plays, double cuts and things like that.
Outside of that 45-day window, D-II teams get two hours a week of skill development with individual and small-group workouts.
“That’s the stage were guys will really start to get better,” says Ready, whose athletes play games at Greyhound Park and train in the 95,000-square foot Athletics & Recreation Center (The ARC was the NFC practice site for the 2012 Super Bowl) as well as have access to the turf of Key Stadium (football).
With the help of Will Carroll, UIndy is part of a study by Motus Baseball to track the biomechanics of baseball players.
“I really like the Motus technology,” says Ready. “It provides certain metrics that you just can’t see when you’re just watching a kid pitch. You can keep track of the number of pitches a kid throws. But it’s almost impossible to keep track of the number of throws that the kid makes over a certain period of time whether that’s a day, a week or whatever.
“Motus has allowed us to get a good grasp on how much throwing each player is actually doing. The first six weeks of throwing kind of establishes the baseline for each player. It’s really nice to have.”
The sensors can track workload and the amount of stress on the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL).
“Of course, Tommy John surgery is considered an epidemic in baseball,” says Ready. “Those are important numbers to know when you’re trying to figure out how to train each kid.”
Ready notes that training over the years has really shifted toward customization.
“When I got started in the early 2000’s, it was more of a ‘cookie-cutter’ type of approach,” says Ready. “We were teaching each player the same thing. But what’s right for this player may not necessarily be right for the guy beside him.”
Last season, the technology helped diagnose an issue with a UIndy starting pitcher.
While not decreasing in velocity after a few innings, Motus data indicated that the player was dropping his arm slot and losing some control. The pitcher was switched to a relief role and he excelled.
Knowing the numbers can determine training methods.
“A weighted ball will work to increase velocity but it also increases the risk of getting hurt,” says Ready. “Wouldn’t you like to know which of your guys have more stress on their UCL when they throw? Those are the guys who probably shouldn’t be working with weighted balls — at least as much as some of the other guys.”
On the offensive side of things, Ready likes to use Motus sensors when a hitter is going really well.
“You want to know what the swing length, attack angle, hand speed, and rotational speed is,” says Ready. “When the player’s scuffling a little bit, you can put the sensor back on him and see if there’s any difference.”
Ready, a London, Ont., native, attended Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School and learned much about the diamond at the National Baseball Institute of Canada in Vancouver, B.C. After a few years there, he played two seasons at Sauk Valley in Dixon, Ill., then transferred to UIndy.
The switch-hitting catcher batted .352 with 18 home runs and 74 runs batted in as he earned Second-Team All-American honors and UIndy (43-23) placed third in the 2000 NCAA Division II World Series.
In 2001, Ready was a Verizon First-Team Academic All-American while helping the Greyhounds to a school-record 51 wins and fourth straight NCAA D-II regional berth. He still holds the school records for most walks in a career (109) and a season (55 in 2000).
Ready graduated from UIndy in 2001 with a 3.44 cumulative grade-point average in Computer Information Systems. He posted a 3.74 GPA while earning his Masters of Business Administration from the school in 2008.
Al and Sarah Ready were married in 2003 and have four children — sons Jacob (10) and Camden (8) and twin daughters Alaina and Evelyn (who turn 3 in December). Sarah Ready is a former Sauk Valley multi-sport athlete who got her undergraduate degree in psychology and masters in counseling at Indianapolis in 2001 and 2003. She is now a guidance counselor at Franklin Township Middle School-East.
“To make it all work, you have to have great wife who supports what you do,” says Ready. “To be a college coach, you have to have people in your corner backing you up and helping you out. There’s no question about it.”
Al and younger sister Jennifer are the parents of Ken and Gayle Ready of Ontario.
One of the Ready’s managers at Evansville was Greg Jelks, who played in the majors with the Philadelphia Phillies and also played and coached in Australia. Two Aussies — Daniel Lee and Greg Johnston — have worn the Greyhounds uniform since Ready has been on the UIndy campus.
Al Ready is now head baseball coach at the University of Indianapolis. The former Greyhounds player had spent several seasons as associate head coach to Gary Vaught, who retired at the end of the 2018 season. (UIndy Photo)
Gary Vaught (left) was head baseball coach at the University of Indianapolis for 24 seasons and won 808 games. His replacement is Al Ready (right). The former Greyhounds player was an assistant and then associate head coach for several seasons. (UIndy Photo)