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Indiana University righty Bierman signs with Miami Marlins

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

Gabe Bierman has faced adversity and personal crisis on his way to professional baseball.
The Jeffersonville, Ind., lost his father during his freshman year at Indiana University.
Douglas Bierman Jr., passed at 49 on May 16, 2019.
“I fought through my dad’s death and ended on a good note,” says Bierman, who signed July 18 with the Miami Marlins after being selected in the seventh round of the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
A right-handed pitcher who committed to IU as a Jeffersonville High School freshman, Gabe was on the mound two days after Dougie Bierman died and hurled three shutout innings with four strikeouts against Rutgers and fanned two and allowed just two hits in 3 2/3 innings in an NCAA Tournament game against Illinois Chicago. He wrapped his freshman year as a Hoosier at 4-0. In 20 games (15 as a reliever), he posted a 3.56 earned run average and struck out 46 while walking 18 in 48 innings.
Bierman’s time management skills — something needed by all college students but especially an athlete — were lacking during his early days in Bloomington. He persevered.
As Bierman developed on the diamond, he got tougher. Jeffersonville pitching coach P.J. Thomas and he had talked about being a warrior and that’s the mentality he takes each time he steps on the mound.
“I’m someone who will get the job done and battle,” says Bierman, 21. “I’m a person who fights and fights and fights.”
Add to that pitchability, game management and the stuff that goes along with it.
In three seasons (2019-21) at IU playing for head coach Jeff Mercer and pitching coach Justin Parker, Bierman made 36 appearances (21 starts) and went 11-5
with one save and a 4.00 ERA. He had 150 K’s and 57 walks in 144 innings.
In 2021, Bierman had 12 starts and 5-4 record to go with a 3.16 ERA. He produced 80 strikeouts and 30 walks in 74 innings. On May 9 against Nebraska, the righty whiffed 11 batters and walked one in nine frames.
The COVID-19 pandemic kept Indiana strictly Big Ten Conference games and limited the home crowd at Bart Kaufman Field. That had no adverse effect on Bierman.
“My game and what I do on the mound is focused no matter what,” says Bierman. “There are no external factors.”
When Bierman pledged to play at Indiana, Chris Lemonis was head coach and Kyle Bunn pitching coach. Their successors got a thumbs-up from the pitcher who won four baseball letters and set career and single-game strikeout marks at Jeffersonville.
“I was pretty confident and Mercer and Parker and their good reputation,” says Bierman. “I needed that for my career moving forward.
“What I’m doing now reflects how they treated me and my journey through IU.”
A 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, Bierman throws a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, slider, change-up and curveball from a three-quarter overhand arm slot.
His fastest pitch is sinking two-seamer that sits at 89 to 93 mph and hit 95 in the summer of 2020 while Bierman was playing for the Prospect League’s Normal (Ill.) Cornbelters.
A sinking change-up came during his freshman year and he added the slider as a sophomore. Rapsodo data has helped him refine these pitches.
“I shortened up arm path in my sophomore year to get better movement on the slider,” says Bierman. “Eventually everything came along with more bite and more movement.”
Bierman signed with the Marlins in Jupiter, Fla., and its there that he is beginning to prepare as a pro.
Miami’s four affiliate clubs are the Low Class-A Jupiter (Fla.) Hammerheads, High Class-A Beloit (Wis.) Snappers, Double-A Pensecola (Fla.) Blue Wahoos and Jacksonville (Fla.) Jumbo Shrimp.
Where does Bierman go and when?
“It depends on how hard I work,” says Bierman. “I’ll put anything on the table for any organization.
“I’ll do anything I have to get to the top.”
Bierman’s first organized baseball came at Jeff/GRC Little League, where he played from age 5 to 12. Then came travel ball with the Louisville-based Ironman Baseball Club 13U to 17U.
Derek Ellis was his head coach with the Jeffersonville Red Devils.
“Derek was great,” says Bierman of Ellis. “We had several meetings together to see what my career could look like. “He pushed me and motivated me to the best version of myself.”
Following his freshmen year at IU, Bierman played for the Northwoods League’s 2019 Kenosha (Wis.) Kingfish.
Since the end of the 2021 season and being selected by and reporting to the Marlins, Bierman spent time in Bloomington keeping physically sharp and spending time with family. His mother is Andrea Bierman. His stepmother is Molly Bierman. He has five siblings — sister Mekenzi (an Indiana University Southeast student) and brothers Elijah, Nick, Ashton and Myles.

Gabe Bierman (Indiana University Photo)
Gabe Bierman (Indiana University Photo)
Gabe Bierman (Indiana University Photo)
Gabe Bierman (Indiana University Photo)
Gabe Bierman (Indiana University Photo)

Keeran to manage Lafayette Aviators at new Loeb Stadium in ’21

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Corn is not involved. But there’s a kind of a reverse “Field of Dreams” thing going on in Lafayette, Ind.

“If You Build It, He Will Come” — in this case — refers to Michael Keeran.

A new Loeb Stadium is being built for the Lafayette Aviators baseball team. After discussions with owner Bill Davidson, Iowa native Keeran has been named as field manager for 2021.

Keeran, a 2012 graduate of Clear Lake (Iowa) High School and the holder of two degrees from Waldorf University in Forest City, Iowa (a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Masters in Organizational Leadership with a Sport Management emphasis), welcomes the chance to bring his wife closer to family while also moving up in the baseball world.

“My wife is from Centralia, Ill.,” says Keeran. “I’ve coached near by hometown the past couple summers. (With the Aviators,) I get to coach in a very good league and I get two birds with one stone.”

Michael and Kaitlin Keeran are expecting their first child in December. Centralia is 220 miles from Lafayette and Kaitlin will be able to spend time there and also visit her husband.

“I always wanted to go to a bigger league. It’ll be a brand new stadium and a very good franchise. I thought it would be a good fit.”

The Prospect League is a 14-team college wooden bat summer circuit with teams in Indiana (Lafayette Aviators and Terre Haute Rex), Illinois (Alton River Dragons, Danville Dans, DuPage Pistol Shrimp, Normal CornBelters, Quincy Gems and Springfield Sliders), Ohio (Champion City Kings and Chillicothe Paints), Missouri (Cape Catfish and O’Fallon Hoots), Pennsylvania (Johnstown Mill Rats) and West Virginia (West Virginia Miners).

While 2021 Aviators assistant coaches have been consulted, the official word of their hiring is yet to come.

Keeran managed Pioneer Collegiate Baseball League champions in 2018 and 2019 — the Albert Lea (Minn.) Lakers followed by the Bancroft (Iowa) Bandits.

After one season as an assistant at Valley City (N.D.) State University (NAIA), Keeran became head coach at Bismarck (N.D.) State College (National Junior College Athletic Association Division II) for the 2020 season. The Mystics had played two games and were in Arizona to play 10 or 11 more when the COVID-19 pandemic caused the season to be halted.

“We were on a bus for 60 or 70 hours,” says Keeran. “It was awful.

“It’s tough to tell a bunch of young men that their season is over and it has nothing to do with wins or losses.”

While they could have taken an extra year of eligibility because of COVID-19, Keeran encouraged his second-year players from 2020 to take their associate degrees and go to a four-year school.

“It’s not ethically right to hold on to those sophomores,” says Keeran. “I didn’t see the point. You’ve got your degree, now move on.

“We have a very new group (in 2020-21) and we’re very talented.”

With players taking a hybrid class schedule (some in-person and some online), Bismarck State played  few games this fall against four-year schools.

“We treated it like a test for what it’s going to be like in the spring with temperature checks and protocols,” says Keeran.

As a outfielder and pitcher, Keeran played four seasons at Waldorf while also beginning his coaching career. 

Since high school baseball in Iowa is a summer sport, Keeran was able to play college ball and be on the Clear Lake coaching staff for four seasons (2013-16) and helped the Lions win three state titles (2013 in 3A, 2015 in 2A and 2016 in 2A).

“It was pretty cool to be coach at a young age and be mentored,” says Keeran. “Baseball should be played in the summer when it’s warm. That’s why I like coaching in the summer.

“It feels so authentic.”

Keeran says a typical high school gameday would involve batting practice and field preparation around 1 p.m. and the players would come back for a 5:30 p.m. junior varsity game, followed by the varsity.

“It gives kids a chance to work morning jobs in the summer and they don’t have to worry about the stress of class,” says Keeran. “It gives athletes a chance to do other sports. One of my best friends was a four-sport athlete (football in the fall, basketball in the winter, track in the spring and baseball in the summer).”

While the pandemic wiped out high school baseball last spring in Indiana, there was season in Iowa. Four 2020 state champions were crowned Aug. 1 in Des Moines. 

In 2021, the Iowa High School Athletic Association has set the first practice date for May 3 with first of 40 allowed contest dates May 24 and state tournament concluding July 31. Showcase leagues ran by Prep Baseball Report and Perfect Game are typically conducted in the spring.

The 2020 baseball season was the first for head coach Michael Keeran at Bismarck (N.D.) State College, a National Junior College Athletic Association Division II school. In the summer of 2021, he is to manage the Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators. (Bismarck State College Photo)
Michael Keeran, a graduate of Clear Lake High School and Waldorf University in Iowa and the head coach at Bismarck State College in North Dakota, has been named field manager for the Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators of the summer collegiate wood bat Prospect League in 2021. (Lafayette Aviators Photo)

Mishawaka Marian grad Rinard adding to his coaching responsibilities for Dixie State baseball

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Exciting things are happening in Bobby Rinard’s baseball world.

Entering his fifth season as an assistant coach at Dixie State University in St. George, Utah, Rinard is now a full-time coach and has added recruiting coordinator to his job description.

Dixie State is an NCAA Division II program and has nine fully-funded scholarships. Rinard is learning how to disperse scholarship money on a roster of about 35, taking into consideration things like the needs of the team and Title IV and other NCAA rules compliance.

At present, 47 percent is the most any one player is getting in terms of a full scholarship.

“There is really no such thing as a full-ride scholarship for a baseball player,” says Rinard. “We carry a fall roster of about 40, which matches our male-to-female student ratio.

“Some guys will be walk-ons and some will have the grades that won’t count toward the nine scholarships.

“The tricky part is that you don’t get a clean slate after each year.”

What the program has to work with is based on who leaves and who returns.

Rinard, a South Bend, Ind., native and 2007 Mishawaka (Ind.) Marian High School graduate whose father Jeff Rinard ran the Chasing A Dream training facility in Lakeville, Ind., says excitement is also in the air around St. George because Dixie State is exploring moving up to NCAA Division I with its athletic programs.

Information is being gathered through town hall meetings and consultants and a vote to decide is expected at the end of November.

“I hope we do go Division I,” says Rinard, who turned 30 on Nov. 9. “But it could go either way.”

NCAA Division I baseball can give 11.7 fully-funded scholarships and hire two full-time assistant coaches. There is a push to get a third full-timer.

At the D-II level, with a limited recruiting budget, Dixie State keeps to the southwest region and looks for players that fit their style of play.

Trailblazers head coach Chris Pfatenhauer, who has worked at the junior college and D-I levels, favors what Rinard calls the “West Coast” style of baseball. There is an emphasis on speed and athleticism. Batters are expected to be able to lay down a sacrifice or squeeze bunt in a crucial situation.

“We’ll put pressure on the defense,” says Rinard. “But we’re not all runts.”

There are also a few players on the roster with some power.

“We don’t talk about launch angle at all,” says Rinard. “Knowing exit velocity can help guys understand what kind of swing they should be taking to the baseball.

“We want to develop a head-high line drive swing. If you can build a repetitive swing like that, your exit velocity is going to be very good.”

Two major recruiting events that the staff ends are the Arizona Fall Classic in Peoria, Ariz., and Baseball Northwest events in Washington. It’s about a six-hour drive from St. George to the Phoenix area.

“We’re really, really selective with what events we go to,” says Rinard, noting that Las Vegas, Nevada, area is full of talent and is about a two-hour drive from St. George.

Dixie State baseball will be competing in a new conference in the spring of 2019. The Trailblazers were in the Pacific West Conference.

Besides Dixie State, the Pac West had eight baseball-playing schools in California (Academy of Art, Azusa Pacific, Biola, California Baptist, Concordia Irvine, Fresno Pacific, Holy Names and Point Loma Nazarene) and two in Hawaii (Hawaii Hilo and Hawaii Pacific) in 2018.

The Blazers were 25-25 overall and 21-19 in the Pac West.

Following the lead of the DSU football program, baseball is now in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

In addition to Dixie State, RMAC baseball features eight institutions in Colorado (Adams State, Colorado Christian, Colorado Mesa, Colorado State-Pueblo, Colorado School of Mines, Metropolitan State, Regis and Colorado Colorado Springs) and one in New Mexico (New Mexico Highlands).

Pfatenhauer saw the change coming, he wasted no time in purchasing heavy jackets. Adams State in Alamosa, Colo., is 7,543 feet above sea level.

Does the altitude effect pitching? Colorado Mesa had the best team earned run average in the RMAC in 2018 at 4.83. Adams State was last at 9.59.

Dixie State’s staff carried a 6.29 while competing in the Pac West and at 2,500-seat Bruce Hurst Field (former big league pitcher Bruce Hurst is a St. George native and a benefactor), where the fences are 12 feet high from the foul poles to the batter’s eye in center, which extends to 20 feet high. Dimensions are 330 down the lines and 390 to center.

St. George has an elevation of 2,860. Located in the southwestern part of Utah. At one time it was a cotton-growing region (thus the name of the school).

Rinard says the high desert climate is typical of Las Vegas, Nevada. The day-time highs this week (Nov. 11-17) have been in the high 50’s and low 60’s.

“I really don’t remember what it’s like to be cold,” says Rinard, who played two seasons as a righty-swinging outfielder at Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz. (2008 and 2009) and two at the University of Arizona (2010 and 2011) before a stint in professional baseball and a season as an undergraduate assistant at Arizona in 2014.

Rinard was selected in the 43rd round of the 2009 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the New York Mets, but did not sign.

After his two seasons in NCAA Division I baseball with Arizona, he signed with the New York Yankees as a minor league free agent in 2011 and played one season a rookie-level Staten Island.

His independent ball stops came with the Frontier League’s Normal (Ill.) Cornbelters in in 2012 and United League’s Edinburg (Texas) Roadrunners in 2013.

Rinard also works with the Trailblazers’ outfielders and hitters and helps coordinate camps.

“I’m helping with everything,” says Rinard, who plans to join the staff Jan. 3-6 for the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Dallas.

Immediate plans call for Rinard to come back to northern Indiana this weekend to be in the wedding of former Bethel College player and Concord High School baseball coach Walter Lehmann. Rinard and Lehmann played together in high school.

BOBBYRINARD2

Bobby Rinard (right) is an assistant baseball coach at Dixie State University in St. George, Utah. Going into his fifth season with the Trailblazers in 2019, he added recruiting coordinator to his job description last summer. (Dixie State University Photo)

BOBBYRINARD1

Bobby Rinard, a Mishawaka (Ind.) Marian High School graduate who played at Yavapai College and the University of Arizona, is heading into his fifth season as an assistant baseball coach at Dixie State University in St. George, Utah, in 2019. (Dixie State University Photo)