When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, Collett and the rest of the Wildcats were getting ready to leave for a trip to Nashville, Tenn., to play Vanderbilt.
The series with Vandy was postponed. Then the players were sent home for two weeks. Then the season was called off and the rest of the spring semester was completed through online classes.
“For all I knew — for about a month — I’d never play baseball again,” says Collett. “I’m glad the NCAA gave me the chance to come back and finish my career on my terms.”
Offered an extra year of eligibility after completing his undergraduate Communication degree, Collett took it and pursued his Masters in Communication while also playing as a graduate student in 2021. He’s about four weeks from completing his work.
He began his college career as a Finance major, but changed.
“I went with Communication because I love people,” says Collett. “I can interact in a business environment and there’s wide variety of jobs.
“I’m not sure what I want yet.”
In 29 baseball games (all starts), the lefty-swinging first baseman is hitting .301(31-of-103) with nine home runs (including two in his first multi-homer game March 16 against Murray State), one triple, five doubles, 20 runs scored and 36 runs batted in to go with a .425 on-base percentage and .631 slugging average.
Kentucky is 20-9 heading into a Tuesday, April 13 non-conference home game against Bellarmine.
Collett (pronounced Caw-LET) has played in 147 games at UK (120) starts and is hitting .276 (135-of-490) with 35 homers, two triples, 22 doubles, 133 RBIs, 87 runs, a .373 on-base percentage and .543 slugging average.
He sits eighth on Kentucky’s all-time homer list behind John Wilson (50), Terre Haute South Vigo High School graduate and good friend A.J. Reed (40), Aaron McGlone (39), Collin Cowgill (37), Jeff Abbott (37), Randy Clark (37) and Jeff Shartzer (37).
Most of the time Collett is in the No. 3 or No. 4 slot in the batting order. Recently, he’s been in the 2-hole.
“There’s not a huge difference,” says Collett. “I’ve noticed my at-bats come around a little bit quicker. I like it.
“But responsibilities don’t change. I do anything I can anything to get a run in — anyway we can score.”
Collett was recruited to Kentucky out of Terre Haute (Ind.) North Vigo High School as a catcher. He recovered fine from hip surgery his senior year but four more procedures had him switching to first base.
“They were two of the most influential people in my baseball people,” says Collett of Turner and Spetter. “They poured into me as much as they could.”
In travel ball, Collett spent his 14U through 18U summers with the Indiana Bulls and counts former Bulls coach and director of player development and current Indiana University assistant Dan Held as another who made a big impact on his game.
Collett’s first year at Kentucky was also the first for Wildcats head coach Nick Mingione.
“He’s a man of faith,” says Collett of Mingione. “He really has everybody’s best intentions at heart.
“When I first met him he had this insane energy. The past five years that energy has stayed up.”
Collett has put his energies into his studies and his play as well as community service and his a nominee for the 2021 Senior CLASS Award.
“It means a ton to me,” says Collett. “It’s more than just playing the sport.
“Maybe some younger players can be inspired by that.”
“He told me that’s one of the coolest awards he’s ever received,” says Collett, who has spent much of his community service time with the NEGU/Jessie Rees Foundation helping children fighting cancer to “Never Ever Give Up.”
Notre Dame’s Daniel Jung is also on the 2021 Senior CLASS nomination list.
Timothy John Collett, who turns 24 on June 26, is the son of John and Sallee Collett. His older brother is Doug Collett (29).
March is about to give way to April and NCAA Division I’s Indiana and Ball State and NAIA’s Indiana University Southeast and Taylor sit atop their respective conference baseball standings.
Indiana is 11-3 overall and in the Big Ten Conference. The Hoosiers went 2-1 on the weekend at Michigan State.
Ball State is 12-9 in all games and 6-2 in the Mid-American Conference. The Cardinals took three of four from visiting Toledo.
Riding a 11-game win streak, IU Southeast is 20-11 overall and 12-0 in the River States Conference. The Grenadiers swept a three-game set against Asbury at Koetter Sports Complex.
Winners of 17 straight, Taylor is 24-6 in all contests and 13-0 in the Crossroads League. The Trojans swept a four-game series at Huntington.
After splitting a Tuesday doubleheader against Trinity International and taking two from Calumet of Saint Joseph, NAIA Indiana University South Bend (9-13, 5-3) is 1.5 games Chicagoland Collegiate Conference leader Judson (7-9, 6-1).
NCAA D-I Notre Dame (11-4, 10-4) is second in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Atlantic Division. After topping visiting Valparaiso Tuesday, the Irish split a pair at home against visiting ACC foe and division leader Louisville (16-6, 8-3). The third game was not played because of inclement weather.
D-I’s Indiana State (11-6) and Valparaiso (5-12) have yet to play their first Missouri Valley Conference games while Evansville (12-11) in 1-3 in the MVC.
NCAA D-II Indianapolis (8-8, 6-2) is second in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Blue Division. Coming off a non-conference doubleheader split at Wayne State, the Greyhounds are behind GLVC division front-runner Lindenwood (12-0, 8-0).
NCAA D-III Hanover (9-5, 9-5) is second in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. The Panthers are 1.5 games below first-place Transylvania (8-3, 8-3) after a home sweep of Bluffton and road split at Earlham.
The Michigan resident attended ECA all four years of high school.
“I absolutely loved it there,” says Ganger. “It was the perfect size for me.
“You get to know everybody in your class.”
Ganger attended the Elkhart Area Career Center as a junior (2017-18) and senior (2018-19) where Audio/Video Production instructor Warren Seegers taught camera operation and concepts like the “rule of thirds” and helped Ganger build the skills that allowed him to tell sports stories on WVPE HD3 88.1 FM and conduct interviews on Facebook Live.
“Mr. Seegers is awesome,” says Ganger. “Everything I learned over my two years I’m using now.”
Ganger got to interview South Bend (Ind.) Cubs President Joe Hart and Notre Dame men’s basketball associate head coach Rod Balanis.
He counts his Q&A with ND women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw after the 2018 national championship as a career highlight.
Before the interview began, McGraw was kind of standoffish and giving one-word answers. Then she began to respond to Ganger’s thoughtful questions.
“I started as camera operator then I told my boss I wanted to get into broadcasting and learn everything,” says Ganger, who got to host the on-field pregame show, work with replay on TV broadcasts and occasionally operate the Four Winds Field video board.
“It was fun getting to learn all different sides of the industry,” says Ganger. “I want to be not just a broadcaster, but be as well-rounded as I possibly can.
“You can’t always rely on other people. You need to know how to do everything yourself.”
In 2020-21, Ganger has done play-by-play or color commentary for Cardinals baseball, football, basketball and volleyball while also helping to create social media video content for Ball State Sports Link.
For his first Ball State Sports Link broadcast, Ganger was on the call for BSU’s football opener at Miami in Oxford, Ohio. With COVID-19 restrictions, it was a remote production. A monitor showed him the action which he conveyed to his audience.
“It was definitely different,” says Ganger. “Numbers on the screen is different than being at the game.
“I can’t be picky. Any opportunity I have to go for it.”
Ganger can’t say enough good things about Sports Link.
“It’s the best of the best for sports media anywhere,” says Ganger. “(Senior Director of Sports Production and Lecturer) Chris Taylor does literally anything he can to get us this opportunity.”
According to Ganger, keys for a good broadcast include knowing the players’ names.
“Memorize those the best you can,” says Ganger. “In basketball — when they’re running up and down the court — you have time to look down at your score chart.”
For a radio game, Ganger is sure to give time and score every 90 seconds.
“You have to be the listeners’ eyes,” says Ganger. “You want to have descriptive words for everything.”
It’s important to pinpoint the ball and it’s trajectory. The broadcaster tells his audience where it was hit and if it’s a line drive or a slow roller.
“We also build story lines,” says Ganger. “Why is this game important? What’s at stake? Throughout the game we recap what’s happened.”
The voice is to be used as an instrument.
“Be creative with ways to say things with voice inflection,” says Ganger. “You need a balance between sounding excited and not yelling all the time.
“I’m still learning. You can never be too good at broadcasting. It’s very competitive. You have to find ways to set yourself apart.”
Ganger used COVID quarantine time last summer to get in the reps that would help prepare for Sports Link broadcasts and to land an internship for the summer of 2021.
“I didn’t want to sit around,” says Ganger, who took old tapes of football, basketball and baseball games which he described by himself or with a friend and posted on YouTube. “I wanted to get better and be ready for games at Ball State and I wanted to get that internship.”
Ganger got it.
During the process of searching and interviewing, he encountered the Expedition League. It’s a 12-team summer collegiate circuit that plays a 64-game schedule beginning in late May.
“It’s been cool for Tyler and I to be he first-ever voices of the team,” says Ganger.
Not only will the duo get to enjoy the first with a team playing at 3 Legends Stadium (a facility that debuted in 2017 which has gone from a capacity of 470 to 1,300), Ganger and King will get to know a wide swath of territory.
As winter has turned to spring, the hottest college baseball programs in the state — based on current win streaks — are at Taylor, Indiana University Southeast, Marian, Indianapolis and Indiana Wesleyan.
Among NAIA squads, there’s the Taylor Trojans (21-6) with 14 straight wins, IU Southeast Grenadiers (17-11) and Marian Knights (15-8) with eight each and Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats (21-8) with five. NCAA D-II’s UIndy Greyhounds (7-7) have six straight triumphs (including a 4-0 weekend series vs. Truman).
Among regulars, Conner Crawford (.357 with three home runs) paces the Taylor offense. Anderson High School graduate Joe Moran (5-2, 2.45 earned run average) is the Trojans’ top moundsman.
Brody Tanksley (.392 with seven homers) leads IU Southeast batters. Drew Hensley (4-2) is tops in pitching wins. Both are Bedford North Lawrence alums.
Taylor (4-0 vs. Mount Vernon Nazarene), IU Southeast (3-0 at Ohio Christian), Marian (2-0 vs. Spring Arbor), UIndy (4-0 vs. Truman) and Indiana Wesleyan (4-0 at Goshen) are all coming off weekend series wins as are NAIA members Oakland City (11-11) 3-0 vs. Rio Grande and NCAA D-II’s Purdue Northwest (6-3) 3-0 vs. Wisconsin Parkside.
NCAA D-I series victors included Indiana State (11-6) 3-1 at Alabama-Birmingham, Indiana (9-2) 2-1 vs. Purdue, Notre Dame (9-3) 2-1 vs. Duke, Ball State (9-8) 3-1 vs. Western Michigan, Evansville (9-10) 2-1 at Butler and Purdue Fort Wayne (7-8) 3-1 vs. Oakland.
Max Wright is hitting .339 with four homers for Indiana State. Geremy Guerrero (4-0, 1.14) has been the Sycamores’ top pitcher.
Evansville Memorial graduate Drew Ashley (.395) and Carmel alum Tommy Sommer (2-0, 1.40) are among those who have shined for Indiana.
Indiana Wesleyan University opened the 2021 baseball season with seven road losses, including three to No. 1-ranked Southeastern (Fla.) and three against NAIA No. 3 Faulkner (Ala.).
Since then the Wildcats have won 16 straight and are 16-7 overall and 8-0 in the Crossroads League. IWU is coming off a four-game home sweep of Mount Vernon Nazarene.
Taylor’s four-game sweep at Bethel pushed the Trojans’ win streak to eight. Taylor is 19-6 overall and 8-0 in the Crossroads League.
Marian (13-8 overall, 6-2 Crossroads) ran its win streak to six with a four-game sweep of visiting Goshen.
Huntington (12-3 overall, 5-3 Crossroads) went 3-1 against Grace at Logansport (Ind.) High School.
Saint Francis (11-10, 3-5 Crossroads) won three of four at Spring Arbor.
Also in the NAIA, No. 11 Indiana University Southeast moved to 13-11 in all game and 6-0 in the River States Conference with three-game sweep of visiting Indiana University-Kokomo.
Indiana University South Bend beat Lourdes four times — twice in Sylvania, Ohio, and twice at Rex Weade Stadium in Granger, Ind.
Sophomore right-hander McCade Brown’s 16 strikeouts for NCAA Division I Indiana (7-1 overall, 7-1 Big Ten) in a one-hitter Saturday against Penn State tied the school record and set the standard for K’s against a Big Ten opponent.
Brown’s 16 punch-outs are the most since Brad Edwards fanned that many in 2000 against Quinnipiac.
Hoosiers head coach Jeff Mercer tested positive for COVID-19 and went into quarantine. IU is slated to play a four-game series against Purdue in Bloomington Friday through Sunday, March 19-21.
Notre Dame (7-2 overall, 7-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) swept a three-game series at Virginia. The Irish are to open the home season with a three-game set Friday through Sunday against Duke.
Indiana State (9-5) went 2-1 at No. 20 Florida Atlantic. The Sycamores will wait a little longer to play on Bob Warn Field in Terre Haute. ISU plays at Alabama-Birmingham Friday through Sunday.
Purdue Fort Wayne (4-7) went 2-1 in a non-conference at Butler.
Valparaiso split four games at Middle Tennessee State. The highlight of the series for the Crusaders was Colin Fields’ seven-inning no-hitter Saturday. The junior right-hander whiffed 10 and walked four.
In NCAA Division III, DePauw (7-3) went 3-1 against visiting Concordia University Chicago.
Earlham (5-1 overall, 5-1 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference) was 2-0 at Transylvania Saturday and 1-1 against Bluffton Sunday.
Hanover (5-2 overall, 5-2 HCAC) went 2-1 for the weekend, including 1-1 at Anderson Sunday.
The Panthers beat visiting Rose-Hulman 8-4 before trailing through eight complete innings in Game 2 Saturday. The suspended contest will be completed in a few weeks.
Wabash swept a doubleheader against visiting Spalding Saturday and lost a single game against No. 3-ranked North Central at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., Sunday
Indiana Tech went 1-2 against Olivet Nazarene and beat Campbellsville at Grand Park.
Anderson had a 2-2 weekend, splitting doubleheaders at Franklin Saturday and against visiting Hanover Sunday.
Vincennes University (10-4) swept a National Junior College Athletic Association doubleheader against visiting Milwaukee Area Tech.
As of this writing, the DePauw staff features fifth-year head coach Blake Allen (who is in charge of pitchers and catcher) and Pustay (who is responsible for infielders, outfielders and hitters plus recruiting).
Pustay asks his infielders in particular to be aggressive.
“I want them making mistakes on their toes rather than making mistakes on their heels,” says Pustay. “I don’t want them to get in bad position and let ball play them.
“A rule we’ve tried to instill the last two years is for infielders try to say four words between each pitch (encouragement to the pitch or something strategic). It’s so they’re engaged and not waiting for something to happen.”
Outfielders are expected to make the play that’s “smart, controlled and correct.”
“Their aggression is a little more controlled,” says Pustay. “They have to be 90 percent sure to throw to the lead base. Otherwise, cut your losses and get the ball to second base (to keep the double play in order).”
Hitting is based on keeping things simple and playing to the athlete’s strengths.
“You win with who you are a a hitter,” says Pustay. “There’s a million different ways to win a ballgame. We’d like nothing better than putting a bunch of crooked numbers on the board, but there’s noting wrong with winning with a hundred paper cuts.
“We make sure we know ourselves as hitters. We are allowing guys the freedom to swing away if they feel that’s their game and really helps us.
“We want to make a good swing and hit the ball hard. We try to compete like heck on every pitch.”
In keeping the approach simple, the shorter the pre-swing thought the better.
“If you’re speaking to yourself in full sentences, you have to get out of the box,” says Pustay. “We want to use one or two words.”
As a two-man crew, Pustay and Allen conducted fall practice in September and October.
As a social distancing measure and so each student could have a solo dormitory room, only freshmen and sophomores were on-campus while juniors and seniors took online classes. Ballplayers worked out on their own or in small groups away from DePauw.
“It was sort of a blessing and curse all at the same time,” says Pustay. “For the freshmen, it was a great fall. They had a lot of great individual time — one-on-one development with the coaches.
“We had 12 position players on-campus. It was a nice crash course for freshmen for sure.”
Having the others off-campus was not ideal, but coaches and players made it work with plenty of Zoom meetings and phone calls. Pustay and Allen regularly checked in with their student-athletes.
“What I missed most this fall was the daily interaction with players walking by my office on the way to class or the weight room,” says Pustay. “As (DePauw head men’s basketball coach Bill Fenlon says), it’s a relationship business.
“You have to care for these guys on and off the field. You find out what’s important to them. It’s a mentorship.”
Pustay has been with Allen for the past four seasons after spending six with Jake Martin at the head of the Tigers program.
“The thing I really appreciate about Blake is that character counts with him,” says Pustay. “You win with the right people.
“Personally, not only has he given me a lot of responsibility but he also commands results. We’ve got to keep working. We can’t have time where we’re patting ourselves on the back for too long.”
As a father of three, Allen has also passed along lessons about balancing family life and baseball. Matt and Laura Pustay live in Indianapolis with daughter Ellie (3) and son Joey (1).
“It’s important to take time for your family during a pretty demanding coaching schedule,” says Pustay.
“It was a graduate course — essentially — in baseball,” says Pustay. “I could talk for days about Mike Roberts. He taught myself and the other assistants about how to treat people. He really taught us how to make everybody around the park feel like they were a part of it. That whole community lived for the Kettleers.
“It was a very family-friendly experience.”
Pustay got to know the names of a lot of dogs and kids.
“Mike Roberts taught me how to be a better person and trust myself,” says Pustay. “He’s a class act.”
Through Allen’s Vanderbilt University connections, Pustay has worked four fall camps at the NCAA D-I powerhouse (2015-19). Tim Corbin is the Commodores head coach.
Pustay has also worked camps at Notre Dame during the tenure of Mik Aoki and and Kentucky when Gary Henderson was head coach.
A native of Granville, Ohio, Pustay graduated from Granville High School in 2005 and earned three baseball letters at DePauw (2007, 2008 and 2009) as a catcher while playing for head coach Matt Walker (who is now head football coach at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls).
Pustay helped former high school teammate Sean Rainey with the Granville American Legion Post 398 team in the summer of 2009 then became an assistant at NCAA D-III Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, and was with the Ryan Grice-coached Crusaders for 2010 spring season.
“Coach Grice gave me a pretty long leash,” says Pustay. “He handed the catching position over to me. It was the best thing to happen to me as a young coach, being given that much responsibility.”
Grice did not nit-pick, he just asked that Pustay keep him posted about what he was doing.
Martin, who was a DePauw assistant when Pustay played for the Tigers, had put in a good word for him at Capital.
When Martin became DePauw’s head coach, he brought Pustay back to Greencastle. The two have remained close even after Martin went down the road to become head coach at Wabash College.
In his current position, working for Urban Knights head coach Dan McDermott, Collins-Bride, 30, is in charge of pitchers, catchers and infielders.
“I’m a teacher,” says Collins-Bride, who joined the ArtU coaching staff in September 2019. “Baseball and strength and conditioning seems to be my best form of teaching.
“When you see people grow and see the light click on and they create really good habits, that’s the special part.”
Developing pitchers at the NCAA Division II PacWest Conference institution for Collins-Bride is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor.
“It’s individualistic once you have a base,” says Collins-Bride. “It depends on the players’ needs.”
Some pitchers possess good command and need to improve their stuff. Some have superior velocity but lack movement on their pitches. Others need concentration on the mental side of baseball.
“We’re picking and choosing what we focus on,” says Collins-Bride.
A strength and conditioning coach for several Indiana Tech teams, Collins-Bride has studied biomechanics as it relates to athletes. He has become OnBaseU-certified.
“You have to know how each player moves and how they’re supposed to move,” says Collins-Bride, who does a movement assessment on each ArtU pitcher. “That’s critical.
“You structure the off-season around filling those buckets.”
You’re not treating every car like a Toyota. You also have Dodges and Kias. You don’t spend all your time racing the Lamborghini, you also spend time working with it in the garage.
COVID-19 caused the Urban Knights’ 2020 season to halt after 20 games. McDermott and Collins-Bride helped the player see the quarantine as an opportunity for growth.
“It was a chance to check something on your bucket list,” says Collins-Bride. “If you don’t do it, shame on you.
“Many (players) came back (in the fall) in the biggest shape of their lives,” says Collins-Bride. “It was really cool to see what these guys did over 6-7 months after only hearing about it over the phone.”
Alameda resident Collins-Bride used the extra time to go on long bike rides, including a trek around Lake Tahoe.
ArtU practices at The Presidio and plays games at Laney College. During fall practice, players went through daily temperature and system checks.
Most of the time, workouts were conducted with just six to eight players.
“It was different,” says Collins-Bride. “But it was really good from a development standpoint.”
There was more one-on-one time with coaching while raw skills — running, throwing, fielding and swinging — were being refined mixed with intrasquad play.
“Ideally, that’s what a fall should be — create some raw skills and play a little bit,” says Collins-Bride. “Summer baseball is failing kids. They’re playing too much and not practicing enough or practicing too much and not playing enough.
“We had a really good balance (in the fall.).”
It’s about building proper motor patterns. That’s why weighted balls and bats are used to carve a new path for the brain.
“It’s a brand new road and they learn that quickly,” says Collins-Bride.
Born in San Francisco, the son of carpenter Bob Bride and professor/nurse practitioner Geraldine Collins-Bride grew up loving baseball.
Patrick’s father did not have much experience at the game, but he did come up with several tools to guide “FUN-damentals” for Little Leaguers. Bob devoured books and DVDs while researching training methods.
“He’d have us swing ax handles,” says Collins-Bride. “We’d hit wiffle balls with hoses to teach us to whip the bat. He turned a leaf blower into a wiffle ball pitching machine. To develop soft hands, we’d toss eggs or water balloons. We had stations all around my small house.”
Flood lights were installed over the garage so these sessions could go deep into the night.
Patrick went to the Boys & Girls Club and learned about pitching from major leaguers who hailed from Alameda. Pitcher Dontrelle Willis taught him how to play “strikeout.”
Middle schooler Collins-Bride learned about the proper way to field a grounder from shortstop Jimmy Rollins at an RBI camp held at Encinal.
Collins-Bride expresses gratitude of coaching with McDermott, who is heading into his 28th season as a college coach in 2021.
“It’s like coaching with your dad,” says Collins-Bride. “He really, really loves you and he’s not going to let you mess up.
“We get really great life lessons all the time. I’ve learned a lot from him.”
Collins-Bride coached for five seasons at Indiana Tech (2015-19), where Kip McWilliams is the Warriors head coach. “C.B.” worked with hitters, infielders, catchers and volunteered his strength and conditioning services while pursuing and after completing his Masters of Marketing and Management.
Indiana Tech typically carries a roster of 60 or more to help fund the program — with varsity and developmental teams.
“We had to carry a lot of players,” says Collins-Bride. “We decided if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it really well.
“Playoff time is when the Warriors showed up.”
Collins-Bride notes that almost all the players in the starting lineup in the 2015 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference championship game started out on the development team.
“That was so important,” says Collins-Bride of the large squad. “They all trained together. We created an efficient practice style. Everybody had a purpose.
“We competed. If you were recruited there, you worked hard. When you have that many guys with a passion for baseball, it makes for such a good atmosphere.
“To do it right, you make sure you treat each kid well. I think we accomplished that. The beautiful thing about baseball and life is what a kid can make out of himself in two or four years.”
Collins-Bride said the Tech culture was based on standards and not rules.
“There was an acceptable level of behavior for everyone in the program and accountability is a two-way street (standards applied equally to players and coaches),” says Collins-Bride. “Coaches didn’t just talk the talk, they walked the walked.”
Or — better yet — they hustled from station to station just like the players.
It was also an atmosphere of positivity.
“No BCE (Blaming, Complaining or Excuses) was allowed,” says Collins-Bride. “Because it’s not helping the situation.”
Dosson, a graduate of Heritage High School in Monroeville, Ind., was a highly-touted player in high school who wound up behind an All-American for a few seasons with the Warriors then got a chance to hit behind Tech standout and No. 3 hitter Glen McClain.
Barksdale, who went to Cass Tech High School in Detroit, spent a few seasons on the developmental team then got his chance to shine with the varsity in a game against Florida Memorial.
“He had been training really, really hard,” says Collins-Bride. “He hit a ground ball in the 6-hole and beat it out for a base hit. That was pretty special.”
Collins-Bride calls Biagini, hard-nosed player from San Francisco, the “most impactful kid I’ve ever been around.”
“He was the epitome of leadership,” says Collins-Bride of the national gold glove shortstop. “He’d say what coaches would have to say. He’d see things and fix them.
“They way he practiced, he raised the level of everyone around him.”
Collins-Bride had been with McWilliams when he observed a Spring Arbor University practice led by head coach Sam Riggleman. The SAU Cougars made workouts fast and as game-like a possible.
“Practice is the hardest thing we would do,” says Collins-Bride. “Games were slow. Everything (in practice) counted. Everything had detail.”
Collins-Bride noticed that long-time Lewis-Clark State College coach Ed Cheff and Folsom Lake College coach Rich Gregory (who played for future Indiana State University and University of Washington coach Lindsay Meggs on a NCAA Division II championship team at Cal State Chico) also took to that kind of preparation — skill under pressure.
It did no good to see 50 mph batting practice pitches when the game was going to bring 90 mph.
Collins-Bride went from Ave Maria, where he played two seasons (2011 and 2012) and coached two (2013 and 2014), after checking his options of serving as a graduate assistant to Scott Dulin at Fisher College in Boston.
On his first working day with Tech, he flew from San Francisco to Boston then drove 15 hours to Fort Wayne. He met McWilliams at 5 a.m. and they drove all the way to Vincennes (Ind.) for a junior college showcase.
“We talked baseball the whole way,” says Collins-Bride.
During Collins-Bride’s entire at Tech, Debbie Warren was the athletic director.
“She was an unbelievable leader of people,” says Collins-Bride. “She knew how to push you. She was very tough and phenomenal to work with.”
Warren helped get the weight room updated just about the time Collins-Bride was leaving to go back to California.
While he was there he planted a desk near the weights and managed 80 athletes in a two-hour window.
Shawn Summe, a graduate of Penn High School and Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., was the head coach at NAIA Ave Maria. He started the program. The Gyrenes’ first season was 2010.
“(Summe) is a very intense person and an emotional leader,” says Collins-Bride. “We practiced really hard. He was really awesome to play for.
“He deeply had your back and wanted you to succeed.”
Collins-Bride, who received a Politics degree from Ave Maria, sees his transition from player to coach as a smooth one.
“It was easy to step into a role of leadership and demand respect,” says Collins-Bride. “We had a special senior group in 2013.”
Lennon, who died in 2019 at 80, won three baseball letters at Notre Dame and later taught at the university and served as three decades for the Notre Dame Alumni Association.
Lennon’s zeal was on display even at early hours when Collins-Bride was getting a few more winks before greeting the day on an Ave Maria road trip.
“He’s say, ‘Wake up C.B., the world is waiting for us,” says Collins-Bride. “Talk about positivity. He was a beaming, shining light.”
After a semester at Cal State East Bay, Collins-Bride transferred to California Community College Athletic Association member Laney and played two seasons (2009 and 2010) for Eagles coach Francisco Zapata.
“Coach Z is a great human being,” says Collins-Bride. “He really knew his stuff and he knew how to push you.
“It was really hard to let him down. You know what he had to go through to play baseball. You’ve got nothing to complain about.”
Zapata grew up in Nicaragua and brought a work ethic to his coaching.
“There was an expectation level,” says Collins-Bride.
His prep career began on the Alameda High junior varsity for coach Joe Pearse and concluded at Encinal for Jim Saunders.
“(Pearse) was a hard-nosed guy,” says Collins-Bride. “We were working hard and there was a lot of competition.
“(Saunders, who coached Rollins) was an excellent manager of talent.”
During his time as a player and manager with the San Francisco Seals, Collins-Bride not only got a chance to enjoy the rivalry with the Arcata-based Humboldt Crabs but got the chance to play all over the place. During a two-year span, he traveled through 33 states and played in around 20.
John Smolinski, who first wore a baseball uniform for Saint Joseph High School in South Bend, Ind., as a player in 2004 and was an Indians assistant coach for the past eight seasons is now Saint Joe’s head coach.
The last pitch that Brady Gumpf, now at Notre Dame, saw for Saint Joe was thumped for a home run against eventual state champion Andrean in the 2019 Griffith Regional championship game.
“I was fortunate to play for him and coach with him,” says Smolinski of Brady Gumpf’s father, John. “I got to understand his thoughts and how he thinks about the game.
“My goal is to make him proud and build upon the foundation he has started for Saint Joe.
“I’m very loyal to this school. I have big shoes to fill. It’s emotional. It’s high expectations. I’m embracing it.”
Smolinski’s senior year at Saint Joseph (2007) was Gumpf’s first as head coach. The Indians won Plymouth Sectional and one-game regional crowns and lost to future major league pitcher Jarrod Parker and eventual state champion Norwell in the Plymouth Semistate. Norwell finished the 2007 season at 35-0.
“We had a great team and a lot of seniors,” says Smolinski of Saint Joe. “There was a program chance when Coach Gumpf came in there.”
In Gumpf, Smolinski saw a competitor who respected the opposition and demanded the best out of his players and plans to emulate those qualities.
As interim coach, Smolinski led the Indians through Limited Contacted Period practice two days a week with about two dozen players.
“We did not have any positive COVID cases,” says Smolinski. “Our (practice) structure has changed. We take this very serious.”
Attendance was taken before each workout to make sure every student was able to participate. They were put into smaller groups — each player having a group number — and socially-distanced.
Coaches and players were always masked-up. He expects to have 13 seniors and 16 freshmen among 50 players for varsity, JV and freshman squads in the spring.
“It went really well,” says Smolinski. “Everybody bought into it.
“Not having the (spring) season hurt everyone (though most everyone played travel ball in the summer).
“We got after it. I got great feedback from the players. I was happy with the senior leadership. It was great to have some normalcy.”
At the end of the fall, Smolinski applied for the vacant head coaching position and went through the interview process.
Smolinski, who played four years at Manchester University for Rick Espeset before joining the Saint Joe coaching staff, was named head coach this week. Tom Washburn is expected be a varsity assistant and Dan Mentock the junior varsity head coach. There are other assistants, including a freshmen head coach, to hire.
“The last 24 hours have been kind of crazy,” says Smolinski, speaking on Nov. 4. “A lot of people have reached out to me.
“At Saint Joe, we’re a family. You can tell. People are willing to help out.”
Smolinski says players will likely get to help design an alternate jersey for the Indians. Recently, that look has featured black though the school colors are Columbia Blue and White. Coach Smo says Saint Joe will continuing to don a black cap.
Away from his coaching job, Smolinski is a self-employed social media manager that amplifies athletic accounts on Twitter including WhistleSports and FanSided.
In that role, Chase will be working closely with foundation executive director and Performance Center general manager Mark Haley.
“Hales and I connected and, honestly, I just want to help in whatever way that I can,” says Chase. “I’ve had some experiences — both in my playing career and coaching career.
“(On the) player development side, I think I can add some value. On the recruiting side, I can help some of the older guys — 15- 16-, 17-year-old guys looking to play in college and get them to understand what the recruiting process is like. It can seem very confusing a lot of times, especially to families who haven’t gone through it. I would just love to provide some clarity with that.”
Chase also has many connections in college baseball and knows where the opportunities lie.
“I really like working with young kids,” says Chase. “Baseball is such a great game from the relationships that you have to the friends that you meet and learning lessons from the game itself.”
Throughout all his coaching stops, Chase has worked with hitters, infielders and outfielders. He was an infielder at Notre Dame. He will help with instruction at the Performance Center, as an advisor in the recruiting process and be a second set of eyes for Haley when it comes to talent evaluation and other matters.
At Dayton, Chase was recruiting coordinator for Flyers head coach Jayson King, who is also a Massachusetts native.
“We went into a program that we both thought had a lot of promise,” says Chase. “There were a lot of positive things. It was a high academic school. The campus was beautiful. A lot of things you can sell to high school kids.
“We really worked hard at it and were able to get Dayton to where we felt it should be — a competitive school in the Athletic 10 (Conference) and getting good players from that area.”
Chase and King had been together as assistants on the Army staff. It was King who brought Chase to West Point, N.Y., having known about him while at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, N.H. Chase and coordinator King shared recruiting duties. The Black Knights head coach was — and still is — Jim Foster.
“Coach Foster is a baseball savant. He played many years in the minor leagues as a catcher and he has that kind of brain. He really understands the game. He’s very good at teaching the game to the players.”
Chase says he knew intricacies of the game, but Foster “took it to a whole different level.”
Scott Loiseau is head coach of the Southern New Hampshire Pennmen.
“Scott’s one of the best coaches I’ve been around in terms of working with his players and getting them to play at their highest level,” says Chase. “His ability to develop relationships with guys is to the point where the team wants to run through a wall with that guy.
“He really, really cares about his players and his coaches. He allows coaches to develop. He gave me a lot of responsibility when I stepped on-campus as a young kid. He was a great mentor for me.
“Most guys are coaching college baseball out of the passion that they have either for the game or the people that they’re around and — a lot of time — it’s both. There are a lot of things you have to sacrifice to be a college baseball coach.”
As a volunteer assistant at Navy, Chase first learned about what it means to coach baseball at a military school by Midshipmen head coach a baseball lifer Paul Kostacopoulos, who was assistant and head coach at Providence (R.I.) College and head coach at the University of Maine before landing at Navy in Annapolis, Md.
“He’s been very successful for a very long time,” says Chase for Kostacopoulos. “He took over at Navy and really turned a program around that had been relatively mediocre in the past, but had a great history. He brought it to being consistently competitive and at the top of the Patriot League every single year and winning 30-plus games.
“That’s a hard job. There’s a lot of things at a military academy you need to uphold. It’s not just winning on the field. It goes beyond that. It goes to understanding what the cadet life is being able to foster both commitments to baseball, academics and their military requirements. He does a great job to do all those things.”
Chase says that players at military academies may not have the time to devote to baseball that other schools do. But they bring a resilient, hard-nosed mentality to the field because they compete in everything they do.
UC-Santa Barbara head coach Andrew Checketts gave Chase his first college baseball job as the Gauchos video coordinator.
“I learned what a College World Series program looks like in the inside from the time commitment to the culture to the player development,” says Chase. “As a kid just coming out of college you don’t see what the coaches do off the field.”
Chase still maintains relationships with former Notre Dame bosses Schrage and Aoki.
Chase played three seasons for the Irish. He appeared in six games (all at second base) as a freshman in 2009 and missed the 2010 season following knee surgery with Schrage as head coach.
“Coach Schrage gave me a chance to live my dream of going to Notre Dame and playing baseball there,” says Chase. “He was a very personable guy and really cared about the well-being of his players.
“He was always a positive person. He was not a cutthroat-type coach. There’s a lot to be said for that.”
Aoki took over for 2011 and Chase got into 11 games (one as a starter).
“He’s a New England guy through and through,” says Chase of Aoki. “He allowed me to work my way to a chance to compete on the field and contribute to the team.”
At the end of 2011 season, his teammates thought enough of him to choose him as one of the captains for 2012 as he played in 17 games (four starts).
“It was a great honor,” says Chase of being chosen as a captain. “I enjoyed having a voice to lead the other guys and help them. When you’re a coach, you’re implementing your culture and you’re talking about the things that are important. A lot of times, the thing that’s most important is the leaders on the team saying the same message.
“A lot of times it’s not what the coaches say, it’s what the leaders among the players say to each other. The players have so much influence over the where the team’s headed and the culture of the team.”
Leaders can handle issues like players coming late to the weight room before it ever becomes big and has to be addressed by the coaching staff.
Chase grew up in Cohasset a few years ahead of Mike Monaco, who went on to Notre Dame and served as a broadcaster for the South Bend Cubs and now counts and has called games for the Triple-A Pawtucket (R.I.) Red Sox and the big-league Boston Red Sox.
Tommy and Teresa Chase have three sons — David (2 1/2), Peter (1) and Patrick (5 weeks). They are in the process of buying a home in Granger, Ind. Many friends from Tommy’s Notre Dame days still live in the South Bend area.