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Number of turf baseball fields on Indiana high school campuses grows

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Follow social media or drive by your local diamond and you may have seen outdoor baseball activity this week.

And it’s mid-January.

What do they say about Indiana weather: “Don’t like it? Just wait a little while and it will change.”

It’s largely with atmospheric conditions in mind that more and more high schools around the Hoosier State have installed artificial turf or are considering such a move.

Looking at on-campus fields only (in alphabetical order), turf has been installed or is on the way at Cascade, Danville Community, Indianapolis Bishop Chatard, Jeffersonville, Jennings County, Lake Central, Logansport, Mooresville, Noblesville, Northridge, Northwestern, Penn and Providence and idea has been explored in other places.

Here’s an IndianaRBI.com roundup of these places:

CASCADE

The Cascade Cadets played on turf at their Clayton, Ind., campus for the first time in 2019.

The administration (Scott Stevens is the athletic director) made the call to turf the baseball, softball and football fields.

Cascade head coach Ty Foster sees advantages to having turf.

“Last season we were able to be outside for practice or games everyday of the season except for two days,” says Foster. “Rain earlier in the day or week would of normally pushed us inside for a couple days, but now it’s just a matter of hours or even less that we can go out and take advantage of a full practice without the indoor limitations.

“We are able to go out and do things early in the season when it’s usually the wettest and we are getting new players and returning players up to speed on how we prepare for games that most teams in the state aren’t able to because they are inside for the start of the year and are limited in space.

“We were also able to get in a full schedule of games, except a few that scheduling conflicts with conference opponents got in the way of. That is something we weren’t able to do in my first three seasons at Casacde that we were never lucky to do.

“Our varsity can play games, but most importantly our younger players are able to get more experience and play a full slate of JV games in.”

DANVILLE COMMUNITY

The Danville Warriors are guided on the field by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Pat O’Neil. Jon Regashus is AD.

Danville’s diamond has turf in the infield and grass in the outfield since the 2018 season.

“More and more schools going that route,” says Regashus of a field that has FieldTurf (Cincinnati-based The Motz Group was the subcontractor). “We were dealing with a construction project in general (parking lots, bleachers, fencing). We looked at the financials and since the field was being renovated anyway, it was cost versus maintenance.”

Regashus says debt was falling off the school corporation’s books and it opened up funds for capital projects.

The AD adds that its hard to give an exact figure on cost since it was part of a larger project, but he estimates that the whole thing came in at around $700,000.

A machine is used to sweep the turf and keep it as clean as possible.

O’Neil gives his thumbs up to the turf infield.

“My first two years there, it seemed that everyday we had to get water off the field, fix home plate or the mound or drainage areas,” says O’Neil. “We were spending more time fixing the field than getting ready for games.”

O’Neil say players were expending energy pulling a tarp that could have been spent in other game day activities.

“I would take our field over anybody else’s field,” says O’Neil.

The game and bullpen mounds at Danville are clay and the warning track is brick dust.

O’Neil says there is something to be said about working on the field.

“Tractor time — it is therapy,” says O’Neil. “(In the fall) we’d be edging, pulling a weed here and there and put it to sleep. I guarantee I’d be out there on Thanksgiving to breathe the baseball air. I did it at Brownsburg all the time.

“It’s definitely therapeutic.”

Having turf helped keep the Brebeuf Sectional on schedule when the Greencastle-Tri-West game was moved to Danville. A Little League state tournament was hosted by Danville in 2018. Regashus says travel teams pay a rental fee for practices or tournaments.

INDIANAPOLIS BISHOP CHATARD

Chatard‘s Dave Alexander Field on the northeast side of Indianapolis was the first Indiana high school to have a turfed field on its campus. The 2020 season marks the eighth.

IHSBCA Hall of Famer Alexander led the capital campaign.

“Dave was very generous with his donation,” says Chatard head coach Mike Harmon. (The Motz Group-installed turf) is 2 1/4 inch. The whole field is same height (since it is a multi-use field shared with Trojans soccer programs).

“We were able to structure it any way we wanted. The football and baseball fields were done the same way.

Harmon, who is also an assistant AD to Mike Ford, says the business office has set a rental fee of $125 per hour.

“It’s a decent income generator in the summer,” says Harmon. “It’s used Thursday through Sunday non-stop.”

JEFFERSONVILLE

The Red Devils of Jeffersonville are on pace to debut The Motz Group-installed turf infield on Don Poole Field in 2020.

There was a groundbreaking ceremony in late November and the project funded by Jeffersonville alum John Schnatter (aka Papa John) went full steam ahead.

“We’re blessed,” says Jeff head coach Derek Ellis. “We would have never had a turf infield or upgrades to our baseball field if it wasn’t for Mr. Schnatter’s generosity.”

Upgrades in the works also call for a new scoreboard, outfield fence, dugout railings and more.

Ellis says the Kentucky Bluegrass in the outfield was in really good shape.

The coach says his players should have no problem making the transition to the new infield surface.

“We live in an era now where these kids are playing on turf fields (like the one at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.) in the summer,” says Ellis. “(Turf) makes you a better fielder with its pretty true consistent playability. Natural surface is a little more aggressive than artificial surface. Of course, it depends on how high or low the grass is cut.”

Ellis notes a turf field is not maintenance-free. The high-traffic areas must be attended so the fibers stand tall.

But the prep time has been cut down considerably.

“Now we’re doing some player development,” says Ellis. “If it’s 35 degrees and the sun’s out it’s like 45 degrees on the turf.

“I’m excited about this. Practices will run smoother. We can get a lot more accomplished.”

Todd Satterly is the Jeffersonville AD.

JENNINGS COUNTY

New baseball and softball fields were in the works at Jennings County in North Vernon, Ind., and the decision was later made to put turf on both diamonds for 2020.

Former Wabash College head baseball coach Cory Stevens is JC’s athletic director and Trent Hardisty is the Panthers head baseball coach.

“We have the ability to get out there much, much earlier in the year,” says Stevens. “It’s not maintenance-free, but we no longer need tarps, rakes or any of those things.

“It’s extremely exciting.”

Stevens says more teams are likely to schedule games at Jennings County.

“Hometown fans get to see your team play a lot more often,” says Stevens. “We have the convenience of being able to play anytime as long as its not lightning or pouring at game time. It also frees up grounds staff for other things.”

Stevens says there will be a standard rental fee for outside teams.

“We would like to generate revenue in the summer,” says Stevens. “We’d like to host as much as we could.”

The Motz Group-installed turf on the baseball field will be on the infield and in foul territory behind the plate, extending to the back cut of the infield. The actual product from The Motz Group is called Triple Play. It’s 2 inches thick in the grass areas and 1.625 inches in the skinned areas. The batter’s boxes, mound and bullpens are turf as well.

Stevens says putting in turf is represents a significant cost savings over time. There will be less rainouts and makeups and less required field maintenance.

The project was paid for by a bond issued to the school corporation.

JC’s football field was converted to synthetic turf in 2018.

LAKE CENTRAL

Lake Central in St. John, Ind., marked its fifth spring with a turf baseball field in 2019.

Many of the outdoor athletic areas for the Indians, including football (2015 was the first season) and softball (since 2014), are covered by FieldTurf. The baseball field is shared with the Indians soccer programs.

“We’re able to do some things other schools can’t,” says LC head baseball coach Mike Swartzentruber. “Ours is all turf – including the mound. It’s one less thing you have to deal with from a maintenance standpoint.

“I don’t miss that for sure.

“In the three years I’ve been here, we’ve played about 20 games a year at our place (with games scheduled on the road moved to Lake Central). We always get our allotted games in.”

Duneland Athletic Conference games are scheduled on consecutive weekdays and both will often by contested at Lake Central.

While programs with grass and dirt field have to buy materials (clay, diamond dry etc.) every year. That’s not the case at Lake Central.

LC’s old varsity field — now used by the junior varsity — is grass. The JV softball field has a turf infield and grass outfield.

Swartzentruber says maintenance on a turf field includes replaces the rubber pellets and sand in the sliding areas.

“With all the kids it takes about 10 minutes,” says Swartzentruber. The mound is held in place by velcro.

The coach says outside teams have asked to use the field while getting ready for regional or semistate play and there is a rental fee involved.

“We’re pretty particular on who uses it,” says Swartzentruber. “We want to makes sure it stays as nice as possible for as long as possible.

“We’re on it a ton. Other sports will be on it some. Freshmen football team practices on it a lot.”

Swartzentruber emailed all the teams on the Indians schedule to let them no that sunflower seeds, gum, colored drinks and metal spikes are not allowed. Teams can wear  turf shoes, tennis shoes or molded cleats.

The field has the same dimensions as Victory Field in Indianapolis.

“Our field is really, really big,” says Swartzentruber. Home runs are a rarity at LC.

LC AD Chris Enyeart explains why turf was adopted at his school.

“Northwest Indiana weather very unpredictable in the spring seasons,” says Enyeart. “The heaviest rain needs an hour to be ready to go. Maintenance is much easier.

“Tryouts have been outside every year we’ve had it. Some teams stuck in the gym two or three weeks behind us.”

Enyeart notes that when snow doesn’t melt on grass fields, it turns to mud.

Not so with turf.

LOGANSPORT

The Logansport Berries have sported turf at Jim Turner Field since the 2016 season. The school turf down on its football, softball and baseball fields at the same time.

Logansport AD Brian Strong says the total project cost just over $2 million. Previous debt was refinanced and and taxes did not go up.

Strong cites the advantages of turf.

“In northern Indiana, it’s a challenge to get on those fields in early spring for practices etc.,” says Strong. “We’re always worried about over-use (noting that soccer teams and youth leagues also play on the field).

“It’s been a great investment in our community. We have so many different programs taking advantage of it.”

Strong estimates that the Berries wind up hosting 18 to 20 baseball games per season.

Maintenance generally means pulling a groomer weekly behind the Gator.

“We want to keep it looking nice,” says Strong. “It takes about the same time or less than mowing. We were probably mowing every other day in-season (with grass).

The facilities have been rented out to small colleges around the state and allowed travel baseball and softball organizations to use it for free.

Colleges begin their seasons in mid-February and have been able to play on Turner Field’s turf.

New Berries head baseball coach Dan Frye remembers all the time Jim Turner Sr. and Jim Turner Jr. put into the original facility.

“We had a beautiful surface when we had a natural field,” says Frye. “They put in countless hours. It was a great field to play on even back in the day.

“But now won’t have rainouts so much and the care and maintenance has gone way down.”

MOORESVILLE

The Mooresville Pioneers took to the SprintTurf-installed FieldTurf for the third season in 2019. There’s no natural grass or dirt on the diamond at all.

“As long as its not pouring down rain, you can pretty much play on it,” says Mooresville head baseball coach Eric McGaha. “There’s not any weather condition you can not play through (short of thunder and lightning).

“You don’t have to put down material to dry the field, It’s dry within 10 minutes of when rain stops. Our diamond (prior to turf) just held too much water. One to 1 1/2 inches of rain would take two or three days to totally dry out.”

“It’s been a really, really good investment for us.”

Mooresville also put turf on its football and softball fields.

McGaha says the crushed rubber inside the fiber of the new turf makes it bouncy and soft to slide on.

“There not a ton of maintenance involved,” says McGaha. “We can use that extra time to practice and get better.

“You want those guys to have opportunities to practice or play. That’s why they’re playing baseball.

“The kids realize they’re in a very fortunate situation.”

Mooresville hosted a southern semistate.

“We got good, positive feedback,” says McGaha.

Because of the warranty, Mooresville does not allow outside groups to play on the field. The baseball diamond is used by the freshmen football team and physical education classes.

“We don’t rent it out,” says Mooresville AD Mike Mossbrucker. “A number of universities have asked us to play, particularly on our softball field.

“We don’t want to overuse it. It stands to reason the more teams you put out there the more the wear and tear is. There is a life expectancy. We’re just not taking any chances.”

NOBLESVILLE

While the Noblesville Millers do not have turf on Dunker Field (varsity), the adjacent JV field with the same dimensions does sport AstroTurf as of the fall of 2019.

“It’s a big help for us in terms of training,” says Noblesville head baseball coach Justin Keever. “We have three teams (two JV and one varsity).”

Keever says turf fields tend to respond in a more consistent way.

“Not all natural fields respond the same,” says Keever. “The grass is higher or lower. Some are fluffy. Some have high lips. Some don’t.

“The Dunk is very quick. We cut it short. It’s like a billiards table out there.”

Leah Wooldridge is AD at Noblesville, where they will host a 2020 tournament featuring Carmel, Penn and St. X of St. Louis.

NORTHRIDGE

Construction has started for a new athletic complex at the Middlebury, Ind., school. The Motz Group will be putting down turf for football/track, softball and baseball. The new digs are to debut in 2020-21. Northridge AD says the project costs nearly $15 million.

“We didn’t have to raise any taxes,” says Harms. “That’s huge. That gets everybody excited.

“It’ll be nice not have to worry about the weather as much. It could rain all day and you could still get out and play. The turnaround is so much quicker.”

Harms says the two existing varsity fields — baseball and softball — will become JV fields.

“Everything will be here on campus for the first time,” says Harms, noting that JV games have been contested at Middlebury Little League. “It had a lot to do with putting in new fields. It’s been a long, long time since we’ve had an upgrade to our outdoor faculties.

“It also opens door to hosting sectionals etc. which we couldn’t do before. We’ve already been asked to host both baseball and softball sectionals (in 2021).”

Count Raiders head coach Andrew Brabender among the elated.

“I’m super-excited about it,” says Brabender. “I wasn’t a fan of (turf) as a player. It just makes sense in northern Indiana. You’re really not counting on decent weather until the first of May.”

According to the coach, the new field will have a tire and sand ratio in the infield different than the outfield and there will be walnuts on the warning track that will crunch below fielders’ feet.

Brabender says getting outside after the snow melts means constantly rolling the grass field.

“The ball is never a true roll,” says Brabender. “It always has some kind of bounce.”

Brabender has used college teammate at Hannibal-LaGrange as a resource. Neil Richardson is the head baseball coach at Fox High School in Missouri, where there has been a turf infield and grass outfield for years.

Field maintenance at Northridge’s current grass field takes about 45 minutes to an hour a day when it does not rain and that duty falls to Brabender and his coaching staff.

NORTHWESTERN

Northwestern in Kokomo, Ind., had 50 acres of athletic complex to maintain and needed to do some safety upgrades bring all of fields into a small area, according to AD and former Tigers head baseball coach Dan Armstrong.

So Northwestern wound up with new football, softball and baseball fields installed by SprinTurf. Soccer uses all three multi-purpose fields. The first spring for baseball was in 2018.

“I’m a huge proponent for having high school turf,” says Armstrong. “(Instead of) maintaining the field, (athletes) can get home, get something to eat and get their homework done.”

Armstrong notes that the year prior to putting turf on the football field, it was used for 61 hours. The year after turf saw it host 137 events plus practices.

Even though there were eight inches of rain on baseball/softball sectional week, the games were still played.

“The last time we hosted sectional, rain pushed the final to Thursday and the regional was Saturday,” says Armstrong.

Northwestern has an all-rubber infield.

“It has no sand in it,” says Armstrong. “It plays like a (grass and dirt) baseball field. It’s not real bouncy. The fields are not abrasive.

“We wanted to focus on our kids. We play games at 6 p.m. (and use LED lights when necessary). We get bigger crowds. Plus it’s warmer on the turf.

“It’s been worth every penny we’ve spent on it. I just love it.”

Armstrong says fields need to be groomed for every 50 to 100 hours of use. Rakes and other equipment has been donated to youth programs.

“Gum is devastating,” says Armstrong. “It melts into the carpet. We’ve banned all nuts from our facility.”

Northwestern head baseball coach Ryan Ward considers himself a purist.

“I miss the tractor a little bit,” says Ward. “But instead of chalking or lining, I can get to my wife sooner. But extra reps is what it all boils down to.”

The turf also allows for Northwestern to host a Howard County tournament (with Eastern, Taylor and Western)) the first week of the season.

PENN

The Penn Kingsmen had The Motz Group install turf on varsity baseball and softball fields in Mishawaka, Ind., in time to practice on them in the fall of 2019 and will debut them for game play in 2020.

“I never thought of it,” says Penn head baseball coach Greg Dikos, an IHSBCA Hall of Famer. “I thought it was out-of-reach.

“(The administration) got the ball rolling and got it done.”

Dikos sees many positives to turf on Jordan Automotive Group Field.

“We get on there a lot sooner and stay out there a lot longer,” says Dikos. “We can do a lot more things outside. We don’t have to worry about gym space.”

Marketed as a multi-use field, the band also practices on the lighted baseball diamond. Dikos also takes his P.E. classes onto the rug. The field is also marked for soccer use.

Dikos attended a workout on maintaining the field, which involves redistributing and adding rubber pellets and sometimes sand in heavy-use areas.

“Kids will be able to get home a lot sooner,” says Dikos. (With the grass and dirt field), every kid had a job (rake etc.). Repair now is so much quicker.

“The varsity dirt we took to the JV field. We fixed it up pretty nice.”

Penn has to coordinate practice and game schedules for three teams — varsity, JV and freshmen.

Jeff Hart is the Kingsmen’s AD.

PROVIDENCE

The Pioneers of Our Lady of Providence had Triple Play Turf installed on the baseball infield in the fall of 2015 and played the first season on it in 2016. The football/soccer field was turfed before that.

“We were just so pleased with the results on our football field,” says Providence AD Mickey Golembeski. “Let’s do what we can on the baseball field based on what we could raise.”

Golembeski says the project was funded by “in kind” donations by alumni.

“I’m guessing it cost in the $250,000 to $300,000 range,” says Golembeski. “But this include a complete re-do of the Bermuda (grass) outfield.”

Since Providence is private and no public monies were involved, the Pioneers and their feeder programs are the only ones to use it.

“With a baseball field, the wear and tear is much quicker and faster than a football field,” says Golembeski. “Proper grooming and maintenance makes a world of difference.”

Players replaces product and brushes it in all those locations after every game and practice. It gives kids pride and ownership in their area.

“It has to be done on a daily basis,” says Golembeski. “But it’s very quick and easy and takes much less time (the maintaining a all-grass and dirt field).

“The athletic department will groom the field with pull-behind brushes — very corse bristles used in a specific pattern — to refurbish and redistribute the base.

“In the long run, it’s going to save us hundreds of thousands of dollars of when we’re going to have a replacement.”

Count Providence head baseball coach Scott Hutchins as a turf fan.

“There’s a lot of things to like,” says Hutchins. “Not having to deal with rainouts in wonderful. “I loved working on the field.”

But on rainy days, he take sponges to it during his planning period. Raking was a daily occurrence.

“Jokingly, I tell people my wife likes it more than I do,” says Hutchins. “I’m at home more and not working on the field.”

DANVILLEFIELD

The combination turf/grass baseball field at Danville (Ind.) Community High School. (Danville Community High School Photo)LAKECENTRALTURFFIELDThe turf baseball field at Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind. (Lake Central High School Photo)

DAVEALEXANDERFIELDBISHOPCHATARD

Dave Alexander Field — the baseball diamond at Indianapolis Bishop Chatard High School — has had turf since the 2013 season. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

Guthrie eager to get going with Prairie Heights Panthers

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

T.J. Guthrie was just hired as the head baseball coach at Prairie Heights Community High School near LaGrange, Ind.

Guthrie and his coaching staff are young and eager to work with the Panthers.

“There’s not a staff out there more excited to get going,” says Guthrie, who at 26 is the oldest in a group that also includes Prairie Heights alums Tanner Perkins (who played at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne), Mike Gustin (who played at Trine University in Angola, Ind.) and Zach Smith. “We’re young and connected to the community.

“We have to have the youngest aggregate age in the state.”

Guthrie’s hiring was approved by the school board too late for the fall Limited Contact Period. The next window for baseball activities opens in a little over a month.

“I’m counting down the days until Dec. 9, I know that,” says Guthrie. That’s when teams can have two-hour blocks twice-a-week for baseball activity. He plans to precede that with an hour of weight lifting and conditioning, putting  as baseball practice at 7:30 p.m. after winter sports practices.

“I want to give everybody an opportunity to get on board early,” says Guthrie.

Why conditioning before practice and not after?

“I want to see them perform when their legs are not fresh,” says Guthrie. This equates to being able to make plays late in games when they’re worn out.

Perkins pitched at Indiana Tech, where head coach Kip McWilliams ran practices with a fast tempo. Guthrie plans to adopt that style for his Panthers.

“I want to see how they (perform) in bottom of seventh when they’re worn out,” says Guthrie. “When you practice at a high pace, once you get in a game everything seems to slow down.”

Building Heights up from the bottom will be a priority.

“We’re going to make sure we focus on the little things a lot,” says Guthrie. “As part of part of our warm-up routine, infielders will be working on their hands and footwork every single day. Outfielders will be doing drop steps and sprinting to the baseball.

“We want to start from the ground up and make sure everything fundamental is correct. We want to make sure we play the game the right way.”

Guthrie also intends to use plenty of technology and metrics, using Blast Motion to measure launch angle and exit velocity.

“We’re top of the cage enthusiasts,” says Guthrie. “We’ll do a lot of weighted-bat training. We’ll work on our hit path and getting the barrel on a plane. It’s rotational hitting.

“We want to lead the conference and, ideally, the state in doubles and home runs.”

This is Guthrie’s second stint on the Panthers staff. He wound up a run after the 2017 working with Nick Pfafman, who left to join head coach Greg Perschke at Trine.

A 2011 Fremont (Ind.) High School graduate who played for Eagles head coach Justin Bock, Guthrie went to Trine to be a pitcher and first baseman. He blew out his elbow in the first couple of practices and opted to focus on his studies and earn an accounting degree which he now puts to use with marketing and sales for his parents’ business, Casey’s Cove Marina on Crooked Lake in Angola.

Guthrie got his coaching start in the Sandy Koufax League in Fremont and coached in travel ball with the Indiana Elite and Sturgis, Mich.-based Hitters Edge.

Prairie Heights plays on-campus at Kellett Field, a facility that has been recently edged and is going through infield work. There are now double-barrel bullpens on both sides of the field. A year ago, the field got new fencing. The playing surface and irrigation system went in five years ago. There are no lights.

“The field is going to play very nice,” says Guthrie. “We have maintenance staff ready to help us out.”

While he has a young squad and no current college baseball commitments, Guthrie has players with those aspirations.

“I’ll put a big emphasis on trying to get guys to the next level,” says Guthrie. “I’m working hard to develop relationships with a lot of these area junior colleges (including Glen Oaks Community College in Centreville, Mich., and Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne).”

Recent Prairie Heights graduate Jacob Heller also played baseball at Trine.

Four communities with their own youth leagues — Stroh, South Milford, Ashley-Hudson and Orland — feed into Prairie Heights and Guthrie intends to become a familiar face to those players and coaches.

“A number of players are in travel baseball,” says Guthrie. “I want wake sure I’m getting involved with the guys that are staying local and get them ready for high school.”

Prairie Heights (enrollment around 410) is a member of the Northeast Corner Conference (with Angola, Central Noble, Churubusco, Eastside, Fairfield, Fremont, Garrett, Hamilton, Lakeland, West Noble and Westview).

Each team plays each other once with the home team alternating from year to year. There’s also an in-season tournament. Teams are guaranteed two games. Most weekday games are played at 5:30 p.m.

The Panthers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Bremen, Central Noble, Fairfield, LaVille and Westivew. Prairie Heights has won two sectional titles — 1977 and 1984.

T.J. and Cheyene Guthrie were high school sweethearts. The couple, which resides in Angola, celebrated four years of marriage in September.

TJGUTHRIE

T.J. Guthrie is the new head baseball coach at Prairie Heights Community High School near LaGrange, Ind. He has recently been coaching travel ball for Hitters Edge.

TJGUTHRIEHITTERSEDGE

T.J. Guthrie (right) stands with a trophy he won in a coaches home run derby at a Gameday USA travel tournament with Hitters Edge. Celebrating with him are former player T.J. Vanderkuyl and assistant coach Jacob Summers. Guthrie is a 2011 Fremont (Ind.) High School graduate who recently became head baseball coach at Prairie Heights Community High School near LaGrange, Ind.

TJCHEYENEGUTHRIET.J. and Cheyene Guthrie take in a baseball game. T.J. Guthrie is now head baseball coach at Prairie Heights Community High School near LaGrange, Ind.

 

Buddies Quarles, Moralez to teach baseball in China

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jaylen Quarles welcomes new adventures in his life.

The Indianapolis native will soon experience new things and share his bat and ball knowledge on the other side of the globe.

“I’m ready to learn something different,” says Quarles, who holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in sports management from the University of Southern Indiana (2017 and 2019), where he played baseball. “I would love to learn a second language.”

The former Screaming Eagles outfielder/designated hitter will get a chance to pick up a Mandarin dialect spoken in Tianjin, China.

Quarles and best friend Andrew Moralez are scheduled to leave Monday morning (Sept. 15) from Indianapolis for Toronto and then on to China and a year as instructors for Dallas-based D-BAT Baseball & Softball Academies.

After a week of training in Beijing, Lawrence Central High School graduate Quarles and Bishop Chatard High School and Kentucky Wesleyan College grad Moralez will move about 70 miles southeast to the metropolis of Tianjin. With the help of translators, they will teach players ages 3 to 18.

“The contract is a full year,” says Quarles. “We get holidays off, but not enough time to come home.

“In the ninth or 10th month, we can negotiate for a second year.”

At 25, Moralez is also ready for adventure and getting himself experience toward his goal of coaching at the international level. He was recruited by D-BAT director of China Operations David Fisher and sent a resume and video montage.

“A lot of people don’t get to do this kind of stuff,” says Moralez. “I might as well take advantage of it.”

Quarles and Moralez have known each other since they were 9. Jaylen was playing for the Indiana Pony Express and Andrew, who moved to Indiana from Colorado at 6, the Westfield (Ind.) Indians. From 11 to 18, the two were summer mates with the Pony Express.

Jon Richardson was the leader of that travel organization.

“Jon was a really good influence on us when we were younger,” says Moralez, who later coached at 17U Pony Express team for Richardson. “He kept us accountable.

“I can’t being to explain how much he’s done for me and my career.”

Quarles is a 2012 graduate of Lawrence Central, where he lettered in baseball and football. He was honorable mention all-state, first team all-Conference Indiana and all-Marion County as a senior while hitting .463 with 20 runs batted in.

He was playing eighth grade football when coach Dan Roman fired a football into the air one day at practice and told Jaylen “make sure you call it.”

Roman, the head baseball coach at Lawrence Central at the time, knew that the youngster was familiar with the diamond.

But that was news to Quarles.

“I had no idea he knew I played baseball,” says Quarles. “I enjoyed playing for Dan Roman at LC.”

Besides the Pony Express, Quarles also played parts of two summers with Indianapolis RBI, playing in national tournaments in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

He went on to participate in two seasons of junior college baseball at Southeastern Illinois College. As a sophomore in 2014, the lefty-swinger hit .367 with 39 runs scored and team-best 26 RBIs.

After transferring to USI, Quarles played 33 games (22 starts) and hit .363 with 18 runs in 2015. After being a medical redshirt in 2016, he played 35 games (29 starts at designated hitter) in 2017 while hitting .310 with 14 runs and 14 RBIs.

Why degrees in sports management?

“Growing up all I wanted to do was play baseball,” says Quarles, who posted a 3.8 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale (in grad school). “I want to stay around the business.

“This is the type of job that I want. I’d eventually like to be a college coach at any level.”

Moralez was a three-year starter at Chatard, playing shortstop, second base, right field and pitching for Trojans head coach Mike Harmon. He was honorable all-Marion County in 2010.

What Moralez appreciates about Harmon is his ability to bring players together.

“He harped on family a lot with us,” says Moralez. “I look that into college and pro ball.”

“I wanted to want the team to be one and have good chemistry. I wanted to get everybody on board with one mission.”

The right-handed pitcher at Kentucky Wesleyan from 2013-16, making 39 mound appearances with nine victories for the Todd Lillpop-coached Panthers. He earned a degree in graphic design.

After college, Moralez took part in the California Winter League and then spring training with the independent Frontier League’s Evansville (Ind.) Otters in 2017.

Moralez landed with the Thoroughbred Mustangs of the independent Thoroughbred Baseball League in Lexington, Ky. With Scott Nathanson as manager, the Mustangs won the league championship.

Through BaseballJobsOverseas.com, Moralez was going to play in Austria when he developed bone spurs and instead stayed in the U.S. and took an office job.

While Moralez has been working in Indianapolis, Quarles has been living and working in the Evansville area. He got internship credit working for Kevin and Kate Brown at Kevin Brown Baseball & Softball School in Mount Vernon, Ind., and continued to give lessons and coach travel softball.

“I got really comfortable in Evansville,” says Quarles. “I gained and formed relationships.”

That includes USI head coach Tracy Archuleta, who he surprised recently by popping in at practice.

Quarles, 26, was offered the chance to join D-BAT in the spring through a Facebook message from former USI pitcher Dan Marcacci. But Jaylen was finishing his graduate degree and the softball season was about to begin.

“I had obligations,” says Quarles. “I’ve been all-in with these girls. I can’t leave them hanging.”

Fast forward to this week and Quarles has been in Indianapolis making preparations to travel to China, including getting shots and squaring away paperwork.

Jaylen is the son of Leonza and Crystle Quarles. He has a sister, Jazzemine.

Andrew is the youngest of Oscar and Julie Moralez. Jesse Moralez is the older brother.

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Andrew Moralez, a graduate of Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis and Kentucky Wesleyan College, delivers a 2017 pitch for the independent Thoroughbred Mustangs in Lexington, Ky.  He will soon be teaching baseball in China with best friend Jaylen Quarles. They played travel ball together on the Pony Express. (Thoroughbred Baseball League Photo)

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Indianapolis native Jaylen Quarles bats for the University of Southern Indiana. The 2012 Lawrence Central High School graduate will soon be teaching baseball in China with best friend Andrew Moralez. They played travel ball together on the Pony Express. (University of Southern Indiana Photo)

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Andrew Moralez fires a pitch for Kentucky Wesleyan College. On this day, he hit the radar gun at 94 mph. The KWC and Bishop Chatard High School graduate will soon be teaching baseball in China with best friend Jaylen Quarles. (Kentucky Wesleyan College Photo)

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Jaylen Quarles prepares for the pitch while playing for the University of Southern Indiana. The USI and Lawrence Central High school graduate will soon be teaching baseball in China with best friend Andrew Moralez. (University of Southern Indiana)

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At Kentucky Wesleyan College baseball senior day in 2017, Andrew Moralez is surrounded by his family. From left, there’s big brother Jesse Moralez, mother Juile Moralez and father Oscar Moralez.

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Crystle and Leonza Quarles share a moment with son Jaylen Quarles during the latter’s baseball-playing days at the University of Southern Indiana.

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Andrew Moralez played baseball at Kentucky Wesleyan College and will soon be teaching the game in China with best friend Jaylen Quarles. He is a graduate of Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis (Kentucky Wesleyan University Photo)

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Jaylen Quarles played baseball at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville and will soon be teaching the game in China with best friend Andrew Moralez. He is a graduate of Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis. (University of Southern Indiana Photo)

 

Cancer, other health issues can’t keep NorthWood’s Dillion Weldy from serving others

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Dillion Weldy has faced physical challenges throughout his young life.

At two weeks old, he went to Riley Hospital of Children in Indianapolis to repair a heart defect (coarctation of the aorta).

He also has a heart murmur and an abnormally-shaped bicuspid aortic valve.

These conditions restricted his activity, but he was able to play some T-ball and coach pitch baseball in Wakarusa, Ind.

At 7, second grader Dillion found out he had cancer in his lower back.

He collapsed in the hallway at school with back pain in the fall of 2008. That was two days after mother Cindy married Tom Lamb. It took two months to figure out Dillion’s issue. At first it was believed the boy had a kidney stone so he went to see a urologist.

Then came total body bone scans, X-rays and CAT scans. He was scheduled for an MRI when a doctor who had been reviewing his tests called and advised the family to take Dillion to Riley immediately. He was airlifted from Plymouth to Indianapolis.

That was Oct. 1, 2008. Three days later, he was diagnosed and received his first treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

A golf ball-sized tumor was found on Dillion’s spine. It was around his spinal cord, spine and nerve endings. One vertebrae was fractured and another one was removed.

All of the tumor was successfully removed with surgery. After two years of treatment, he was declared to be in remission in October 2010.

Because of his condition, he was not allowed him to engage in strenuous activities which limited what he could do around the farm and kept him out of sports for fear of causing more damage.

“Once cancer hit, doctors told me I couldn’t play any more,” says Dillion. “Throughout elementary and middle school, I didn’t do any sports.

“My freshman year, my mom told me, ‘you need to get more involved in activities.’ At first, I said, ‘I might not like this.’ It turns out, I really did.”

What Dillion did was become a boys basketball manager at NorthWood High School in Nappanee.

“When basketball season was all over, it was ‘what am I going to do next?,’” says Dillion. “Let’s do baseball because I’m pretty familiar with baseball.”

Former Panthers head baseball coach Jay Sheets was very welcoming to his new manager.

“He treated me like I was part of the team, which I really loved,” says Dillion.

Weldy did his part for a basketball program led by Aaron Wolfe.

A.J. Risedorph, a basketball assistant, took over NorthWood baseball for 2018-19 and Dillion continued to be a key part of the squad.

“He’s bought into our motto of being relentless and the next pitch mentality,” says Risedorph. “He shows up everyday and puts his work in.

“He’s a constant reminder of how precious life is considering his background.”

Dillion will represent NorthWood one more time as a manager at the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series June 21-23 in Madison.

Risedorph reached out to district representative Ryan Wolfe (Plymouth) who pitched the idea of Weldy managing the all-stars to executive director Brian Abbott and the IHSBCA leadership.

“I wanted to give Dillion that opportunity for everything he’s done for us,” says Risedorph. “It’s a selfless job and you don’t get many thank you’s.”

Matt Dutkowski, who will represent NorthWood and the North as an all-star first baseman and also played basketball at NWHS, noticed Dillion’s contribution to both sports.

“Anything you need him to to do, he’s going to do it,” says Dutkowski. “For eight seasons, he was was always the first one out to practice with the bases or basketballs. He was always putting something away or getting something if it was needed during practice.”

Dillion monitored the clock at basketball workouts and got to know the plan as well — if not better — than Coach Wolfe. He kept the scorebook during baseball games.

“He was always ready,” says Dutkowski, who is headed to Taylor University to study and play baseball.

Weldy is appreciative of being included at the all-star series.

“I applaud (the IHSBCA) for letting me do it,” says Dillion. “I’m super-excited to find out what I’m going to be doing.”

His managing days will not be over after Madison. Offered a role by multiple schools, Dillion will attend Indiana University East in Richmond and be a men’s basketball manager. Family friend Tyler Rigby is an assistant coach for the Red Wolves. Weldy will receive a partial scholarship and plans to major in Marketing with minor in Sports Management.

He says can see himself becoming an athletic director like NorthWood’s Norm Sellers, who until the family moved recently to a Weldy farm north of Wakarusa and Nappanee lived across the street.

“You can go the education route or the business route,” says Dillion. “(Norm) told me it takes a lot of dedication. I can always talk to him and he can be a mentor.”

Chad Sellers, one of Norm’s sons, took time off from DePauw University when his mother and Norm’s wife (Kim) was diagnosed with cancer and helped coach boys basketball at NorthWood.

Chad, who is three years older than Dillion, used to stand at the bus stop together. Sellers played basketball and baseball as a senior on teams managed by Weldy. He drove him to and from practice and made sure he was included in team dinners.

“We wanted to make him feel like he’s important and a part of the team. He’s not just there for the dirty work.

“He’s a great kid and means a lot to us,” says Sellers. “He always has a big grin and says, “Hi neighbor, how are you?. He never calls me or my dad by our name.”

Chad Sellers notes that when NorthWood was going to play Fairfield in the first round of the 2019 Class 3A Wawasee Sectional basketball tournament, it fell on the same day as Dillion’s annual check-up at Riley.

Knowing he might miss the game, Weldy stayed late the day before and got everything ready to go. Sellers says that shows his courage and character.

Dillion led the team onto the floor on basketball senior night and threw out a first pitch on baseball senior night.

“Coach Rise said it was an ‘all-day strike’,” says Dillion. “To me, it looked more like a ball.

“I think of (Risedorph) as a father figure. He’s really inspiring to me.”

Weldy was also recognized during the second Strike Out Cancer Game. NorthWood baseball has teamed with the Jason Motte Foundation the past two years to raise money and awareness to fight the disease.

“We had multiple moms dealing with cancer,” says Risedorph, noting that they had their names along with others connected to NorthWood and Bremen players signed on a banner.

With a heart for service and dedication to the job, Weldy served both basketball and baseball teams for four years and graduated from NorthWood on June 7.

On June 13, Dillion completed another graduation. He went to Camp Watcha-Wanna-Do (a free program for children with cancer and their family and friends at YMCA Camp Potawotami in LaGrange County) as a camper. He plans to return as a counselor.

Dillion, 18, has been released from the neurosurgeon, endocrinologist and oncologist and now follows up with his primary care physician. In February, he saw an adult cardiologist at Riley that said he can do pretty much anything that he wants short of powerlifting.

He was able to be more active during the baseball season, taking throws and feeding the ball to coaches during infield/outfield practice and playing catch.

Dillion was a 10-year 4-H member. His twin brother, Garrett Weldy, was the NorthWood student advisor for Future Farmers of America this past year and was the District 2 sentinel. He is now running for statewide FFA office and plans to attend Purdue University to study Agriculture/Animal Science. Younger sister Kaitlin Lamb just finished the fifth grade.

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NorthWood High School varsity baseball award winners (from left): Matt Dutkowski (MVP), Trey Allman (Most Improved), Dillion Weldy (Roberto Clemente Service), Jaden Miller (Rickey Henderson Baserunning), Alec Holcomb (Cy Young Pitching), Jack Wysong (Hank Aaron Batting), Nate Newcoerm (Gold Glove Defensive), Kyler Germann (Mental Attitude), Cooper Davis (Mariano Rivera Reliever).

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Great grandchildren surround Anna Belle and the late Dale Weldy. In the front (from left): Nathan Rush, Tanner Rush and Kaitlin Lamb. In the back, Garrett Weldy, Dillion Weldy and Wesley Rush.

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Don Weldy (second from left) enjoys time with grandchildren (from left): Dillion Weldy, Kaitlin Lamb and Garrett Weldy.

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NorthWood High School baseball manager Dillion Weldy (left) shares a moment with Brant Mast.

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Chad Sellers (left) and Dillion Weldy have formed a strong friendship. They used to be neighbors and Sellers was on NorthWood basketball and baseball teams that were managed by Weldy. Sellers later coached basketball at NWHS with Weldy managing.

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Dillion Weldy (left) and mother Cindy Lamb are recognized at baseball senior night at NorthWood High School in Nappanee, Ind.

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A banner was signed by high school baseball players from NorthWood and Bremen at the 2019 Strike Out Cancer Game for the Jason Motte Foundation.

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Aaron Wolfe (left) is the head boys basketball coach at NorthWood High School. For the past four years, Dillion Weldy (right) has been a student manager.

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Student manager Dillion Weldy got to help cut down the nets when NorthWood High School won a boys basketball sectional title his freshmen year.

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Boys basketball assistant and head baseball coach A.J. Risedorph (left) points to a valuable member of both NorthWood High School programs the past four years in manager Dillion Weldy. The 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in Madison will have Weldy as a manager.

 

Martin leads Riverton Parke to first sectional title in a decade

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Led by a fixture in Parke County, Ind., sports, the Panthers of Riverton Parke Junior/Senior High School celebrated their first sectional baseball title in a decade and are preparing for regional.

Charlie Martin, who has been at Riverton Parke for 24 years with two stints as head baseball coach (1996-2005 and 2016-present), steered the pitching-rich Panthers to the IHSAA Class 1A Parke Heritage Sectional championship.

No. 10-ranked Riverton Parke (19-10) topped North Vermillion and Covington to hoist the trophy and earn a spot opposite No. 2 Rossville in the semifinals of the Carroll (Flora) Regional at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 1. The second semifinal features Blue River Valley vs. Daleville (the Broncos were 1A state champions in 2016 and 2018) with the championship at 7:30 p.m.

“Our biggest strength is pitching,” says Martin, who saw junior right-hander Garrett Lawson toss a complete game against North Vermillion and junior left-hander Logan Harrison hurl six innings and Lawson close out Covington.

“They’ve been varsity starters since they were freshmen,” says Martin of Lawson and Harrison. “Both have shown flashes of brilliance. This year, they’ve put it all together.

“They are workhorses on the mound.”

Lawson is 6-2 in 10 starts with four complete games and 79 strikeouts in 64 innings. Harrison is 7-1 in 10 starts with three complete games and 80 K’s and 54 innings.

Righty swinger Lawson is hitting .402 with 33 hits, 11 doubles, five home runs, 20 runs scored and 31 runs batted in. Sophomore catcher Pierson Barnes also swings the bat from the right side. He is hitting .430 with 40 hits, nine doubles, one triple, five homers, 21 runs scored and 29 driven in.

Martin is assisted by Chad Lawson, Ben Porter, B.J. Barnes and Travis Sutton. This spring, numbers were up with large freshmen and junior classes and there were 26 players for varsity and junior varsity squads.

Little Leaguers from Montezuma, Rosedale and Clinton feed into Riverton Parke.

Riverton Parke (enrollment around 310) is a member of the Wabash River Conference (with Attica, Covington, Fountain Central, North Vermillion, Parke Heritage, Seeger and South Vermillion).

The WRC plays a double round robin with home-and-home weekday series and Saturday doubleheaders. Covington and South Vermillion tied for first place at 11-3. Riverton Parke and Seeger tied for third at 9-5.

Located near Montezuma, Ind. The Riverton Parke Panthers play on a little land-locked on-campus diamond. It’s less than 300 feet down the foul lines and short of 350 feet to center field.

“It makes for some nerve-racking coaching,” says Martin of the cozy confines. “One walk and one swing and a two-run lead is gone in a hurry.”

Martin notes that many of the top run and home run seasons during the pre-BBCOR bat days were set by Riverton Parke teams.

“Home runs not quite as plentiful since we switched the bats,” says Martin.

To click off the runs that are tallied, a manual wooden scoreboard stands in right field.

Martin, who has been athletic director at Riverton Parke for 14 years and has served as the school’s head boys basketball coach as recently as 2014-15, was in the last graduating class of Montezuma High School in 1986. Montezuma consolidated with Rosedale to form Riverton Parke. Martin’s baseball coaches were Bob Kyle (currently head coach at Parke Heritage) and Scott Weis.

“I definitely learned a lot of baseball strategy from Coach Kyle as well as the competitive side of the game,” says Martin. “There’s never been a better competitor than Coach Kyle.”

Charlie and Angel Martin have been married for 26 years. They have two children — Jake (25) and Maggie (22).

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An aerial view of the baseball field at Riverton Parke Junior/Senior High School near Montezuma, Ind.

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The manual baseball scoreboard at Riverton Parke Junior/Senior High School near Montezuma, Ind.

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Riverton Parke Junior/Senior High School baseball coaches celebrate a 2019 sectional championship (from left): assistants B.J. Barnes and Chad Lawson, head coach Charlie Martin and assistants Travis Sutton and Ben Porter.

Franklin Community, Hanover grad Miller now coaching at Tusculum

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Todd Miller’s baseball coaching path has taken him to the eastern part of the Volunteer State.

A graduate of Franklin (Ind.) Community High School in 2002 and Hanover (Ind.) College in 2006, Miller is in his first season as an assistant at Tusculum University, an NCAA Division II school in Greeneville, Tenn.

Recruiting coordinator and assistant coach is charge of hitting, base runners and infielders are duties for Miller, who was hired in the summer of 2018.

He joined Brandon Steele, a former Tusculum assistant who was promoted when Doug Jones resigned as head baseball coach to concentrate on his duties as Pioneers athletic director.

Associate head coach Todd Ireland and graduate assistants John Topoleski and Hayden Pewitt round out the coaching staff.

Tusculum (24-14 through April 4) is part of the South Atlantic Conference (with Anderson of South Carolina, Carson-Newman, Catawba, Coker, Lenoir-Rhyne, Lincoln Memorial, Mars Hill, Newberry, Queens of Charlotte and Wingate).

The Pioneers play home games at Pioneer Park, a stadium owned by the school and also used by the short-season Appalachian League’s Greeneville Reds (Cincinnati Reds affiliate).

“We have, arguably, the best facilities in Division II baseball,” says Miller. Tusculum has indoor covered batting cages. A clubhouse, weight room, video lab and coaches offices are all underneath the stadium. A nearby building is used for defensive work.

Prior to Tusculum, Miller served four seasons as an assistant to Chris Anderson at Belmont (N.C.) Abbey College and four campaigns as an assistant to Jim Gantt at Cattawba College (Salisbury, N.C.).

Anderson played for Gantt at Catawba and joined Miller in turning the Crusaders’ fortunes around.

“We had a lot of success there,” says Miller.

After going 25-25 in 2015 (Miller’s first season), Abbey was 40-14  with a No. 2 national ranking (best in program history) in 2018 (Miller’s last).

“(Gantt) is one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around — bar none,” says Miller. “He’s got a fantastic program. He does a great job of developing players. He’s truly winner.”

Miller was a part of winning teams for the Indians. During his time there, Catawba won three conference titles and qualified for regional play three times. The program’s first regional crown and D-II College World Series berth in Cary, N.C., came in 2012.

He was an assistant at his alma mater, Hanover, and helped head coach Shayne Stock in 2009 and 2010. Those were also the junior and senior seasons for brother Adam Miller (Hanover Class of 2010). Their sister, Jessica (Class of 2012), was also a student there at the time.

Two seasons at Bluffton (Ohio) University, where James Grandey was head coach, came right after Miller graduated from Hanover.

In March 2007, Miller was involved in a tragic highway accident in Atlanta. Bluffton was on its way to Florida on its southern trip when a crash took the lives of seven people, including five players.

“I was thrown from the bus,” says Miller. “I went through the front windshield.

“I had four broken bones in my back, a skull fracture and a broken jaw.”

Head coach Grandey was hurt even worse and stayed weeks in a hospital before going back to Ohio.

At 22, Miller became temporary head coach.

“I was talking to guys about losing their best friend and roommate,” says Miller. “We had a team meeting after all the funerals. We said we can play this year if you’d like or not. Nobody is going to judge you either way.

“The team decided it wanted to play and do its best. We played the rest of that season with heavy hearts.”

The first game after the fatal accident was a loss, but the Beavers scored five runs — one for each lost player.

“That was symbolic,” says Miller, who recalls that the outreach locally and nationally was tremendous.

After a month after the accident, Tiffin University (located about 45 minutes from Bluffton) held a Purple Day (in honors of Bluffton’s school colors) and raised $13,000.

He was still dealing with physical and mental issues when Miller met one of the Tiffin students that were a part of the effort. A year later, they went on a date and are now married with three children.

Todd and Leigh Miller have Madeline (6), Brooks (3) and Boone (almost 10 months).

“It shows you that even through that tragedy, there can be a silver lining,” says Miller.

Bluffton is where Miller received his masters degree in business administration and formed a bond with Grandey.

“He’s been a teacher, mentor and friend to me through the years,” says Miller.

He played four seasons at Hanover — the first three for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dick Naylor and the last for Shayne Stock.

“I enjoyed Coach Naylor very much,” says Miller. “He was very organized and demanded excellence everyday — not only in the game but it practice.

“He was a winner. He was always able to get the best out of you. He was hard on you. But you had to read through the message a little bit. It was what he said not how he said it.”

Miller also played football at Hanover. He was a three-sport athlete in high school, spending his winters with basketball.

At Franklin Community, Miller’s baseball coaches were Jeff Mercer Sr. and Mark Pieper.

Jeff Mercer Sr. is the father of Indiana University head coach Jeff Mercer Jr., a Franklin Community graduate and two years younger than Todd Miller. The Miller and Mercer families are long-time friends.

Miller is an American Baseball Coaches Association member and regular attendee of the ABCA Convention in January (the 2020 event is slated for Nashville).

“The ABCA is a must-attend for anybody serious about baseball,” says Miller. “I pick up something new every year.

“It’s relevant for all stages of coaching — youth, high school, college and professional.”

Miller also coached three summers with the Indiana Bulls travel baseball organization, leading a 14U squad for two years and a 15U team for one. Brother Adam assisted for all three seasons. He also got help from Ben Kleber, who is now head coach at Trinity Christian High School in Seymour, Ind.

One of the players on those Bulls team was Drew Ellis, who went on to play at Jeffersonville High School and the University of Louisville and is now in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization (he begins 2019 at Double-A Jackson, Tenn.).

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Todd Miller (left), a graduate Franklin (Ind.) Community High School and Hanover (Ind.) College, is in his first season as an assistant baseball coach at Tusculum University in Greeneville, Tenn. (Tusculum University Photo)

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Todd Miller is an assistant baseball coach at Tusculum University in Greeneville, Tenn. His duties include recruiting coordinator and he is in charge of hitters, base runners and infielders. (Tusculum University Photo)

Skelton, Meyer span eras of Fort Wayne Snider Panthers baseball

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

They’ve got continuity happening on the northeast side of Fort Wayne, Ind.

Marc Skelton has been coaching baseball at R. Nelson Snider High School for three decades.

Skelton, a 1985 Snider graduate, enters his eighth season as Panthers head coach in 2019 after 22 as an assistant.

Bruce Meyer, who has also coached at Snider for 30 years, and Skelton can trace their lineage back to the origins of the Panthers program.

“We played for or coached with every (head) coach in Snider history,” says Skelton, who is Snider’s fifth head baseball coach. Jerry Miller (1971-83) was the first, followed by Jim Rousseau (1983-87), Dave Hey (1988-92) and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Andy Owen (1993-2011).

Miller and assistant Adrian Deusler held the first practice April 15, 1971 and had 95 boys trying out.

“He loved baseball and worked hard it it,” says Skelton of Miller. “He’s still our No. 1 fan. He comes out to games. It’s always good to see Coach.

“(Rousseau) stressed fundamentals and doing things the right way.”

Skelton leads the current Panthers squad while putting effort and excellence at the forefront.

“We believe in hard work,” says Skelton. “You want to give it your best effort every time you’re getting after something.

“Ten quality reps are better than 100 sloppy ones, just going through the motions.”

Besides Meyer, Snider assistants include Josh Clinkenbeard, Rob Hale, Peyton Bieker with the varsity and Tim McCrady, Eric Cirillo and Brandon Phelps with the junior varsity. All but Cirillo and Phelps are returnees to the staff.

Marc is the son of David and Karen Skelton. David Skelton has been scorekeeper for the Panthers for 30 years.

Skelton says he tends to have between 30 and 40 players in the program each season.

During the current IHSAA limited contact period, Snider players are working to get their arms in shape while position players and hitters are also getting in their training.

“We’re getting pitchers arms built up so we avoid injuries down the road,” says Skelton, who can take his team to a couple of tunnels in the gym to get things done.

Snider (enrollment around 1,900) is a member of the Summit Athletic Conference (with Fort Wayne Concordia, Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne South Side and Fort Wayne Wayne as baseball affiliates).

SAC teams play each other in a home-and-home series, usually within the same week, to determine the conference champion.

“Theoretically, you need more than one pitcher to do it,” says Skelton.

Non-conference opponents include Blackhawk Christian, DeKalb, East Noble, Fort Wayne Canterbury, Fort Wayne Carroll, Homestead, Huntington North, New Haven and Norwell. The Panthers play in the Warsaw Invitational on May 18. DeKalb and Penn have been a part of that even in the past.

The Panthers are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with DeKalb, East Noble, Fort Wayne Carroll, Fort Wayne Northrop. DeKalb and Carroll have rotated as the host site in recent years. Snider has won 11 sectional crowns — the last in 2017. State championships were earned in 2006 and 2009.

Snider plays its home games at Hawley Field, which is about 2 1/2 miles off-campus on Long Road. The facility is owned by Fort Wayne Community Schools and is maintained mostly by the baseball team.

The 2019 season marks the third of the IHSAA’s pitch count rules (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). This year, the standards will be the same for varsity and below varsity.

“It’s for the health of the arm so it’s a good thing,” says Skelton. “We want you to throw strikes because you are on a limit. Pitch to contact, so to speak.

“Strikeouts are boring. Work quick so the the defense doesn’t have time to wonder and can say sold behind you.”

Snider senior Mason McMurtry recently made a college baseball commitment to Ivy Tech Northeast Community College in Fort Wayne. Recent graduates Michael Brewer (Eastern Kentucky University) and Matt Eastman (Ivy Tech Northeast) have gone on to the next level.

The Panthers get players from many sources, including Georgetown Little League and several travel organizations.

“The last 10 years it’s been going strong,” says Skelton of travel ball. “As long as they don’t over-do it, it’s a good thing they’re playing baseball. It gets them in competitive situations.”

Even though Snider is a large school, there are a number of multi-sport athletes in the school.

“We leave them alone during other seasons,” says Skelton. “When they come to us (in baseball), they participate with us.”

Skelton graduated from Indiana University in December 1989 and came back to Fort Wayne to be an educator and coach.

Blackhawk Middle School is where Skelton, Meyer and Terah Brogan (Skelton’s sister) are teachers.

Snider graduates have gone on to professional baseball.

Andy Replogle pitched at Kansas State University and two seasons in the majors with Milwaukee Brewers.

Right-hander Kevin Cahill pitched at Purdue University and in the Washington Nationals system.

Catcher-outfielder Kyle Day took the field for Michigan State University and in the Cincinnati Reds system.

Left-hander Adam Sheefel hurled at Ball State University and in the minors with the Reds.

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Marc Skelton, a 1985 Fort Wayne (Ind.) Snider High School graduate, enters his eighth season as Panthers head baseball coach in 2019 after 22 as an assistant.