Brendan Dudas determined that he needed on a career change and left the business world that he entered after college for education. He became a teacher in 2020-21. “It’s the best decision I’ve ever made and it’s so fulfilling,” says Dudas, who is teaching fourth graders at Mary Bryan Elementary in the Southport section of Indianapolis, in the first part of 2021-22. “I can be a male role model for some of the boys in the school. They might say, ‘I can be a teacher just like Mr. Dudas someday.’” The Mary Bryan campus is the site of Holder Field – home of Southport High School baseball. Dudas was hired as the Cardinals head baseball coach in July and plans call for him to begin teaching college and career prep to SHS freshmen after winter break. The high school dismisses at 2 p.m. and the elementary at 4. Just like he does with The Dirtyard as founder of Circle City Wiffle®, Dudas did some sprucing at Holder Field. “I’ve edged it,” says Dudas. “I want to give the kids something to be proud of.” A 2013 graduate of Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis (PM and Southport are both part of Perry Township Schools), Dudas went to the University of Indianapolis to study and play baseball. He redshirted as a freshman and then competed for the Gary Vaught-coached Greyhounds for four seasons (2015-18) while earning a bachelor’s degree in Supply Chain Management and a Master’s in Business Administration. Dudas describes the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period with Southport players. “I got right to work,” says Dudas. “I was excited to get out there and see what I had. “We did a lot of skill work and broke things down to the basics. By the end of the fall, the Cardinals were participating in modified scrimmages. Right now, players are working on conditioning and team bonding. “Last night they ran in the snow,” says Dudas, who is eager for the next Limited Contact window to open on Dec. 6. “On 12-6 we’re going to get reps after reps in the (batting) cage – whatever we have to do to simulate being on the field.” Southport has an indoor facility with cages and a turf floor. If it gets too cold in there, practice can be shifted to an auxiliary gym. Dudes’ 2022 assistants are Jordan Tackett (pitching coach), Thomas Hopkins, Keegan Caughey, Chris Cox and Mike Gaylor. Tackett (Perry Meridian Class of 2013) and Dudas played together at age 10 with the Edgewood Bulldogs (later known as the Indy Irish) and at Perry Meridian and UIndy. Dudas met Hopkins, who played at Hanover College, through Wiffle®Ball. Caughey is Dudas’ best friend and was also in the Perry Meridian Class of ’13. Cox is a holdover from 2021 and will be the junior varsity head coach. Southport (enrollment around 2,250) is a member of Conference Indiana (with Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Columbus North, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo). In 2021, the Cardinals were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Franklin Central, Perry Meridian, Roncalli and Warren Central. Southport has won 13 sectional crowns — the last in 2008. Senior Zachary Shepherd recently signed to play of Southport graduate Tony Vittorio at Wilmington (Ohio) College. Dudas says he may have a few more college commits in his senior class and sees plenty of potentials in his “young guns.” Left-handed pitcher Avery Short was selected in 12th round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks straight out of Southport. He competed at Low-Class A Visalia in 2021. The high school program is fed in part by Southport Little League. “(Administrators) want us to visit there and get it thriving again,” says Dudas. Southport Middle School plays condensed baseball schedule in the spring. Brendan and Madison Dudas have been married for two years. They’ve been best friends since they were in sixth grade. Madison Dudas is in the Indiana University School of Medicine-Indianapolis campus. The couple lives in Perry Township and are raising Brendan’s nephews – Kevin and Tristan. He was a true sophomore at UIndy when he took the boys in following the death of his sister to a heroin overdose. “We have a support system here,” says Brendan. “That’s why (coming to Southport) here is so appealing.”
Beech Grove (Ind.) High School baseball adopted a mantra as the Hornets took to the diamond in 2021 under head coach Jacob Wickliff: Turn the page. “Physically and philosophically one will never reach the end of the book unless you turn the page,” says Wickliff of the fresh-start approach in a program he was hired to lead in the summer of 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic took away the 2020 season. “The clear message to everyone is that we’re starting over,” says Wickliff. “That’s been big with parents. Our upperclassmen and key underclassmen have bought in.” Wickliff has been made excitement and standards a high priority at Beech Grove, which is just inside the I-465 corridor southwest of Indianapolis. “Kids weren’t excited to play here and that’s been our big push,” says Wickliff, who says there is a buzz around the Hornets who play at new all-turf on-campus facility — Jim Hensley Field of Dreams. The diamond, which debuted in 2021, is part of a district referendum that put turf on the football field and added the baseball and softball fields and other school-related projects. Baseball games and practices used to be at Sarah T. Bolton Park in Beech Grove. Since the new baseball field is landlocked, it is 297 feet down the left field line and there’s 10-foot high fence from the pole to left-center. Planes that fly by can’t miss the place since there’s a huge black, orange and white Hornet logo in center field. The field also brings in plenty of rental fees that Wickliff turns right back into the baseball program to cover the cost of spirit packs and more. Wickliff, who teaches at Beech Grove Middle School, wants the excitement to reach down to the community’s younger players from Beech Grove Little League which leads to the junior high program then the high school. A tradition has been started of inviting junior high players to have a practice and play a game on the turf at the end of the season. Beech Grove Middle School play its home games at South Grove Intermediate. “It goes back to excitement,” says Wickliff of getting those youngsters charged up about baseball. Beech Grove (enrollment around 1,000) is a member of the Indiana Crossroads Conference (with Cascade, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter, Indianapolis Lutheran, Indianapolis Scecina Memorial, Monrovia, Speedway and Triton Central). Last spring, the ICC adopted a two-game series format. There are home-and-home conference games each Tuesday and Wednesday. In 2021, the Hornets were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Herron, Indianapolis Bishop Chatard, George Washington and Indianapolis Shortridge. Beech Grove has won six sectional crowns — the last in 2014. With a smaller student-athlete pool and so many multi-sport athletes, Beech Grove did not participate in the recent fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period. But many returnees play travel ball and fall ball in addition to a fall sport. “Guys doing it year-round deserve a little bit of a break,” says Wickliff. “Winter time is where we have to make the most growth and development.” Two seniors finished the season at Beech Grove in 2021. One of those — Garrett Esposito — is now on the baseball team at Kaskaskia College in Centralia, Ill. Wickliff says hopes to have several college baseball-worthy players in the Class of 2023 by the time they’re entering their senior year. Beech Grove assistant coaches include Garry Hampton, Austin Jones and Ryan Kendall with the varsity and Christian Brown (head coach) and Justin Duhamell (assistant) with the junior varsity. Wickliff is a 2012 graduate of Franklin Central High School in Indianapolis, where he played baseball for John Rockey and football for Michael Karpinski. “I’m still in-touch with him to this day,” says Wickliff of Karpinski. “He’s one of my pivotal role models.” Head JV baseball coach Devin Phillips was someone Wickliff looked up to going through school and had a big impact on him. “He started process of me becoming a coach,” says Wickliff of Phillips. “It’s the way he was able to relate with the players and build those relationships.” After earning a Physical Education degree with a Coaching minor at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, he completed a Masters in Coaching Education and Athlete Development from Xavier University in Cincinnati. While in college, Wickliff coached baseball with Rockey at Franklin Central and also was a middle school then freshmen football coach in an FC program led by Burt Austin followed by Grant Lewis. Wickliff has been involved with three travel baseball organizations — the Indiana Astros, Midwest Astros and currently, Baseball Academics Midwest (BAM). After years of coaching 15U to 17U teams, he is now helms the 18U Signature team and serves as Director of Baseball Operations for high school age groups and is a lead evaluator on the Coaching Evaluation Team. Jake Banwart, who counted Wickliff as an assistant at Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis before the latter took his current Beech Grove job, is BAM president. Jacob and wife Bridget Wickliff were married Nov. 2, 2019. They reside in Perry Township.
Tutterow Field is the varsity baseball diamond at Martinsville (Ind.) High School. It is named for late Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bill Tutterow, who led the Artesians for 39 years through 2008. Second-year Martinsville head coach Adam Peterson says getting to play there has to be earned. “In order to be on the that field you’ve got to take care of business in the classroom,” says Peterson, who is also assistant principal at John R. Wooden Middle School in Martinsville. “That’s our first emphasis before we even get to the baseball part.” MHS students are on a trimester schedule. “It’s also about being good citizens and teammates and taking care of each other. Even if you’re not the best player on the team, you still have something to give.” Peterson also wants his student-athletes to improve each day and have fun while they’re doing it. “Winning is fun,” says Peterson. “But it’s the idea of being around their friends and relishing those experiences. The season is a grind with practices and games. We want to mix it up, keep the kids on their toes and keep it fresh.” Peterson, who was a middle infielder in high school then played almost all the positions in college, encourages his players to be be versatile. “It gives you more of an opportunity to be in the lineup everyday,” says Peterson. In 2021, Martinsville had just over 30 players in the program at the end of the season for varsity and junior varsity games. At a preliminary meeting this fall, 46 showed up to show their baseball interest. An IHSAA Limited Contact Period ended Oct. 16. Twice a week, 10 to 13 athletes met twice a week for baseball activities (many others were in fall sports). Baseball players continue to lift weights twice a week with Martinsville head strength & conditioning coach Ethan Breach. Tutterow Field is behind a new fieldhouse. The grand opening for the facility which his plenty of rubberized floor space and batting cages was Oct. 8. Assistant coaches for 2022 are expected to be Martinsville alums Steve Bunton, Layne Bayird and Gary Brittain. The Artesians had one senior in 2021 — Braxton Wilson. The right-handed pitcher signed at Purdue Fort Wayne. Right-hander Brandon Dodson (Class of 2020) landed at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill. Verbal commitments to the University of Evansville have been made by catcher/shortstop Andrew Payton (Class of 2022) and left-hander/outfielder Kevin Reed (Class of 2023). Last spring, Martinsville had junior high baseball. Seventh and eighth grade teams not affiliated with the school played against conference teams. In 2022, the school system hopes to sponsor the program. Peterson joined Martinsville schools in 2016-17 and was a baseball assistant to Jeff Scott for two seasons (2017-18). The Artesians won a sectional title in 2017. Martinsville (enrollment around 1,300) is a member of the Mid-State Conference (with Decatur Central, Franklin Community, Greenwood Community, Mooresville, Perry Meridian, Plainfield and Whiteland Community). In 2021, the Artesians were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Center Grove, Franklin Community, Greenwood Community, Mooresville and Whiteland Community. Martinsville has won 15 sectional titles — the last in 2019. Before Martinsville, Peterson spent a year as assistant principal at Indiana Math & Science Academy, a charter school in Indianapolis. Prior to that, Peterson was at Rio Rancho (N.M.) High School for nine years, where he was head assistant for four seasons then a volunteer while he and wife Donna started their family. Rio Rancho head coach Ron Murphy is the all-time wins leader in New Mexico high school baseball history. The Murphy-coached Rams won Class 5A state titles in 2007 and 2009 and he is in the New Mexico Baseball Coaches Association and New Mexico Sports halls of fame. “He’s a fun guy,” says Peterson of Murphy, who built the Rio Rancho program from scratch. “He’s originally from Brooklyn, N.Y. He’s got some good stories.” Before New Mexico, Peterson taught on an Indian reservation in Hayes Lodge Pole, Mont. That’s where he met his future wife. When the New Jersey native applied to the University of New Mexico for her doctorate in History, that’s where the couple landed. The Petersons ended up in Indiana when Donna Peterson went to work at Indiana University and she is now teaching Ivy Tech History courses at Martinsville High. Before Montana, Adam taught and coached in the Superior, Wis./Duluth, Minn., area. Peterson graduated from Superior High School in 1999. He played four years of baseball – three varsity — for Spartans head coach Steve Fregin. At the University of Wisconsin-Superior, Peterson was a four-year starter for Yellowjackets head coach Jim Stukel. Adam and Donna’s three children are daughter Emma (12), Caleb (almost 10) and daughter Blair (5).
The Class of 2021 played a part in a 14-11 baseball season in 2018 — the first winning season in program history since 1976. The Spartans went 17-9 on the diamond in 2019 and lost the 2020 season to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They’ve contributed so much to our school,” says Ingels, who heads into his eighth season as Southwestern head baseball coach this spring and is also a boys basketball assistant and head cross country coach at the school where he is also a Social Studies and Physical Education teacher. “They’re pretty special kids and great students.
“When you have really good players it makes the coach look smart.”
Of the Spartans’ six seniors (Anick Harstell, Christian DeArmitt, Ethan Wending, Chance Johnson, Blake Dunbar and Kirk Van Gorden), five played as sophomores with Hartsell, DeArnitt, Wending and Johnson in the starting lineup.
Two juniors (Aiden Hartsell and Jordan Jones) started as freshmen. Matthew Clements is a talented sophomore who grew up in the Indiana Bulls organization. Southwestern lost two players to graduation in 2020.
Ingels’ 2021 assistant is South Dearborn High School graduate and Franklin College senior Alex Smith.
The Spartans could see Triton Central in the Shelby County Tournament at Morristown on May 8.
There are 17 players in the Southwestern program. Ingels says a few junior varsity games will be sprinkled in to get younger players some playing experience.
The Spartans play home games on-campus at the Jeremy Wright Athletic Complex.
The high school program is fed by a junior high club. Seventh and eighth graders play some games in the spring then take part in the Babe Ruth League at Edinburgh during the summer.
“It’s really beneficial,” says Ingels.
Ingels, played tennis for Kevin Rockey, Rodney Klein and Pete Khensouri, basketball for Steve Todd and baseball for Derick Bright and Brian Ingels (his father) at Edinburgh High School and graduated in 2002.
Todd was the first to talk to Chris about coaching and gave him the opportunity to volunteer with the Lancers.
“(Bright) was a really good baseball coach,” says Ingels. “He changed the way we practiced. Everything was structured. In (batting practice), we’d have two-strike swings, hit-and-run swings, bunt, hit to the right side and swing away.”
Brian Ingels, who had been head football coach at Edinburgh when Chris was young and a longtime cross country and track coach at the school. He was Bright’s assistant before stepping in as head baseball coach for his son’s senior year. The Industrial Arts instructor is currently in his 43rd year of teaching at Edinburgh.
Ingels began coaching boys basketball before finishing at Franklin College in 2007 as an assistant to Edinburgh head coach Todd Tatlock.
After that, Ingels aided Kerry Brown then Toby Carrigan at South Dearborn before helping Brent Keck at Perry Meridian. He is on Brady Days’ staff at Southwestern.
Lance Marshall, the Franklin College head baseball coach, has let Ingels sit in on Grizzlies practice and has offered advice.
“He’s a great guy,” says Ingels.
Ingels values his relationships and connections to his young athletes.
“Through baseball you are dealing with a lot of failure and adversity,” says Ingels. “You’re trying to get kids to be able to handle that and push their way through it and succeed in the end.”
Ingels sees a lot of lessons in baseball.
“It starts with preparation and having to put a lot of work into each little part,” says Ingels. “That adds up in the end.”
The coach appreciates the team aspect of the sport and that you’re
“A lot of people think baseball is an individual sport on your own island at each position and getting your stats at the plate,” says Ingels. “It’s the ultimate team sport when it comes down to it.”
One player can’t carry the whole load.
On the offensive side, Ingels sees worth in batting average. But that doesn’t rank first in his eyes.
“On-base percentage is so much more important,” says Ingels. “We’ve got to get men on base.”
While the Spartans may not chart it in 2021, there will be discussions about quality at-bats.
“Sometimes a groundout to the right side can be productive,” says Ingels.
Schoettle values the relationships he builds with his student-athletes. He expects them to take pride in being a Franklin Central Flash while being accountable for everything they do — on and off the diamond.
“It’s wanting to be part of the program and doing what is expected to be successful at this level,” says Schoettle, who joined the Flashes staff in 2010 and has been in charge since 2019. “We play in the toughest baseball conference in the state.
The HCC has accounted for four state championships — Brownsburg in 2005, Noblesville in 2014, Fishers in 2018 and Hamilton Southeastern in 2019. Franklin Central was state runner-up in 1992. Other runner-up finishes include 2003 and 2004 for Brownsburg, 1998 and 2009 for Westfield and 2016 for Zionsville.
Since 2010, the conference has combined to win 17 sectionals, seven regionals and four semistates.
Conference teams play each other in a two-game home-and-home series in the same week.
Schoettle is a 1985 graduate of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, where he played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Wirtz.
At Franklin Central, Schoettle was an assistant to head coach John Rockey and was on the same staff with John McCormick.
Schoettle credits Wirtz, Rockey and McCormick for teaching him valuable lessons.
From Wirtz, he learned the importance of fundamentals. From Rockey, he gained a grasp on everyday coaching situations.
McCormick, an Indianapolis Cathedral graduate who had also coaches at Bishop Chatard, Lawrence Central and Noblesville, died of brain cancer in 2016 at 44. He left an impression on many with his knack of making you think you were the most important person on the planet.
“Everybody that knew John loved John,” says Schoettle. “I only knew him for three years, but I felt like I lost a brother.”
Schoettle earned a business degree from Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI) and worked several jobs before deciding to go into education. This is his 16th year of teaching for the FCHS math instructor.
Prior to coaching baseball at Franklin Central, Schoettle coached football with Mike Harmon at Brebeuf Jesuit and guided son Jackson’s in travel baseball team.
It was just a few days before tryouts in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down — and then wiped out — the season.
“It was heartbreaking,” says Schoettle. “We had 12 seniors on our roster last year.
“But everybody was in the same boat (losing the season.
“We’re excited to see who’s going to step up (in 2021). It’s up for grabs. The kids know that.”
Right now, Schoettle has 50 to 60 kids coming to off-season conditioning. They are working on flexibility, endurance and speed.
“We want to get in the best shape we can right now,” says Schoettle. “The beauty of it is I have great assistant coaches.”
At 30, Devin Anderson is the oldest of 53-year-old Schoettle’s helpers and is a varsity assistant. He is an Evansville Harrison High School graduate.
Ben Kennedy is the junior varsity head coach. He is assisted by Tom Rockey (son of John Rockey). Brett Massengale is the freshmen coach. Kennedy, Rockey and Massengale are all Franklin Central graduates.
The Flashes tend to have about 45 players in the program for their three teams.
There are two baseball fields on-campus that are adjacent to one another. The varsity diamond has lights.
“It’s nice having fields next to each other,” says Schoettle. “We can have four-team tournaments or the varsity and JV can play at the same time.”
While Schoettle would like to have turf on the baseball field, his players have been able to practice occasionally on the football turf on the other end of campus.
Greg and is married to Roncalli graduate Liz. The couple have two children — Jackson (22) and Lucy (14). Jackson Schoettle pitched one year at Roncalli and ran cross country for four years. Lucy Schoettle is a Franklin Central freshmen and a dancer.
Migley Field was started with some scrap fencing in 2006 and elements have been added over the years, including Wrigley-like scoreboard and marquee.
Before each home game, they play recordings of retired Wrigley Field organist Gary Pressy and the voice of radio play-by-play announcer Pat Hughes welcomes everyone. Regular-season home games start at 1:20 p.m. as do the Hometown Cup semifinals.
The Hometown Cup draws 70 to 80 teams most years. Twenty fields are used during Saturday pool play — some at the Little League park and some at New Prairie High School.
The Top 48 return Sunday for single-elimination play with the semifinals and championship on Migley Field. Dimensions roughly emulate those in Chicago. It’s 95 feet down the left field line, 98 in the power alleys, 100 to center and 93 down the right field line.
This year, all-time home run leader Scott Soos of the Newts belted his 400th circuit clout. The league has been keeping stats since about 2010.
While Hometown Days is canceled for 2020, the Hometown Cup aka The Wiffle® Ball Championship will go on July 24-26. The home run derby is July 24, pool play July 25 and the Top 48 in single-elimination plus the semifinals and finals July 26. The last two rounds are at Migley Field.
Past finals have drawn hundreds of spectators. BroadcastSport.net is again planning to stream the semifinals and finals on the internet.
ORWBL is one of the few Wiffle® Ball leagues around that has home fields for all its teams — Palace of Bourissa Hills (301 St. Meridian St., New Carlisle) for the Wildcards, The Garage (7564 E. 400 N., Rolling Prairie) for the Kings, The Barnyard (9352 S 150 W., Union Mills) for the Cyclones, Magic Park (Kesling Park, A Street, LaPorte) for the Magic, various locations for the Heat, The Spin Factory (3810 Lincolnway East, Mishawaka) for the Meatspins, The Goat House (53105 Ironwood Rd., South Bend) for the Billy Goats, Manor Field (2332 Kenilworth Dr., Elkhart) for BFAM, Cam Snead Field (51972 Gentian Lane, Mishawaka) for the Panthers, The Hideout (410 French St., Niles, Mich.) for the Godfathers, Rocko’s Park (29481 Lynn St., New Carlisle) for the Leprechauns, Migley Field (500 S. Bray St., New Carlisle) for the Newts, The Land Down Under (110 S. Harris St., New Carlisle) for Emery’s Army and Helmet Head Field (10109 S. 600 W., Union Mills) for the Goon Squad.
Week 4 (June 3) players of the week were Eric Wodrich (Meatspinners) in the American League and Nate Hansen (Leprechauns) in the National League. Wodrich went 15-of-22 (.682 average) with six homers, 12 RBIs and 11 runs. Hansen was 10-of-17 (.588) with eight homers, eight RBIs at the plate and went 2-1 in 19 innings pitched with a 7.68 earned run average.
The ORWBL plays tripleheaders on Sundays for a 24-game regular season. Playoffs run through August. Games are six innings and last 45 minutes to an hour each. The league plays with a pitcher, catcher and three fielders.
The pitching rubber is between 30 and 40 feet from home plate. There will be no called strikes, balls or walks. Batters can strike out swinging. Foul tips caught by the catcher with two strikes will also be a strikeout. The pitcher’s hand rule applies for outs. There is no bunting allowed in slow-pitch Wiffle® Ball.
It’s always been pitch-to-hit league. Every pitch has to have some sort of arc.
“It was built as a fun league — giving the batter a pitch to hit,” says Magic manager and ORWBL commissioner Alex Friedman. “You get action all the time. Balls are being batted into the field of play. Defense has to be played.
“People enjoy watching our style.”
Maple City is the defending three-time league champion. Friedman took over ORWBL commish duties from Keck.
Friedman says one of the reasons the league uses three outfielders is that Bourissa Hills — home of the former league champion Pterodactyls — is so wide and there’s so much outfield ground to cover.
Covering the world of ORBWL is the Don’t Get Wifflenated podcast. WiffleTalk.com follows all things slow-pitch Wiffle® Ball.
There’s even a ORWBL Hall of Fame.
The Dirtyard (1117 W. Epler Ave., Indianapolis) is known as one of the top Wiffle® Ball fields in the country.
Circle City will be hosting the National Wiffle® World Series there Sept. 18-20 (it moved from Morenci, Mich.).
The league typically plays Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. There is a one-day round robin tournament to get all eight teams to the field at one time and promote league camaraderie. That recent Sunday event went from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. There are lights at The Dirtyard.
To be a National Wiffle® member league, a website, statistics and video presence must be kept.
“It’s to prove you are a competitive Wiffle® Ball league,” says Circle City president/commissioner and Short Shorts player Brendan Dudas, oversees The Dirtyard in his parent’s backyard. “You have to be 18 to play for liability reasons.”
Most teams have there own Twitter accounts. Games are often streamed live. Podcasts keep Wiffle® wackos informed.
Dudas and has friends were middle schoolers fooling around in the back yard with a ball and bat in 2009. Four years later, Circle City Wiffle® Ball became a reality.
“It’s been slowly evolving ever since,” says Dudas, who played baseball at Perry Meridian High School and the University of Indianapolis and coached at Center Grove with former Perry coach John Carpenter.
“All the guys in the league are either former athletes,” says Dudas. “They like the competitive nature of sports in general.
“It’s low impact, a controlled environment and we still fulfill the competitive drive we all have. We enjoy being around each other and having fun.”
Circle City plays six-inning games. It’s 3-on-3 (pitcher and two fielders). There can be on a roster and all of them can bat. It’s 45 feet between bases, 47 1/2 feet between the rubber and the strike board.
“You have to have (quality) pitchers in fast pitch (Wiffle® Ball) or it becomes a walk fest,” says Dudas. “In the national tournament, it’s all about pitching. The recipe to win tournament is throw a shutout, make one big play and hit a home run. Scores are often 1-0 and 2-1.”
The Dirt Yard dimensions are 89 feet down the left field line, 97 to left-center, 95 to right-center, 102 to center and 85 down the right field line.
Dudas has observed that most leagues have fields between 75 to 100 down the lines and 85 to 110 to center.
“You get further than than and it gets hard to poke the ball out,” says Dudas.
When the 8 Balls joined the league in 2017, they brought snazzy uniforms with them and the league soon followed suit and now sublimated jerseys are a Circle City requirement.
“We encourage guys to run wild with it,” says Dudas, who cites Keck and the ORWBL as the inspiration for creating his league.
“It’s fun to do something competitive one you get out of high school” says Ratajczyk. “It satisfies everybody’s competitive desires in the summer.
“We had enough friends that wanted to do it consistently. We’ve embraced it as a weekend getaway where we get to see our friends.”
Traditionally a Sunday league, Griffleball went to four weekend tournaments (pool play Saturday and single-elimination Sunday) for the 2020 slate. Remaining dates are June 27-28, July 18-19, Aug. 1-2.
New players can pick the team of their choice. There is also a league waiver wire.
Every squad picks out new flashy uniforms each season.
“We usually sit down in January and February and brainstorm,” says Ratajczyk of Griffleball planning. “This year was the exception with coronavirus.”
While childhood 1-on-1 games between Ryan Galiher and Kyle Lidster can be cited as the genesis of Griffleball, the league’s modern origins date to 2010 when it played on a public basketball court and set up fencing around the grass — ask the Griffle Grounds in Highland.
The 2017 all-star game was played at Bridges’ Scoreboard Restaurant & Sports Bar in Griffith and the league moved its games there for 2018 and 2019.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, a new field — The Warehouse, 5000 W. 45th Ave., Gary — was selected for 2020 action. Opening Day was June 6.
The first eight years of Griffleball, teams were kept intact year after year. The last two years, things were shaken up and there was a re-drafting of players.
Even with the moves, Griffleball has stuck with the same field dimensions — 60 feet down the foul lines, 85 to the gaps and 80 to center.
Griffleball games are five innings and last around an hour. There are four players per team though there is only a pitcher and two fielders at a time. Everyone in the lineup hits.
There is no catcher in fast-pitch Wiffle® Ball, but a strike board (which is 20 inches wide, 32 inches tall and 12 inches off the ground).
There are two outs per inning, five balls for a walk or two hit batsmen in the same at-bat.
Ratajczyk, who has played in all four National Wiffle® (formerly National Wiffle Ball League Association) leagues in Indiana, says fast pitch Wiffle Ball is all about the batter vs. pitcher duel and the scores of games often rely on the elements.
“If the wind is blowing, there will be no runs,” ays Ratajczyk. “If the wind is blowing out, there will be a ton of runs.”
The GBL has accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Snap Chat.
LWA plays all its games at a six-field compound in an incorporated community near Crown Point on land owned by commissioner/president and Leroy Riot owner/manager Tim Wiltjer. The address is 4504 E. 145th Ave., Crown Point.
In 2020, the league includes 12 teams — Backdoor Sliders, Barn Stormers, Bushleague Badgers, Fabulous Flamingos, Lake County Liners, Leroy Riot, Marvelous Maniacs, Mighty Melon Heads, Noble Narwhals, Porter County Porkers, Squints Sluggers and Walking Tacos.
The Sluggers are the defending champions.
Ty Bothwell (a redshirt pitcher for Indiana University baseball in 2020) and Bo Hofstra (a junior pitcher at Purdue University) are on the Badgers.
There are seven players on each roster with four players competing in games. There are three players on defense — one pitcher and two fielders. The fourth player keeps stats or takes a break.
All four players have to pitch one inning, giving everyone a chance to bat, field and pitch. Regular-season games are five innings with two games a night. A team’s best pitcher goes two innings with one apiece for the other three.
Post-season games are six innings. Forty-eight players compete each Wednesday.
“It breaks up the week,” says Wiltjer of the preferred gameday.
A unique feature of LWA is that only the manager can stay with a team year after year while the rest of the rosters are shuffled.
“We start fresh,” says Wiltjer. “We don’t have a Golden State Warriors thing going on.
“As commissioner, I want to see our guys get along and get together. Teams from so many different cities with so many friend groups.”
The LWA is numbers-driven.
“I’m obsessed with stats,” says Wiltjer.
To keep things competitive, Wiltjer has devised a “salary cap” based on the batting and pitching numbers put up by players. All awards are stat-based. The highest salary is the MVP. Ironman awards go to those with the most at-bats or most innings pitched.
While the first official LWA season was 2014, Wiffle Ball was part of a Lawn Olympics on the property before that.
Leroy plays a hybrid style of Wiffle® Ball. Throwing fast pitch, pitchers can run up a count of up to five balls. After that, he moves closer to the batter and lobs it.
Once a 10-ball count is reached, the batter can elect to take a single or he can elect to keep hitting. At 15 balls, it becomes an automatic double, 20 an automative triple and 25 an automatic home run.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” says Wiltjer. “It gets runs all the time.”
Teams rotate among the six fields. Two fields are symmetrical with dimensions being 85 feet down the lines and 95 to center.
The four other wider fields give a flavor for Major League Baseball parks, including Boston’s Fenway Park (short porch in right and deeper in right center), Houston’s Minute Maid Park (deeper center, shallow left and right), Pittsburgh’s PNC Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
It’s 45 feet between bases with 48 feet between pitching rubber and strike board.
Batting lineup pitching lineup are the same and must be submitted 24 hours before the game.
The LWA normally begins the first or second week of May. There’s an 11-week regular season (22 games per team).
The 12th team does not make the playoffs. Teams seeded 7-10 go into a single-elimination “death bracket” with the winner earning the No. 8 in the Final Eight. Teams then play two-game series plus a one-inning sudden death game to break ties (if necessary). There can be extra innings.
Pitchers switch every inning during the playoffs.
“All four Indiana (National Wiffle®) leagues are very, very unique,” says Wiltjer. “That’s what makes it awesome.”
Going Corn is the podcast of the Leroy Wiffle® Association.
Indiana players are well-represented on the rolls of the Wiffy Awards presented by National Wiffle®.
Migley Field (ORWBL) was the National Field of the Year in 2019.
The New Carlisle Newts (ORWBL) had the Team Jersey of the Year in 2019.
Friedman (ORWBL) was National Commissioner of the Year in 2018 and National Manager of the Year in 2017.
Nick Arndt (ORWBL) belted his way to National Home Run Champ and Jay Ryans (ORWBL) tossed his way to National Closer of the Year — both in 2012.
Garrett Curless (ORWBL) powered to National Home Run Champ in 2011.
The Dirtyard (CCW) was chosen as National Field of the Year in 2018.
Mid City Moonshots (CCW) sported the Team Logo of the Year in 2019
Caleb Jonkman (LWA) was selected as National Player of the Year in 2017 and 2019 and thumped his way to National Home Run King in 2019. He also is regular in all four Indiana National Wiffle® leagues.
Matt Dykstra (LWA) was National Closer of the Year in 2016.
Ben Davis: Jose Guzman — Pitcher, University of Cincinnati; Kameron Kelly — First Base, Undecided.
Brebeuf Jesuit: Shane Bauer — Pitcher/First Base, Dartmouth College; Karl Meyer — Right Field, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Andrew Pickett — Shortstop, Hope College; Gabe Wright — Center Field, Undecided.
Decatur Central: Timmy Casteel — Third Base, Undecided; Brayden Hazelwood — Shortstop, Indiana University Southeast; Jared Thompson — Pitcher/Center Field, Undecided.
Franklin Central: Austin Carr — Second Base, Grace College; Matt Hall — Pitcher, Ashland University; Corey Jeanor — Shortstop, Ashland University; Austin Snider — Outfield, Manchester University.
Indianapolis North Central: Carter Bailey — Infielder, Undecided; Zach Gessner — Infielder/Pitcher, Undecided; Brendon Gibson — Outfielder, Indiana University Southeast; Joseph Rangel — First Base/Designated Hitter, Undecided.
Lawrence Central: Anthony Steinhardt — Center Field/Pitcher, University of Dayton.
Lawrence North: Ethan Butterfield — Pitcher, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology; Marcus Goodpaster — First Base/Pitcher, Undecided; Ty Johnson — Pitcher, Ball State University; Nick Taylor — Left Field/Pitcher, Purdue University.
Park Tudor: Ian Krull — First/Third Base, St. John’s University; Ben Rankin — Pitcher/Right Field, Purdue University.
Perry Meridian: Bayley Arnold — Pitcher, Earlham College; Isaac Jones — Second Base, Undecided; Luciano Salemi — Centerfield, Lake Erie College; Conner Woods — Catcher, North Park University.
Pike: Cameron Powell — First Base, Earlham College; Reggie Thornton — Center Field, Indiana State University.
Roncalli: Will Schoettle — Pitcher, Undecided; Alex Stroud — First Base, Asbury University.
Southport: Kyven Carter — Pitcher, First base, Undecided; Ryan Lezon — Pitcher/Shortstop, Ball State University.
Warren Central: Justin Alexander — Pitcher/Designated Hitter/Outfield, Seminole State College (Fla.); Cameron Booker — Pitcher, Muskegon Community College; Christian W. Jones — Pitcher/First/Third Base, Indiana Tech.
INDIANAPOLIS — Marion County high school baseball coaches have named their all-county team for 2019.
The first team features Perry Meridian senior first baseman Caden Reed (.422 average, 2 home runs, 17 runs batted in, 10 stolen bases), Speedway senior third baseman Ryan Stutler (.400, 0, 12) and junior second baseman Brandon Willoughby (.361, 2, 29, 19 SB), Southport senior pitcher Avery Short (4-3 record, 1.83 earned run average, 71 strikeouts) and junior shortstop Ryan Lezon (.421, 5, 16), Park Tudor senior outfielder Chris Wilson (.437, 1, 23), Brebeuf Jesuit junior outfielder Gabe Wright (.395, 5, 16, 14 SB) and freshman pitcher Andrew Dutkanych (6-2, 1.59, 95 K’s), Lawrence Central junior outfielder Anthony Steinhardt (.389, 1, 10, 10 SB), Roncalli senior catcher Brian Keeney (.500, 1, 17) and Pike senior pitcher Damon Cox (3-2, 2.42, 92 K’s).
Second-teamers are Brebeuf junior first baseman Shane Bauer (.377, 1, 21), North Central senior second baseman Liam Thompson (.269, 1, 10), senior third baseman Adam Schenk (.364, 0, 16), senior outfielder Aaron Betts (.349, 2, 16) and senior catcher Max Kercheval (.408, 0, 24), Beech Grove senior shortstop Nic Ancelet (.432, 1, 7, 16 SB), Perry Meridian senior outfielder Sean Thomas (.329, 1, 19, 15 SB), Speedway senior outfielder Devon Valentine (.406, 1, 14, 11 SB) and senior pitcher Jeffrey Bryant (6-2, 1.16, 82 K’s), Lawrence North junior pitcher Ty Johnson (3-0, 0.88, 60 K’s) and Lutheran senior pitcher Matthew Alter (6-4, 1.89, 103 K’s).
Lawrence North’s Richard Winzenread was named Marion County Coach of the Year.
ALL-MARION COUNTY BASEBALL TEAM
(Class of 2019 Unless Noted)
1B — Caden Reed (Perry Meridian)
2B — Jr. Brandon Willoughby (Speedway)
SS — Jr. Ryan Lezon (Southport)
3B — Ryan Stutler (Speedway)
OF — Chris Wilson (Park Tudor)
OF — Jr. Gabe Wright (Brebeuf Jesuit)
OF — Jr. Anthony Steinhardt (Lawrence Central)
C — Brian Keeney (Roncalli)
P — Avery Short (Southport)
P — Damon Cox (Pike)
P — Fr. Andrew Dutkanych (Brebeuf Jesuit)
1B — Jr. Shane Bauer (Brebeuf Jesuit)
2B — Liam Thompson (North Central)
SS — Nic Ancelet (Beech Grove)
3B — Adam Schenck (North Central)
OF — Aaron Betts (North Central)
OF — Sean Thomas (Perry Meridian)
OF — Devon Valentine (Speedway)
C — Max Kercheval (North Central)
P — Jr. Ty Johnson (Lawrence North)
P — Matthew Alter (Lutheran)
P — Jeffrey Bryant (Speedway)
Coach of the Year: Richard Winzenread (Lawrence North).
With mentors and coaches like his father, Robert Haney (a Baptist minister), and John Gannon, Bob began playing and learning the game at Christian Park. He went on to be the only sophomore on an all-senior squad when Tech had 5,000 students.
Haney’s high school coaches were Dave George (father of former NFL quarterback Jeff George) and Ivan Moorman.
Flash forward more than three decades, and 1981 Tech graduate Haney saw that his alma mater — a school with an enrollment around 3,000 — did not have enough players to field a baseball team.
That was three years ago.
“The program completely fell part,” says Haney, who became Titans head coach for the 2018 season. “We’re on a mission to turn the program back around.”
It took until February 2018 with Haney teaching basic fundamentals for Tech to go forward with their schedule.
Haney says the numbers of players in the inner-city began to go down when District 7 Little League parks closed and the youngsters in those district were not exposed to organized baseball.
Haney says Forest Manor Park sat empty for seven years before RBI got involved and now serves more than 300 ball-playing kids.
“It’s packed now,” says Haney. “There’s an awful lot of activity.
“Kids would not be playing if it were not for the RBI program.”
Looking at the players coming up through RBI that are about to reach high school age, Haney sees a bright future at Tech as well as other places.
“The program is paying off,” says Haney, who has been instructing younger kids on Sundays.
Baseball and the community are also getting a shot in the arm with the launch of The BASE Indy, which will be headquartered in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood near Forest Manor Park.
The BASE Indy plans to stage its Urban Classic in early July. An RBI Super Regional is slated for late July at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
There are four Indianapolis Public Schools high schools running now and three have a baseball teams in 2019 — Arsenal Tech, Crispus Attucks and Shortridge. Washington does did not field a team this spring.
None of those schools have a baseball diamond on their campuses. Tech shares Forest Manor Park with Attucks, Purdue Poly (a team with just freshmen and sophomores in 2019) and Tindley. Shortridge is at Arlington Park.
Of the other inner-city schools in Indianapolis, Manual has its own field while Irvington Prep Academy plays at Irvington Park while Providence Cristo Rey and Herron are at Rhodius Park. Howe did not have a baseball team this spring.
Haney is a production associate at the Honda plant in Greensburg, Ind. He is out the door most weekdays a little after 5 a.m. and begins work at 6:30. He is able to burn off his days off in two-hour increments and will leave two hours early at 1 p.m. during the baseball season.
He coaches the Arsenal Tech team then checks on the doings at the RBI parks.
“I love what I’m doing,” says Haney. “I feel like we’ve got things going in the right direction.
“There’s lot of work to do in the inner-city, but we’re looking to move RBI program statewide. Everybody wants to be a part of what we’re doing.”
Haney says Scottsburg and Muncie are two communities that have shown an interest in RBI.
At Arsenal Tech, Haney is assisted by Danny Turner, Stacy Fields, James Garmany and volunteers Warren Belton and Roger Rebeneck. Turner is a Howe graduate who runs the Indiana Styx travel organization. Fields and Garmany are Tech teachers. Fields is also an assistant varsity basketball coach at the school. Belton does many things in the RBI system, including umpiring. Rebeneck assists the most during the summer and fall months.
Most of the 2019 Tech squad is expected back for 2020.
Haney and wife Karri have four grown children — Jennifer, Robert Edward, Jeremiah and Jay. Karri Haney has battled breast cancer. Jay Haney played baseball at Warren Central and Perry Meridian high schools and for Vincennes University’s first Junior College World Series qualifier.
Bob Haney and Scott Kehl reunite on the same field at Christian Park in Indianapolis where they played as boys decades before. Haney is active in baseball at head coach at Arsenal Technical High School and baseball director for Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI).
“I do it because I owe a lot of people,” says Feyerabend. “A lot of people helped me a long the way.”
Feyerabend played for two head coaches at FCHS — Noel Heminger and Jeff Mercer Sr. (father of Indiana University head baseball coach Jeff Mercer Jr.).
Heminger retired and turned the program over to Mercer for Feyerabend’s senior year. He was the head coach when he extended an invitation to coach to Feyerabend, who stayed for two seasons helping Paul Strack before taking over the reins.
From Heminger and the elder Mercer, Feyerabend learned the importance of team.
“We did not worry about the opponent,” says Feyerabend. “Worry about Franklin Community and doing your job. What is your piece in this puzzle?
“The class ahead of me was loaded with talent (including future minor leaguers Randy Phillips and Brian McMillin). I knew I could be a small piece on a great team. If I worked harder, I could be a bigger piece on a great team.”
The Grizzly Cubs advanced to the Richmond Semistate in 1995, bowing to the host Red Devils 7-3 in nine innings in the semifinals.
Feyerabend recalls that when Mercer made out his lineup card, he asked himself, “Does this make Franklin Community High School better?.”
It’s that approach that has simplified things for Feyerabend as a coach.
Not that the job doesn’t keep he and his assistant coaches busy. There is batting practice to throw to 40 players and fungos to hit and so many other details.
Feyerabend has learned that being a sale engineer, spending several hours a week on baseball and raising a family is demanding.
“But it’s all worth it,” says Feyerabend, who lives in Franklin with fiancee Brooke, Lyric (10), Zain (3) and Preston (14 months).
“There’s so much to do,” says Feyerabend. “You have to be there of the love of the game.”
His 2019 coaching staff features Dustin Peddycord, Travis Miles, Dalton Carter (pitching coach), Tyler Urban (Feyerabend’s nephew) and Chad Brown at the varsity level with Dylan Drybread and Dane Johnston leading the junior varsity. All but Carter and Brown are Franklin Community alums.
Feyerabend wants his players to know there is system to follow and it will only work if they commit.
“We’re not working toward a participation certificate,” says Feyerabend. “To make those lifelong memories, you have to buy in. Everybody has a job to do.
“In the winter time, we focus on our swings if we’re not playing basketball. We work on strength and conditioning. We can’t skip steps in the process.
“There’s a process to everything we do. I’m trying to build a monster here. We’re going to do the best job we can do.”
Feyerabend took hitting lessons from Jeff Mercer Sr., even before playing for him and is close with the whole Mercer family, which was honored in April when the Franklin Community diamond was dedicated as Mercer Field.
Mercer Sr., is retiring this year as a business administrator at Franklin. Feyerabend and he talk frequently about baseball or life.
Mercer Field is an on-campus facility is in its 13th year like the rest of the school, which is on the north side of town. With its location, wind and wind chill is always a factor at the diamond in the spring.
“I tell the players it might be OK in the parking lot,” says Feyerabend. “But when they get up to the field they’re going to need sleeves.”
Feyerabend played with the Indiana Bulls in the fledgling years of that elite travel baseball organization in the early 1990’s. His head coach for three summers was Craig Moore.
“He was one of the most intense human beings I’ve ever been around,” says Feyerabend of Moore. “He cared about us. But there was no gray area for him. We performed or we got replaced.”
When Moore told a 15-year-old Feyerabend that he needed to work on his conditioning, he took it to heart and improved in that area.
“Coaches like that, their wisdom is so appreciated,” says Feyerabend. “Kids today don’t work on their deficiencies. My body had to get fixed or I wasn’t going to have an opportunity.”
Corner infielder Feyerabend went on to Indiana State University, where Hall of Famer Bob Warn was head coach and Mitch Hannahs (now the Sycamores head coach) was an assistant.
“(Hannahs) is one of the best baseball minds in the country,” says Feyerabend, who recently got to take his team to ISU’s Bob Warn Field to play Bloomington South thanks to Hannahs and West Vigo coach Culley DeGroote.
Feyerabend is grateful to Mercer Sr., for bringing him back to the game after being away about a decade after college.
“The other reason I do this is that we have great, great kids and human beings in Franklin,” says Feyerabend. “Without that, I wouldn’t be able to do it.
“We’re not winning state championships yet, but we have state-champion character guys.
“We can’t measure the kind of team we are if we don’t play the meanest and nastiest,” says Feyerabend. “We’re going up against the best we can put on the schedule.
“We have to ask ourselves, ‘are we playing are best baseball when we walk into that sectional?’”
The Grizzly Cubs are in an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Center Grove, Franklin Central, Greenwood Community, Martinsville and Whiteland Community. Franklin Community has won five sectionals — the last in 2013. The was the same year the school won conference and Johnson County titles.
Senior shortstop Luke Miles has committed to Purdue Fort Wayne. Senior Tyce Miller is going to Rose-Hulman to play football. The other three seniors — George Admire, C.J. Brown and Nathaniel Whetstine — have not yet announced college choices.
Franklin Community graduate Jeremy McKinney is currently a relief pitcher in the Washington Nationals organization.