A decade ago, Justin Hancock was planning to play baseball at Indiana State University. When the 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher was selected in the ninth round of the 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the San Diego Padres out of Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., Hancock decided instead to go pro rather than transfer to ISU after his two years of junior college, playing first for Statesman head coach Mitch Hannahs and then Kevin Bowers. Pitching for pay took fireballing Hancock through parts of seven seasons in the Padres system — some of 2012 and 2013 was spent with the Fort Wayne (Ind.) TinCaps — and three in the Chicago Cubs organization, including 10 games at the big league level in 2018. He went 0-0 with a 1.46 earned run average in 12 1/3 innings — all out of the bullpen. Hancock was a starter until shoulder surgery in 2016 and then became a reliever. Non-tendered in November 2018, Hancock signed on with the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japanese Pacific League for 2019 before retiring as a player. “It was a good experience,” says Hancock. “My wife and daughter came (to Japan). Baseball over there is how baseball was in the ’80s and ‘90s here. There’s not too much power. They hit the ball in the gap and it’s fast-paced. “It’s tough to strike out guys in Japan.” Overall, Hancock saw action in 193 games during his professional career, including 96 starts on the mound. He finished with a 29-37 record, 450 strikeouts and a 4.07 ERA over 579 innings. Hancock was reunited with Hannahs (who returned to his alma mater as ISU head coach in 2013) when he was hired in July 2021 as Indiana State’s pitching coach. The man who recruited Hancock — Brian Smiley — is associate head coach for the Sycamores. “Mitch is just a very good influencer of the players,” says Hancock, 31. “He does a good job of getting the most out of the talent that comes here. “He gets the guys to work hard and become better men. He’s just a really good person.” While Hannahs, Hancock and Smiley share in rounding up players, much of it is coordinated by Smiley. “Smiley does an awesome job,” says Hancock. “He’s a very good recruiter.” While a few players have stayed on-campus, most have gone home and will not be back in Terre Haute until the second week of January. That’s when the Sycamores will really begin ramping up for the 2022 season opener Feb. 18 against Brigham Young in Port Charlotte, Fla. Hancock helps his pitchers develop a daily routine and understand their place on the team. “It comes down to knowing your role and doing that role very, very well,” says Hancock. “And it starts right now. We send these guys home for a winter break. You call them throughout the time they’re gone, but you don’t know what they did while they’re gone. “You can see the guys who have bought in and those who haven’t (when they get back to campus). This time is very crucial.” Being a first-time coach and new to the program, Hancock took the fall to evaluate his staff. “I had not seen any of them throw live,” says Hancock. “I saw how they pitch and what some of their stuff does. “At the D-I level, most of these guys have the stuff. We need to refine it.” That means developing a secondary pitch that the pitcher can put int he strike zone. “We want them to be able to throw a fastball down and away and to trust their stuff,” says Hancock. “You believe you can get ahead (in the count) with the stuff and get hitters out. “With one or two good pitches, you can be a really good college pitcher.” There are 22 pitchers on the roster now. He says that number will likely be 13 or 14 in the spring. Hancock left Lincoln Trail with a fastball between 92 and 95 mph and increased his velocity over time with added strength. “I was more of a late bloomer,” says Hancock. “I refined my craft and worked at it. It was about knowing my body and what it could do.” A 2009 graduate of Defiance (Ohio) High School, Hancock learned about pitching fast from Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer and three-time state championship coach Tom Held. “I touched 90 (mph in high school),” says Hancock. “Coach Held does an awesome job. Defiance has that reputation of always having ’90’ arms. (Bulldogs pitchers) want to be that next ’90’ arm and prove people wrong just like I did. Besides Hancock, graduates of the “Definance Way” to pitch in the majors include Jon Niese and Chad Billingsley. Justin is married to a Terre Haute Vigo High School graduate (and former Lincoln Trail College and Marshall University basketball player) Tessa (Johnson) Hancock. The couple have a daughter — Ivy (who turns 3 in January). Tessa’s father — Howie Johnson — played basketball at ISU with Larry Bird and was also a softball teammate of the Hall of Famer.
Tucker Waddups got his first taste of coaching right out of high school. A half decade later, it’s his career. Waddups, who is now pitching coach at Mount Vernon (Ohio) Nazarene University at the age of 24, graduated from Pioneer Junior/Senior High School in Royal Center, Ind., in 2016 and began giving pitching lessons to youngsters around Cass County. “I really started to fall in love with it,” says Waddups of sharing his baseball knowledge. “I got work with guys one-on-one, see what made guys tick and do trial-and-error things. I’d what worked and didn’t work.” A native of Logansport, Ind., Waddups grew up near Cicott Lake, played youth baseball at Rea Park next to Pioneer Elementary from age 4 to 12 followed by Babe Ruth League Baseball in Rochester, Ind., at 13U, the Jay Hundley-coached Indiana Outlaws from 14U to 16U, the Ken Niles-coached Indiana Mustangs at 17U and the Mike Hitt-coached Indiana Blue Jays at 18U. He was with the Mike Farrell-coached Brewers Fall Scout Team at 16U and Kevin Christman-coach Giants Fall Scout Team at 17U. He went to Farrell for pitching lessons from age 12 until the end of the high school career. A right-handed pitcher-only in travel ball and college, Waddups was also a shortstop and first baseman at Pioneer while playing four years for Panthers head coach Rick Farrer. “We still stay in-touch,” says Waddups of Farrer. “He’s a great man.” Wads was a four-team all-Loganland, all-Hoosier North Athletic Conference and team captain at Pioneer, where he set career records for earned run average, strikeouts, wins, home runs and runs batted in. As a senior, he was Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association All-State, an IHSBCA North All-Star and Loganland and HNAC Player of the Year. With a few exceptions, father Murl Waddups coached Tucker on most of his teams growing up. He got to have his father on his staff with the Nitro. Waddups spent the fall of 2016 and spring of 2017 with the Anderson (Ind.) University baseball team. Dustin Glant (now pitching coach at Indiana University) was Ravens head coach until the end of the fall semester then Drew Brantley (now head coach at Indiana University Kokomo) took over. A transfer to Taylor University in Upland, Ind., gave Waddups the opportunity to play for head coach Kyle Gould and pitching coach Justin Barber. With an extra COVID-19 season, he suited up for the Trojans for four seasons (2018-21). “It was definitely a good experience playing for Coach Gould,” says Waddups. “He knows the game well. He’s won a lot of baseball games. With Gould and Barber, it’s all about player development and getting guys better every year. They did a really good job of taking care of us and making sure we had everything we needed to be successful. It was four of the best years of my life.” Waddups majored in Sport Management and minored in Coaching at Taylor. In the summer of 2019, Joel Mishler gave Waddups the chance to coach at 13U team for the Indiana Chargers travel organization founded and directed by Mishler. “I absolutely loved it,” says Waddups. “It was a blast.” One of Waddups’ Chargers players was Kai Aoki, son of then-Notre Dame head coach Mik Aoki (now head coach at Morehead State University). “I got to know Mik real well,” says Waddups. “I still talk with him.” Chad Newhard had been a Taylor assistant and was affiliated with the Indiana Nitro and that relationship led to Waddups coaching at 15U Nitro team in the summer of 2020. After wrapping his playing career in the spring of 2021, Waddups served as pitching coach for the college wood bat Northwoods League’s Hayden Carter-managed Kokomo Jackrabbits. Waddups pitched for Kokomo in 2017 and 2018 when Gary McClure was Jackrabbits manager. “He knows how to win really well,” says Waddups of McClure. “He won a lot of games at Austin Peay (University).” Waddups is slated to head back to the Northwoods League in the summer of 2022 as the pitching coach for the Travese City (Mich.) Pit Spitters. He got to know Traverse City manager Josh Rebandt through frequent meetings between Kokomo and the Spitters in 2021. The coaching position at Mount Vernon Nazarene came about when Cougars head coach Keith Veale let friend and fellow Crossroads League head coach Gould know about a need for an assistant to guide pitchers and help with recruiting. Veale and Waddups spoke during the Crossroads League tournament and Waddups saw an MVNU practice before the NAIA Opening Round and decided to take the job. “I work every single day with pitchers and do their programming,” says Waddups, who also recruits and runs camps. “It’s definitely something I want to do the rest of my life.” Home Designs by Waddups (formerly Waddups Improvements) is Murl’s business. Kim Waddups runs a daycare out of her home. “She taught me a lot about life,” says Tucker. “We’ve gotten really, really close since I went to college.” Trey Waddups (Pioneer Class of 2018) is Tucker’s younger brother. He played baseball and basketball in high school and is the Panthers’ all-time scoring leader in basketball. He played one season of baseball and is in his third in basketball at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind.
As Ball State University develops baseball pitchers, one approach does not fit all. Each individual is assessed and brought along while keeping in mind what is best for them. “We’re not making a broad stroke,” says Larry Scully, the Cardinals pitching coach since August 2019. “Everyone is different in terms of their needs.” Scully, who began his coaching career in 1992 and has mentored 16 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft selections, uses the example of a freshman arriving on the Muncie, Ind., campus in the fall. That hurler is introduced to Bill Zenisek, Ball State’s baseball strength & conditioning coach. “He gets a measurement of movement for all the players,” says Scully. From this evaluation, which includes a TPI movement screening, specific exercises are prescribed that will help them become an efficient athlete. Players are introduced to proper nutrition and the weight room and learn that terminology. Rapsodo equipment is used during bullpen sessions and the motion-capture data is used for development as is Synergy slow-motion camera feedback. Then there’s the throwing program. “We get to see how the arm moves,” says Scully. As a part of that there is long toss. Some will go long and high and up to 300 feet the day after they throw and others will focus on mechanics and toss on a line for distance. Through it all, a pitcher’s delivery is checked for efficiency. How does he start? How does he drive down the mound? How does he finish? Since Scully is Driveline-certified, the Cardinals will use bands, PlyoCare Balls and mediBalls in training. Bullpen sessions may be geared toward refining a certain pitch or location. A pitcher’s workload — heavy or light in terms of innings or the number or intensity pitches — will also play into training. Fall ball began at Ball State the first week of September and just recently concluded. Pitchers worked alone the first two weeks and were then incorporated into team practices and scrimmages. Then adjustments were made during individual work. Until Dec. 3, pitchers will work eight hours a week, including strength sessions and 45 minutes a day Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays with their pitching coach. “We’ll try to maintain what they do well and get better to help us win,” says Scully. Before coming to Ball State, Scully spent five seasons at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., where he worked with Braves head coach Elvis Dominguez. “We were one of the top academic schools in the Missouri Valley Conference,” says Scully, who also served as Bradley’s recruiting coordinator. the 2019 Braves led the MVC in earned run average (3.37), fewest hits allowed per game (7.21) and WHIP (1.27). What drew Scully to the Cardinals? “Ball State has a rich tradition in winning and developing pitchers,” says Scully. At BSU, Scully joined head coach Rich Maloney, who became the 27th active NCAA Division I coach to earn his 800th career coaching win in 2019. To date, Maloney is 877-581-1 (546-337-1 in his second stint with Ball State) in 26 seasons. He has coached 65 players who were drafted 72 times. He’s coached six first-rounders with only one being drafted out of high school. The most-recent is right-hander Drey Jameson (34th overall pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2019). Maloney paid Scully a compliment during the interview process. “Everywhere you’ve been the pitching staff has gotten a bump,” says Scully of Maloney’s words. The 2021 MLB Draft was very satisfying for Scully. Three pitchers who the coach helped hone his craft were taken in the first seven rounds — Ball State’s Chayce McDermott (fourth round by the Houston Astros) and Bradley’s Brooks Gosswein (fourth round by the Chicago White Sox) and Theron Denlinger (seventh round by the White Sox). When looking at pitching potential, Ball State recruiting coordinator Blake Beemer is often drawn to athletes of a certain build. “They are long and lean with loose arm action,” says Scully. “Others might not be that, but they may be left-handed and can get left-handers out. “Blake does a good job of finding low-lying fruit. Here’s something we can probably fix (about the pitcher’s mechanics or pitch selection). “There’s a lot of moving parts. Everyone sees the final product, but there’s a lot of work that goes into it.” Prior to Bradley, Scully was pitching coach at Murray (Ky.) State University (2014), Lamar (Colo.) Community College (2010-13), assistant at Saint Louis University (2007), head coach at Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo. (2000-06) and assistant at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa (1999) and Indiana Hills Community College in Centerville, Iowa (1992-96). Dan Skirka was a Murray State assistant when Scully was there and is now the Racers head coach. Scully was born in Toronto and played at York Memorial Collegiate Institute in 1986. His head coach was Jim Ridley, who was later inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Ridley twins — Jeremy and Shayne — were teammates who wound up playing at Ball State and were both drafted in 2000 (Jeremy Ridley by the Toronto Blue Jays and Shayne Ridley by the Baltimore Orioles.). “Jim was a tremendous influence on me,” says Scully. “He was a terrific coach and a terrific person. “Some are just very lucky. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some very good baseball people.” A left-handed pitcher, Scully competed in the Junior Olympics at 18U and then played for and coached with Rick Mathews (now in the Colorado Rockies organization) at Indian Hills and played for Joel Murrie (now with the Los Angeles Angels) at Western Kentucky University. Scully earned an English Literature from WKU in 1992 and master’s degree in Sports Administration from the United State Sports Academy in 1994. “It was my intent to be an English teacher and baseball coach,” says Scully. “I learned that’s tough gig. Both require a lot of time. Now I’m helping daughter now with her grammar.” Larry and wife Shari have six children from 30 down to eighth-grader Ava. Shari Scully has taught for nearly 30 years and is employed as a sixth grade Language Arts teacher at Tremont (Ill.) Middle School.
A pair of coaches at the beginning of their professional baseball coaching careers with Indiana ties are together in the New York Yankees organization. Former Ball State University assistant Dustin Glant is the pitching coach and one-time Indiana University assistant Casey Dykes the hitting coach for the Scranton-Wilkes Barre (Pa.) Railriders of Triple-A East (formerly the International League). Both were hired by the Yankees in the summer of 2019. After getting their bearings in the system, they went to instructional league that fall and their first big league spring training in 2020. Glant and Dykes both reside in the Tampa, Fla., area near the organization’s training headquarters during the offseason — Glant with wife Ashley, daughter Evelyn (4) and son David (who turns 2 in December); Dykes with wife Chaney (a former Western Kentucky University basketball player), sons Jett (4) and Kash (2) and daughter Lainey (going on 3 months). At Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Glant and Dykes serve on a staff that features manager Doug Davis, outfield/baserunning coach Raul Dominguez, infield coach Caonabo Cosme, athletic trainer Darren London and strength and conditioning coach Larry Adegoke. With their busy daily schedules, Glant and Dykes don’t spend much time together during the day. They say hello in the morning and then wind down together after games. Glant, 39 (he turns 40 July 20), guided pitchers at BSU from 2017-19 for Cardinals head coach Rich Maloney. As a player, Glant pitched for Generals head coach Dave Fireoved at Fort Wayne (Ind.) Wayne High School and Boilermakers head coach Doug Schreiber at Purdue University and had pro stints in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization and independent ball. Glant coached at Marathon (Fla.) and Mount Vernon (Fortville, Ind.) high schools, was a volunteer at Ball State then head coach at Lapel (Ind.) High School and Anderson (Ind.) University before returning to BSU late in 2016 as pitching coach. Dykes, 31, was the hitting coach at Indiana under head coach Jeff Mercer. Dykes played at Western Kentucky for Hilltoppers head coach Chris Finwood and was a graduate assistant to head coach Matt Myers when Mercer was a WKU volunteer. A 2008 Franklin (Tenn.) High School graduate, who played for Admirals head coach Brent Alumbaugh, Dykes spent four seasons at Western Kentucky (2009-12) and served two seasons as an assistant, becoming volunteer when Mercer left for Wright State University. Before Indiana, Dykes was hitting coach and recruiting coordinator on Keydets head coach Jonathan Hadra’s staff at Virginia Military Institute (2015-18). Glant says his gameday at the pro level is similar to what it was in college. “I try to get as much one-on-one and small-group time as possible,” says Glant. “If I don’t I feel I miss things.” The difference is that in college, Glant spent a lot of time in front of a computer reviewing video on how to attack hitters. The process is more streamlined at the pro level. “It’s more development focused here,” says Glant, who might focus on a pitcher’s need to improve at holding runners or locating his fastball in a certain count. “We want to win, but we work on the big picture (getting players ready for the big leagues).” Dykes says there more a sense of urgency in pro ball, especially at the Triple-A level where players have more experience. “You don’t have the background with them (like college players who have been recruited and are usually around for years to build a relationship and go through a fall development season),” says Dykes. “In the pros, you’re playing so many games and you don’t have an offseason with them. “Things are changing constantly.” Glant’s gameday starts with preparing for the day and looking at video of the previous night’s game. In the afternoon, he reviews that with pitchers and finds the positives. Then he oversees staggered bullpen sessions for starters and — just before batting practice — relievers, who might go through a full bullpen or just “touch and feel” to stay sharp. BP is also the time he sits down with that night’s starter, both catchers and analyst Shea Wingate to map out a attack plan. Glant says Wingate’s insight is helpful. “He may find that a pitcher needs to throw more sliders,” says Glant. “We look for places where there are good spots to throw more sliders.” Once the game starts, Glant is right by Davis to make pitching-related decisions. Dykes watches his hitters and offers suggestions if necessary. At Triple-A, there are a mix of veteran players with MLB service time and younger ones trying to earn their first big league call-up. “It’s almost all like assistant coaches,” says Glant of having vets around. “They educate guys in the bullpen. It happens naturally. Guys get together and they start start talking. “They’re kind of mentors to the young guys. It’s been great.” Dykes, who starts his gameday with a workout and video study followed by plenty of batting cage time, sees his job as providing the last piece of the puzzle for players trying to return and debut at the big league level. “I want to help these guys maximize who they are as a player,” says Dykes. “It’s good to work with guys who have experienced it. “This is what they do for a living. They’re all-in.” Like the rest of the world, Glant and Dykes learned a different way of doing things thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic that caused cancellation of the 2020 minor league season and separated coaches and players from in-person interaction. “It went from being the worst thing ever to — honestly — the best thing ever,” says Glant. “We learned how to train our guys remotely via Zoom and video-conferencing. We were good at it. “We had a lot of people get better without being at the complex during that time.” Led by director of pitching Sam Briend, manager of pitch development Desi Druschel and Director of Performance John Kremer (an Indianapolis native who pitched of the University of Evansville and in the Yankees system), the organization devised a plan and found a way to develop during COVID. “It was mind-blowing,” says Glant. “We had pitchers buys in.” When Glant got a call in the fall of 2020, he went back to training face-to-face with a few 40-man roster players in Tampa and that rolled into 2021 big league camp. Being away from the clubhouse and the dugout, Dykes missed the relationships. “It made me appreciate that even more,” says Dykes. “It also taught me that you didn’t have to be hands-on and in-person with a player to help them develop. “It was a unique challenge, but made me a better coach. It got me after my comfort zone.” Using technology and video tools became part of Dykes’ coaching world and that will continue. “The world we knew has completely changed,” says Dykes. “It’s definitely more efficient. There’s no arguing that.” Dykes expresses thanks to the men who helped him along his baseball, path including Alumbaugh, Finwood, Myers, Hadra and Mercer as well as former Western Kentucky assistant and current DePauw University head coach Blake Allen and current Indiana assistants Justin Parker and Dan Held. “(Alumbaugh) had a ton of influence,” says Dykes.”He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. He saw the potential in me. But he wasn’t going to tell me. He was going to make me work for it. “He had high expectations for me. He really challenged me during some important times in my life.” Dykes, who was a catcher that turned into a third baseman, played three summers during college for Alumbaugh for the Texas Collegiate League’s Brazos Valley Bombers (College Station, Texas). “(Myers, Finwood and Allen) taught me a lot about the work and mentality it takes to be successful,” says Dykes. “They knew that as soon as my playing days were over I wanted to coach.” Dykes learned from Hadra about the importance of being detailed and fine-tuning the process to be able to communicate the message to players. “He’s incredible at that,” says Dykes of Hadra. “He was still a fairly young head coach at that time, but you would never know it. He clings to that process.” With Mercer, Parker and Held at Indiana, Dykes was part of a Hoosiers team that went 37-23 and won the Big Ten title in 2019. IU lost to Texas in the final round of the NCAA Austin Regional.
The private school 80 miles southeast of Louisville, Ky., went from 18-35 in 2017 to 20-22 in 2018 to 24-22 in 2019 to 14-4 in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season with Manny Cervantes as head coach.
In 2018, the Eagles lost many pitchers and position players to injury and still had a chance to be one of the six teams in the River States Conference tournament.
Asbury was hot and cold in the first half of 2019. After being swept in a three-game series with Cincinnati Christian University, the team re-focused and went 15-9 the rest of the way with the Eagles’ first-ever series win at Indiana University Southeast.
Before 2020 was cut short, Asbury won 11 of its last 13 games.
Cervantes brought Brandon Mattingly on board as Asbury as pitching coach in ’17 and the team earned run average has shrank each year from 6.68 to 5.78 to 4.28 to 2.47.
Mattingly, 35, has earned a reputation as a pitching instructor and top-flight recruiter.
In 1998, Mattingly played for a team — St. Matthews American — that came one game from making the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
An injury to the right-hander kept him from getting into a game for the Boilermakers and Mattingly moved on from the game and transferred to Ivy Tech Community College in Lafayette and received an Associate of Arts degree then moved back to Louisville.
Mattingly was studying Political Science and in the Pre-Law honors program at the University of Louisville when he shifted and started his own real estate title business. He now works as a title examiner, doing a lot of jobs with Sutton Real Estate.
He stumbled into the opportunity to coach with the Vipers Baseball Club travel organization and was with 18U and 17U teams in 2014 and 2015.
“Barry Pennybaker gave me the opportunity to work with pitchers,” says Mattingly. “I built a rapport with those young men quickly.”
Mattingly was later made the main pitching coach for 16U through 18U Vipers.
It was while coaching the Vipers in a summer tournament hosted by Asbury in 2016 that Mattingly met Cervantes.
“He let me know that his pitching coach had just moved on,” says Mattingly. “He told me his vision of building into the top team in the region.”
Cervantes encouraged Mattingly to apply for the position.
“He was very gracious in allowing me that opportunity,” says Mattingly of Cervantes. “He spoke highly of me to board members and the athletic director. He put himself on the line for me.
“I had no experience coaching college baseball.”
Mattingly does not regret his decision.
“This is a place I belong,” says Mattingly. “They have allowed me to come into their world and be involved with some of the best people I’ve ever met.
“It’s important to me that I’m able to express how grateful I am to be at Asbury.”
Mattingly started at Asbury in the fall of 2016.
“We had talented young men on the roster, but not as much depth as other schools,” says Mattingly. “We were still shifting the culture to winning while reflecting God’s grace.”
With hunger for championships, Mattingly began using his relationships built through the Vipers to bring in student-athletes that could have an immediate impact for the Eagles.
“We made it pretty clear pretty quickly that we were going to be a player in recruiting baseball talent,” says Mattingly. “The ability to develop relationships with younger players gave us a leg up.”
Not as stringent as the NCAA recruiting calendar, the NAIA allows for this.
“Developing relationships is the priority,” says Mattingly. “You get a lot of opportunities to talk with these young men and their parents.
Mattingly lets them know they are interest in them as an athlete, student and a child of God.
“We treat them with respect,” says Mattingly.
Besides Asbury, baseball-playing schools in the River States Conference are Alice Lloyd College (Pippa Passes, Ky.), Brescia University (Owensboro, Ky.), Indiana University Kokomo (Ind.), Indiana University Southeast (New Albany, Ind.), Midway (Ky.) University, Oakland City (Ind.), University, Ohio Christian University (Circleville, Ohio), Point Park University (Pittsburgh, Pa.), University of Rio Grande (Ohio) and West Virginia University Institute of Technology (Beckley, W.Va.).
Among others in the area are the University of the Cumberlands (Williamsburg, Ky.), Campbellsville (Ky.) University, Georgetown (Ky.) College, Lindsey Wilson College (Columbia, Ky.), University of Pikeville (Ky.) and Thomas More University (Crestview Hills, Ky.).
“Eyes pay attention to this part of the country,” says Mattingly. “We want to make dents in those recruiting classes.”
Granted an extra year of eligibility, four Kentucky-bred seniors — right-hander Will McDonald, left fielder Colton Back, first baseman/designated hitter C.J. Compton and righty reliever Austin Jennings — decided to come back for a fifth year in 2021. McDonald is the ace of the pitching staff and joins back Back as a second-year team captain.
First baseman Paul Haupt and center fielder Garrett McIntire — a pair of juniors — can track their relationship with Brandon back to the Vipers.
Mattingly has also been pitching coach for the Ohio Valley League’s Henderson (Ky.) Flash since 2017 (minus the canceled 2020 season) and has built relationships with coaches and players in the southern part of Indiana.
“I’m super-excited to get after it,” says Hammel, who was originally hired as pitching coach but became a head coach candidate when Jon Vernon opted to spend more time with family and focus on his duties as Benton Central’s head volleyball coach. “We want to do everything with a purpose.
At South Newton — a K-12 school in Kentland, Ind. — Jarrett got a chance to help with younger kids as a high school junior and senior.
“I knew I wanted to be a positive role model — someone to look up to,” says Hammel. “I look up to my parents a lot. They made a lot of sacrifices for me to be where I am today.
“They’ve always had my back.”
Coming from a close-knit family where both sets of grandparents live within 15 minutes, Jarrett counts younger brother Jay as his best friend. They grew up pushing each other in academics and athletics.
With 1,195 points, 6-foot-4 Jarrett Hammel was the No. 1 all-time scorer in South Newton boys hoops history until he was surpassed by younger brother Jay Hammel with 1,363. The 6-6 Jay is now a 21-year-old junior right-hander on the Quincy (Ill.) University baseball team and a Multimedia Journalism major.
A 2016 South Newton graduate, Jarrett Hammel played baseball for Glenn Donahue and basketball for Mike Hall.
Hammel was born in Lafayette, Ind., and grew up in Brook, Ind., where he still resides. He knew Donahue as a youth baseball coach who moved up to the high school ranks.
Jarrett played four high school summers of travel ball with the Indiana Nitro.
The Bison are in an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Maconaquah, Northwestern, Peru, Twin Lakes, West Lafayette and Western. Benton Central has won 25 sectionals — the last in 2009.
While the COVID-19 pandemic took away the 2020 season, Benton Central fielded two teams in 2019 and Hammel says he expects to have about 30 players for two squads in 2021.
Hammel is in the process of finding assistant coaches. He would like to have a Benton Central alum on his staff. Bringing in coaches from Newton County is not practical since Brook is in Central Time and Oxford is in Eastern Time.
In looking to his feeder system, Hammel likes the youth program already established and plans to place players in competitive summer leagues and with top travel organizations.
“We want to get them out of their comfort zone and change their outlook on life,” says Hammel, who also plans to start a fall baseball program at BC.
“We went to keep kids at it and try to perfect their craft year-round,” says Hammel. “We’re trying to maximize everyone’s potential.”
As of this writing, the DePauw staff features fifth-year head coach Blake Allen (who is in charge of pitchers and catcher) and Pustay (who is responsible for infielders, outfielders and hitters plus recruiting).
Pustay asks his infielders in particular to be aggressive.
“I want them making mistakes on their toes rather than making mistakes on their heels,” says Pustay. “I don’t want them to get in bad position and let ball play them.
“A rule we’ve tried to instill the last two years is for infielders try to say four words between each pitch (encouragement to the pitch or something strategic). It’s so they’re engaged and not waiting for something to happen.”
Outfielders are expected to make the play that’s “smart, controlled and correct.”
“Their aggression is a little more controlled,” says Pustay. “They have to be 90 percent sure to throw to the lead base. Otherwise, cut your losses and get the ball to second base (to keep the double play in order).”
Hitting is based on keeping things simple and playing to the athlete’s strengths.
“You win with who you are a a hitter,” says Pustay. “There’s a million different ways to win a ballgame. We’d like nothing better than putting a bunch of crooked numbers on the board, but there’s noting wrong with winning with a hundred paper cuts.
“We make sure we know ourselves as hitters. We are allowing guys the freedom to swing away if they feel that’s their game and really helps us.
“We want to make a good swing and hit the ball hard. We try to compete like heck on every pitch.”
In keeping the approach simple, the shorter the pre-swing thought the better.
“If you’re speaking to yourself in full sentences, you have to get out of the box,” says Pustay. “We want to use one or two words.”
As a two-man crew, Pustay and Allen conducted fall practice in September and October.
As a social distancing measure and so each student could have a solo dormitory room, only freshmen and sophomores were on-campus while juniors and seniors took online classes. Ballplayers worked out on their own or in small groups away from DePauw.
“It was sort of a blessing and curse all at the same time,” says Pustay. “For the freshmen, it was a great fall. They had a lot of great individual time — one-on-one development with the coaches.
“We had 12 position players on-campus. It was a nice crash course for freshmen for sure.”
Having the others off-campus was not ideal, but coaches and players made it work with plenty of Zoom meetings and phone calls. Pustay and Allen regularly checked in with their student-athletes.
“What I missed most this fall was the daily interaction with players walking by my office on the way to class or the weight room,” says Pustay. “As (DePauw head men’s basketball coach Bill Fenlon says), it’s a relationship business.
“You have to care for these guys on and off the field. You find out what’s important to them. It’s a mentorship.”
Pustay has been with Allen for the past four seasons after spending six with Jake Martin at the head of the Tigers program.
“The thing I really appreciate about Blake is that character counts with him,” says Pustay. “You win with the right people.
“Personally, not only has he given me a lot of responsibility but he also commands results. We’ve got to keep working. We can’t have time where we’re patting ourselves on the back for too long.”
As a father of three, Allen has also passed along lessons about balancing family life and baseball. Matt and Laura Pustay live in Indianapolis with daughter Ellie (3) and son Joey (1).
“It’s important to take time for your family during a pretty demanding coaching schedule,” says Pustay.
“It was a graduate course — essentially — in baseball,” says Pustay. “I could talk for days about Mike Roberts. He taught myself and the other assistants about how to treat people. He really taught us how to make everybody around the park feel like they were a part of it. That whole community lived for the Kettleers.
“It was a very family-friendly experience.”
Pustay got to know the names of a lot of dogs and kids.
“Mike Roberts taught me how to be a better person and trust myself,” says Pustay. “He’s a class act.”
Through Allen’s Vanderbilt University connections, Pustay has worked four fall camps at the NCAA D-I powerhouse (2015-19). Tim Corbin is the Commodores head coach.
Pustay has also worked camps at Notre Dame during the tenure of Mik Aoki and and Kentucky when Gary Henderson was head coach.
A native of Granville, Ohio, Pustay graduated from Granville High School in 2005 and earned three baseball letters at DePauw (2007, 2008 and 2009) as a catcher while playing for head coach Matt Walker (who is now head football coach at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls).
Pustay helped former high school teammate Sean Rainey with the Granville American Legion Post 398 team in the summer of 2009 then became an assistant at NCAA D-III Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, and was with the Ryan Grice-coached Crusaders for 2010 spring season.
“Coach Grice gave me a pretty long leash,” says Pustay. “He handed the catching position over to me. It was the best thing to happen to me as a young coach, being given that much responsibility.”
Grice did not nit-pick, he just asked that Pustay keep him posted about what he was doing.
Martin, who was a DePauw assistant when Pustay played for the Tigers, had put in a good word for him at Capital.
When Martin became DePauw’s head coach, he brought Pustay back to Greencastle. The two have remained close even after Martin went down the road to become head coach at Wabash College.
The right-hander played for Warriors head coach Dave Meliah and pitching coach C.J. Biagi and was named a first-team all-East Region relief pitcher and second-team all-Northwest Athletic Conference relief pitcher in 2012 while garnering six saves.
“Coach Meliah taught me a lot of physical and mental toughness and how to prepare at a higher level,” says Lawhead. “I learned how to attack and compete relentlessly and not have any fear.
“I played on two of the grittiest and most-competitive teams I’ve ever been a part of.”
Lawhead describes the juco experience.
“The days are long in junior college, but it helps you develop an appreciation of how much better you can get by working,” says Lawhead. “There’s a natural progression. You can speed up and expedite that process a little bit.”
Through an online recruiting database — FieldLevel — he caught the attention of Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne and wound up signing with the Mastodons weeks before his junior year at IPFW.
“Lucky for me, they needed arms,” says Lawhead. “I wanted to play at the (NCAA) Division I level as well. That’s the reason I went to junior college in the first place.”
The right-handed hurler two seasons (2013 and 2014) for head coach Bobby Pierce and pitching coach Grant Birely and made 41 appearances out of the bullpen with seven wins and nine saves.
“It was a great experience with Coach Pirece and Coach Birely,” says Lawhead. “They helped me see things in detail and that 90 percent of game can be controlled by that pitcher-hitter confrontation.
“They gave us a lot of freedom. There was no micromanaging. We took ownership of our own development.”
Many of Lawhead’s former teammates from the Fort Wayne area have remained very good friends.
“They are my Midwest family if you will,” say Lawhead, 29.
After his playing career, he served as a graduate assistant and then as paid assistant in the Mastodons program from 2015-19.
Lawhead coached three All-Americans at IPFW — Evan Miller (who was selected in the 22nd round of the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the San Diego Padres and pitched for the Low Single-A Fort Wayne TinCaps 2016-18 and in Triple-A in 2019) and all-Summit League performers Greg Kaiser and Brandon Soat (who played for the 2017 independent pro Evansville Otters).
All three are Indiana prep products — Miller from LaPorte, Kaiser from Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger and Soat from Homestead.
In the summers of 2014 and 2015, Lawhead was head coach for 13U and 14U teams for the Indiana Chargers travel baseball organization, working alongside founder/general manager Joel Mishler and director of operations Justin Barber.
“Joel was another big influence in my life as a coach,” say Lawhead. “(The Chargers) are youth organization so devoted to developing players and men.”
Barber is now the pitching coach at Taylor University.
Zac Mishler, Joel’s youngest son, was Lawhead’s teammate at IPFW.
Gayday was later joined at the NAIA and Crossroads League member school by Lawhead, who left IPFW (now known as Purdue Fort Wayne) when Pierce left to take to take an athletic administration job in Arizona.
“Coach Butcher is great to coach under,” says Lawhead. “Before I even got here, he had established a culture with good athletes and good human beings. There’s also that (relentless) mentality I spoke about earlier. It makes my job a lot easier.
“We can focus on the things that can help us win games in the heat of competition. (Butcher) gives his assistant coaches full autonomy. He does not micromanage. We have a really good relationship.”
At IPFW, Lawhead worked primarily with position players on defense and collaborated with Pierce on hitting.
As a Saint Francis assistant, he throws batting practice and helps out with defense whenever he can but Lawhead’s primarily responsibility is with the Cougars pitching staff.
He covers a variety of areas, but a competitive mentality is a key.
“We talked about body language, self talk and all the thing we can control,” says Lawhead. “We want to compete relentlessly with no fear.
“We want to get to that fight or flight response. We like our guys competing at everything they do and doing it to the highest of their abilities.”
Lawhead has his pitchers using their arms often to build up their tolerance.
“We throw just about everyday, but not as hard as they can,” says Lawhead. “We want to be able to expose hitters’ weaknesses and get them out.”
COVID-19 restrictions did not allow Saint Francis to have any games with other schools during the six weeks of fall practice, but there was plenty of intrasquad action.
“In my opinion we accomplished our goal of pitchers learning their strengths and how they are going to attack hitters,” says Lawhead. “During week, (pitches) prepared to perform on the weekend. We had a plan in place to recover so we can do that again and again.”
Lawhead says its likely that the Cougars will not have mid-week games during the 2021 season with four-game weekend series in the conference (7- and 9-inning doubleheaders on Fridays and Saturdays).
Saint Francis finished the fall semester before Thanksgiving. Students, including ballplayers, are due back on-campus in January.
While the student-athletes are away, the coaching staff is recruiting and planning for the season.
“We’re working on how we’re going to attack practice as efficiently as possible when the guys get back,” says Lawhead.
Connor and Victoria Lawhead have a daughter who turns 1 on Dec. 31 — Avery. While Victoria is teaching sixth grade English at Woodside Middle School (a Homestead High School feeder), he is at home with the baby then often heads to the office.
In his current position, working for Urban Knights head coach Dan McDermott, Collins-Bride, 30, is in charge of pitchers, catchers and infielders.
“I’m a teacher,” says Collins-Bride, who joined the ArtU coaching staff in September 2019. “Baseball and strength and conditioning seems to be my best form of teaching.
“When you see people grow and see the light click on and they create really good habits, that’s the special part.”
Developing pitchers at the NCAA Division II PacWest Conference institution for Collins-Bride is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor.
“It’s individualistic once you have a base,” says Collins-Bride. “It depends on the players’ needs.”
Some pitchers possess good command and need to improve their stuff. Some have superior velocity but lack movement on their pitches. Others need concentration on the mental side of baseball.
“We’re picking and choosing what we focus on,” says Collins-Bride.
A strength and conditioning coach for several Indiana Tech teams, Collins-Bride has studied biomechanics as it relates to athletes. He has become OnBaseU-certified.
“You have to know how each player moves and how they’re supposed to move,” says Collins-Bride, who does a movement assessment on each ArtU pitcher. “That’s critical.
“You structure the off-season around filling those buckets.”
You’re not treating every car like a Toyota. You also have Dodges and Kias. You don’t spend all your time racing the Lamborghini, you also spend time working with it in the garage.
COVID-19 caused the Urban Knights’ 2020 season to halt after 20 games. McDermott and Collins-Bride helped the player see the quarantine as an opportunity for growth.
“It was a chance to check something on your bucket list,” says Collins-Bride. “If you don’t do it, shame on you.
“Many (players) came back (in the fall) in the biggest shape of their lives,” says Collins-Bride. “It was really cool to see what these guys did over 6-7 months after only hearing about it over the phone.”
Alameda resident Collins-Bride used the extra time to go on long bike rides, including a trek around Lake Tahoe.
ArtU practices at The Presidio and plays games at Laney College. During fall practice, players went through daily temperature and system checks.
Most of the time, workouts were conducted with just six to eight players.
“It was different,” says Collins-Bride. “But it was really good from a development standpoint.”
There was more one-on-one time with coaching while raw skills — running, throwing, fielding and swinging — were being refined mixed with intrasquad play.
“Ideally, that’s what a fall should be — create some raw skills and play a little bit,” says Collins-Bride. “Summer baseball is failing kids. They’re playing too much and not practicing enough or practicing too much and not playing enough.
“We had a really good balance (in the fall.).”
It’s about building proper motor patterns. That’s why weighted balls and bats are used to carve a new path for the brain.
“It’s a brand new road and they learn that quickly,” says Collins-Bride.
Born in San Francisco, the son of carpenter Bob Bride and professor/nurse practitioner Geraldine Collins-Bride grew up loving baseball.
Patrick’s father did not have much experience at the game, but he did come up with several tools to guide “FUN-damentals” for Little Leaguers. Bob devoured books and DVDs while researching training methods.
“He’d have us swing ax handles,” says Collins-Bride. “We’d hit wiffle balls with hoses to teach us to whip the bat. He turned a leaf blower into a wiffle ball pitching machine. To develop soft hands, we’d toss eggs or water balloons. We had stations all around my small house.”
Flood lights were installed over the garage so these sessions could go deep into the night.
Patrick went to the Boys & Girls Club and learned about pitching from major leaguers who hailed from Alameda. Pitcher Dontrelle Willis taught him how to play “strikeout.”
Middle schooler Collins-Bride learned about the proper way to field a grounder from shortstop Jimmy Rollins at an RBI camp held at Encinal.
Collins-Bride expresses gratitude of coaching with McDermott, who is heading into his 28th season as a college coach in 2021.
“It’s like coaching with your dad,” says Collins-Bride. “He really, really loves you and he’s not going to let you mess up.
“We get really great life lessons all the time. I’ve learned a lot from him.”
Collins-Bride coached for five seasons at Indiana Tech (2015-19), where Kip McWilliams is the Warriors head coach. “C.B.” worked with hitters, infielders, catchers and volunteered his strength and conditioning services while pursuing and after completing his Masters of Marketing and Management.
Indiana Tech typically carries a roster of 60 or more to help fund the program — with varsity and developmental teams.
“We had to carry a lot of players,” says Collins-Bride. “We decided if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it really well.
“Playoff time is when the Warriors showed up.”
Collins-Bride notes that almost all the players in the starting lineup in the 2015 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference championship game started out on the development team.
“That was so important,” says Collins-Bride of the large squad. “They all trained together. We created an efficient practice style. Everybody had a purpose.
“We competed. If you were recruited there, you worked hard. When you have that many guys with a passion for baseball, it makes for such a good atmosphere.
“To do it right, you make sure you treat each kid well. I think we accomplished that. The beautiful thing about baseball and life is what a kid can make out of himself in two or four years.”
Collins-Bride said the Tech culture was based on standards and not rules.
“There was an acceptable level of behavior for everyone in the program and accountability is a two-way street (standards applied equally to players and coaches),” says Collins-Bride. “Coaches didn’t just talk the talk, they walked the walked.”
Or — better yet — they hustled from station to station just like the players.
It was also an atmosphere of positivity.
“No BCE (Blaming, Complaining or Excuses) was allowed,” says Collins-Bride. “Because it’s not helping the situation.”
Dosson, a graduate of Heritage High School in Monroeville, Ind., was a highly-touted player in high school who wound up behind an All-American for a few seasons with the Warriors then got a chance to hit behind Tech standout and No. 3 hitter Glen McClain.
Barksdale, who went to Cass Tech High School in Detroit, spent a few seasons on the developmental team then got his chance to shine with the varsity in a game against Florida Memorial.
“He had been training really, really hard,” says Collins-Bride. “He hit a ground ball in the 6-hole and beat it out for a base hit. That was pretty special.”
Collins-Bride calls Biagini, hard-nosed player from San Francisco, the “most impactful kid I’ve ever been around.”
“He was the epitome of leadership,” says Collins-Bride of the national gold glove shortstop. “He’d say what coaches would have to say. He’d see things and fix them.
“They way he practiced, he raised the level of everyone around him.”
Collins-Bride had been with McWilliams when he observed a Spring Arbor University practice led by head coach Sam Riggleman. The SAU Cougars made workouts fast and as game-like a possible.
“Practice is the hardest thing we would do,” says Collins-Bride. “Games were slow. Everything (in practice) counted. Everything had detail.”
Collins-Bride noticed that long-time Lewis-Clark State College coach Ed Cheff and Folsom Lake College coach Rich Gregory (who played for future Indiana State University and University of Washington coach Lindsay Meggs on a NCAA Division II championship team at Cal State Chico) also took to that kind of preparation — skill under pressure.
It did no good to see 50 mph batting practice pitches when the game was going to bring 90 mph.
Collins-Bride went from Ave Maria, where he played two seasons (2011 and 2012) and coached two (2013 and 2014), after checking his options of serving as a graduate assistant to Scott Dulin at Fisher College in Boston.
On his first working day with Tech, he flew from San Francisco to Boston then drove 15 hours to Fort Wayne. He met McWilliams at 5 a.m. and they drove all the way to Vincennes (Ind.) for a junior college showcase.
“We talked baseball the whole way,” says Collins-Bride.
During Collins-Bride’s entire at Tech, Debbie Warren was the athletic director.
“She was an unbelievable leader of people,” says Collins-Bride. “She knew how to push you. She was very tough and phenomenal to work with.”
Warren helped get the weight room updated just about the time Collins-Bride was leaving to go back to California.
While he was there he planted a desk near the weights and managed 80 athletes in a two-hour window.
Shawn Summe, a graduate of Penn High School and Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., was the head coach at NAIA Ave Maria. He started the program. The Gyrenes’ first season was 2010.
“(Summe) is a very intense person and an emotional leader,” says Collins-Bride. “We practiced really hard. He was really awesome to play for.
“He deeply had your back and wanted you to succeed.”
Collins-Bride, who received a Politics degree from Ave Maria, sees his transition from player to coach as a smooth one.
“It was easy to step into a role of leadership and demand respect,” says Collins-Bride. “We had a special senior group in 2013.”
Lennon, who died in 2019 at 80, won three baseball letters at Notre Dame and later taught at the university and served as three decades for the Notre Dame Alumni Association.
Lennon’s zeal was on display even at early hours when Collins-Bride was getting a few more winks before greeting the day on an Ave Maria road trip.
“He’s say, ‘Wake up C.B., the world is waiting for us,” says Collins-Bride. “Talk about positivity. He was a beaming, shining light.”
After a semester at Cal State East Bay, Collins-Bride transferred to California Community College Athletic Association member Laney and played two seasons (2009 and 2010) for Eagles coach Francisco Zapata.
“Coach Z is a great human being,” says Collins-Bride. “He really knew his stuff and he knew how to push you.
“It was really hard to let him down. You know what he had to go through to play baseball. You’ve got nothing to complain about.”
Zapata grew up in Nicaragua and brought a work ethic to his coaching.
“There was an expectation level,” says Collins-Bride.
His prep career began on the Alameda High junior varsity for coach Joe Pearse and concluded at Encinal for Jim Saunders.
“(Pearse) was a hard-nosed guy,” says Collins-Bride. “We were working hard and there was a lot of competition.
“(Saunders, who coached Rollins) was an excellent manager of talent.”
During his time as a player and manager with the San Francisco Seals, Collins-Bride not only got a chance to enjoy the rivalry with the Arcata-based Humboldt Crabs but got the chance to play all over the place. During a two-year span, he traveled through 33 states and played in around 20.
Working for head coach and Northland alum Jeremy Snow, Kowalski is in charge of the LumberJacks pitchers.
It’s a different path than Kowalski was on just a few years go when he stepped away from the college world as a player after a discouraging first experience.
The pitcher from Arlington Heights, Ill., lost his passion.
And that doesn’t work for the 6-foot-4 right-hander.
“I’m not the kind of guy who does not want to do something unless I’m totally devoted to it,” says Kowalski, who spent his first year out of Buffalo Grove (Ill.) High School, where he played for Jeff Grybash and graduated in 2013, on the roster at North Park University in Chicago but did not get into a game. “It was a wake-up call at North Park that set the tone for me personally: You need to figure yourself out.”
Kowalski was prepared for a life outside of baseball. Then found himself back on a diamond in men’s league and decided to give the college game another try.
He spent 2015-16 at Harper College, a National Junior College Athletic Association Division III school in Palatine, Ill. He appeared in nine games (five starts) for Hawks head coach Cliff Brown with one win and three complete games.
In the Summit City with the Kip McWilliams-coached Warriors, Kowalski’s baseball fire stoked.
The big righty struck out 10 in 9 1/3 innings out of the bullpen and was an Ultimate Warrior nominee in 2019. Tech went to the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.
It’s that connection with McWilliams and others at Tech that helped him get on the coaching staff of Steve Jaksa at NCAA Division II Saginaw (Mich.) Valley State University in University Center, Mich., as a volunteer for 2019-20 and land his current role on the banks of Lake Superior. He arrived on-campus at Northland this fall.
“It’s not what you know or who you know, it’s who knows you,” says Kowalski, 25. “If not for my time of Indiana Tech and that period of growth, I wouldn’t be where I am now. It helps to have those types of guys in your corner and speaking for who you are and has seen you put in the work.
“There are people who made me realize who I am and what I can do. I’m very grateful for staff at Indiana Tech, my former teammates, the people I competed against. I now have chance to be a major part of changing a program.”
It’s not lost on Kowalski that he’s starting a coaching job in the middle of a global pandemic.
“It’s an interesting time,” says Kowalski. “I sincerely things will clear up and we can return back to the things we love to do.
“We got through a full fall season — with mainly instrasquads. We were just beginning our off-season training when everything shut down.
It started out with student-athletes in a hybrid — some online classes and some in-person — then only those with prior approval were allowed to stay on-campus.
Kowalski says the LumberJacks were beginning to develop a team identity when they were told to go home.
“It’s a day-to-day process and our guys have done a tremendous job every day we get to practice together,” says Kowalski. “These are smart players. We were teaching some of the bigger concepts and faster-moving practices were becoming ingrained.”
Like at Indiana Tech, Kowalski sees player development at Northland as a personalized experience.
“We’re not trying to create carbon copies,” says Kowalski. “We want everyone to maximize their strengths while improving their weaknesses.”
A Kinesthetic or hands-on learner, Kowalski uses YouTube videos and other resources to take in concepts that he passes on to his players.
While there are a few volunteers, much of the coaching load falls to Kowalski and Snow. The latter is a 2010 NC graduate and spent 2019-20 as an assistant at the University of Northwestern Ohio in Lima after four seasons as head coach at Lourdes University in Sylvania. Both are NAIA members.
Snow and Kowalski have been busy with recruiting players to the school located 70 miles east of Duluth, Minn. and 260 miles northwest of Appleton, Wis. Ashland is a town of about 8,000 and fishing and hunting is popular with residents and Northland baseball players. When Snow was a player, they put a deer stand on a foul pole and brought down an animal with a bow.
Though he grew up in a metro environment and has never hunted, Kowalski has been taking a hunting safety course.