Tag Archives: Prospect League

Sailors brings experience as new Lafayette Aviators manager

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

Jamie Sailors knows baseball aptitude.
He’s witnessed athletes with a knack for the game since he grew up in Logansport, Ind.
Sailors moved to Brookston in the ninth grade and ended up as a 1991 graduate of Frontier Junior/Senior High School in Chalmers. The left-handed pitcher was chosen that year to participate in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series.
Tom Potts was Sailors’ head baseball coach at Frontier.
“He was also a football coach and very organized in his approach to practice,” says Sailors of Potts. “He was very likable. He always seemed to have a smile on his face.”
Sailors got to appear in two Colt World Series at Lafayette’s old Loeb Stadium and had numerous other games at the stadium that was built in 1940 and replaced by the new Loeb (home of the Lafayette Aviators and Lafayette Jeff baseball) in 2021 in Legion ball.
“What I remember about the old park is that it was historic,” says Sailors. “There were signs on the wooden outfield wall and a manual scoreboard in center field.
“There was a light pole in-play in left-center when I played.”
At 15, Sailors spent the first of four summers playing for Eric Harmon-managed Monticello American Legion Post 81 and regularly competed against Lafayette Post 11.
Logansport won the 1991 IHSAA state championship. That team featured John Curl and Willie Hilton.
Both were selected in the 1995 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft — Curl by the Toronto Blue Jays out of Texas A&M and Hilton by the Oakland Athletics out of Eastern Illinois University.
Sailors was drafted in the 13th round by the St. Louis Cardinals out of Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., in 1992. He was with the Rod Lovett-coached Cobras for one season
“He was a very good recruiter,” says Sailors of Lovett, who had the most pitchers drafted at any collegiate level in 1992. Three of them — Juan Acevedo, Shayne Bennett and Mike Grzanich — made it to the majors.
That first professional summer, southpaw Sailors played for the Arizona Cardinals. In 1993, he was second in the Appalachian League in strikeouts, fanning 81 in 77 1/3 innings for the Johnson City (Tenn.) Cardinals.
He split the 1994 season between the New York-Penn League’s New Jersey Cardinals and Midwest League’s Madison (Wis.) Hatters.
“I faced some really good players in the minor leagues,” says Sailors.
Along the way, the lefty played against future Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Jim Thome, MLB standouts Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez and long-time pro Ryan Jackson.
Joe Cunningham was Sailors’ manager at Arizona, Johnson City and Madison. Roy Silver was his skipper at New Jersey.
“I’ve been around really good players ever since I started,” says Sailors, who was recently named as manager of the summer collegiate Prospect League’s Lafayette Aviators for the 2023 season.
“It helps to recognize talent and character.”
Sailors, 50, reached out to Aviators general manager David Krakower and then met with him and team ownership and was hired to lead in a diamond space where he is very familiar.
He spent four seasons managing in the same circuit with the Danville (Ill.) Dans (2005, 2006, 2012 and 2013). He split the job with Jason Watson the final summer. Danville went 41-19 in 2006.
Future major leaguers that played for the Dans when Sailors was in charge include Louis Coleman, Mitch Moreland, Tanner Roark and Danny Worth.
So what called him to the Aviators post?
“I just want to get on a baseball field again with college players,” says Sailors is responsible for recruiting much of the 32-man roster. He is doing it through coach recommendations and information gathered on the internet.
“They’re coming from everywhere,” says Sailors of the diverse Lafayette roster. “College coaches have a good gauge of knowing what we’re looking for.
“I’m lucky I have enough connections and my network has expanded in the past few weeks.”
While about two-thirds of players are signed, Sailors says he is looking for pitchers and might have to wait until spring to sign some of them based on their spring workload.
Sailors’ coaching staff includes Doug Gove (pitching), Tyler Brown (hitting), Andrew Pratt (hitting) and volunteer James Smith (pitching).
Beginning in 2008, Sailors coached and/or was on the board of the Northern Baseball Club before that travel organization shut down. Brooks Sailors — the second of Jamie and Sarah Sailors’ three children — played for the Northern Stars and graduated from Frontier in 2020.
All but one of the players in his final travel season went on to college baseball.
Brooks Sailors is a catcher/infielder at Purdue Fort Wayne. He took 2022 as a redshirt year and has three remaining seasons of eligibility.
Jamie Sailors was head baseball coach at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville for five campaigns (2002-06) and UWP football assistant for three (2001-03) and pitching coach at Purdue University for two (2007-08).
Doug Schreiber — who is now head coach at Purdue Fort Wayne — then led the Purdue program.
“I learned a ton from him about how he thinks baseball and his managing of games and practices,” says Sailors of Schreiber.
One of Sailors’ Boilermaker arms was future big leaguer Josh Lindblom.
After leaving Purdue, Sailors served as strength coach at Delphi (Ind.) Community High School through the fall of 2015. He was the Oracles’ head football coach for three seasons (2009-11).
Sailors was head football coach at Frontier for six seasons (2013-18) and served as Falcons athletic director from the fall of 2015 to the fall of 2018.
He is in his third year as a physical education teacher and strength coach at Logansport Junior High School. He is also on the high school football coaching staff. The Mike Johnson-led Berries went 8-3 this fall.
The Sailors now reside in Battle Ground, Ind., just outside Lafayette.
In a very sports-minded family, Sarah Sailors (formerly Laurent) went from Watseka, Ill., to earn volleyball letters at Eastern Carolina University in 1993 and 1994. She now works for the State of Indiana in Child Protective Services.
Oldest child Madisen Sailors (Frontier Class of 2017) played two volleyball seasons at UW-Platteville and is now teaching and coaching in Wisconsin while attending graduate school at UW-Madison.
Fifth grader Ryne Sailors is the youngest.

Jamie Sailors.

Borden begins professional career in Houston Astros system

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

Tim Borden II just wanted a chance to show what he can do on the diamond.
So the infielder and 2018 graduate of Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville, Ind., transferred from the University of Louisville to Georgia Tech for the 2022 collegiate baseball season. He was familiar with the school and program since the two schools are both in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Playing in 55 games for the ’22 Danny Hall-coached Yellow Jackets, the righty swinger hit .316 (60-of-190) with 18 home runs, 11 doubles, 53 runs batted in, 56 runs scored and 1.106 OPS (.448 on-base percentage plus .658 slugging average).
“I felt like I had to give myself the opportunity to play every day,” says Borden, 23. “It’s been my lifelong dream to be a professional baseball player.
“It all worked out the way I wanted to.”
Borden, who was selected in the 37th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Cleveland Indians but opted for college, was chosen in the 16th round of the 2022 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros. He got into 26 games with the Florida Complex League Astros and Asheville (N.C.) Tourists and hit .286 (24-of-84) with six homers and 21 RBIs. He played shortstop, third base and second base.
“I’m very familiar with all three of those positions,” says Borden. “I like them all equally. As long as I’m out there playing every day I’m OK with wherever I play.”
The last day of the Astros two-week instructional league in West Palm Beach, Fla., was Sept. 25.
He plans to spend his off-season working out in Louisville with Eric Hammer.
Borden, a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, describes his hitting approach.
“I’m always looking to attack the fastball early on in the count,” says Borden. “Any off-speed pitch that starts in the middle or down in the zone I’m letting go by.”
His best athletic qualities are twofold.
“Being a competitor and being confident are the two biggest things,” says Borden. “I always know my confidence is going to be through the roof because I put in the preparation. I’ve done the work.
“When it comes to game time I’m able to be free and have fun.”
Tim Borden II is the son of Tim Borden Sr. and grandson of Ray Borden and considers them his two biggest mentors.
“Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today,” says Tim II. “They’ve always shown me what hard work looks like whether it’s in a business forum or in the weight room.
“I’ve always looked up to them in every aspect of life.”
Borden graduated in three years from Louisville as a Sport Administration major with a minor in Communication. He was studying History, Technology & Communication at Georgia Tech.
Born in Jeffersonville, Ind., Borden spent the first nine years of his life there and played at Jeff/GRC Little League. He played travel ball for the Ironmen, Evoshield Canes and Georgia-based Team Elite.
A four-year baseball letterwinner and three-time first team All-State selection at Providence, Borden helped the Pioneers win an IHSAA Class 2A state title in as a sophomore in 2016.
He hit .417 with seven homers, 12 doubles, 38 RBIs and 28 runs as a junior in 2017. He hit .484 with six homers, 12 doubles, 41 RBIs and 28 runs as a senior in 2018.
Scott Hornung was Borden’s head coach all four years at Providence.
“He allowed me to play my game and to compete at a very high level with all the other guys on my team,” says Borden of Hornung. “That’s what allowed us to run to make a run to a state cham[pionshiup and to the semistate the year after that.”
“Coach Hornung was always in my corner and for that I will always be grateful.”
Marissa Hornung, who played volleyball at Providence and Purdue University, is one of Borden’s best friends.
Borden was redshirted for his first year at Louisville (2019) and played for the Dan McDonnell-coached Cardinals for two years (2020 and 2021), earning Freshman All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. In 32 games at U of L, he hit .309 (21-of-68) with one homer and 14 RBIs.
He worked out at Louisville in the summer of 2018. He split the summer of 2019 with the Prospect League’s Quincy (Ill.) Gems and Northwoods League’s Rochester (Minn.) Honkers. He was in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., in its first two seasons (2020 and 2021).
Tim Borden Sr. and wife Patty have three children — Tim II, Grant and Brooke. Providence senior infielder Grant Borden is committed to play baseball at Mercer University (Macon, Ga.). Brooke Borden (Class of 2025) plays volleyball for Providence.

Tim Borden II. (Georgia Tech Photo)
Tim Borden II. (Georgia Tech Photo)
Tim Borden II. (Georgia Tech Photo)
Tim Borden II. (Asheville Tourists Photo)

Tim Borden II. (Georgia Tech Photo)

Tim Borden II. (Georgia Tech Photo)

Walther lends his experience to Pro X Athlete Development, College Summer League

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

Mark Walther helps run a business dedicated to the improvement of those who move and compete, particularly those in baseball, softball, football and golf.
He is the Director of Operations at Pro X Athlete Development, which is at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind.
“I wear a lot of hats here,” says Walther, a former collegiate and professional pitcher. “There isn’t much that I don’t do here.”
Walther, 33, started as a lead instructor and taught velocity programs for pitchers and position players and gave pitching lessons.
As Director of Operations, he is charged with everything from scheduling cages and turf time to making sure machines are in order to the cleanliness of the facility.
He makes sure financials and daily reporting lines up with what’s coming into Pro X.
After coaching at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., and the University of Indianapolis, Walther worked briefly for Bullpen Tournaments at Grand Park and still helps with that company while also serving as the commissioner of the College Summer League at Grand Park, which had its third season in 2022.
The CSL came about out of players needing a place to compete and train (at Pro X) with many leagues being shut down in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of athletes had spring seasons that were cut short or didn’t start at all.
“We had a lot of time on our hands,” says Walther. “Both of our businesses were shut down about the time (Indiana) opened up (from the lockdown) is when we were able to open up the league.”
Walther says he was one of six people who created the CSL and other people were brought in to make it a reality.
“To start up a league like that you want high-profile players,” says Walther. “It’s tough to get high-profile players if they’ve never heard of your league before.
“Right way we wanted to be able to compete with the Northwoods, the Prospect and the Coastal Plain. I don’t know if anybody’s ever going to compete with the Cape, but we wanted to be up there.”
Walther says getting the amount of players and talent that the CSL did (in 2020) is the whole reason it still exists.
“We just want to make sure that the product we’re putting out there is good for college players as a whole,” says Walther. “It’s good for their development in games and while they’re training (at Pro X) and getting better.
“We want to meet every ask of a college coach. If they have a redshirt and they need them ready for sophomore year when they return to school then we can get them 30, 40, 50 innings. If they want them to throw 20 innings and two innings a week in relief, we’ll follow that, too.
“That’s really what’s set the College Summer League apart.”
Over the past two years, Walther’s commissioner responsibilities have included finding and getting commitments from coaches, recruiting and placing players and taking care of everything from payments to jersey sizes to host families. He coordinates gameday operations and hires sports information interns for the eight-team league.
Those positions are posted in November and December with interviews coming in January and February.
Walther grew up on a farm on the west side of Kankakee, Ill., and is a 2007 graduate of Herscher (Ill.) High School, where his head coach was Eric Regez.
His junior year, Walther was the last one to make cuts for the Tigers varsity and helped his team as a right-handed reliever. As a senior, he was a starter.
“I played the underdog throughout my entire college career,” says Walther, who worked hard to grow his knowledge base while improving his athletic skill set.
“I was a P.O. (Pitcher Only) before P.O. was even a thing. I think I had seven career varsity at-bats.
“I just kept working at it.”
Mark is the son of Eugene and Beth Walther and is about six years younger than brother Todd Walther.
Eugene Walther died of brain cancer when Mark was 18.
“Going into college that pushed me forward,” says Walther. “It always gave me something to work for: Trying to make him proud.”
Walther showed up at walk-on tryouts at Parkland.
“I wasn’t a preferred walk-on or anything,” says Walther. “I found a way to earn a spot.”
The Cobras coaching staff changed Walther’s arm slot from overhand to sidearm/submarine.
“That gave me a whole new life in college baseball,” says Walther, who was frequently used as a freshman and was on scholarship as a sophomore. The latter team won the 2009 National Junior College Athletic Association Division II national championship.
After two years at Parkland playing for Mitch Rosenthal and Matt Kennedy, Walther transferred to NCAA Division II University of Southern Indiana in Evansville. He came out of the bullpen for Tracy Archuleta’s Screaming Eagles (which won an NCAA Division II national crown in 2010).
“I tried to just extend the game and get us to the next guy,” says Walther. “My job was to get us out of jams. There’s not better feeling in the world than coming into the game with the bases loaded and one out and you’re trying to get a ground ball. I lived for those moments.
“Being out there when the adrenaline’s pumping, I’ve yet to find anything to match it.”
After pitching at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis., Todd Walther wound up on the baseball operations side with the Texas Rangers.
Mark used the connection to his advantage.
“I was able to bounce ideas off of him when thing weren’t going my way in bullpens or games,” says Walther.
He got to see video of major league pitchers like Cody Bradford, Darren O’Day and Pat Neshek and could study their mechanics, grips and release points.
Walther was on a path to become a Physical Education teacher and high school coach when a curriculum change at USI that would have taken him longer to get his degree caused him to change his major to Sport Management.
“I started learning more about facility management and running a sports business,” says Walther, who took classes on sports marketing and sports law — things that help him in his position at Pro X.
But Walther did pursue coaching out of college.
He was an assistant at Parkland for a year and helped Kennedy with outfielders, operations and recruiting.
He started what turned out to be a four-year stint at the UIndy as a volunteer learning from Greyhounds pitching coach Jordan Tiegs and serving for head coaches Gary Vaught and Al Ready.
When Tiegs left for Indiana State University, Walther took became pitching coach and recruiting coordinator.
Tiegs is now Drector of Pitching Research and Development for the Rangers — Todd Walther’s former job
“I loved college baseball,” says Mark Walther. “I loved coaching it.
“I really loved the recruiting aspect of college. (Players) need to come to us because we’re going to do a better job of developing them as a player.
“I’m very appreciate of Coach Vaught and Coach Ready for everything they did for me.”
Walther then went into tech recruiting for three months and decided he wanted to get back into baseball.
Pro X has just launched into the travel world with its Phoenix softball teams.
While travel baseball organizations, including the Indiana Bulls, Indiana Nitro and Indiana Prospects, partner with Pro X, there is currently no plans to field travel baseball teams under the Pro X banner.
“Travel baseball really wasn’t a thing when I grew up,” says Walther. “I played community baseball until I was 16 years old. Shortly after that it began to grow a little more.”
His first experience came when the Indiana Bulls and others brought teams to play fall exhibition games his first year at Parkland.
Walther notes that he was lucky enough to be on a winning team from age 10 on. But that was not the case in his early community baseball days.
“I got put on a terrible team,” says Walther. “I had to find a way to try to help the team win and to help players develop themselves and rely on our coaches to do the same.
“Depending on where your talent is you can be put on an elite team and rarely ever have to deal with failure, losing or any kind of adversity and learn to overcome that.
“Being on winning teams is also a positive because you learn what it takes to win. Whether you’re on the field or not you can find ways to help the team win.”
Walther says travel ball is all about finding the right fit for you as a player.
“You want to go where you have a chance to play or have a chance to compete for playing time,” says Walther. “You should never shy away from competing and trying to beat someone out to earn playing time.
“In the game of baseball you’re going to have guys on the bench no matter what. It’s what type of bench guys you have. Do you have guys who are going to work and push themselves and the people that are technically in front of them? Or are they going to just roll over and complain until they move on or join another team?”
Players should make sure the team will be doing what they want to do. Will it be mostly local tournaments are really hitting the road? Is the coaching staff going to help develop them as a player?
Among the things coming up at Pro X are “Hard 90” classes with about 30 minutes each of hitting, defense and speed and agility.
In September, the pitching academy and elite training academy for offense and defense cranks up.
Pro X — with its staff of instructors including Jay Lehr, trainers and medical professionals and former big leaguer Joe Thatcher as president — is also an off-season place to train for professionals, including major leaguers Tucker Barnhart, Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon and minor leaguers Parker Dunshee and Collin Ledbetter.
Rodon came to Pro X while doing rehab from Tommy John surgery.
“He learned a lot about the body and how it moves and how to become efficient on the mound and use his lower half to try to stay as healthy as possible,” says Walther. “We just do whatever we can to service them whether that’s completely help them with their program or stay out of their way and let them use the weight room.”

Mark Walther, Director of Operations at Pro X Athlete Development and commissioner of the College Summer League at Grand Park, both in Westfield, Ind. (Steve Krah Photo)

Two years into new Loeb Stadium, Lafayette Aviators continue to enjoy community entertainment niche

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

A baseball and entertainment destination can be found in Lafayette, Ind.
The Lafayette Aviators came off the runway in 2016 at the old Loeb Stadium (which made its debut in 1940).
In 2021, a new Loeb Stadium was unveiled on the same site (Wallace Avenue and Main Street) next to Columbian Park Zoo and Tropincanoe Cove water park.
Only this time the field that the Aviators and Lafayette Jefferson High School baseball and soccer call home was flipped to face the other way and had a turf field and was more fan-friendly with its amenities.
David Krakower is Aviators general manager. His career stops include those in Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, independent pro baseball as well at the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, United Soccer League and on the business side with ESPN for college football.
Krakower took the time to talk about the Aviators as the franchise wraps up the second season in the new park in 2022.
“When I moved here in October 2020 it took me all of five minutes to know that between August and May Purdue runs this town and the Greater Lafayette area and that’s great,” says Krakower. “We wanted to carve out a niche. We can own this town from May to August when nothing’s going on at Purdue. So you make tickets affordable. There’s no charge for parking. You keep concessions and merchandise as reasonable as you can. A family of four can come out without spending a ton of money.”
Since the Aviators play in the wood bat summer collegiate Prospect League, players are not paid. That makes a difference in budgeting and operating expenses versus a professional team.
While the Aviators season is short (June 1-Aug. 6 for the regular season), there is a large local impact.
“The biggest thing I’ve noticed is the sense of community here,” says Krakower. “The fans know that they have such a limited window with these players. We’ve got two and a half months over the summer and then they’re back to college. (Fans) development an instantaneous connection to them.
“And then they watch them grow as they continue their collegiate careers or eventually get drafted and move on.”
Just this week, Krakower took a call from a former host family letting him know the latest on a player that stayed with them five years ago.
“There is a definite sense of community here — unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been,” says Krakower. “A part of that is they get attached to the Aviators and the brand.
“It doesn’t seem to matter what players we bring in, they fans seem to have an attachment to the name on the front of the jersey.”
As an example, Krakow points out that the 2021 Aviators set a record for most regular-season wins (41) and came within four outs of a league title while drawing 40,985 fans to city-owned Loeb. The biggest crowd was 2,049.
“It was as magical a season as we could have had without winning the championship,” says Krakower.
With two home dates remaining in 2022, the team has brought in 40,762 spectators and the club is 24-32 overall. The biggest house has been 2,193. There were 257 season ticket holders.
The Aviators have promotions and on-field activities going on at each home game. One of the most-popular dates of the season is when the team hosts a street fair with food trucks, player autographs and live music in June.
The team also wears specialty jerseys that fans can bid on like the colorful tops worn on Mexican Heritage Day or Wizardry Night. There are giveaway nights with plenty of Aviators swag — jerseys, caps and baseballs.
Ace The Aviator is a popular mustachioed mascot.
This week, there was a Lafayette Police Department National Night Out.
Ticket packages are sometimes tied in with the zoo or the water park.
The Prospect League allows 32 players per roster with a maximum of four from a particular school. With pitchers reaching innings limits, injuries or players shutting down early to get ready to ready to their university, there can be as many as 60 players who don the colors in Lafayette each summer.
Krakower, who maintains relationships with college coaches all over the country, has already began the process of recruiting for the 2023 season. If he has players on the team that he likes that have remaining college eligibility he will invite them to come back.
The Aviators have four full-time employees plus three or four interns in the spring and summer. On game days, there are 60 to 70 people in seasonal jobs. Some have been with the team since its inaugural season of 2016.
“I think we’ve got about 80 percent of our staff or seasonal staff from last year back this year because they love working at the new park,” says Krakower.
The Aviators are to host games Thursday (Aug. 4) vs. Terre Haute and Saturday (Aug. 6) vs. Illinois Valley. Saturday is Fan Appreciation Day. First pitch for both contests is slated for 7 p.m.

Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators general manager David Krakower. (Steve Krah Photo)
A shirt in the Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators gift shop. (Steve Krah Photo)
Loeb Stadium in Lafayette, Ind., during Lafayette Police Department National Night Out. (Steve Krah Photo)
The Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators play the Chillicothe (Ohio) Paints Tuesday, Aug. 2 at Loeb Stadium in Lafayette. (Steve Krah Photo)
Selections in the Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators gift shop. (Steve Krah Photo)
The Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators play the Chillicothe (Ohio) Paints Tuesday, Aug. 2 at Loeb Stadium in Lafayette. (Steve Krah Photo)
The Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators play the Chillicothe (Ohio) Paints Tuesday, Aug. 2 at Loeb Stadium in Lafayette. (Steve Krah Photo)
The Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators summer collegiate baseball team first took flight in 2016. (Steve Krah Photo)

Franklin Central grad Fitzpatrick blossoms at Purdue Fort Wayne

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

Cade Fitzpatrick got a chance to play regularly in his first baseball season at Purdue Fort Wayne and he took full advantage.
The 2019 graduate of Franklin Central High School in Indianapolis began his college career at Ball State University. He appeared 18 games over two seasons (2020 and 2021) and hit .192 (5-of-26).
He then transferred to PFW. In his first 50 games (47 starts, including 41 at catcher, five at designated hitter and one at first base) with the Mastodons, the righty swinger hit .321 (52-of-162) with eight home runs, three triples, six doubles, 33 runs batted in, 30 runs scored and a .915 OPS (.372 on-base percentage plus .543 slugging average).
Fitzpatrick, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, produced 16 multi-hit games on the way to leading the team in average and slugging and was named second team all-Horizon League catcher for 2022.
Through 32 games this summer with the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators, Fitzpatrick was hitting .288 (32-of-111) with four homers, one triple, five doubles, 17 RBIs and 17 runs and an .814 OPS (.355/.459).
Most of his appearances have come behind the plate — a position he first took to as a Little Leaguer.
“I love it,” says Fitzpatrick of catching. “A lot of people called it being the quarterback of the team because you’re the one that sees everything that goes on and you’re in control of the game.”
This summer Fitzpatrick has been allowed to call pitches and he appreciates the freedom.
“If me and the pitcher are working really well together we can get into a groove and then things start rolling,” says Fitzpatrick, who gets pointers from the coaching staff about the tendencies of opponents.
The same is true at Purdue Fort Wayne.
“The coaches get a pretty detailed scouting report,” says Fitzpatrick of the Mastodons staff that includes head coach Doug Schreiber, pitching coach Brent McNeil, catching coach Ken Jones and volunteer Justin Huff. “They spent a lot of time a lot of hours behind the scenes getting the different stats on different runners or what hitters can do.
McNeil tells the catchers and pitchers about the strengths and weaknesses of the other team’s hitters.
Jones passes along who the fast runners are and the ones who will try to pick up signs.
“(Coaches) print out a sheet or send a Google slide to the catchers or anyone who would be interested in receiving that information,” says Fitzpatrick.
Schreiber runs all the meetings and tells everyone what the pitchers and hitters bring to the table.
Huff does many behind-the-scenes jobs.
“I respect him very much for what he does,” says Fitzpatrick of Huff. “He puts in a lot of hours.”
Fitzpatrick spent the past two summers in collegiate wood bat leagues — 2020 with the Matt Kennedy-managed Snapping Turtles of the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and 2021 with the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League’s Alexandria (Va.) Aces, managed by Chris Berset.
With the Aces, Fitzpatrick got to use some of his free time to see the sites of nearby Washington D.C.
Born in Indianapolis, Fitzpatrick moved with his family from Pike Township to Franklin Township around the second grade.
Cade played at Franklin Township Little League (next to what is now Wanamaker Early Learning Center) then for a number of travel ball teams, including the Indiana Spartans, Indiana Pony Express, Indiana Prospects and Midwest Astros.
Chris Ulrey is the Midwest Astros founder and gave hitting lessons to Fitzpatrick.
Sometimes the lessons would involve minor tweaks to Cade’s swing and other times it would be a big fix.
“The interesting thing about a baseball swing is things can happen from week-to-week, day-to-day and you just have to make a small adjustment here and there,” says Fitzpatrick. “Sometimes you have to make a big adjustment. (Ulrey) would have been pretty good about being able to do that.”
Fitzpatrick’s freshman year at Franklin Central was the last season for longtime Flashes head coach John Rockey. Greg Schoettle, who had been an assistant since 2010, took over the program in Fitzpatrick’s sophomore year — his first on varsity.
“I absolutely love playing for him,” says Fitzpatrick of Schoettle. “He’s a great man. I would do anything for him. He was probably one of my favorite coaches to play with.”
Fitzpatrick describe’s Schoettle’s coaching style.
“He was very intent on winning, but also wanted to make sure that you enjoy yourself while you’re out there,” says Fitzpatrick of Schoettle. “He would be very focused on calling the right pitches, executing the right plays and just doing the little things right in order to win a game — but at the same time — he was relaxed enough to where you could enjoy yourself and joke around a little bit.
“It wasn’t like you were playing like super uptight all the time.”
Fitzpatrick, 21, has two years of remaining eligibility and is a Criminal Justice major.
“Ever since I was a little kid I’ve always been really fascinated with like police officers and military stuff,” says Fitzpatrick. “I’m not the kind of person that would like to just sit at a desk all day. I always have to be doing something and I figured that doing something with law enforcement would be a good fit.”
Tuesday, Aug. 2 was Lafayette Police Department National Night Out at Loeb Stadium. Fitzpatrick took time before the game to chat with some of the officers.
“I was just trying to get some feedback on like what they do from a day-to-day basis and their training and stuff like that,” says Fitzpatrick. “I like the way that everything sounds from the training aspect or having your own schedule. I think that would be pretty fun.”
While he could pursue a job as a patrolman or detective, Fitzpatrick has another preference.
“I would love to be a conservation officer (for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources) or with the (Department of Drug Enforcement), (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), (Federal Bureau of Investigation) or something like that,” says Fitzpatrick. “I think that would be something that I would enjoy a lot because I get to be outside every day.
“I get to help animals and stop those individuals who are trying to either poach them or harvest them illegally.”
Fitzpatrick notes that taking fish or game in-season is one thing but poaching or taking them out-of-season harms the ecosystem.
Cade is the son of Mike and Shelley Fitzpatrick. His father is a sales manager. His mother is an optician. Sister Chaney Fitzpatrick (19) – sister is heading into her sophomore year at Ball State.

Cade Fitzpatrick (Purdue Fort Wayne Photo)
Cade Fitzpatrick (Lafayette Aviators Photo)

Cade Fitzpatrick (Purdue Fort Wayne Photo)

Cade Fitzpatrick (Purdue Fort Wayne Photo)

Cade Fitzpatrick (Lafayette Aviators Photo)

Cardinal Ritter grad Malatestnic grateful for chance with Eastern Illinois U.

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

Blake Malatestnic’s prep baseball ended with a flourish.
The right-handed pitcher helped Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter to the 2017 IHSAA Class 2A state championship by hurling a complete game in a 10-4 win against Wapahani.
Malatestnic went seven innings and threw 95 pitches while yielding nine hits and four runs (three earned), striking out four and walking one.
He finished the season at 12-1 and was also named as the L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award recipient.
But at 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds, he received just one college baseball offer.
That came from Eastern Illinois University.
“Eastern was my only school,” says Malatestnic, 23. “They saw something in a 5-foot-9, 150-pound kid. I was a small kid, but I had quick arm and I competed. (EIU head coach Jason Anderson) took a chance on me.
“It’s something I’m forever thankful for.”
More than five years later — including a pandemic and a major medical procedure — Malatestnic is preparing for one last go-round with the Panthers in 2023.
Now up to a solid 175, Malatestic can look back on three competitive seasons so far. He pitched in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022. The 2021 season was lost when he needed Tommy John (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) surgery.
In 55 games (35 in relief), the righty is 10-11 with four saves, 149 strikeouts and 72 walks in 169 innings.
During the 2022 season, he appeared in 16 games (10 starts) and was 4-4 with 6.09 earned run average, 51 strikeouts and 21 walks in 54 2/3 innings.
Malatestnic went to the summer collegiate wood-bat Northwoods League’s Kenosha (Wis.) Kingfish and pitched in 13 games and 20 1/3 innings before reaching his limit of combined frames for the spring and summer.
“The surgeon and (Anderson) wanted me at about 75 (total innings),” says Malatestnic, who hurt himself doing velocity training just days before he was going to the Coastal Plains League to pitch for the Wilson High-Tobs in 2020 following a COVID-19-shortened EIU season in which he went 3-0 in four games (three in relief) with a 1.69 ERA, 23 strikeouts and six walks in 26 2/3 innings.
A 32-week rehab program began in October 2020 and concluded in April 2021.
“It was a roller coaster of feelings and situations,” says Malatestnic. “But I knew I could do it.”
The pitcher was with the 2021 Northwoods League’s Lakeshore Chinooks (Mequon, Wis.). He made seven rehab starts capped at about 65 pitches each. He worked 24 innings with 29 strikeouts and seven walks.
“Lakeshore was fantastic,” says Malatestnic. “They saw the long-term goal of why I was there in the first place.
“(Chinooks manager Travis Akre) was a great communicator with the whole process.”
Malatestnic pitched for the Prospect League‘s Danville (Ill.) Dans in the summers of 2018 and 2019
Over the years, Malatestnic’s relationship with Anderson has also grown.
“He has a real open office,” says Malatestnic. “He behind me on Tommy John and did what he could with the school being shut down and all this COVID compliance stuff.”
Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Malatestnic uses a four-seam fastball (clocked as high as 94 mph when he was coming out of the bullpen at the end of the 2022 spring slate).
He also uses a slider and change-up and — this summer — developed a two-seam sinker.
“On the days when the slider’s sharp it has more of a cutter action,” says Malatestnic. “It moves more right to left without a ton of depth. I feel comfortable throwing it a lot. It plays off my fastball.
“My change-up goes down and to the arm-side. There are so many good hitters in the Ohio Valley Conference to get fastballs by them.”
Malatestnic credits Kenosha pitching coach Steve Andrade, who pitched in the majors and counts Indiana Tech among his coaching stops, for aiding him.
“He had me using classical mechanics and posture and staying over the rubber,” says Malatestic. “Those helped me finish my pitches with the right grip and a quick arm.”
Born in Indianapolis, Malatestnic grew up in Avon, Ind. He played T-ball through junior league at Ben Davis Little League. He was on a team that won district and went to the state tournament at 12.
He played travel ball from 13U to 15U with the Indy Predators — coached by his father (Dave Malatestnic) and Terrance Davis.
Going into his junior year of high school (16U), he was with the Indy Raiders. The next summer it was the Eric Osborn-coached Indiana Nitro.
Malatestnic dressed for selected varsity games as a Ritter freshman and and even made his first start as a shortstop against Indianapolis Cathedral. He was a varsity player his last three seasons. He was three-time all-Indiana Crossroads Conference, two-time all-city, all-city Player of the Year (2017), Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association District L Player of the Year (2017), IHSBCA All-State and a North/South All-Star Series participant (2017) and a MaxPreps Small School All-American honoree (2017). He went a combined 15-5 on the mound his sophomore and junior seasons while helping Ritter to sectional titles.
“Coach (Dave) Scott gave me tests and little benchmarks and I passed those,” says Malatestnic. “He really had an attention to detail which was a really good foundation for success.
“He was a hard-nosed kind of guy. We were a pretty scrappy bunch.”
While there were not many future college players on the team, the 2017 Raiders hustled.
“We would run hard, put down bunts and were not afraid of being down two strikes,” says Malatestnic. “We were aggressively calm.”
Malatestnic still stays in-contact with Scott and makes it a point to look him up when he’s home from school.
“You see a lot of guys go back to Ritter after the fact,” says Malatestnic. “That says a lot about Coach Scott. He invested a lot into his players and gave them a lot of life advice or baseball advice.”
Malatestnic earned a degree in Elementary Education last winter then entered graduate school for Curriculum and Instruction.
He is taking one online class this summer and plans to finish up next spring.
Though he started out college on a Biology path, Malatestnic explains why he opted to pursue an education degree.
“I started thinking about all the teachers I had growing up,” says Malatestnic. “Then I had to decide on what level I wanted to teach.”
His senior year at Ritter he was a cadet teacher at St. Christopher School in Speedway with his fourth grade teacher, Miss Elizabeth Anderson.
“It was a crazy amount of fun,” says Malatestnic. “I really enjoyed it.”
Malatestnic did his student teaching the spring of 2021 while he was also rehabbing from his Tommy John.
He is grateful for the time put in my graduate assistant athletic trainer Maria Garcia (now Assistant Director of Sports Medicine at Eastern Kentucky University). The graduate of Twin Lakes High School in Monticello, Ind., and Purdue University often met him early in the morning before he began his student-teaching day.
Blake is the son of Dave (Karen) and Noelle Malatestnic. Dave Malatestnic works in IT at Hopebridge Autism Center. Noelle Malatestnic is an interior designed for Flaherty & Collins Properties.
Blake’s siblings are Brenna Malatestnic (25), Jarek Malatestnic (21), Maddie Griffith (21) and Mary Griffith (19). Former Marian University soccer player Brenna lives in Indy. Jarek is a former track athlete at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.

Blake Malatestnic (Eastern Illinois University Photo)
Blake Malatestnic (Eastern Illinois University Photo)

Valparaiso U.’s Hannahs contributes with glove, bat

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

Kaleb Hannahs has a purpose when he puts on his glove and trots out to his position in the infield.
Support the man on the mound.
“I’m trying to get my pitcher to trust me,” says Hannahs, who has completed two baseball seasons at Valparaiso (Ind.) University. “It makes them so much more comfortable attacking hitters when they know you’ll take care of balls put in-play. They’ll throw more strikes for you.
“I let my hands do the work.”
A shortstop throughout his days at West Vigo High School in West Terre Haute, Ind., Hannahs played shortstop, second base and third base this summer for the Coastal Plains League’s Peninsula Pilots (Hampton, Va.) and spent all but one game at third base for the Brian Schmack-coached VU Beacons in the spring.
Hannahs was named to the all-Missouri Valley Conference defensive team in 2022.
With the bat, the righty swinger hit .275 (55-of-200) with four home runs, 15 doubles, 25 runs batted in, 36 runs scored and seven stolen bases over 48 games (all starts). His OPS was .751 (.341 on-base percentage plus .410 slugging).
He enjoyed 16 multi-hit games — including four with three RBIs in Game 1 of a doubleheader against Indiana State — where father Mitch Hannahs is the head coach. Kaleb tied for the team lead with seven multiple-RBI games.
“My dad’s always been my mentor when it comes to baseball,” says Kaleb. “He’s just always guided me along the right path. I’ve grown to completely trust what says and the knowledge he has.
“It’s extremely helpful for me to have that connection.”
Kaleb sees in his dad — who played at Indiana State and in pro baseball before launching into a coaching career — a combination of Old School and New School.
“He’s figured out stuff that will always work,” says Kaleb. “He does a good job of teaching those things.”
The younger Hannahs was born in Terre Haute and started school in Robinson, Ill., when his father was head coach at Lincoln Trail College.
Kaleb, who is now 20, was 12 and in the sixth grade when he moved to Terre Haute. From Grades 7 to 11, his summers were spent with the Indiana Reds travel ball organization.
Hannahs played for Culley DeGroote at West Vigo in 2020 — the year the COVID-19 pandemic took away the season, which would have been his fourth on varsity.
“The whole DeGroote family take care of the West Vigo baseball program,” says Hannahs. “They do it well. You learn how to play the game.
“With Culley, everything was always in-line. He kept our heads pointed in the same direction.”
Hannahs also earned four high school letters each in football and basketball and was all-Western Indiana Conference in both sports.
In 2020, Hannahs was part of the first season for the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., helping the Turf Monsters to the championship. Alex Thurston, who would be his roommate at Valparaiso U., was also on the team.
Hannahs enjoyed a super 2021 spring that included being honored as the MVC Freshman of the Year, all-MVC second team and Valpo’s 2020-21 co-Male Newcomer of the Year.
In 51 games, Hannahs hit .296 (55-of-186) with three homers, six doubles, 22 RBIs, 22 runs and four stolen bases. His OPS was .776 (.389/.387).
He was in 41 games with the 2021 Prospect League’s Terre Haute Rex and hit .293 (46-of-157) with two homers.
Hannahs explains his offensive approach.
“What I try to do is keep my mind as empty as possible,” says Hannahs. “It’s a one-on-one battle against the pitcher.
“My dad presented that to me. It’s best for me to keep it competitive.”
Hannahs was usually in the No. 2 spot in the batting order with Kyle Schmack (.292, 7 HR, 27 RBI) hitting behind him.
“I know I’ll get a lot more pitches to hit,” says Hannahs. “They’re not going to pitch around me to get another good hitter.”
Schmack and Hannahs were teammates at Peninsula before both returned to Indiana for the rest of the summer.
Hannahs hit .306 (26-of-85) with two homers over 24 games.
“It was a great league with great competition,” says Hannahs of the CPL. “You can tell the area is invested in that league.
“It was packed every night.”
A Civil Engineering major his first year at Valpo U., Hannahs, who turns 21 in February, has changed to Integrated Business and Engineering.
Kaleb is the youngest of Mitch and Robinson (Ill.) High School English/Social Studies teacher Amy Hannahs’ three children. Former second baseman Derek Hannahs (30) played at Ohio State and Indiana State (even before his father coached there). He now lives in Indianapolis and sells insurance. Kylee Hannahs (25) resides in Greenwood, Ind., and is a social worker.

Kaleb Hannahs (Valparaiso University Photo)

Kaleb Hannahs (Valparaiso University Photo)

Kaleb Hannahs (Peninsula Pilots Photo)

Kaleb Hannahs (Peninsula Pilots Photo)

Hanover College infielder Christie blooms into a powerful hitter

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

Alex Christie describes himself as “kind of a late bloomer.”
Now a 6-foot-5, 225-pounder coming off a super baseball season at NCAA Division III Hanover (Ind.) College where he tied the single-season home run record with 11 in 38 games, Christie says it took him some time to coordinate his skill with his frame.
Christie was a capable player as he grew up in Greenwood, Ind., but he matured later than some of his peers.
As a Center Grove High School freshman, Christie was no more than 5-10. By junior year, he was up to 6-3 and then took another growth spurt.
“I really was just like a baby my freshmen and sophomore years, but I had a lot of talent,” says Christie. “It took the weight room a lot more serious my junior year.”
“(Center Grove strength and conditioning) Coach (Marty) Mills set me up for success with structure doing things with the right form,” says Christie. “(Trojans junior varsity coach Jordan Reeser) helped me a lot with my infield stuff. Coach Carp (John T. Carpenter) always kept me in-check with my swing.”
Christie has had many reps with the bat.
“When I was younger I was an average hitter,” says Christie. “My junior year of high school I didn’t play because I wasn’t very good at hitting. I started really grinding and swinging everyday.”
The winter of his senior year (2019-20), Christie and a group of classmates — Drew Dillon, Bryce Eblin (now at the University of Alabama), Anthony Smith, Adam Taylor and Jimmy Wolff among them — were regulars at Extra Innings Indy South.
Working with Center Grove head coach Keith Hatfield, Christie had gotten up to 88 mph as a pitcher.
Then the 2020 high school season was taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would’ve loved to see what I could have done my senior year of high school if I had the chance to play,” says Christie.
He did get to play that summer with the Nighthawks of the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
“I made all-star game and I hit really well,” says Christie. “I like to swing it.
“That’s normally what gets me into the lineup.”
As a Hanover freshman in 2021, righty-swinger Christie started in all 40 games and paced the Panthers in batting average at .340 (50-of-147) and runs batted in with 45. He also rapped six home runs and nine doubles and scored 33 times with .988 OPS (.464 on-base percentage plus .524 slugging average) while earning second team all-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference honors at shortstop. He tied a school record with seven RBIs in a game against Defiance.
Unable to land a spot with a summer team in 2021, Christie worked for FedEx but also found time to work on his craft.
He came back in 2022 and hit .316 (49-of-155) with 11 homers, 11 doubles, 39 RBIs and 44 runs. Using gap-to-gap power, he posted a 1.035 OPS (.422/.613) and was selected as second team all-HCAC at first base.
Hanover head coach Grant Bellak had Christie batting No. 2 in the order.
“He wanted me to get as many at-bats as possible,” says Christie of Bellak. “I bring a lot of runs in. I hit better with guys on-base. I lock in a little bit more.
“I’m in the driver’s seat.”
Christie was named HCAC Hitter of the Week in March. During a six-game stretch on Hanover’s trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., he cracked five home runs among his 11 hits and drove in 12 runs.
What makes tying the homer record at Hanover special to Christie is that both his parents — Turk and Staycee — are alums and that the standard was established by Jeff Knecht in 1985 when the team played more games as an NAIA member.
The last game of the 2022 season Christie hit a ball that had the distance for his 12th homer, but went foul.
“Something to look forward to next year,” says Christie.
Hanover’s career homer mark is held by Greg Willman, who slugged 25 from 1982-85.
Christie verbally committed to Hanover in December of his junior year.
“Coach Bellak made me feel wanted there,” says Christie. “I wasn’t expecting to play my freshmen year.
“I started every single game, which is a huge blessing.”
Christie got good grades in high school and received an academic scholarship at Hanover, where he is a Chemistry major.
This summer, Christie is the starting shortstop for the Prospect League’s West Virginia Miners (Beckley, W.Va.).
In his first 20 games, he was hitting .353 (24-of-68) with one homer, eight doubles, 16 RBIs, 15 runs and a 1.013 OPS (.439/.574).
“I’ve really been enjoying this,” says Christie, who counts Hanover teammate and right-handed pitcher Charlie Joyce (Perry Meridian High School graduate) among his four Miners roommates. “(Miners manager) Tim Epling) loves helping. He’s got a lot to offer.
“He’s given me some advice for my swing.”
On the Miners’ off day July 6, they were to attend the New York Yankees at Pittsburgh Pirates game (Aaron Judge had one of six home runs for New York).
Christie has been swinging bats crafted by Center Grove graduate Tom Gandolph in his Bargersville, Ind., shop. Tom is the son of Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dave Gandolph, who coached Turk Christie at CG.
The first couple turned for Christie were 34 inches and 31 ounces. More recently, he’s been wielding a patriotic 34 1/4/32 club.
“I’ve been hitting really well with it,” says Christie.
Born in Indianapolis, Christie lived near Valle Vista Golf Club then moved into the Center Grove district for his whole pre-college run.
Alex played rec ball at Honey Creek until about 8 then played travel ball for the Indiana Arrows (Turk Christie was one of the coaches) and Extra Innings Indy South-based Indiana Vipers.
As he grew older and more serious about the game, Christie got more help in his development.
“I learned so much from the Indiana Twins organization,” says Christie, who played his 17U season for Jeff Stout, received instruction from Jason Clymore and assistance in gaining weight, strength and mobility from Scott Haase.
The Indiana Twins recently joined the Canes family.
Alex, 20, has an 18-year-old brother — Asa Christie — who graduated from Center Grove in 2022 and is bound for Indiana University-Kokomo as a right-handed pitcher/third baseman.
Jarrod “Turk” Christie is an auto leasing officer for Indiana Members Credit Union. Staycee Christie works for Door Services of Indiana.

Alex Christie (Hanover College Photo)
Alex Christie (right) at first base (Hanover College Photo)

Alex Christie (25) (Hanover College Photo)
With the West Virginia Miners this summer, Alex Christie is swinging clubs made in Indiana by Gandolph Bats.
West Virginia Miners teammates Alex Christie (left) and Zach Doss (Phil Andraychak Photo)

Driven Mills takes advice from many baseball mentors

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

What drives Patrick Mills as a baseball player?
“My passion for the game is definitely No. 1,” says Mills, a 22-year-old outfielder/first baseman for Indiana University-Kokomo. “Every day I get up out of bed the one thing I want to do is go play some baseball.
“That’s the reason I keep playing. I enjoy the game. Everything else will follow. I will do everything I can to get better and keep playing it. It comes down to passion and discipline.”
Mills, a 2018 graduate of Western High School in Russiaville, Ind., spent two years at Olney (Ill.) Central College and the past two years at IUK. He plans to use his extra year of COVID-19 eligibility with the Cougars in 2022-23 while completing his Computer Science degree.
A lefty thrower and batter, Mills hit .374 (65-of-174) in 2022 while helping IUK go 26-22 overall and 16-7 in the NAIA River States Conference. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder belted 15 home runs, four triples and 16 doubles while driving in 44 runs and scoring 51 — all team-leading totals. His on-base percentage was .453.
“I make sure I stay balanced in my body and my mind,” says Mills of his approach at the plate. “I learn what the pitcher is throwing and try to hit the ball hard.
“When you hit the ball hard good things happen.”
Mills has had many mentors besides father Eric.
“It’s not just one person in particular,” says Mills. “It’s a collective of everybody I’ve met in the game.
“It’s little bit of advice here and there. I’ve put it together like a puzzle.”
Jeremy Honaker coached Cougar outfielders and hitters in 2022.
Mills credits him with helping him with the mental side of the game and bringing out his full potential during games.
“There were little snippets for me to think about during (batting practice),” says Mills. “They were more mental notes than actual physical cues.”
A lot was achieved during the fall and winter.
“All that work built up,” says Mills. “By the time the season came around it was second nature.”
Mills has head coaches at IUK with different styles. Matt Howard was intense and Drew Brantley is more laid-back.
“(Howard) lent a level of excitement and discipline,” says Mills of the man who is now a Kokomo police officer. “He wanted us to compete to the best of our abilities every single day. He wanted to make his players as tough as possible and he definitely did.
“(Brantley) has created an environment where we’re not afraid to fail. If we can control what we need to control, the results will follow. Follow the process and try to get better everyday. That philosophy — in my opinion — worked very well. Next spring it will be even better.”
Mills was born in Kokomo and got his formal baseball start at what is now Russiaville Youth Baseball League.
He played travel ball with the Westfield-based Stonecutters then went with the Indiana Eagles for his 14U to 17U summers.
“(Eagles coach) Jamie Roudebush gave us a platform to work on our skills and get better everyday during those years,” says Mills.
At Western, Mills played two years each for Quentin Brown then Ryan Berryman.
“(Brown) was all about passion when playing the game. He once jokingly said to me, ‘you care about this game too much. If you keep your passion like that you’ll go wherever you want to go.”
Mills and the Western Panthers were 2016 IHSAA Class 3A state runners-up.
“Playing for (Berryman) was a different experience from Brown,” says Mills. “He brought the intensity level, but also the technicalities of baseball. He challenged me to become better fundamentally. It was the mechanics and more than just the mental side.”
Mike Shirley, who at the time was a Chicago White Sox area scout and is now that organization’s director of amateur scouting, ran a fall league for high schoolers in Pendleton, Ind., in which Mills participated.
“He gave us a lot of information and where we need to improve,” says Mills of Shirley. “He was challenging us mentally and physically. It was a great experience.”
Mills played for Don Andrews-managed Kokomo American Legion Post 6 the summers before and after his first year of college.
“He was always supported me since I played for him,” says Mills of Andrews. “He was very similar to how Drew Brantley goes about his business. He’s calm and collected.
“Back then I was very intense and wild and wanted to do everything with one swing. He taught me how to handle my emotions. It went over my head then but I eventually learned from his teachings.”
At Olney Central, Mills played for veteran coach Dennis Conley.
“He definitely pushed his players to the limit and got the most out of them,” said Mills of Conley, who has been in charge of the Blue Knights program for 42 years and has a record of 1,530-773. “Junior college tests your love of the game. Do you really love the game or kind of like it?”
Mills was with the Portland (Ind.) Rockets during the COVID summer of 2020. One of his teammates was former Yorktown High School, Lincoln Trail College, Wright State University and independent pro player Zach Tanner.
“He took me under his wing and taught me about the mental game,” says Mills of Tanner.
Last summer he played for the Prospect League’s West Virginia Miners and manager Tim Epling.
The summer of 2022 sees Mills with the Northwoods League’s Battle Creek (Mich.) Battle Jacks. The team is managed by Caleb Long.
In 28 games with Battle Creek, Mills is hitting .360 (41-of-114) with two homers, 27 RBIs and 21 runs.
Eric and Sundai Mills have three children — Jaymee (Mills) Birky (28), Hayley Mills (24) and Patrick.
Jaymee is married and living in Madison, Wis. (where Battle Creek recently played the Madison Mallards), and competition in swimming, softball and track at Western. She also was part of a state championship marching band. Hayley nows teaches elementary school in Raleigh, N.C. She was in volleyball, basketball, swimming and softball during her school days.

Patrick Mills (Indiana University-Kokomo Photo)
Patrick Mills (Battle Creek Battle Jacks Photo)
Patrick Mills (Indiana University-Kokomo Photo)
Patrick Mills (15) (Battle Creek Battle Jacks Photo)
Patrick Mills (Indiana University-Kokomo Photo)
Patrick Mills (Battle Creek Battle Jacks Photo)
Patrick Mills (Indiana University-Kokomo Photo)
Patrick Mills (Battle Creek Battle Jacks Photo)

Schaffer back with Terre Haute Rex while pondering his diamond future

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

Jordan Schaffer has come to the end of his eligibility after a memorable collegiate baseball career.
Now he’s continuing in amateur ball while wondering if he might get to play for pay.
Schaeffer, a 2016 graduate of West Vigo High School in West Terre Haute, Ind., spent six years at nearby Indiana State University. He redshirted in 2017 then was in 147 games (115 starts) for the Sycamores from 2018-22.
The righty-swinging infielder hit .338 (168-of-497) with 11 home runs, four triples, 11 doubles, 69 runs batted in, 118 runs scored and 18 stolen bases. His on-base percentage was .414. He was named first-team all-Missouri Valley Conference in 2021 and 2022.
Mitch Hannahs is Indiana State’s head coach.
“He’s an unbelievable motivator,” says Schaffer of Hannahs. “His knowledge of the game is second to none. He knows how to get the most out of his players.
“He saw something in me. A lot of hard work later, he got more out of me than I expected. You want to get better not only for him but yourself.”
In 2022, Schaffer fielded at a .945 clip and was in on 16 double plays. Liking the way it feels, he wears a standard 11 1/2-inch glove when at shortstop, second base and third base.
“I move around,” says Schaffer. “That comes from Coach (Brian) Smiley. No player in his infield group plays one position. That makes you more versatile when you got to other teams, especially summer ball teams. It gives you more chances to play.”
This is Schaffer’s fifth go-around with a summer wood bat league and second with the Prospect League’s Terre Haute Rex. Tyler Wampler managed Terre Haute to a league championship in 2018.
Schaffer played for the Ohio Valley League’s Henderson (Ky.) Flash in 2017, the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League’s Michigan Monarchs in 2019, trained the summer of 2020 and was with the Northwoods League’s Wisconsin Woodchucks (now the Wausau Woodchucks) in 2021.
After winding up his long stint at ISU, Schaffer signed a 10-day contract in the MLB Draft League with the Williamsport (Pa.) Crosscutters and has played nine games for the Rex, hitting .412 with one homer and six RBIs.
“I’m continuing to play,” says Schaffer, 24. “I may or may not get a chance to play professionally.”
The 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft is July 17-19. Schaffer, a 6-foot, 180-pounder, could be taken in the 20-round selection process, sign with an MLB organization as an undrafted free agent or seek independent ball opportunity.
He notes that the MLB Draft League turns into indy ball post-draft and he could go back there.
Schaffer graduated from Indiana State in the spring with double bachelor degrees in Accounting and Sport Management.
Born in Terre Haute and growing West Terre Haute, Schaffer was in West Terre Haute Little League then a year of Babe Ruth ball.
“I was not able to get on any travel organizations,” says Schaffer.
Since age 5, he attended camps conducted by varsity coach Steve DeGroote, worked out with the high schoolers during his middle school years and was a freshman the last season DeGroote served as head coach.
“I got the privilege from a young age to know fundamentals he instilled in players,” says Schaffer, who earned four baseball letters and helped West Vigo to two sectional and one regional title. “There were some big-time motivational speeches. I’m thankful I got to play one year under him.”
He also played and practiced during the summer with teams organized by DeGroote, who was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2017.
Culley DeGroote — Steve’s son — took over the West Vigo program and Schaffer played for him his last three prep years.
“Culley did a great job of taking it over,” says Schaffer. “He was assistant to Steve. He kept the same fundamentals.
“It’s the same program and West Vigo is not somebody you want to run into in postseason play.”
Schaffer played for Terre Haute Wayne Newton American Legion Post 346 in the summer of 2016.
Jordan is the oldest of Brad and Amy Schaffer’s two children. Macy is a nursing student at Ivy Tech Community College. Brad Schaffer is a bidder for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 725. Amy Schaffer is a lawyer’s assistant at McGlone Law in Terre Haute.

Jordan Schaffer (Indiana State University Photo)
Jordan Schaffer (Indiana State University Photo)

Jordan Schaffer (Indiana State University Photo)

Jordan Schaffer (1) (Indiana State University Photo)