Tag Archives: Recruiting

Now at St. Charles CC, Foster familiar with many levels of college baseball

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

Ryne Foster has first-hand knowledge of many forms of college baseball.
The 2004 graduate of Danville (Ind.) Community High School played for American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dr. Don Brandon at NCAA Division III Anderson (Ind.) University.
Coaching stops have taken Foster to N’s Concordia University (Ann Arbor, Mich.), NCAA D-II’s Georgia Southwestern University (Americus, Ga.), National Junior College Athletic Association’s Cleveland (Tenn.) State Community College, NCAA D-I’s Bowling Green (Ohio) State University and NJCAA’s St. Charles Community College (Cottleville, Mo.).
“It’s helped in the recruiting process,” says Foster of his familiarity with all those levels. “I kind of know what everybody’s talking about.”
The son of former Danville head baseball coach Rick Foster (and wife Alice) and older brother of current Cascade High School head coach Ty Foster (a 2007 Danville graduate who played four years at Manchester University for Spartans head coach Rick Espeset), Ryne Foster has been the St. Charles Cougars staff since 2018-19. He serves as associate head coach/hitting coach for head coach Jeff Bolen.
Foster, who was an assistant at Madison-Grant High School in Fairmount, Ind., before going into college coaching, was a volunteer/catchers coach for Danny Schmitz at Bowling Green, assistant/catchers coach for Mike Policastro at Cleveland State, assistant/outfielders for Bryan McLain at Georgia Southwestern and graduate assistant for Kyle Rayl at Concordia. Rayl is a former assistant at Anderson U.
NCAA D-I rules do not allow volunteers to recruit off-campus. Foster has participated in the process at all the other places he’s been.
“(Recruiting) is the most important part off the field in college baseball,” says Foster. “If you can get some good players you can do some good stuff.”
Junior college is generally a two-year experience. With the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Charles currently has 18 third-year players — 13 of which started their college careers with the Cougars.
With added years of eligibility in the NCAA and NAIA, it has many players staying in college baseball longer than anticipated. This — in turn — has trickled down to high schoolers looking for a place to play.
“There’s really quite a back log and then you put the transfer portal on top of that,” says Foster. “The talent is phenomenal at a lot of places. It seems all arms throw 90 mph or above.
“The thing that hurt the high school kids is an offer you would have gotten four or five years ago might not be there now.”
St. Charles, which is in NJCAA Division I Region 16, gets players kicking back from all levels, including NCAA D-I.
When Foster was in high school, he was aware of just one junior college baseball program in Indiana — NCJAA Division II Region 24’s Vincennes University. In 2022, there’s also NJC AA Division II Region 12’s Marian University’s Ancilla College in Donaldson and Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne.
Missouri has 11 junior college programs (eight in NJCAA Division I and three in NJCAA Division II). Illinois sports 35 (10 in NCJAA Division I, four in NJCAA Division II and 21 in NJCAA Division III).
“Knowing what I know now I would have done everything I could to find a junior college out of high school,” says Foster, noting that there are fewer restrictions on the number of hours a week an athlete can practice or play, tuition is cheaper and there is a chance in two years to go to a school they may not have been able to attend out of high school.
“As coaches we’re able to be part of everything — academic monitoring, the weight lifting program and practice everyday with them,” says Foster. “There’s never a time other than family time I can’t work with you because you’re out of hours this week.”
“Juco Bandit” appears on many Twitter profiles. What does it mean?
“After being around it, it’s a term of pride for a lot of our guys,” says Foster. “It means a different level of toughness. Nothing handed to these guys and if it was, it was then taken away. It’s not the (NCAA) Division I life. There’s 2 and 3 a.m. leave times for a doubleheader.
“It’s a different mindset. The guys come out to play ball. That’s why they’re here.”
Foster and other St. Charles coaches do what they can to develop players for the next level.
“We move them on to good Division I and Division II programs when they’re done here,” says Foster. “We’re always making connections with coaches at that level and they’re helping us out.
“They know what kind of kids they’re getting out of junior college. They’re getting kids who are tough. It’s a big ask to come out of high school in play in the Big Ten, Big 12 or the SEC. There’s no substitute for experience.”
St. Charles plays 25 to 30 scrimmages in the fall with 56 regular-season games plus the postseason in the spring.
“We the fall for our sophomores to get exposure,” says Foster. “(Four-year school) come out and scout. We also get to see our freshmen and prepare for the spring.”
Besides his baseball duties, Foster is also in charge of the St. Charles athletic fields (baseball, softball and soccer). They are all grass.
“I starting learning with my dad being a high school coach,” says Foster. “It’s second nature. Many a spring break as a kid was spent out there getting the field ready.”
Rick Foster is head boys tennis coach and boys basketball assistant at Danville. He coached Warriors baseball almost 40 years and now helps Ty on the diamond at Cascade.
Ryne sees going into the profession as a natural.
“I couldn’t think of myself doing anything else,” says Foster. “I grew up with it. My dad was old school. You do things the right way and play hard. It’s the same way he grew up playing. Nothing too fancy.”
After playing tennis, basketball and baseball in high school (brother Ty played football, basketball and baseball), Ryne played both basketball and baseball his first two years at Anderson. In his fifth year, he came back to the Ravens basketball program.
“I love guys who play different sports (in high school),” says Foster. “They can develop so much when they can focus in one area. They have all kinds of potential.”
Foster relishes the chance to grow his baseball know-how and his network while attending the annual American Baseball Coaches Association Convention, which meets each January (the 2022 version was in Chicago).
“You meet up with people from all over the country,” says Foster. “It’s a big fraternity. It’s pretty cool to be part of it.”
Baseball brought Ryne together with the woman he now calls his wife. He was working for Pastime Tournaments at an event in Nashville and met Nikki, who was attending down from Minnesota for a bachelorette party. Ryne and Nikki Foster were wed June 22, 2021 in a Land of Ten Thousand Lakes.
“She’s been with me through the coaching run in two different places,” says Foster. “She knows it’s not your normal 9-to-5 job.
“It’s hard to find someone who understands the work.”

Ryne and Nikki Foster (Crockette’s Images)
Ryne and Nikki Foster
Ryne, Rick and Ty Foster (Crockette’s Images)

Notre Dame’s Wallace talks about coaching the bases

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

Notre Dame baseball generated plenty of base path traffic in 2021 — Rich Wallace’s second season in the third base coach’s box for the Irish.
ND led the Atlantic Coast Conference in on-base percentage (.379), runs scored per game (7.06) and runs batted in per game (6.55).
Wallace talked about coaching the bases for the South Bend Cubs Foundation Coaches Club Tuesday, Feb. 8 in the Pepsi Stadium Club at Four Winds Field.
Wallace has been coaching the bases for almost half his life. He started as a 22-year-old graduate assistant at the University of Central Florida in the first base box. At 24, he began coaching third.
Over the years, he’s learned to be ready for all situations.
“One thing that I always try to do is prepare enough that I can become invisible,” says Wallace. “I do enough work with our guys and with the scouting that nobody even notices me out there.”
Wallace looks at coaching the bases from both internal and external perspectives.
“At Notre Dame we practice base running and I practice base coaching more than any place I’ve ever been,” says Wallace, who is on a staff led by Link Jarrett. “We’ll never run the bases without both base coaches out there for our drills.
“Good base runners do not need help. The problem is they’re very hard to find and are getting harder to find.
“We’re on the bases (as coaches) all the time to get to know (the runners) — the way they run, the types of jumps, what they screw up and what they’re good at.”
Runners also get accustomed to Wallace and first base coach Brad Vanderglas.
“I have a different cadence from another third base coach they’ve had,” says Wallace. “I have different mannerisms.”
There is also creativity in the Notre Dame practice plan that allows for base running work.
“Anything that we feel is going to come up in a game or something we’ve screwed up before or might screw up we do it live,” says Wallace. “You have to have some tough skin to make it through base running because it happens so fast.
“But if you don’t put them in those situations there’s really no way they can handle it.”
Communication between coaches and players is key.
“The language needs to be the same from the head coach to the first base coach to myself so that (players) are not hearing one thing from the first base coach and it sounds like something different from me and something different from (Coach Jarrett),” says Wallace.
The Irish use a wristband system.
“We have more things in our offensive package than you could possibly imagine,” says Wallace, who notes that ND has nine different ways to bunt. “We haven’t missed a sign in three years.”
Not that the execution has always been right 100 percent of the time. But no signs have been missed.
When Wallace yells out instructions, it’s always “yes, yes, yes or no, no, no.”
“I never say ‘go’ because ‘go’ sounds like ‘no,’” says Wallace. “Make sure that you practice hand signals.”
Verbal signals are just a single word — one for advance and another to go back.
Wallace addressed spacing for base coaches. NCAA Division I rules say the coach must be touching the coaches box and the time of the pitch, but can move after that.
“Then you can be as far north (toward the outfield) and as close to the dugout as you want from that spot,” says Wallace. “Use your space. I think about what might possibly happen and I put myself in position (to make a decision where the runner will be able to see me).”
With no runners on-base, Wallace likes to get as deep as possible in anticipation of a triple.
“Everything else in the field (runners) are making their own decisions,” says Wallace. “If the ball gets in the corner then I’ll help them.
“If there’s a runner on second, I’ll be down the line as far as I can.
“I want to make sure I can see the runner and both middle infielders. Depending on where the umpire is, you adjust from there.”
Coaches also help the runner read the pitcher’s pick-off move. There’s also the back-pick attempt by the catcher.
Wallace says it blows his mind when a first base coach lets a runner get picked off with the first baseman playing behind him.
“There’s really nothing else for you to do except tell the runner what is happening behind him,” says Wallace. “So (the back-pick) should never happen.”
Wallace says its the first base coach’s job to gather information on things that will help the runner like pitcher’s grip, rhythm of delivery, catcher’s set-up and arm strength, defensive positioning and more.
The coach communicates this to the dugout without tipping anything to the opponent.
As a third base coach, Wallace is always looking for “chinks in the armor” of the opponent.
“Is there something out there I can see that’s going to allow us to exploit them and do something pretty cool that the guys enjoy themselves and score runs?,” says Wallace.
External preparation includes watching the opponent warm up to study outfielders’ arms, cut-off systems, speed of players and more.
Wallace addressed the Coaches Club in 2019 about recruiting.
Jarrett talked about what it means to be a coach in January 2022.
Notre Dame opens the 2022 season Feb. 18 against Manhattan in Deland, Fla. The first ACC game is March 11 at North Carolina State. The Irish’s first home game is slated for March 15 against Valparaiso.
Performance consultant Dr. Amber Selking will be the guest speaker at the next South Bend Cubs Foundation Coaches Club meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 29.

Rich Wallace (University of Notre Dame Photo)

Boynton building ballplayers, relationships with Bethel University

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

A Pacific Northwest native has found his fit in the Upper Midwest.
Kiel Boynton, who was born and raised in Oregon, is now heading into his eighth season as an assistant baseball coach at Bethel University in Mishawaka, Ind.
Boynton, 38, shares his time between worship leader at Grace Church in Granger, Ind., and helping head coach Seth Zartman with the NAIA-affiliated Pilots.
While Boynton’s main focus on-campus is pitching and infielders, he handles more of the out-of-state recruiting with his network while Zartman concentrates in Indiana.
“I’m working the phones a lot,” says Boynton. “Recruiting on the West Coast is a little rough sometimes (with the time difference), but my family at home has kind of gotten used to the fact that around a certain time I go into recruiting mode.
“The travel just depends on the player. If I’m interested in the player I’m definitely going to try to go and see him.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bethel coaches have learned to make some judgment calls on recruits through viewing video. But in-person is best.
“We would always love to see them live because a video can make a kid look really great or a video can make them look really bad,” says Boynton. “When you’re out-of-state, you’re trying to maybe sell the school a little bit more than selling the finances. If they’re in-state we kind of know that they’re going to qualify of additional potential scholarship (money) depending on their grades and their family’s income.”
As a coach, Boynton sees pitching and defense as his strength and lets Zartman concentrate on the offensive part of the game.
“I’m big on the mental side,” says Boynton. “It’s important to see how they respond to adversity and different things.”
In practice, Boynton puts his pitchers in high-pressure situations. It may be a closer coming into the game with less than two outs and runners in scoring position.
“My heart rate’s up and I’ve got to figure out how to stay calm and be able to do that,” says Boynton of the hurler’s task. “We’ll put them on a bike between innings. They’ll have to go real fast and get their heart rate up and then we immediately send them to the mound and have have to pitch and calm themselves down.
“They learn how to overcome that and still get outs.”
Sam Riggleman, who was head coach at Bethel (1995-99) and has more than four decades of experiences and a college coach, gave Boynton some advice year ago about pitchers and adversity that stuck with him.
“He doesn’t give his pitchers multiple chances to succeed because he wants them to have to learn to deal with adversity and failure,” says Boynton. “When he puts them in a situation like that, they get the outs or they don’t get the outs.
“It’s all that mental side that comes into play. They pitcher needs to know the situation (and where and how to deliver his pitches).”
Boynton looks on his coaching career and has witnessed constant change in himself.
“When I first started coaching I just wanted to win,” says Boynton. “It was not as much about building relationships. When the team would lose, I would take it personally. It was like I didn’t do my job or I failed. I would get really frustrated.”
Through the influences of Zartman, Riggleman, Dean Stiles, Mike Manes and others, Boynton’s coaching philosophy has morphed.
“I am not just worried about what they do on the baseball field,” says Boynton. “I heard a long time ago a coach say that if you’re a good coach, you get invited to weddings.
“I started really wrapping my head around that. If a player invites me to their wedding that means that I meant something to their life. Whether or not they were successful on the field they knew that I cared about them enough that they wanted me to be a part of the biggest day of their life.”
Kiel (pronounced Kyle) and wife Faith have two children — son Parker (12) and daughter Aubrie (3) — with one on the way.
As a right-handed pitcher/infielder, Boynton played for Stiles at Crook County High School in Prineville, Ore., since his tiny Christian school — did not have baseball. He also played football and basketball.
Boynton was born with mild form of Cerebral Palsy that effects the muscles on the right side of his body.
“The right side will get to a certain strength and that’s about it,” says Boynton. “When I lifted in college you could always see that my left side was stronger. My left leg what take the primary force of my squat.
“My mom (Teri) and dad (John) did a great job of not letting Cerebral Palsy be a crutch for me,” says Boynton. “They always encouraged me to just work harder. I played pretty much every sport growing up.”
Even with the weakness, John Boynton made his son a right-handed pitcher.
“It’s made a big impact on my coaching career,” says Boynton of CP. “I don’t like laziness or pitchers who kind of take time off. In my own life, I never did that.
“I want my players to work twice as hard.”
Patrick Tubaugh, who has been a Director of Baseball Operations for Bethel, also has Cerebral Palsy.
Boynton is a diehard fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers thanks to his father who grew up in southern California, played at Los Angeles Bible College (now The Master’s University) for Pete Reese and had a tryout with the Dodgers. An EMT director job got him to move to Oregon.
“I grew up hearing about Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and all the great Dodger legends,” says Boynton. “I grew up listening to (play-by-play announcer) Vin Scully. I’ve been following them ever since.”
Each Christmas Faith adds an item to Kiel’s Dodger collection.
“She’s running out of things to get me,” says Boynton.
The younger brother of Cy and Shannon followed his sister when he attended Cedarville (Ohio) University and played four seasons (2003-06) for the Yellow Jackets.
“Coach (Greg) Hughes took that gamble on a kid with Cerebral Palsy and I’m very appreciative,” says Boynton. By that time, Reese was the athletic director at Cedarville.
He was a middle infielder and pitcher and earned undergraduate and masters degrees in sport management with a minor in Bible, and coached at the school 25 miles east of Dayton for five — one as an assistant to Hughes and four on Manes’ staff.
During that time, Boynton met Zartman as a competing coach or someone at the same site on a southern trip.
Among the pitchers he coached were the Ledbetter twins of Indianapolis — David and Ryan.
Boynton met Justin Masterson, who pitched at Bethel in 2004 and 2005 and hails from Beavercreek, Ohio, when he used Cedarville facilities to train during part of his big league career.
Boynton left Cedarville and went back to Oregon, where he was a pitching coach at Corban University in Salem, where he was born, for about three years. He was also involved in youth ministry.
During his time in Salem, Boynton received a call from Zartman letting him know of a potential assistant coach job at Bethel.
There was prayer and family discussion and about a week later, Boynton and let Zartman know it was a good fit and he was ready to move to northern Indiana.
Economic uncertainty at the time led Zartman to tell Boynton not to make the move with his family in case the position was cut.
The following year with things stabilized, Zartman called again and the Boyntons came back to the Midwest. He started at Bethel in January 2015.
Boynton says about three-quarters of his income comes from his worship director position.
“The two jobs really work great with each other,” says Boynton. “My coaching job is pretty much Monday through Saturday. My worship leader job is also a Monday through Saturday thing, but the one day that they actually really need me to be doing something is Sunday.”
Bethel, a member of the Crossroads League, is to open the 2022 season Feb. 4 against Lourdes in Hot Springs, Ark.

Kiel Boynton (Bethel University Photo)

Managing relationships key for UIndy baseball assistant Forde

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

Trevor Forde saw the game from behind the mask as a player.
The University of Indianapolis assistant baseball coach knows what makes catchers tick.
Evanston (Ill.) High School graduate Forde (pronounced Ford like the car) was a backstop and played for former catchers Nate Metzger at Heartland Community College in Normal, Ill., and Gary Vaught and Al Ready at UIndy.
After competing for Frank Consiglio and graduating from Evanston in 2011, Forde played for two National Junior College Athletic Association Division II World Series qualifiers (2012 and 2013) with Metzger.
“Coach Consiglio taught me to put in the work,” says Forde. “The guys that out-work you will have more success.
“(Metzger, who is now associate head coach and recruiting coordinator at Wright State University) gave me my first look and passion for coaching college baseball. He’s a special human.”
Forde played for Vaught at NCAA Division II Indianapolis in 2015 and 2016 and then went right into coaching, beginning with as a graduate assistant in 2017 and 2018. He holds a bachelor’s degree and masters in Sport and Fitness Administration/Management from UIndy.
Former Indianapolis backstop and longtime assistant Ready became head coach of the Greyhounds beginning with the 2019 season.
“(Vaught and Ready) solidified that thought of coaching,” says Forde. “There’s a lot to be said why catchers get into the coaching realm. They see the whole field
“They are really good at managing relationships. They work with all the pitchers. That guy steps out on the mound and he believes in you. You have that connection.”
Forde says that ties in with coaching.
“You’re dealing with so many personalities and getting guys to trust you,” says Forde.
Many hats are worn by Forde the coach. He is in charge of Hounds catchers and also helps develop hitters and plays a big part in recruiting.
“Since catcher is my former position, I take a lot of pride it that,” says Forde. “We’ve got a pretty good catching core.
“In the simplest of forms I always tell catchers to make strikes strikes and we want to win the border line pitch. We’ve got to put ourselves in position to present the ball to the umpire well. We want to be on-time and have a subtle movement to manipulate the ball back to center.”
Forde says every college catcher has to be able to control the running game.
Throwing out would-be base stealers is one thing, but Forde shares the philosophy shared by Bellarmine University coach Larry Owens about limiting steal attempts.
“That resonates with me,” says Forde. “We can show arm strength. The word can get out (to runners). If you limit the amount of attempts, the number of stolen bases is going to be reduced.”
Forde says recruiting at this time of year is not as intense at the D-II level as it is in the summer and fall.
“We’re tying up loose ends with guys we’ve had contact with and late bloomers,” says Forde. “Next year’s recruiting class is pretty much wrapped up for us.”
In dealing with recruits, Forde tells it like it is.
“We’re going to be brutally honest at times with guys,” says Forde. “We won’t present ideas that aren’t realistic. The more honest you can be with the guy — and especially with their parents — the better.
“There are no grey areas. We are blunt at times.”
UIndy is part of the Great Lakes Valley Conference with teams in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. Those three states plus Ohio, Kentucky and Wisconsin are at the core of the Greyhounds’ recruiting territory though the 2022 online roster also lists players from Canada and Colombia.
“We’re doing a pretty good job getting in the right players who believe in what we’re trying to do,” says Forde. “We need guys who are the right fit.”
In this COVID-19 pandemic era with players taking extra years of eligibility, Forde says it is important to know the players’ intentions about coming back or moving on.
“He might (repeatedly) say ‘I’m coming back’ then he gets a job offer,” says Forde. “As baseball coaches we brought him into our institution to get a degree.”
Forde and Ready are seeking well-rounded players and place a premium on defense.
“Coach Ready said it best — we’ve got to play both ends of the game,” says Forde. “At some positions I’d take a lesser bat with a plus-glove. The game is meant to be pitching and defense. You’re only as good as that guy that you roll out on the bump.
“I want my pitcher to be confident. If the ball is in-play their defense is going to make the play.”
The Greyhounds go for moundsmen that understand how to pitch and that contact is not a bad thing.
“We’re looking for bulldogs — guys that aren’t going to shy away from the moment,” says Forde. “That stems from our preparation. We teach guys how to pitch and how to read swings.
“We want a complete pitcher.”
Adam Cormwell is UIndy’s pitching coach. Scott Holdsworth is a volunteer assistant. Jacob Christie is a graduate assistant. The support staff includes athletic trainer Makenna McAteer, strength and conditioning coach Andrew Fallon and sports information GA Brady Budke.
Indianapolis, which went 23-21 overall and placed second in the GLVC at 19-13, opens the 2022 season Feb. 18 at Greyhound Park against Notre Dame (Euclid, Ohio). A series at Lake Erie (Painesville, Ohio), where former UIndy assistant Landon Hutchison is now head coach, begins March 11.

Trevor and high school sweathart Emma were married in July 2020.

Trevor Forde (University of Indianapolis Photo)
Trevor Forde (University of Indianapolis Photo)

Sprinkle helping Franklin College as assistant coach

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

Franklin (Ind.) College enjoyed a 25-14 baseball season in 2021.
The Grizzlies hit .299 as a team with 152 extra-base hits (45 home runs) and 87 stolen bases.
Of the top eight players in at-bats, six were seniors. Franklin’s fall workouts included many newcomers.
“We worked a lot on team offense and defense,” says Jake Sprinkle, who is in his second season as a Franklin assistant coach in 2021-22. “We have a lot of new faces and we want to get those guys acclimated.
“We had a lot of scrimmages, letting pitchers and hitters show what they’ve got.”
NCAA Division III rules restrict coach-player contact in the winter.
“We don’t have individual time,” says Sprinkle. “Seniors and leaders are setting up hitting and throwing groups. They’re making velo and exit velocity jumps and getting stronger in the weight room.”
Sprinkle, who works for head coach and associate director of athletics Lance Marshall, has been hitting the recruiting trail and getting plans in place and equipment ordered for the spring of 2022. The season is slated to begin Feb. 26 against Albion at Grizzly Park.
“This time of year we’re getting a lot of kids on-campus,” says Sprinkle of recruiting. “We’re trying to get some guys bought-in. We’re still working on 2022 (recruiting) class and reaching out to some 2023’s we’ve seen in the past.”
The Franklin website lists a 2021 roster of 45 with 40 of those hailing from Indiana.
Sprinkle, who turns 26 on Dec. 28, was born and raised in the Franklin Township section of Indianapolis. He played tennis and baseball at Franklin Central High School. Twin brother Ben was his tennis doubles partner and a baseball teammate. The Flashes were coached on the diamond by John Rockey.
“He was an awesome guy,” says Sprinkle of Rockey. “He brought a ton of energy to practice. He taught us what we needed to do at a younger age and prepared guys for college.
“We wanted to show up and work every single day.”
Jacob Wickliff (now head baseball coach at Beech Grove High School) was a Franklin Central teammate of the Sprinkle brothers.
Sprinkle was a right-handed pitcher at the University of Indianapolis.
As a UIndy freshman in 2015, Sprinkle went 8-2 with 2.97 earned run average. He struck out 32 and walked 11 in 63 2/3 inning.
Tommy John arm surgery caused him to miss the 2016 season and he was granted a medical redshirt before pitching for the Greyhounds from 2017-19. For his four college seasons, he was 22-9 with 3.86 ERA, 179 strikeouts and 68 walks in 240 innings.
Sprinkle’s first four years were spent with Gary Vaught as head coach with Al Ready moving up to be head coach his fifth year.
“(Coach Vaught) was so personable,” says Sprinkle. “He made everybody feel like they were special and created a personal bond. He would make sure people knew he was there for them.
“(Coach Ready) is extremely dedicated and hard-working. He’s a guy who’s going to put his best foot forward, do his research and whatever he can to win.”
Landon Hutchison was the Greyhounds pitching coach Sprinkle’s last few seasons.
After his college playing days, Sprinkle was briefly in the United Shore Professional Baseball League in the summer of 2019 then spent a year as a UIndy graduate assistant. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Marketing/Information Systems and a master’s degree in Sports Management from UIndy.
He joined Marshall’s Franklin coaching staff in September 2020.
“(Coach Marshall) is an awesome guy,” says Sprinkle. “He’s extremely hard-working and does everything the right way.
“He builds a championship culture — on and off the field.”
Besides recruiting, Sprinkle is in charge of Grizzlies infielders and hitters and helps with pitchers.
“With our infielders, we’re big on making the routine play,” says Sprinkle. “We re-set every play. It’s about being athletic.
“The hitters’ approach is about being on-time and driving the baseball in the gap.”
Last summer, Sprinkle coached a 17U travel team for Mike Chitwood’s Indiana Elite organization and will be leading a 17U squad for Chad Fowler’s Powerhouse Athletics group in the summer of 2022.
“I thought that’s where my path would take me,” says Sprinkle of coaching. “I was very fortunate to have a lot of great coaches.
“I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”
Sprinkle comes from a baseball-loving family. He and his brother grew up being coached by their father, Tracy Sprinkle with support from mother Lori Sprinkle and sister Malorie Sprinkle (a former Franklin Central softball player who’s now a Butler University freshman). Ben Sprinkle began went to Kentucky Wesleyan College for baseball before transferring to Franklin.

Jake Sprinkle (Franklin College Photo)

Vanderglas contributes as Indiana State baseball assistant

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Three weekends into the 2021 NCAA Division I baseball season there have already been plenty of surprising outcomes.

Brad Vanderglas, an assistant coach at Indiana State University, thinks he knows one of the reasons.

When the 2020 season and the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft were clipped because of the COVID-19 pandemic, players were given the option of extra years of illegibility.

That means more talent has stayed in D-I that normally would have moved on.

“It’s testament to so many early-season upsets,” says Vanderglas, whose seen the Terre Haute-based Sycamores get off to a 6-4 start with a couple wins at No. 16-ranked Tennessee. “The pitching staffs have a lot more depth.

“There’s no such thing as an easy match-up.”

Vanderglas joined ISU as a volunteer in 2017 and was elevated to assistant coach prior to the 2020 season.

His responsibilities include working with catchers and outfielders and helping with hitters. During games, he is the first base coach.

Vanderglas also assists associate head coach Brian Smiley with recruiting and scouting.

With D-I continuing to be in a “dead” period where it can’t see potential recruits in-person, Vanderglas says there has been a shift in recruiting focus.

“We go a lot more on coach’s recommendations and video,” says Vanderglas. “We’re a lot more virtual with everything. And we have to do a lot more due diligence.

“We like to evaluate a recruit several times so they fit our style. We can see a guy’s physical tools on video, but not the intangibles like how they respond to failure and the overall makeup of the kid. Is he trying to do his best for himself or is he worried about the team?”

The “dead” period is scheduled to end May 30.

“When we get back on the road it will be an action-packed summer,” says Vanderglas. “There are tournaments and showcases about every day of the week. 

“We’ll host some prospects showcases on our campus as well.”

Using software called Synergy, a report is compiled with video and statistics. The Sycamores can see the tendencies of opposing pitcher and the trends of hitters so they can move their fielders accordingly.

“We do a decent amount (of defensive shifting) with the analytics,” says Vanderglas. “We try to take away the areas of strength (for opponents).

“In the outfielder, we are a little different that many teams. We’re aggressive. We want to take away bleeders, especially when we’re way ahead or way behind in the (ball-strike) count. The last few years, we’ve shifted a lot more.”

Mitch Hannahs is in his eighth grade leading ISU after returning to his alma mater in 2013.

“His leadership is outstanding,” says Vanderglas. “He’s extremely consistent with guys. There are no ‘off’ days with us. You’ve got to get better each and every day.

“He’s good at blending personalities and getting everyone to commit to a common goal.”

The Sycamores roster includes players from 14 different states plus the Bahamas, Canada, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

Hannahs is demanding with his players and expects his assistants to be prepared.

“We don’t want to feel like we’re searching for answers,” says Vanderglas. 

Before coming to Indiana State, Vanderglas was at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., where he was associate head coach and recruiting coordinator for Statesmen head coach Kevin Bowers.

“(Bowers) was great to me,” says Vandeglas. “He trusted me. He let me have lot of responsibility. I got to learn from learn from trial and error while he offered constant assistance.

“We got after it and opened our boundaries in recruiting. He introduced me to people and gave me free rein to go after the people we wanted.”

As an infielder, Vanderglas played at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Ky., for Norse head coach Todd Asalon.

“Todd is a great players’ coach,” says Vanderglas. “He was great with building relationships.

“He is also tough-nosed and we played with no excuses.”

Asalon, who has indicated he will retire at the end of the 2021 season, has the knack for getting former players to come back to support the program.

A 2009 graduate of Greenwood High School in Bowling Green, Ky., Vanderglas played for Gators head coach Chris Decker.

“He worked extremely hard and expected details to be sharp in practice,” says Vanderglas. “He was keen on the fundamentals of the game. 

“He made sure we were prepared no matter who we played and he made sure everyone could contribute to the team.”

Brad Vanderglas is an assistant baseball coach at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Ind. He joined the Sycamores staff in 2017. (Indiana State University Photo)

Indiana Elite Baseball stresses development, exposure

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

With giving players opportunities to develop and compete at a high level a priority, Indiana Elite Baseball is preparing for the spring and summer travel season.

Started as part of the Center Grove Little League in Greenwood, Ind., Indiana Elite Baseball had one team in 2011 then four teams in 2013 and was up to 10 squads in 2014 and has stayed in that range ever since. IEB will field 10 squads ages 12U through 17U in 2021. Younger players are typically come from central Indiana, but talent comes around the state.

“We started to grow it slowly,” says Indiana Elite Baseball founder and president Mike Chitwood, a former all-city player and 1989 graduate of Emmerich Manual High School in Indianapolis. “We wanted to do something bigger than a community-based team.

“I have a big passion for doing what I do. I love educating players and families on the process. I tell them to play the game for as long as you can.”

IEB has been a not-for-profit organization since 2013. 

“I try to keep cost as low as possible for our families,” says Chitwood. “You have to do certain things to afford the families and players an opportunity to develop.”

Indiana Elite Baseball can be found taking the field at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., Creekside Baseball Park in Parkville, Mo., LakePoint Sports campus in Emerson, Ga.

In 2016, the organization got its own indoor training facility on the southeast side of Indianapolis. It’s open year-round only to IEB teams, coaches and instructors.

“It’s been a great addition for the last five years,” says Chitwood. 

Indiana Elite Baseball offers a full winter training program led by director of baseball operations Brian Simmons.

Players train four hours a week November to March. 

“I’m a big advocate of multi-sport athletes,” says Chitwood. “But get to as many (baseball workouts) as you can.”

Younger teams tend to play in 12 events a year, beginning in early to mid-April. Older teams play seven or eight tournaments after Memorial Day.

Simmons is a graduate of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis who played at Xavier University and Ball State University and in independent pro ball. He was an assistant at Roncalli to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Wirtz and aided Eric McGaha at Mooresville (Ind.) High School and was head coach at Roncalli and Indianapolis Arlington.

Deron Spink is the other IEB instructor. A California native, Spink coached future big leaguers Ryan Howard and David Freese in the St. Louis area and was head coach at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky., and director of baseball operations at Villanova University in Philadelphia before moving to Indiana. 

Spink was a volunteer assistant to Steve Farley at Butler University and is a former director of baseball operations and recruiting for Indiana Elite Baseball who now resides in Evansville while still coming to Indianapolis to give private lessons.

Chitwood, Simmons and vice president Jeff Amodeo make up IEB’s board. Amodeo coaches and does much of the behind-the-scenes work.

Through a relationship with Franklin College the past four years, Chitwood has gotten Grizzlies assistants to coach for Indiana Elite Baseball in the summer. Tim Miller has gone on to become head coach at Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, W.Va. Former Franklin and IEB coach Tyler Rubasky is Miller’s assistant.

Current Franklin assistants Jake Sprinkle, who played at Franklin Central and the University of Indianapolis, and Trevor Tunison, who played at Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill., also lend their talents to IEB. 

Chitwood used to have a rule that after 15U, there could be no coaches who had sons on the team. 

“As long as a dad is in it for the right reason and they’re not in it to take care of their son, I will let a dad continue as long as they want to continue for multiple reasons,” says Chitwood. “These days, it’s harder and harder to get a guy to spend his entire summer at the baseball field.”

Mike ceased coaching son Blake Chitwood, who played for Roncalli’s IHSAA Class 4A state champions in 2016 and then at the UIndy, and has regretted the decision.

“There’s a misconception that you had to play collegiately or at a higher level professionally to be a coach,” says Chitwood. “(16U Black head coach) Steve Sawa didn’t play past high school. But he’s a student of the game. He’s a great coach.”

John Curl, a Logansport (Ind.) High School graduate who played at Texas A&M and in the Toronto Blue Jays organization and is a Kokomo (Ind.) High School assistant, helps Sawa.

Paul Godsey (Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Ky.), Dan Sullivan (Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis) and Scott Gilliam (UIndy) and Brian Maryan (Rose-Hulman) are former college players who also have sons on their respective teams. Gilliam is assisted by former Eastern Illinois University pitcher and IEB father/coach Kyle Widegren

Thomas Taylor, Kyle Morford and Ryan Mueller are also current IEB head coaches.

After Blake moved on, Mike Chitwood coached the 17U team. He decided by focusing on one team he was doing the rest of the outfit a disservice so he stepped out of the coaching role.

“I like to see all my teams play,” says Chitwood. “It’s important to build the culture and the family atmosphere.”

The goal of IEB’s high school age players is getting to the next level.

Chitwood stresses education with baseball as a means of getting that education.

He asks each player to take baseball out of the equation.

“It has to be a great academic fit,” says Chitwood. “What are you going to be in the future?

“Even if you get to play pro ball, you still have to provide for your family after your playing career.”

Chitwood wants players to know if a school offers a major that interests them and if — realistically — they can play at that level.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the whole environment of the recruiting process. Many coaches have not been able to attend travel events in-person and on-campus visits have been restricted.

“More than ever, it’s important to perform in these showcases,” says Chitwood. “We want to continue to build our relationships with all these (college) coaches.”

Chitwood keeps college programs up-to-date on Indiana Elite Baseball players through social media and the sharing of data such as Rapsodo

To be proactive, Chitwood has hired an intern to take video of game action this season.

Resources like Prep Baseball Report, Perfect Game and FieldLevel are also tools for exposure.

The pandemic has had another big impact. Many players are coming back for an extra year of eligibility after the 2020 college season was shortened. 

The Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft was cut from 40 to five rounds last year, keeping many players on the amateur side of the equation.

“It’s a different environment now,” says Chitwood. “Opportunities are much less than they were two years ago.”

Mike Chitwood is the founder and president of Indiana Elite Baseball, a not-for-profit travel baseball organization based in Indianapolis. (Indiana Elite Baseball Photo)

Assistant Pustay preparing for 11th season at DePauw U.

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Matt Pustay has witnessed plenty of winning since he returned to his college alma mater to coach baseball.

The 2009 graduate of DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., joined the Tigers for the 2011 season and has been with the program as an assistant ever since. 

In Pustay’s 10 seasons heading into 2021, DePauw is 201-176 and has been as high as No. 11 in the NCAA Division III national rankings (2012).

The North Coast Athletic Conference member Tigers went 4-4 before COVID-19 put an end to the 2020 season. 

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.”

Former Purdue University Northwest hurler Kyle Flessner was a volunteer coach last spring, but has since become the pitching coach at East Central Community College in Decatur, Miss.

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.

These are the kinds of values put forth by American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Mike Roberts when Pustay served on his Cotuit Kettleers staff in the Cap Cod League in the summer of 2014.

“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). 

In 2009, seniors Pustay, Jack Gavin, David Morefield, Mike Stout and Justin Weiner were co-captains for DePauw.

The “Palm-Up Award” is given to the most selfless Tigers teammate and Pustay earned it three times.

For two summers during his college career, Pustay played for the Newark (Ohio) Mavericks. 

He holds a Communication degree from DePauw and a Masters of Communication from Indiana State University.

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.

Matt Pustay has been an assistant baseball coach at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., since the 2011 season. He finished his playing career with the Tigers in 2009. (DePauw University Photo)

Grubbs guides Goshen College pitchers during unprecedented time

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

In a year that has been anything but conventional, Goshen (Ind.) College baseball pitching coach Justin Grubbs has been teaching his hurlers to embrace their routines.

The ninth-year GC assistant has certain things for pitchers to do six days a week while they each are encouraged to find what works best for them.

These are college athletes. It’s no cookie-cutter or one-size-fits-all system.

“A lot of these kids when they get here never really focused on pitching,” says Grubbs. “If they were at a school where they played multiple positions they might play shortstop, come in and pitch and the next day they’re back at shortstop.

“One of our outfielders — a freshmen — said he never thought of himself as a pitcher through he was the No. 1 at his school. Here, you’ve got to put a lot more emphasis on it if you want to get better at it.”

Having an abundance of quality arms has long been important when playing a 55-game NAIA schedule. But with the Crossroads League going to 36 conference games and Friday and Saturday doubleheaders, it has taken on even more significance for the Maple Leafs.

“You have a really good chance of getting on the field as a pitcher. We need pitching,” says Grubbs. “With this many innings, there’s going to be opportunities.”

Grubbs spells out his points of emphasis.

“What we’re big on the most is being able to attack hitters, have command and be able to throw secondary pitches for strikes,” says Grubbs. “We’re pretty successful with that compared to some other programs. 

“A lot of times, we’ll pitch backwards to teams. We’ll always work off our fastball. But you’ve got to be able to mix speeds and change locations.”

In 2019, the GC staff set a school record for strikeouts (345). In the past four seasons, the top four team earned run averages in Goshen’s DakStats-era history have been posted.

“We’d like to pitch to weak contact at times, too,” says Grubbs, recognizing that strikeouts tend to raise the pitch count. “We have a nice core of veterans back that are going to be able to help us (in 2021).”

Now in the sixth of seven fall practice weeks, the Maple Leafs are looking to get better even as the COVID-19 pandemic took away or shortened the 2020 spring and summer seasons.

Goshen was 7-11 overall and 2-1 in the Crossroads and on a two-game win streak when the season ended soon after a March 7 doubleheader sweep of visiting Taylor.

Newcomers and veterans are getting roughly the same amount of playing time in intrasquad games so the coaching staff can see what the players can do.

“We try to even up teams so they get a fair crack at it,” says Grubbs. “They have an opportunity.”

In a typical non-pandemic year, Goshen would be playing outside competition in the fall. Not so in 2020.

“We’re getting a lot of reps against each other,” says Grubbs. “Some nights we have to grind through it a little bit.”

The Maple Leaf World Series — Purple vs. Black — is slated for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week.

“I’m hoping our guys’ perspective changed. We have an opportunity to be out here (on J. Harold “Sarge” Yoder Baseball Field). Every day, we should be thankful for after last spring.

“We talked about the mental and emotional side and getting through those struggles.”

Grubbs is part of a staff led by head coach Alex Childers and featuring Doug Wellenreiter and Brad Stoltzfus.

Right now, Childers is with his wife Amber and family at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis while Wellenreiter and Grubbs run the team.

“Alex is the type of coach that has given us so much responsibility and given us the reins to lead our components of the team,” says Grubbs. “He gives us that freedom to coach.”

During the season, Grubbs helps Childers with in-game decision-making and also handles much of GC’s recruiting.

The Leafs roster includes players from Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. But it also features those from California, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Nevada and Texas plus Alberta in Canada, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

Once the pandemic hit, there was a slow start to recruiting for the 2021 class. But with the help of the admissions office, virtual visits soon became the norm.

“These were guys we’d already done research on,” says Grubbs. “We’d seen videos and texted back and forth. We had an idea of who they are and talked with their coaches.”

Following the school’s protocol and precautions, there was one short recruiting trip to Michigan in the summer. In most years, Grubbs would log many miles in pursuit of players.

Grubbs grew up just outside Bourbon, Ind., and graduated from Triton Junior/Senior High School in 1998. The Trojans won the old Northern State Conference title in 1997 and were perennial NSC contenders.

Eric Stults, who went on to star at Crossroads League member Bethel College (now Bethel University) and pitch in the big leagues, lived just a couple of miles away. In Justin’s final high school game — left-hander Stults hurled Argos to a 3-2 victory over Triton.

Landon Grubbs — Justin’s brother — was the starting right fielder and clean-up hitter on Triton’s 2001 IHSAA Class 1A state championship team.

Both Grubbs brothers were coached by Jim Shively.

“He got the best out of his players,” says Grubbs of Shively. “He had a lot of enthusiasm. He taught guys how to hit. I never knew how to hit until I got (to high school). I was also more of a pitcher type who hit at the bottom of the order.”

Grubbs ended up in the No. 2 hole on a squad featuring Kyle Gould (who is now the head baseball coach at athletic director at Crossroads League member Taylor University).

On the mound, Grubbs was 15-4 and a two-time all-NSC selection. He also played football and was academic all-state in 1997.

Grubbs was relief on the baseball team at Indiana Wesleyan University. Mark DeMichael was then head coach of the Wildcats. He learned lessons of pitching and spirituality from IWU pitching coach Mike Burchette.

“He talked about the side work and what a pitching program really looks like,” says Grubbs of Burchette. “He had a really good Christian twist to everything and would really lead us spiritually.”

After a couple years, Grubbs decided to begin his coaching career while working toward a Indiana Wesleyan degree he earned in 2002 (he got a masters in Administration of Physical Education and Sport). 

He was the freshmen coach at Marion (Ind.) High School then a freshmen coach at Kokomo (Ind.) High School

Grubbs then became varsity assistant and pitching coach to head coach Steve Shugart at Madison-Grant Junior/Senior High School in Fairmount, Ind. The Argylls regularly won 20 games as season and were state-ranked in Class 2A. M-G won a Central Indiana Conference championship.

After that, Justin and wife Emily (who also went to Triton and Indiana Wesleyan), opted to move closer to home to start a family (their daughters are Eliana and Maycee). 

The couple, married since 2004, settled in Bremen, Ind., and Justin took a job as a math teacher and assistant baseball coach at Goshen (Ind.) High School. He was the varsity assistant for the Redskins (now RedHawks) for five years.

Grubbs continues to teach at Goshen and coach at Goshen College. When deciding whether to take the college job, Grubbs consulted with former GHS teacher and coach and GC coach DeVon Hoffman.

He also talked with GHS principal Barry Younghans, who makes it possible for him to teach and get to college games — sometimes the second half of a doubleheader.

“Alex is very flexible as a coach,” says Grubbs. “He’s even said there are times that I need you even more in practice than I do at the games because that’s where all of our work is put in and it’s just performance at the game.

“I’m thankful I’m around people that are really good people to work for at the high school and here at the college.”

Justin Grubbs is in his ninth year as baseball pitching coach at Goshen (Ind.) College. He is a graduate of Triton Junior/Senior High School in Bourbon, Ind., Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Ind., and Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. He teaches math at Goshen High School.

Fouts, Purdue baseball adjusting to new recruiting norms

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A buzzword during the COVID-19 pandemic is “new normal.”

For Purdue University baseball recruiting coordinator Cooper Fouts and the rest of the Boilermaker coaching staff, scouting and evaluating talent has changed during a time when recruits missed out on a 2020 high school season, others had their college campaigns cut short and traveling is discouraged.

“It’s taken a different turn,” says Fouts. “We’re really putting a emphasis on relationships.”

The NCAA recruiting calendar was changed and keeps changing.

“At first, it was we can’t recruit until April 15 and then get back on the road like normal,” says Fouts, 37. “But they kept pushing it back. That just didn’t happen.

“This is our normal right now.”

Fouts, who works for Boilers head coach Greg Goff after spending the 2019 season with Mark Wasikowski (now head coach at the University of Oregon), has been gathering as much information about players as possible.

“We look at video and honest video with some failures,” says Fouts, who also serves on a staff that includes Chris Marx, volunteer Harry Shipley, director of player development John Madia and supervisor of operations Tim Sarhage. “On our level, there’s more failure than they’e used to. They have to learn and make adjustments. Expectations are even higher.”

In many ways, coaches glean more from failure than success.

“We like to see what their body language looks like,” says Fouts. “When they’re struggling, you see a lot more truth.

“We’re cross-checking more and making more calls since we can’t see for (ourselves). We don’t get to see interactions. And we want to see the whole package. This makes you trust your gut more.”

Ninety minutes of Fouts’ morning in July 8 when spent in a FaceTime call with a player in Texas, talking about and showing them the facilities at Purdue.

There are plenty of conversations with high school and travel coaches, including the opponents of the player.

NCAA rules dictate that players do coaches and not the other way around.

“There’s a large amount of emphasis on how they communicate on the phone,” says Fouts. “I’ve never offered a kid we haven’t seen in-person. That’s a huge change.

“That virtual tour allows (recruits) to make the right decision. We do it multiple times every week.”

Fouts has been coaching since right after college graduation and has done his best to serve the interests of the man in charge. At Purdue, that’s been Wasikowski and Goff.

“It’s the preference of what those head coaches like and how they want to build a team,” says Fouts. “I’m a follower of their desires.”

With Goff, Fouts has a little more freedom with hitters and their day-to-day instruction and planning. 

Fouts has not seen players already on the Purdue roster in-person since March. The hope is that they will be reunited Aug. 24. That’s when the 2020-21 school year is scheduled to begin at Purdue.

The Boilers have players in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., Midwest Collegiate League and had hopes of placing some in the Coastal Plain League.

Prior to coming to West Lafayette, Ind., Fouts spent the second of two stints at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. He was on the Waves staff 2011 and 2012 with head coach Steve Rodriguez (now head coach at Baylor University in Waco, Texas) and 2016-18 with Rick Hirtensteiner at the helm.

“He’s my biggest mentor,” says Fouts of Rodriguez. “he was so good at giving guys the freedom to play. 

“He wasn’t a micro-manager. Players were not paralyzed by a thought process. That allowed them to be successful. He does the same thing at Baylor. He knows what his players can and can’t do. They absolutely play loose.”

Hirtensteiner was an assistant to Rodriguez during Fouts’ first tenure at Pepperdine. 

“He’s an absolute great man of faith,” says Fouts of Hirtensteiner. “He treats his player so well. He gave me a ton of freedom on the coaching and recruiting side.

“He’s just a thoughtful individual. He’s not emotional. He was never overwhelmed by a situation.”

In between his seasons at Pepperdine, Fouts was on the staff of Eric Madsen at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah (2013-15). Madsen taught him much about the mechanics of hitting and more.

“He’s a really good offensive coach and a great human being,” says Fouts of Madsen. “He allowed me to make a lot of mistakes.”

In 2010, Fouts was an assistant at the College of Southern Nevada in North Las Vegas, where Tim Chambers was the head coach and Bryce Harper earned the Golden Spikes Award as the nation’s best amateur baseball player. 

Harper graduated high school early so he could attend College of Southern Nevada and was selected No. 1 overall in the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Washington Nationals.

Fouts was 11 when he first met Chambers, a man who also coached him his first two years at Bishop Gorman High School in Summerlin, Nev., and for one year at CSN.

“(Chambers) was awesome,” says Fouts. “He’s one of the better managers of people I’ve ever been around.

“He let guys play aggressive and make mistakes.”

Fouts played his final two varsity seasons at Bishop Gorman for head coach Kenny White.

Originally committed to Auburn (Ala.) University, the righty-swinging catcher played three seasons Texas Tech University in Lubbock (2003-05), playing alongside older brother Nathan Fouts. Cooper appeared in 156 games, hitting .265 (114-of-431) with two home runs, 77 runs batted in and 76 runs for Red Raiders head coach Larry Hays.

Fouts remembers that Hays was pretty hands-off as a coach and led assistants tend to day-to-day details.

“He was a great mentor as a Christian man,” says Fouts of Hays, who concluded his Tech run in 2008. “Larry was beloved in that Lubbock community.”

Besides his brother, Fouts got to be teammates with Big 12 Conference Triple Crown winner Josh Brady, who also played at the College of Southern Nevada, and future big league pitcher Dallas Braden.

“(Braden) was one of the two best competitors I’ve ever been around in my life

(the other is Harper),” says Fouts, who still has occasional contact with the two players.

Fouts was drafted twice — the first time in the 26th round by the Oakland Athletics in 2001 — but decided a pro baseball playing career was not for him.

He picked up his diploma on a Saturday and began coaching on Brandon Gilliland’s staff at Lubbock Christian School two days later in 2006.

Fouts was born in Kokomo, Ind., in 1983. At 7, he moved with his family to Indianapolis, where he attended St. Thomas Aquinas School. 

After Cooper turned 11 in 1994, the Fouts family moved to Las Vegas and lived there through his high school days with the exception of a one-year stay in Memphis, Tenn.

Cooper and Bri Fouts are to celebrate 10 years of marriage July 24. The couple have three children — daughter Harper (who turns 8 July 29) and sons Emmit (who turns 6 on July 10), and Nash (who turns 4 on Aug. 18).

Cooper Fouts has been a Purdue University baseball assistant coach since the 2019 season. He is a native of Kokomo, Ind., and played high school and junior college baseball in Nevada and NCAA Division I baseball in Texas. (Purdue University Photo)