Scott Rolen, who was a standout at Jasper (Ind.) High School and for 17 Major League Baseball seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Toronto Blue Jays, will be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., this summer. July 23 is the big induction day. The man who signed the future Hall of Famer who was selected in the second round of the 1993 MLB First-Year Player Draft is also a Hoosier. Hobart’s Scott Trcka was an area scout with the Phillies when he secured Rolen. “I followed him all summer,” says Trcka, who saw Rolen play multiple times and became friendly with his family. “I did all the leg work. I did all the (research on) make-up and signability.” The popular theory in the scouting world was that Rolen would pursue his hoops option instead of baseball. “Indiana’s a basketball heaven,” says Trcka. “Both of his parents (Ed and Linda) were teachers. He had a scholarship for basketball at (the University of) Georgia. “(Other scouts) didn’t think he would sign. I had a handshake. It was a tough negotiation. It was a long summer. But it got done. “He was not like a $1,000 college senior. He was a high school player and you needed to spend some time on him.” It was a different environment three decades years ago. “Today they’d walk away from a guy like that or drop a ton of money on him,” says Trcka. “Compared to the player he is, I gave him nothing. I gave him fair money for the round and the place. I didn’t over do it. “It was a trust thing.” At Jasper, Rolen was a third baseman, shortstop and pitcher. “He had a fastball he could pump up to 93 (mph),” says Trcka. “He showed his arm strength then and all it did was improve. When he got up to the big leagues he had a rocket. “With his arm and his agility he could’ve played shortstop in the big leagues.” Track notes that average major league runner gets down down the line from the plate to first base in 4.3 seconds. Rolen was clocked in 4.01. “That’s flying — especially for a big man.” says Trcka of player who was 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds in the majors. “He had pretty good instincts on the bases. He’d take that extra bag. “He was a special guy.” Rolen went into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2019 and is now Director of Player Development at Indiana University. In a New York Times article by Tyler Kepner dated Jan. 24, 2023, Trcka is credited with Dick Lawlor and Marti Wolever as scouts that recommended Rolen to former Phillies scouting director Mike Arbuckle. Like so many relationships he made in 27-plus years as an MLB scout, Trcka enjoyed the one he made with Rolen’s parents. He still gets Christmas cards from them and still hears from players, families, coaches and other scouts. “It was a great game,” says Trcka. “I loved it. Even though the job did take me away from the family, I couldn’t ask for a job that I enjoyed more.” In various capacities Trcka scouted for the Phillies 1989-2001 and 2013-16, San Diego Padres 2002-05 and New York Mets 2006-12. He covered winter ball in the Dominican Republic from 1998-2001. In 2005, he was assigned four MLB teams in spring training along with 24 minor league teams during the season. In 2007, he spent two weeks covering pro baseball in Japan. “It was a good job,” says Trcka. “I enjoyed my time. I met a lot of great people. If you were to tell me I’d have access to go into major league clubhouses and things like that when I was a kid, I would probably lose my marbles and couldn’t wait to grow up. “I signed a lot of big leaguers. That was the biggest thrill.” Besides Rolen, Trcka also signed the following MLB players as an area supervisor: Steve Parris (1989, fifth round), Gary Bennett (1990, 11th), Mike Grace (1991, 10th), Tony Fiore (1992, 28th), David Doster (1993, 27th), Kevin Sefcik (1993, 33rd), Jason Boyd (1994, eighth) and Kevin Plawecki (2012, first, 35th overall selection). New Haven (Ind.) High School graduate Doster played mostly second base at Indiana State University and in the bigs and Japan. Westfield (Ind.) High School alum Plawecki was a catcher at Purdue University and played his eighth MLB season in 2022. As a crosschecker, Trcka recommended Pat Burrell, Jason Michaels, Jorge Padilla, Brett Myers, Marlon Byrd, Gavin Floyd, Khalil Greene, Tim Stauffer, Colt Morton, Dirk Hayhurst and Aaron Nola. The first time Trcka saw LaTroy Hawkins he was a lanky freshman at Gary (Ind.) West Side High School. “He was a good kid,” says Trcka. “I really liked him. He had a whip for an arm. You knew he was going to be pretty good. “He turned out to be a real gem.” Hawkins went on to pitch 21 seasons in the majors and went in the IHSBCA Hall of Fame in 2018. Trcka helped fellow scout Bill Bryk conduct tryout camps for the Pittsburgh Pirates in northwest Indiana. It was during the change toward more analytics and less traditional scouting that Trcka was let go by the Phillies. “Everything has changed now,” says Trcka. “Baseball people don’t run the game anymore. “It was once a great game, but it’s far from that anymore. Statistical information doesn’t tell what a real player is about inside.” Not that Trcka ignored the numbers. When scouting college players, he always sought out the press box and found the stat sheet. He wanted to know how many times a batter struck out or walked and how many stolen bases a player had. “Doubles were always big,” says Trcka. “Doubles can show what the future holds for you as far as home run power. “We looked at all that stuff. All scouts did that. Not just me.” What about WAR (Wins Above Replacement)? “I don’t know how to do it and I don’t want to know,” says Trcka. “It was a different time. I know you’ve got to move with the times, but when something’s not broke don’t fix it.” In recent years, Trcka has been focused on his family including grandchildren. When he happened to be watching a game on TV and saw a batter make the last out in one inning and start on second base in extra innings, he was introduced to what commonly is called the “ghost runner.” “What’s going on in this game?,” says Trcka. “They’re doing a fine job of trying to destroy the game. “It’s a sad commentary.” The son of Dick and Joan Trcka, Scott spent his first three years of high school at Hobart and his senior year at Calumet, graduating in 1976. As a Warrior, Trcka played for his father and against future big league slugger Ron Kittle, who was a senior at Gary Wirt High School. Dick Trcka spent 28 years in a variety of coaching roles at Calumet and won more than 200 games as head baseball coach. The field at what is now Calumet New Tech bears his name. Scott Trcka was Director of Player Personnel and Development for the summer collegiate wood bat Northwest Indiana Oilmen in 2019.
Lenny “Lefty” Johnston was part of the professional baseball for six decades. Born in Pontiac, Mich. on March 15, 1928, and graduated as a football, basketball and baseball standout from Arthur Hill High School (Saginaw, Mich.) and football and baseball star at Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo), Johnston was signed by the Chicago White Sox by Johnny Mostil and Doug Minor in 1952. Johnston stole 325 bases and led his league in stolen bags for six consecutive seasons (1953-58). He was The Sporting News Minor League Rookie of the Year for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox of the Western League in 1953. In 1956 — his second of 12 Triple-A seasons — Johnston led the International League with 182 hits for the Richmond Virginians. The last seven of his 15 minor league campaigns as a player was spent with the Indianapolis Indians (1960-66). The Indians won championships in 1961 (American Association), 1962 (American Association) and 1963 (International League South). Johnston was a player-coach in his last two seasons. At 35, hit .316 and finished second in batting in 1964. He smacked four home run and drove in 67 runs in 127 games. A lefty swinging and throwing outfielder, Johnston hit .304 in 76 games with the 1960 Indianapolis team managed by Johnny Hutchings and Ted Beard. The Indians were then a Philadelphia Phillies farm team. He hit .297 in 113 games for the Cot Deal-managed 1961 Indians (then a Cincinnati Reds affiliate). In 1962, Indianapolis was part of the Chicago White Sox system and the ties remained through Johnston’s career in Indy. He hit .270 with 45 runs batted in over 113 games for a ’62 team managed by Luke Appling (who went into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964). Rollie Hemsley skippered the 1963 Indians and Johnston hit .262 with four home runs and 30 RBIs in 115 games. Les Moss managed the 1964 Indians to a second place finish in the Pacific Coast League East. Johnston hit .206 in 81 games for the 1965 Indians (fourth in the PCL East). George Noga was the manager. Moss was back as manager in 1966. Johnston hit .251 in 94 games and the Tribe placed third in the PCL East. Among his other managers are Hobart, Ind., native Everett Robinson plus Don Gutteridge, Danny Murtaugh, Eddie Lopat and Rube Walker. Johnston will be enshrined in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame during the IHSBCA State Clinic Jan. 12-14 at Sheraton at Keystone Crossing in Indianapolis. The Hall of Fame and awards banquet is slated for 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 13 at the Sheraton. Other inductees will be Kelby Weybright, Drew Storen, Jeff Samardzija and the late Wayne Johnson. For questions about banquet reservations, program advertisements or events leading up to the ceremony, contact Hall of Fame chairman Jeff McKeon at 317-445-9899. Banquet tickets can be purchased at https://www.cognitoforms.com/Baseball3%20_2023IHSBCAStateClinic and can be picked up from Jeff on the night of the banquet at the registration table. Tickets must be purchased in advance. “Lefty” Johnston married for the second time in Indianapolis and had two sons — David and Danny (who is now caregiver for his 93-year-old father in Nashville, Tenn.). Johnston had three children from a previous marriage in Michigan and had three older children — Tommy, Janie and Kim. In total, he has five children, 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. According to Danny Johnston, his father “loves Florida and loved coaching there. “He also loved Bluefield, Va., where he spent part of three decades with the Bluefield Orioles coaching, mentoring and coordinating.” As a national cross-checker scout “Lefty” was responsible for Tito Landrum coming to the Orioles. Landrum hit the homer that gave Baltimore the lead in Game 4 of the 1983 ALCS and the O’s eventually made it to the World Series. “He was proud to have been a part of that,” says Danny Johnston. He resided in Indianapolis for 50 years during the winters and helped sell season tickets for the Indians and was a substitute teacher and sold insurance for Lincoln National Life. Johnston has been inducted into both Western Michigan’s Football Hall of Fame and Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2010, “Lefty” received the Herb Armstrong Award for his contributions to baseball and the organization, and he was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame. Johnston went into the Appalachian League Hall of Fame in 2020.
Ty Calloway and George Phares were on opposite sides as coaches of baseball and basketball in Indiana’s Howard County. Calloway, a 1968 graduate of Western High School in Russiaville was at his alma mater and 1965 Shelbyville Senior High School grad Phares at Taylor High School on the side side of Kokomo. Success came to both men and Phares (656-412 in seven seasons at Morristown and 31 at Taylor with an IHSAA Class 2A state championship for the Titans in 2000) was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2004. Calloway (662-310 with a 3A state title in 2012) joined his friend in the Hall in 2012 and retired after the 2013 season. Taylor’s diamond was renamed Phares Field in 2006. After retiring from the classroom, he helped out at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion on the staffs of Mark DeMichael and Chad Newhard for seven or eight years. Phares says he enjoyed his interactions with former Bethel University assistant and fellow IHSBCA Hall of Famer Dick Siler. Future major league pitcher Brandon Beachy went Northwestern High School in Howard County to IWU. Phares also volunteered at Taylor and Kokomo and could be seen in recent years helping each January with registration at the IHSBCA State Clinic in Indianapolis. He is also on Hall of Fame selection committees. As retirees, Calloway and Phares share a log cabin on Dewart Lake near Leesburg in Kosciusko County. They often spend New Year’s Eve there with wives Dallas Calloway and Martha Phares. Ty and Dallas are the parents of Wendy and Betsy. George and Martha have Jennifer, Tim and Susan. “We are the second-most famous George and Martha in the United States,” says Phares with a nod to the Washington’s. Recently, Calloway and Phares offered their views on a variety of topics related to baseball and education. Calloway was in the last eighth grade class that went through in Taylor Township prior to the completion of the high school. Ty’s two younger brothers — two and three years behind him — both went to Taylor. “My parents had to split time going to my games and their games,” says Ty, who got to compete against middle brother Mike on both the diamond and the basketball court. Mike’s class played a junior varsity schedule as freshmen then a varsity schedule as sophomores. There was one baseball game between the two schools where Ty was on second base and one of his teammates hit a deep fly to center field. “We didn’t have fences back then at Western,” says Ty. “Mike took off and I thought for sure it was over his head and I came all the way and stepped on home plate. All of a sudden, he did one of those ‘Willie Mays’ over-the-back catches. I had to retreat back. He threw (me) out at second. “I was at shortstop when we picked Mike off second base. That was an interesting game.” Ty and Mike guarded each other on the hardwood. There was one season of baseball for Ty at Ball State University in Muncie and summers with the Kokomo Highlanders. He went on to earn a bachelors and a masters degree at BSU. He applied in several places but was offered a chance to teach and coach at Western by Norm Llewellyn and took it. Calloway taught middle school Health and Physical Education. Beginning in the spring of 1974, he was JV baseball coach for four years. He was also a varsity assistant or JV boys basketball coach for about 20 years. Phares played baseball at Seymour High School as a freshman and the next three at Shelbyville. He went to Indiana State University and was cut from the team. He graduated with a degree in Mathematics and Physical Education and went to Morristown in 1969-70. “I had played (American) Legion baseball at Morristown and knew a lot of people there,” says Phares. “They hired me as a junior high baseball coach. I graduated from college on Sunday and Monday I started working. I was made head coach at the end of the first year. “Throughout my high school career I was always the head baseball coach.” Phares was also a varsity assistant in basketball at the beginning of his time at Taylor. Calloway says it was his raising with his brothers and sister that led to his philosophy as a coach. “My dad taught self-discipline and being responsible,” says Ty. “No matter whatever did give 100 percent effort and that’s what I told (our players) we’re gonna get.” At tryout time when it came down to cutting down the roster and Calloway had two players of equal ability, character would be the tiebreaker. Students and athletes on Calloway’s watch were expected to behave. “You can’t win with kids who have bad character,” says Calloway. “You’ve got to have good kids. “As much as you can you’ve got to be a good role model for those kids.” Between the lines, Calloway stressed fundamentals and saw to it that those were being taught at Russiaville Little League. Among those fundamentals was the proper throwing mechanics. “The teams that win games are the teams that play the best pitch and catch,” says Calloway. “That’s a fact.” Calloway organized practices where his player got plenty of repetitions and got better. “In high school baseball, reps is the key to winning,” says Calloway. “Sometimes I said we play too many games. We need a couple more practice in-between.” Calloway says games are where skills are showcased. Practices are where they are built. One Western player who got better even after being cut multiple times was Steve Bagby. He started as a senior then played in the outfield at Coastal Carolina University. “He was one of those kids who just kept getting better and better and better,” says Calloway of Bagby. “He matured and he worked on a skill.” Both former coaches talked about dealing with parents. “I was blessed,” says Phares. “I really didn’t have problems mount. I had parents who were unhappy. I tried to explain things to them and — for the most part — it worked out OK. “You try to be fair.” Calloway says he had few problems with parents during his lengthy career. “You went to be straight up with them,” says Calloway. “You want the administration to back you.” Phares, who later coached in the college ranks, made a point of being a straight shooter when a college coach came to evaluate of one of his players or even others in the area. “I was always honest with him,” says Phares. “High school coaches can’t lie to those college coaches. You gotta tell the truth. “Most parents would rank their kid better in their skill level than where they’re at. It’s just nature.” Calloway was the same way. He’d know an athlete’s potential and his maturity level and would share that with recruiters. “You’ve got to have the skill,” says Calloway. “And you have to have the strength and the speed. I’ve had a kid who had the skill and strength but was slower than molasses and couldn’t play at the (NCAA) Division I level.” Many parents and players don’t realize that a “full-ride” scholarship is a rare thing in college baseball with rosters of 30-plus and 13.7 scholarships at the D-I level (and less at D-II, NAIA etc.). Phares became a Brooklyn Dodgers fan in 1955 the year the team won the World Series and his home is full of Dodgers memorabilia. Through his relationship with Dodgers scout Dale McReynolds (who signed Bob Welch, Jeff Hamilton and Steve Howe), there is a photo of Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda standing with Phares and Calloway. It was the New York Yankees — who won plenty and were on the “Game of the Week” on TV with Dizzy Dean and Peewee Reese at the mic as Calloway was growing up that became his team. The coaching veterans are not fans of some of baseball’s changes reflected in Major League Baseball and moving down. “It’s changed for the worse,” says Phares. “Now the baseball game has become kind of a side show and all the antics of the players. “They all have to flip their bats, stare down and do this and do that. I just don’t like it. It’s television. That’s what they want. I can’t stand to watch the Little League World Series anymore. They’re encouraging those kids to act like (the bat-flipping big leaguers). “When they get to high school they’re got a bad attitude.” Calloway sees a lot of self-centered behavior. “The the Little League to the high school you’re starting to see kids where it’s about ‘me’ instead of ‘we.’” He sees it reflected in Kokomo shrinking at the neighborhood park level. Many are leaving for travel ball and the youth leagues have shut down leaving them to play at Championship Park. “We had a park in about every little area of town — UCT, Southside, Indian Heights, Northside,” says Calloway. “Local teams now are dwindling.” When Calloway was coaching he would often have his top players on a travel or American Legion team and then there was a focus on the others. “If I could devote time and make my 6 through 9 players better than your 6 through 9 players I’m going to beat you because baseball is consistently up and down the lineup,” says Calloway. “We would work in the off-season to develop these kids.” Phares always enjoyed going to clinics and attended about four every year. He went with a purpose. “My goal is to find one thing that we can use that will fit the Taylor Titan program that we can use to make us better,” says Phares. “I don’t think most coaches have a program. They play their games and they spend all winter going to these (showcase) camps and saying this kid throws 95 mph.” The way Phares sees it, a testament to a program is one that can do well with multi-sport athletes who have chosen not to specialize in one area. “(Taylor) didn’t have enough athletes and had to pass them around,” says Phares.
Illiana Christian was plenty successful on the baseball diamond when the high school was in Lansing, Ill. As recently as 2004 — with Dave Beezhold as head coach — the Vikings qualified for the Illinois state tournament and went 27-8. In 2018, Illiana Christian relocated from Lansing, where it was founded in 1945, to an incorporated area of Dyer, Ind. In 2020-21, it became a full Indiana High School Athletic Association member. The 2022 Vikings won the program’s first IHSAA sectional and regional titles and are one win away from the State Finals. In earning a date opposite No. 3-ranked Wapahani (24-4) in the 2A Kokomo Semistate at noon Central Time Saturday, June 11, Illiana Christian won the Whiting Sectional (Bowman Academy 19-0, Hammond Bishop Noll 3-1 and Wheeler 16-4) and Whiting Regional (Winamac 11-1 and Eastside 7-0). Alum and former Beezhold assistant Jeff VanderWoude’s first year leading the Vikings was 2019-20 — the season taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, Illiana Christian went 19-6 and lost 2-1 to Wheeler in the 2A Whiting Sectional championship game. VanderWoude sees the closeness of the players and a willingness to put others before themselves has been a formula for success. “We’ve been getting them to buy in and loving each other,” says VanderWoude. “We don’t have a ‘me’ person. “We are controlling the controllable. “They play as one really well. In the game against Eastside, we were competing one pitch at a time.” Emphasizing the mental side, VanderWoude has seen his players adjust when there is a temporary lack of focus. Illiana Christian (enrollment around 480) joined the Greater South Shore Conference (with baseball members Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Bishop Noll, Hanover Central, Lake Station Edison, River Forest, Wheeler and Whiting) in 2021. With the addition of the Vikings, the conference is broken into divisions with teams playing two games with their division and one against squads in the other division. Illiana Christian is paired with Griffith, Hammond Bishop Noll and Hanover Central. The 2022 Vikings went 8-3 in the GSSC, finishing behind Hanover Central (10-1) and tying Griffith (8-3). Through 24 games, Illiana Christian was led offensively by junior pitcher Kevin Corcoran (.468 average, four home runs, 34 runs batted in, 11 stolen bases), senior center fielder Ivan VanBeek (.421, 18 RBI, 22 SB), senior second baseman Levi Hescott (.368), senior left fielder Tyler Barker (.339, 27 RBI), the coach’s son — sophomore shortstop Isaac VanderWoude (.333, 15 RBI, 19 SB) and junior first baseman Cody DeJong (.329, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 11 SB). The bulk of the pitching has been handled by left-hander Corcoran (3-1, 2.29 earned run average, 64 strikeouts and 13 walks 39 2/3 innings), right-hander VanBeek (2-2, 1.58, 44 K’s, four walks, 31 IP) and senior lefty Austin Maslanka (3-0, 2.10, 34 K’s, 10 walks, 20 IP). Assistant coaches are Shane Zegarac, Dale Meyer, Kevin Corcoran, Caleb Jonkman, Greg Gierling and Bo Hofstra. “We are where we are because of those guys,” says VanderWoude. “They are salt of the earth people.” Zegarac pitched for Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., Eastern Kentucky University and in the Texas Rangers system plus independent ball. Corcoran is a graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind. Illiana Christian alum Meyer played at Southern Illinois University. Hofstra pitched for Illiana Christian and Purdue University. Jonkman, who has been National Wiffle@Ball Player of the Year more than once, and Gierling are also IC grads.
Others with Illiana Christian connections are grad Fletcher Bandstra at Calvin College (Grand Rapids), Carter Doorn (from IC to Lake Central to Purdue University) and former Vikings player D.J. Gladney (Chicago White Sox organization). The Vikings have on-campus diamond which is tended to by coaches and Dave Vermuelen (the father of former player Chris Vermuelen). “It’s a nice field,” says VanderWoude. “In Illinois, we used limestone. We have a fairway mower and put designs in the field. It gets constant water and treatment. “We’re taking pride in what we have.” After graduating from Illiana Christian in 1997, outfielder Jeff VanderWoude played for Cobras head coach Rod Lovett at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., and then for Tigers head coach Beauford Sanders at Campellsville (Ky.) University. VanderWoude was on the Parkland coaching staff of Dave Seifert, who went on to be an assistant then head coach at the University of Evansville. As a Philadelphia Phillies regional cross-checker, he had VanderWoude working for him for about a decade. VanderWoude, runs Perm-A-Seal — an asphalt maintenance business in Lynwood, Ill. — with father Keith. Jeff and wife Jori have four children. Besides Isaac (16), there’s Lydia (15), Mya (13) and Hayvn (9). Lydia VanderWoude played varsity softball as an Illiana Christian freshman in 2022. Mya VanderWoude is heading into the eighth grade and Havyn VanderWoude fourth grade.
Greg Oppel, who was hired as head baseball coach at Lanesville (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School in the fall of 2021, has long been part of the bat-and-ball scene in the southeast part of the state. A 1987 graduate of North Harrison High School in Ramsey, Ind., where he earned Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association honorable mention all-state and IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series status as a senior for Cougars coach Danny Smith, left-handed pitcher Oppel went on to play at the Indiana State University-Evansville (now the University of Southern Indiana) for Screaming Eagles coach Gary Redman. Rotator cuff surgery limited his college playing career to 2 1/2 years. Darren Oppel, Greg’s cousin, graduated from North Harrison in 1989 and was a first-team all-state shortstop and played in the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series. He went on to play at the University of Louisville and was a Colorado Rockies scout. As a baseball coach, Greg Oppel has been an assistant (2008) to Rick Parr and head coach (2009-11) at North Harrison (Cody Johnson was the IHSBCA North/South Series MVP in 2008) and assistant to Grenadiers head coach Ben Reel at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany (2012-15) and assistant to Lions head coach Jason Pepmeier at Salem (Ind.) High School. It was when Reel was new at IUS and Oppel was on the North Harrison Babe Ruth League board that the new formed a friendship. The idea of building an indoor hitting facility was explored and the process really took off when Oppel became North Harrison head coach. It happened through private donations and matching funds from the Harrison County Community Foundation. Reel inquired about using the hitting building for his IU Southeast team in winter months. “I said heck yeah — with one stipulation,” says Oppel. “I want your players and your staff to work our kids out with your knowledge.” When Oppel joined Reel’s staff he got even more access to his know-how. “Coach Reel is one of the top baseball minds in the country,” says Oppel. “Sitting in a session and listening to him talk and picking his brain was such a great opportunity for me and still is today.” Having traveled all over the country following daughter Kyia’s softball exploits, Oppel became head softball coach at North Harrison in her senior year (2017). A torn patellar tendon limited her season and ended her hopes of playing in college. “She’s handled adversity very well with her knee over a period of time,” says Oppel. “I think it hurt me more than it did her.” Greg Oppel and joined Kyia Oppel when the middle school special education teacher became head coach at Crawford County High School in Marengo. “We had a blast,” says Oppel of his time with his daughter and the Wolfpack, which went 8-14 in 2021. With Christopher Broughton and Jason Sturgeon leading the charge, an indoor facility push was made at Crawford County. Then came Greg Oppel’s chance to lead Lanesville Swingin’ Eagles baseball. He met four times with athletic director and former baseball head coach Zach Payne before taking the position. “I wanted to made sure it was the right thing for Lanesville and the right thing for me,” says Oppel. “It’s tight-knit community. It’s almost like a throwback to years ago. It sounds like a cliche’ but they welcomed me with open arms.” It’s a community that likes its sports and has enjoyed — and has come to expect — baseball success. Lanesville has won five sectionals, including those in 2010, 2016, 2017 and 2019. Regional and semistate titles came in 2016 and 2017. The Eagles were Class 1A state runners-up in 2016 and 1A state champions in 2017. The Harrison County school with an enrollment around 240 is a member of the Southern Athletic Conference (with Borden, Crothersville, Henryville, New Washington and South Central of Elizabeth). In 2021, the Eagles were part of an 1A sectional grouping with Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, Orleans and South Central (Elizabeth). Oppel’s assistants for 2022 include Jeff Cockerham, Tyler Cockerham and Aaron Lockman. Jeff Cockerham played at Jeffersonville High School. Tyler Cockerham played for Oppel at North Harrison then at Hanover (Ind.) College. Lockman is 2020 Lanesville graduate. A campaign to bring an indoor facility to Lanesville is now in the works. “This will be a win-win for the Lanesville community,” says Oppel. “We are fortunate to have such a backing at Lanesville. The following for baseball alone at Lanesville is astronomical. “I’m very blessed to have this opportunity.” Oppel, who is also a 29 1/2-year employee of Ford Motor Company in Louisville, where he builds the Escape and Lincoln Corsair, served 12 years on the North Harrison Babe Ruth League board. He began coaching at the 10U and 12U level. Says Oppel, “At 14U we had tremendous success because we did everything fundamentally sound with lots of drills and going things at game speed.”
When Bryan Bullington left Ball State University after his junior year as the No. 1 overall selection in the 2002 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates he had visions of anchoring a big league starting pitching rotation for a decade or more. It didn’t go quite like that, but the 6-foot-5 right-hander who had been Indiana Mr. Baseball at Madison (Ind.) Consolidated High School in 1999 did pitch as a professional until age 34 and returned to the game two years later as a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers – a position he has held for the past five years. “I’m super proud, happy and thankful that I got to play as long as a I did,” says Bullington, who made his MLB debut with Pittsburgh in 2005, pitched in 26 big league games (16 in relief) with the Pirates, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals, made several minor league stops and hurled four full seasons and part of a fifth in Japan. Starting with an 11-0 ledger, he tossed the first four with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp (38-31 from 2011-14) and the beginning of 2015 with the Orix Buffaloes. “During my playing career I did a little bit of everything and had different experiences.” Bullington had labrum surgery in 2005 and missed the 2006 season. When did not make the big club out of Royals spring training in 2010, (Kansas City drafted him in the 37th round out of high school but he opted for college) Bullington was presented with his first invitation to play in the Far East. He chose to stay in the U.S. and went to Triple-A Omaha and got into 13 contests that season with Kansas City. “We had just had twins in the offseason (with a toddler already in the house),” says Bullington, who is married to Lauren. “It felt a little overwhelming.” Now married 17 years, Bryan and Lauren Bullington reside in the Chicago suburbs with daughter Bella (15 and a high school freshman) and sons Jack and Matthew (both 12 and sixth graders). In 2011, the interest and opportunity to go to Japan was still there. Bryan did his research then headed to the Land of the Rising Sun – where he enjoyed the baseball and was able to share cultural experiences with his family. “I loved Hiroshima,” says Bullington. “I had two great interpreters. “I spoke ‘survival Japanese.’” He could order a meal or catch a cab. Bullington was away from pro baseball in 2016 then got a chance to join the Brewers scouting staff in 2017. “It’s been very educational,” says Bullington, 41. “The game has changed a ton in five years I’ve been doing it. “(Research and development) and analytics are a big part of the game. I learn something new every year.” By examining the data, a pitcher can add a pitch to his repertoire, tweak an existing one or adjust its frequency or efficiency. “We used to be hesitant to mess or tweak with what a guy did later in their career,” says Bullington. “You can put data in front of them and they can see there might be an avenue for growth or improvement.” While he has helped out in spring training and at fall instructional camp and has helped former Ball State assistant Matt Husted at Wheaton (Ill.) College, Bullington’s role with the Brewers is not as a coach – he does that with his sons – he’s an evaluator. The past thee years scouting duties have been combined with a mix of amateur and pro assignments. “My experience in Japan lets me get some international looks as well,” says Bullington, who was traveling over there a time or two each year pre-COVID-19 pandemic. After the 2021 MLB, Minor League Baseball and amateur seasons, he did go the instructional league and the Arizona Fall League — both in the Phoenix area. Right now, Bullington is assessing minor league and MLB free agents and preparing for the Rule 5 Draft, which is slated Dec. 9 – the last day of the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla. By rule, players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on their new team’s big league roster all season in 2022, otherwise they must go through waivers and be offered back to their original team. Playing for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Gary O’Neal, Bullington went 15-0 as a Madison Consolidated senior, pitching a one-hitter in the 1999 IHSAA Class 3A state championship game. In three seasons at Ball State, he earned numerous All-American honors and was Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year in 2000 and MAC Pitcher of the Year in 2001 and 2002. He set school records of career wins (29), strikeouts (357), single-season strikeouts (139 in 2002), fewest walks per nine innings (1.55 in 2002) and career hit batters (44). Bullington was with the Cardinals during Rich Maloney’s first stint as head coach. “I talk to him every couple of months,” says Bullington of Maloney. “He’s been great mentor for me and a coach.” Taking online classes in the offseason, Bullington completed his degree in Business Administration and Management in 2010. He was inducted into the Ball State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014 and MAC Hall of Fame in 2020.
Matt Kinzer has an eye for baseball talent. The former Norwell High School (Ossian, Ind.) and Purdue University athlete who played in the majors and the National Football League was living in Fort Wayne, Ind., when he became an amateur scout in 1995 with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Kinzer was responsible for assessing amateur players in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Ontario and Quebec. After five years with Tampa Bay, Kinzer spent a decade as a baseball agent for Reynolds Sports Management, whose owner and CEO is Larry Reynolds (older brother of big league second baseman Harold Reynolds). “I was his recruiting coordinator for the whole country,” says Kinzer. “We hoped these amateurs are going to make the big leagues and get paid.” Among others, Kinzer got the Upton brothers — B.J. and Justin — to commit to the company. LaTroy Hawkins, a Gary, Ind., native who pitched in 1,042 games over 21 MLB seasons, was also a Kinzer client and later went into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. At the 2010 Winter Meetings, Dan Jennings (who had been with the Devil Rays) hired Kinzer as a pro scout for the Miami Marlins. Kinzer went to minor league games and an occasional major league contest to evaluate players and file reports for potential trade opportunities. The first year he scouted the entire Midwest League out of Fort Wayne. During his five years with the Marlins, he also did international scouting in the Dominican Republic. While Kinzer was still with the Marlins, the Atlanta Braves called for permission to interview him to scout on the major league side and take on special assignments. He talked with general manager John Coppolella and accepted the deal. “That gave me a seat at the big table,” says Kinzer, who worked with top executives including president John Hart and senior advisor John Schuerholz in giving opinions and developing a preferential list of who could be traded and who was hands-off in the Braves minor league system. “It took us a couple of years to turn that club around.” Kinzer also did advanced scouting to check out possible playoff opponents for Atlanta. He had the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League and Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in the American League. Because of COVID-19 and budgetary reasons, the Braves dismissed the entire major league scouting staff toward the end of the 2020 season. Leading up to the Tokyo Olympics (which were postponed from 2020 to 2021), Kinzer selected by his peers to sit on the committee that chose Team USA. They started with a big pool and narrowed it down to the final roster. “It was hard assignment because you could only get guys not on a 40-man roster or had get permission from a club for them to play,” says Kinzer. “It was an honor to be part of the decision-making for our country.” When Kinzer joined the process, Joe Girardi was Team USA manager. When Girardi became Philadelphia Phillies manager the job was passed to Scott Brosius and it wound up with Mike Scioscia. “I got to listen to Joe Girardi on how he likes to design a team and I said to myself, ‘this is pretty cool,’” says Kinzer. “It was a very humbling experience. You put all those years into working the game of baseball and someone has recognized your ability to evaluate.” More recently, Kinzer has lent his appraisal skills as a consultant for Program 15 — a part of New Balance Future Stars baseball tournaments. He lives in Lakeland, Fla., and writes player reports on weekends. Kinzer is also a special events coordinator and fundraising director for Major League Fishing — a circuit that features the world’s top bass anglers. He is helping prepare for a charity fishing event featuring current and former major leaguers Nov. 19-21 in Guntersville, Ala. “I’ve spent three decades in the game professionally building trust with current and former guys and their second love is fishing,” says Kinzer. “I grew up on a pond and I liked fishing.” Participants have baseball and angling in common. “There’s a connection there,” says Kinzer. “They have a tight fraternity. They’re good old boys.” Kinzer played youth baseball for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Colin Lister and graduated from Norwell in 1981. As a sophomore, it was discovered how well he did in booting a football and he led Indiana high schoolers in punting as a junior and senior. He went to Purdue on a full ride in football and also played baseball. He was selected in the second round of the 1984 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Cardinals and made his MLB debut in 1989 at age 25 and went on to pitch nine games for the 1989 Cardinals and 1990 Detroit Tigers. He punted seven times in his one NFL game with the Detroit Lions with a long of 42 yards in Week 5 of 1987 against the Green Bay Packers. Kinzer, 58, has three sons who all played baseball and graduated from Homestead High School in Fort Wayne. Taylor Kinzer (33) was drafted twice as a right-handed pitcher — once at the end of his high school career in 2006 in the 34th round by the Washington Nationals and then out of Taylor University (Upland, Ind.) in the 24th round in 2009 by the Los Angeles Angels and competed three seasons in the minors. Derek Kinzer (31) was an outfielder for IHSAA Class 4A state runner Homestead in 2008, graduated in 2009 and also played at Taylor. Jordan Kinzer (29) played junior college baseball and now serves in the U.S. Navy. Matt Kinzer, a Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Famer, was head baseball coach at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne in 1993 and 1994 and a volunteer assistant coach at Taylor 2011-14 and got to work with Trojans head coach Kyle Gould and assistant and IHSBCA Hall of Famer Rick Atkinson. ‘Kyle is one of the best non-Division I coaches around,” says Kinzer. “It was an honor to share a bench with Coach A. “The game itself creates a fraternity and a bond that lasts forever.”
IHSBCA members may vote for up to four coaches and two players/contributors. Deadline for returning the ballot is Oct. 31. Inductees will be honored at the State Clinic Jan. 14-16 at Sheraton at the Crossing in Indianapolis.
IHSBCA HALL OF FAME 2022 BALLOT Coaches Steve Strayer (Active) A graduate of Prairie Heights High School, Manchester College (bachelor’s degree) and Indiana University Northwest (masters degree), Strayer has been a head coach at Boone Grove and Crown Point (current) and has a record of 641-238 with 15 conference, 14 sectional and nine regional titles. He has coached 13 IHSBCA All-Stars, 64 future college players (23 NCAA Division I). He is a six-time District Coach of the Year (1996, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2019). In 10 seasons at Boone Grove, Strayer won 223 games with seven Porter County championships. His Crown Point teams have won 418 in 19 seasons with numerous sectional regional crowns and eight Duneland Athletic Conference titles. He has been IHSBCA president and was a North All-Star coach in 2005 and 2021. Strayer teaches math at Crown Point High School. Steve and wife Jennifer live in Crown Point with daughter Charlotte.
Lea Selvey (Active) A graduate of Redkey High School, University of Evansville (bachelor’s) and Ball State University (master’s), Selvey has spent his entire career at Jay County — five years as an assistant and 32 as head coach — and is 515-343 with seven sectionals and three regionals. His teams have won five Olympic Conference titles and he was named OC Coach of the Year three time. He also has an Allen County Athletic Conference crown to his credit. Selvey was a District Coach of the Year in 2019. He has served the IHSBCA as president, a regional representative and been on numerous committees and been an All-Star assistant twice. He’s also been a Regional Coach of the Year. Selvey has coached 14 All-Stars and had numerous players go on to college baseball with two being selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and two others playing independent pro ball and overseas pro baseball. He coached the 1992 NABF Topps Player of the Year. Selvey started the junior high program at Jay County and has been active with the Summit City Sluggers travel organization for nine years. He has also been involved with cross country, boys basketball and girls basketball over the years. Lea and wife Denise have three children (Josh, Kristen and Kyle (wife Leah) and currently teaches Science at Jay County High School.
Dean Lehrman (Active) A graduate of Heritage High School and Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, Lehrman was a four-year baseball letterman in high school and pitched four years in college. He has been a head baseball coach of 42 years — nine at Woodlan and 33 at Heritage (current). His teams have won 615 with 12 Allen County Athletic Conference titles along with eight sectionals, three regionals and one semistate. There’s been three Final Four appearances and a state runner-up finish (2007). He’s an eight-time ACAC Coach of the Year. He’s also been a District Coach of the Year and twice been on the All-Star coaching staff. He also coached football for 39 years, including six as head coach (40-26). Dean and wife Janice have three children (Camryn, Derek and Ryne) and four grandchildren. Dean retired from teaching math at Heritage High School in 2020.
Gary Rogers (Active) A graduate of Merrillville High School and Huntington College, Rogers has been a head coach of 34 years — 32 at Fort Wayne Bishop Luers and two at Leo (current) with 513 wins. His Luers teams won four sectionals, one regional, one semistate and one state championship (2008). He was the State Coach of the Year in 2008 and has twice been a District Coach of the Year. He has been on numerous IHSBCA committees and is very active in the Fort Wayne baseball community. He was a volunteer assistant at Indiana Tech for many seasons, worked the Wildcat League for 33 ears and is on the board of the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association (he is an NEIBA Hall of Famer).
Mark Grove (Retired) A graduate of Bluffton High School and Ball State University, Grove won 513 games, nine sectionals, four regionals and was a semistate runner-up in 1995 at Churubusco High School. His teams won nine Northeast Corner Conference championships (four tourney titles) and two Allen County Athletic Conference crowns. Grove coached 40 players who went on to college baseball and one MLB Draft selection. He has coached 25 All-Staters, six North All-Stars and twice coached the All-Stars. He was a District Coach of the Year several times. A longtime IHSBCA member, he has served on several committees (co-chaired “Baseball Strikes Out Kancer”) and is currently helping at the state clinic registration table. He is a Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Famer and has mentored many coaches. He is a willing participant/organizer of clinics and youth baseball events.
Tim Terry (Active) A graduate of Clinton High School and Indiana State University (bachelor’s and masters), Terry has been a baseball coach for 43 years — 41 as head coach — with 620 wins and eight sectionals. His teams have won 20 or more games 10 times and he has been a conference Coach of the Year on nine occasions. He has twice been a District Coach of the Year, served as an IHSBCA All-Star coach twice and coaches several All-Staters and All-Stars. He’s been on many IHSBCA committees. Terry played football, basketball and baseball at Clinton and baseball and Indiana State before an injury sidelined him. He was a South Vermillion High School assistant in 1979 and 1981 and Turkey Run High School head coach in 1980. He became SVHS head coach in 1982. He has also coached many Little League, Pony League, Babe Ruth and travel ball teams. He’s been a varsity football coach for three years and girls basketball coach of 34. In three sports, he has 922 victories. Terry was an Industrial Arts and Physical Education teacher and has been South Vermillion athletic director for the past six years. Tim and wife Kim (an SVHS Science teacher) have four boys (T.J., 26, Carlton, 22, Cooper, 21, and Easton, 16).
Doug Greenlee (Retired) A graduate of South Putnam High School, Indiana State University (bachelor’s) and Ball State University (masters), Greenlee won 503 games in a 28-year span, including 25 at Kankakee Valley High School with three sectionals, two regionals and seven conference championships. He was the 2013 IHSBCA North All-Star head coach and coached nine All-Stars and numerous future collegiate players. His Kankakee Valley teams were ranked No. 1 on three occasions. Greenlee has served on several IHSBCA committees and been an athletic director of 16 years at four different schools. He officiated baseball for more than 25 years and worked four State Finals.
Dave Ginder (Active) A graduate of Carroll High School and Anderson University, Ginder is 400-142 in 19 seasons as Carroll head coach with seven Northeast Hoosier Conference, 10 sectional, four regional, two semistate and two state crowns (2010 and 2011). He was the State Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2011, NHC Coach of the Year in 2003, 2011 and 2013 and a District Coach of the Year in 2007, 2010 and 2001. Ginder is an active IHSBCA member, having served as an All-Star coach in 2011 and many years as a member of the 4A poll panel. He has also been involved in many local baseball camps and clinics and is member of the American Baseball Coaches Association and Northeast Indiana Baseball Association. Dave and wife Kristen reside in Fort Wayne and have three children (Langston, 22, Dresden, 20, and Jantzen, 17). Dave teaches mat at Carroll High School and Kristen is a Registered Nurse at Parkview.
Players Wallace Johnson (Retired) A graduate of Gary Roosevelt High School (1975) and Indiana State University (1979), Wallace played for legendary coach Bob Warn at ISU and was co-captain on the Sycamores’ first Missouri Valley Conference championship team and first NCAA Tournament team. Johnson led the nation in hitting (.502) that season and hit .422 for his college career. He was inducted into the ISU Hall of Fame in 1985. Drafted in 1979 by the Montreal Expos, Johnson was a Florida State League MVP and helped Denver (1981) and Indianapolis (1986) and Triple-A championships. He made his MLB debut with the Expos in 1981 and became the team’s all-time leader in pinch hits (86). For his big league career, Johnson hit .255 with five home runs and 59 runs batted in over 428 games. After his playing career, he was third base coach for the Chicago White Sox for five seasons.
Jamey Carroll (Retired) A graduate of Castle High School (1992) and the University of Evansville (1996), Carroll played for Dave Sensenbrenner in high school and Jim Brownlee in college. He was an All-American in 1996 and Caroll’s name is in the UE record book 27 times. Drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 14th round, he went on to a 12-year big league career with the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, Colorado Rockies, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals. Carroll posted a 16.6 WAR WITH 1,000 hits, 13 homers, a .272 average, 580 runs, 265 RBIs, 74 stolen bases, .349 on-base percentage and .687 OPS (on-base plus slugging). He led National League second basemen in fielding percentage in 2006 and plated Matt Hollday with a sacrifice fly in a 2007 NL Wild Card Game. Jamey and wife Kim have 11-year-old twins (Cole and Mackenzie). He works in the Pittsburgh Pirates front office.
Players/Contributors Dave Taylor (Active) A standout player at Southmont High School and Wabash College (where he was team captain), Taylor coached Little League, Babe Ruth, high school, AAU and American Legion ball. During an AAU coaching stint in Florida he realized the level of travel baseball and how Indiana was underrepresented in this arena. He formed the Indiana Bulls with the vision of providing Indiana high school players with the opportunity to pursue their college and MLB dreams. In 1992, the Bulls sponsored two games and Taylor coached the 18U squad with future big leaguers Scott Rolen and Todd Dunwoody. He coached the Bulls four more seasons, served as president for 10 and officer for 20 and has been director since 1992. More than 170 Bulls players have been drafted (12 in the first round) and over 300 have received NCAA Division I scholarships. The organization has 22 national titles and a professional staff that works 12 months a year. There are currently 25 teams ages 8U to 17U. Several are coached by former professionals who played for the Bulls. Taylor resides in Brownsburg and is a leading insurance defense trail attorney, He has served 20 years as a certified Major League Baseball Players Association agent and represented more than 100 pro players. He continues to represent former players in various legal matters.
Bryan Bullington (Retired) A graduate of Madison Consolidated High School, Bullington was a two-sport athlete (basketball and baseball). As a pitcher, he was 6-3 with 74 strikeouts as a sophomore in 1997, 10-1 with 1.69 earned run average and 65 strikeouts as a junior in 1998 and 15-0 with 1.49 ERA and 127 strikeouts as a senior in 1999. He threw a one-hitter in helping Madison win a state championship in 1999 and was named Indiana Mr. Baseball by Hoosier Diamond. He was MVP of the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series and selected in the 37th round of the MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals. Bullington opted to attend Ball State University. In three seasons he was 29-11. He was Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2001 and 2002. When he left BSU, he held school records for single-season wins (11), career wins (29), single-season strikeouts (139) and career strikeout (357) and still holds MAC single-season and career strikeout marks. He was named to the BSU Hall of Fame in 2014. Bullington, a 2001 U.S. National Team pitcher in 2001, was the No. 1 overall draft selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2002. He’s just one of two Indiana players taken with the top pick. He logged 12 pro seasons (missing 2006 because of a torn labrum) with a 61-38 record, 3.68 ERA and 602 strikeouts in seven minor league campaigns. In five seasons with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, he was 46-48 with a 3.25 ERA and 550 strikeouts. He pitched in 49 MLB games with the Pirates, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays and Royals. Bullington lives south of Chicago with his wife and three children and is a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers.
A.J. Reed (Retired) A 2011 graduate of Terre Haute South Vigo High School, where he played for Kyle Kraemer, Reed was a three-time all-Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference honoree, first-team All-State (2010 and 2011) and Indiana High School Player of the Year (2011). He was also an IHSBCA South All-Star and the series MVP. He is listed in the IHSBCA record for walks in a season (first) and home runs in a season (sixth). Reed played three seasons at the University of Kentucky (2012-14). After his junior year, he earned the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Golden Spikes Award (for the nation’s top amateur player), Dick Howser Trophy and Player of the Year honors from ABCA and Baseball America as well as the John Olerud Trophy and several first-team All-America mentions and Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year. In 2012, he was on several first-team Freshman All-America lists. The Houston Astros selected Reed in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft and he was an All-Star in Minor League Baseball in 2015, 2017 and 2018. He was a two-time recipient of the Joe Bauman Award for leading MiLB in homers and was Rookie of the Year and MVP at Lancaster of the California League in 2015. Reed retired from baseball in May 2020 and resides in Riley with Shelby and their two dogs. He plans to return to college in January to finish his bachelor’s degree.
All the hats that Sherard Clinkscales has donned thus far — many of the baseball variety — have helped him to his current role as athletic director at Indiana State University. The former baseball and basketball player at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis and Purdue University went on to play and scout in professional baseball and coach in the college ranks before going into athletic administration. He was hired by then-ISU president Dr. Daniel Bradley to lead the Sycamores in February 2016 and now serves for current president Deborah J. Curtis. Missouri Valley Conference member Indiana State fields baseball, basketball, cross country, football and track and field teams for men plus basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, track and field and volleyball teams for women. Two weeks ago Clinkscales, 51, was named to the NCAA Baseball Committee. As the 2022 Division I season gets closer to the postseason, the committee will meet to discuss the teams that are trending up or down and then determine the top seeds. Committee members will become regional and super regional directors and serve as team administrators at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. “We’ll make sure their experience is top notch,” says Clinkscales. In 2021, Indiana State went 31-21 and played in the Nashville Regional. It was the eighth season for ISU alum Mitch Hannahs as Sycamores head coach. While they never competed against one another, Clinkscale’s relationship with Hannahs goes way back. “I know Mitch well,” says Clinkscales. “He’s a good man that I respect immensely. He’s one of the best coaches in the country.” Clinkscales says Hannahs’ success stems from his understanding of players and an intuitiveness as a tactician. “He has a knack for getting the best out of players and knows when to push them and when not to,” says Clinkscales. “He’s an excellent recruiter and finds guys that fit his system. “He genuinely cares about his young men. He’s authentic. You always know where you stand with Mitch.” While Indiana State is a northern school and — in football terms — is not in a power five conference, Sycamores baseball has long been competitive on a national level. “That starts with Coach (Bob) Warn,” says Clinkscales of the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer whose name is on the ISU baseball field. “I grew up in the ‘80s and Indiana State was the best program in the state of Indiana. “Mitch was a part of that and he has taken that even further. Indiana State is just a wonderful institution. We get kids that love the game of baseball, love to play it and love to learn it.” Clinkscales says generations of parents have come to understand the toughness that it takes to play in Terre Haute. “They’re more than happy to send their kids to play for a man like Mitch,” says Clinkscales. “They know what they’re getting.” A standout basketball player for Mike Miller, Clinkscales began getting noticed at the college level for his baseball skills with Brebeuf’s summer team. “I was always a good athlete,” says Clinkscales, a 1989 Brebeuf graduate. “I played baseball because it was fun.” The baseball Braves were coached by Kevin Stephenson. “Coach was outstanding,” says Clinkscales of Stephenson. “He was a really good guy who stuck with me.” At Purdue, Clinkscales played one season (1989-90) as a walk-on guard for Boilermakers head basketball coach Gene Keady and three springs for head baseball coach Dave Alexander (1990-92). “(Keady and Alexander) stuck by me when I struggled,” says Clinkscales. “I owe everything to where I am today to Dave Alexander. Dave took a chance on me. “He was tough, authentic and honest. Coach definitely cared about me and got the most out of me.” The relationship continued a few years after his playing days when Clinkscales and Alexander were scouts in the same Midwest territories. Right-handed pitcher Clinkscales was a “sandwich” round pick of the Kansas City Royals in the 1992 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft (31st overall selection) and played for the 1992 Eugene (Ore.) Emeralds, 1993 and 1994 Rockford (Ill.) Royals and 1994 Gulf Coast (Fla.) Royals. What did Clinkscales appreciate most about being a player? “The camaraderie and going to the ball park to spend time with buddies,” says Clinkscales. “Baseball is such a team sport. You’re getting to know guys (from diverse backgrounds).” After being released by the Royals, Clinkscales went to extended spring training with the Chicago Cubs in 1995 then decided to pursue scouting and other ventures. Clinkscales was an area scouting supervisor of the Atlanta Braves 1997-99, assistant director of scouting for the Tampa Bay Rays 1999-2001 then a professional and amateur scout for the Braves 2001-06. He was also founder and president of Indianapolis-based AfterSport Group, a consulting firm for high school, college and professional athletic communities. “I absolutely loved it,” says Clinkscales of scouting. “It was one of the thrills of my life.” He relished identifying potential big leaguers through observation. Baseball was not so analytics and stats-driven at that time. “I was able to get to know the player,” says Clinkscales. “Make-up is everything. You have to be a tough son of a gun to play Major League Baseball. Only the strong survive. “It comes down to toughness, luck, consistency and being in the right place at the right time.” Then came the opportunity be pitching coach for head coach Dave Schrage at the University of Notre Dame for three seasons (2007-09). “I’m grateful for the chance he took on a guy who’d never coached before,” says Clinkscales of Schrage, now head coach at Butler University in Indianapolis. “He saw the positive things. He knows the game inside and out.” Clinkscales learned how difficult coaching can be. “It’s hard,” says Clinkscales. “You have to really love coaching. It all starts with leadership. You have to work together as a team and assistants have to do their jobs well. “It takes a special person to be a coach.” Clinkscales equates coach with teacher. “To get the most out of a young man that doesn’t know how much he has is a gift,” says Clinkscales, who has gotten to interview and hire many coaches in his AD role. Clinkscales was Assistant Director of Championships for the NCAA in Indianapolis 2009-11 and Senior Associate Athletic Director at North Carolina State University 2011-16 — serving on the staff of Wolfpack AD Debbie Yow. A holder of a History degree from Purdue in 1994, Clinkscales completed a masters in Sports Management from North Carolina State in 2016. The fall semester at ISU begins Aug. 18 and young people are now back on the campus. “I enjoy the student-athletes,” says Clinkscales. “It’s the purity that I really enjoy. They are students first and achieving in the classroom and on the field. “You build relationships with students and coaches. They get kids to execute and learn how to deal with the losses. I’m working with a staff that loves doing what I’m doing. They work hard and pick each other up. “I thank God I have the opportunity to be an athletic director.” Clinkscales has two children — North Carolina Wesleyan University graduate Alex Clinkscales and Carnegie Mellon University graduate Tara Clinkscales. Sherard and second wife Monica reside in Terre Haute.
Three years after graduating from Carroll High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., Hayden Jones is bigger and stronger and more mature. Jones, who signed last week as a free agent with the Cincinnati Reds out of Illinois State University, says his biggest growth since his prep days has come on the mental side. That’s why he wanted to go to college first instead of pursuing his pro career right away. “I put the dollar amount so high no one was going to sign me (out of high school),” says Jones, who turned 21 on April 27. “I’ve learned to accept failure when it comes, knowing its not going to be the end of the world.” Hayden, whose father Ken Jones was drafted as a catcher by the San Diego Padres in the 33rd round of the 1995 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and is now a Purdue Fort Wayne assistant coach and grandfather Bill Jones (who died in November 2015) was a founding member and longtime executive director of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association and selected as an IHSBCA Hall of Famer in 1982, played for Dave Ginder at Carroll. The lefty swinger and earned four letters while garnering IHSBCA all-state honors three times and being selected as MVP of the 2018 IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series. Hayden’s uncle, Brad Jones, lettered in baseball at Ball State University. His son, Tyler Jones, played at the University of Dayton in 2021. Cousin Chris Menzie was a baseball letterwinner at Huntington (Ind.) University. Jennifer Jones is Hayden’s mother. Hayden Jones spent his freshmen season at Mississippi State University in 2019, appearing in 27 games (14 starts) and hitting .224 (11-of-49) with one home run, four doubles, five runs batted in, five runs scored and a .636 OPS (.269 on-base percentage plus .367 slugging average). His fielding percentage with the Chris Lemonis-coached Bulldogs was .971 with 64 putouts, three assists and two errors. Because of NCAA Division I transfer rules, he had to sit out the 2020 season. In 2021 at Illinois State, he played in 38 games (31 starts) and hit .230 (28-of-122) with five homers, two triples, six doubles, 28 RBIs and 15 runs. His OPS was .730 (.296/.434). He also fielded at a .990 clip with 182 putouts, 21 assists and two errors. “I loved Mississippi State,” says Jones. “My girlfriend (Savannah Shinn) still lives down there. It just wasn’t a fit (baseball-wise).” At ISU, Jones worked with Redbirds head coach and former big league catcher Steve Holm. Jones’ mechanics were changed back to where he had been while working with his father in high school. “It all clicked from there,” says Jones. “I was growing and maturing and understanding the game at a faster pace.” To Jones, blocking, receiving and controlling the opponents’ running game are important. But overall baseball knowledge is a major key to catching. “My dad and grandpa gave me that big piece,” says Jones. “You need that support staff. Now they can let go and let the Reds do the magic. I text my dad every single night. He’s learning from me now.” Playing 18 games this summer in the new MLB Draft League with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Niles, Ohio), Jones hit .237 (9-of-38) with one homer, one double, seven RBIs, six runs and .725 OPS (.383/.342). He learned from manager Coco Crisp and coach Ron Mahay — both former big leaguers. While he still has years of eligibility left, Jones decided now was the time to move forward as a baseball player. “I was ready,” says Jones, who was draft eligible three years out of high school. “I wanted to get my career going and get my foot in the door.” Jones’ name was not called during the 20-round 2021 MLB Draft. The phone did ring five minutes after its conclusion with his agent telling him that Reds senior director of player personnel Jeff Graupe wanted the catcher. In short order, he was traveling to Goodyear, Ariz., to take a physical and sign his contract with scouting supervisor Andy Stack. “It was not the money I was expecting, but you don’t make your money until you get to the big leagues,” says Jones, who has began training. He and other free agents and draftees will see if the Reds assign them to the Arizona League, send them out to an affiliate (Low Class-A Daytona, Fla., Tortugas, High Class-A Dayton, Ohio, Dragons, Double-A Chattanooga, Tenn., Lookouts, Triple-A Louisville, Ky., Bats) or just keep working at camp. “Nobody knows what to expect,” says Jones. “It’s where they need help in the organization.” Jones spent the summer of 2020 with the Brent McNeil-coached Turf Monsters in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Among those running the CSL were Phil Wade and Blake Hibler, who coached Jones on Team Indiana in the Fall of 2016 and 2017. Outside the all-star series, Jones was at Mississippi State in the summer of 2018. He was the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Newport (R.I.) Gulls in 2019. Jones was pursuing a Recreation and Park Administration at Illinois State. He says he could complete it in another year.