Tag Archives: Sean Laird

Shelbyville alum Lux producing for Duke Blue Devils

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

Damon Lux has made his way to everyday player in his senior season at Duke University in Durham, N.C.
A 2018 graduate of Shelbyville (Ind.) High School, Lux has been starting for the Blue Devils baseball team in center field and batting anywhere from No. 4 to No. 6 in the batting order through the first eight games of the 2022 season.
Heading into a March 4-6 home series against Bucknell, Lux has driven in seven runs in 30 at-bats with five coming in a Feb. 19 game against Virginia Military Institute (the righty swinger went 2-of-3 with three-run home run).
“I like that I get a lot of chances to score some guys,” says Lux of hitting in the middle of the order for the Atlantic Coast Conference squad. “I consider myself to be an RBI hitter.”
Lux, a 6-foot-1, 200-pounder, finds himself really bearing down in those situations.
“It’s made me focus to be a much tougher out and putting the ball in play whenever there’s guys in scoring position,” says Lux. “It’s having great plate discipline, not swinging on pitches out of the zone and fouling off pitches.
“I still have a lot of work to do.”
Coming into this season, Lux had played in 42 games with his lone start coming as a designated hitter in a 2021 game against Liberty.
Lux was a center fielder for much of his time in high school and travel ball. He prefers the middle of the outfield to the corners.
“I like playing center,” says Lux. “I have a lot of room to roam and move. It makes it easier to get good reads on balls. (In in left field or right field) you have to worry about the wall.
“Some of the farthest throws on the baseball field (come from center field). I’d like to think I have a pretty solid arm.”
Lux has spent his whole Duke career with head coach Chris Pollard, associate head coach Josh Jordan and assistant/hitting coach Jason Stein.
“I really enjoy playing for Coach Pollard,” says Lux. “We’ve developed a really good relationship the last four years. We can trust each other. We can lay it out on the table. We can talk about anything.
“Coach Jordan and I have built a relationship over the last four years as well. He was tough starting out. When I was a freshman, he picked on me and gave me some tougher skin.
“I like how Coach Stein is kind of a players’ coach. He lets players have the freedom to personalize their swings and approach at the plate. He doesn’t micro-manage.”
Lux spent the past three summer in collegiate wood bat leagues. He was with the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Growlers of the Northwoods League in 2021, the Local Legends of the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., in 2020 and the Bismarck (N.D.) Larks of the Northwoods League in 2019.
Duke has been feeding players to the Growlers, including Lux’s roommate Jake Topolski.
“I enjoyed (Kalamazoo) Coach (Cody) Piechocki,” says Lux. “He knows a lot about the game.”
Lux is a Sociology major who is also working toward a certificate in Markets and Management Studies and is due to graduate from Duke in May.
“What I enjoy most about Sociology is the broadness of topics we discuss in class — from from how we interact in society to the medical field to anything in-between,” says Lux. “It’s to be determined if I will go for a fifth year. I would definitely love the opportunity (to play pro ball).”
Unless that chance comes this summer, Lux expects to pursue an internship while preparing for “the real world.”
Lux came into the world in Indianapolis and grew up in Shelbyville with a brief move to Illinois and back. He played in the Shelby County Babe Ruth League then travel ball with the Indiana Bandits, Indiana Travelers and then the Indiana Bulls from 14U to 17U. His 17U head coach was Sean Laird.
“He was extremely energetic and passionate about the game,” says Lux of Laird.
Lux was a four-year varsity player at Shelbyville High. Scott Hughes led the Golden Bears his first three years and Royce Carlton was head coach his senior year.
Hughes was Lux’s Biology teacher in eighth grade.
“He’s an overall great guy and easy person to talk to,” says Lux of Hughes. “He’s a mentor who helped me with anything I needed.
“Coach Carlton was very passionate about the team and winning, which I admired. I loved his energy.”
On the football field — in a program led by Patrick Parks — Lux was a wide receiver for three seasons then a running back as a senior. Combined receiving and rushing, he had more than 4,000 yards 2014 to 2017.
“(Parks) was very knowledgeable about the game of football and how to make guys stronger and better athletes,” says Lux. “He was a game. He knew what he was doing.
“He helped me hit the ground running when I got into high school and started playing football. I’ll be grateful for that the rest of my life.”
Lux played basketball as a freshman and sophomore then decided to focus more time on developing in baseball.
Damon (22) is the middle child of Jared and Leigh Lux between sisters Anastasia (24) and Alex (19).

Damon Lux homers for Kalamazoo (Mich.) Growlers.
Damon Lux (Duke University Photo)
Damon Lux (Duke University Photo)
Damon Lux (Duke University Photo)
Damon Lux (Duke University Photo)
Damon Lux (Duke University Photo)
Damon Lux (Duke University Photo)
Damon Lux (Duke University Photo)

Columbus North alum Maddox soaking up diamond knowledge at Iowa Western Community College

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

Parker Maddox is soaking up baseball knowledge and life lessons as he heads into his third collegiate season.
A right-handed pitcher and 2019 Columbus (Ind.) North High School graduate, Maddox spent 2020 at NCAA Division I Ohio University and 2021 at Iowa Western Community College (Council Bluffs, Iowa) and is back with the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I program in 2021-22.
Practice began Aug. 16 and the Marc Rardin-coached Reviers have worked out each day since that.
“I’ve been able to take it all in and gain knowledge,” says Maddox, 20. “Junior college has prepared me for whatever happens next. Coach Rardin is preparing us for life. He wants us to be respectable young men and be ready for the real world.
“He’s definitely helped me mature since I’ve gotten here.”
Maddox admits he was “not doing well at the academic side” while at Ohio while playing for then-Bobcats head coach Rob Smith.
“Things were moving too fast,” says Maddox, who went to Athens, Ohio, soon after the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South Series to take a summer class and to hit the weight room. “I wasn’t focused. I was immature, honestly.
“COVID gave me a re-start.”
He made the decision to transfer to Iowa Western, where he joined a JUCO powerhouse. The Reivers went 50-10 in the 2021 and saw the season end in the NJCAA Region XI Championship Series.
Maddox, a 6-foot, 195-pounder, made four mound appearances (one start) with a 3.38 earned run average. In 5 1/3 innings, he produced two strikeouts and four walks.
An IHSBCA honorable mention Class 4A all-stater in 2019 for Bull Dogs coach Ben McDaniel, Maddox identifies three qualities that define him as a ballplayer — Baseball I.Q., strength and athleticism.
The first part often manifests itself in pitch sequencing.
“I’ve learned how to throw to batters in certain counts and about hitters’ tendencies,” says Maddox. “I’m abel to watch the game and see the little things that hitters do and where to go (on defense) when the ball is in play.”
When coming in from the bullpen, Maddox will use what he’s learned by observing how other pitchers on his team attacked the opposing lineup.
“You can use what your teammate did as a blue print,” says Maddox. “If (the hitters) was late on an inside fastball, why throw a breaking ball and put them on-time?”
In the weight room, Maddox has gained muscle and the mastery of certain moves like the barbell split squat, sumo deadlift (replicating the landing position for pitchers), kettle bell press (for shoulder stability) and Swiss bar bench press (with hands closer and tighter to the body to relieve shoulder stress) that he has been able to teach to other players. He did that while serving as an intern this past summer at PRP Baseball at Finch Creek Fieldhouse in Noblesville, Ind. He also trained there in the summer of 2020 and played for PRP founder Greg Vogt during his travel ball days.
“They know what they’re talking about (at PRP),” says Maddox, who commuted each weekday between Columbus and Noblesville. “I gained a lot of knowledge. I got to help coach in the weight room. The internship helped me. It was worth the drive.”
The previous summer, pro players were the interns.
“I learned from Tristen Polley on pitch sequencing side,” says Maddox of the former Brownsburg High School and Indiana State University left-hander now in the Texas Rangers organization.
Maddox, who played right field, first base and designated hitter when not pitching in high school, says his athleticism helps him field his position on the mound.
Maddox throws three pitches from a mid-three-quarter arm slot — four-seam fastball, slider and change-up.
His four-seamer has sat at 88 to 90 mph. His change-up is thrown with a two-seam grip taught to him by Iowa Western pitching coach Dillon Napoleon.
“My fingers are shaped like a box around the ball,” says Maddox. “It has a sinker action if you throw it right. You let the grip do the work. It will change speeds for you.”
Maddox was born in Columbus and moved to Louisville when he was very young. He then lived in Madison, Ind., moving to Columbus right before his freshmen year of high school. He played his first organized baseball at Walter R. Rucker Sports Complex in Madison. He played for the Indiana Bulls from 11U to 17U. His father — Jason Maddox — was his head coach for two seasons. Besides Vogt, he was also on Bulls teams led by Mike Helton, Dan Held and Sean Laird. In the fall of his senior year, he was with Team Indiana, coached by Phil Wade and Blake Hibler.
Jason and Lisa Maddox have two children. Besides Parker (who turns 21 in February), there’s Paige Maddox (17). She is a senior swimmer at Columbus North.

Parker Maddox (Iowa Western Community College Photo)
Parker Maddox.
Parker Maddox.

Parker Maddox.

Former Castle, Virginia righty Messinger excited for opportunity in Yankees system

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

Three years of showing what he can do pitching in the power-packed Atlantic Coast Conference, University of Virginia right-hander Zach Messinger was selected in the 13th round of the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the New York Yankees.
“I’m extremely excited and honored to play for a team like the New York Yankees,” says Messinger, 21. “They have 27 World Series championships for a reason.”
A 2018 graduate of Castle High School in Newburgh, Ind., the 6-foot-6, 225-pound Messinger was part of a Virginia program that won 82 of 137 games during his time in Charlottesville and made it to the 2021 College World Series.
Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor, who was the pitching coach at Notre Dame for nine seasons (1995-93) under Irish head coach Paul Mainieri, has led the Cavaliers to five CWS appearances with a national title in 2015.
The 2021 season was Drew Dickinson’s second as Virginia pitching coach.
“He’s already done a phenomenal job,” says Messinger of Dickinson. “He’s one of the best college pitching coaches in the country.
“Statistically, we’re one of the best pitching staffs in the ACC because of it.”
UVA ranked in the top three in the conference in several categories in 2021, including wins, earned run average, opposing batting average, strikeouts and innings pitched.
Assistants Kevin McMullan and Matt Kirby have also helped get the most out of the Cavaliers.
“We put full trust in the coaches for their game-by-game and series-by-series preparation,” says Messinger.
In his three collegiate campaigns, Messinger made 51 mound appearances (11 starts) and was 5-3 with a 4.42 ERA. He racked up 107 strikeouts with 47 walks in 99 2/3 innings.
In 2021, he got into 28 games (24 as a reliever) and was 3-2 with a 4.89 ERA. He fanned 64 and walked 21 in 57 innings.
Does Messinger consider himself a starter or reliever?
“I can be put out there no matter what,” says Messinger. “I have the mentality, endurance and pitchability to be a starter.
“I also also have the capability to come out of the pen in high-stress situations. I can come on with short rest and deliver for the team. It comes down to where the organization thinks is the best fit for me.”
Signed on July 22, Messinger is now at the Yankees training headquarters in Tampa, Fla., getting to know personnel and the way the system works and expects to be there into the fall.
“The Yankees don’t tend to send new draft guys off to a (minor league) team,” says Messinger. “They like to have guys in-house throwing in front of coaches.
“I want to find a good base strength-wise and be where the coaches want me to be by spring training.”
The Yankees’ top four affiliates are the Low Class-A Tampa (Fla.) Tarpons, High Class-A Hudson Valley (N.Y.) Renegades, Double-A Somerset (N.J.) Patriots and Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre (Pa.) Railriders.
Messinger employs four pitches from a high three-quarter overhand arm slot — four-seam fastball, slider, curveball and change-up.
The four-seamer sat at 93 to 95 mph and touched 97 while Messenger was at Virginia.
“The slider has more horizontal break and plays well off the fastball with the same release point,” says Messinger. “It’s late-breaking when I throw it correctly. It has become a pretty good ‘out’ pitch for me.”
Messinger calls his “12-to-6” curve “Ol’ Reliable.”
“I’ve had it since I was 15 years old,” says Messinger. “I’ve used the same grip ever since I was a kid.”
He uses a “circle” change.
Born in Evansville, Ind., Messinger moved into the Castle district while in elementary school. His family resided in Chandler, Ind., until his mother accepted a job offer and they moved to Richmond, Va., at the end of Zach’s senior year.
Dennis and Lisa Messinger have four sons — Zach and 17-year-old triplets Eli, Lucas and Tyler.
Dennis Messinger is a job site supervisor for Shurm Homes. Lisa Messinger is director of environmental sciences at Dominion Energy. He played basketball at Olney (Ill.) Central College. She was a volleyball player at the University of Evansville.
Heading into their junior year of high school, all three triplets are athletes — Eli and Lucas in basketball and baseball and Tyler in track.
Zach Messinger got his organized baseball start at what is now Evansville East Youth Baseball, but played at what is now Newburgh Junior Baseball from 8U to 11U.
Dennis Messinger coached Zach and the Ohio Valley Vipers for his son’s 12U and 13U summers.
At 14U and 15U, Zach was with the Cory Luebbheusen-coached Jasper J-Cards.
He spent two seasons with the Indiana Bulls (Dan Held at 16U and Sean Laird at 17U).
Curt Welch was Messinger’s coach for four varsity seasons at Castle.
“That man taught me how to be a man while on the baseball field,” says Messinger. “Behind my father Curt Welch is the second-most influential man in my life. He was tough on me. He saw the potential that I had. It was going to take hard work and focus.”
Messinger says Welch taught him how to treat the game and the opposition with respect and how to carry himself on and off the field.
“He taught me more than how to hit a baseball or how to pitch,” says Messinger, who played third base when not on the mound. “What stands out is the stuff that was outside the lines.”
After going 7-1 with a 1.66 ERA, Messenger was the 2018 Courier & Press All-Metro Player of the Year (he was first-team All-Metro three times) and was named to the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series and was a Prep Baseball Report Indiana first-team All-State selection.
Also a three-letterwinner in basketball, he was Castle’s 2018 Lonnie Fisher Male Athlete of the Year Award winner and graduated with a 3.97 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale and was a four-time Scholastic “C” Academic Letter recipient.
His major at Virginia is Media Studies. He plans to complete that in the near future.
“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to play professional baseball,” says Messinger. “Academics has always important to me and my family.”
In the summer of 2018, Messinger went to Virginia early to take summer classes and to train. He played for the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Keene (N.H.) Swamp Bats in 2019, but did not play in the summers of 2020 or 2021.

Zach Messinger (University of Virginia Photo)
Zach Messinger (University of Virginia Photo)
Zach Messinger (University of Virginia Photo)
Zach Messinger was drafted and signed by the New York Yankees.

Michigan middle infielder Bertram spending summer with Lafayette Aviators

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

Riley Bertram is spending the last summer before his final college baseball season in the same town where he began playing the game as a boy.
The 21-year-old switch-hitter has been leading off and playing shortstop for the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators at new Loeb Stadium.
Through 17 games for head coach/manager Michael Keeran’s Aviators, Bertram was hitting .273 (15-of-55) with two doubles, eight runs batted in, 12 runs and four stolen bases.
Bertram, a 2018 Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School graduate who has played three seasons (2019-21) at the University of Michigan (he started 31 of the 37 games in which he played in 2021 at second base), was born in Noblesville, Ind., and introduced to the game while father Vince Bertram was the principal at Lafayette Jefferson High School.
“I’m a middle infielder,” says Riley. “I play both second base and shortstop — whatever position the team I’m on needs.”
A year ago, Bertram was with the Josh Galvan-coached Tropics in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
Riley is the youngest of Project Lead The Way president and CEO Vince and Western Governors University advisor Jill Bertram’s four boys, behind Josh, Ryan and Drew.
Josh Betram played basketball and baseball at Lafayette Jeff.
Ryan Bertram played three baseball seasons at Evansville (Ind.) Harrison High School and one at Zionsville Community. He was part of the University of Southern Indiana’s NCAA Division II national championship team in 2014 and later an assistant coach at Southern Illinois University and director of operations at Campbell University in Buis Creek, N.C.
Drew Bertram played at Purdue and was a manager for the Boilermakers when Mark Wasikowski was head coach. Drew is a Purdue graduate and is going to graduate school at the West Lafayette school.
It was in the back yard with his brothers that Riley first experimented with switch-hitting. He has been doing it in games since about 13.
At Michigan, Bertram has played in 70 games (49 as a starter) and is hitting .236 (43-of-182) with 14 doubles, 26 RBIs, 30 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. On defense, he has 95 putouts, 136 assists, five errors and a .979 fielding percentage. He led the team in stolen bases in 2021, swiping eight in nine attempts.
Bertram has played three seasons for Wolverines head coach Erik Bakich and assistant Nick Schnabel. Pitching coach Steve Merriman and volunteer coach Brandon Inge joined the staff for the 2021 slate.
“I’m very fortunate to have this coaching staff,” says Bertram. “They know what they’re talking about.
“Coach Bakich is awesome to play for. He is trying to find the best for you. He knows everything about your family. He has your back. He’s someone you could reach out if you need to get something off your chest. He does a good job of building a culture.”
Schnabel works with Michigan infielders, including Bertram.
“He knows the game at a higher level than a lot of people,” says Bertram of Schnabel.
Merriman has made a point of bonding with all UM players and not just pitchers.
“At the college level you need to have at least a baseline relationship with all players if you want to have a culture,” says Bertram. “Everytime Coach Inge talks you have to listen because whatever he’s going to say is going to beneficial to your performance.
“He keeps things loose. He’s bought into the culture Coach Bakich and Coach Schnabel have built.”
Bertram is on pace toward a Communication and Media degree from Michigan in the spring of 2022. He was named Academic All-Big Ten in 2021.
Riley played Little League baseball in Evansville, Ind., when his father served as superintendent of schools. After the family moved to Zionsville, he played for Zionsville Baseball Club and was with the Indiana Bulls travel organization from 15U to 18U, playing for teams with Dan Held, Sean Laird, Jered Moore and Jeremy Honaker as coaches.
Bertram played four seasons for Moore at Zionsville Community and was part of IHSAA Class 4A sectional champions in 2016, 2017 and 2018, regional winners in 2016 and 2017, a semistte title-taker in 2016 and state runner-up in 2016.
In 2018, Bertram was an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Honorable Mention All-State selection and IHSBCA North-South All-Star as a third baseman as well as a Rawlings-Perfect Game Honorable Mention All-American.
“I’ve always been close with Coach Moore and his family,” says Bertram. “Jered was not only was my coach, but I’ve reached out to him for many things.
Last week I texted him about hitting facilities in (the Lafayette) area and he hooked me up.
“It’s a really strong relationship.”

Riley Bertram (University of Michigan Photo)
Riley Bertram (University of Michigan Photo)
Riley Bertram (University of Michigan Photo)
Riley Bertram (University of Michigan Photo)

Indiana University southpaw Sommer goes drafted by Chicago White Sox

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

Tommy Sommer knows the value of speed and pitch movement.
But the 10th-round selection in the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago White Sox also sees the value in poise under pressure.
Now 22. Sommer has been doing it since he was young.
“I have really good feel for the game and I’ve always been good at managing situations,” says Sommer, who pitched four seasons (2018-21) at Indiana University. “All those things come naturally to me.
“Velocity and off-speed pitches are important, but handling emotions is taken for granted,” says Somer. “All of that stuff is an asset to me.
“My dad is a big inspiration. He was a pro athlete. I’ve been in locker rooms since 3 and 4 years old.”
Tommy was in some high-pressure moments during his travel ball days with the Indiana Bulls and saw his father — former soccer goalkeeper Juergen Sommer — on some big stages.
The elder Juergen, who shined at Culver Military Academy and IU, earned 10 caps on the U.S. National Team, and was he first American goalie to play in the FA Premier League.
Juergen was playing for Major League Soccer’s Columbus (Ohio) Crew when oldest son Tommy was born and the New England Revolution (Boston) when youngest son Noah (now 19 and a Pre-Medical student at Vanderbilt University) came into the world. He has coached keepers for the U.S. Men’s National team and for the Indy Eleven and runs Carmel FC.
Tommy Sommer played soccer while growing up, but fell in love with the diamond.
“Baseball has carved a great path for me,” says Sommer, who has done from playing wiffleball in the back yard in Columbus with mother Susie (who is now a realtor) to T-ball at First Baptist Church after the family moved to Carmel, Ind., to travel ball (Smithville Gators, Indiana Nitro and then the Indiana Bulls in high school — three summers with Dave Taylor as head coach and two with Sean Laird at 16U and 17U).
“(Taylor) let us grow as baseball players and would teach from mistakes,” says Sommer. “(Laird) was more hands-on. He wanted you to put your best foot forward and hold yourself accountable.
“He wanted you to be more aggressive. You’re going after something (a college scholarship or pro contract) and developing a future in the game.”
Sommer graduated in 2017 from Carmel High School, where he played three seasons for Dan Roman and one for Matt Buczkowski. He appreciates the opportunities afforded by both Greyhounds bench bosses.
When it came deciding on college, Sommer was more than familiar with IU with his family’s ties to the school.
“We had family gatherings in Brown County,” says Sommer. “It was almost too comfortable.”
He was enticed by offers from Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference schools, but Sommer saw in Indiana the chance to play right away in the competitive Big Ten Conference. He played one season with Chris Lemonis as head coach and Kyle Bunn as pitching coach and three with Jeff Mercer and Justin Parker in those roles.
Sommer made 45 mound appearances (24 as a starter) with a 13-9 record, two saves and a 3.17 earned run average. In 157 2/3 innings, he struck out 160 and walked 71. He helped the Hoosiers win the Big Ten regular-season title in 2019.
In 2021, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder made 12 starts and went 5-4 with a 4.60 ERA. He fanned 69 and walked 38 in 62 2/3 innings.
He also earned a Finance degree from IU’s Kelley School of Business in May.
Prior to the MLB Draft, Sommer pitched three innings for the Cape Cod League’s Falmouth Commodores. He was on the Cape when the White Sox picked him and is now at a mini-camp in Birmingham, Ala. After that, some will go to Glendale, Ariz., and on to affiliate teams. The top four farm teams in the system are the Low Class-A Kannapolis (N.C.) Cannon Ballers, High Class-A Winston-Salem (N.C.) Dash, Double-A Birmingham Barons and Triple-A Charlotte (N.C.) Knights.
After a shortened 2020 season at IU because of COVID-19, Sommer pitched in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
“It was fun toe play with kids I played with or against for a decade,” says Sommer. “It was a unique experience.”
He also got the chance to work with pitching instructor Jay Lehr at Pro X Athlete Development at Grand Park. In the winter, Sommer had gone to The Barn in Lapel and got pointers from White Sox Director of Amateur Scouting Mike Shirley and White Sox area scout Justin Wechsler, a Pendleton (Ind.) Heights High School graduate who pitched at Ball State University and in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.
In 2019, Sommer was a substitute arm for the Prospect League’s Terre Haute (Ind.) Rex while also rehabbing from knee surgery and training with Lehr.
The lefty was with the Northwoods League’s Kalamazoo (Mich.) Growlers in the summer of 2018.
Sommer throws a four-seam fastball which sits between 88 to 92 mph.
He also employs a cutter which runs away from left-handed batters and into right-handers.
“I want to induce weak contact,” says Sommer of the cutter. “It’s a good pitch in counts where someone is hunting a fastball.
“You get them off thinking they’re in a dead-red fastball count.”
The change-up is where Sommer gets strikeouts in the bottom of the strike zone.
“It spins sideways and drops off the table,” says Sommer. “There is vertical depth and halo spin. It’s the opposite of a gyro ball.”
Sommer mixes in his curve to let hitters know that’s a part of his arsenal.

Talking Hoosier Baseball Podcast chat with Tommy Sommer
Tommy Sommer (Indiana University Photo)
Tommy Sommer (Indiana University Photo)
Tommy Sommer (left) and head coach Jeff Mercer (Indiana University Photo)
Indiana University —2019 Big Ten Conference baseball champions.
Tommy Sommer (Indiana University Photo)
Tommy Sommer (Indiana University Photo)
Tommy Sommer with the 2019 Big Ten Conference championship trophy. (Indiana University Photo)
The Hoosiers mug with the 2019 Big Ten Conference baseball championship trophy.
Tommy Sommer (Indiana University Photo)
Tommy Sommer (Indiana University Photo)
Tommy Sommer (Indiana University Photo)
Tommy Sommer (Indiana University Photo)
Tommy Sommer (Indiana University Image)
Hug and hardware of Tommy Sommer.
Tommy Sommer (Indiana University Photo)
Tommy Sommer (Indiana University Photo)
Susie, Tommy and Juergen Sommer.






Purdue’s Firestone using summer to get better

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

Jack Firestone is getting his cuts and hitting his cut-off man while preparing for his next college baseball season.
A lefty-swinging outfielder, Firestone is playing for the Patrick Morey-coached Local Legends in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and works on his swing at The Barn in Lapel, Ind., with Mike Shirley and Scott French and with current Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School head coach Jered Moore and former ZCHS assistant and current University of Indianapolis volunteer coach Jeremy Honaker and lifts weights with Laird Training’s Sean Laird.
“I’ve always believed in those guys and they’ve always been there for me,” says Firestone of Moore and Honaker.
Firestone smacked a home run and rapped two singles in a CSL game this past week.
“I’m just trying to put the bat on the ball the best I can — just put the ball on the ball,” says Firestone. “If it gets out, it gets out.”
Firestone was a redshirt freshman at Purdue University in the spring of 2021 and got into 24 games (four as a starter) on a team that had three seniors starting in the outfield — Ben Nisle in left, fifth-year Skyler Hunter in center and Miles Simington in right.
“It was a waiting year for me,” says Firestone, a Financial Counseling and Planning major and Management minor. “Just be patient for next year.”
Firestone did not see action during the 2020 Boilermakers season that was abbreviated because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Greg Goff is Purdue’s head coach.
“I love playing for him,” says Firestone. “He’s high energy. I love him. He knows what he’s doing.”
He did play in the inaugural CSL season for the Joe Thatcher-coached Park Rangers and was named to the all-star team.
While at Zionsville, where he graduated in 2019, Firestone earned three baseball letters playing for Moore.
Firestone was named offensive player of the year as a senior. The Eagles won sectional titles in 2017 and 2018 and regional crown in 2017. That was year the year he was named junior varsity MVP. He was the freshmen squad MVP at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., before his family moved to Zionsville.
Born in Warsaw, Ind., to golf pro Todd and Purdue alum Jennie, Jack went to Fort Wayne while in kindergarten and played his first organized baseball in Don Ayres Little League. He played travel ball for the Summit City Spartans, Leo Lions and Fort Wayne Diamondbacks then — after moving to Boone County — the Indiana Mustangs. He also played fall ball for the San Francisco Giants scout team.
Todd Firestone, the son of Tom Firestone, played golf and basketball at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., served as head golf pro at Tippecanoe Lake Country Club in Milford, Ind., and Fort Wayne Country Club before taking that post at Meridian Hills Country Club in Indianapolis at the start of 2016. Tom Firestone is in the Kosciusko County Basketball and Bethel University Athletic halls of fame and was athletic director at Elkhart (Ind.) Memorial High School.
Trey Firestone, Jack’s little brother and a senior at Zionsville Community in 2022, is a football wide receiver getting NCAA Division I offers.

Jack Firestone (Purdue University Photo)
Jack Firestone (Purdue University Photo)
Jack Firestone (Purdue University Photo)

Keeping overhead athletes strong, mobile aim of trainer, coach Laird

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

If you were in Zionsville, Ind., a few months ago and saw Nate Dohm pushing his mother’s SUV down the street, it wasn’t because of vehicle trouble.

Dohm was doing his best to keep up with baseball strength and conditioning workouts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With Laird’s Training LLC closed because of the lockdown and no access to weighted sleds or other equipment, the athlete had to improvise.

Dohm, a senior at Zionsville Community High School in 2020-21, began working out with Sean Laird in the fall of his eighth grade year. He first participated in Laird’s winter arm care and velocity program as a sophomore and has done it consistently since then.

Right-hander Dohm registered a pulldown max of 89 mph as a sophomore and 95 mph as a junior.

“My jumps on the mound were much bigger,” says Dohm, a right-hander who hit 83 mph as a freshmen, 89 mph as a sophomore and 92 mph as a junior. The Ball State University commit played for Laird this summer on the Indiana Bulls 17 Black squad. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at if I didn’t start lifting with Sean and doing that velo program.

“He helped me get stronger (physically and mentally). He doesn’t make it easy for you. It’s about pushing through that. You have to want to get better if you want to do his workouts.”

Laird has seen Dohm reap the rewards for his sweat.

“His work ethic is second to none,” says Laird. “The kid has literally changed his life.

“He’s changing himself into a power pitcher, which is cool to see.”

Taking his methods with him to the Bulls (it wasn’t unusual to see them doing side-hill sprints before or after a game), Laird was able to see strides in right-hander and Ohio University commit Brady Linkel (South Ripley High School Class of 2021).

“He’s one of those disciplined hard-nosed guys,” says Laird. “You saw him getting stronger and stronger by the end of the summer.”

That Bulls 17 Black team also featured Purdue Fort Wayne commits Bryce Martens (South Bend Adams High School Class of 2021) and Braxton Wilson (Martinsville Class of 2021).

Laird, a former Kokomo (Ind.) High School and University of South Alabama player who works out of Bullpen Academy in Russiaville, Ind., and his home gym, has been running arm care and velocity programs since 2014.

“I was always a hard thrower growing up,” says Laird. “The last five or six years, it’s become very popular to throw as hard as you can.

“I see things people are doing that are really good and really bad. I saw a need. Everything I do is based on my experience, sports, and exercise science background. I want to focus on improving strength, core stability, mobility, and athleticism in our athletes. I take care of the arm and athlete first.”

Laird’s training methods include building athleticism from the ground up.

Typical in-person arm care/velo program sessions will last around 90 to 105 minutes twice a day. The first day is about strength and power, the second day explosive or dynamic effort work.

Athletes are given things to do on their own on the other days of the week.

When the players are with Laird there is a warm-up of 30 to 45 minutes that includes ground-based mobility work, including bands to strengthen the rotator cuff and scapula. There are also exercises with plyometic and medicine balls and attention to Thoracic Spine (T-Spine) movement.

After the warm-up comes activation. There is weighted sled work for the lower half. Weight med balls are used in upper body plyometics.

“We want to create force from the ground up,” says Laird, who also has his players do one-legged box jumps and hurdles to promote explosiveness and agility. “My goal is to have a more mobile and explosive athlete.”

Baseball or softball players — overhead athletes — in the program don’t touch a ball for about 45 minutes then they throw for 15 to 20 minutes maximum. They spend 12 or so minutes on long toss and then begin pulldowns.

“We want them to get their bodies into their throws,” says Laird. “Then we go into a recovery period and do blood-pumping band work and mobility stuff. 

“We want to make sure elbow, flexors and extenders are strong.”

The same is true for the T-Spine and ankles.

While recovery is done as a group, Laird knows that not all his athletes are the same and have individual needs.

“I’m a big guy on communication,” says Laird. “Let me know what they feel.”

On the third day of the program, Laird has his players throwing a football — something that Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan did in his training. 

“We want to throw with a tight spiral,” says Laird. “Throwing a football teaches pronation and good arm motion. You get immediate feedback with a football. It you have bad mechanics, you’ll throw a wounded duck. You have to be efficient.”

Players are encouraged to build their arms through long toss — working up to throwing the ball 300 or more feet if they are comfortable with it and can maintain mechanics, but everyone is different and distance can be different depending on the athlete’s ability.

Zack Thompson, who played for Laird with the Indiana Bulls and then the University of Kentucky and in the St. Louis Cardinals system, prefers to cap his long toss at 120 feet.

“It helps him mechanically,” says Laird.

This summer, which followed a spring without high school baseball, the Bulls played into mid-August and got in more games than a normal travel season.

“We wanted to make sure we could keep playing,” says Laird. “We treated June as spring training (and gradually increased pitch counts). By July, we hit the ground running.”

The Bulls are playing fall ball. Laird is busy with his training busy so he is not coaching.

Another place where Laird invests his time is with former college teammate Adam Heisler and the LT Brings The Heat Baseball Development Podcast.

“It’s been awesome,” says Laird, who joined Heisler to drop Episode 18 on Sept. 12. “There’s so many avenues and topics to cover in baseball.”

The platform has allowed them to inform players and parents about training, recruiting and the protocol of travel baseball.

“It’s good for kids to hear the stories,” says Laird. “Everybody’s route to college or professional baseball is different.”

Sean Laird is the owner and founder of Laird’s Training and is a coach with the Indiana Bulls travel baseball organization.

Ball State’s McDermott makes meaningful changes

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Chayce McDermott has transformed since arriving at Ball State University three years ago.

The right-handed baseball pitcher arrived in Muncie, Ind., as a skinny freshman, carrying about 165 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame. 

“I’ve put on about 30 pounds since I’ve been here,” says McDermott, who turned 22 Aug. 22. “I’m eating healthier and I’m lifting up to twice a day.”

McDermott says he was more of a thrower than a pitcher before college.

A redshirt junior in 2020-21, McDermott is now a solid 195 or 200 and has learned how to refine his deliveries in an attempt to get hitters out.

“I’m more confident (on the mound),” says McDermott. “I understand how to pitch.

“As time’s gone out I’ve thrown a little harder and have a better understanding of my pitches.”

A 2017 graduate of Pendleton (Ind.) Heights High School, where he earned three baseball letters for head coach Travis Keesling, McDermott was a two-time all-Hoosier Heritage Conference selection. 

In his senior year, he went 5-3 with a 2.29 ERA with 95 strikeouts in 49 innings for a team that went 19-6.

Nursing an injury, McDermott redshirted in 2018 — his first year with the BSU Cardinals.

The righty appeared in 10 games (nine starts) as a redshirt freshman in 2019 and went 4-1 with a 3.64 earned run average. In 42 innings, he struck out out 54, walked 26 and held opponents to a .228 batting average. 

In the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, McDermott made three appearances as the “Sunday” starter and went 0-1 with a 5.02 ERA. In 14 1/3 innings, he struck out 20, walked six and yielded a .192 opponent batting mark. He fanned 11 in six no-hit innings in a win against the University of Richmond on March 7.

McDermott was brought to Ball State by head coach Rich Maloney and has worked with two pitching coaches. Larry Scully has led that group since August 2019. Before that is was Dustin Glant.

The 2020 season was Maloney’s 26th in coaching and 16th at Ball State. 

“It’s amazing,” says McDermott of playing for Maloney. “He always has our back no batter what.

“He knows great people in the game. It’s truly a blessing to get his insight.”

Scully has been coaching baseball for 27 years.

“He’s taught me how to work with pitches a little bit more,” says McDermott of Scully. “He’s helped me a lot with curve, slider and change-up, where to throw a pitch and how to think in different counts.

“He’s helped me understand the game a lot better and adjust on pitches as the game goes on.”

Scully has helped McDermott find the strike zone on a more consistent basis.

“My control is constantly improving,” says McDermott. “It’s come along as I worked on things with my delivery and strength.”

Glant, who is now a minor league pitching coach in the New York Yankees organization, is credited for shaping McDermott’s mound tenacity

“Coach Glant was super intense and energetic,” says McDermott. “He taught me how to be tough — kind of cocky, but in a controlled way.

“He helped me with my velocity when I got here and keeping my arm shorter.”

Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, McDermott uses a four-seam fastball that sat around 91 to 94 mph and topped out at 96 during the spring and summer.

“I try to keep the spin rate up so it spins over the top of bats,” says McDermott of his four-seamer. “That way I get more swings and misses.”

Deception is the idea behind his “circle” change-up.

McDermott employs an 11-to-5 curveball.

“It’s not straight up and down,” says McDermott. “It has a little bit of side-run to it (going into left-handed hitters and away from righties). I want to get as much movement on it as possible.”

The slider is a “work-in-progress” that McDermott plans to mix in during fall workouts. When thrown the way he wants, the pitch has downward break and runs in on lefty batters.

When the pandemic hit, McDermott had not yet nailed down where he might play in the summer. He wound up being able to commute from Anderson, Ind., and pitched as a starter and reliever for the Local Legends in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. He racked up 33 strikeouts and 10 walks in 14 innings while holding foes to one runs on four hits.

That squad was coached by Butler assistants Ben Norton and Jake Ratz and featured McDermott’s friend and former youth and travel ball teammate Joe Moran.

“I really enjoyed (the Grand Park league),” says McDermott. “It was close to home and had great players in it. It was good to play with guys I knew from high school and meet new guys from around the Indiana baseball scene.”

It was the first summer McDermott has pitched since 2016. He stayed at home and worked the past two summers and went to Ball State early to begin adding muscle in the summer of 2017.

McDermott is on schedule to earn a Psychology degree from Ball State in the spring. He chose the major because he sees it as pair well with his career choice.

“I just want to be a coach and stay around baseball as long as possible,” says McDermott. “Understanding the minds of people will help.”

Born and raised on the north side of Anderson, McDermott played at Riverfield Little League until he was 13.

He played travel ball of two years with the Justin Wittenberg-coached Magic City Orioles and one with Sam Wilkerson’s Indiana Raiders before spending his 17U summer with the Sean Laird-coached Indiana Bulls.

“Coach Laird is enthusiastic and aggressive about everything,” says McDermott. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had a coach that was as pumped about games as he was.”

Chayce is the youngest of Mike and Kim McDermott’s two sons. Mike McDermott is a UPS driver. Kim McDermott is a lawyer’s assistant. 

Brother Sean McDermott (23) played basketball at Pendleton Heights and appeared in 125 games (79 as a starter) at Butler University. The 6-foot-6, 195-pounder is currently exploring professional hoops opportunities.

Ball State University’s Chayce McDermott pitches in the 2020 College Summer League at Grand Park. (D1Baseball.com Video)
Chayce McDermott was born and raised in Anderson, Ind., and played at Pendleton (Ind.) Heights High School before Ball State University. He is a redshirt junior for the Cardinals in 2020-21. (Mike Janes/Ball State University Photo)
Chayce McDermott has made 13 mound appearances for the Ball State University baseball team in 2019 and 2020. He also pitched in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., in 2020. (Mike Janes/Ball State University Photo)
Chayce McDermott is heading into his third baseball season at Ball State University in 2020-21. The right-hander is a 2017 Pendleton (Ind.) Heights High School graduate. (Ball State University Photo)

Clinton Central, Bowling Green State grad Scott experiences ‘emotional roller coaster’ in first year as baseball coach

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jeffery Scott saw the lessons that can be learned from baseball from the time he was a kid playing in Frankfort, Ind., to when he was winding up his playing career at Bowling Green (Ohio) State University.

It was with the Danny Schmitz-coached Falcons that he decided he wanted to become a coach.

While working on a degree in Sport Management with a minor in Marketing that was achieved in 2019, Scott soaked in information from veteran Schmitz and the other BGSU staffers.

“Coach Schmitz is an old school type of coach,” says Scott. “He has a lot of knowledge about the game. I was able to talk with him everyday and learn stuff.

“I talked with him and the rest of the coaching staff on what to expect. He’s been really good influence on me baseball and life-wise.”

Before his senior year, Scott worked at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and made a determination.

“If I don’t get to play baseball anymore I’d like to stay around the game,” says Scott. “I’d like to be making an impact and sharing my knowledge.”

He wanted to prepare young men for life and to face adversity like you face in baseball.

Scott, who was a catcher and outfielder at Bowling Green State for three seasons (playing in 127 games and starting 114 from 2017-19), made a visit to the University of Northwestern Ohio in Lima as a senior and talked with Racers head coach Kory Hartman and his staff and signed on as a graduate assistant. He expects to earn his Masters in Business Administration (MBA) next spring.

“It’s been a really good experience,” says Scott of his time so far with the NAIA-member program. “One of the things that drew me here is that it’s close to Bowling Green State. (Hartman and company) were open to me getting what I want out of this program — to form who I am as a coach.”

Since being at UNOH, a member of the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference, Scott has absorbed drills and procedures and also enjoyed camaraderie with coaches who like to hang out, fish and hunt together. 

The Racers staff currently counts Hartman, Scott and associate head coach Aaron Lee and two graduate assistants with pitching experience will be hired.

With NAIA’s COVID-19 pandemic-related decision to cancel fall sports, Northwestern Ohio baseball coaches are sorting out what fall will look for the Racers. Students are supposed to be back on campus for face-to-face classes Sept. 14.

“Right now, we’re in a gray area,” says Scott, who turns 25 this month. “We’ll have to figure things out. 

“We hope to get together once or twice a week as a team.”

The 2020 UNOH season came to a halt because of the pandemic on March 8 with the Racers at 8-12. 

Back at Bowling Green State, the NCAA Division I program went on the chopping block.

Baseball was reinstated through the efforts of Schmitz and other baseball alumni. 

“It was an emotional roller coaster for me,” says Scott. “I didn’t know where baseball is headed with the COVID stuff and (colleges and universities) were cutting sports — not just baseball.”

Schmitz was put in charge of alumni outreach at Bowling Green and former Falcons pitching coach Kyle Hallock, whom Scott knew well as a catcher, was named head coach.

“I tip my cap to Danny Schmitz,” says Scott. “I’m sure he reached out to a lot of the alumni. He has made an impact on a lot of people’s lives.”

Bowling Green State baseball has produced many successful people, including those who went on to the pro diamond, including 19 major leaguers. Among that group are current Miami Marlins third baseman Jon Berti and former big leaguers Orel Hershiser (who won a National League Cy Young Award and helped the Los Angeles Dodgers to a World Series win in 1988), Nolan Reimold, Andy Tracy and Roger McDowell.

“It was special to see them step up, donate some money and keep the program,” says Scott.

Frankfort (Ind.) Little League is where Scott got his first taste of organized baseball. Around the same time he also played with a group of local youngsters called the Frankfort Slam. That team was coached by Rodney Smith, Jason Forsythe and at various times, Kent Scott (Jeffery’s father) and Jamie Bolinger (Jeffery’s stepfather).

Kent Scott is employed in Federal-Mogul Powertain in Frankfort.

Jamie Bolinger, who is retired military, works for Lafayette (Ind.) Transitional Housing Center’s Homeless Services.

Maleta Bolinger (Jeffery’s mother) is a registered nurse in Kokomo, Ind.

Shealynne Bolinger (Jeffery’s 19-year-old sister) is finishing up schooling to be a veterinary technician.

Scott and girlfriend Shelby Weaver have been together about nine moths. They also dated in high school. Her son Eli is almost 1.

After spending his 12U summer with the Muncie-based Indiana Wildcats, Jeffery Scott played six travel ball seasons with the Indiana Bulls.

At 13U, he was coached by  John Rigney and Rick Hamm. Brothers Todd Miller and Adam Miller led his team at 14U and 15U. Tony Cookerly, Sean Laird and Jim Fredwell coached his team at 16U. Quinn Moore and Dan Held was in charge at 17U. He played briefly at 18U before going to summer school at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., where he spent a year and a half before transferring to Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill.

Kevin Bowers was and still is head coach for the junior college Statesmen.

“He welcomed me in with open arms mid-year,” says Scott of Bowers. “He made me feel a part of the family. I still talk to him quite a bit. He’s definitely been one of my favorite coaches.

“He was genuine, truthful and transparent. He brings in a lot of talent to Lincoln Trail and gets them to where they want to be.”

Though mostly a catcher in the summers, Scott was a shortstop and pitcher at Clinton Central High School in Michigantown, Ind., playing for Bulldogs head coach Eric Flickinger. He also played football for Mike Quick and Justin Schuhmacher and wrestled for Austin Faulkner.

Jeffery Scott observes catchers during a baseball practice as a graduate assistant coach at the University of Northwestern Ohio in Lima. Scott was a catcher at Bowling Green (Ohio) State University. He is a graduate of BGSU and Clinton Central High School in Michigantown, Ind., near Frankfort. (UNOH Photo)
Jeffery Scott is a 2019 graduate of Bowling Green (Ohio) State University, where he played three baseball for three seasons (2017-19). The graduate of BGSU and Clinton High School in Michigantown, Ind., is a graduate assistant baseball coach at the University of Northwestern Ohio in Lima. (Bowling Green State University Photo)

New Palestine grad Watson goes from Cornhusker to Sycamore

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Keegan Watson is back in his home state for college baseball.

After playing at the University of Nebraska in 2018 and 2019, transferring and sitting out the 2020 season, Watson is eager to shine as a two-way player at Indiana State University.

The 2017 graduate of New Palestine (Ind.) High School made five appearances (three starts) as a corner outfielder and pitched in relief in six games in 2018 and took the field as a position player 24 times (17 as a starter) in 2019 while earning two letters for the Cornhuskers

Batting and hurling right-handed, Watson collected 15 runs batted in and logged 5 1/3 innings on the mound and entered the NCAA transfer portal after the 2019 fall semester. 

The 6-foot-3, 198-pounder considered going to an NCAA Division II school so he would not have to sit out, but ended up staying in D-I and was required to miss only a half year while coming back to his state of residence. 

Recruited by Indiana State head coach Mitch Hannahs while at New Palestine, Watson reached out to the Sycamores for a chance and was given one.

After moving to Indiana State, he was not eligible to play in the spring, but will be able to participate with the Sycamores this fall. Watson has two years of eligibility remaining.

“I work hard and show up in the weight room and at practice,” says Watson of his baseball strengths. “I’m a pretty intense guy when it comes down to it.”

He says his he used to let his emotions get the best of him, but he’s learned to get that under control.

Since entering college Watson has changed his major to Psychology and says he has at least three semesters left toward his degree.

While he did not play last summer, Watson was with the Tim Brown-coached Lake Erie Monarchs of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League in 2018.

This summer, he is close to home as a member of the Local Legends in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield. Entering play on July 6, the team coached by Ben Norton and Jake Ratz is 5-4-1. 

Watson was tipped off about the 12-team loop by former New Palestine teammate Jason Hall-Manley, who goes to Anderson University and plays for the CSL’s Juice.

“See ball – hit ball,” says Watson of his hitting approach this summer. “I’m just trying to see pitches and get live AB’s.

“For me, cage work is locking in mechanics. In the game, you can only focus on so many things and your swing isn’t one of those. You have to trust muscle memory.”

Watson, 21, was born in Jasper, Ind., and moved to Fountaintown near New Palestine as he was entering seventh grade. Keegan is the son of Dan and Amy and the younger brother of Callee. The family moved when his mother took a job in the Indianapolis area.

He split his freshmen season between the junior varsity and varsity and was up with head coach Shawn Lyons for his final three springs with the Dragons.

“He knows what he’s taking about,” says Watson of Lyons. “He’s intense. He’s good a reading people. He’s not afraid to let you know when he thinks you’re not giving your best effort.”

Prior to high school, Watson played four years of travel baseball for the Indiana D-I Hoosiers, which had players from the Bedford, Ind., area.

His 16U and 17U summers were spent with the Indiana Bulls, where he was coached by Sean Laird. Watson was with the Mike Hitt-coached Indiana Blue Jays (18U) before heading to Nebraska.

Watson is hoping Indiana State can use him out of the bullpen like he did with the Cornhuskers.

“I’m pretty confident in all my stuff,” says Watson. “I could pitch backwards or normal. 

“Whatever got the job done.”

Keegan Watson, a New Palestine (Ind.) High School graduate, played two baseball seasons at the University of Nebraska and has transferred to Indiana State University for 2020-21. He is with the Local Legends in the 2020 College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield. Ind. (University of Nebraska Photo)