After two baseball seasons at Saint Louis University, Nolan Bowser has opted to enter the Transfer Portal with two years of college eligibility. Is he nervous about where he’ll land? “A little bit, but at the same time I just have to keep playing and feel like teams will come scouting me,” says Bowser. “So nervousness? Yes. But also it’s a little bit of a calling to just play the game.” With the SLU Billikens, Bowser got into 40 games (10 as a starter) in 2021 and 2022 and hit .234 (11-of-47) with four runs batted in and 13 runs scored. His batting mark this past spring was .269 (7-of-26) and he produced a walk-off RBI single against Western Illinois on March 8. Bowser is listed as a lefty-swinging catcher, but has the versatility to play all over the infield or outfield as well. “I can play anywhere really,” says Bowser, a 5-foot-11, 185-pounder who played third base, shortstop and second base and a few games at catcher in high school and was a catcher and outfielder in travel ball. He was allowed to call pitches. What does catching do for him? “I know it may not seem like it sometimes, but I like being in-control,” says Bowser. “Keeping in-charge of the pitcher it just came easy to me.” Bowser is in his third go-round in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., about 25 miles from McCordsville. He was with the Screwballs in 2020, Tropics in 2021 and is now on the Bomb Squad in 2022. He had just graduated when he played during the CSL’s first season (2020). That year — with limited summer wood bat opportunities — the league was chock-full of D-I talent. “It was definitely a change going from high school to college ball,” says Bowser. “That’s for sure.” As a Criminal Justice major, Bowser sees himself pursuing a career in law enforcement. What made him decide on that path? “On my mom’s side of the family, her dad, grandpa and brother were all in the Marines,” says Bowser. “I played baseball so I really didn’t want to join the Marines. But I felt like I could give back to the community and the world (as a police officer or detective). It’s kind of not in a great place right now. “I feel like I can help change it just a little bit.” Bowser grew up in Lawrence, Ind., and moved into the Mt. Vernon district as high school approached. He played travel ball from 8U to 17U — first with the Oaklandon Bombers and then the Indiana Bulls. His father — Steve Bowser — was one of his Bombers coaches. With the Bulls, Nolan played for Tony Cookerly, Jeremy Honaker, Dan Held and Sean Laird. “Sean was very intense,” says Bowser. “I loved it though.” A 2020 graduate of Mt. Vernon High School in Fortville, Ind., Bowser played on the freshman and junior varsity teams as a ninth grader. He played varsity as a sophomore and junior. His senior season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “(Then-Marauders head coach Ryan Carr) was great to me,” says Bowser. “I gave it my all every single time.” Bowser was selected all-Hancock County in 2018 and 2019 and all-Hoosier Heritage Conference in 2019. Steve and Dana Bowser have two children — Nolan (20) and Delaney (18). Steve Bowser is a vice president of a construction company. Dana Bowser is a dietician. A 2022 Mt. Vernon graduate, Delaney Bowser is to play volleyball for the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Nolan Tucker enjoyed a breakout collegiate baseball season at the plate in 2022. The lefty-swinging Valparaiso (Ind.) University second baseman hit a team-best .365 (46-of-126) with one home run, one triple, 14 doubles 17 runs batted in and 21 runs scored for the NCAA Division I Beacons. Tucker pinch hit for head coach Brian Schmack’s club in a March 15 game at Notre Dame became an everyday starter March 18 at Murray State. He was at the top of the batting order the last few games of the season. He went 4-of-5 in the first game of a March 25 doubleheader vs. St. Bonaventure, 4-of-5 April 30 at Southern Illinois April 30, 4-of-4 May 20 at Evansville and was named to the Missouri Valley Conference first team. He was the first Valpo player since 2018 and second since the school joined the MVC to do that. “This was years in the making,” says Tucker, 21. “I finally had a chance to showcase it.” Prior to this spring, Tucker had only played in 20 college games. He made 16 appearances in 2020 before that season was shortened because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was also the president of his dormitory — Brandt Hall. After playing four games in 2021, he suffered a season-ending injury. He did earn Valparaiso University Presidential Academic Honors and the MVC Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award and was on the MVC Honor Roll. While he rehabilitated, Tucker took a deep dive into what he could do to boost his batting. “I wanted to figure this hitting thing out and take it to next level,” says Tucker. “I was looking at videos and comparing myself to big leaguers.” Tucker saw hitting coach Trey Hannam on social media, liked his profile and reached out to him and was soon making the 180-mile trek from Cedar Lake, Ind., to work with him in Milan, Ill. Current Valpo assistants Kory Winter and Mitchell Boe and former assistant Casey Fletcher also played a part in Tucker’s transformation. A 2019 graduate of Hanover Central High School in Cedar Lake, where he played for Wildcats head coach Ryan Bridges, Tucker was ranked among Indiana’s best shortstops and was four-year letterwinner and three-time all-conference selection. With strong shortstops on the squad (including Benton Central High School graduate Alex Thurston), Tucker made the switch to second base at Valpo to get on the field and has come to love the position. Tucker began wrestling early in elementary school. In high school, his head coaches were Mike Drosias as a freshman and Joshua Rowinski. There were to conference titles and a sectional championship. He was in the 132-pound class as a sophomore in 2016-17 when he went 35-5 and qualified for the semistate then decided to focus on baseball and getting bigger and stronger and did not wrestle as a junior or senior. “It’s a tough sport,” says Tucker of wrestling. “It’s physically and mentally demanding. “The lessons I’ve learned from that sport I’ll carry with me forever.” Tucker was born in Munster, Ind., and grew up in Cedar Lake. He played town ball and then went into travel baseball. He played for the St. John All-Stars, Playmakers, Chiefs, Top Tier, National Pitching Association and then the Dave Sutkowski-coached Morris Chiefs for his 17U summer. “He’s made huge impact on me,” says Tucker of Sutkowski. “He’s taught me a lot about the game, but more about life like being punctual, responsible and a leader. “He was always there to reassure you and make you confident. “It’s about the man you become.” Tucker is scheduled to join the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators — managed by Chris Willsey — next Tuesday, May 7. He did not play in 2021 while rehabbing. He was with the Josh Galvan-coached Tropics of gthe College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., in 2020. He also got to play for the Jorge Hernandez-managed Independence in the College Summer Baseball Invitational in Bryan/College Station, Texas, where he met fellow Region native and CSBI Unity manager LaTroy Hawkins. Nolan had never met the 21-year major leaguer and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer but got connected through cousin and former Kouts (Ind.) Middle/High School and Morris Chiefs coach Jim Tucker. In 2019, Nolan Tucker played for the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League’s St. Clair Green Giants in Windsor, Ont. Tucker is a Business Management major. He is one year away from getting his undergraduate degree and has three more years of playing eligibility. “I’ll definitely go two more,” says Tucker. “I’m on the bubble about the third year.” Nolan is the oldest of Keith and Julie Tucker’s two children. Keith Tucker works for Team Industrial Services and Julie for Liveops. Daughter Kylin (18) is a 2022 Hanover Central graduate bound for Ball State University.
Jarrett Bickel had a decision to make after playing junior college baseball for two seasons. The infielder from South Bend, Ind., with two years of eligibility remaining could take another year at the JUCO level allowed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Head coach Kyle Forbes invited him to stay at Palm Beach State College. “I was ready to move on to a four-year school and play at the (NCAA) Division I level,” says Bickel, who chose Purdue Fort Wayne over East Tennessee State, New Orleans, Alcorn State and Savannah State. Why the PFW Mastodons? “I was sold on Coach (Doug) Schreiber and his history at Purdue University,” says Bickel. “I knew he was coming here to turn the program around. “He’s awesome. His knowledge for the game is through the roof.” Bickel appreciates Schreiber not only for what he can do for him on the diamond, but away from it. “He shows you how to carry yourself off the field and be a man,” says Bickel, 22. As a player, Bickel has gone from third base to shortstop and settling in as Purdue Fort Wayne’s starting shortstop and lead-off hitter. His double play partner is redshirt sophomore second baseman Brian Erbe. “He has a confidence and swagger he brings everyday,” says Bickel of Erbe. “We kind of feed off that energy.” Going into an April 27 non-conference game at Michigan State, righty swinger Bickel was hitting .259 (38-of-147) with five home runs, 12 doubles, 19 runs batted in, 18 runs scored and a .306 on-base percentage. He collected a season-best four hits April 3 against Wright State and drove in a season-high three runs April 16 at Northern Kentucky. Bickel even pitched 2/3 of an inning Feb. 27 at Cal Baptist. Though he was not in the middle of either, two memorable moments for Bickel came with walk-off wins March 20 against Youngstown State and April 22 vs. Northern Kentucky. Away from the field, Bickel likes to hang out with teammates. He also likes to play golf and go fishing. “I’m an outdoorsy person,” says Bickel. “I don’t like to be inside that much. I love to fish.” A St. Joseph River dam near campus gives him a chance to pull in catfish and bass. In the warm climes of Florida, he liked going on the ocean and catching snook. Bickel grew up a few minutes from Notre Dame and Bickel got to play against the Irish April 20, going 1-for-4 with an RBI. “I’ve always been a Notre Dame fan since I was little,” says Bickel. “Going back there and playing them was pretty special.” ND is No. 3 behind Tennessee and Dallas Bapist in the D1Baseball.com RPI. Bickel assessed the Link Jarrett-coached Irish. “They’re very well put-together and do all the little things,” says Bickel. “They’re well-coached. They are good at situational hitting and have very good (pitching) arms.” Currently fifth in the Horizon League, the Mastodons are looking to finish in the top six to earn a berth in the conference tournament May 25-28 with games hosted by the top seed. The last HL series wraps May 14. The regular season is to end May 21. Enrolled at Purdue Fort Wayne as a General Studies major, he has been taking mostly Business classes. Bickel plans to spent the summer with the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators. Mastodons pitching coach and recruiting coordinator Brent McNeil managed that team a few years ago. Chris Willsey, Bickel’s head coach two years ago in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., is slated to guide the Aviators in 2022. A 2018 graduate of Marian High School in Mishwawaka, Ind., Bickel played for Joe Turnock. The Knights won an IHSAA Class 3A Jimtown Sectional title in 2016. In 2019, Bickel played 41 games for Miami Dade College. He did not play in the spring of 2020 — the COVID-19 season. That summer, Bickel was with the Indiana Collegiate Summer Baseball League’s Mishawaka Brewers as well as the CSL’s Snakes and Northwoods League’s Bismarck (N.D.) Bull Moose, hitting .271 with a .403 OBP in 16 games. He played for the Bismarck Larks in 2021 with a OBP of .321 over 112 at-bats. Jarrett is the middle son of Joe and Megan Bickel. Tyler Bickel (24) is working toward becoming a fireman. Xavier Bickel (18) is a Marian senior. Cousin Trey Bickel is head baseball coach at Marian University’s Ancilla College — a junior college in Donaldson, Ind.
Mike Snyder has been given the chance to extend his college baseball experience and he’s taking it. A 2016 graduate of Fort Wayne (Ind.) Northrop High School, where he played football, basketball and baseball, Snyder, who turned 24 on Aug. 4, logged two seasons at what is now Purdue Fort Wayne then moved a few miles south to Indiana Tech, where he redshirted in 2019 and competed for the Warriors in 2020 and 2021 and is coming back for one last collegiate go-round in 2022. “I want to keep playing as long as I can and see where it takes me,” says Snyder, who was granted an extra year of college eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Snyder appeared on 59 games and started 56 for Indiana Tech in 2021, hitting .308 (64-of-208), 11 home runs, two triples, 13 doubles, 58 runs batted in, 44 runs scored and a .916 OPS (.368 on-base percentage plus .548 slugging average) from the right side of the plate. The second baseman posted a .923 fielding percentage with 76 putouts, 103 assists and 16 double plays. During the COVID-19-shortened 2020 slate, Snyder played in 15 games (14 starts) and hit .400 (20-of-50) with 10 homers, two doubles, 26 RBIs, 16 runs and a 1.523 OBP (.483/1.040). He fielded at a .943 clip with 25 putouts and 25 assists. Snyder says barrel control is his best offensive quality. “When I’m on and really doing it I can stay on the same plane and stay consistent,” says Snyder. “I’m in no way a contact hitter. I have my strikeouts. I’m more of a power hitter, especially being my size.” Snyder stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 215 pounds and credits weightlifting for much of his power. “The gym is a big part of my game,” says Snyder. “I try to lift as heavy as a I can. During season I can’t stay on a consistent week-to-week plan, but I lift whenever I have time.” The average second baseman is rarely as tall as Snyder, but he knows of one ever lankier. Tech played in the 2021 NAIA Opening Round against Oklahoma Wesleyan University. The Eagles’ regular second sacker was 6-8, 236-pound Ryan Kouba. “(Being tall) only adds range,” says Snyder. Tech went 11-5 in 2020 and 35-27 in 2021 — the 13th and 14th campaigns with Kip McWilliams as head coach. “He’s a winner,” says Snyder of McWilliams. He’ll do anything to win. He works us hard. He keeps us accountable throughout the day. “He makes sure we stay on our studies so we’re eligible to play.” Snyder is on pace to earn a Sport Management next spring. In two seasons at Purdue Fort Wayne, Snyder got into 80 games (56 starts) and hit .252 (56-of-222) with two homers, 14 doubles, 18 RBIs and 31 runs for then-Mastodons head coach Bobby Pierce. “He was just a really nice guy,” says Snyder of Pierce. “He was really laid-back and relaxed.” At Northrop, Snyder was on football varsity for three seasons, first for head coach Tim Martone then Jason Doerffler. He was a safety and quarterback prior to switching to wide receiver as a senior. He was a shooting guard in basketball as a freshman and sophomore for Barak Coolman. Football-related injuries took away his junior and senior seasons on the hardwood. Snyder dressed with the baseball varsity as a freshman then played with the Bruins’ top team for three more springs. His head coach was Matt Brumbaugh. “He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had,” says Snyder of Brumbaugh. “I like the way he went about the game. “He went about everything with passion.” Born in Fort Wayne, Snyder moved with his family to South Carolina then back to the Summit City about the time he was starting school. He played T-ball and travel ball out of what is now Wallen Baseball Softball before traveling with the Midwest Gloves and Royville. During his high school years, he was with the AWP Cubs organized by Cisco Morales and coached by Alex McKinstry (father of Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Zach McKinstry), Fort Wayne Rams and Team Indiana coached by Phil Wade and Blake Hibler. Snyder played for the Fuquay-Varina (N.C.) Twins for three straight college summers — 2018-20 — and earned Carolina-Virgnina Collegiate League all-star selections each and CVCL MVP honors in 2020. That summer he hit .427 (35-of-82) with nine homers, 27 RBIs, 26 runs and a 1.327 OPS (.510/.817). On defense, he had 25 putouts, 21 assists and eight double plays. He was CVCL Player of the Year in 2018, hitting .404 with eight homers, 41 RBIs, 37 runs and a .702 slugging average. He played briefly in the summer of the 2021 with the Prospect League’s Lafayette Aviators. In five games, he hit .250 (5-of-20) with one double, one RBI and one run. Industrial cable salesman Jerry and marketing manager Betsy Snyder have three children — Garrett, Mike and Mackenzie. Factory worker Garrett Snyder (26) played football, basketball and baseball at Northrop and one season of basketball at the the University of Northwestern Ohio. Mackenzie Snyder (21) played volleyball and basketball at Northrop and is now on the women’s basketball team at Wittenberg (Ohio) University.
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.”
Usually a second baseman, Schilling came straight over the top when he was on the mound.
Schilling was recruited to Ivy Tech Northeast — a junior college program in Fort Wayne, Ind. — as a two-way player. But the Titans had plenty of talented middle infielders and he wasn’t getting much velocity on the hill.
“I was at 83 or 84 mph on a good day,” says Schilling. “I was struggling.”
Since he had grown up as a second sacker and dropping his arm down came naturally, Ivy Tech head coach Lance Hershberger suggested he pitch with a lower arm angle.
“The ball was moving more than ever and I was throwing strikes,” says Schilling. “It just worked out for me.”
Becoming a “sidewinder” or “submariner” did not give Schilling a big velo jump, but it did make him effective.
As a “Corona” sophomore in 2021, the right-hander was 3-1 with one save, 41 strikeouts and just two walks in his first 37 innings (12 appearances with four starts). His earned run average was 4.38.
“I pitch to contact guy until I get to two strikes,” says Schilling. “You have to have conviction with every one of your pitches.
“You can’t be afraid to attack the zone.”
Schilling throws a two-seam fastball with sinking action.
“It breaks down hard and to the right,” says Schilling. “My slider has a lot of late break. I start on the third base side of the rubber and it slides away from righties or jams lefties.
“My ‘circle’ change-up has almost a 12-to-6 action. It’s like a curveball but from a submarine pitcher.”
While Schilling is mostly self-taught, he does credit former Tech sidearmer Zach Haefer (an East Noble High School graduate now at Davenport University) with help from Hershberger, former Ivy Tech and current Indiana Tech assistant Seth Sorenson as well as Mark Fluekiger.
Schilling graduated from Ivy Tech last semester with a general studies degree is enjoying the life of a “juco bandit” before heading to Lebanon, Tenn., to join the successful baseball program at Cumberland University (the Phoenix are three-time NAIA national champions (2004, 2010 and 2014) and national runners-up (1995, 2006) with 12 NAIA World Series appearances).
“To me a juco bandit is someone who is already hardened,” says Schilling. “It’s somebody who is tough, loves baseball and is a true competitor.”
Those are qualities embraced by diamond veteran Hershberger.
“The way Coach Hershberger coaches is not for everybody,” says Schilling. “He looks at championships things like making your bed, polishing your cleats and running on and off the field.
“He will push you to your competitive edge. He wants to unlock that potential in you.
“I want to give a huge thank you to Coach Hershberger. He has let me compete and pushed me to a limit I never thought I had.
“Winning is fun. Being successful is fun. That transfers to real life.”
Born in Indianapolis and raised on the west side to David and Melissa Schilling (who divorced when Ian was young), he played at Ben Davis Little League from grades K-6 and then in recreational leagues until high school summers in travel ball with the Indiana Eagles and Indiana Bruins.
After spending the summers of 2019 and 2020 with the Portland Rockets, the righty expects to spend much of this summer adding strength and possibly weight to his 5-foot-10, 175-pound frame.
Schilling, who has four older sisters (Sara, Nikki, Ashley and Savannah) and a younger brother (Landon), was on varsity at Ben Davis High for two years for Giants head coach David Bear.
He vividly recalls his last time on the field with Bear.
“We just lost the (Ben Davis) Sectional championship game and I had teary eyes,” says Schilling. “He said, ‘You’re going to be OK, kid. You’ve got a future.’”
In 2021, the pair flipped their offensive roles from 2020 when Chapman was lead-off on Mastodons head coach Doug Schreiber’s lineup card.
Heading into a four-game Horizon League series at Wright State April 9-11, the righty-swinging Lang is hitting .345 (29-of-84) with one triple, three doubles, 12 runs batted in, 13 runs scored and a .409 on-base percentage. He is 11-of-14 in stolen bases.
After leading the Summit League in hitting during the COVID-19 pandemic-shorted 2020 season at .382, Chapman is hitting .256 with two homers, one triple, two doubles, 15 RBIs, 13 runs, a .385 OBP and is 5-of-5 in stolen bases. Coming off a hand injury, Chapman went 8-of-18 last weekend against Northern Kentucky.
With a little time in center field as a sophomore, Lang was mainly second baseman early in his college days with Fishers graduate Brandon Yoho starting at short through 2019.
The past two springs, Lang has been PFW’s regular shortstop while getting guidance from Schreiber, who was head coach at Purdue University for 18 years before spending two seasons at McCutcheon High School — both in West Lafayette, Ind. — and taking over in Purdue in the fall of 2019.
“He has done a phenomenal job of turning this program around into something successful,” says Lang of Schreiber. “He has Old School method of how infielders are supposed to train.
“He tries to bring out the best player in you.”
Lang knew that Schreiber was a fiery competitor through friends who were recruited by Schreiber at Purdue.
Playing for passionate coaches growing up — including former HSE head coach and current Indiana University-Kokomo volunteer Scott Henson — Lang is drawn to that style.
“He has a fiery edge,” says Lang, a three-year varsity player for the Royals. “He was not afraid to get on somebody, but it was all out of love.
“It was the edge to help me succeed in the best way possible.”
Lang also got to be coached at Hamilton Southeastern by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Ken Seitz (who led the Royals program for 25 years and came back to help after his retirement) and his son Kory Seitz and stays in-touch with both of them.
“The HSE program is what it is today because of the Seitz family,” says Lang.
“We have a great tradition that seniors get to take their home white jerseys (after their senior season),” says Lang, who was donning his old No. 5 and rooting with three former teammates when the Royals edged Columbus East 3-2. “We were probably the loudest in the stadium.”
“I eventually want to go into sales,” says Lang. “But I want to play as long as I can.”
Granted another year of eligibility because of COVID-19, Lang plans to return for 2021-22 while being work on his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in the fall.
Jack is the oldest of Jeff and Dawn Long’s three children. Nicole Lang (20) plays softball and studies engineering at Rose-Hulman Institutute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind. Christian Lang (9) is a baseball-playing third grader.
“Family dad” Doug Pope — father of Justin Pope — has thrown many hours of batting practice to Jack Lang over the years.
The Battle rages Aug. 1-Sept. 13 with games contested Wednesday through Sunday at Florence’s UC Health Stadium and Lexington’s Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
Claycamp, who commuted from Columbus to begin the season, has made arrangements for an Airbnb in Lexington. When the Legends play in Florence, he stays with family friends in the Lawrenceburg/Sunman, Ind., area.
Ellis, a Jeffersonville High School graduate, played at the University of Louisville and is now in the Arizona Diamondbacks system. The third baseman plays home games only for the Legends and Leyengas.
Thompson (Floyd Central) is a 6-6 right-hander who was at Louisville and in the Detroit Tigers organization. He was in indy ball at Sussex County in 2019.
Right-hander Talcott (McCutcheon) last pitched for Earlham College in 2019.
Outfielder Baker played at Ball State University and was in independent ball in the American Association in 2019 (Texas and Kansas City).
Righty Dougherty (Morgan Township) pitched for Grace College before taking the mound in the United Shores Professional Baseball League in Utica, Mich.
Floyd (Jimtown) was at Ball State University and the righty hurled for the Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats in 2019.
While his primary position growing up and through college was shortstop, Claycamp has moved around the field.
“I’ve been a utility player my whole life,” says Claycamp.
At Columbus (Ind.) East High School, where he graduated in 2015, he was a shortstop as a freshman, shortstop and second baseman as a sophomore, third baseman as a junior and third baseman, shortstop and second baseman as a senior.
He played those same three spots in his one season at the University of Dayton (2016) and then was locked in at short in three campaigns at Franklin (2017-19). He helped the Grizzlies win back-to-back Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference titles in his final two campaigns.
Claycamp was invited to pre-Major League Baseball Draft workouts by the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies in, but was unable to attend with Franklin making the school’s deepest ever postseason run, reaching the regional final in Sequin, Texas.
After getting into eight games at NCAA Division I Dayton (two starts), Claycamp transferred to D-III Franklin and played in 128 contests for the Grizzlies. He hit .354 (174-of-491) with 20 home runs (tied for No. 9 in program history), 46 doubles (No. 5 all-time), 133 runs batted in (No. 6) and 143 runs scored (No. 4).
Right-handed pitcher Gray went on to Florida Gulf Coast University, the Colorado Rockies organization and is now in independent pro ball with the Milwaukee Milkmen.
Right-hander/outfielder Curry started at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. When SJC school closed, he went to Kentucky Wesleyan College.
Anderson, a 6-foot-8 righty, pitched at Northern Illinois University.
Left-hander Brian Wichman was at Murray State University then hurled for the University of Indianapolis.
Catcher Christian Wichman played briefly at Thomas More University in Crestview Hills, Ky., where he was also a football player.
Claycamp played in both Bartholomew County Little League (weekdays) and travel baseball (weekends) until he was in high school. Bartholomew County (now Youth Baseball of Bartholomew County) won a state title when he was 12 and lost in the Great Lakes Regional championship. The winner went on to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
Early travel ball teams were the Columbus Crush, Indiana Blazers and BCLL All-Stars. In high school, Claycamp donned the jerseys of the Indiana Redbirds, Indiana Outlaws and Johnson County/Indiana Jaguars.
Besides baseball, Sam played football until middle school. He was on the school basketball team through eighth grade then played intramural and church hoops.
His falls were dedicated to deer hunting.
David and Tammy Claycamp have two sons — Sam and Kobbe (22). David Claycamp is machine shop manager at Innovative Casting Technologies in Franklin. Tammy Claycamp is a teacher at Faith Lutheran Preschool in Columbus. Kobbe Claycamp played baseball and football at Columbus East. He was on the IHSAA Class 5A state championship team in 2017 and state runner-up squad in 2016. He also played club rugby in high school.
The Shawn Harper-managed Brewers lost this week to the Jackers in the tournament finals and the Grand Park league wrapped last week. Snakes manager Jake Martin and the rest of the team witnessed a home run by righty-swinging Bickel that TrackMan measured at 436 feet with a 103 mph exit velocity.
“I feel like I can do everything well on the baseball field,” says Bickel, a 2018 graduate of Marian High School in Mishawaka, Ind., and a member of the Palm Beach (Fla.) State College squad. “I hit for power. I have speed. I am smooth in the field with a strong arm.”
“It all comes back to my work ethic and how hard I train.”
Bickel, who is primarily a shortstop but can play second base or third base, got to North Dakota’s capital city after a 14-hour drive from South Bend. He reached out to Bull Moose manager Mitchell Gallagher, sent video and stayed in-touch with the Xavier University assistant.
“He brought me aboard when they had a need for an infielder,” says Bickel, who joins a team that is 6-26 playing in the COVID-19-induced pod system. The North Dakota Region consists of three teams all playing at Bismarck’s Dakota Community Bank & Trust Field — the Bull Moose, Larks and Mandan Flickertails. Players are housed in a hotel two-to-a-room. The season is to continue until Sept. 1.
“Hopefully, I can put up so good numbers here since I won’t get much exposure this fall,” says Bickel, alluding to the fact that junior college baseball canceled its fall season, meaning the loss of more than 20 games at the Palm Beach State Pro Day.
Online classes for the Business Management major begin Aug. 31. The school is closed until January, meaning Bickel will come home to South Bend after his time in North Dakota. Bickel’s 21st birthday is Jan. 21, 2021.
He struggled at the plate with the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Sharks and opted to take off 2019-20 to re-tool his swing. Bickel was offered a scholarship by head coach Kyle Forbes to join the Palm Beach State program. The Panthers are NJCAA D-I members and part of the Florida College System Activities Association.
Jarrett, 20, is the middle child of Joe and Megan Bickel. Joe owns a lawn care service. Tyler Bickel is 23. Xavier Bickel is 17.
Ratcliffe had helped Thunder head coach Greg Perschke during the 2012 and 2013 seasons and assisted in school-record 25-win seasons then went back to the high school ranks before coming back on board in Angola, Ind., for 2020.
Trine, an NCAA Division III school with a 40-game regular-season limit, averaged 17 wins per year from 2014-19 with high-water marks of 19 in 2017 and 2018.
That was not considered good enough.
So the Thunder went to work in the fall.
“We have our limits when we can and can’t be with them,” says Ratcliffe referring to NCAA D-III contact rules. “But there are expectations from Coach Perschke. His passion for the kids is electric. It just gets everybody.
“There’s an off-season weight program. Kids work around their academics to get a workout in.”
The message is clear: If you want the team to get better, this is what has to happen. Here’s how you do it. Do you want to be a part of that?
At a school full of engineering students and others with rigorous majors, the find a way to get the job done.
“We give them a lot of instruction during our weeks,” says Ratcliffe. “They take this and work hard in the off-season.”
Brought in to help with catchers, infielders and hitters and be a bench coach during games, Ratcliffe says there’s a difference between high school and college that has do with more than age.
“Kids at the college level want to be there instead of doing something in high school,” says Ratcliffe. “Development is extremely different. In high school, you’re developing their skills. In college, you’re fine-tuning their skills.”
Through conversations and short videos, Perschke (Trine head coach since 2002 and the Thunder’s pitching coach) and assistants Ratcliffe and Nick Pfafman provided instruction for a month and then the team’s veterans led a few more weeks of workouts heading into the winter.
“We developed a mindset of how to react and respond to things,” says Ratcliffe. “It’s one of the things I was brought in for.”
When the team came back from Christmas break it had less than a month before its first games.
Trine went 1-2 Feb. 22-23 in Kentucky then 8-0 March 1-6 in Florida.
Then — suddenly — the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Thunder gathered for an impromptu team photo after a practice and said their goodbyes.
This summer, Ratcliffe is head coach for the 17U DeKalb County Thunder travel team. His assistant is Cody Krumlauf, a graduate of DeKalb High School and Earlham College who has been a player and coach for the Quakers.
The program was started a few years ago when the players were at the 15U level. The Thunder now also fields 15U and 13U teams.
To be eligible to play for the Thunder, players must play in community baseball organizations in Auburn, Butler, Garrett or St. Joe.
While with the Spartans, Ratcliffe got to work with future big league catcher Rob Bowen.
“I remember he was a starter working on being a switch hitter,” says Ratcliffe. “If he hit 50 balls off the tee right-handed, he had to hit 50 left-handed. Balance had to be there if h was serious about being a switch hitter.”
Ratcliffe recalls that Bowen hit homers from both sides of the plate early in his minor league days and went on to play in the majors with the Minnesota Twins, San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics.
Caleb Kimmel, who went on to play at Valparaiso University and is now CEO of the World Baseball Academy, was also at Homestead when Ratcliffe was on staff.
“(Moustakas) had the same kind of energy as a 17-year-old that he did (with the Kansas City Royals) in the World Series.
“That guy has not changed one bit. He’s such a team player.”
Freeman became of Ratcliffe’s favorites.
“His character in the dugout was unbelievable,” says Ratcliffe of the future Atlanta Braves first baseman. “He was very coachable. Freddie wanted to get better.
“I’ve told my players this is what you need to be like. It’s not all about baseball. Character is very crucial.”
Trout and Bauer are superstars now. But they didn’t make the national team back then. They didn’t sulk. They put in the work to get better.
The Uptons also failed, but learned from those around them and rebounded. Justin’s path to The Show included 113 games with the 2006 Mark Haley-managed South Bend (Ind.) Silver Hawks during his 18-year-old season.
While they were nearly two decades apart, Ratcliffe (Class of 1990) and Parker (2007) were both graduates of Norwell High School in Ossian, Ind.
Ratcliffe had coached against right-handed pitcher Parker in high school and saw him help Norwell to an IHSAA 3A state championship in 2007.
When it came time for Parker to take the mound that summer Joplin, Ratcliffe offered a little advice: “Go be yourself.”
Parker went on to work out with the Top 40 players in Atlanta and was selected in the first round (No.9 overall) of the 2007 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and pitched in the bigs for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland Athletics. David Price and Moustakas went 1-2 in the ’07 draft.
Ratcliffe’s head coach at Norwell was Stan Reed.
“He had compassion for the players,” says Ratcliffe. “He really cared about us. It showed whether we won or lost.”
A catcher, Ratcliffe went to Purdue University and was redshirted his first season and played sparingly for Boilermakers coach Dave Alexander in his second, though he did get to catch Sherard Clinkscales, a right-handed pitcher who was selected in the first round of the 1992 MLB Draft, later scouted for Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Kansas City and coached at Notre Dame before going into athletic administration.
When Alexander left Purdue to become a scout and pitching coach Steve Green was promoted to head coach, he had a chat with Ratcliffe. It was apparent he was not going to get to play much for the Boilers.
What did Ratcliffe learn from Norwell grad Kinzer during the 1993 and 1994 seasons?
“It takes a lot of hard work to get to that level,” says Ratcliffe. “If you want to get there you’ve got to put some time in.
“Talent doesn’t get you to the next level. It takes things like working hard and having good character.”
By the time Tom Muth took over at IPFW in 1995, Ratcliffe knew he wanted to be a coach so he took the opportunity to play multiple positions and learn their nuances. Since the Dons were in need of a second baseman, Ratcliffe moved there and still took time to catch bullpens.
Ratcliffe played independent professional ball as a middle infielder for the Frontier League’s Richmond (Ind.) Roosters in their inaugural season of 1995. Larry Nowlin was the manger and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Cate part owner.
One of his teammates was future major league switch-hitting first baseman/designated hitter Morgan Burkhart. When he came to Fort Wayne as a member of the San Diego Padres coaching staff, Ratcliffe made sure he found a good fishing hole.
After finishing his degree at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ratcliffe became a teacher.
Besides coaching baseball, he instructs special education classes at Garrett Middle School. His wife of 19 years — Stacy — is a kindergarten teacher at J.E. Ober Elementary in Garrett. The couple have two sons — GHS senior-to-be Blake (17) and GMS eighth grader-to-be Easton (13).