Adam Bednarek is taking lessons he learned in high school, college and on the travel ball circuit and applying them in his first season as head baseball coach at Hammond (Ind.) Morton High School. Bednarek was hired to head the Governors program at the end of the summer of 2022 and began his first year of teaching (U.S. History) and Morton in the fall. Morton (enrollment around 1,675) is a member of the Great Lakes Athletic Conference (with East Chicago Central, Gary West Side and Hammond Central). The Governors are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2023 with East Chicago Central, Gary West Side, Hammond Central, Hobart, Lake Central, Merrillville and Munster. Morton has won 10 sectional titles — the last in 2015. Born in Illinois and raised in Dyer, Ind., Bednarek went to Andrean High School in nearby Merrillville, and played for Indiana High School Baseball Association Hall of Famer Dave Pishkur, who has eight state titles and more than 1,000 victories to his credit. Bednarek was in the program from 2014 to 2017. He was rostered as a sophomore but did not dress for the 2015 IHSAA Class 3A State Finals. He was a second baseman on the varsity in 2016 and moved to third base in 2017 after tearing a meniscus. What does Bednarek, who wore No. 16 in Red and Gold, remember most about time spent with the veteran 59ers skipper? “Coach Pishkur is unbelievable at teaching all sorts of baserunning things — especially stealing third base,” says Bednarek. “I became a much better baserunner during my time at Andrean.” Three of Bednarek’s four Morton assistants — Danny Murray, Eric Mularski and Sawyer Allen — played with him in high school. Only longtime Governors assistant and Babe Ruth League coach Vern Jefferson did not. Bednarek and company led Morton players who were able to attend fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period sessions with an emphasis on fundamentals and defensive situations. A drill he learned from Pishkur — The Runs Game — was part of the twice-a-week workouts. It’s essentially living batting practice on the clock. The offensive team might get 10 minutes to score as many runs in that time. The catch is there are four live balls and the hitting team has to track down the foul balls and get them back into the game before the next pitch can be thrown. “We create fun chaos,” says Bednarek. “It’s a really fast pace and there’s a lot of conditioning.” Winter has been dedicated mostly arm conditioning and strength training with players in the weight room about three times a week. Bednarek has had 26 players sign up for baseball and he might gain a few once the varsity boys basketball season ends. The plan calls for Morton to field varsity and junior varsity teams in the spring, playing home games on Georgas Field (named for former coach Jack Georgas). After high school, Bednarek spent one fall with the baseball team at Quincy (Ill.) University then transferred to Indiana University-Bloomington and earned a degree in Secondary Education focused on Social Studies. That’s when he began coaching in the summer — two with Bobby Morris and 5 Star National Great Lakes and one with the Indiana Playmakers.
Tim Misliwy has a plan as he guides baseball at Whiting (Ind.) High School. “My main point of emphasis of the program is to focus on player development,” says Misliwy, who led the Oilers for the first time in 2021 after serving as an assistant on the staff of Adam Musielak. “I believe my job is to try to get the best out of every player. We focus a lot on drill work and skill development to try to help every player improve. “I want to put my players in the best position to continue playing baseball at whatever level they want.” Recent Whiting graduates Nicholas Semancik (Class of 2020) and Austin Crocker (Class of 2021) are on the baseball roster at Calumet College of St. Joseph in Whiting. Whiting (enrollment around 475) is a member of the Greater South Shore Athletic Conference (with Bishop Noll Institute, Boone Grove, Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Hanover Central, Lake Station Edison, River Forest, South Central of Union Mills and Wheeler). Hanover Central was the IHSAA Class 3A state runner-up in 2021. Also in 2021, Whiting was part of a Class 2A sectional grouping with Bishop Noll Institute, Bowman Leadership Academy, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison and Wheeler. The Oilers have won four sectional titles — the last in 2019 (when they advanced to semistate before losing to eventual state champion Alexandria-Monroe). “We have some big goals at Whiting,” says Misliwy. “We have goals of getting back (to semistate) and beyond that. “We still have a few players from that (2019) team who are seniors now and they got a taste of that success and would like to recreate (in 2022). “We were a very young program last year, which was my first season, and this year I’m hoping the guys develop and mature into a very successful team.” Misliwy’s 2021 assistants were Steven Taylor and James Martinez and he hopes they will return in 2022. The Oilers share a ballpark with Calumet College and the summer collegiate Northwest Indiana Oilmen. “I love getting to play at Oil City Stadium,” says Misliwy of the diamond on 119th Street and very near Lake Michigan. “It’s a great facility and we are very lucky to get to call that our home field. A lot of teams want to schedule games with us mainly to come play at our park. The crew that takes care of the field does a great job making sure it is in great condition every year. “I honestly think it’s one of the nicest home parks in the state of Indiana and we are obviously very proud to call it home.” Oil City Stadium was host to the 2016 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series. An IHSAA Limited Contact Period ends Oct. 16. With many players in football and other fall sports, Whiting did not have baseball activities this fall. While the Oilers don’t have any official feeder systems, players tend to come from area leagues (including Lakeshore Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth) and travel ball organizations. Misliwy is in his 13th year of teaching — all at the high school level. He instructs Advanced Placement Stats, AP Calculus, Pre-Calculus and Business Math at Whiting. He formerly taught math and coached baseball and bowling at Bishop Noll Institute. A 2002 graduate of Mount Carmel High School in Chicago, where played baseball for Caravan coach Brian Hurry, Misliwy went on to earn a bachelor’s degree as a Mathematics/Business Administration double major at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Mich., a Secondary Education degree from Calumet College and a masters in Sports Administration from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
It’s a team-first concept that Connor Wilkins is emphasizing as the new head baseball coach at Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne, Ind. In June, Wilkins took over the Titans program started by Indiana Baseball Hall of Famer Lance Hershberger. “Be a selfless player and put your team ahead yourself,” says Wilkins, who turns 29 in October. “It’s a team approach. It’s never individual goals. Are you willing to do what is necessary for your team to succeed even if you fail?” Wilkins has this in mind when looking for players to compete in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II program. “We are very strict about how we recruit,” says Wilkins. “We see how they interact with their parents and their teammates. We coach the entire person. The results on the ball field take care of themselves.” With games and practices at Shoaff Park, Ivy Tech is currently engaged in fall ball. They have had six scrimmages and could wind up having as many as 28 — most of them on the road at such four-year schools as the University of Northwestern Ohio, Indiana Tech, Indiana Wesleyan University and Taylor University. The Titans went 1-0-1 in the recent Puma JUCO Classic — a Prep Baseball Report showcase at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. There are nearly 40 players honing fundamentals and getting down the details of Ivy Tech’s offensive and defensive systems. “We start working on things now so that come spring time their mechanics and bodies are locked in,” says Wilkins, who is working toward a Masters in Exercise Science and Wellness with a concentration in Fitness and Performance through Liberty University. Wilkins’ assistant coaches are Scott Bickel, Drew Buffenbarger, Javier DeJesus and Mark Flueckiger. Buffenbarger was Ivy Tech’s first baseball captain. DeJesus, who played for the Fort Wayne Wizards, is the Titans pitching coach. Flueckiger, who played at Huntington College (now Huntington University), has high school and college coaching experience. A 2011 graduate of Concordia Lutheran High School, catcher Wilkins played for Steve Kleinschmidt as Cadets freshman and his last three seasons for Hershberger. Wilkins went to Rick Smith-coached NJCAA member Jackson (Mich.) College then transferred to Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, where an L5 (fifth Lumbar Vertabra) injury on top of a preexisting back issue ended his playing days in the fall of 2013. His original career path was to follow grandfather Harry Wallace’s footsteps and become a chiropractor before he got the teaching and coaching bug. Wallace (who died in 2006) practiced for 60 years around Ligonier and Fort Wayne. Wilkins transferred from Indiana Tech to Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne and changed his major to Secondary Education through Indiana University. In the spring of 2014, he was on the baseball staff of Fort Wayne Northrop High School head coach Matt Brumbaugh. Before becoming head coach and an advisor at Ivy Tech, Wilkinson spent three years at Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne, where he taught History, Health Sciences and Strength & Conditioning. Connor is the youngest of Dan and Beth Wilkins’ four children after Danielle Molter (36), Matthew Wilkins (34) and Brianna Kompara (32). Dan Wilkins is a retired IT specialist at GTE (now Verizon) and Beth Wilkins is in customer service at Parkview Hospital Randallia. Connor and wife Alana will celebrate three years of marriage in October. Alana Wilkins is a Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger High School graduate and an insurance underwriter. The couple have a daughter — Rey (2).
Whitehead is in his 19th season leading the Panthers program. He is also the Upper School athletic director at the private K-12 school (Grades K-5 in the Lower School, 6-8 in the Middle School and 9-12 in the Upper School – 9-12). The institution, which has about 375 in the Upper School, sports a 100 percent college placement rate.
“We’re big on education-based athletics and helping shape these young men and prepare them for their future,” says Whitehead. “It’s about having them learn lifelong lessons through baseball and what it means to be a good teammate, be focused, win and lose with grace and learn how to compete.
“Pretty soon they’ll have to compete in the game of life and it’s pretty tough out there.”
As far as the baseball part of the equation?
“We want to be fundamentally sound, have a high baseball I.Q., throw strikes (as pitchers) and make the right play,” says Whitehead. “We play fundamentally well and we execute.”
Park Tudor has 21 players in the program in 2021 and plays both a varsity and junior varsity schedule. That means players are asked to play multiple positions and many get a chance to pitch.
The baseball-playing schools see each other once each during the season.
The Panthers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Cascade (the 2021 host), Covenant Christian, Monrovia, Speedway and University. Park Tudor has won seven sectional titles — the last in 2013. A 1A state championship was earned in 1999 (Bob Hildebrand was head coach).
Micah Johnson, a 2009 Park Tudor graduate, was a standout at Indiana University and played in the majors for the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves. He is now blossoming in the art world, frequently traveling back and forth from Indy to LA.
Current Panthers senior C.J. Richmond has committed to Western Illinois University. Whitehead says he expects that underclassmen will have a chance to play college baseball.
Park Tudor plays its home games on its campus located on College Avenue — about three miles northwest of Bishop Chatard High School and three miles northeast of Butler University.
A large backstop/net system was just installed at the Panthers’ field, which typically hosts IHSAA sectional and regional tournaments but with the construction of a new wellness center those events will be hosted in 2021 by Cascade.
In a non-COVID-19 year, Park Tudor will usually field a sixth grade team and a seventh/eighth grade squad that take on area independent and public middle schools.
“This is not a normal year,” says Whitehead. “(Grades 6-8) are practicing but not competing due to the pandemic.”
Whitehead is a 1996 graduate of Crawfordsville High School, where he played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Froedge and longtime assistant Rhett Welliever and was a teammate of current Athenians head coach Brett Motz.
“My four years we won a lot of ball games,” says Whitehead. “Coach Froedge was a big fundamentals guy. We were the start of Crawfordsville being really good.
“We went 30-3 and lost to Portage in semistate my junior year. That’s when there was one class.”
A celebration honoring Froedge was postponed in 2020 and is slated for Saturday, May 15 when Park Tudor plays at Crawfordsville. Bruce Whitehead, Courtney’s father, was Athenians AD for many years.
Courtney Whitehead played three seasons of college baseball — two at Indiana University Purdue University (IUPUI) for Bret Shambaugh and one at Goshen College for Todd Bacon.
As AD at Park Tudor, Whitehead oversees an athletic department that has 20 varsity teams, including baseball, boys golf, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, girls softball, girls tennis, boys track and field and girls track and field in the spring.
“I’ve got good people to help me to manage events and good set of coaches,” says Whitehead. “We communicate well.”
Whitehead began his coaching career at Lowell (Ind.) High School, assisting Kirk Kennedy in football and Mike Magley in basketball.
He was then a football assistant to Sean Tomey at Lafayette Central Catholic High School in the same school year that he helped Jamie Sailors with Harrison High School (West Lafayette) baseball.
Assisting Whitehead at Park Tudor in 2021 are Toby Rogers, Fred Pinch and Madison Foster with the varsity and Brent Smith and Lane Waters with the JV. Rogers played high school ball at Bloomington South then at IUPUI for Shambaugh. Pinch is from the Washington D.C. area. Foster, a 2012 Park Tudor graduate, played for Whitehead and was on three consecutive semistate teams before playing at Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois.
Brent Smith is the father of former Whitehead player Calvin Smith. Harrison graduate Waters played baseball for the Raiders then basketball at Calvin University in Michigan.
Courtney and wife Beth have two sons and a daughter — all attending Park Tudor — freshman Nolan (as in Nolan Ryan), sixth grader Camden (as in Camden Yards in Baltimore) and second grader Addison (as in Clark and Addison, site of Wrigley Field in Chicago).
“My wife is a big sports and baseball person,” says Courtney Whitehead.
Many of Whitehead’s relatives are in the Nappanee/Bremen area.
A.J. Whitehead, who was a basketball standout at NorthWood High School in Nappanee and Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., is associate director of strength and conditioning at Purdue.
makes us better playing tougher competition,” says Schroeder (pronounced SHRAY-der), who is heading into his 27th season leading the Hornets. His teams have won 13 Southern Athletic Conference titles and six IHSAA Class 1A sectional crowns (the last in 2008).
Schroeder, who was an assistant to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Gary O’Neal while doing his student teaching at Madison Consolidated in 1992 led led the Hornets from 1993-2012 and came back in 2014, emphasizes a commitment to the Henryville program.
“You should be putting forth your best effort everyday,” says Schroeder. “To be successful in life you have to work hard.
“You shouldn’t expect a hand-out. That’s a life lesson.”
Assisted by Brian Consley and Cody Reister (a Henryville alum who pitched at Hanover College), Schroeder expects to have 21 or 22 players to play varsity and junior varsity schedules.
With many playing soccer or tennis in the fall, only a handful participated in fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period workouts. Since the winter window opened Dec. 9, there have been more practicing while some have been busy with basketball.
Schroeder appreciates the multi-sport athlete who can develop a variety of skills while still competing.
Henryville plays its games on-campus. The field was renovated in the fall of 2011. A devastating tornado hit the school and community in the spring of 2012.
“That was a bad situation,” says Schroeder. “Everything you know is gone. They school is demolished. What is going to happen next? We didn’t know what direction we were going to take.
“It took the work of lot of people to put things back together and got things looking good again.”
With much effort, the Hornets were able to take the diamond that year.
“It’s really nice,” says Schroeder. “I’ll put our baseball infield up against any around.”
Bill Miller, who was a very successful coach at Pleasure Ridge Park High School in Louisville, Ky., ran Mid South Baseball until his death in 2018 and his company — a frequent vendor at the IHSBCA State Clinic each January — did the laser grading at Henryville.
The high school program is fed by Henryville Youth Sports, which hosts baseball for ages 3/4 and 5/6 and grades 1/2, 3/4 and 5/6 in the summer and separates seventh and eighth grade junior high teams in the spring.
Schroeder has a number of former players who are now parents and coaching at the youth league and junior high levels.
“They teach these kids the things I expect so they’re not totally lost when they get to high school,” says Schroeder.
Besides Reister, another recent Henryville graduate to move to on college baseball is all-state catcher Luke Stock. The son of Lance Stock and grandson of IHSBCA Hall of Famer Wayne Stock was at Vincennes University.
Current Henryville junior left-hander Dawson Hope has been drawing collegiate interest.
Schroeder is a graduate of Jennings County High School in North Vernon, Ind. (1984) and Indiana University Southeast in New Albany (1988). He earned a Secondary Education degree with an emphasis on Language Arts in Grades 5-12 and currently teaches Junior and Senior LA classes at Henryville.
His high school coach was Bob Howe.
“He was very direct with players,” says Schroeder of Howe. “If he had something on his mind that was bothering him, he was going to tell you.”
That was the same kind of hard-nose approach taken by Jeff’s father Don Schroeder as a long-time baseball and basketball coach at Jennings County.
“You’d better play hard for (my father) or you weren’t going to be on the team,” says Jeff Schroeder.
The elder Schroeder coached Howe.
Jeff Schroeder played one year for Dennis Bohr and three for Rick Parr at IUS.
He describes Bohr as a carefree guy who are also very competitive. Schroeder learned much about the game from Parr, who played in the Boston Red Sox organization.
Jeff’s wife, Jenny, was head softball coach at Henryville for a decade and earned much success. The couple has four children — Floyd Central High School graduates Haley (25) and Braden (21) and Silver Creek students Isabel (16) and Olivia (15). The two youngest girls are cheerleaders. Isabel also runs cross country and track.
Hired to his first head-coaching position on June 1, a few days later the former Franklin (Ind.) College assistant was already recruiting at an event in Cincinnati and spent the next few weeks looking for student-athletes.
Bellak says he expects to have 32 players in the fall and have recruiting classes of 10 to 12 players the next few seasons.
“I felt comfortable with the recruiting area,” says Bellak, who was the recruiting coordinator at Franklin. “Recruiting is the lifeblood of any college program.
“I want athletes who are big and strong. Power bats and power arms play. Power bats can change the game with one swing. Power arms give you more room for error. You don’t have to be perfect.”
Bella, 32, prides himself in finding value where others miss it.
“I plan on bringing that to Hanover and developing that over four years,” says Bellak. “We want mid-major Division I’s calling asking us to play.”
As a D-III school, Hanover (enrollment 1,100) does not give athletic scholarships. The liberal arts institution places a premium on academics.
“The thing I’ve been preaching on the recruiting trail is that fit matters,” says Bellak. “This is not for you if you are not 100 percent Panthers. You have to fit the academic profile, campus profile and athletic profile.”
Almost all of the seniors in his last three recruiting classes at Franklin had job offers prior to graduation.
Bellak is looking for young men coming to Hanover who want to be more than ballplayers. They have aspirations of pursuing careers as CEOs, lawyers, politicians etc.
“Here at Hanover, our focus is wanting guys who want more,” says Bellak. “What is your ‘why’?’
“We want difference makers.”
The Shayne Stock-coached Hanover Panthers went 8-25 overall and 5-12 in the HCAC.
“You can win a lot here,” says Bellak. “The rest of athletic department, that’s what they’re doing.
“It’s one of those opportunities I felt I couldn’t pass up.”
Hanover got Bellak’s attention the first time he arrived on the southern Indiana campus as a Franklin assistant.
“It’s got that ‘wow factor,’” says Bellak. “It’s the way it is back in the woods overlooking the Ohio River and the architecture. There’s lots of green space.
In 2009, Bellak graduated from Webster with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. He earned a masters degree in leadership and management from Liberty University’s online program in 2013. The latter is a precursor to a Masters of Business Administration.
“(The leadership and management masters) helped me take a different perspective to coaching,” says Bellak. “The business world isn’t that different than a team.
“The way a CEO motivates someone in the office is not much different than how a coach motivates someone on the field.”
Grant and wife Natasha Bellak have a daughter — Bexley (2).
Grant Bellak is now the head baseball coach at Hanover (Ind.) College after seven seasons as an assistant at Franklin (Ind.) College. (Hanover College Photo)