Tag Archives: Softball

Heard takes on leadership role for Indiana University Kokomo baseball

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Indiana University Kokomo wasted little time in getting on the collegiate baseball map.

The Cougars’ debut season of 2018 yielded a 31-21-1 record, followed by 36-17 in 2018. IUK was 11-8 through its first 19 games of 2020.

“I’m really proud of where the program’s at,” says Indiana Kokomo head coach Matt Howard. “We’ve been lucky to get a lot of really good student-athletes to come to IUK that have believed in me and believed in our process.

“We’ve been able to accomplish some pretty cool things pretty quickly. We’re still hungry. We still want to be one of — if not the best — NAIA programs in the state.”

IU Kokomo is a member of the River States Conference. The campus is located along South Washington Street, about two miles south of downtown, where the Cougars’ home field — Kokomo Municipal Stadium — is located.

“I tell guys you get a Division I experience here,” says Howard. “You get a Big Ten degree and facility and get some pretty good coaching as well. The only small-school thing about our set-up is our campus.”

One of the student-athletes that was there from the beginning of the baseball program is Jared Heard. Once a first baseman and left-handed pitcher, he was converted into an outfielder at New Castle (Ind.) High School and began to flourish.

Swinging from the left side of the plate, Heard hit .341 with one home run, 40 runs batted in, 54 runs scored and 19 stolen bases in 28 attempts as an IUK freshman in 2018.

In 2019, he hit .337 with seven homers, 33 RBIs, 41 runs and was 16-of-17 in steals.

Through 19 games in 2020, he was hitting .350 with three homers, 15 RBIs, 21 runs and was 3-of-3 in swiping bases.

“Everyone sees the impact he has on the field,” says Howard of Heard. “That is not even close to the impact that he has for us. He’s a great guy, great teammate, great leader, great captain. He’s a guy that just does everything the right way.

“Our program is where it’s at largely because of him.”

Howard says he didn’t know that much about Heard when he recruited him.

“We were starting a program and just kind of throwing a wide net,” says Howard. “We were bringing in everyone we thought could be talented and see what we could do with them. Jared turned out to be a diamond in the rough and a guy a lot of other people should have been recruiting.

“We’re lucky that he ended up here. He’s done a great job for us — on and off the field.”

On a team with several new faces this season, Heard is embracing his leadership role.

“As one of the captains of the team and someone who knows the ins and outs of program so far, that’s one of the biggest things,” says Heard, who shares the title of captain with junior left-handed starting pitcher Owen Callaghan (Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate) and sophomore outfielder Mark Goudy (Noblesville High School graduate).

Heard, a general studies major with minors in psychology and sociology, gets instructions from the coaching staff — associate head coach Drew Brantley (Western High School graduate), assistant Ryan Cheek and student assistant Tyler Lunger — and relays them to his teammates, answering questions when necessary.

“On or off the field, you’ve just got to be that guy who’s open to everybody on the team,” says Heard, who chose to come to Kokomo after hearing Howard’s vision. “I thought this was going to be a better fit for me than other schools.

“I love it here.”

About a month ago, Heard found out that he has a labrum injury meaning he can’t throw and play left field. He has been the Cougars’ designated hitter.

“It’s been a big adjustment for me,” says Heard. “If I’m having a bad day at the plate, I use the field to fuel me up for the rest of the day. If I’m having a bad day in the field, I use the plate to fuel me.

“It’s a big change when you’re used to playing the game the whole time. It’s a big change when you’re sitting in the dugout. I have time to think about my at-bat and what I did wrong and what I did right, but I do like cheering on my teammates.”

Heard has been used anywhere in the first four or five slots in the IUK batting order, dependent upon and opposing pitcher.

“Anywhere you put him, he’s going to be dangerous,” says Howard. “He’s going to be circled by the other team.”

What role does Heard like best?

“I’d say around the 2- to 4-hole,” says Heard. “I was the lead-off hitter my freshmen and sophomore year. That was a big change for me. In high school, I was always a 3- or 4-hole hitter.

“(Howard) told me I had a very different swing than some people. It’s not the most fundamental, but it worked and it helped me get on-base.”

Heard says his swing has not changed, but his role has.

“Over the course of time, I’ve gotten bigger and stronger,” says Heard, who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds. That size and muscle has led to more power — often gap-to-gap, but sometimes he pops it over the fence.

At New Castle, Heard played for head coach Brad King (now head coach at Mt. Vernon of Fortville).

“He’s a great coach in my eyes,” says Heard of King. “He really helped me out in my pursuit of playing college baseball. I love him to death. He helped me get to where I am today.”

Heard play for various travel baseball teams, the last being the Indiana Bulls coached by Troy Drosche (who is also head coach at Avon High School).

Jared’s parents are Gary and Melanie Heard. Sister Destiny Heard played collegiate softball.

JAREDHEARD1

Jared Heard, an Indiana University Kokomo junior, has been with the Cougars since they started their baseball program in 2018. He has become a leader for a team that has already gotten used to success. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

Chesterton, Goshen College graduate Hoover to be voice of Gary SouthShore RailCats

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Laura Hoover thought her summer would again have her calling baseball play-by-play in Connecticut like she did in 2019 with the Mystic Schooners of the New England Collegiate Baseball League.

But not so fast.

Hoover, a 2019 Goshen (Ind.) College graduate, was approached by the independent American Association’s Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats in February about her interest in club’s vacant broadcaster job.

Having grown up 20 minutes from U.S. Steel Yard in Chesterton, Ind., and a follower of the team, sure she was interested.

Hoover met with general manager Brian Flenner and field manager Greg Tagert and accepted an offer to be broadcaster and media coordinator.

She officially begins her duties April 1. The RailCats open the May 19 at the Sioux Falls Canaries with the home opener May 22 against the Milwaukee Milkmen. Games will air on Michigan City’s WEFM-FM 95.9.

When word got out of Hoover’s hiring, other AA broadcasters reached out.

“I always want to learn,” says Hoover, 23. “I can learn from other broadcasters. I will happily absorb all that information.”

Using the John Chelsenik-ran Sportscasters Talent Agency of America, the RailCats will find an intern to work with Hoover, helping with on-air duties at home and likely selected road games.

“I am extremely young to be in this position,” says Hoover. “I want to learn from them as much as they are going to be learning through me about a broadcast. It will be a 50/50 kind of deal.

“I’m still learning and I will never stop learning.”

Why baseball broadcasting?

“I just love the sport,” says Hoover, who is already doing preparation for the upcoming season, researching players and other personnel, statistics, history and more and figuring out what she wants to put into the team’s media guide and daily media packets.

“The thing that I’m trying to add more to my broadcast is talking more to players and coaches,” says Hoover. “I want to open that line of communication and use that in the broadcast.”

Growing up in an active family with parents Terry (Andrean High School graduate) and Chris (Hammond Gavit High School graduate) and older brother Jordan (Chesterton High School graduate), Laura participated in basketball, cross country, karate, soccer, track and field and volleyball and came to decide that her best sport was swimming. She attended St. Patrick Catholic School in Chesterton before entering public school as a middle schooler.

She swam four seasons for Chesterton coach Kevin Kinel while working at the school’s student-run radio station — WSDO-FM 88.3 — under the supervision of teacher Matthew Waters. She juggled her swim workouts with her studies and her radio duties, which included studio shifts and play-by-play for football, boys basketball, girls basketball, baseball and softball.

“I never played baseball and softball,” says Hoover, a 2015 Chesterton graduate. “I’m a student of the game. (Regional Radio Sports Network president/founder) Paul Condry keeps reminding of that.”

Early time spent in the baseball press box was definitely a learning experience for Hoover.

“I did not know how to keep a book,” says Hoover. “I learned that very quickly.”

A drawback of calling baseball for the Chesterton Trojans is that her broadcast partner would sometimes not show up.

That was not a problem in college, where she also took the mic for soccer, volleyball, basketball and softball.

“People showed up to help me broadcast and it just kind of took off,” says Hoover. “I learned how to do it and enjoyed doing it.

“It turned out being one of the sports I love to broadcast the most. I decided to make a life out of it.”

Hoover saw broadcasting as a way to cope with her natural timid nature.

“I was always a really shy kid,” says Hoover. “Speaking behind a mic, you’re never physically face-to-face.

Then came the chance to broadcast.

“I might might as well go do it,” says Hoover. “I tried it out and loved it.

“I decided to pursue a degree in it.”

Hoover chose Goshen for its award-winning communication department, featuring assistant professor Jason Samuel and associate professor Kyle Hufford.

GC has produced many professional sports broadcasters, including Benjamin Kelly (now with the Northwest Naturals in the Kansas City Royals organization and the SEC Network) and Dalton Shetler (who works for the Spartan Sports Network on Michigan State University games).

She worked all four years at WGCS 91.1 FM aka The Globe, serving as student station manager as a senior, and helped re-boot GCTV.

As student station manager, Hoover did many behind-the-scenes things and kept the station and its personnel organized. She was there many late nights and random times day and night.

“I had to make sure I had my time available for everybody else,” says Hoover. “People leaned on me more.”

Her job with the RailCats will mean road trips to nine states (Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas, Wisconsin) and one Canadian province (Manitoba).

“I’m not too worried about travel,” says Hoover. “I’m no stranger to 18-20 hour trips. The Globe goes (by train) to New York every year (for the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System’s Multimedia Conference).

LAURAHOOVER

Laura Hoover, a graduate of Chesterton (Ind.) High School (2015) and Goshen (Ind.) College (2019), has been hired as broadcaster and media coordinator for the Gary SouthShore RailCats. She spent the 2019 season calling games for the Mystic Schooners of the New England Collegiate Baseball League.

 

Alum Hale takes over reins of Hagerstown Tigers

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Hagerstown (Ind.) High School has enjoyed plenty of diamond success over the years, particularly in the past 15.

Since 2006, the Tigers have earned six sectional title and one regional crown racked up many victories.

Hagerstown was ranked No. 1 among IHSAA Class 2A teams for much of 2019 and wound up 28-2, losing to Indianapolis Scecina Memorial in the semifinals of the Park Tudor Regional.

With two young daughters, Tigers head coach Brad Catey opted to vacate the head baseball post and concentrate on softball.

New head baseball coach Jay Hale, a 2006 Hagerstown graduate, looks to keep program momentum going by emphasizing organization, discipline and fundamentals just like his high school head coach Lloyd Michael, an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer.

“He taught the fundamentals of baseball better than anybody,” says Hale, who expects to have eight players back who dressed for varsity in 2019.

A left-handed pitcher, outfielder and first baseman when he played for the Tigers, Hale was part of a team that won 26 games with sectional and regional titles his senior season.

Catey was a Hagerstown assistant in 2006.

“I was always hitting my spots,” says Hale of his pitching. “I had four pitches in high school and college.

“I always adjusted to my scenario.”

Hale pitched two years at Vincennes University for head coach Jon Adams. Ted Thompson, who is now head coach at Tecumseh High School, was a Trailblazers assistant and Hale credits him for teaching him much about catching.

Hale spent his last two collegiate seasons at Northern Kentucky University for head coach Todd Asalon and pitching coach Dizzy Peyton.

“He taught me more about staying focused, being relaxed and having fun with the game,” says Hale of Peyton for whom he pitched sidearm as a senior to get more playing time. The two have stayed in-contact. “I take a little bit from all the coaches I’ve played for or coached with.

“I have to put the puzzle together and figure out what works. Some don’t respond to a mellow voice. Some crawl into the turtle shell when you yell. Those are the things I have to work through.

“I knew this opportunity was going to arise. I had to step up my game. There are so many different techniques.”

Hale’s goal the past two years is to focus on hitting fundamentals.

“There’s always something knew,” says Hale. “Those old-school guys stick with what they’ve known for years and it still seems to work. Hit the ball where it’s pitched.”

Hale notes that most high school pitchers want to throw outside so he will encourage his hitters to go the other way if that’s where they are pitched.

“We’ll play small ball and hit-and-run,” says Hale. “We’ll spread out (in our stances) and work on firing that back hip over the top of the plate and not pull out the front side. We’ll be more of a linear hitter and try hit the ball up the middle.

“It’s all about timing, balance and making good contact. We’re pounding those three things. We’re aiming to put the ball in play and hit line drives from gap to gap. We’re focused on the fundamentals of the lower half.”

With pitchers, Hale breaks it down into three sections: lower half, middle with the shoulders going last.

“A lot of kids want to leak that front shoulder and hip open,” says Hale. “You’re losing that energy.”

That’s where hitters lose power and pitchers give up velocity.

Hale’s coaching staff features varsity assistant Andy Senese, pitching coach Danny Davis, junior varsity coach Jared Ward and assistant/scorekeeper Kelly Bicknell.

Hagerstown (enrollment around 350) is a member of the Tri-Eastern Conference (with Cambridge City Lincoln, Centerville, Knightstown, Northeastern, Tri, Union City, Union County and Winchester).

The Tigers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Centerville, Northeastern, Shenandoah and Union County. Hagerstown has won 11 sectional titles, including six since 2006.

Hale has been to vice president the past couple years at Hagerstown Little League, where Shawn Lieberman is president. Lieberman was part of Hagerstown’s IHSAA Final Four team in 1999.

A few years ago, the Hagerstown Tigers travel team began as an 8U squad and are now up to 10U. Nate Logston, a member of the 1999 team, and Patrick Vinson, who coached Major division state champions in 2019 and the father of recent graduate Grant Vinson, run that squad made up of all Hagerstown players.

“We want to keep the kids together and grow the third, fourth and fifth graders,” says Hale.

Jay and Abby Hale have three boys — fourth grader Jaxon, third grader Jonah and kindergartener Jace.

Jaxon Hale and his father picked the Los Angeles Angels with Mike Trout as their favorite Major League Baseball team.

A construction management major major at NKU, Hale works as a project manager for Duke Energy.

A 8U Hagerstown team was Coach Pitch district champions in 2019.

Hale umpired Major division games at Hagerstown Little League and got to know some of the junior high players.

The Jeff Combs-coached Hagerstown Heat 14U team has been together since players 8 or 9. This year, they will play in a junior high league in east central Indiana.

“We’ll see if we want to start a team at the school level,” says Hale. “The gap now is to keep junior high schoolers involved.

“The idea is to develop and challenge them for the next level.”

JAYHALE

Jay Hale, a 2006 Hagerstown (Ind.) High School graduate, is now head baseball coach at his alma mater.

 

Giving back to community important to Arnold, Tri-Central Trojans

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Already established on the coaching scene at Tri-Central Middle/High School in Sharpsville, Ind., Shane Arnold has added head baseball coach to his list of roles and he has goals for that group of Trojans.

“Our focus is to get back to the basics, be better fundamentally and get the numbers up,” says Arnold. “We want to make sure the kids are giving back to the community and be visible in the youth leagues.”

Arnold is in his second season as head football coach at Tri-Central after 14 years as a TC gridiron assistant. He spent the past two springs as the school’s head softball coach and had held that position at Taylor High School in Kokomo. He has been involved in youth baseball for decades.

A year ago, Tri-Central had 11 high school baseball players. The year before that, it was nine. Arnold says he would like to have enough players to field a varsity and junior varsity squad.

With Arnold coaching football, there was no Limited Contact practice at Tri-Central this fall, but the Trojans will be working in the winter to develop arms and and develop other skills.

“We’ll also bring in the youth and have high school kids work with them,” says Arnold. “It’s important for the high school kids to give back and be great role models and mentors.”

Arnold was involved when leaders of the Tri-Central Youth Baseball League decided a few years ago to start playing area schools in age division competition.

“We knew that in the future, the high school team will reap the benefits,” says Arnold. “We’re seeing better baseball and having to play at a higher level.”

Tri-Central (enrollment around 250) is a member of the Hoosier Heartland Conference (with Carroll of Flora, Clinton Central, Clinton Prairie, Delphi Community, Eastern of Greentown, Rossville, Sheridan and Taylor).

In recent seasons, HHC teams have played each other one time. In 2019, TC’s non-conference opponents were Elwood, Faith Christian, Northfield, Northwestern, Oak Hill and Tipton.

The Tipton County-based Trojans are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Anderson Preparatory Academy, Cowan, Daleville, Liberty Christian, Southern Wells and Wes-Del. Tri-Central has won three sectional titles — 1987, 2003 (1A) and 2004 (1A).

Arnold expects to have athletes splitting their time between track and baseball. Sharing athletes at a small school means cooperation among coaches.

“All get along and work together,” says Arnold. “Kids have to pitch which sport is their priority.”

Former Trojans pitcher Colby Malson is now a senior at Goshen College.

“There are several in next few years that could play at the next level,” says Arnold, who will be assisted by Scott Overley, Jason Dyer and volunteer Dean Muehller.

Tri-Central plays its game on campus. There are no planned updates to the field, but the Trojans are expected to get a new look.

“They used to have an all-white home uniform,” says Arnold. “We’re going to get away from that. We have a grass field with brick dust and it’s hard to get that stuff out.”

Consequently, Tri-Central will go with gold tops at home, blue tops on the road and gray pants.

Arnold is a 1988 Elwood (Ind.) Community High School graduate. He attended William Penn College (now William Penn University) in Oskaloosa, Iowa, and Indiana University Kokomo for one year each.

Shane and Kelly Arnold have been married for 28 years and have four children and three granddaughters. Son Shane Thomas Arnold is an Elwood High teacher and the Panthers new head baseball coach. Daughter Caitlyn is married for a Marine at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina named Jordan. Son Aiden is a Tri-Central senior football and baseball player. Son Brody is TC sixth grader who plays football, basketball and baseball.

“There’s no down season at our house,” says Arnold. “It’s football, basketball, baseball, something.”

SHANEARNOLDFAMILY

The Arnold family shares a moment at the football field. Tri-Central head coach Shane Arnold is with son Aiden Arnold, wife Kelly Arnold and son Brody Arnold. Shane is also the head baseball coach for the Sharpsville, Ind.-based Trojans.

SHANEKELLYAIDENARNOLD

Shane Arnold, Kelly Arnold and Aiden Arnold enjoy a family moment. Shane is the head football and baseball coach at Tri-Central High School in Sharpsville, Ind.

KELLYSHANEARNOLDLUCASOIL

Kelly and Shane Arnold pause while on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Shane is the head football and baseball coach at Tri-Central High School in Sharpsville, Ind.

KELLYSHANEARNOLD

Kelly and Shane Arnold have been married for 28 years. He is head baseball and football coach at Tri-Central High School. He has coached softball Tri-Central and Taylor High School and been involved in youth baseball for decades.

SHANEAIDENARNOLD

Shane Arnold (left), the head baseball and football coach at Tri-Central High School in Sharpsville, Ind., stands with son Aiden, a senior on both teams in 2019-20.

SHANEANDSHANEARNOLD

The two Shane Arnolds between games of a 2019 high school baseball doubleheader. The father (on the left) is head coach at Tri-Central High School. The son (at the right) was an assistant last spring and is to be the head coach at Elwood (Ind.) Community High School in 2020.

 

Laird’s coaching based on development, discipline, accountability

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Sean Laird knows about physical adversity.

As a senior at Kokomo (Ind.) High School, he suffered a fracture to his L4 and L5 vertebrae and had torn muscles in his back.

A four-year letterman and all-conference, all-state and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series selection as a senior in 2005, Laird was good enough as a Wildkat (he set several KHS school records, playing for three head coach — Ed Moon in 2002, Jim Jameson in 2003 and 2004 and Steve Edwards in 2005) and a member of the Indiana Bulls (he helped the 17U team to a World Series runner-up finish in 2003 and Final Four appearance in 2004 while working with the Moore family — Craig, Jered, Quinn and Lance — plus Gary Sylvester and Mick Thornton) to play NCAA Division I baseball and showed up at the University of South Alabama hurt.

Playing through injuries, Laird logged four seasons (2006-10) for the Jaguars and hit .319 with 23 home runs, 41 doubles and 110 runs batted in. A 92 mph fastball shattered his right hand during his junior season. He played his entire senior season with tears in his labrum and rotator cuff and took Cortisone injections to get through it. There was nerve damage and bone spurs in his shoulder. Professional organizations still showed interest his last two years in Mobile, Ala.

“Doctors were saying this obviously is going to need surgery and if you want to play catch with your kids one day it’s probably better to rehab and take care of yourself,” says Laird. “That was a decision I made.

“Looking back on it now, it was all for a reason.”

That reason became seeing young men and women get stronger and be recognized for their hard work.

Laird received his bachelor’s degree in Sports Management and a master’s degree in Health with a focus on Exercise Science. 

He spent one season on the Kokomo coaching staff (2012) became a Indiana Bulls 17U coach/strength and conditioning in the summer of 2011 (a role he still fills and is assisted by Zionsville Community High School head coach Jered Moore).

After two years as strength and conditioning specialist at Westfield (Ind.) High School, he began what is now Laird’s Training LLC in 2014. In 2016, he authored “How to Build a Ballplayer.”

“It’s about how I built myself into a D-I ballplayer and all the trials and tribulations,” says Laird of the book. “I wanted to get all that stuff out of my head so I could share it and help other ballplayers conquer the same things I had to conquer.”

His coaching and life is based on three principles.

“It’s 100 percent character development, discipline and accountability,” says Laird. “People talk about what natural talent does somebody have in life. For me, if you can instill the discipline and teach kids how to hustle — whether it’s in the classroom, on the field or just in life in general — no matter what they choose do do, they’re going to be successful.

“How I run my business and how I coach is 100 percent to get them ready for that next level. That might not be professional. It might be college. It’s also the next level in life.

“Everybody’s going to go through problems in life and adversity. But if you can teach yourself how to have that discipline, you can conquer anything.”

Laird conducts speed camps and strongman training at The Bullpen Academy in Russiaville and two days at home in garage gym in Kokomo.

The 33-year-old is constantly learning.

When it comes to certifications, I’m always getting new ones. I’m always going to clinics continuing my education. If you’re not moving forward, if you’re not getting smarter, you’re regressing.

Besides his masters, Laird is a Certified Physical Preparation Specialist (which means knows how to train athletes in the weight room and in speed and agility for all sports). He also a Certified Underground Strength & Conditioning coach through Zach Even-Esh and is certified in Body Tempering (recovery) and Pn1 (Precision Nutrition).

“I try to formulate an eating plan for each athlete,” says Laird. “Most kids that come to see me are trying to gain muscle.”

Laird says the field of strength and conditioning is ever-changing.

When he was in high school, it was about putting on as much mass as possible and the lifts were power clean, bench press and squat.

“Those are great movements,” says Laird. “But it’s like anything else in life. If you’re only staying in one lane, you’re very limited in your potential.

“The main job for a strength coach is to keep athletes healthy. If we can’t keep them healthy, they can’t be on the field.”

The goal is to make sure the athlete moves their bodies correctly and are taught the proper movement patterns — with and without a load.

“We make sure it’s going to help him with his sport and — ultimately — make him a better athlete,” says Laird.

At South Alabama, Laird played for head coach Steve Kittrell and assistant Alan Luckie. Kittrell is now coaching softball at Spring Hill College in Mobile and Luckie is still at USA.

“Coach Kittrell was definitely a blue-collar type guy,” says Laird. “He focused on the little things.

“He was really a big mind in the game. So many guys learned so much from him.”

Among those were former Bulls Quinn Moore and Jeff Cunningham and future big leaguers Adam Lind (Anderson Highland High School graduate) and David Freese.

Laird took all the information gathered as a player and from his schooling and cultivated my own coaching culture and atmosphere.

Sean and Lauren Laird were high school sweethearts. The couple has three children — Scarlett (3), Crash Levi (18 months) and Arya (born Oct. 24). Crash is named for Kevin Costner’s character in the 1988 movie “Bull Durham.”

LAIRDINDIANABULLS

Sean Laird is a head coach for the Indiana Bulls 17 Black travel baseball team.

SCARLETTSEANCRASHLAIRD

Sean Laird, coach of the Indiana Bulls 17 Black travel baseball team and owner of Laird’s Training LLC, spends a moment with his two oldest children Scarlett and Crash Levi.

SEANLAURAARYALAIRDSean and Lauren Laird welcomed Arya to their family Oct. 24, 2019.

LAIRDFAMILY

The Lairds (from left): Lauren, Crash Levi, Scarlett and Sean. Arya was born Oct. 24, 2019.

SEANLAIRD1

Sean Laird is the founder and owner of Laird’s Training LLC and head coach for the Indiana Bulls 17 Black travel team. He is a graduate of Kokomo (Ind.) High School and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of South Alabama.

Ontiveros places discipline at core of East Chicago Central Cardinals baseball

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

It’s fair to say there will be new Cards at the Block (Stadium) in 2020.

It’s been a trend for East Chicago (Ind.) Central High School Cardinals baseball to have several players in their first year’s of organized baseball or at least since youth leagues.

“Every year we seem to be rebuilding,” says Jorge Ontiveros, ECC head coach since 2009. “We don’t have a big freshmen class coming in.

“This is every year.”

That’s one of the reasons Ontiveros and his coaching staff emphasize discipline. It is also a quality he got from his coaches while he was a Cardinals player.

The 1991 graduate played for Ruben Morris and then his senior year for Bo Reyes.

“We try to keep these kids organized and structured regardless of the score and the result of the game,” says Ontiveros. “They’re expected to be a certain way on and off the field.

“We expect them to be gentlemen. We want them to be productive students in the classroom and on the diamond just so we don’t have any problems.”

Ontiveros says there are usually about 20 players out each year in a school of about 1,200. Many of them are soccer players and wrestlers.

“They come in with that athletic ability,” says Ontiveros. “Our only challenge is hand-eye coordination with the baseball.”

East Chicago Little League introduces local kids to the game, but it is not as big as it once was with one or two teams per division.

Ontiveros says EC mayor Anthony Copeland implemented “Building Baseball Through Community” with participation from Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond and Calumet College of St. Joseph in Whiting.

“There was good participation of about 50 kids,” says Ontiveros. “We’re looking to continue that process.”

Helping Ontiveros in 2020 will be varsity assistant Frank Rosado (who has been with the program since 1986), junior varsity head coach Carlos Perez, JV assistant Juan Becerra and volunteer/pitching coach Jimmy Flores (who played at Noll).

Ontiveros, Perez and Flores are teammates on the Astros of the 28-and-over Northwest Indiana Adult Baseball League and Rosado used to play.

“I’ll go until my body says I can’t go any more,” says Ontiveros.

Astros manager and NWIABL president Jeramy Ortiz is a former ECC coach.

After some time as an independent, East Chicago Central now competes as a member of the Great Lakes Athletic Conference (with Gary West Side, Hammond, Hammond Clark, Hammond Gavit and Hammond Morton).

In baseball, each GLAC team plays each other twice — home and away. In 2019, non-conference opponents included Boone Grove, Hammond Academy of Science & Technology, Highland, Morgan Township, Munster, 21st Century Charter and Washington Township.

The Cardinals are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Hammond Morton, Highland, Lake Central, Merrillville and Munster. East Chicago Central, which opened in 1986-87 and replaced East Chicago Roosevelt and East Chicago Washington, has yet to win a sectional championship.

Two Washington graduates — pitcher Tim Stoddard and outfielder Kenny Lofton — played in the big leagues. Outfielder Jim Hicks, who played in the majors in 1965-66 and 1969-70, went to Roosevelt.

Kenny Lofton Field is located next to historic Block Stadium, a structure built in 1942 and home to many of the best ballplayers to come through the Region.

Many renovations have been made in recent years to a property owned and operated by the city, including a total revamping of the playing surface, moving in of the fences (it will be about 325 feet down the lines and 380 to center field) and new rest rooms, storage and a concession stand plus locker rooms, community center and a new scoreboard. The place has also gotten a fresh coat of paint.

“It’s night and day to what we used to play on,” says Ontiveros. “We were told it’s going to be ready for opening day.

“We have not played or practiced on that field in over two years.”

Another city facility — Kosciuszko Park — has been home to ECC baseball. Both Block and Kosciuszko are between 1.5 and 3 miles from campus, meaning a shuttle bus comes into play.

“It’s a challenge getting kids there for practice and getting them back,” says Ontiveros.

After high school, Ontiveros earned an associate degree from Ivy Tech and a bachelors degree from Purdue University Northwest. He had intended to go into education, but the Internet was just coming on the time. He is an IT operations manager at ECC, working with computer networks.

The coach maintains a website to keep fans and alumni up to date on Cardinals baseball.

ECC players going on to college programs in recent years include Gilbert Ibarra (Sauk Valley Community College), Erik Romo (Wabash College), Angelo Rosas-Badillo (College of Lake County), Adrian Alvarez (Sauk Valley), D’Angelo Gonzalez (University of Indianapolis), Reyes Maldonado (Sauk Valley and University of Saint Francis), Carlos Flores (South Suburban College) and Darion Edmond (South Suburban).

Jorge and Carmen Ontiveros recently celebrated eight years of marriage. The couple has two children — Jacqueline (6) and Andres (4). Both played T-ball this year. Jacqueline is to move on to softball in 2020.

ANDRESJACQUELINEONTIVEROSAndres and Jacqueline Ontiveros — the children of Jorge and Carmen Ontiveros — enjoy playing in youth baseball and softball. Jorge Ontiveros is head baseball coach at East Chicago (Ind.) Central High School.

JORGEONTIVEROSFAMILY

The Ontiveros family — Jorge, Carmen, Andres and Jacqueline. JORGEONTIVEROS2

Jorge Ontiveros plays in an adult baseball league tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He is on the Astros in the Northwest Indiana Adult Baseball League and is the head coach at East Chicago (Ind.) Central High School.

JORGEONTIVEROS1

Jorge Ontiveros has been head baseball coach at his alma mater — East Chicago (Ind.) Central High School — since 2009.

 

IHSBCA sends arm care, other IHSAA by-law proposals on to athletic administrators

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association (IHSBCA) members have been surveyed on five proposals that have been passed on to the Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (IIAAA), which will then send them on to be considered to the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) at its November executive committee meeting.

The first two proposals involve arm care, the third lengthening the season, the fourth adding summer baseball activity days and the fifth designating a person to track pitch counts during the state tournament series.

The IHSBCA’s proposed change to by-law 15-2.4 states: “During the School Year Out-of-Season, a student who participates in the Team Sport of baseball may throw a baseball as a part of a conditioning program (beginning M – WK26).”

“We definitely see throwing as part of conditioning,” says IHSBCA executive director Brian Abbott. “It’s hard to simulate throwing in baseball without a baseball.

“Our membership supports our proposals.”

According to the IHSBCA, which has been working with IHSAA assistant commissioner for baseball Robert Faulkens (who says he will have to see the IHSBCA findings before he comments publicly on the proposals), the rationale for the proposal is that “throwing a baseball generally involves a 15 to 20-minute session with a baseball so it is not a huge time commitment. The flexibility of the conditioning program is needed due to the fact a player needs to throw on multiple days.”

The IHSBCA has been a strong advocate for an arm care program since the pitch count limitations (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days) were put in place.

In appealing to its members, the IHSBCA says “preferably, this arm care proposal can be started immediately in preparation for the upcoming 2020 season. Track runners train their legs as a part of conditioning, the arm has to be conditioned in a similar fashion. In order to train the arm, just as the legs, a plan of progression and consistency is imperative for overall health of these muscle groups.

“As it currently reads, Indiana high school baseball players are allowed to throw a baseball two times per week preceding the beginning of the season. At which time these players are now allowed, and almost have to be in order to be ready for the season, to throw six times per week. The progression of going from two days to six days without a proper build up in between is not a healthy progression for an arm.

“This stage of arm care will NOT include bullpens. We are looking to train and prepare the arm

as a track runner trains and prepares their legs.

“Bullpens and competitive bullpens will only take place during the participation portion of the Limited Contact sessions currently allowed by the IHSAA.

“By allowing arm care to be a part of conditioning there are no additional times, dates, etc. … to supervise. The only supervision for school administration is during the Limited Contact sessions.”

For by-law 15-2.5, this is the changed being proposed by the IHSBCA: “Beginning on M – WK33 and continuing to M – WK37 (official practice starting date), the Team Sport of baseball will be allowed 1 additional day per week (2-hour max.) for the specific purpose of throwing bullpens … bullpens are defined as a pitcher, catcher, and the use of a pitching mound (s). No other baseball activities will be performed during this additional 1 day/week time period.”

Abbott notes that schools with a large number of pitchers will have difficulty in getting in all the pitches and have any time left over for other training.

“Some schools have 60 to 70 kids trying out,” says Abbott. “It takes a lot of their time.  That’s all you get done for two hours.

“We next extra time. Proposal No. 2 adds another dimension with more opportunities for pre-season bullpens.

“In my mind, (the arm care proposals) are needed, but we’re only one piece of the puzzle.”

In getting pitchers ready for the season, coaches generally like to work up to at least 60 pitches by opening day and this tends to start with about 15 pitches on Week 1, 30 on Week 2 and so on.

Abbott says while the IHSAA will consider proposals in November, action is not expected until it meets in May after the IHSBCA is allowed to formally present its proposals, meaning changes would go into effect in 2020-21.

Though the IHSBCA would like to speed up that timetable for arm care.

“Pitch count was put in immediately because it was agreed upon by all parties,” says Abbott. “We would love arm care to go in place after Christmas, but we have no control over that.”

The IHSBCA requests that the length of the baseball season be extended by one week.

Abbott says that in the fall of 2018, Goshen High School athletic director and IIAAA Proposals chairman Larry Kissinger asked the IHSBCA and Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association (which covers softball) to consider options for length of season and games played.

Kissinger shared that 77 percent of coaches did not want a reduction in games. The IHSBCA has been working with the IIAAA on options. One way to continue to play 28 games of 26 games plus a tournament was by adding another week to the season.

Abbott notes that the softball season is 11 weeks and baseball is shorter. Spring breaks — in some districts two weeks long and some systems imposing mandatory time off — are cutting the compacted season. This does not happen with football in the fall or basketball in the winter.

In discussions with Randy Lewandowski, president and general manager of the Indianapolis Indians, Abbott learned that the minor league team prefers having the tournament off Father’s Day weekend as those are lucrative dates for the club at Victory Field.

The proposed timetable (with length of each season to the start of sectional play:

Current Season Length:

Football (1A-4A): 11 weeks plus 4 days.

Football (5A-6A): 12 weeks plus 4 days.

Boys Basketball: 16 weeks plus 1 day.

Softball: 11 weeks.

Baseball: 10 weeks plus 1 or 2 days (depending on sectional start date).

Proposed Season Length:

Baseball: 11 weeks (sectional tournament starts on Memorial Day and concludes the following Saturday; the 4-week tourney finishes the weekend after Father’s Day).

In 2021, Memorial Day is May 31, Father’s Day June 20 so that would make June 25-26 the dates for the State Finals.

In 2022, Memorial Day is May 30, Father’s Day June 19 and the proposed State Finals dates June 24-25.

For 2023, those dates are May 29, June 18 and June 23-24.

For 2024, they are May 27, June 16 and June 21-22.

IHSBCA’s fourth proposal states: “A School, and players from the School’s baseball program, may participate in Baseball Activities under the following standards:

“a. Schools may sponsor up to Ten (10) Baseball Activity Days (a day when a School’s baseball coaching staff coaches Two (2) or more players from the School’s baseball team engaged in Baseball Activities) during the Summer.

“b. A School’s Baseball Activity Days may include up to Four (4) Baseball Competition Days (a day when a School’s baseball coaching staff takes Two (2) or more players from a School’s baseball team to either Practice with or compete against One (1) or more players from another School or program).

“c. Prior to the first day of Summer, a School’s baseball coaching staff must designate to the School’s athletic director or the principal the specific Baseball Activity Days and the Baseball Competition Days in which the baseball program plans to participate.”

The IHSBCA’s rationale: “The IHSAA is asking all coaches associations to submit guidelines for summer participation.

“In most cases, travel baseball and non-school leagues dominate the summer environment for our sport; however, in the cases where the high school coach(es) is/are still running an in-house summer program these guidelines will serve as a basis for participation.”

In its fifth proposal, the IHSBCA makes this request: “that each tournament host site (sectional through State Finals) have a person designed to track the pitch count for both teams in each scheduled contest.

“This position will keep written or digital records and communicate with the coaches and umpires each inning to confirm pitch counts for both teams.

“This position will also mandate (through the No. 1 umpire/crew chief) the removal of a pitcher once their pitch count limit has been exhausted.

“The head coach will certify the availability of each pitcher prior to the start of each tournament level; records will be kept throughout the tournament to track pitch counts; ensure proper rest is observed; and, at no time, allow an ineligible pitcher to enter the game or remain in the game.

“These records will be available to member school head coaches, athletic directors, principals, and IHSAA personnel upon request.”

Note: Indiana’s American Legion state tournament has had a person assigned to pitch counts for years. The total is posted in the press box window at the end of each inning.

The IHSAA pitch count rule has meant that teams have had to develop more pitchers and share the load.

Steve Stutsman, veteran head coach at Elkhart Central High School, says the Top 10 pitchers in school history have more than 100 innings per season and the leaders 85 was the norm for the leaders a decade ago.

“Weather is also a consideration,” says Stutsman. “It’s long been a rule at Central that pitchers have to wear long sleeves until it’s 70 degrees.”

IHSAABASEBALL

Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association (IHSBCA) members have been surveyed on five proposals that have been passed on to the Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (IIAAA), which will then send them on to be considered to the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) at its November executive committee meeting. (Steve Krah Photo)