In his second stint as head baseball coach at LaCrosse (Ind.) High School, Snyder expects his Tigers to say “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’am” and to keep their hair neat and jerseys tucked in. They must stay on top of their studies.
“Today’s society shies away from discipline,” says Snyder, who led LaCrosse for five seasons (2000-04 with IHSAA Class 1A top-10 rankings in four of those seasons and a West Central Sectional title in 2002) then took time off to raise his children. “There’s a way to win and it does take discipline.”
During his first Tigers tenure, 18 players went on to college baseball in five years.
“I push extremely hard with grades,” says Snyder. “That’s part of the discipline factor. I want people to say that’s a baseball player at the school.
“They know we’re different.”
Snyder derived this approach from the men he encountered along his baseball path. A 1986 graduate of South Central High School at Union Mills, Ind., he played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bob Schellinger and later coached with him. He also coached C-team boys basketball and was involved in Hanna youth baseball.
Snyder was on the Satellites high school baseball staff for 11 years before taking over the reins at LaCrosse.
While still a player, Snyder was on a world champion Junior Olympic team that featured IHSBCA Hall of Famers Ric Tomaszewski and Len Buczkowski plus Jim Dermody among the coaches. These men all ran extremely disciplined high school programs — Tomaszewski at South Bend Washington, Buczkowski at South Bend Adams and Dermody at Warsaw.
Teammates included LaPorte High School’s Scott Upp and Greg Perschke. Upp went on to be head coach at LaPorte, following legend Ken Schreiber and Perschke the head coach at Trine University in Angola, Ind.
One of Snyder’s best friends in coaching is Washington Township’s Randy Roberts. They share similar styles.
“I had a good upbringing,” says Snyder, 52. “I’m very appreciative of all the people that came into my life.”
While he came back to just in time to have the 2020 season taken away because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are plenty of positives surrounding LaCrosse baseball.
Nearly $60,000 — most of it donated — has been poured into the improvement of Tiger Field, which is located less than a mile northeast of the school building.
“It’s going to surprise a lot of people,” says Snyder of an ongoing project at the Dewey Township-owned facility that has added a new net back stop with a four-foot brick wall inside and stone outside plus updated dugouts, mound and plate areas and an infield sprinkler system with more to come.
Snyder is approaching 19 years with North Star Stone in Valparaiso, Ind. The company manufactures and installs stone products.
Snyder expects as many as 28 players (including 13 freshmen) this spring, meaning the Tigers will be able to field a junior varsity team for likely the first time ever.
Helping Snyder coach are Brian “Chico” Lipscomb, J.T. Snyder and Dan Snyder. Lipscomb was a standout at LaPorte who played in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. J.T., Eric’s son, and Dan, Eric’s nephew, played at South Central. Dan Snyder, who pitched and was the athlete of the year at Purdue University Northwest, is LaCrosse’s pitching coach.
Other former college or pro players have come in to help teach the Tigers.
Feeding the high school program is the Southwest County Conference — a youth league for ages 5 to 12 with teams feeding schools at LaCrosse, Wanatah, Clinton, Hanna and Union Mills. LaCrosse uses the softball field near Tiger Field.
“I’m a big part of that,” says Snyder. “I want to teach them everything I need them to know (at the high school level).
“We teach them how to bunt, lead off and steal. We treat the youngest kids just like they were freshmen.”
In coaching LaCrosse fifth and sixth grade boys basketball players this winter, Snyder took over a team with a 1.7 grade-point average. By season’s end it was 3.1.
“That’s why I’m involved at the lower levels,” says Snyder.
LaCrosse conducted fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period workouts and is just getting started with winter conditioning/practice given that so many baseball players also play basketball.
Eric and Sara Snyder have five children (two girls followed by three sons) — Alex (26), Danielle (25), J.T. (23), R.J. (21) and Eli (10). The four oldest were all South Central athletes — Alex in volleyball, basketball and softball, Danielle in softball, J.T. in baseball and basketball and R.J. in baseball and basketball. R.J. Snyder is an outfielder at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.
But there are still plenty of Indiana connections for the former pitcher.
Thompson is a 2000 graduate of Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., where he was a Liberal Studies major and Business minor while pitching for head coaches Sam Riggleman (1998 and 1999) and Mike Hutcheon (2000) learning from Bethel assistant and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Famer Dick Siler.
As an elementary student, Thompson was always writing out lineups and plays. At first all he wanted to do was play baseball. When that time was over, he turned his attention to coaching.
“I’ve always loved baseball and sports,” says Thompson. “God’s gifted me in that capacity.”
Thompson is a 1995 graduate of Cowden-Herrick Senior High School in central Illinois. His graduating class had 33 students. With too few boys to have a football team, the Bobcats played conference games in the fall and the rest of the schedule in the spring with a healthy American Legion schedule in the summer.
Left-hander Stults, an Argos (Ind.) High School graduate, was in the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves.
Right-hander Humen also pitched at Rice University and Oral Roberts University and made it to Double-A with the Miami Marlins and also logged mound time in the Kansas City Royals system and in independent ball.
Left-hander Kloosterman, an Elkhart Central graduate, competed in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
Before leaving for Air Force, Hutcheon and Thompson recruited Justin Masterson out of Ohio to attend Bethel. They later faced him in the Mountain West Conference when Masterson transferred to San Diego State University. He went on to pitched in the bigs for the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals.
At MNU, Thompson’s coaching staff includes former Huntington (Ind.) University pitcher and Taylor University (Upland, Ind.) assistant Colton Punches as pitching coach. He was recommended by Trojans head coach Kyle Gould.
Cam Screeton, a Rochester (Ind.) High School and Indiana Wesleyan University (Marion, Ind.) graduate and former head coach at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., is a graduate assistant working with MNU Pioneers hitters.
In a program with around 60 players (varsity and junior varsity), Elkhart Central alum Brycen Sherwood (Craig Sherwood’s nephew) is a sophomore second baseman and Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School graduate Jake Bisland is a sophomore catcher.
Chad Jenkins, a teammate and roommate of Thompson at Bethel, is MNU’s Sports Information Director.
Thanks to Jenkins’ efforts, the Pioneers stream home baseball games in HD with a center field camera.
MNU’s last game before the shutdown of the 2020 season was March 13. Thompson opted to start the 2021 campaign Jan. 29 at Wayland Baptist in Plainview, Texas.
“It’s a little out of my comfort zone and not ideal, but we’ve been off long enough,” says Thompson of the early start. The Pioneers, a member of the NAIA and the Heart of America Athletic Conference, typically open in mid-February.
Players left campus at Thanksgiving and are due back Jan. 10 for COVID-19 protocol with the first practice Jan. 10 and in-person classes resuming Jan. 12.
The other Indiana connection is at home. Ryan’s wife Kristie is a graduate of NorthWood High School in Nappanee, Ind. The Thompsons have six homeschooled children (three boys followed by three girls) — Ty (15), Kade (13), Beau (11), Bailee (9), Kamryn (8) and Taylor (6). A homeschool hook-up on Fridays in Olathe has allowed the kids to explore different sports.
“I’m a humongous believer in owning that inside part of the plate with the fastball,” says Welliever. “It seems to have worked.
“If you can throw the inside fastball, every other pitch is available to you.”
Welliever wants his hurlers to employ solid mechanics. But he is also unique in today’s deviating from today’s prevelant approach.
“My pitchers are always working on stuff, stuff, stuff,” says Welliever, who knows his players enjoy throwing hard. “Most people work on location, location, location.”
Welliever has his catchers set up on the inside black for bullpens about 60-70 percent of the time. Many of his hurlers go hard in and soft away though some have done the opposite.
“It’s OK if once in awhile you hit a batter,” says Welliever. “Don’t get upset.”
Breaking balls are also thrown hard.
“We’re trying to create as much spin on that ball so it breaks as late as possible and the hitter has the least amount of time to react to it,” says Welliever. “I think that’s the best way to do it.”
Welliever has his pitchers build arm strength with long toss and with burnouts aka pulldowns.
The 2008 Crawfordsville pitching staff racked up 397 (No. 3 in the IHSBCA Record Book; No. 1 Lafayette Jeff fanned 450 in 43 games in 1971).
Steven Rice fanned 198 batters in 2009 and finished his Athenians career (2007-10) with 521 K’s.
Welliever worked alongside brother-in-law and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Froedge through 2020.
“One of John’s strengths teaching the fundamentals of fielding,” says Welliever. “(Strong defense) helps pitchers.
“It gives them confidence to attack the hitters and throw strikes.”
Brett Motz, a 1995 Crawfordsville graduate, is now Athenians head coach. Motz played at the University of Evansville, served as a graduate assistant at Purdue University and was head coach at North Putnam High School before returning to his alma mater, where he is also the strength & conditioning coach.
The Athenians won Class 3A state championships in 2008 (32-4) and 2011 (29-6).
What keeps Welliever coming back?
“It’s working with the kids and getting them to the point where they’re confident about themselves,” says Welliever. “It’s seeing them succeed in baseball and in life.”
He has witnessed many former players giving back to the community as coaches at the youth and high school levels.
“It is the most satisfying thing,” says Welliever, who grew up around New Market, Ind., and is a 1980 graduate of Southmont High School in Crawfordsville, where he played baseball for Mounties head coach George Davis and counted Froedge and the Taylor twins — Dave and Dan — as teammates. Dave Taylor went on to help found the Indiana Bulls travel organization.
“We played a lot of baseball together,” says Welliever. “It was a really special group of guys.”
Dan Welliever, Rhett’s father, taught junior high and was a wrestling head coach and an assistant in baseball, football and softball at Crawfordsville.
Jamie Welliever, Rhett’s brother, is retired from teaching and has spent two tenures each as head baseball and head wrestling coach at Southmont.
Landon McBride (New Palestine)
A middle school coach for five years (seventh and eighth grade teams often play up to 20 games while feeding the high school program), Landon McBride joined the New Palestine High School staff for the 2007 season. He is the Dragons infield coach and helps with hitters on a staff led since 2012 by Shawn Lyons.
“The thing that jumps out at me the most about Coach Lyons is his absolute passion for his kids,” says McBride. “If you’re not in the inner circle you may not see that. But he does a great job of having his finger no the pulse of where our team is at and where each individual is at.”
McBride sees Lyons as steady.
“He doesn’t get too high; He doesn’t get too low,” says McBride. “He tries to keep our players on that even-keel, knowing there’s going to be ups and downs everyday.”
On game days, McBride serves as Lyons’ right-hand man, bouncing lineups off one another and trading ideas about strategy while also coaching first base.
McBride emphasizes fundamentals when it comes to his infielders fielding ground balls.
“We’re getting reps in every day — the way we think is the right way,” says McBride. “With hitting, we believe in going the other way. We’re utilizing our speed, bunt and steal bases when we can.”
McBride regularly throws batting practice.
“I’m 59 but I’m still chucking it in there,” says McBride. “I try to give them a little sense of velocity (by moving the L screen closer to the plate.”
When the varsity field is not available, New Pal baseball has been able to use the turf football field for long toss, tracking fly balls and taking grounders.
A 1980 graduate of Marshall High School in Indianapolis where he played three seasons for Bob Tremain and one for Brad Goffinet, McBride was a four-year player for Lynn Morrell at Marian University in Indianapolis — at the time an independent NAIA program.
McBride says he appreciates the discipline, structure and attention to detail that Tremain and Goffinet brought to Redskins baseball.
“(Coach Morrell) liked getting the ball into play and swinging away,” says McBride. “It was the pure joy of being around the game.”
Landon, a partner in Indiana Property Services which gives him the schedule freedom to coach baseball, and wife Shari McBride have three children — Ryan (30), Angela (28) and Wes (24). The boys played baseball and Angela was also an athlete at New Palestine.
Mike Zeilinga (New Palestine)
A 1976 New Palestine graduate, Mike Zeilinga coaches Dragons outfielders and leads the junior varsity.
Zeilinga began coaching boys basketball at New Pal in 1996 and led the freshmen for two seasons and the JV for four. He joined Al Cooper’s baseball staff in 2003. Cooper was a Dragons senior when Zeilinga was a freshman.
New Palestine earned a Class 3A state runner-up finish in 2003 and state title in 2004.
“The kids keep me young,” says Zeilinga. “I’ve always enjoyed teaching.”
Most Dragons practices begin with stretching and throwing followed by individual defensive position work and team drills (cuts, double cuts and knowing situations).
“Coach McBride is excellent about working with our infielders,” says Zeilinga. “He makes sure they are moving with every pitch.
“Coach Lyons trusts the coaches that he has. He and Coach McBride have coached together that they can read each other’s mind. They have that kind of chemistry.”
During the fall IHSAA Limited Contract Period (twice a week for two hours), 73 players were at workouts while participation was around 65 for recent winter sessions.
“All coaches at New Pal work very well with sharing athletes,” says Zeilinga. “That’s straight from the mentality of Coach (Al) Cooper (athletic director and former head baseball coach).
Zeilinga often works with New Pal outfielders and JV players.
Since varsity and JV teams tend to play on the same night, Zeilinga rarely sees the varsity once the regular season starts.
After each JV game, Zeilinga sends an overview of what his players did well or areas where they need improvement and share that with head coach Shawn Lyons and varsity assistant Landon McBride.
Like McBride, Zeilinga has noticed the head coach’s temperament.
“Coach Lyons doesn’t get real high or real low after a big win or a hard loss,” says Zeilinga. “He’s just a real gentleman of the game.”
Mike, who worked at Eli Lily & Company 35 years before retiring, and wife Susan Zeilinga have two children — Stephanie (a teacher at Franklin Central High School in Indianapolis) and Michael (who was the starting center fielder on New Palestine’s 2004 state championship team).
Kevin Hall (New Albany)
Kevin Hall is a 1986 New Albany High School graduate who was a scrappy middle infielder and lead-off hitter for John Buerger, but his association with Bulldogs baseball goes back to before he started school.
Hall, who credits his work ethic for being the youngest of 11, was a batboy for teams featuring older brother David and coached by Stan Sajko in the early 1970’s. Hall still has the tiny pinstriped uniform from those days.
“(Coach Berger) had an attention to detail,” says Hall. “John was very big on pitching and defense. He believed in the bunting game.”
With a few years off here and there, Hall has been on the New Albany baseball coaching staff since 1990. He has been Bulldogs head coach and IHSBCA Hall of Famer Chris McIntyre’s top assistant for more than two decades.
“We both have the same philosophy on winning and we’re teaching these kids how to be young men,” says Hall, who leads infielders while also helping with outfielders, hitters and catchers. “When kids get out of school they’re probably not going to be their own boss. They need to learn to take direction.
“We understand that this is the game of failure. If you give us effort, we’ll never get on you about that.”
Hall coaches first base with McIntyre in the third base box.
“Coach McIntyre has a mind like nobody I’ve ever met,” says Hall. “He can process things. He’s analytical. He’s a math teacher. He loves the numbers.”
One day, Hall brought a stop watch to time runners without McIntyre knowing it and — counting in his head — the head coach was only off the actual number by about 1/10th of a second.
“Our program wouldn’t be near where it would be without Chris McIntyre.”
Hall calls baseball “the fairest game ever.”
“Each team gets the same number of outs, same number of opportunities and deals with the same conditions,” says Hall. “There’s no clock.
“You just have to go play.”
Hall throws a good deal of batting practice to the Bulldogs.
“Our kids get a lot of live arms,” says Hall. “I just use aspirin and ice and go back and do it again the next day.”
When McIntyre was approaching New Albany’s all-time win mark, Hall helped organize a special night for him.
After the celebration, Mac pulled Hall aside and said, “Don’t ever do that again” and then thanked him the next day.
“He’s very humble,” says Hall of McIntyre. “He wants the kids to have that limelight and not him.”
With the loss of the 2020 season because of COVID-19, New Albany had time to upgrade its baseball field while also putting in a new softball diamond next door.
Kevin, a plant operator at Grant Line Elementary School in New Albany, and wife Melia Hall have a daughter together — eighth grader Anderson (named for Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson). Kevin’s two older daughters are Samantha and Stephanie. Melia’s son is Aidan.
The 2021 season will mark Ford’s 31st with the Kings. He has always led the infield defense and helped with hitting instruction at Cass, which finished as Class 2A state runners-up in 2009 (20-9).
“It’s pretty collaborative in our program,” says Ford, who coaches first base and sits next to Marschand when the coaches are in the dugout. “We get a sense of the style of play we’re going to use and we coach each of the areas based on what we’re trying to do for that season.
“We we like to put pressure on the defense (on offense). You can do that a lot of different ways. If we have plodders (on the base paths), we can bunt them over. If we have rabbits, we can have more stolen bases, double steals and taking of extra bases.”
Kings coaches like players to play to their strengths and learn to do things like hit behind the runner and put the ball on the ground up the middle.
“We want them to be well-versed in the approach they are going to be taking at the plate based on the situation,” says Ford. “We would really like our players to learn the strategies and the options.
“In practice, we put runners in position and they decide how they are going to score the run.
“Once they have a broader knowledge of how to play, they are going to enjoy it more and be more successful.”
A big part of the Cass offensive blueprint is to get accumulate freebies with dirt-ball reads etc.
“Our approach at the plate has to be to hit hittable strikes,” says Ford. “Early in the count we’re not going to hit his pitch. We’re going to hit our pitch.”
A goal in batting practice is for each player to figure out which pitch he hits best.
BP goal – each player to learn to figure out which pitch he hits best
“Hitting a pitcher’s pitch is giving him a freebie,” says Ford. “Hitting our pitch is somewhat of a freebie for us.”
As part of its SAFE-T offensive plan, Cass wants to score the game’s first run.
Going for the long ball is not a priority, especially at home games where it’s 330 feet down the foul lines and 408 to center field.
“There’s a lot of outfield grass and we’re going to try to pepper it rather than try to hit it out of the park,” says Ford.
Kings defenders focus a lot of on momentum changers.
“One of he biggest on defense is the double play,” says Ford. “We work a lot on turns, feeds and throws to first base while trying to help our pitcher.
“At the high school level, pitching can be a huge variable. Defensive positioning os based on the speed of our pitcher.
“I can’t tell (infielders) every pitch where to align so they have to be cognizant of signals between the pitchers and catcher and know what pitch is coming.”
The Kings also look to prevent opponents from taking the extra base by being in the proper position for cut-offs and double-cuts.
“We’re making sure to be in a good back-up position in case the throw isn’t perfect,” says Ford. “There are a lot of nuances in defense like where the first baseman takes the throw or where the third baseman goes based on the count. At the high school level, the drag bunt is a big strategy.”
Taking nothing for granted, Ford wants his infielders to back up throws from the catcher to the pitcher.
Ford, a 1970 Kokomo Haworth graduate played for for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Keith Slaughter. The 1970 Haworth Huskies were state finalists.
Bill Bright was middle infielder Ford’s coach at Indiana Central College (now the University of Indianapolis).
Steve and wife Julia Ford have been married since 1974 and have two daughters — Amanda (a local farm wife with a son and two daughters) and Melanie (who played four years of basketball at the University of Charleston and is now associate athletic director, senior women’s administrator and NCAA compliance officer at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va.). Amanda was a manager and Melanie a player for their father as a basketball coach.
Steve Ford was the girls basketball coach at Cass for 18 seasons, concluding in 2007-08.
Jim Kominiewicz has been there as an assistant for all of them. The 2021 season will be Komo’s 31st on the Kingsmen coaching staff. He has been in education for 38 years — eight in South Bend and 30 in the Penn system.
The current staff has Dikos leading the catcher, Kominkiewicz the infielders, Tom Stanton the pitchers and John Westra the outfielders.
“Greg is one of the best catching coaches in the state,” says Kominkiewicz, noting that Penn has produced its share of college backstops. “Catching is one of the hardest things to do. You’re involved in every play.
Kominkiewicz applauds Dikos for his willingness to keep learning and incorporating them into the Kingsmen program.
“Every year we try to do something better,” says Kominkiewicz. “We never stay the same. We try to change things up and keep the kids excited about it.
“Greg is always going to clinics. He’s the best.”
Kominkiewicz has noticed that many clinic speakers reinforce concepts already being taught by Penn coaches.
“It shows we’re doing things right,” says Kominkiewicz.
As an infield coach, Komo stresses getting the palm to the baseball and fielding through it. Time is spent on back-handing and picking up short hops.
Kominkiewicz graduated from South Bend John Adams High School in 1972, where he played baseball for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Len Buczkowski.
Komo’s first baseball coaching post was at South Bend Washington High School on the staff of IHSBCA Hall of Famer Ric Tomaszewski that also included pitching coach Larry Jackowiak.
“Rick was very intense,” says Kominkiewicz. “He’s a book. We spent a lot of time together. We’d come in on Saturday morning and leave at 4 or 5 in the afternoon.
“I learned a lot of baseball from those guys. Both of them were great coaches.”
A popular drill during the indoor portion of the preseason was a game called “27 Outs.”
As fielders got closer to making it to the finish, balls off fungo bats got harder.
“That’s why (Tomaszewski’s) team were good,” says Kominkiewicz. “They competed every practice.
“We do the same things at Penn. We compete. We test for sit-ups, push-ups and longest throws. We rate their at-bats (4 points for a line drive, 3 for a hard ground ball etc.). Pitchers try to throw the most strikes — things like that.”
Ground balls and double plays are often timed.
Splitting the team into three groups, the Kingsmen go nine outs per round. Losers do extra running or clean up the field.
“A lot of times our practices are harder than the games,” says Kominkiewicz. “But it’s got to be good practice — not just practice. We want to do it right.
“Our theory is we want to good game of catch, put the ball in play (on offense) and pitchers have to throw strikes. That’s what we stress.”
After Washington, Kominkiewicz went to Adams to coach football, wrestling, baseball and and weightlifting then went back to Washington to coach baseball.
Then came the move to Penn, where he also coached football for two years. He has taught and coaches football and wrestling and served as athletic director at Grissom Middle School.
Jim and wife Beth Kominkiewicz have four children — Ryan (38), Brandon (32), Jill (29) and Matt (21) — and seven grandchildren ages six months to 9 years.
Ryan, an engineer with Caterpillar, played baseball at Penn.
Brandon played football at Penn and the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne and coaches football at Fort Wayne North Side High School.
Jill is a dental assistant.
Matt played baseball and football at Penn and is on the football team at Saint Francis.
Kevin Fitzgerald (Noblesville)
A 1987 graduate of Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis where he played two seasons each for former big league pitcher Russ Kemmerer and Richard Bender, Noblesville High School assistant Kevin Fitzgerald served in the U.S. Marine Corps 1989-94 then was an assistant to Duke Burns at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis (2000-02), Dave Mundy at Sheridan (Ind.) High School (2003 and 2004) and head coach at Sheridan (2005 and 2006).
“He was fantastic,” says Fitzgerald of Kemmerer. “There were so many lessons I learned that I didn’t realize I was learning at the time.
“For him, it was really teaching about life and baseball was just the tool. He said baseball is played on a six-inch field — the six inches between your ears. There are no such things as physical errors — they’re all mental. You weren’t prepared.”
Bender, who had big shoes to fill replacing the popular Kemmerer, is credited by Fitzgerald for the opportunity to explore leadership.
Brett played four seasons at Huntington (Ind.) College (now Huntington University) for IHSBCA/NEIBA Hall of Famer Mike Frame, graduating in December 1995.
Before landing at Carroll, Brett was on his father’s Dwenger staff from 1996-2002.
Hershberger, who was an elementary physical education teacher for Windmiller, taught his players about focus and intensity.
“It started with him from the time you started playing catch until you got on the bus and went home,” says Windmiller. “All those things in between mattered. Not that you’re going to dwell on it afterward but this current pitch or at-bat is important.
“If you weren’t ready, you were going to hear about it from Lance.”
Hershberger reminded his players that there was a difference between baseball during the high school and summer seasons. There’s a finality to the high school season while the summer — though very important for development and exposure — is a series of games and unattached tournaments.
Brett did not feel the stigma of being a coach’s son.
“It may have just been the guys I played with,” says Brett. “In hindsight, it may be that dad handled it real well.
“I enjoyed playing for him. There were expectations with the way he wanted you to play. He was good at detecting an issue by watching you swing or throw.”
In his son’s eyes, Larry Windmiller was pretty even-keeled.
“He never got upset,” says Brett. “He was kind of in the middle all the time.
“He really let us play. We had a lot of kids with talent. We played loose and had a lot of success.”
The Dwenger Saints bowed out to Highland in the 1991 South Bend Semistate championship game.
At Huntington, Windmiller learned to play with intensity but not to let a mistake or a perceived bad call fester.
“The intensity of a baseball game is there,” says Windmiller. “It has to be. You learn the moments of the game where that’s appropriate. It cannot drive you into making a second mistake. You can’t carry your at-bat into the field. My red light was strike calls I didn’t agree with.
“Coach Frame was great as far as getting me to try to understand that I’m killing myself when I’m doing that. He helped me lose a little bit of the football mentality.”
Windmiller says he and his fellow coaches have matured over the years and tries set a good example for the players.
“When something bad happens, they are going to look at us,” says Windmiller. “We want to be cheering them on and saying let’s go to the next pitch.”
His first spring at Carroll, Windmiller coached junior varsity players with Mike Klopfenstein.
“JV’s great,” says Windmiller. “There’s no all-conference. There’s no media. It’s just young kids learning how to play baseball the correct way.”
At the JV level, win-loss record is irrelevant. It’s about developing. Between the spring and summer ball and getting in the weight room, a player can make big jumps from one season to the next.
Windmiller is a public address announcer for many Carroll sports, including football, boys basketball, girls basketball and wrestling. He has coached eighth grade football and seventh grade girls basketball in the system.
Brett took over the FWBF post after the passing of NEIBA Hall of Famer Dick Crumback in 2019.
The NEIBA presents the Dick Crumback Player of the Year annually to an area ballplayer. The honor comes with a $1,000 donation ($500 from the Crumback family and $500 for the FWBF) to the program of the recipient.
“It’s a pretty tight-knit baseball community in Fort Wayne,” says Windmiller, who has also been a Wildcat League coach.
Brett, a sixth grade science teacher at Carroll Middle School, and wife Kara Windmiller (secretary to Chargers athletic director Dan Ginder) live in the Carroll school district and have two daughters — high school sophomore Ryli and seventh grader Hannah.
Brett’s sister Kari played volleyball and basketball at Dwenger.
John Smolinski, who first wore a baseball uniform for Saint Joseph High School in South Bend, Ind., as a player in 2004 and was an Indians assistant coach for the past eight seasons is now Saint Joe’s head coach.
The last pitch that Brady Gumpf, now at Notre Dame, saw for Saint Joe was thumped for a home run against eventual state champion Andrean in the 2019 Griffith Regional championship game.
“I was fortunate to play for him and coach with him,” says Smolinski of Brady Gumpf’s father, John. “I got to understand his thoughts and how he thinks about the game.
“My goal is to make him proud and build upon the foundation he has started for Saint Joe.
“I’m very loyal to this school. I have big shoes to fill. It’s emotional. It’s high expectations. I’m embracing it.”
Smolinski’s senior year at Saint Joseph (2007) was Gumpf’s first as head coach. The Indians won Plymouth Sectional and one-game regional crowns and lost to future major league pitcher Jarrod Parker and eventual state champion Norwell in the Plymouth Semistate. Norwell finished the 2007 season at 35-0.
“We had a great team and a lot of seniors,” says Smolinski of Saint Joe. “There was a program chance when Coach Gumpf came in there.”
In Gumpf, Smolinski saw a competitor who respected the opposition and demanded the best out of his players and plans to emulate those qualities.
As interim coach, Smolinski led the Indians through Limited Contacted Period practice two days a week with about two dozen players.
“We did not have any positive COVID cases,” says Smolinski. “Our (practice) structure has changed. We take this very serious.”
Attendance was taken before each workout to make sure every student was able to participate. They were put into smaller groups — each player having a group number — and socially-distanced.
Coaches and players were always masked-up. He expects to have 13 seniors and 16 freshmen among 50 players for varsity, JV and freshman squads in the spring.
“It went really well,” says Smolinski. “Everybody bought into it.
“Not having the (spring) season hurt everyone (though most everyone played travel ball in the summer).
“We got after it. I got great feedback from the players. I was happy with the senior leadership. It was great to have some normalcy.”
At the end of the fall, Smolinski applied for the vacant head coaching position and went through the interview process.
Smolinski, who played four years at Manchester University for Rick Espeset before joining the Saint Joe coaching staff, was named head coach this week. Tom Washburn is expected be a varsity assistant and Dan Mentock the junior varsity head coach. There are other assistants, including a freshmen head coach, to hire.
“The last 24 hours have been kind of crazy,” says Smolinski, speaking on Nov. 4. “A lot of people have reached out to me.
“At Saint Joe, we’re a family. You can tell. People are willing to help out.”
Smolinski says players will likely get to help design an alternate jersey for the Indians. Recently, that look has featured black though the school colors are Columbia Blue and White. Coach Smo says Saint Joe will continuing to don a black cap.
Away from his coaching job, Smolinski is a self-employed social media manager that amplifies athletic accounts on Twitter including WhistleSports and FanSided.
Looking to provide opportunities for development and exposure in elite travel baseball tournaments while keeping area players in the area, a group of coaches established a Rawlings Tigers outlet in South Bend, Ind.
Coached by Scott Quinn, Kevin Putz and Jason Robbins, the Rawlings Tigers 16U South Bend team participated in five tournaments in its initial season of 2020. The team won the Perfect Game Baseball Association Mid-American Classic. The squad plays mostly in Perfect Game and Prep Baseball Report events, many of which are invitation-only.
Quinn, who once owned the South Bend Bandits travel organization, decided to affiliate with the Rawlings Tigers — a group with teams in Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Southern Indiana and 27 other states — for name recognition and a commitment to top-flight training and competition, which is part of the Rawlings Tigers culture.
“We were tired of seeing players head to Indianapolis to play in bigger tournaments,” says Quinn, who played at South Bend Riley High School, graduating in 1995, and Spoon River College in Canton, Ill. “We all believe in the practice aspect instead of just show up-and-play the games.
“We wanted the same experience the kids in the Indy area have.”
That means off-season training and the opportunity to build team chemistry since the ideal Rawlings Tigers South Bend roster has no more than 14 and no pitch-only players on the roster and players have multiple responsibilities.
“We’re looking for kids who can play both ways,” says Quinn. “You don’t get better at playing this game by watching it. You get better by playing it
“(Players) need to be on the field and participating in every aspect of the game.”
The Rawlings Tigers South Bend’s roster consists of northern Indiana players.
“Most of our kids know each other off the baseball field,” says Quinn. “We have an abundance of high schools in a small area.
“It all seems to mesh really well.”
There is an emphasis on hustle and unity as well as workouts.
“Effort and team can beat talent any day of the week,” says Quinn. “We tend to practice more than most (travel) teams.
“We’re looking for players that are really committed and want to take that next step. We expect a lot of our players. They must maintain at least a 3.3 GPA. The amount of work we put it is second to none.”
A group tryout for next season was already held at Mishawaka (Ind.) High School. Quinn says individual tryouts can be scheduled.
With many multi-sport athletes, Rawlings Tigers South Bend preseason baseball and strength workouts begin in December at RBIs Unlimited in Mishawaka.
“We have a lot of practices and do a lot of running to get ready for the next season and to prepare players to make the varsity at their high schools,” says Quinn.
The hope is that the 2021 Rawlings Tigers South Bend season will include up to eight tournaments at either the 16U or 17U level.
There will be a PBR National Championships qualifier at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Qualifiers will compete in the nationals at LakePoint in Georgia. There will also be Perfect Game events in the Toledo, Ohio, area as well as PG’s World Wood Bat Association tournaments.
“I’m a big believer in doing training with a wood bat,” says Quinn. “The sound (crack vs. ping) tells you whether you hit the ball correctly or not.”
Putz (Class of 1991) and Robbins (Class of 1990) are both graduates of South Bend Washington High School, where they played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Ric Tomaszewski.
Putz played at Triton College in River Grove, Ill., and New Mexico State U.
Robbins, who is Quinn’s brother-in-law, was a right-handed pitcher at Wake Forest University and in the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks systems, including the 1997 South Bend Silver Hawks for manager Dick Scott.
Quinn considers it a privilege to now be coaching with Putz and Robbins.
“I grew up watching them play,” says Quinn.
In seventh grade, Quinn began a long relationship with John Nadolny. He would play for him at Riley and his son — Konner Quinn (Class of 2023) — plays for Nadolny at John Glenn High School in Walkerton, Ind.
“He’s a big influence on my career as a player and coach,” says Quinn of the man they call Nud.
Konnor Putz is also on the Rawlings Tigers South Bend.
DeDario inherits a program that graduated several seniors in 2019.
“It’s a pretty fresh start,” says DeDario. “We’ve got two returning seniors and two juniors. The rest are freshmen and sophomores.
“We’re building from the bottom up. It’s all about fundamentals, playing the game the right way and having fun while we do it. I’m recruiting the heck out of the hallways. I’m probably going to end up with maybe six seniors now because of that.”
Demario led the Wildcats through IHSAA Limited Contract practice in the fall and winter workouts are now in progress. The turnout has been high.
“I’m expecting 40 kids for tryouts,” says Demario. “I want to keep 30.
“The kids are excited. I’m excited.”
Weather permitting, Riley will play a full schedule, which features nine road games to open the season.
Wildcats assistant Larry Vaznonis was a baseball and basketball standout at Hammond Gavit High School and Purdue University Calumet and is a member of the Hammond Sports Hall of Fame. He reached out to Purdue Northwest and arranged for Riley to practice and play on the turf at Dowling Park.
NIC teams play one another once and games are scheduled on Mondays, Wednesdays and sometimes Fridays. The Wildcats’ first conference game is slated for April 13 on the new turf at Penn’s Jordan Automotive Group Field.
Riley is part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with LaPorte, Michigan City, Mishawaka, Plymouth and South Bend Adams. The Wildcats have won two sectional titles — 1975 and 1991.
While retired teacher Vaznonis comes in as varsity first base coach, Mishawaka Police Department detective Mike Armey returns from the 2019 Riley season and will be varsity pitch coach.
Former Benedictine University and Eastern Illinois University pitcher and Notre Dame video crew worker Kyle Arnett is the head JV coach.
Mishawaka Police officer Jacob Craft is a JV assistant.
Former Riley all-conference softball player and current Harrison Elementary teacher Courtney (Armey) Mitchell is the Wildcats’ academic advisor.
DeDario and Arnett are developing a plan for pitchers with arm care in mind.
“We want to limit the number of throws put on each kids’ arm even at practice,” says DeDario. “When a kid pitches on a Monday, I don’t necessarily want him starting at shortstop on Wednesday after going through an entire infield practice on Tuesday.
“We want to be very diligent on how we’re using each kid. You have to be smart about it.”
Riley plans to return to using the diamond at Jackson Middle School for JV games and practices. The varsity will continue to call Bob Rush Field home.
DeDario is a 1999 graduate of Marian High School in Mishawaka. He played baseball freshmen and sophomore year. His freshmen year was the last as head coach for Lou Lanzalotto.
Football was the sport DeDario played throughout high school with Reggie Glon as head coach.
DeDario played some club baseball at Loyola University in Chicago. He earned an associate degree at Holy Cross College and received a bachelor’s degree in education from Indiana University South Bend.
He was on the football staffs of Frank Amato and, most recently, Jay Johnson at Washington, Joe Szajko at Clay and Amato at Adams.
For many years, DeDario has taken to the air waves as a sports broadcaster. He currently helps with color commentary and occasional talk show duty at WSBT AM 960. He is also a Notre Dame football analyst for Blue & Gold Illustrated.
Vince and Kristen DeDario were married in 2004 and have five children — seventh grader Dylan (12), fourth grade twins Ella (10) and Lily (10), second grader Chloe (7) and pre-schooler Liam (4).
The Bulldogs had gone winless when he took over the program and got to the point where they competed for the championship in 2017 and 2018 and won it in 2019
Jefferson played against South Bend schools and against Inter-City Catholic League and Catholic Youth Organization members. Besides public schools, the varsity played against ICCL squads and the junior varsity against CYO competition.
Many games were played at Riley.
“We built the program up so much that I had to have cuts the past two years,” says DeDario. “We had 40 kids coming out for the team.”
Some of those players will be part of DeDario’s Riley program.
Vince DeDario is the new head baseball coach for 2020 at South Bend (Ind.) Riley High School, where he also teaches physical education and health. (Steve Krah Photo)
Hardy teaches his youngsters how to play the game. But the teaching and the mentoring to does not end with a game or practice.
“I’m very involved with the boys,” says Hardy. “I’m not just a coach between the lines. I’m their coach all the time.
“I’ll help in any way.”
Hardy has his own remodeling business and he has some of his players help with cleaning up job sites, painting, drywalling and other handy skills.
“It keeps them out of trouble,” says Hardy. “We’re constantly stressing the importance of being a good person.
“It’s God, family, baseball and the classroom. It’s the total package.”
For players wishing to go to college, he will do what he can to make that happen.
“I’ll help in getting them tutoring,” says Hardy. “We stress the student-athlete.”
Former major league pitcher Justin Masterson, who lives in Fishers, Ind., came by practice last week to talk about faith, family and baseball with the IPA crew.
Hardy has watched his players come so far in the time he has been at Irvington Prep.
“Now that my (original class of) freshmen are juniors, I’m seeing a pay-off,” says Hardy. “That’s my satisfaction.
“That’s a W in my book.”
The inner-city high schools in Indy include Indianapolis Public SchoolsArsenal Tech, Crispus Attucks, Shortridge and Washington. Besides Irvington Prep, others include Herron, Howe, Manual, Providence Cristo Rey, Purdue Poly and Tindley. This spring, Howe and Washington did not field a baseball team.
What is now known as Irvington Prep Academy opened in 2006 as Irvington Community High School. The original location was on East Pleasant Parkway and is now home to Irvington Community Middle School on East Pleasant Run Parkway. IPA is housed in the former Children’s Guardian Home on University Avenue.
Baseball and softball teams play about three miles away in Irvington Park on Raymond Street.
Before landing at Irvington Prep, Hardy was an assistant to Jerry Giust at Broad Ripple.
The IPA Ravens went against the Broad Ripple Rockets a couple times before the latter IPS high school was closed.
Giust was the one who suggested that Hardy look into becoming a head coach.
“He knew I had been around the game for a long time and saw the enthusiasm I approach the game with and my knowledge,” says Hardy of Giust. “I loved him for it.”
Hardy graduated from Broad Ripple in 1997 after moving from South Bend, where he grew up. He went to South Bend Washington High School for three years and was drawn to swimming to fight his asthma. He was also drawn to baseball. He competed in summer ball before leaving for Indianapolis. Washington’s varsity and junior varsity both won summer titles.
“I loved the way the game was broken down,” says Hardy, who played as a sophomore and junior in a program then led by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Ric Tomaszewski, who learned much from South Bend coaching legends like Jim Reinebold and Len Buczkowski and LaPorte’s Ken Schreiber.
“The knowledge T gave us was phenomenal,” says Hardy. “He told us everybody has a job to do.”
Players at each position were supposed to know the duties of the other players on the diamond.
Rain in the first half of the season means IPA will be trying to make up many games leading up to the postseason.
The Ravens are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Eastern Hancock, Heritage Christian, Indianapolis Howe, Indianapolis Scecina Memorial, Knightstown and Triton Central. Irvington Prep has been competing in the tournament since 2013 and has not won a sectional title.
Hardy and fiancee Sandi have been together for seven years. They have one child together — Isaiah. He has three other children (Josiah, Iyanah and Ariyana) and she has two (Sylvanna and Gianna). Josiah plans to play baseball next year at Herron.
Davon Hardy (foreground) is the head baseball coach at Irvington Preparatory Academy in Indianapolis.
Former major league pitcher Justin Masterson delivers the baseball during an Irvington Prep Academy practice.
Former major leaguer Justin Masterson visited coach Davon Hardy and his Irvington Prep Academy baseball team to talk about faith, family and the game.
The Panthers are in an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Culver Military Academy, Jimtown, John Glenn, Mishawaka Marian, New Prairie and South Bend St. Joseph. Washington’s last two sectional titles came in 1996 and 1997 — the final two years of single-class sports.
“Washington baseball alumni have really supported me,” says Hammond. “I’ve jumped on to their legacy and how great they used to be.”
Hammond says Washington High School administrators — athletic director Garland Hudson, principal Thomas Sims, assistant principals Dr. Nicole Garcia and Trent Chambliss and CSI coordinator Ryan Frontczak — have also been in his corner.
“They’ve really supporting me and I appreciate it,” says Hammond.
The son of the late Lawrence “Buster” Hammond Sr., and Joann Cale, Hammond is a 1998 graduate of Middletown (Del.) High School. He was a three-sport athlete for the Cavaliers, earning all-conference in football, starting as a sophomore and junior in basketball (missing his senior season with a broken leg) and being recognized as all-state and all-conference outfielder in baseball.
Middletown baseball coach Richard Green taught Hammond that the diamond sport is “hardest mental game you’ll ever play.”
“That’s absolutely true,” says Hammond. “You can be on top of the world one game and on the bottom of the world the next.”
Green also let his players know that adversity and failure is a part of life and those life lessons can be learned through baseball.
“I would be riding high then go 0-for-13 or something,” says Hammond, who swang from the left side of the plate. “I found out you’re not always going to be good at something. But you have to work hard at it and it will play off.
“Hitting is a muscle memory and a confidence thing. I would just kept going and be persistent. I’d get more swings in the cage and focus in on little stuff. I’d make sure I was perfecting my skills in the outfield so I didn’t let my team down there.”
“(Ayers) taught me a lot about hitting like a two-strike approach,” says Hammond. “Most hitters want to hit to their power (the pull-side). (With two strikes, you) let the ball travel and hit it on the back side. (Ayers) changed our stance a little bit. You hit the ball where it’s pitched and let your hands be the engine and everything else follows.”
With that advice, Hammond’s confidence took off and the ball began jumping off his bat as a DSU Hornet.
Hammond moved to South Bend in November 2007, following the woman that would become his wife she took a job at the University of Notre Dame. She now works in insurance for the NCAA.
Hammond started as a Family & Consumer Science teacher at Washington in August.
Married now for eight years, Buster and Nikki Hammond have four children together — kindergartener Langston (6), pre-schooler Hazel (3) and twins Isadora and Iris (who turn 1 on Dec. 11). Buster’s two older children are Dominic (15) and Kamille (14).
Lawrence “Buster” Hammond Jr., is entering his first sas
Christiansen has been at the school since the fall of 2008 and has led the Eagles baseball program since 2009 in all but one season, when he was finishing graduate school.
A 1997 graduate of Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Ind., Christiansen played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dave Gandolph and was a top-notch football receiver.
His diamond teammates included two players selected in the 1996 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft — A.J. Zapp (in the first round to the Atlanta Braves) and Nick Jamison (in the 31st round to the Detroit Tigers).
After earning his undergraduate degree at Indiana University, where he did not play sports, Christiansen did some student teaching in Australia. He then was a teacher and coached baseball and football for two years at Carmel (Ind.) High School.
Pamela Christiansen, Kurt’s wife went to law school at Valparaiso University, and got a job in South Bend, bringing the family to northern Indiana. Kurt was a teacher and coached baseball and football at NorthWood High School for four years before pursuing the opportunity to teach at CMA.
Christiansen describes the humanities as a combination of Language Arts and Social Studies in a traditional school.
“It’s pretty wonderful,” says Christiansen. “The kids are learning to read and write and think in a pretty interdisciplinary setting.”
Culver Military Academy offers what its website calls “a leadership approach that develops young men into leaders of character who are poised for global success in any career path.”
There is also a Culver Girls Academy. Together with CMA for boys, they form what is known as the Culver Academies.
Students come from far and wide.
While seven players had hometowns in Indiana, Culver’s 2018 roster featured athletes from Alaska, California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas and Washington as well as Korea.
Culver Academies has a college advising office, which helps students make connections at the university level.
“Ideally, a Culver kid is using baseball to help them find the best academic fit for them,” says Christiansen. “Baseball is part of what got them to the school. The end benefit is a world-class education.”
Christiansen knows that college coaches have often seen players through video, scouting or camps and they are calling him to fish out the story.
“One of the big benefits about being at Culver is that I know my players,” says Christiansen. “I see them on and off the field quite a bit. I have a pretty good sense of who they are.”
Christiansen says Culver Academies students are attractive to colleges not only because they are strong academically, but they’ve also learned to develop independence.
“They’re at a boarding school far from home and they’re figuring out how to take care of themselves,” says Christiansen. “All of that’s done before these colleges get them and that’s a real big bonus.”
It’s not a cookie-cutter approach taken by Christiansen and his fellow instructors.
“Like any school, kids are kids,” says Christiansen. “Each kid is a little bit different. So you’ve got to find ways to connect with them and teach them. But it helps that we’ve got kids who are committed to the mission of the school.
“How do I leverage baseball to deliver on that mission? That’s a question that the staff constantly asks of ourselves — not just to put kids in a position to compete and win baseball games and develop as athletes but develop dispositions and mindsets that will serve them in life.”
With no feeder program, Christiansen often does not know who he will have on his baseball team until school starts in the fall, though he does sometimes find out who has a baseball background during the admissions process.
“In almost 100 percent of the cases I’ve never seen them throw or hit,” says Christiansen. “I have to work pretty hard to recruit our own campus because there’s so many interesting and wonderful opportunities. Kids grow up playing Little League and they get to Culver and decide they want to try crew or lacrosse.
“I have to identify the baseball players and make sure they still want to come out and be part of the program.”
The school’s mission includes a wellness component and students not in a sport must do something to get exercise.
“Not all of our kids are premier athletes,” says Christiansen. “Hockey and lacrosse programs are elite. They’re really, really good — some of the best in the country.”
Baseball, which plays on Wilkins Field, is restricted by school policy from playing more than a couple of games during the school week with other contests on Saturdays. This means CMA schedules around 20 to 23 games or less than the 28 regular-season contests allowed by the IHSAA.
“We want to make sure our kids have plenty of time to study and they’re not out until 9 or 10 o’clock at night four or five nights in a row,” says Christiansen.
Being an independent, CMA often gets bumped when other schools must make up conference games.
Christiansen’s coaching staff includes three other senior humanities instructors — J.D. Uebler with the varsity and John Rogers and Andy Strati leading the junior varsity.
Kurt and Pamela Christiansen have three children — Jack (11), Sarah (10) and Joey (5).
Culver (Ind.) Military Academy head baseball coach Kurt Christiansen with Hayden Schott at the 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in South Bend.
Kurt Christiansen is the head baseball coach and a humanities senior instructor at Culver (Ind.) Military Academy. He played high school baseball for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dave Gandolph at Center Grove. (Steve Krah Photo)
“Most kids in the program know what we expect,” says Schellinger as he gets his players ready for 2018. “We get a lot of buy-in.”
Whether in a game, a practice drill or the weight room, Schellinger wants his Cougars to be in attack mode.
“We talk about attacking in every phase of the game,” says Schellinger. “We talk about attacking in every rep. We have that mindset. Even on defense, we want to be on the offensive.”
At game time, that aggressiveness leads to pressure on the other team.
“We want to take the game to our opponents,” says Schellinger. “In high school baseball, if you can create pressure, you can get a lot of good things to happen.
“You can put pressure on the defense in a lot of ways — either with the bat in our hands or on the base paths.”
Schellinger implores his pitchers to attack the strike zone.
“We want the at-bat over early,” says Schellinger. “We don’t want (opponents to have) five-, six-, seven-pitch at-bats.”
After at fall of open field and weight training, players who are not in winter sport are hitting the weight room.
The baseball program is full of mult-sport athletes. Only seven of 24 expected returnees from 2017 do not play more than one sport.
“It’s very important to play another sport,” says Schellinger, a 2002 LaPorte High School graduate who went on to play four seasons of football and two springs of baseball at Franklin College. “We push our guys to do that. It’s great from a competitive standpoint.”
“Guys not in-season are expected to be with us (in off-season conditioning).”
Since his playing days, Schellinger has witnessed an increased emphasis on strength and conditioning for baseball players.
“You can tell the difference,” says Schellinger. “Kids are bigger and stronger now. They are throwing harder and hitting the ball farther like they do at the big league level. It’s scaled down, but it’s trickled down to our level as well.
“We don’t want bodybuilders. We want guys with muscle. We do a stretching routine on a daily basis and help guys with that flexibility.”
New Prairie is coming off a 16-13 season in 2017. The Cougars were young with just three seniors. One — Kadin Abegg — is now on the baseball roster at Marian University in Indianapolis.
At various times, NP started seven sophomores and two freshmen last spring.
Schellinger looks for leadership in 2018 from seniors Bryce Bloode, Evan Knowlton, Parker Byard and Hunter Houser and junior Hunter Robinson. Bloode is a pitcher, outfielder and third baseman. Knowlton is an infielder, Byard an infielder/pitcher, Houser an outfielder/pitcher and Robinson a third baseman. All are right-handers.
New Prairie typically keeps around 30 and 34 for its varsity and junior varsity squads. Feeder programs include New Prairie Little League in New Carlisle and Rolling Prairie Baseball Association as well as various travel baseball organizations.
“I like carrying 16 at the varsity level (during the regular season) and dressing the full 20 at tournament time,” says Schellinger. “Sixteen works well for what I like to do. There’s a lot of competition in practice and we can have 8 on 8 or four groups of four.”
On game days, Schellinger and his assistants go in with a game plan that revolves around who is pitching and also takes into account who will be used as a courtesy or pinch-runner and who is able to handle the bat in certain pinch-hit situations.
“It’s a big puzzle that all fits together,” says Schellinger. “You maximize what you have personnel-wise on a certain day.”
In 2017, the IHSAA adopted new pitch count rules (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).
“I think it’s needed,” says Schellinger. “Mandated rest is important.
“In 10 innings, you can throw a lot of pitches. For the most part, it’s been a positive for Indiana high school baseball.”
The NIC is divided into two divisions — New Prairie, Bremen, Jimtown, Glenn, Marian and Riley in the South and Elkhart Central, Mishawaka, Penn, Adams, Clay, St. Joseph and Washington in the North. Each team plays the other once in conference play and there are titles for overall and games won within the division.
“It’s a great conference,” says Schellinger, whose first season leading the Cougars was also the first of the new-look NIC with New Prairie, Bremen, Glenn and Jimtown joining and the old Northern State Conference dissolving. “Last year, we had two teams in the State Finals (St. Joseph reigned in 3A and Penn was runner-up in 4A).There’s quality across the board. It’s very good baseball and very good athletic programs. It’s been a good move for us.”
Schellinger made his move to New Prairie after nine seasons at Merrillville High School — the last six of those years as head coach.
Before that, he was at Franklin College. His Grizzlies head coaches were Lance Marshall (baseball) and Mike Leonard (football). He played baseball for Scott Upp and football and his father, Bob Schellinger, at LaPorte.
“I’ve been very blessed in my life to be around a lot of good coaches,” says Schellinger. “I’ve taken a lot from each one.”
“(Marshall) taught me to play the game the right way, focus on fundamentals and the importance of building relationships.
“(Leonard) came to Franklin my sophomore year. He is one of the nicest guys off the field you’d ever want to meet. He treats his players with respect.”
“I’ve gotten to know (Upp) as a player and as an opposing coach. I’ve seen his ability to adapt. He does what needs to be done. It’s what is the best thing at the time for the team. He wants to find a better way. Some coaches are stuck in their ways. It’s a huge credit to him that he doesn’t do that.”
Bob and Lorri Schellinger have five children — Tricia, Rob, Mark, Kevin and Danny. The four boys all played football for their father.
“It’s hard to hard to separate the two (father from coach),” says Mark. “I saw the relationship he had with his players from the time I was a little kid. I was my dad’s shadow. I could see the joy he took in job. We spend too much time out here for it to be dreadful.
“It’s a sport. It’s a game. It’s meant to be fun. When you enjoy it, it’s not work. I enjoy every second of it — planning for practice, going into the weight room or field work.
“We’re ultimately in the kids business and we want to make them better people.”
The people who greet Mark Schellinger at home and at the diamond are wife Heidi and four sons — Colton (5), Boyd (3), Titus (2) and Ripley (4 months).
Like he and his siblings did with his father, Mark has his boys hanging around with him and his team.
“They are around as much as they can be,” says Mark, who turns 32 Dec. 8 — two days before Boyd’s fourth birthday. “These are father-son moments a lot of people don’t get.”
Mark and Heidi Schellinger stand on the baseball field with the oldest three of their four sons — Colton (in grey), Boyd (in blue) and Titus (in his father’s arms). Ripley was not yet born at the time the photo was taken.