Tag Archives: South Bend

Stoltzfus sharing diamond know-how as Goshen College assistant

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

It wasn’t that long ago that Brad Stoltzfus was leading off and playing on the right side of the infield for the Goshen (Ind.) College baseball program.
The righty swinger from Souderton, Pa. (northwest of Philadelphia), appeared in 199 games for the Maple Leafs from 2015-18. After getting his broadcasting degree, Stoltzfus took a job in town (he’s a shift leader at Goshen Brewing Company) and became a volunteer assistant on head coach Alex Childers’ staff. Justin Grubbs is Goshen’s pitching coach. Michael Walker is the other assistant.
As the Maple Leafs get ready for 2023, Stoltzfus is now in a paid position and is guiding hitters and infielders.
Stoltzfus wants his hitters to know their strengths and weaknesses.
“Know where you can get beat and know the situation and what you’re trying to accomplish at the plate,” says Stoltzfus. “We want you to be good at situational hitting.”
It always pays to be selective and not swing at every pitch that comes a hitter’s way.
“We have good pitchers in (the NAIA Crossroads League) but we also have pitchers that’ll walk you if you let them,” says Stoltzfus. “We want some guys to be a bit more aggressive because they can hit it in the gap.
Clinton Stroble was one of the best hitters to go through this program
I played with him for three years. He and I had very different approaches because he could put one 400 feet away and I couldn’t.”
Stoltzfus worked to get on-base so Strobel could knock him in.
A student of big league players, Stoltzfus likes the way Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman plays the game.
As a hitting coach, Stoltzfus talks about recognizing pitch shapes.
“(Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander) Clayton Kershaw is a good example,” says Stoltzfus. “You see a fastball out of his hand and it’s slightly down. Whereas, his curveball is slightly up. If you can see it out of the hand forget the spin.
“If you can recognize (shape) right away you know what pitch is coming now and it’s all timing. Timing is a big thing. It’s getting your load and timing down and reacting to the pitch. Put a good swing on the pitch you want.”
As a GC player, Stoltzfus was a second baseman as a freshman and sophomore and a first baseman as a junior and senior.
As an infield coach, he stresses the ready position and knowing what to do with the baseball when it is hit to them.
“I’d like to think I had a very good Baseball I.Q. and was a very good defensive player,” says Stoltzfus. “I would always figure out ways to gain an advantage on my opponent on the mental side of things.”
From a teacher at Souderton Area High School. Stoltzfus learned how to visualize success and avoid negative self talk in favor of positive.
If you see yourself striking out with the bases loaded or making a crucial error that can lead to it happening. Replace that with getting the key hit or making the right play.
The Maple Leafs open the 2023 season Feb. 4-5 with doubleheaders at Union College in Barbourville, Ky.
Goshen opens Crossroads League play March 2 at Marian. The first home date is March 4 against Marian.
While getting ready, Friday practices will be dedicated to individual player skill development. Sometimes technology like HitTrax or Rapsodo is used to mark progress.
“We break down what we think they can do better,” says Stoltzfus. “I try to put myself in their shoes because I know I was in their spot once before.
“We’re just trying to go out and get better each day and progress as coaches and players.”
Stoltzfus, who graduated in 2018, is grateful for his Goshen education and his experiences at the campus radio station — 91.1 The Globe (WGCS-FM). “Uncle” Duane Stoltzfus is a Professor of Communication.
“My parents (Barry and Ingrid) gave me the option to explore and go wherever,” says Brad, got a diploma at GC following his father (business), mother (nursing) and older brother Drew (music) while sister Leah was Brad’s biggest fan. “Ultimately I landed here. I really appreciate the degree I got here because there’s so many things take from what I did in a radio setting and apply that to everyday life and my job (including customer service).
“(Assistant Professor of Communication and The Globe advisor) Jason Samuel was an awesome mentor.”
Both from the Philly area, Stoltzfus and Samuel have had many discussions about City of Brotherly Love sports teams.
Barry Stoltzfus, who went to South Bend (Ind.) Riley High School, was at Wrigley Field in Chicago the day that Mike Schmidt belted four home runs (April 17, 1976) in an 18-16 win for the Philadelphia Phillies over the Cubs.
Brad grew up wearing No. 11 on the diamond. When he was making the transition to the bigger field he landed on a team with a player already donning that digit. Consulting with his dad, he decided on No. 20 (Schmidt’s number) and wore that through high school. Stoltzfus sported No. 44 as a Goshen player.
On May 25, 2011, Brad and three friends were in Philadelphia to see the Phillies play the Cincinnati Reds. The game went 19 innings and the foursome stayed for the whole thing, even gathering three baseball including a home run ball by Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce.

Brad Stoltzfus. (Steve Krah Photo)

IUSB’s Buysse notes change in catching philosophy

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

Doug Buysse is passionate about catching.
He was a catcher at John Glenn High School (Walkerton, Ind.) and Saint Joseph’s College (Rensselaer, Ind.).
For years, he has offered catching instruction at levels from youth to collegiate.
Buysse, who is entering his sixth year as head baseball coach at Indiana University South Bend in 2023, gave catching pointers at the December 2022 meeting of the South Bend Cubs Foundation Coaches Club at Four Winds Field.
Addressing an audience with both travel and college coaches, Buysse noted that catcher and pitcher are the two positions that can’t be pushed on young kids.
“Kids have to really want to catch,” said Buysse. “You have to have that mentality that I’m going to strap that gear on and get behind the plate.”
Catchers have to be decisive, vocal leaders.
“I want my catchers to be the loudest guys on the field,” says Buysse. “Even if they’re wrong, they have to run things. I’d rather see them make a call forcefully and it be the wrong call (than say nothing or make a hesitant call).”
Buysse, who brought juniors Kaleb Farnham (Hamilton High School Class of 2020) and Anthony Pohl (Pewamo-Westphalia, Mich., Class of 2019) for drill demonstrations, spent much of his time on receiving.
“Catchers who receive well help a (pitching) staff and a team,” said Buysse. “They make the game flow.
“Chasing the ball to the backstop really kills the pace of the game.”
Buysse said the way he teaches receiving now is much different than seven years ago when he began offering instruction at 1st Source Bank Performance Center, where Mark Haley is general manager and executive director of the South Bend Cubs Foundation.
“The the way I was taught was what I call ‘drive the wheel system,’” said Buysse. “You caught the inside pitch here, top pitch here, outside pitch here and I worked around the wheel.
“The philosophy of catching has really changed. We work down to up and back to the middle.”
At IUSB — a member of the NAIA and Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference — the hardest throwers might touch 89 mph making the pitch at the bottom of the strike zone very important.
“A low pitch is a big deal for us,” said Buysse. “We want that more than we want any other pitch.
“With nobody on and no count we want them to be as low as they can get so the umpire can see over them. We want to stay below the baseball as much as possible.”
Buysse wants his catcher to be stable and comfortable.
“Playing with stances and getting comfortable is where we start with all of our (catchers),” said Buysse.
Catchers might prefer a two-feet stance, right leg down or left leg down. They might put the opposite leg way out to the side aka “kickstand” in order to get low.
Buysse said using the left leg down stance often helps younger players who can concentrate on what their arm and glove is doing and not on being able to hold their position.
“They don’t have the physical strength to stick (the inside pitch to a right-handed hitter) well,” said Buysse. “On two feet their (left) knee gets in the way the most.
“Don’t be afraid to put (young catchers) on a knee. It takes away from that fear that (they’re) going to fall over.”
While receiving, the idea is working everyone back to the middle of the plate and not chasing or dragging pitches out of the strike zone.
“As they get older the pitch they chase out of the zone the most is a breaking ball,” said Buysse.
The coach emphasized a habit catchers should develop.
“Too many kids keep their head (stationary) and use their eyes to follow the baseball,” said Buysse. “Let their head move. I’ve heard coaches talk about I don’t like my catcher’s head to move because he distracts the umpire.
“He’s not looking at your head. He’s looking where the ball’s at.”
Tracking the ball with the eyes really comes into play with the high pitch.
“My natural instinct when the ball goes above my head is to duck my head and stick my hand up,” said Buysse. “I lose that ball at about 50 feet. In the last 10 feet I’m hoping my glove’s in the way.
“The head has to go up with (the ball). That’s something you’ve to work on. At our level, any ball in the air has to be caught. That’s our rule.”
Buysse talked about blocking pitches.
“The glove has got to go first,” said Buysse. “Where the glove goes the butt follows.
“Once glove is down we’re working forward. We want to block off our belly button as much as we can.”
He encourages young catches to block straight down on pitches inside their two feet and get a body in front of anything outside.
One blocking drill that is used at IUSB is the “sit and get hit.”
The concept calls for having the chest up and absorbing the pitch with the body.
This gets catchers to stop flinching, which makes them stuff and allows balls to ricochet to different places.
“They track that ball until it hits him,” said Buysse. “I don’t want them to just sit there waiting to get hit.”
IUSB monitors development for all players with the use of video that is shared on a Google Drive. Catchers are captured on a tablet (a phone can also be used) during drills and bullpen sessions and can see what they’re doing right and wrong.
What about about stealing pitches (turning balls into strikes)?
“Don’t try to steal every pitch as a strike,” said Buysse. “Keep balls (as) balls.
“Umpires catch on. If you try to steal every ball that’s thrown by the third inning they’re not going to give you anything close because they think you’re trying to steal it.”
IUSB is scheduled to open the 2023 season Feb. 3 against Rio Grande and Lindsey Wilson in Johnson City, Tenn. The Titans’ first home game at Rex Weade Stadium in Granger is slated for March 14 vs. Judson.

Doug Buysse. (Indiana University South Bend Photo)

Foundry Field project using baseball to build community in South Bend’s urban core, tell hidden histories

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

Enriching the community through baseball and telling the stories of underrepresented groups is the aim of bringing Foundry Field to South Bend’s Southeast Neighborhood Park.
A vision meeting attended by 10 people happened in the fall of 2018. The project was launched in 2019.
“We’re passionate about it,” says Matthew Insley, project chairman and Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation president. “We’re all committed to South Bend.
“We were slowed by COVID-19. But that presented an opportunity to dig in with partnerships.”
Community partners include Boys & Girls Club of St. Joseph County, Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame, Civil Rights Heritage Center at Indiana University South Bend, South Bend Community School Corporation, South Bend Venues, Parks & Arts, Southeast Organized Area Residents (SOAR) and The History Museum.
As part of Phase One, Nov. 5 is the deadline for a crowdfunding campaign, featuring a $50,000 matching grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s CreatINg Places program.
Construction is to begin in 2023 with play starting in 2024.
Phase Two includes public and private funding for historical research and public art. Phase Three is centered on community space.
With the help of our donors and collaborators, the Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation has the goal of placing a diamond and showcase public art and historical markers that pay tribute to undervalued legends of the past near downtown. Southeast Neighborhood Park is located at Fellows and Wenger streets.
Among the hidden histories to be highlighted are those of the Foundry Giants (an African-American baseball team that played in South Bend’s Studebaker Industrial League in the 1930’s) and Uncle Bill’s All Colored Girls Softball Team that excelled in the region in the ’30s and ‘40s).
“We want to tell these stories about baseball history,” says Insley. “I’d like to see the game return to the day when it had a lot more diversity. Baseball has become an elite, exclusive game. It was never that.
“Are we going to change the world? No. But we’re going to do our part.”
Insley and Mike Hebbeler (who is program director at the Center for Social Concerns) founded the Sappy Moffitt Baseball League in 2013.
The league — named for former South Bend Green Stockings pitcher Elmer “Sappy” Moffitt, who was born in nearby New Carlisle and is the all-time leader in innings pitched, strikeouts and wins in South Bend professional baseball history — features more than 120 adults playing recreational games on Sunday afternoons at Boland Park.
Team names are a nod to the heritage and places in South Bend. There’s the Du Lac Rockets, Ironhides, Monroe Park Millracers, Oliver Chill, Ottawa Arrowheads, Porters, River Park LongNecks, South Shore Liners and Studebaker Larks.
“We want to play in the urban core,” says Insley, who sees Foundry Field as a place not only for the adult league but for youths in organized or pick-up baseball.
“It’s been near to see guys playing with their kids in (the Sappy Moffitt League). There’s something powerful about kids watching adults play.”
A train wall will double as an outfield barrier and a location for murals and markers.
“It becomes more than a baseball field,” says Insley. “It’s a broadly-utilized space — an impactful space.”
Clinton Carlson, an associate professor for Visual Communication in Notre Dame’s Department of Art, Art History & Design and a Sappy Moffitt League player, has lent his expertise to the group for the past year.
“I’m a designer,” says Carlson. “I use my skills to help share the vision of Foundry Field.
“Let’s get more baseball being played by adults and kids. We want to drive more kids to play. We don’t want to replace rec leagues or Little Leagues that might be struggling.”
Milt Lee, the Director of Community Programs and K-12 Athletics for South Bend Community School Corporation, got to know project originators as a player with the Studebaker Larks.
“I discovered that these are really sincere guys — not just in everyday life but when it came to being responsible community people,” says Lee. “When they brought the idea of creating a field where people can mentor young people, come and play pick-up baseball, learn how to become good teammates and learn life lessons you certainly can’t pass it up. It means everything to South Bend Schools.”
Lee says the aim of the corporation is aligned with the Foundry Field project.
“A major strategic priority of ours is to introduce non-traditional Olympic sports to kids in underserved communities throughout the corporation,” says Lee. “One of those sports happens to be baseball.
“The number of kids in South Bend — particularly black kids — has dramatically decreased since the 1970s.
“We’ve determined to create equitable access to those types of sports in those areas. That’s a major priority of ours. One is the reasons is that the more kids are exposed to games at an early age the more they’ll play multiple sports and play sports for a lifetime so they’ll have better mental and physical health. We’re trying to change health outcomes in underserved communities through recreation and athletics.”
Lee says the area around Southeast Neighborhood Park has a reputation of being a tough place to live.
“I can’t think of a better area and neighborhood to have a beautiful space and place that would make people feel proud and be a place where kids and families could gather to have unbelievable experiences,” says Lee.
South Bend Community Schools — where there is open enrollment and magnet schools — is taking a neighborhood approach with its students. Lee sees programs like those at Foundry Field and nearby facilities like the Boys & Girls Club will get as many as possible to go to Riley High School.
“We want to make sure all the coaches, athletic directors and families
gather as a neighborhood and begin to build relationships that would encourage them to stay together,” says Lee. “If we can keep these kids connected early in their neighborhoods, the better chance we have to keep those kids in our high school system.
“We can stave off some of that migration (to corporations outside South Bend).”
As Lee sees it, high schools ADs — Dawn Huff at Adams, Al Hartman at Clay, Seabe Gavin at Riley and Garland Hudson at Washington among them — should be be seen as the neighborhood CEO for sports and athletics and invite young kids to campus for camps and competitions etc.
Lee says there is some baseball for SBCSC middle schoolers.
“We’ve been losing student-athletes left and right in our middle school program because of the whole travel baseball phenomenon. The more we have kids playing the game at age 5, 6, 7, 8 and working with our Little Leagues, I think we can create some type of base training and feeder program to our high schools.
“The sooner we can get kids playing the game and make they fall in love with it and get them connected to really good coaches, we hope to have them playing the game for a lifetime.”
A diversity of interests and talents are going into the project. Some are focused on the baseball side. Others on fundraising, grant writing, design or historical research.
Greg Bond, Sports Archivist for Hesburgh Libraries and the Curator of the Joyce Sports Research Collection at Notre Dame, is affiliated with the school’s Sport, Media and Culture Minor.
He is helping with research and notes that the stories will be told through a variety of media and does not need to be constrained to a physical location such as the location of Foundry Field.
“It will be accessible to people in other ways to be determined,” says Bond. “We want to make this a sustainable project (for future researchers). One big push is to make it not dependent on people involved right now. That’s very important.
“It’s heartening to see how many people are passionate about this project.”
Katherine Walden, an Assistant Teaching Professor of American Studies at Notre Dame, is also part of the Foundry Field project along with her students.
Among courses regularly taught by Walden is “Baseball and America.”

Foundry Field is coming to the urban core in South Bend, Ind.
Foundry Field drawing. (Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation Image)
Foundry Field drawing. (Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation Image)
Foundry Field drawing. (Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation Image)
Foundry Field drawing. (Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation Image)
One of the hidden histories to be told at Foundry Field is that of Uncle Bill’s All Colored Girls Softball Team. (Northern Indiana Center for History Photo)
Elmer “Sappy” Moffitt.

The Sappy Moffitt Baseball League was founded in South Bend, Ind., in 2013.

Lipscomb U. southpaw Dunkelberger earns right to call his own pitches

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

Michael Dunkelberger did something last spring that many college baseball pitchers do not get to do — call their own pitches.
The left-hander at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., says those decisions get made by coaches the overwhelming majority of the time.
Dunkelberger, a 2018 graduate of South Bend (Ind.) Saint Joseph High School who turned 23 in August, was on a team full of older players thanks largely to the extra years of eligibility given because of the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
That extra time led to wisdom which helped lead to the ability make the right decisions under fire.
“It takes time to be able to call your own pitches,” says Dunkelberger, one of a handful on his staff given the chance to call pitches. “You have practice and bullpens and you talk through scouting reports.”
At the beginning of the year, he scored well on an online cognitive test.
“It showed how well you can instinctively learn and figure out what’s working well and what’s not,” says Dunkelberger, who credits Lipscomb pitching coach Matt Myers for helping him progress.
“He was very similar to me in college,” says Dunkelberger of Myers, who was a lefty pitcher at the University of Tennessee. “He taught me about the mental side and how to go deep in games.
“I was learning how to dissect the hitters swings and able to call my own game.”
It was the first time in his college career he got to call pitches. It had been since the end of his days at Saint Joseph when Indians head coach John Gumpf allowed Dunkelberger and catcher/classmate Luke Houin to make those decisions.
As a junior, Dunkelberger pitched a three-hitter as Saint Joseph beat Jasper 4-0 for the IHSAA Class 3A state championship.
The lefty struck out four, walked two and hit two batters in a seven-inning complete game.
“That junior year team was a lot of fun,” says Dunkelberger. “I grew up with those guys. We played together from 7 or 8 (on The Baseball Factory travel team) and went to the same high school.”
Beating John Glenn 9-7 in extra innings in the Griffith Regional was a highlight of the state title run.
“There were a lot of characters on the team,” says Dunkelberger. “(Coach Gumpf) he let us be ourselves and go out and play. We were a very talented team. A lot of guys on that team played college baseball.”
Taking stock of his best athletic qualities, Dunkelberger puts experience and pitchability at the top.
“There are guys that throw a lot harder than me,” says Dunkelberger. “I earned from an early age how to get guys out without having to throw hard.”
Coming from an arm slot that’s close to over-the-top, Dunkelberger throws a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, change-up and slider.
His four-seamer tops out at 92 mph. His two-seamer gets up to 90. His curve is of the 12-to-6 variety. His “split” change goes straight down. A new trend on the college scene is a “sweeper” slider and the southpaw throws one of those.
Strength training in college allowed the athlete to come up to 6-foot and 215 pounds.
Dunkelberger, who did not see action at Indiana University in 2019 and pitched at Kalamazoo (Mich.) Valley Community College in 2020 and 2021, made a splash in his first season with Lipscomb in 2022.
He made 15 appearances (13 as a starter) and went 7-3 with 3.45 earned run average, 64 strikeouts and 18 walks in 78 1/3 innings while being named to second-team all-ASUN Conference.
Cody Piechocki was Dunkelberger’s head coach at KVCC and with the summer wood bat Northwoods League’s Kalamazoo Growlers/Mac Daddies from 2019-21 (because of his spring workload Dunkelberger did not play in the summer of 2022).
“He was great,” says Dunkelberger of Piechocki, who is also an associate scout for the Texas Rangers. “He helped me develop on the pitching side with command and velocity.
“He reminded me of Gumpf, letting me be me. Through my failures, he stuck by me.”
In nine starts at Kalamazoo Valley, Dunkelberger went 6-1 with a 3.24 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 50 innings and was named a National Junior College Athletic Association All-American.
He was going to transfer to the University of Oregon. But COVID-19 changed his scholarship status and he decided to re-enter the recruiting process and he and KVCC roommate Collin Witzke wound up at Lipscomb.
The Bisons — with Jeff Forehand as head coach — went 35-23 in 2022 after an 18-29 ledger in 2021.
Dunkelberger has two more years of remaining eligibility and is getting ready for 2023 while he is on pace to earn a Business Management in the spring.
Born in Grand Rapids, Mich., Dunkelberger came to northern Indiana around 3 and grew up in Granger. He played youth baseball in Clay Township and was with a Chicago White Sox-sponsored travel team after The Baseball Factory.
Michael is the second-oldest of Scott and Laura Dunkelberger’s four children. Nick Boyd played football at South Bend Riley High School. Victoria Dunkelberger played softball at Penn High School. Penn junior Julianna Dunkelberger played volleyball as a freshman.
Scott Dunkelberger played baseball at Riley and Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., and is now a pharmaceutical sales representative. Laura Dunkelberger works for the State of Indiana, finding resources for special needs children.

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)
Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)
Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)
Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

Edgewood alum Pittsford learns from many along his diamond path

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

Harrison Pittsford is soaking up the knowledge of veterans while getting in his summer reps as a first-year player for the South Bend Royals, members of men’s wood bat leagues in both South Bend and Fort Wayne.
At 20, Pittsford is younger than most of his Royals teammates. That includes 53-year-old Jayson Best.
“It’s cool learning from guys like Bestie,” says Pittsford, who completed his second year at NCAA Division III Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., in the spring. “I see how they play the game.
“It’s a great experience playing with those guys.”
Best, who was born in Lafayette, Ind., played professional baseball from 1989-97. He ascended to Double-A in the Minnesota Twins organization as a pitcher and later was head baseball coach at Goshen (Ind.) College. He pitched a no-hitter for the Royals in Mishawaka, Ind., on July 10.
Pittsford, a 2020 graduate of Edgewood High School in Ellettsville, Ind., comes up to play mostly weekend doubleheaders with former GC hitting star and current Eastern (Greentown) head coach Erik Hisner-managed Royals and Manchester teammate/roommate Hunter Aker (a South Bend Clay High School graduate).
While he does some catching, Pittsford is getting playing time in the outfield since he expects to be there much of the time at Manchester.
The Royals are to compete in a National Amateur Baseball Federation regional in Fort Wayne July 28-30. The top two finishers move on to the NABF World Series Aug. 2-5 in Battle Creek, Mich.
Pittsford was named to the 2022 all-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference second team at designated hitter.
The righty swinger played in 30 games (28 starts) and hit .327 (33-of-101) with six home runs, eight doubles, 29 runs batted in, 27 runs scored and a 1.002 OPS (.418 on-base percentage plus .584 slugging average).
Rick Espeset competed his 26th season as Manchester head coach in 2022.
“Espy got my attention in the recruiting process,” says Pittsford. “His success and longevity eye-catching for me.”
Espeset’s Spartans have won 619 games with six national tournament appearances, including two trips to the D-III World Series (2004 and 2013).
As much as Pittsford appreciates all the knowledge that Espeset shares, he is also grateful for the insights on the mental approach.
“We’re taking time to detach from baseball with breathing and mindfulness,” says Pittsford.
As a D-III program, Manchester conducts four weeks of fall practice with the whole team and coaches. Players are then on their own for a few months until everyone reconvenes shortly before the start of the season.
“Nothing’s really forced on us,” says Pittsford. “If guys want to get better they are going to get better. I get motivated seeing my teammates working out.
“We have good leadership from underclassmen.”
A Sport Management major, Pittsford was named Academic all-HCAC in 2022.
“I want to stay involved in sports in some capacity,” says Pittsford of his post-college path. “That could be coaching, running a sports facility or being an athletic director. I want to be involved in sports and make a difference for kids and make sure the next generation has the same opportunities I had coming up.
“Sports can teach you a lot of life lessons like building character and making friendships.”
Born in Bloomington, Ind., and growing up in Ellettsville, Pittsford participated in baseball and basketball through Richland Bean Blossom Youth Sports and was also part of Monroe County Youth Football Association.
He was in travel ball with the Ellettsville Explosion, Diamond Dynamics and then Tier Ten.
It was with Diamond Dynamics that Pittsford met coach/instructor Tony Kestranek.
“He was passionate about baseball,” says Pittsford of Kestranek. “He taught us when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive.”
At Edgewood, Pittsford played four years each of football and baseball and two of basketball.
A special teams player as a freshman, he was the Mustangs’ starting center for three seasons.
Brian Rosenburgh was defensive coordinator Pittsford’s freshman year then head coach for the last three.
“I loved him as a person and a coach,” says Pittsford of Rosenburgh, who was also a Physical Education teacher at Edgewood.
An football coach was Mychal Doering.
“He’s an amazing guy,” says Pittsford of the father of classmate Izaiah Doering and JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) specialist at Edgewood. “He was high-energy and he motivated you. He was always checking on people outside of school and he taught me about life and handling the ups and down.
“He’s going through chemo (for cancer). It’s cool to see how he’s battling through that.”
Pittsford considered playing college football, but decided to go with his first love of baseball. Besides, at 6-foot, 230 pounds he is considered to be undersized for a college lineman.
Bob Jones, who has been a Business teacher for more than 40 years and head baseball coach for 36, passed along many diamond lessons to Pittsford.
“He knows a lot of baseball,” says Pittsford of Jones, who went into the Monroe County Sports Hall of Fame last week. “It’s nice to learn from a guy who’s been around the game for so long.”
One of Jones’ more than 500 victories came during the first game of 2019 — a season that ended with the Mustangs finishing as IHSAA Class 3A state runners-up.
Playing in a tournament at Vincennes University, Edgewood fell behind 11-0 to Terre Haute North Vigo after four innings.
The Mustangs chipped away and eventually won 20-18 in a game that was played in a steady drizzle.
“It was a pretty crazy game,” says Pittsford, who started at catcher and batted No. 2 that day and drove in two runs.
Later moved to the No. 9 hole, it was there that Pittsford smacked a walk-off home run against West Vigo in the semifinals of the Owen Valley Sectional.
Several other Edgewood players wound up playing college baseball, including Class of 2019’s Joe Kido (Indiana State University), Ethan Vecrumba (Indiana University), Cooper Thacker (University of Southern Indiana) and Blake Deckard (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology), Class of 2020’s Pittsford and Sam Kido (Indiana University South Bend) and Class of 2021’s Luke Hayden (Indiana University).
Satoshi Kido — father of Mac, Joe and Sam — was an Edgewood assistant in 2019 and has been Pittsford’s hitting coach since he was 7 or 8.
“He’s helped me so much with my swing over the years,” says Pittsford. “He always knows how to fix my swing when I get in a slump.”
Pittsford spent much of 2021 dealing with a torn right shoulder labrum.
Harrison is the youngest of 1986 Edgewood alums Jay and Cheryl Pittsford’s two sons. Alex Pittsford (25) is a graduate of Edgewood (2016) and Wabash College (2020) and is now pursing his Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Notre Dame. He was in football and swimming in high school.
Jay Pittsford taught English for 19 1/2 years and then served as an assistant principal. Cheryl Pittsford is an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Physician’s Assistant.

Harrison Pittsford (Manchester University Photo)
Harrison Pittsford (Timothy Jacob Photography)
Harrison Pittsford (Timothy Jacob Photography)

Harrison Pittsford (Timothy Jacob Photography)

Harrison Pittsford (Timothy Jacob Photography)
Harrison Pittsford (Timothy Jacob Photography)

Honored South Bend park has ties to Hall of Famer Coveleski

Four Winds Field in downtown South Bend, Ind., was recently recognized as the nation’s best High Class-A minor league baseball ballpark for 2022 by Ballpark Digest ater earning top honors among Low-A franchises in 2017.
While had its current name for a number of years, it started out as Stanley Coveleski Regional Stadium.
Most people called it “The Cove” and many still do. A statue of “Covey” has greeted visitors who come through the outfield gate of the park since 2014.
The stadium that has been home to the South Bend White Sox, South Bend Silver Hawks and South Bend Cubs.
Stanley Coveleski, who was born on this date (July 13) in 1889 in Shamokin, Pa., moved to South Bend and ran a filling station on the city’s west side after a pro pitching career that landed him in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1969.
Coveleski went into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in 1976.
A right-hander with a mean spitball, he hurled from 1912-28 with the Philadelphia Athletics, Cleveland Indians, Washington Senators and New York Yankees. He went 214-141 for his career with five seasons of 20 or more victories.
Coveleski won three games with an 0.67 earned run average for Cleveland in the 1920 World Series — which also featured Terre Haute left-hander Art Nehf (who’s name is attached to the baseball facility at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology — Art Nehf Field) — and reeled off 13 straight victories with Washington in 1925.
It was just a few years (1984) before the park named in his honor that Coveleski died at 94. At the time of his passing he was the oldest living Hall of Famer. He is buried in South Bend’s Saint Joseph Cemetery.

A bronze statue of Hall of Famer Stan Coveleski has greeted visitors to Four Winds Field since 2014. The park opened as Stanley Coveleski Regional Stadium.

Marian, Northwestern Ohio alum Brammer independent ball veteran

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

South Bend, Ind., native Dylan Brammer has pitched his forkball on multiple continents.
For most of the past decade, the right-hander has played professional baseball in independent U.S. leagues and abroad.
At 32, he’s still got his eye on his next pitch while sharing his knowledge with youngsters coming up in the game.
The 2008 graduate of Mishawaka (Ind.) Marian High School who played at Ancilla College (Donaldson, Ind.), Vincennes (Ind.) University and the University of Northwestern Ohio started his pro career with the independent Frontier League’s Rockford (Ill.) RiverHawks in 2012. Rich Austin was the manager.
Rockford was giving Brammer — who was a two-way player in high school and college — a shot at shortstop.
“I was always a good hitter, but not a great hitter,” says Brammer.
The RiverHawks discovered how hard he threw and sent him to the bullpen to see if he could harness his speed.
By the time Brammer was released last day of transactions, he saw his future on the mound.
“I know I can compete at that level as a pitcher, but I couldn’t throw strikes,” says Brammer. “I told myself I’m going to concentrate the next eight, nine, 10 years on my craft — pitching.”
Brammer, who has Marketing degree from UNOH, worked a genetic software sales job in 2013. But he heard and headed the call of baseball and went back to the diamond.
He played with he Pittsburg (Calif.) club for three seasons in the independent Pacific Association. Wayne Franklin managed the Pittsburg Mettle in 2014 while Aaron Miles was in charge of the Pittsburg Diamonds in 2015 and 2016.
Brammer started 33 games for Pittsburg and went 16-9 with 206 strikeouts and 102 walks in 217 innings.
In the latter part of 2016, Brammer landed with the Steve Brook-managed River City Rascals, a Frontier League team in the St. Louis suburb of O’Fallon, Mo. In four games (two starts), he went 2-1 with 13 K’s and eight walks in 17 2/3 innings.
An opportunity to play overseas came in 2017 and Brammer was off to the Czech Republic to play for 3n2 International Stars at Prague Baseball Week and for Czech Baseball League’s Skokani Olomouc.
A month break between the end of the regular season and the playoffs gave Brammer the opportunity to travel all over eastern Europe.
In what is winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer south of the equator, Brammer played in Australia in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.
The first two seasons he was with the Port Adelaide Magpies in the South Australia State League and won two Capps Medal awards as MVP. Port Adelaide went to back-to-back championship series. Brammer had games of 23, 21 and 19 strikeouts.
He managed in both Port Adelaide and Perth. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he did not go back to club ball in Australia.
The 5-foot-10 righty was with the New Jersey Jackals for parts of four seasons, winning 16 games, saving 18 and whiffing 184 while walking 90 in 218 2/3 innings.
Brooks Carey managed the team in 2018 and 2019 in the Canadian-American Association. The COVID-19 season of 2020 saw the Jackals in the All-American Baseball Challenge.
Carey guided New Jersey in the Frontier League in 2021. When the Jackals were not going to the playoffs, Brammer finished the season with the Atlantic League’s Stan Cliburn-managed Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.
In nine games (all in relief) with Southern Maryland in 2021, Brammer went 1-0 with 16 strikeouts and six walks in 14 innings.
A testing ground for Major League Baseball, the Atlantic League pushed the mound back to 61 feet, 6 inches, restricted infield shits and had Trackman call balls and strikes during the 2021 season.
“It didn’t take that much time to adjust (to 61-6),” says Brammer. “My off-speed was up in the zone at 60-6. It broke a little more and stayed lower in the zone (at 61-6). They did me a favor.”
Throwing straight over the top, Brammer uses four pitches — four-seam fastball, cutter, slider and forkball.
“I have a heavy fastball that goes from 90 to 92 mph,” says Brammer. “I hide the ball really well and have fast arm speed.”
Brammer’s family moved to Florida after his high school days and he has been there in the off-seasons since 19.
He received an invitation to pitch in the Mexican League in 2022. With his girlfriend due to have a boy in December, Dylan opted to stay in Delray Beach, Fla., and teach baseball lessons while coaching the 12U East Boynton Blaze. He’s also staying sharp for his next playing opportunity.
“I take pride in how serious I take baseball,” says Brammer. “I work at it daily.”
Born in South Bend to Michael and Lisa Brammer, Dylan is the second oldest of 10 (seven girls and three boys).
Brammer played at South Bend Southeast Little League and helped his team to the state tournament at age 12.
When he got older, one of his summer teams was Mishawaka American Legion Post 161 coached by Jeff Moore.
He played for Tim Prister at Marian High.
“He was tough on us,” says Brammer of Prister. “I loved that about him. He expected a lot out of our class.
“We took practices and games serious.”
Marian was IHSAA Class 3A state runners-up in 2008, losing 5-1 to Crawfordsville in the championship game at Victory Field in Indianapolis. Brammer played shortstop and batted third that day, getting one of three hits off Athenians left-hander Cameron Hobson.
Brammer drew interest from some NCAA D-I schools, including Butler and Michigan State. He says he did not have the grades to get into Butler and went the junior college route.
Playing for Ancilla Chargers head coach Joe Yonto, Brammer hit .420 with 13 extra base hits in 44 games in 2009.
At Vincennes U. in 2010, Brammer hit .372 with 18 extra base hits and a .428 on-base percentage for the Chris Barney-coached Trailblazers. VU went to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Baseball World Series in Enid, Okla.
At Northwestern Ohio in 2011 and 2012, Brammer hit a combined .292 and posted a 1.21 earned run average on the mound with 61 strikeouts in 49 innings. The Racers head coach was Kory Hartman.

Dylan Brammer (Bert Hindman Photo)
Dylan Brammer (Bert Hindman Photo)
Dylan Brammer (Bert Hindman Photo)
Dylan Brammer (Skokani Olomouc Photo)
Dylan Brammer (New Jersey Jackals Photo)

Grand Valley State gold glover Nelson a student first, but he still loves being an athlete

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

Spencer Nelson enjoyed a comeback baseball season for NCAA Division II Grand Valley State University (Allendale, Mich.) in 2022.
After missing the 2021 campaign while recovering from surgery for a torn left hip labrum, South Bend, Ind., native Nelson started in all 50 of GVSU’s games and .325 (67-of-206) with eight home runs, six triples, 17 doubles, 35 runs batted in and 49 runs scored.
The righty-swinging lead-off hitter posted a .969 OPS (.386 on-base percentage plus .583 slugging average) and was named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Midwest all-region second team and all-Great Lakes Interscholastic Athletic Conference second team. He enjoyed four-hit games against Wayne State and Davenport and produced 20 multi-hit contests.
A center fielder, Nelson also collected an ABCA/Rawlings Gold Glove Award while completing a bachelors degree in Information Systems.
“I’m a student first and an athlete second,” says Nelson. “School and athletics is sometimes hard to balance out.”
He was on a Pre-Med track while also playing baseball then made a switch.
“I knew I wasn’t going to get much sleep on Sundays with a lot of stress and sacrifices,” says Nelson. “I decided to devote myself to developing myself as a player and a teammate.
“I love baseball and I was not not ready to give it up.”
Nelson, 23, plans to pursue a masters in Computer Science while playing for the GVSU Lakers in the spring of 2023.
His role in 2022 was often as center fielder and lead-off hitter.
“You’re in-charge out there (in center field),” says Nelson. “You can roam wherever you want. It’s a fun little area to hang out.”
Playing the outfield, communication becomes key when tracking the ball and making relay throws.
“Everybody in the outfield should be aggressive to catch it,” says Nelson. “This year I had a lot of trust in my guys as I tend to do every year.
“In college, covering the gaps is extremely important. I’m always telling the left fielder and right fielder no to play straight up and eliminate extra bases when possible.”
As for leading off, Nelson also gets to use his speed.
“It’s more about contact than power,” says Nelson. “But I’m I’m very adjustable to wherever I play. I’ve batted in the 3-hole.
“Wherever you put me I will adjust to that role.”
Nelson helped Grand Valley State go 30-22 in 2022.
“We definitely played our hearts out,” says Nelson. “But with talent we have we can definitely do better.”
Jamie Detillion is the Lakers head coach.
“He definitely vouches for his guys,” says Nelson of Detillion. “He’s a very very caring guy and wants to be a winner.
“He’s aways listening to input and adjusts to our liking (as players) while maintaining his role.”
Born and raised in South Bend, Nelson first fell for the game as a T-ball player at South East Side Little League.
He played travel ball for the Michiana Scrappers, South Bend Silver Hawks and Hitters Edge.
He played varsity baseball for four years at John Adams High School in South Bend, where he earned the all-academic award four times and was a three-time team MVP, two-time team captain and first-team all-Northern Indiana Conference as a senior.
Mike Cass was the Eagles head coach when Nelson graduated in 2017.
“(Cass) wanted to win and develop the program,” says Nelson. “He made calls for me to (Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Mich.) and that helped quite a bit.
“It’s about being respectful to those above you so they can show respect back to you.”
Nelson played for the Kellogg Bruins in 2018 and 2019.
“I had two amazing coaches (head coach Eric Laskovy and assistant head coach Jim Miller),” says Nelson. “It was tough love. They taught me a lot on and off the field.”
Now 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, Nelson left high school weighing about 170.
“I was pretty scrawny,” says Nelson. “Kellogg is a blue collar athletic program and school. You’re taught to work hard.
“Eating right was the No. 1 thing. I think I worked out for three or four years without missing a day (minus Sundays)
“It helped me become a little bigger and made my body as healthy as it’s been.”
Nelson played in the South Bend men’s league each summer from 2017-21. He was with the Mishawaka Brewers until joining the South Bend Royals in 2021.
In 2022, he played 21 games with the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League’s Muskegon (Mich.) Clippers and hit .293 with four homers and 16 RBIs before coming home to earn some money for college.
Spencer is the youngest of Bill and Sheila Nelson’s five children. Indianapolis-based educational administrator Naomi is the oldest, followed by consultant to medical companies Tiara and IBM employee Madison in California and software engineer Connor in Arizona. Bill Nelson is a retired salesman. Sheila Nelson is a hairdresser.

Spencer Nelson (Grand Valley State University Photo)
Spencer Nelson (Kellogg Community College Photo)
Spencer Nelson (Grand Valley State University Photo)

Reinebold, South Bend Clay Colonials celebrate 1,000 wins

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

South Bend (Ind.) Clay High School got to celebrate its baseball past and present when the Colonials reached a milestone May 14 at Jim Reinebold Field.
The Colonials swept a doubleheader from visiting Bowman Leadership Academy. The first-game win marked the 1,000th since Clay joined South Bend Community School Corporation in 1964.
Jim Reinebold led the program to its first 503 victories from 1964-88. He helped found the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association and was a member of its initial Hall of Fame induction class in 1979. He established the Jim Reinebold Fall Baseball Camp in 1993 and it the developmental camp is still an autumn tradition.
“He was the GOAT,” says Joel Reinebold, one of Jim’s sons and the head coach at Clay since the 2014 season.
There have been many family connections at Clay over the decades. That continues with Denny Grounds, who played for Jim Reinebold in 1964, and his grandson, Colin Monsma, who is on Joel Reinebold’s 2022 team.
“We’re very, very young and very, very inexperienced,” says Reinebold, who at times has had four freshmen and two first-time high school players in his starting lineup. “But they know about the tradition of program and what is expected of them. They got a big kick of getting 1,000 wins on their watch.
“We stress pride in the program, taking care of what we have and appreciating what you have.”
All this during a time when there is talk of school closures in South Bend, including Clay.
“We don’t know anything,” says Reinebold of the rumors. “We just take it day by day.
“It would be a crime to shut it down. It’s a great school.”
When Jim Reinebold started at Clay, the team played on a diamond located on the site of the current field.
Joel Reinebold remembers watching “No. 4” and his teams from the monkey bars.
The Colonials then played at Bendix (Kennedy) Park and then at Clay Park before landing at what is now Jim Reinebold Field (so named following J.R.’s death in 2017) while Chip O’Neil, who is also an IHSBCA Hall of Famer, was head coach.
Since coming back to Clay, Joel estimates that the program and its supporters have raised more than $50,000 for upgrades to the facility.
How many hours has Joel spent working on it?
“I wouldn’t even begin to guess,” says Reinebold. “I wish I had a dollar for every hour.”
Clay will host a Class 3A sectional (with Mishawaka Marian, New Prairie, South Bend Saint Joseph and South Bend Washington) May 25, 26 and 30 and a 1A regional (with regional winners from the South Central of Union Mills, Caston, Fremont and Westville sectionals) June 4.
“I want a semistate (in the future),” says Reinebold. “It’s more work for us, but I’m glad we host the sectional and regional and can show off the field a little bit.”
Reinebold, who was the original groundskeeper at Stanley Coveleski Regional Stadium in South Bend (now called Four Winds Field), cares for a field which sports athletic bluegrass with a Washington Ball Mix for the infield.
“I like the coloring and texture,” says Reinebold. “It drains very well.”
Reinebold is always partial to Pro’s Choice infield conditioner.
“It helps the playability of the field and its prevents it from getting too hard or too soft,” says Reinebold. “It’s the same stuff I used at the stadium.”
After graduating from Clay and playing at Mississippi College, Reinebold was an assistant to his father then Dan Kasper at Clay.
He then helped Brian Buckley at Hillsdale (Mich.) College, served as an assistant at Penn High School (the Kingsmen won their first state championship in 1994) followed by a head coaching stint at South Bend Adams (1995-2000), another assistant stretch at Penn (2001-2012) and finally leading the program at Clay.
His current coaching staff includes pitching coach Kasper and former Adams player Nate Meadimber.
The Colonials have won 12 sectional titles, including in the first two years of the IHSAA state tournament (1967 and 1968).
Since 1967, only South Bend Riley boys swimming (29) has earned more sectional champions among SBCSC schools.
Clay reigned as state baseball champions in 1970. Jay Parker and Bob Schell were captains on that team and are part of a group of Colonials who were selected in the Major League Baseball Draft out of high school or college.
Besides Parker (Chicago White Sox 1970) and Schell (Chicago Cubs 1970), there’s Roger Benko (Chicago White Sox 1967), Gary King (Cleveland Indians 1970), Kent Juday (Cleveland Indians 1972), Andy Replogle (St. Louis Cardinals 1975), Bret Mitchell (Kansas City Royals 1977), Tim Hudnall (Montreal Expos 2002), Mike Wolff (Baltimore Orioels 1994) and Aaron Bond (San Francisco Giants 2017). Replogle pitched in the majors.
Joel Reinebold helps youth players in Indiana and Jamaica through his efforts with Rounding Third, a a non-profit organization he helped start with former South Bend White Sox/Silver Hawks front office man John Baxter and others.

South Bend (Ind.) Clay High School celebrates the 1,000th win since Clay joined South Bend Community Schools in 1964. The milestone came May 14, 2022. (South Bend Clay Photo)

South Bend’s Salmons make up a father-son umpiring duo

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

A veteran umpire and his son have been calling high school games this spring in northern Indiana.
South Bend’s Laird Salmon, 64, has been an umpire for more than two decades and an IHSAA-licensed official for upwards of 15 years.
Matt Laird, 28, is in his first season as an IHSAA umpire. A 2012 graduate of South Bend Riley High School, where he was a player, he served in the U.S. Navy for nearly seven years and is now a student at Indiana University South Bend.
Matt expects to work around 15 games and is not yet eligible for IHSAA tournament play.
Laird’s 2022 schedule started at the end of February. He worked 13 games in Florida. By season’s end, the custom furniture maker and Bowling Green (Ohio) State University graduate expects to have between 60 and 70 contests.
Many schools use assigners. Games are often booked through EventLink.
Matt and his brothers played at Southeast Little League in South Bend. That’s where Laird got his umpiring start.
“All the dads like to come late in Little League because they don’t want to umpire,” says Laird. “I was one of the guys who didn’t mind doing it. I always used to come prepared and did it.
“I eventually decided that this isn’t a bad gig. It’s kind of fun to do.”
Not that he enjoys it every time out.
“Some days I don’t,” says Laird. “I’m just being honest. Some days it’s work. We call it work. But — for the most part — it’s a fun game.
“It’s fun to hone your skills as an umpire. You try to get a good strike zone. You try to make sure you get everything right.”
There are often second-guessers.
“The fans think you’re one-sided,” says Laird. “No. We’re trying to get every single play right. It’s a challenge.
“Coaches are passionate about their teams. They see it a certain way. They see it how they think it was. Well, that’s not how it happened.
“We’re there to be impartial.”
Matt notes that the coaches often don’t have a better angle than the umpire to make a call.
Many times, fans don’t know the rule they are arguing about.
Matt cites an example from a recent game in South Bend.
“(An outfielder) was on the warning track,” says Matt. “As he caught the ball he ran into the fence and dropped it. You have to have possession of the ball and voluntary release.”
The fans were all over the umpires, screaming “That was a catch!”
“No. There wasn’t a catch,” says Laird. “That’s a prime example of not knowing the rules.
“We strive to know the rules.”
Matt is always coming up with possibilities on the diamond and those are almost endless.
“You put forth a situation to see what would happen,” says Matt. “The situations aren’t always in the rule book.
“You have the overall general rule, but it doesn’t outline every scenario that you’re going to see out on the field.”
Laird tries to think about what could happen.
“Could I have batter or catcher interference?,” says Laird. “What else could possibly happen?
“Catcher’s interference is really hard. Did the ball hit the mitt before the bat or the bat hit the mitt before the ball or did it all together?”
Mechanics involve timing and consistency.
“You try to use the same exact stance every single time,” says Laird about setting up to call balls and strikes.
“Sometimes you have a catcher that loves to squirm,” says Laird. “I had a catcher that would set up late every single time.
“About the 10th or 11th pitch, I understand that. I have to wait to the catcher gets set and moves up and then I get in my spot.
“We don’t coach. I’d love to tell catchers to scoot up. You’re taking pitches away from your pitcher. I’m just there to call balls and strikes. If it doesn’t look good because (the catcher) is way back here it’s probably going to be a ball.”
The Salmons, who are members of the St. Joseph Valley Officials Association, see the umpire shortage.
What can be done to bring the numbers up?
“It starts with a little bit of recruiting,” says Matt. “People also have to be interested in it. One way to get people really interested is to raise the game fees.”
Rates vary. In the South Bend area, umpires make around $50 for a junior varsity game and varsity ranges between $65 and $75 depending on the school.
Umpires have to way factors of time, gas prices and the heat they may get from the fans, coaches and players.
Emotions are bound to be a part of baseball. Matt says it’s up to the adults to see they don’t get out of hand, leading to a blow-up or an ejection.
“The coaches are supposed to set the example for the kids,” says Matt. “As soon as they do that, the kids think it’s OK. The kids get tossed and the parents overreact because you just tossed their kid when they set a terrible example for him, right?
“The kids’ behavior follows the coaches almost to a tee. If he’s a decent coach and he’s calm, the kids are going to be calm. If the coaches is hyper and all strung up, the kids are going to be all strung up.”
The Salmons don’t do all their games together, but when they do a decision gets made long before they reach the field on who will be the one behind the plate.
“If he’s had a particular team behind the plate already, I’ll typically take that team and vice versa,” says Matt. Jennifer Salmon, Laird’s wife and Matt’s mother, will often be there to lend support.
ESPN’s Buster Olney has floated the idea of having Major League Baseball umpires rotate to do more games behind the plate or at a specific base relative to their accuracy rates.
If an umpire is getting 95 percent of balls and strikes correct they would be called upon for that duty more often than one who has a lower grade.
“You run into a lot of problems with that as training goes,” says Matt of Olney’s proposal. “If one person is always taking the plate and another guy hasn’t worked the plate in 40-plus games how crisp is he going to be with those strike calls? It’s going to be even worse.
“On top of that, you have to deal with retirement issues. When somebody leaves, someone has to be there to step in and fill their role.
“Behind the plate is still a man game (with no replay reviews that can overturn calls). How much practice do you need (on the safes and outs) if you can review the calls anyways?”
Says Laird, “The electronic strike zone is not there yet. I don’t think it will be there for a few years.”

Laird (left) and Matt Salmon, a father-and-son baseball umpiring duo from South Bend, Ind. (Joel Reinebold Photo)