Tag Archives: Southeast Missouri State

Family life brings Neal closer to home with Attica Ramblers

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Baseball has taken Kyle Neal away from his home and it’s brought him back.

Neal is in his first season as head baseball coach at Attica Junior/Senior High School in Fountain County. He also teaches physical education and strength training.

The Neal family — Kyle, Christie, Carson (7) and Krew (9 months) — live in Veedersburg. That’s about 10 miles from the school.

When Royce Carlton left for Shelbyville, leaving an opening at Attica for a coach and teacher, Neal decided to apply for be closer to his wife and sons

The past four years, Neal has been making a commute of more than a hour each way to teach and to be head baseball coach — first at North Newton Junior/Senior High School in Morocco and then Frontier Junior/Senior High School in Chalmers.

Neal coached North Newton to 20- and 18-win seasons in his two seasons leading the program (2014 and 2015). The Spartans were put out of the IHSAA sectional both years by Lafayette Central Catholic.

In two seasons of guiding the Frontier Falcons, Neal saw the team win 15 and eight games.

As the Attica Ramblers get ready for the Class 1A Rockville Sectional, they look back on a 7-14 regular season. Attica and Rockville are paired in the first game of the sectional Wednesday, May 23. Other teams in the field are Covington, North Vermillion, Riverton Parke and Turkey Run.

Attica is in the Wabash River Conference (along with Covington, Fountain Central, North Vermillion, Riverton Parke, Seeger, South Vermillion and Turkey Run).

Neal grew up in Ladoga in Mongomery County. His earliest baseball experiences came at Ladoga Little League.

Between his eighth grade and freshmen year, he played for the traveling Montgomery County All-Stars and also for the Southmont High School summer team.

Neal learned fundamentals from Mounties coach Jerry Long and logged a few innings on the mound as a freshman, gleaning much from a senior catcher.

In 1998, Neal was part of a Southmont team that lost to eventual 2A state runner-up Evansville Mater Dei in the semifinals of the Richmond Semistate.

His last two high school years, Neal attended Bethesda Christian in Brownsburg. At the time, the school was not affiliated with the IHSAA.

But Neal picked up plenty of know-how from coach Bill Sampen, a former major league pitcher.

“He was a huge part of my growth in baseball,” says Neal of Sampen, who runs the Indiana Expos travel organization and Samp’s Hack Shack training facility. “He was real big on thinking the game of baseball. He’s just a smart guy.

“We still talk today and share ideas.”

In the summer between his freshmen and sophomore years, Neal played more for Southmont plus the Indiana Vipers and Crawfordsville American Legion Post 72.

The next summer, he switched to the Indiana Bulldogs and also played for the other two squads.

Leading into his junior year at Bethesda Christian, he again played for the Bulldogs.

He attended many camps before his senior year and wound up with a baseball scholarship to NCAA Division I Southeast Missouri State University. He was primarily a reserve second baseman in his one season in Cape Girardeau.

Mark Hogan was the Redhawks head coach. Neal credits SEMO assistant Scott Southard for teaching him the finer points of infield play.

“The coaches there were real supportive of a freshman in Division I baseball, where the speed of the game excelerates tenfold,” says Neal. “I learned to play at a higher pace and saw different kinds of pitching.”

Neal spent his last year college playing seasons at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, with Mark DeMichael as head coach.

“I learned perseverance and more on the spiritual side of things,” says Neal. “I learned how to handle myself on the field. It was a great experience.”

After his playing days, Neal spent a year gaining knowledge about the coaching profession as an IWU graduate assistant.

He then went into the work world for about seven or eight years, all the while teaching private lessons to stay involved in baseball.

Along the way, he got his teaching degree from Indiana Wesleyan, served three seasons as a Southmont assistant and then took his first head coaching gig at North Newton.

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Kyle Neal, the head baseball coach at Attica Junior/Senior High School, shares a moment with sons Krew (9 months) and Carson (7).

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The Neal family: Kyle and Christy with sons Carson (7) and Krew (9 months). Kyle Neal is in his first season as head baseball coach, physical eduction and strength training teacher at Attica Junior/Senior High School in Fountain County, Ind.

 

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‘Trust the process’ approach guides South Bend’s Mitchell

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Major League Baseball’s minor leagues are about development.

With a motto of “trust the process,” South Bend Cubs outfielder Kevonte Mitchell continues to learn the game in his fourth professional season.

Mitchell, who celebrated his 22nd birthday Saturday, Aug. 12 at Four Winds Field by going 2-of-5 at the plate with a double, two runs batted in and one run scored, originally committed to play at Southeast Missouri State University.

When the baseball and basketball standout and honor roll student at Kennett (Mo.) High School was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 13th round of the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Mitchell opted not to put off his pro development.

“The Cubs made an offer that I couldn’t refuse,” says Mitchell. “Coming out of high school and learning from professionals right away, I felt I needed that. I wanted to learn.”

Kevonte’s dad did not play baseball. His mom played a little softball.

Growing up in the Bootheel region of Missouri, the son of Kevin and Darlene Mitchell and younger brother of Brianne took to the diamond at an early age.

“I found out I was kind of good at it so I just kept playing it when I was younger and here I am today,” says Mitchell.

He looks back on his days as a newly-minted pro and remembers that as another learning opportunity.

“I had to grow up really quickly, I’ll tell you that,” says Mitchell. “I’ll never forget my first night out in Arizona. I’d never been that far from home.”

An 18-year-old Kevonte gave himself a pep talk.

“There’s no turning back now,” says Mitchell. “I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do and play the game that I love.”

After stints with the rookie-level Arizona Cubs in 2014 and 2015 and Single-A short-season Eugene Emeralds in 2015 and 2016, Mitchell has spent the whole 2017 season with South Bend in the Low Class-A Midwest League. The Cubs are 61-56 overall; 22-26 in the second half.

Using his swiftness, Mitchell has played mostly right or left field and been a threat to steal or base or go first-to-third. He was a third baseman and shortstop in high school.

“My speed is a big factor to my game,” says Mitchell. “As an outfielder, I’ve learned about routes and how to get to the ball quicker. I still need help with that.

“I’ll play anywhere (manager Jimmy Gonzalez and the Cubs) need me. I’ll be ready to go out there.”

Where trusting the process comes in the most for the 6-foot-4, 185-pounder is in the right-handed batter’s box.

“I’ve made a lot of adjustments since the start of spring training,” says Mitchell, who came through action Saturday hitting .252 with 11 home runs, 53 RBI, 51 runs scored and 18 stolen bases (.270, 1, 8, 8 and 3 in the last 10 games). “I don’t consider myself a power guy. I have the potential to maybe be a power guy one day.

“I’m just trying to be a better hitter. I’m focusing on going the other way, knowing what the pitcher is doing with runners on base. With two strikes, I try to shorten up (my swing) and see the ball.”

Mitchell saw the basketball go through the net on a regular basis during his time with the Kennett Indians. He poured in 1,585 career points. He was all-state as a senior and holds the school record for rebounds.

“I played whatever the coach needed — 1 through 4,” says Mitchell. “Sometimes I’d bring the ball down (the court). Sometimes I’d be posting up.”

The Cubs don’t want Mitchell getting hurt by playing full-out hoops.

“I’ll shoot a couple shots here and there,” says Mitchell.

But mostly he trusts the process while getting better on the diamond.

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Kevonte Mitchell, a South Bend Cubs outfielder, turned 22 Saturday, Aug. 12. He is in his fourth professional baseball season. (South Bend Cubs Photo)

 

Details the difference for Purdue’s Wasikowski

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Mark Wasikowski sweats the details.

His baseball experience tells him that those things build a championship culture.

The new head baseball coach at Purdue University has been getting his Boilermakers to focus on routines that he expects will translate to success.

Wasikowski shared his ideas in presentation at the recent Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association State Clinic and said “we’ve got to do a good job of earning the trust of the people in that room … High school coaches are absolutely critical.”

Practice organization has been key during Wasikowski’s career as a player (the Seal Beach, Calif., native helped win a College World Series title for coach Andy Lopez at Pepperdine University in 1992) and college coaching stops as an assistant at Southeast Missouri State, Florida, Arizona (helping Lopez earn a national championship in 2012) and Oregon.

Why have routines?

“They let everybody in the organization know about the mission and how the mission will be accomplished,” Wasikowski said. “The purpose of all these checklists is to cover the routine items. As a player, thorough repetition allows them to become more confident. That’s huge for me.”

With routines, players are able to slow the game down.

Making detailed checklists of how the team will practice batting, pitching and defense is important to developing a championship culture.

“These are the building blocks of the program — the critical things we need to do on a daily basis,” Wasikowski said. “The idea is to teach the routine so well that your kids will not only understand why the routine is done, but how it’s done and for what purpose it will be used.”

Wasikowski and his coaching staff of Steve Holm, Wally Crancer, Miles Miller and John Madia has a daily, weekly and monthly calendar to keep his team on-task.

With this calendar posted in the locker room, players will know the practice plan and routines that will allow them to get their work done even if coaches are not around.

“We’re going to put down on a piece of paper everything we want to accomplish,” Wasikowski said. “We know that throwing, fielding and hitting evaluations are probably going to be on Day 1.”

The idea is to hit all the checklist items multiple times during the preseason.

“If you’ve got five checks by each item at the end of the fall, you’ve probably done a pretty good job,” Wasikowski said. “If you’ve only got one check, you’re probably slipping a little bit.”

At Oregon, head coach George Horton’s practice plan took up five pages. If a period was out of place on the practice plan devised by his assistants, he knew it and handed it back.

“Bottom line is the details are critical,” Wasikowski said. “Our calendars us how much time we’re going to spend on things each day.

“Once the kids see the routines equals the details equals the wins, now those things actually start mattering to those kids.”

Wasikowski does not take any detail for granted. That might mean taking out a stop watch and timing a player as he takes a jersey top off the locker room floor and places it on a hanger.

He teaches the value of defense and of not shaking off pitches because the defense is aligned in a certain way behind the pitcher.

At Wasikowski’s first team meeting at Purdue, he talked about details with his players — things like going to class, living your life right and so on.

Last fall, he also learned how competitive Purdue graduates are in the working world.

“I don’t see why we can’t do that on the baseball field,” Wasikowski said. “We’ve got a good school, why not have a good baseball team? I didn’t move my family across the country (from Oregon) to lose … We’ve got to move forward. There’s a plan.”

It’s a detailed plan.

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