By STEVE KRAH
Determination has helped Sam Crail enjoy success on the baseball diamond.
The 2017 Sheridan (Ind.) High School graduate heads into his fourth collegiate season — his second at NCAA Division II Saint Leo (Fla.) University — in 2020-21 with a drive for even more.
“I’m a very hard-working individual,” says Crail, 22. “I’m very confident. My confidence allows me to go on the field and not to think about things that happened in the past.
“I move on to the next play.”
The lefty-swinging outfielder started in all 21 of Saint Leo’s games in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. The 5-foot-10, 195-pounder hit a team-best .320 (24-of-75) with four home runs, three triples, three doubles, six stolen bases, 19 runs batted in and 17 runs scored.
Crail played two seasons at Indiana University (2018 and 2019) for head coach Jeff Mercer.
“I really loved Indiana as a school,” says Crail. “The depth chart at my position was too deep.
“I needed a change in order to give myself an opportunity to play at the next level.”
Crail played in 55 games at IU and hit .229 with one homer, one triples, two doubles, two stolen bases, 13 RBIs and 16 runs.
Rick O’Dette, who played and coached at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., is head coach at Saint Leo.
Crail likes that O’Dette allows him the freedom to do his own way while offering advice to help him improve his game.
“He really gives all the players the flexibility to do whatever they want in technique and approach,” says Crail. “It’s what I’ve been doing my whole life and adding guidance along the way.”
Along with playing baseball, Crail is on target to earn a degree in Sports Business next spring.
Griffith (Ind.) High School graduate Amir Wright was at Saint Joseph’s when the school closed and he transferred to Saint Leo. After landing in Florida, Crail became fast friends with Wright.
“We connected right off the bat being Indiana guys,” says Crail of Wright. “He’s very good teammate to play for.
“He’s showed me the ropes.”
Matt Kennedy, who coached with O’Dette at Saint Joseph’s, was the hitting coach at Saint Leo before coming back to Indiana to join the Butler University staff.
Kennedy was the head coach of the Snapping Turtles in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and Crail was on the team, hitting .297 (19-of-64) with two triples, four doubles, 12 RBIs and 13 runs.
Before the pandemic, Crail was supposed to play in the Valley League for the Covington (Va.) Lumberjacks.
When the Valley League canceled its season, Crail played in the circuit based about 15 minutes from home.
Crail went to IU to acclimate to the school and the program and did not play in the summer of 2017. He was with the Cody Piechocki-managed Kalamazoo (Mich.) Growlers of the Northwoods League in 2018 and the Eric Coleman-managed Danville (Ill.) Dans of the Prospect League in 2019.
At Danville, Crail hit .368 (42-of-114) with seven homers, three triples, seven doubles, six stolen bases, 39 RBIs and 22 runs in 29 games.
Between the shutdown and the 2020 summer season, Crail joined friends — many former Indiana teammates — in working out and having live at-bat sessions at RoundTripper Sports Academy in Westfield.
Crail has trained at RoundTripper since 10 and he began playing travel ball for the Indiana Mustangs.
“I have a good relationship with (owner) Chris Estep and all the guys at RoundTripper,” says Crail.
Born in Carmel and raised in Sheridan, Crail played baseball in the local recreation system before beginning travel ball at 9U with the Indiana Prospects. He went on to represent the Indiana Mustangs (10U to 12U and 17U), Indiana Outlaws (13U) and Indiana Stix (14U to 16U). Head coaches were Shane Cox with the Prospects, Nathan Habegger and Ken Niles with the Mustangs, Dwayne Hutchinson with the Outlaws and Ray Hilbert with the Stix.
Crail played four seasons at Sheridan High — three for Matt Britt and one for Larry Lipker.
“(Britt) was a really fun guy to be around everyday,” says Crail. “He was a players’ coach. He was one of our friends.
“(Lipker) was the same way. He was one of our buddies. He taught me a lot of life lessons. He gave me some insight as to what baseball would like like at the next level. They were both very knowledgeable about the game.”
Sam is the oldest of Westfield firefighter Ray Crail and house cleaner/health supplement salesperson Christie Crail’s three children.
Katy Crail (18) is a Sheridan senior who plays basketball and softball. Her softball travel team is the Indiana Shockwaves. Jack Crail (14) is a Sheridan freshman. His travel baseball team is the Indiana Eagles.