A year ago, Gage Stanifer was preparing for his senior baseball season at Westfield (Ind.) High School. This week, the right-handed pitcher heads to Dunedin, Fla., for his first spring training camp. Stanifer made 10 mound appearances for Westfield (eight starts) and went 5-2 with a 0.74 earned run average, 83 strikeouts and 32 walks in 38 innings in 2022 and was selected for the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion as a North pitcher. As a junior in 2021, he hurled in 10 games (nine starts) and was 7-1 with a 0.94 ERA, 100 strikeouts and 28 walks in 52 innings. He was on the Shamrocks junior varsity as a freshman in 2019. The 2020 season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When not pitching, he started out as a third baseman and moved to the outfield. Ryan Bunnell is the longtime head coach at Westfield. Stanifer credits him for beneficial advice. “His biggest thing was teaching the players to have their own routine and stick by that,” says Stanifer, 19. “Knowing how I go about things has helped me a lot as a player.” Selected in the 19th round of the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, Stanifer signed with Midwest area scout Matt Huck rather than go to a junior college (he de-committed from the University of Cincinnati) and reported to Florida where he was in some live at-bat sessions and attending some camps. “They wanted some more one-on-one time to see how I work, just get a deeper look at me before sending me into games,” says Stanifer. “It was just getting me fine-tuned. “As long as I compete well in spring training and stay healthy I give myself a good shot of making the (Low Class-A Dunedin Blue Jays) roster.” A 6-foot-3, 202-pounder, Stanifer throws a two-seam fastball, slider and a splitter. He got the fastball up to 97 mph in 2022 and has been at 92 to 95 in recent throwing sessions. “I throw a ‘bullet’ slider,” says Stanifer. “It tunnels real well with my fastball. It drops off and disappears from a batter’s perspective a couple of feet.” The slider — his go-to off-speed pitch — is usually clocked at 83 to 86 mph. “The splitter has a lot more late depth — a little more depth than the change-up and a little harder as well (86 to 88 mph). It’s a good put-away pitch for lefties but I’m getting a lot more confident throwing it to righties as well.” What about his arm slot? “I’d say it’s pretty unique,” says Stanifer. “I kind of throw like a quarterback. I short-arm a little bit. I throw tight and compact. I hide the ball really well from the batters.” Stanifer attended quarterback camps with Ryan Pepiot and followed him in his baseball career through high school to Butler University and to the Los Angeles Dodgers. “We’ve stay in-touch,” says Stanifer, who is the fifth Westfield player drafted following Kyle Kramp (2009, San Francisco Giants), Kevin Plawecki (2012, New York Mets), Harrison Freed (2019, Giants) and Pepiot. “It’s cool to see someone you know have their hard work pay off.” Stanifer played football through eighth grade then stopped. He broke his collar bone in fifth grade and had numerous concussions. In the off-season, Stanifer went through some remote programming with North Carolina-based Tread Athletics and trainer Devin Hayes and was in-house Monday through Friday at PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind., since the first week of November. He has been going there since 2017, working with Greg Vogt and Anthony Gomez. Vogt is also the Rehab Pitching Coach for the Blue Jays and Gomez was recently hired as bullpen coach for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Another pitcher who has worked out at PRP — 24-year-old right-hander Michael Brewer — just signed with the Blue Jays. “I’m glad Mike finally got his opportunity,” says Stanifer of the 2018 Fort Wayne (Ind.) Snider High School graduate. “He’s a great person and a great player.” A collector of gloves (he has 14), Stanifer wore a mint green one in high school and has recently added a red, blue and baby blue to the collection.
Gage, who turns 20 in November, is the son of Butch and Melissa Stanifer. His two older sisters are former Westfield cheerleader Skyler (Class of 2017) and volleyball player Raigan (Class of 2019). Butch Stanifer played one year of football at Indiana State University then turned his attention to bodybuilding and was part owner in a gym before going into real estate. His father has taught his son about nutrition and weightlifting. “He’s given advice along the way about how to lift and eating the right food to stay healthy,” says Gage. Melissa and Skyler are also realtors. Skyler Stanifer is an Indiana University graduate. Raigan Stanifer is an IU senior speech pathology major.
Ryan Pepiot has experienced quite a run in his life and career. Since November 2021, Pepiot has gotten married, made his Major League Baseball debut and landed his first hole-in-one. “I’ve had a pretty good 18 months,” says Pepiot, a right-handed pitcher with the Los Angeles Dodgers who began his third big league spring training camp at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., Wednesday, Feb. 15. The Indianapolis-born Pepiot was selected in the third round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft out Butler University (brother Kyle Pepiot is a senior outfielder for the Bulldogs in 2023; Ryan, a 2016 graduate of Westfield (Ind.) High School where he played for Ryan Bunnell, was recruited by Steve Farley and played at Butler for Dave Schrage) wed Lilia Poulsen in 2021. Pepiot, 25, met the New Orleans native at Butler where she was studying ballet. Lilia — cousin of draft-eligible Ball State University right-hander Ty Johnson — was a ballerina was in a professional LA-based touring company prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. “She’s going to get back into commercial dance when the season starts,” says Ryan of Lilia Pepiot. The couple resides in Scottsdale, Ariz., where a favorite restaurant — Ocean 44 (a seafood and steak eatery) — is within walking distance. “We like the oysters,” says Pepiot. May 11, 2022 was Pepiot’s first MLB appearance. The afternoon game in Pittsburgh was attended by no less than 15 relatives and friends. Among them was his wife, brother, parents, in-laws, best friends from high school, college teammates and close family friends. “It was the closet I played to home in a long time,” says Pepiot. “Indianapolis to Pittsburgh isn’t too far. Pepiot, who once wore the uniform of the Chris Estep-led Indiana Mustangs travel team roster, made nine MLB mound appearances (seven starts) for the 2022 Dodgers and went 3-0 with a 3.47 earned run average. In 36 1/3 innings, he recorded 42 strikeouts and 27 walks. He also went 9-1 for the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers. “I learned a lot about myself — physically, mentally, everything,” says Pepiot of his time in the majors. “I learned that I can pitch and compete at the highest level. “When I’m in the (strike) zone and attacking hitters I can give our team a chance to win ballgames. I learned how it all works being in that clubhouse with Hall of Famers and superstars. I got advice and picked their brains.” In LA, Pepiot is in the starting rotation mix with left-hander Julio Urias, right-handers Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, lefty Clayton Kershaw and righties Noah Syndergaard, Michael Grove, Andre Jackson and Walker Buehler. “We’re in a good group so it will be interesting,” says Pepiot, who is still considered a rookie. “I’ll be happy whenever I can pitch and in whatever role I’m cool with it.” Former big leaguer Mark Prior is the Dodgers pitching coach. He is assisted by Connor McGuiness. Pepiot’s “out” pitch is his “circle” change-up. He began developing the pitch — which runs away from left-handed batters and into righties — while playing for the Keene (N.H.) Swamp Bats in the summer of 2017. “I needed something,” says Pepiot. “I’ve continued to fine-tune it ever since.” Pepiot’s change-up — which is generally clocked at 84 or 85 mph or between 8 to 12 mph slower than his four-seam fastball — has been compared to that of Milwaukee righty closer Devin Williams. While Williams throws his at around 3,000 RPM, Pepiot’s comes in around 2,500. A slider is the other one of Pepiot’s three-pitch repertoire. MLB rules call for a pitch clock in 2023. Pitchers will have 15 seconds to throw a pitch with the bases empty and 20 seconds with a runner on base. Hitters will need to be in the batter’s box with eight seconds on the pitch clock. “It won’t be a big deal for me. I had it in Triple-A last year so I got used to it and I like to work fast,” says Pepiot. “The hard part is you might only have eight seconds to go through a sign sequence when the guy gets in the box.” While there is no such system in the minors, MLB uses PitchCom to relay signals from catcher to pitcher. With the system, the catcher has a pad on his knee cap which is programmed with pitches and location. The pitcher has a receiver in his cap which tells him the desired pitch. There is also the new pick-off rule. Pitchers will be allowed to disengage with the rubber twice per plate appearance. This number resets if a base runner advances within the same plate appearance. A third step-off with result in a balk, unless at least one offensive player advance a base or an out is made on the ensuing play. “That one’s a little difficult,” says Pepiot. How about that hole-in-one? Pepiot, who plays golf a couple of times a week, picked up the game after he was drafted. He was on the links often after COVID came along. Lilia’s parents live next to a country club near New Orleans. His ace came in the Justin Turner Golf Classic Feb. 6 at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He was using a 9-iron in the 182-yard par-3 hole.
Parker, 44, is heading into his fifth year with the Dodgers in 2021. While his travel outside the U.S. has been curtailed this year because of COVID-19 (just two trips since March), he has been to Latin America many times and to Asia in search of baseball talent.
Based in Tampa, Fla., Parker has been able to travel to Miami in recent months to evaluate international players.
His priority leading up to spring training will be getting ready for the signing of the 2020 MLB First-Year Player Draft class in January. During a normal year, that would have been done on July 2 following the June draft. Once players are signed most will be assigned to the Dominican Summer League.
“We’re safely trying to get our jobs done,” says Parker, who counts Dodgers international scouting executive Ismael Cruz as his boss. Parker was with the Toronto Blue Jays when he first worked with Cruz.
With Alex Anthopoulos as general manager and Dana Brown as special assistant to the GM for the Blue Jays, Parker first worked in pro scouting and dealt with arbitration cases and was later promoted to the head of amateur scouting and oversaw Toronto’s participation in the MLB Draft.
Brown hired Parker as assistant scouting director for the Montreal Expos. For that position, he moved to Montreal in his second year (2004; the franchise’s last in Canada before becoming the Washington Nationals).
Parker worked primarily in amateur scouting and draft preparation while also helping on the pro scouting side.
“Dana Brown is one guy I give a lot of credit to for help me along the way as a mentor,” says Parker. “A lot of what I’ve been able to do is because of him.”
Brown is now vice president of scouting for the Atlanta Braves, where Anthopoulos is now president of baseball operations and general manager.
Parker was with the Expos/Nationals for seven years. When the team moved to D.C., Parker went there. His last two years he was director of baseball operations, dealing with administrative matters such as contracts and transactions.
His Expos tenure began in player development development operations at the spring training complex in Melbourne, Fla.
“I did a little bit of everything on the minor league side with player development,” says Parker.
Prior to that, Parker was employed by MLB. He was assistant director of baseball operations for the Arizona Fall League for one year and the AFL’s director of baseball ops the second year.
He worked with all 30 MLB teams and had a hand in many things including dealing with umpires and AFL host stadiums. He also got to see the game’s top prospects on display.
Parker helped in the sports information department at ISU — working extensively with Rob Ervin and Jennifer Little — and earned a Business Management degree from the Terre Haute school in 1998.
“I wanted to work in sports,” says Parker. “I knew that a business background would help.”
Parker was born in Michigan and moved to Morristown around 4. Since he was a youngster and playing basketball and some youth baseball in Shelby County, Ind., the oldest son of Richard and Linda Parker (now retired teachers) and older brother of Jason Parker (who nows lives outside Indianapolis) has been interested in the behind-the-scenes side of sports.
The summer of graduating from high school (1994), Parker joined the grounds crew for the Indianapolis Indians and was with the Triple-A team in that role in 1994 and 1995 and was an intern in 1996 as the Indians moved from Bush Stadium to Victory Field.
Parker’s first experience in baseball scouting came during an internship with the Colorado Rockies during the summer of 1997. He entered scouting reports, went through the draft, got to hear other scouts talk about baseball under Rockies general manager Bob Gebhard and also helped with the media relations staff in the press box.
“It was a great every level position,” says Parker.
After going back to ISU to earn his degree Parker saw there was a regime change in the Rockies front office.
Parker spent three years — one as an intern and two as a full-time employee in media relations with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.
After that, he got back into baseball with the Arizona Fall League.
Parker has had a guiding principle throughout his career.
“It’s so important to work with good people and do the best job you can,” says Parker. “Do a good job and let things fall where they may after that. You’re not necessarily looking for your next job.”
Brian and wife Bree, who met while working with the Nationals, are the parents of twin girls. Bree Parker works in human resources with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Blue Jays were on 64 broadcasts during the shortened season — two exhibition games, 60 regular-season contests and two playoff games — and Wagner worked all of them from a studio in downtown Toronto.
With the help of five camera angles and information graphics provided by MLB, Wagner and his broadcast partners were able to present a game complete with the crack of the bat and pop of the glove.
“It’s the greatest recognition when people say we had no idea you weren’t in Buffalo or Philadelphia,” says Wagner. “That was my goal going into this — to make it seamless on the consumer end.
“To our credit, we were able to pull that off pretty easily from the start.”
Wagner’s employer — SportsNet 590 — made a blanket corporate policy that for the safety of all, they would only be allowed to cover home games if they were at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
The Canadian government did not allow the team to play there and they moved all home dates to Buffalo, N.Y. The 2018 season was Wagner’s first with the Blue Jays after 11 with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons.
During the off-season, Ben and wife Megan live in Dunedin, Fla. — where the Blue Jays stage spring training — and were hunkered down there when the MLB season finally got started in late July.
Declared as essential, Ben was allowed to enter Canada to work following a 14-day quarantine (the Wagners had been in a modified quarantine since mid-March in Florida).
But that essential status only went with him and Megan had to stay at home in the U.S.
“It was a long-distance relationship,” says Ben. “It was a big sacrifice for her. We used technology as much as we could.”
When things opened up in Dunedin, Ben and Megan drove their golf cart for pick-up meals and groceries.
After Ben’s departure, it was mostly deliveries for Megan and there was the loss of human contact and socialization.
“She became kind of a hermit,” says Ben. “Everything was getting delivered to the door step.
“The heavier lift was done by her. Megan did a great job.”
Wagner’s gameday routine was different. For one thing, he did not get to see the sights.
“I love travel,” says Wagner. “I like to experience new things when we go to a city.
“It gives me an excuse not to suck too much hotel air. It’s part of the enjoyment of this job.”
Earlier in the year, the Toronto metropolitan area was at a standstill even though millions reside there.
“It’s city living and so full of various cultures and life,” says Wagner. That city has an incredible vibe about it.
“Toronto was essentially closed down.”
In 2020, instead of exploring in the morning and going to the ballpark, he went to the studio in Toronto each day at 2 or 3 p.m.
“It was a super good experience,” says Beauchamp. “The players were friendly.
“They welcomed me with open arms.”
Pitching four more times through Aug. 29, the southpaw went 0-0 with a 1.23 earned run average. In 7 1/3 innings, he struck out five and walked two. He threw 36 of 47 pitches for strikes.
Then came spring training for 2020.
Beauchamp, a 6-foot-2, 221-pounder, was in camp and one day away from the first exhibition game when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and things were shut down.
After close to two weeks, he returned home to Peru, Ind., and found a job while trying to stay sharp for baseball.
When he’s not working at Rock Hollow Golf Club in Peru, Beauchamp finds a partner and plays catch at Peru High School, where he graduated in 2016 and Chuck Brimbury is in his second stint as head coach. Or he will throw his weight PlyoCare Balls into a concrete wall at home.
A four-time all-Three Rivers Conference selection at Peru, Beauchamp went 16-6 on the mound with 244 strikeouts in 159 1/3 innings during his Tigers career. He was 5-1 with 95 strikeouts and 13 walks in 44 1/3 innings as a senior. As a hitter, his career mark was .389 with 21 home runs and 94 RBIs.
In 41 mound appearances (27 in relief), Beauchamp went 5-3 with a 3.88 earned run average. In 88 2/3 innings, he struck out 70 and walked 57.
Beauchamp pitched in nine games (five starts) in 2019 with a 3.00 ERA. In 15 innings, he fanned 14 and walked 14.
Beauchamp took a liking to Lemonis for the way he talked to him and his parents — Jody and Robin.
“He’s a real great guy,” says Beauchamp of Lemonis. “I could talk baseball with him all day.”
Beauchamp was impressed by Bunn’s knowledge of the game and then found out he was also a fisherman and hunter like himself.
“That seals the deal even more,” says Beauchamp, who took his first deer last year in southern Indiana and has landed a largemouth bass around six pounds in a local pond and a 45-pound baby Tarpon on a charter boat in Florida.
Beauchamp got a chance to see how Mercer and Parker operate and sees that they are using even more technology in assessing players than when he was with the program.
“They’re definitely the new wave of coaching that’s going across the United States,” says Beauchamp of Mercer and Parker. “They definitely know baseball.”
During his time away from the Phillies, the organization has been sending him workouts through a phone app and every two weeks he gets an email about throwing program recommendations.
Beauchamp, who turned 22 in March, was throwing his four-seam fastball at 91 to 93 mph and occasionally touching 94.
“I feel I can get up to that 96/97 range,” says Beauchamp, who has also mixed in a two-seamer, 12-to-6 curveball and “circle” change-up. Recently, he’s been tinkering with a cutter.
“It typically has the same amount of break as the two-seam and goes the opposite way,” says Beauchamp, who lets his two-seamer run in on a left-handed batter and away from a righty. This is all done from a high three-quarter arm slot.
It’s an old saying that left-handers always have movement with their pitches.
Beauchamp buys into that theory.
“I can’t put my hat on straight,” says Beauchamp. “I can’t put my belt on straight.
“I can’t throw a ball straight. It always moves.”
Beauchamp was born and raised in Peru. He played in what is now known as the Peru Cal Ripken League until he was 12. First there was the Marlins in T-ball. Later, the Indians in Junior Farm (coach pitch) and the Rockies in Major League.
“Those were the sweetest jerseys ever,” says Beauchamp, who then played for Cam Brannock and Justin Brannock with the Summit City Sluggers travel ball organization through 17U.
Cam comes from a baseball-loving family. Uncle Chris Beauchamp is a Slugger board member and former Wabash (Ind.) High School assistant coach. Cousin Shea Beauchamp, son of Chris, played at Huntington (Ind.) University and is now a Foresters assistant coach.
Jody Beauchamp works as a quality checker at Haynes International in Kokomo.
Robin Beauchamp is a director of nursing consultant for Golden Living Centers.
Melton was 21 when the corner infielder and outfielder came to Evansville in 1967 and hit nine home runs and drove in 72 runs. He made his Major League Baseball debut with Chicago in 1968 and led the American League in home runs in 1971 with 33.
Herrmann was a 19-year-old catcher in 1966 and was with Chicago briefly in 1967 before coming back to Evansville in 1967 and 1968. He stuck with the parent White Sox in 1969.
Cotton Nash, who had been a basketball All-American at the University of Kentucky and played in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers and San Francisco Warrior and ABA with the Kentucky Colonels, was played with Evansville in 1967, 1968 and 1970, belting 33 homers in the first season of the Triplets.
In a group shot, left-handed pitcher Lester Clinkscales is in the middle of the frame. His son, Sherard Clinkscales, was a standout at Purdue who was selected in the first round of the 1992 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Kansas City Royals and is now athletic director at Indiana State University.
Wirthwein captures roughly the first century of Evansville baseball in a book published March 2, 2020.
Through library files, digitized publications and the resources of the Society for American Baseball Research, he uncovered details about teams and characters going back to the Civil War, which ended in 1865.
Bosse Field, which is now the third-oldest professional baseball park in use (behind Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field) came on the scene in 1915.
Growing up, Wirthwein played youth baseball and then plenty of slow pitch softball.
He graduated from Harrison High School in 1972. He earned a journalism degree at Butler University in Indianapolis in 1976 and took job at The Brownsburg (Ind.) Guide, where he covered everything from sports to the city council and was also a photographer.
After that, he covered trap shooting for Trap & Field Magazine and had a short stint as editor at the Zionsville (Ind.) Times.
Desiring more in his paycheck, Wirthwein went back to Butler and began preparing for his next chapter. He worked toward a Masters of Business Administration (which was completed in 1991) and worked a decade at AT&T and then more than 20 years managing several departments at CNO Financial Group (formerly Conseco) before retiring in June 2019.
“I got lost for 30-plus years,” says Wirthwein, who has returned to his writing roots.
About three years before his last day at CNO he began researching his Evansville baseball book.
“I slowly assembled and had a manuscript shortly before retirement,” says Wirthwein, who is married with four daughters and resides in Fishers, Ind.
When it came time to find someone to produce the book, he found The History Press, a division of Arcadia Publishing that specializes in regional history.
It took a bit of digging to unearth the treasures from the early years. He was amazed that little had been written about the pre-Bosse Field era.
He did find details on teams like Resolutes, Blues, Brewers, Hoosiers and Blackbirds — all of which seemed to have monetary difficulties and scandals swirling around them.
“The whole 1800’s was just a mess,” says Wirthwein. “Teams were coming and going. Financial failures were everywhere.”
Jumping contracts was very commonplace in 19th century baseball. They were often not worth the paper they were written on since a player could get an offer for more money and be on the next train to that city.
To try to combat this, Evansville joined the League Alliance in 1877. It was a group of major and minor league teams assembled to protect player contracts.
It always seemed to be about money.
The 1895 Evansville Blackbirds led the Class B Southern League for much of the season. But, being nearly destitute, the club began throwing games for a sum that Wirthwein discovered to be about $1,500.
The Atlanta Crackers were supposed to be the beneficiary of the blown ballgames, but it was the Nashville Seraphs who won the pennant. Evansville finished in third — 4 1/2 games back.
In 1901, catcher Frank Roth hit 36 home runs for the Evansville River Rats of the Three-I League.
“The Evansville paper thought that to be a world record,” says Wirthwein.
The wooden park on Louisiana, which was built in 1889 near the Evansville stockyards, was in disrepair by 1914 when it collapsed and injured 42 spectators.
Seeing an opportunity, Evansville mayor Benjamin Bosse sprang into action.
“The city had bought this big plot of land,” says Wirthwein. “(Bosse Field) was built in a matter of months.
“He was ready.”
Unusual for its time, Bosse Field was meant to be a multi-purpose facility from the beginning and became home not only to baseball, but football games, wrestling matches and more.
Wirthstein’s book tells the story of Evansville native Sylvester Simon, who played for the St. Louis Browns in 1923 and 1924.
In the fall of 1926, he lost three fingers on his left hand and part of his palm while working in a furniture factory.
He came back to baseball using a customized grip on his bat and with a glove that was repaired using a football protector and played for the Evansville Hubs in 1927 and had pro stops with the Central League’s Fort Wayne (Ind.) Chiefs in 1928 and 1930 and played his last season with the Three-I League’s Quincy (Ill.) Indians in 1932. His bat and glove are at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Hall of Famers Edd Roush (1912-13 Yankees/River Rats), Chuck Klein (1927 Hubs), Hank Greenberg (1931 Hubs) and Warren Spahn (1941 Bees) also spent time in Evansville. Roush is from Oakland City, Ind. Klein hails from Indianapolis.
Huntingburg native Bob Coleman played three seasons in the majors and managed 35 years in the minors, including stints in Evansville.
The Limestone League came to town thanks to travel restrictions during World War II. The Detroit Tigers conducted spring training in Evansville. Indiana also hosted teams in Bloomington (Cincinnati Reds), French Lick (Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox), Lafayette (Cleveland Indians), Muncie (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Terre Haute (White Sox in 1945).
Wirthwein’s research found plenty about barnstorming black baseball teams in the early 1900’s.
In the 1920’s, the Reichert Giants represented Evansville in the Negro Southern League. The Reichert family was fanatic about baseball. Manson Reichert went on to be mayor (1943-48).
“(The Reichert Giants) played semipros when not playing league games,” says Wirthwein. “They lobbied hard to play at Bosse Field when the Class B (Hubs) were out of town, but they kept going turned down.
Games were played at the Louisiana Street park, Eagles Park or at Evansville’s all-black high school, Lincoln.
“They started playing games opposite the Hubs and outdrew them every single time. The Bosse Field people finally acquiesced.”
In the 1950’s, the Evansville Colored Braves were in the Negro Southern League and were rivals of an independent black team, the Evansville Dodgers. Games were played at Bosse Field and Lincoln High.
What about the “Global” disaster?
Evansville-based real estate tycoon Walter Dilbeck Jr. conceived of the Global Baseball League in 1966. It was to be a third major circuit to compete with the American League and National League. There would be teams all over globe, including the Tokyo Dragons from Japan, and the GBL was headquartered in Evansviile.
“It’s a pretty remarkable story,” says Wirthwein. “The guy just wouldn’t give up.”
Happy Chandler, commissioner of baseball in 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, was brought in as GBL commissioner.
An unprecedented time in modern baseball has Pat Murtaugh doing his job in a way he did not anticipate.
In his 32nd year as a professional scout, the West Lafayette, Ind., resident has been evaluating players while the game on the field has been at a standstill because of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.
The last spring training games were played March 12 and the regular season is on hold.
Murtaugh, who is in his fifth year as a pro scout for the New York Yankees, has been watching video of players that the organization might have an interest in for possible trades.
“We’re digging in a little deeper and going through different organizations and arranging players,” says Murtaugh. “Because of the time we have, we are really able to go deep into the (player’s) history and make notes of it.
“During the season, we don’t go this deep. We don’t have the time.”
He and his fellow scouts have been sifting through reports and analytical data.
A passion for the game has kept Murtaugh in it for all these years.
“It’s the competition to get players in your organization,” says Murtaugh. “You get tied to those players and want to see their progress.
“We like to get to know them as well as we can. When they’re on the other team, it’s hard. You can’t tamper with them. But once you get them into your system you get to know them. Make-up of the player is so important to acquire. They may have all the skill sets. But hitting or pitching in Yankee Stadium is so different. It may be overwhelming for their personality.”
From talking to other people who’ve been around the player, Murtaugh finds out things about players like they might be a tough guy on the outside but soft-hearted on the inside.
Players might look good in the batter’s box or on the mound. They might put up head-turning numbers in the gym.
“But it still comes down to tools,” says Murtaugh. “That’s the starting point of everybody.”
Scouts like Murtaugh, project where those baseball tools — speed, power, hitting for average, fielding and arm strength — might take a player.
Once they get a handle on that and have the player in their organization, they can delve into the athlete’s intelligence level and if he is coachable (able to retain information).
When Murtaugh was with the Diamondbacks, he also scouted the Reds system. He became intrigued with a shortstop in the low minors named Didi Gregorius.
“We ended up getting him,” says Murtaugh of the Netherlands native who went on to play for the Diamondbacks and Yankees and is now with the Philadelphia Phillies. “He came in after (Derek Jeter) and sustained that position. He has natural tools. His intelligence level is real good. He speaks five different languages. He’s a good person and has good work habits.”
“I didn’t realize I had got bitten,” says Murtaugh. “I had this knot on the inside of my thigh.”
Murtaugh flew out the next day. In talking with wife Kathleen, he was convinced to go to urgent care.
The said, ‘we’ve got to do surgery,’” says Murtaugh. “They cleaned all the poison and venom out. I was fine after that.”
And — with the media accounts — somewhat famous.
“I was at spring training this year and there was a family sitting behind me,” says Murtaugh. “I had my bag with name tag. The father must have Googled me and said to me, ‘I just read about that black widow.’”
Kathleen Murtaugh is an assistant professor at St. Elizabeth School of Nursing — a division of Franciscan Health — in Lafayette. Pat has three step-children and 10 grandchildren.
Pat Murtaugh, a graduate of McCutcheon High School and Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., is a pro baseball scout for the New York Yankees. 2020 is his 32nd year as a scout.
“It was definitely an up-and-down season,” says DeMuth, who hit .244 with nine home runs, 20 doubles and 40 runs batted in from the left-handed batter’s box and also honed his skills at first base in ’17. “There is a separator from High-A to Double-A ball. It was a grind. It was fun though. I learned a lot.”
“You see velocity all through the minor leagues,” says DeMuth. “(Double-A pitchers) have velocity and can put it where they want it. They can locate off-speed pitches. You have to be ready for any pitch in any count.
“They’ll attack you differently every time you go up there. You have to keep making adjustments.”
Defensively, DeMuth continued to pick up on the cues needed to play well at first base.
“I’ve always been a pretty good hitter,” says DeMuth. “But I always thought my defense was lacking.”
DeMuth has picked up a number of things from Brewers coaches on hitting, fielding and footwork.
“A lot of people have different ways of teaching things,” says DeMuth. “You find something that clicks in your head,you understand it and you go with it.”
DeMuth’s off-season has been eventful. He got engaged to girlfriend of more than four years — Caitlin Hansen — last November and the couple plans to wed this November.
Dustin and Caitlin met through mutual friends. The Roncalli High School graduate is a former defensive specialist on the IU volleyball team.
DeMuth has also been in Bloomington working out with the Hoosiers baseball team as he gets ready for 2018 spring training in Arizona. The Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate is at Colorado Springs, Colo.
Indiana’s program is now headed by Chris Lemonis. Tracy Smith was the Hoosiers head coach when DeMuth played in Cream and Crimson.
DeMuth credits Smith for instilling mental toughness in his players.
“He helped us move on from the rough spots and mistakes and continue to grind,” says DeMuth of Smith, who is now head coach at Arizona State University. “He was a great mentor for all of us.”
It was a talented and close-knit group that played in the College World Series in 2013 and the NCAA Regional in 2014 and won back-to-back Big Ten Conference titles. DeMuth’s teammates included several players on their way to pro baseball, including Kyle Schwarber (who made his MLB debut in 2015 with the Chicago Cubs), Aaron Slegers (2017 with the Minnesota Twins), Sam Travis (2017 with the Boston Red Sox) and Jake Kelzer (a Bloomington native now pitching in the Philadelphia Phillies system).
“It was like a family to be honest,” says DeMuth. “Most of those guys are still good friends.”
DeMuth was drafted in the eighth round by the Twins in 2013, but opted to go back to IU. After being chosen as a third-team All-American as a junior, he was a first-team All-American while hitting .374 with five homers and 40 RBIs as a senior. His career average was .344 in 236 games (all starts) and left the program ranked No. 1 all-time in doubles (63) and No. 2 in hits (316).
Born in Merrillville, DeMuth went to school in Highland, Ind., through sixth grade, went to Edgewood Middle School in Ellettsville, Ind., then moved to LaPorte during his seventh grade year. He played four seasons for the LaPorte High School Slicers and is grateful for the chance head coach Scott Upp gave him to be a varsity regular in left field as a freshman.
“That was a big deal back then,” says DeMuth. “(Upp) is one of the reasons I went on to play baseball in college.”
A three-sport athlete at LaPorte, there was a time early in his prep career where DeMuth ranked basketball and football ahead of baseball.
But he saw 6-foot-2 point guards becoming a rarity at the big-time college level and began seeing the opportunities on the diamond.
Dustin, 26, is the youngest Dave and Judy DeMuth’s four children, coming after David, Jenny and Julie. Dave, a former Merrillville High School assistant principal, is retired. Judy DeMuth is superintendent of Monroe County School Corporation. The girls both played college basketball — two-time all-Big Ten performer Jenny at Indiana and Julie at Ball State University.
Dustin DeMuth, a former LaPorte High School and Indiana University baseball standout, is going into his fifth season in the Milwaukee Brewers organization in 2018. (Biloxi Shuckers Photo)
In August, the Cincinnati Reds catcher and Indiana native and wife Sierra welcomed first child Tatum into the world. Before you knew it Tucker was buying a tiny catcher’s mitt he found on Amazon.com.
“I was bored one day and I was trying to find a glove,” says Barnhart. “It just so happened there was a (miniature) black and red catcher’s glove. It made a ton of sense to grab it.”
In September, the switch-hitting backstop signed a four-year contract extension that will keep him with the Reds through at least the 2021 season. The deal also includes a club option for 2022.
In October, the 2009 Brownsburg High School graduate rapped his fourth Major League Baseball season with career-high totals for batting average (.270), on-base percentage (.347), slugging percentage (.403) and games played (121).
Reds manager Bryan Price told MLB.com in December that Barnhart will be Cincy’s primary in 2018 with Devin Mesoraco backing up.
“Tucker’s going to get the lion’s share of the playing time now; he’s earned that,” said Price.
“He has stamped himself — without a doubt — as a day-to-day big league catcher,” says Marty Brenneman, the Reds radio play-by-play voice since 1974. “He’s a guy who’s wonderful at handling a pitching staff, a guy who proved he could hit big league pitching before than the Average Joe. And above all that, he won the Gold Glove for defensive excellence in the National League.”
Barnhart has also consulted this fall and winter with long-time personal hitting instructor Mike Shirley near Lapel and Reds catching coordinator Mike Stefanski in Cincinnati.
“Mike’s a great guy,” Barnhart says of Shirley, a national cross-checker scout for the Chicago White Sox. “I’ve worked with Mike since I was I would say 11 years old. Other than my dad (Kevin Barnhart), Mike has seen my swing more than any other person around. I trust Mike a lot. He’s cutting edge. He looks at all the numbers and all that stuff. I really appreciate the work he’s done for me.
“We look at video of other hitters and things that they do that I can do or things that I do that are similar to what they do. We do a lot more talking than hitting, which is good in my opinion.”
Barnhart said his offense has picked up as he has gotten more familiar with National League pitching.
“It’s facing the same guys over and over again seeing how they pitch you and how to attack them as a hitter,” says Barnhart. “Obviously, I’d like to grow as a hitter. I think I could drive some more balls. I don’t know if that’s going result in more home runs (than the seven he hit in both 2016 and 2017) or more doubles or what have you, but I’m getting more out of my swing.
“I’m getting stronger and more explosive.”
There continues to be an education — in baseball and in life — from his father.
“What haven’t I learned from Kevin Barnhart?,” says Tucker, who turned 27 on Jan. 7. “My dad has been so instrumental in my career.”
“That’s pretty humbling,” says Barnhart, who was selected in the 10th round of the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Reds and won an MiLB Gold Glove in 2011 and the Reds Joe Nuxhall Good Guy Award in voting of the Cincinnati chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in 2016.
Barnhart played six seasons with the Bulls He made the 13U team at 11, but was not allowed to play for the fear of getting hurt. At 12, he played for the 13U squad then played 13U, 14U, 15,U 16U and 17U.
“It’s going to be a message of hard work, dedication and having fun,” says Barnhart of his remarks to Bulls players and parents. “You have to be able to have fun to get the most out of yourself. To achieve all the things you want to achieve in your life — whether it’s in baseball or in anything.”
Suiter, an outfielder, corner infielder and designated hitter in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, plays his first game South of the Border Dec. 21 and goes 2-for-3 with a run batted in on Christmas Day.
“This is my first time in winter ball and first time in Mexico — ever,” says Suiter. “It’s been quite an experience. I’ve learned a lot of Spanish.
“It’s going to help me with my Latin teammates. I can feel what they were going through their first time in the States. I have a greater appreciation for that now.”
When he’s not at the stadium or heading to the gym, Suiter has found time to soak up the sun. The team has set him up in a condo 50 yards from the beach.
Recent daytime temperatures have been in the 70’s and 80’s. It’s been around 40 in north central Texas and in the single digits or lower in northwest Indiana.
Suiter, who has been used primarily as a DH since he had not been throwing much in the off-season, would like to be a part of a couple of championship before reporting to 2018 spring training at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., where he is due Feb. 19 — two weeks before his 25th birthday on March 4.
Mazatlan opened its season Oct. 11 and is closing in on the end of the regular season with hopes of winning the league and a berth in the Caribbean Series (which will bring champions from Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela to Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico).
After hurting his thumb at the end of spring camp, Suiter played briefly in the High Class-A Florida State League before joining the Altoona Curve of the Double-A Eastern League, where the right-handed swinger hit .285 with 10 home runs, three triples, 20 doubles and 58 runs batted in over 347 at-bats and 100 games.
Altoona beat Trenton to win EL title. Sutter had an RBI in the final game.
If the Pirates give him a promotion, Suiter would play Triple-A baseball with the Indianapolis Indians.
“I was very wide and kind of low,” says Suiter of his stance. “It was killing any chance I had to put some juice into the ball. Now, I’m pretty tall, kind of (Ken) Griffey-esque with my hands a little lower. I see the ball a little bit longer and use my legs more than the rest of my body to generate some power.”
Suiter, who stands 6-foot-4 and currently weighs around 250 pounds, has been an avid lifter for years, but he is not trying to get too big.
“I don’t need to put on much size,” says Suiter, who usually reports to spring training around 250, drops five pounds by the end of camp and five or 10 more during the season. “Size in baseball doesn’t do you any good. It’s going to make you slow and not very flexible. I know how my body works and that I lose weight very quickly. I’m looking to get stronger while leaning out.”
“He was a big discipline guy,” says Suiter of Coyle. “I loved him as a coach. He wanted to the best for his team and for his players.”
Work ethic was important to Coyle just like it was to Eric Suiter, who coached Jerrick and company as they grew up playing sports.
“My dad was extremely hard on me as well as the rest of the team,” says Jerrick. “It made me into the athlete I am today. I couldn’t thank him more for it.”
Jerrick’s father lives in Valpo and mother Jeanette in Chesterton. His sister Danielle Suiter plays volleyball at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Half-brother Carter just played his first Pop Warner football season in Chesterton. Step-sister Hailey is a student at Purdue University.
“I started signs before I was talking,” says Suiter. “I don’t use it every single day like I should, but I know more sign language than I know Spanish, I can tell you that.”
He was planning to go back to school when Bradenton made the playoffs in 2016, which meant he would be too late for the start of the fall semester. Suiter spends his off-seasons in Fort Worth and does some hitting at TCU.
“He finds a way to win,” says Suiter of Schlossnagle, who now has Kirk Saarloos as a recruiting coordinator. “He brings the right guys in there. They’ve been to Omaha (for the College World Series) every year since my junior year. Something’s going right there.”
While he long wanted to be a pro baseball player, Suiter has an affinity for the hardwood.
“Basketball has always been my favorite sport,” says Suiter. “I’m not a big NBA guy, but I love watching college basketball.”
During winter break his sophomore year at TCU, he helped coach fifth and sixth grade AAU players. Shooting around on the court was one way he warmed up for his workouts.
But he has stopped doing that.
“The Pirates are writing my paychecks every two weeks,” says Suiter. “I don’t need to be roll a ankle or jeopardize my career in baseball.”
Jerrick Suiter, the former Valparaiso High School and Texas Christian University standout, takes a cut in 2017 for the Altoona (Pa.) Curve, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Double-A team. (David Hague Photo)