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.
Nine years after he guided Elkhart (Ind.) Central High School to a state championship, Tanner Tully was called up to the big leagues. The 27-year-old left-handed pitcher was promoted to the Cleveland Guardians Wednesday, April 20. He was one of three players added to Cleveland’s 40-man roster and 28-man active roster as replacements for pitchers Cal Quantrill and Anthony Castro and infielder Owen Miller, all of whom were placed on the 10-day COVID-19 injured list. His last start with the Triple-A Columbus (Ohio) Clippers was April 15. Tully, who was given jersey No. 56, did not pitch in Wednesday’s home doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox. Starting pitchers announced for the series finale at 1:10 p.m. Eastern today (April 21) were former Crown Point High School and Ball State University right-hander Zach Plesac for Cleveland and Dylan Cease for Chicago. The Guardians were to begin weekend series at Yankee Stadium Friday through Sunday, April 22-24. As of Thursday morning, Cleveland had not announced its starting pitchers against New York. As an Elkhart Central senior, Tully hit a home run to lead off the bottom of the first inning and struck out 13 batters while scattering five singles as the Steve Stutsman-coached Blue Blazers topped Indianapolis Cathedral 1-0 for the 2013 IHSAA Class 4A state championship at Victory Field in Indianapolis. Some of his high school teammates had played with him as a youngster with the Jimmy Malcom-coached Rip City Rebels. Jimmy’s son, Cory Malcom, went on to pitch at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Tully was Hoosier Diamond magazine’s Indiana Mr. Baseball award winner in 2013. The southpaw pitched for three seasons at Ohio State University (2014-16). He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year (2014). As a junior (2016), he was first team all-Big Ten, going 8-3 with a 2.34 earned run average and 76 strikeouts to 21 walks in 103 2/3 innings. For his OSU career, he was 18-10 with a 2.93 ERA in 46 games. He competed for the Northwoods League’s Battle Creek (Mich.) Bombers (2014) and Cape Cod League’s Orleans Firebirds (2015) in summer collegiate ball and was selected by Cleveland in the 26th round of the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Tully has made minor league stops with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Niles, Ohio), Lake County Captains (Eastlake, Ohio), Lynchburg (Va.) Hillcats, Akron (Ohio) Rubber Ducks as well as Columbus. Splitting his time between Double-A and Triple-A in 2021, Tully was 6-6 with a 3.50 ERA and finished second in the club’s minor league system in innings (113). The left-hander made six starts for the 2021 Arizona Fall League’s Scottsdale Scorpions. At the time of his call-up, he had made 118 pro appearances (94 as starter) and was 32-40 with a 3.89 ERA. He had 428 strikeouts and 113 walks in 583 1/3 innings. Tully is married to the former Taylor Hughes, who was a setter for the Ohio State volleyball team (2015-18).
Lance Lynn has long been known for his athletic tenacity. It started while he grew up in Avon and Brownsburg in central Indiana and has continued at the University of Mississippi and during his Major League Baseball stops with the St. Louis Cardinals (2011-17), Minnesota Twins (2018), New York Yankees (2018), Texas Rangers (2019-20) and Chicago White Sox (2021 to the present). The 6-foot-5, 275-pound right-hander has the drive that has made him go 115-77 in 288 games. His 2.69 earned run average for the White Sox in 2021 would have led the American League, but he was five innings short of the innings requirement. Where does Lynn’s push come from? “I have a brother (Keith) that’s 12 years older than me,” says Lynn, 34. “It was him, my dad (Mike) and myself growing up for the most part so I had to learn to be competitive and learn to take care of myself or I’d get left behind.” Mike Lynn, a Brownsburg High School graduate, played slow pitch softball and Keith Lynn, an Avon High School alum, played many sports and young Lance was there. “I was always playing with the older kids because I had to and I was bigger,” says Lance. “I had to learn to compete and I enjoyed winning so it just kind of kept going.” A 2005 Brownsburg graduate, Lance Lynn helped the Pat O’Neil-coached Bulldogs to an IHSAA Class 4A state runner-up finish in 2004 (27-7) and state title in 2005 (35-0). To this day, Lynn and Indiana Baseball Hall of Famer O’Neil are in regular contact. “I have great respect for Coach O’Neil,” says Lynn. “He’s someone who’s stayed close in my life even after I left high school. He was there for a lot of us growing up, took care of us and made us grow up as human beings. “We’re still pretty close.” Since 12 or 13, Lynn has gone to Jay Lehr for pitching instruction and made the trek over from Marion, Ill., to with him at Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind., before attending Monday’s national championship football game in Indianapolis. “He takes care of all my winter throwing programs, making sure I have everything I need,” says Lynn of Lehr, who saw big leaguers and Indiana residents Tucker Barnhart (Detroit Tigers) and Carlos Rondon (White Sox) at the facility before Lynn’s workout. “Then during the season if I get in a pinch or just to stay on top of things, he’s always there to send me what I can work to keep moving.” Also present at Pro X was Sean Cochran, Lynn’s strength coach since after the 2018 season. “I needed someone to bounce stuff off of and was going to be there for the rest of my career,” says Lynn. “Sean and Jay go way back and I actually met Sean as a little kid. “We’ve had a pretty good run since we started working together.” Cochran, who was once based in Indianapolis and now calls San Diego home, travels all over to work with athletes and counts World Golf Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson among his clients. “I’ll pick Sean’s brain and can you ask Phil about this or that and Phil tells me to just worry about pitching,” says Lynn, who is a right-handed amateur golfer. Lynn appreciates the relationship he’s built with White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz. “You’re looking at a guy who’s worked his way up from being a high school pitching coach all the way through the minor leagues and every stop,” says Lynn. “He’s able to show you what you do well using all the technologies. “He’s able to communicate and show you what you need to see.” Lynn’s three primary pitches are a four-seam fastball, cutter and sinker. “You make sure those are good and make sure your stuff can play off of them from there,” says Lynn, who also occasionally uses a curve or change-up (he threw just four change-ups during the 2021 season). Lynn pitches from a low three-quarter overhand arm slot, which developed as he career progressed. “When I was younger I was a little more upright and had a little more shoulder lean. Over time I’ve been able to keep my shoulders a little more flat. The arm slot kind of just fell into place.” The slot has served him well. “I’ve been able to use it to create a good angle of attacking hitters,” says Lynn. “It’s hard for them to make good contact. “There’s a lot of deception and hitters don’t love it.” Lynn made 28 starts for the White Sox in 2021 — one of those was Aug. 12 at the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa. “That was pretty cool,” says Lynn. “It was fun. When you look back it we put on a show. Kevin (Costner) was there. We had a good game. There was a walk-off home run (by Tim Anderson). I don’t think you could have scripted it any better than that. “I threw the first pitch in a major league game in Iowa. It’s something I’ll always remember.” Major League Baseball is now in the midst of a lockout. Spring training at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., normally has pitchers reporting in early February. Lynn has 333 MLB plate appearances with 24 hits (five doubles). As an amateur he was quite a slugger and folks still talk about a high school home run in South Bend. “I hit it on the church out of the stadium,” says Lynn of a clout at what was then called Stanley Coveleski Regional Stadium (now Four Winds Field). “I had power, but it was an aluminum bat. “I don’t think I’d want to face me now.”
Matt Kinzer has an eye for baseball talent. The former Norwell High School (Ossian, Ind.) and Purdue University athlete who played in the majors and the National Football League was living in Fort Wayne, Ind., when he became an amateur scout in 1995 with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Kinzer was responsible for assessing amateur players in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Ontario and Quebec. After five years with Tampa Bay, Kinzer spent a decade as a baseball agent for Reynolds Sports Management, whose owner and CEO is Larry Reynolds (older brother of big league second baseman Harold Reynolds). “I was his recruiting coordinator for the whole country,” says Kinzer. “We hoped these amateurs are going to make the big leagues and get paid.” Among others, Kinzer got the Upton brothers — B.J. and Justin — to commit to the company. LaTroy Hawkins, a Gary, Ind., native who pitched in 1,042 games over 21 MLB seasons, was also a Kinzer client and later went into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. At the 2010 Winter Meetings, Dan Jennings (who had been with the Devil Rays) hired Kinzer as a pro scout for the Miami Marlins. Kinzer went to minor league games and an occasional major league contest to evaluate players and file reports for potential trade opportunities. The first year he scouted the entire Midwest League out of Fort Wayne. During his five years with the Marlins, he also did international scouting in the Dominican Republic. While Kinzer was still with the Marlins, the Atlanta Braves called for permission to interview him to scout on the major league side and take on special assignments. He talked with general manager John Coppolella and accepted the deal. “That gave me a seat at the big table,” says Kinzer, who worked with top executives including president John Hart and senior advisor John Schuerholz in giving opinions and developing a preferential list of who could be traded and who was hands-off in the Braves minor league system. “It took us a couple of years to turn that club around.” Kinzer also did advanced scouting to check out possible playoff opponents for Atlanta. He had the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League and Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in the American League. Because of COVID-19 and budgetary reasons, the Braves dismissed the entire major league scouting staff toward the end of the 2020 season. Leading up to the Tokyo Olympics (which were postponed from 2020 to 2021), Kinzer selected by his peers to sit on the committee that chose Team USA. They started with a big pool and narrowed it down to the final roster. “It was hard assignment because you could only get guys not on a 40-man roster or had get permission from a club for them to play,” says Kinzer. “It was an honor to be part of the decision-making for our country.” When Kinzer joined the process, Joe Girardi was Team USA manager. When Girardi became Philadelphia Phillies manager the job was passed to Scott Brosius and it wound up with Mike Scioscia. “I got to listen to Joe Girardi on how he likes to design a team and I said to myself, ‘this is pretty cool,’” says Kinzer. “It was a very humbling experience. You put all those years into working the game of baseball and someone has recognized your ability to evaluate.” More recently, Kinzer has lent his appraisal skills as a consultant for Program 15 — a part of New Balance Future Stars baseball tournaments. He lives in Lakeland, Fla., and writes player reports on weekends. Kinzer is also a special events coordinator and fundraising director for Major League Fishing — a circuit that features the world’s top bass anglers. He is helping prepare for a charity fishing event featuring current and former major leaguers Nov. 19-21 in Guntersville, Ala. “I’ve spent three decades in the game professionally building trust with current and former guys and their second love is fishing,” says Kinzer. “I grew up on a pond and I liked fishing.” Participants have baseball and angling in common. “There’s a connection there,” says Kinzer. “They have a tight fraternity. They’re good old boys.” Kinzer played youth baseball for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Colin Lister and graduated from Norwell in 1981. As a sophomore, it was discovered how well he did in booting a football and he led Indiana high schoolers in punting as a junior and senior. He went to Purdue on a full ride in football and also played baseball. He was selected in the second round of the 1984 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Cardinals and made his MLB debut in 1989 at age 25 and went on to pitch nine games for the 1989 Cardinals and 1990 Detroit Tigers. He punted seven times in his one NFL game with the Detroit Lions with a long of 42 yards in Week 5 of 1987 against the Green Bay Packers. Kinzer, 58, has three sons who all played baseball and graduated from Homestead High School in Fort Wayne. Taylor Kinzer (33) was drafted twice as a right-handed pitcher — once at the end of his high school career in 2006 in the 34th round by the Washington Nationals and then out of Taylor University (Upland, Ind.) in the 24th round in 2009 by the Los Angeles Angels and competed three seasons in the minors. Derek Kinzer (31) was an outfielder for IHSAA Class 4A state runner Homestead in 2008, graduated in 2009 and also played at Taylor. Jordan Kinzer (29) played junior college baseball and now serves in the U.S. Navy. Matt Kinzer, a Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Famer, was head baseball coach at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne in 1993 and 1994 and a volunteer assistant coach at Taylor 2011-14 and got to work with Trojans head coach Kyle Gould and assistant and IHSBCA Hall of Famer Rick Atkinson. ‘Kyle is one of the best non-Division I coaches around,” says Kinzer. “It was an honor to share a bench with Coach A. “The game itself creates a fraternity and a bond that lasts forever.”
As an introduction to liberal arts, freshmen students at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., take tutorial classes. Eric Dunaway, a BKT Assistant Professor of Economics in his fourth year at the all-male school, has chosen to teach For The Outcome of The Game — a class that class meets 9:45 to 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and focuses on sports analytics. So far the class of 14 has dug into the book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” and went on a field trip to a Cincinnati Reds doubleheader where they enjoyed give-and-take with Lead Data Scientist Michael Schatz. “It’s something I’m interested in,” says Dunaway of sports analytics. “We’re learning it together. “I’m thinking about re-tooling it into a sports economics class in the future. I can absolutely teach it again.” Dunaway is a native of Spokane, Wash., and a lifelong Seattle Mariners rooter. “I have a strong background in statistics,” says Dunaway. “Sports analytics is new to me.” “Moneyball” — written by Michael Lewis and published in 2004 — was assigned summer reading for the fall semester elective class. The book tells about how the Oakland Athletics and Billy Beane (who is now Vice President of Baseball Operations) used analytics to their advantage. “It’s changed how (Major League Baseball) is played — for better and worse,” says Dunaway. Is it better or worse? “I try to avoid making the conclusions for the students,” says Dunaway. “We are changing the way we look at what stats matter. “There is no guarantee that making the sport more efficient will make it more fun.” The Sept. 1 St. Louis Cardinals at Reds outing was Wabash College’s first excursion since March 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic keeping the school from those activities for 1 1/2 years. “We’re getting back to one of the things Wabash is really good at,” says Dunaway. “We do a lot of great learning in the field.” Professor of Rhetoric Dr. Todd McDorman, who went with Dunaway and company to Cincinnati, has taken Wabash students to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N,Y. The Society for American Baseball Research member hopes to do so again. Dunaway, who also advises students, says he received a perspective from Schatz into what classes they should take if interested in sports analytics. “Statistics and computer science are the two big subjects,” says Dunaway. “Those are the things you have to enjoy to enjoy doing sports analytics.” Another text for the class is “Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won,” written by Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim in 2012. Moscowitz, a native of Lafayette, Ind., with bachelor and masters degrees from Purdue University, is a Professor of Finance at Yale University. Wertheim is an accomplished sports journalist. Evan Neukam, Justin Santiago and Jacob White are students in Dunaway’s class. They all shared their takes on sports analytics and baseball. Neukam, a Carmel (Ind.) High School graduate who is on the Wabash baseball team, had seen the “Moneyball” movie (2011) starring Brad Pitt several times but had not read the book. “The biggest difference (between the movie and the book) is that the book goes more into detail on how analytics work than the story of Billy Beane and the Athletics.” Schacht worked with Beane in Oakland. “It was really interesting how (Schatz) got into his position,” says Neukam. “He didn’t use his college major (Economics). He learned on the job. He learned all coding for statistics on his own.” Neukam, a Cardinals fan, is finding out about sabermetrics, its terms and how they work. “I’m not sure what WAR (Wins Above Replacement is,” says Neukam. “But I know that’s pretty important. “The average Exit Velo (off a hitter’s bat) is more important than batting average.” Santiago, who grew up a Milwaukee Brewers fan in Mount Pleasant, Wis., and graduated from Westfield (Ind.) High School, enjoys combining his interest in sports and numbers. “Learning about the field of sports analytics in general has been great for me,” says Santiago. “I knew a decent amount about it. The next few weeks we’re going dive a lot deeper.” Santiago says tutorial classes help students become more well-rounded so they can write, debate and discuss a subject. Looking at MLB trends, Santiago says he has been “frustrated with high number of strikeouts and really low batting averages.” He has been pleased to see the Brewers — which have clinched a 2021 playoff berth — increase batting a average and on-baseball percentage. “Put the ball in play and you have a chance,” says Santiago. “WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) is important for pitchers.” During the Cincinnati trip, students were able to ask many questions of Schatz. “I asked about when to move off of a player — when to trade or release them,” says Santiago. “As organization there is balance between knowing talent and this is the major leagues and you can’t give a player an infinite amount of chances. You have to win.” Santiago learned how Schatz dug into data for right-handed pitcher Dan Straily. “(Schatz) thought he could be more successful than his numbers showed and can develop into a better pitcher,” says Santiago. “He played well as a Red and traded him to Marlins for (right-hander) Luis Castillo (who has 40 games for Cincinnati since 2017).” Santiago’s take on “Moneyball”? “(Billy Beane) did not pan out as a player,” says Santiago. “Scouts valued him because of his physical stature and appearance. They over-valued the physical tools but did not look into the numbers and his flaws. “That — in a sense — led him to analytics. It’s not all about looking at a player’s tools. You have to focus on the results and what the numbers really say about the player.” White, a Peoria, Ill., native who pulls for the Cardinals, has his opinions. “I’ve always been on the analysis side,” says White. “I get the argument where the aesthetics are hurt (by analytics). Basketball is all about 3-pointers and baseball’s Three True Outcomes (home run, walk or strikeout). “It’s a product of ‘Moneyball’ and the whole analytics approach. Home runs are more interesting. There are less less stolen bases and bunts. There’s something exciting about a stolen base. It’s lost with the analytics. “If I’m paying money to see my Cardinals I want to see a win, I don’t care how they get it.” Dunaway’s class is giving former Peoria Chiefs foul ball hawker White and his fellow freshmen “a baseline understanding of how sport’s stats work.” Also a Chicago Bears fan, White is involved on 22 fantasy football leagues. “It’s a crude science,” says White of fantasy sports. “I use my best educated guess (to fill out weekly lineups).”
Jordan Ashbrook is invested in education and athletics in Union County, Ind. The 2011 Union County High School graduate represents the third generation of his family to teach at Union County. A physical education teacher, strengh and conditioning coach and head baseball coach at UCHS in Liberty, Jordan has a mother — Teresa Ashbrook — who teaches first grade at Liberty Elementary School. Jordan’s grandfather — the late Norbert Bleill – was also a Union County teacher. Born in Columbus, Ohio, Jordan moved to Oxford, Ohio, then to Union County as a preschooler. He played high school baseball then coached alongside Jeff Matthews and took over the Patriots program before the 2020 season canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ashbrook admires retired Navy Master Chief Matthews for his ability to motivate and to forge those with leadership leanings. “You can talk about championships, but until you put in the work and effort to get there, it’s just talk,” says Ashbrook. “He really left it up to the guys he trusted in — his captains.” A catcher and first baseman earlier in his prep career, three-year varsity player Ashbrook was an all-state second baseman as a senior. At NCAA Division III Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, Ashbrook was a corner infielder and designated hitter for head coach George Powell. Coming to the Cardinals at 5-foot-10 and 180, Ashbrook was encouraged to add 20 pounds of muscle by the spring. He came close, getting up to 195. The lefty swinger hit .287 with four home runs and 29 runs batted in as a sophomore in 2013 and .200 with two homers and 14 RBIs as a senior in 2015. Ashbrook was a double major at Otterbein in Health Education and Physical Education. “It’s good to bring knowledge from college and see the development we’ve been able to have in the last three years,” says Ashbrook the strength and conditioning coach for all Union County athletic teams. “I have pre and post data. We max out about every fourth week. It’s nice to see the steady increase throughout the year. You see the change in bodies from fall to spring.” With an enrollment around 400, Union County is full of multi-sport performers. “Sharing the athletes here is something we have to do if we want to be successful,” says Ashbrook. “I tell my (baseball players) to play at least one other sport and be an all-around athlete.” Teacher Pat Tafelski handled strength and conditioning duties when Ashbrook attended Union County. An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 30-Oct. 16. For the final five weeks of the window, Ashbrook intends to have traditional baseball practices on Tuesdays and intraquad scrimmages on Thursdays. The past two weeks he was regularly getting 16 athletes at weight room sessions. He expects around 20 at LCP dates. Union County is a member of the Tri-Eastern Conference (with Cambridge City Lincoln, Centerville, Hagerstown, Knightstown, Northeastern, Tri, Union City and Winchester). TEC games are generally played once a week. In 2021, the Patriots are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Centerville, Hagerstown, Northeastern and Shenandoah. Union County has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2018. Ashbrook is assisted by Union County teacher Daniel Taylor and longtime Pats assistant Ron Webb. Union County plays on Bill Webb Field, which gives spectators, players and coaches a view of the Liberty water tower. The varsity diamond is behind youth fields. “It’s cool seeing all the kids you’re going to coach in the future playing alongside you,” says Ashbrook, who has ramped up to middle school baseball program at Union County and got 48 to come to a callout meeting last week. Those players are invited to participate in fall workouts with the high school. Being a small school, Ashbrook says getting college exposure for his athletes calls for some grinding. He sends on profiles to help the process. Recent Union County graduates to move on to the next level include Mason Hornung (Wilmington College), Denton Shepler (University of Indianapolis) and Nate Webb (Ohio Northern University). As a hitting and pitching instructor at the former Powerhouse Performance Training facility in Richmond, Ind. (now Morrow’s Yard), Ashbrook worked with several players who went on to play college ball. Jordan and wife Shelby Ashbrook have a daughter — Mylee (16 months). Jerry Ashbrook is Jordan’s father. His younger sister is Taylor Ashbrook.
Indiana Nitro — a travel baseball organization launched in the central part of the state — has had 164 college commits and five Major League Baseball draft selections since 2014. Among Nitro alums who went on to pro baseball are Zach Britton (Toronto Blue Jays system), Matt Gorski (Pittsburgh Pirates), Niko Kavadas (Boston Red Sox), Devin Mann (Los Angeles Dodgers), Tommy Sommer (Chicago White Sox) and Zack Thompson (St. Louis Cardinals). The Nitro fielded more than 20 teams — spring, summer and fall — at the 8U to 17U levels in recent seasons. The group has earned many victories and championships and competed in multiple states. It all began with a single 11U team that took to the diamond in 2010. Tim Burns, whose sons Brendan and Brock were playing travel ball, was exploring diamond opportunities for his boys when he was approached by some fathers about coaching a team. With the idea of being able to control development and practice schedules, the elder Burns agreed and led that first Nitro squad, featuring Brock. Most of the players were from Hamilton County — one of the exceptions being Batesville’s Britton. Brock Burns is now on the football team at Ball State University as an outside linebacker while Brendan Burns was a right-handed pitcher for BSU baseball; Tim Burns is a graduate of Ball State where his major was Telecommunications. Both Burns brothers are Hamilton Southeastern High School graduates — Brendan in 2014 and Brock in 2017. Most games in 2010 were played in central Indiana and the team went 50-5 with five tournament titles. Eleven of the 12 players on that first team went on to play at the collegiate level. Tammy Burns, Tim’s wife, told him that he did not have the time to head a travel organization. Yet momentum kept on building. “Kids wanted to play,” says Burns. Parents and players gathered and voted on a team name — Burns presented around 300 choices found on Google — and team colors. The Nitro wound up donning Athletic Gold and Cardinal Red and uses explosive terms like Bombs and Gas on social media. In 2011, the Nitro had four teams. The number went to seven in 2012 then 11 in 2013. It jumped to 20 in 2014 (the first year the organization had a high school age team). “The snowball got big,” says Burns. “It took on a life of its own.” The mantra of the Nitro is “Advancing players to the next level.” That came to mean grooming them to play high school baseball and then — for those who wished to do so — college baseball. “It’s a very complex recruiting process that we came up with over the years,” says Burns, a 1982 graduate of South Newton High School in Kentland, Ind., who grew up on the diamonds of Goodland, Ind., and counted Tracy Smith (who went on to coach at Miami University-Middletown, Miami University, Indiana University and Arizona State University) as a teammate. “You dive deep into it and build relationships with college coaches and recruiters. “Learning how to help these kids get recruited was important to our board (of directors) and and organization.” Nitro staffers work the phones on behalf of their players and are constantly seeking talent and getting ready for the next thing. “It’s a year-round job,” says Burns, who is employed in sales for Bally Sports Indiana (the Indiana Pacers TV Network). “There’s so much behind the scenes in the off-season. It keeps the board and volunteers busy.” Randy Poiry has been on the board since the beginning. Two sons — catcher Rutger Poiry (Lincoln Trail College and Eastern Kentucky University) and right-handed pitcher Carter Poiry (Murray State University and Quinnipiac University) — played for the Nitro. Directors are Chris Poland (daily operations and high school age teams) and Dan Rodgers (ages 8-14). Jared Poland, son of Chris, is at the University of Louisville. Nathan Rodgers (Carmel High School Class of 2024) played for his father on the Nitro 14U Gold team in 2021. Burns, who coached the Nitro 16U Gold team to a 26-9-1 mark in 2021 and will move up to coach the 17U Gold squad in 2022, gets players from near and far. “We don’t care where they come from,” says Burns. “We want good kids from good families who want to put in the work.” Nitro players train at Pro X Athlete Development on the Grand Park campus in Westfield, Ind. A membership is included with fees. Burns counts four nephews — South Newton graduates Jarrett Hammel and Jay Hammel and Benton Central High school alums Payton Hall and Conner Hall — among former Nitro players. Former Saint Joseph’s College and Valparaiso right-hander Jarrett Hammel is now head baseball coach at Benton Central. Jay Hammel is a righty pitcher at Quincy (Ill.) University. Payton Hall is an outfielder at Oakland City (Ind.) University after transferring from the University of Southern Indiana. Former middle infielder Connor Hall is an Aviation Management student at Indiana State University.
Cade’s mother, Amanda Moore (South Vigo Class of 1992), is Kyle’s sister. Amanda is married to Scott Moore (North Vigo Class of 1990), who began his teaching and coaching career at South Vigo and is now an administrator at North Vigo. Scott’s parents are Steve and Diane Moore.
Steve Moore (Terre Haute Garfield Class of 1962) was North Vigo head coach when his son played for the Patriots. Diane graduated from Garfield in 1964.
Kyle’s parents are Bob and Kelly Dumas. They once rooted for another grandson in former South Vigo Braves and Indiana State University standout Koby Kraemer (Class of 2008), son of Kyle. Father coached son.
Bob Dumas is a Massachusetts native who came to Terre Haute to attend Indiana State University and met Kelly (Terre Haute Gerstmeyer Tech Class of 1965).
A retired heating and cooling man, Bob Dumas is not hard to spot at at North Vigo-South Vigo game. He’s the one with the shirt that’s half blue with an “N” and red with an “S.” He had it made at an embroidery business in town.
“We’ve been South fans every since Kyle went to high school,” says Bob. “It’s been kind of a twisted year with Cade at North.
“There will be more favoritism to Cade because he’s actually playing.”
Says Kelly Dumas, “It’s a whole range of emotions. We’ve never been North fans.”
“I was a big fan of South watching (Koby) play as a little kid,” says Cade, who has taken hitting lessons from Koby and Kyle.”
What advice does Cade take from grandfather Steve Moore?
“Keep my head in the game and focus on making the right play,” says Cade, 18. “Be a leader and be a teammate. I’ve always been one to have a teammates’ back. Stick with a program. It’s been instilled from grandparents and parents. If you see a teammate knocked over you go help them up.
“I’m hearing the same thing from my coaches.”
Steve Moore, who has taught science at North Vigo, Indiana State and South Vigo, was an assistant to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Don Jennings then took over the Patriots for six years in the early 1990’s.
“My expertise was in teaching the game,” says Steve, who for 18 years was the only man to tend to the overall maintenance of the North Vigo diamond which would become known as Don Jennings Field. “You have to think the game. Some kids are not thinking like they should about the game.
“We stressed fundamentals. Know what to do when the ball comes to you. In practice, we would go over just about everything.”
One of the school clubs at North Vigo was Baseball. Members/players would talk about the game and expand their knowledge.
“They had to learn the rules of baseball,” says Steve. “I gave tests. It was all in fun.
“It was a way to teach the game from a different perspective.”
He appreciates what he sees on the field from his grandson.
“I told Cade not too long ago. ‘You’re better than your dad and a whole lot better than your Grandpa,” says Steve. “He’s constantly thinking.”
“I did not like to see Kyle come to the plate,” says Steve. “His technique was always good. He could hit the daylights out of that ball.”
Scott Moore, who is now assistant principal of building and grounds at North Vigo, takes over as Post 346 manager — a position long held by John Hayes and then Tim Hayes.
Of course, Cade gets pointers from his father.
“Take charge and keep your teammates in the game as well as yourself,” says Cade of that advice. He’s more of the fundamental type.
“He can break down my (right-handed) swing for me and help me make an adjustment.”
Says Scott, “I talk to Cade about how being a part of a team is important and working with other people for a common goal.
“It’s about setting goals and working hard. What could I have done differently? Those are life lessons.”
Scott Moore — and the rest of the family — have watched Cade excel on the tennis court. Cade and doubles partner and classmate Ethan Knott (a close friend that he’s known since they played youth baseball together) came within two wins of making the State Finals in the fall of 2019.
“Being involved in multiple sports helps the athlete all-around,” says Scott.
“I like the way he runs his program,” says Cade. “I’ll go there to play infield. I’ll be a two-way if he likes me on the mound.”
Cade has been mostly a shortstop and third baseman when not on the mound for North Vigo.
Both sets of grandparents have already scouted at KWC and the town and look forward to spending time there and the places where the Panthers play.
“(Kentucky Wesleyan) has same colors as Garfield,” says Diane Moore. “Steve and I felt right at home.”
Diane, who retired after 32 years at the Vigo County Library, was brought up in a baseball-loving family.
“Before I even met Steve my father was a big Chicago Cubs fan,” says Diane. “My mother was from St. Louis and a Cardinals fan.”
Steve, who lived across the alley from Diane’s grandparents, met his future bride in high school.
Cade grew up spending plenty of time at his grandparents’ house. When he was young, Woodrow Wilson teacher Amanda dropped him her son at Steve and Diane’s and his grandmother took him to DeVaney.
“(Cade) and Grandpa played I don’t know how much catch in our cul de sac,” says Diane.
Being part of a family filled with educators has not been lost on Cade.
“Not only has it helped me on the field but in the classroom as well,” says Cade.
It doesn’t hurt that he has ready access to facilities thanks to his dad’s job.
“Education has always been our focus,” says Amanda Moore. “You’re here to get an education first and then you can participate in extracurricular activities.
“Cade’s always been a pretty good student though it took a little bit of guidance in kindergarten and first grade.”
Says Scott, “Fortunately he had some good habits and worked through some things. (As an only child), my wife and I were able to focus on him. There was tough love. I wouldn’t say we spoiled him.”
Being six years younger than brother Kyle, Amanda tagged along or begged out when he had games when they were youngsters. She was a gymnast and then a diver at South Vigo.
“Not until Cade started playing baseball did I have any interest in it,” says Amanda. “One great thing about having Cade involved in baseball for so many years is the friendships. These people have become almost like family.
“Some of the parents are like an aunt and uncle to Cade and vice versa. We travel together. We’ve supported each other when one child has been injured.
“It’s been nice to develop those almost familial relationships with those other people and children.”
Amanda has watched her son learn life lessons through sports. While in junior high he was on the track team and did not like it. But there was no quitting the team.
“When you make a commitment you can not back out of that,” says Amanda. “Taking the easy way out is not going to teach you anything about life.
“My brother has shown that loyalty is an important value to have and develop even through the tough times.”
Amanda also sees similarities in her son and nephew and notices a similar dynamic between her husband and son and her brother and his son.
“I can see the competitive edge and desire to work hard,” says Amanda. “I can see that mirror in Koby and Cade. They want to win and are willing to work hard.
“Kyle and Scott walk that fine line between being a coach and dad and not showing any favoritism.
“Sometimes dad is tougher on their own child than they are on their own players.”
Kelly Dumas, a retired teacher who saw Kyle first play T-ball at age 3 and make tin-foil balls to throw around the house when it was too cold to go outside, has been to diamonds all over the place and made friendships with players and their families.
“We’ve enjoyed 50 years of baseball,” says Kelly. “I just like to watch all the different players come through and follow what they do afterward. It’s good to see both my grandsons be successful
“We’ve been so many places with Koby, especially when he played for the (Terre Haute) Rex (the summer collegiate team that will be managed in 2021 by former big league slugger and Kyle Kraemer player A.J. Reed). We went to little towns with old wooden stadiums.
“Cade’s been working very hard to be the best he can be.”
Koby Kraemer, who briefly played in the Toronto Blue Jays system after college, is now assistant strength and conditioning coach at Ohio State University.
“We all love the game,” says Koby of the family’s affinity for baseball. “It plays a big part in our lives.
“The reason my dad has coached so long is because he loves it. The reason he’s successful is that he challenges people to be better.
“You get more out of them then they thought they had in them. That’s what makes good coaches.”
Besides April 30 (the Patriots won 8-5 at South Vigo) and May 7 at North Vigo, the rivals could meet three times this season. Both are in the IHSAA Class 4A Plainfield Sectional.
“I love playing center field,” says Crews, a 6-foot-1, 187-pounder. “It’s the most fun thing of everything about baseball.”
Crews, 23, tends to play shallow for the Purple Aces and chases balls over his head.
“I feel more comfortable running back and catching balls over my shoulder,” says Crews, who used to do a similar thing as Heritage Hills football wide receiver.
When Crews reached UE, his favorite number — 5 — was not available. It was the number worn by his father Michael, who was a center fielder and a football player at Ball State University.
Kenton decided to go with 15 in purple, orange and white because that’s the digit donned by fly-chasing center fielder Jim Edmonds with the St. Louis Cardinals. Kenton grew up rooting for the Redbirds and stars like Edmonds, Jasper, Ind., native Scott Rolen and slugger Albert Pujols.
Speed put Crews in the outfield and made him effective in the lead-off slot with the Aces at-bat.
“One thing that we really focus on is that when the lead-off hitter each inning gets on base your chances of scoring go up,” says Crews. “A lot of (lead-off hitters) will take pitches. But if you can get a hittable pitch you should swing at it — especially fastballs early in the count instead of swing at the pitcher’s pitch.
“I’m usually pretty aggressive when I’m hitting lead-off.”
Going into a Missouri Valley Conference series April 23-25 against Illinois State, Crews is hitting .393 (35-of-89) with three home runs, four triples, eight doubles, 22 runs batted in, 21 runs scored and 6-of-9 in stolen bases. He sports a 1.145 OPS (.471 on-baseball percentage and .674 slugging average) in 28 games (24 starts).
For his career — which includes a redshirt season due to injury in 2019 — Crews is hitting .295 (161-of-545) with 11 homers, eight triples, 32 doubles, 79 RBIs, 81 runs and 33-of-42 in stolen bases. His OPS is .793 (.349 on-baseball percentage and .444 slugging average) in 143 games.
The righty swinger has 10 multi-hit games in 2021. He hit for the cycle (homer, triple, double and single) March 21 against visiting Butler. His 4-for-5 day produced four RBIs and two runs scored.
During his cycle, Crews tripled to left center in the bottom of the first inning, doubled to center in the third, homered to left in the seventh and singled in the eighth.
“Teammates were talking about it at a whisper,” says Crews about the Evansville dugout. “People didn’t know how to act.
“I was nervous about it. I didn’t want to let everybody down.”
The first two cycles of Crews’ baseball life came as a grade schooler with a Dale (Ind.) Buffaloes.
Born in Evansville, Kenton lived with father Michael, mother Kathleen and sister Sienna in a house in Lincoln State Park.
Kenton grew up catching snakes, frogs and turtles for the nature center where his father was — and still is — an interpretive naturalist. He was a football coach at Heritage Hills Middle School was a long stretch.
When Kenton was 7, the family moved to a 100-acre farm, where the Crews raised big, wooly mammals and ran a restaurant — Buffalo Run Farm, Grill & Gifts — for two decades.
Michael coached Sienna’s T-ball team (she is a year older than her brother). After the Buffaloes, Kenton played travel ball with the Southern Indiana Spikes from 8-13. He was with the HHMS and was on a Pony team in Tell City, Ind.
Greg Gogel was then head baseball coach at Heritage Hills.
“I love Coach Gogel with all my heart,” says Crews of a longtime family friend and former teammate of cousin Cole Seifrig (who took a lateral from future pro quarterback Jay Cutler and threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Cutler in overtime to lead Heritage Hills to a 27-24 victory against Zionville in the 2000 IHSAA Class 3A state championship game). “He taught me more lessons in life than anyone other than my dad.”
He also liked the sincerity displayed by Aces head coach Wes Carroll and his staff during the recruiting process.
“They came to me instead of me chasing after somebody else,” says Crews. “I appreciated that effort and that honesty.
“Coach Carroll knows what he’s talking about. He told me he can make me into a better baseball player. I hope we can be friends and have a relationship the rest of my life.”
Kenton is the fourth NCAA Division I competitor in the family.
“She’s the real athlete in our family,” says Kenton of his mother.
As Kathleen Beumel, she was a 10-time state champion in cross country and track at Apollo High School in Owensboro, Ky. After attending Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, she transferred to the University of Hawaii at Manoa where she was cheer captain. At 20, she experienced a crippling injury.
“She broke her neck and was paralyzed,” says Kenton. “She wasn’t supposed to walk again or have kids.
“It’s a miracle she was able to move again and she was able to run.”
Kathleen Crews is now a program assistant at Heritage Hills and involved in the community.
But there are still plenty of Indiana connections for the former pitcher.
Thompson is a 2000 graduate of Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., where he was a Liberal Studies major and Business minor while pitching for head coaches Sam Riggleman (1998 and 1999) and Mike Hutcheon (2000) learning from Bethel assistant and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Famer Dick Siler.
As an elementary student, Thompson was always writing out lineups and plays. At first all he wanted to do was play baseball. When that time was over, he turned his attention to coaching.
“I’ve always loved baseball and sports,” says Thompson. “God’s gifted me in that capacity.”
Thompson is a 1995 graduate of Cowden-Herrick Senior High School in central Illinois. His graduating class had 33 students. With too few boys to have a football team, the Bobcats played conference games in the fall and the rest of the schedule in the spring with a healthy American Legion schedule in the summer.
Left-hander Stults, an Argos (Ind.) High School graduate, was in the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves.
Right-hander Humen also pitched at Rice University and Oral Roberts University and made it to Double-A with the Miami Marlins and also logged mound time in the Kansas City Royals system and in independent ball.
Left-hander Kloosterman, an Elkhart Central graduate, competed in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
Before leaving for Air Force, Hutcheon and Thompson recruited Justin Masterson out of Ohio to attend Bethel. They later faced him in the Mountain West Conference when Masterson transferred to San Diego State University. He went on to pitched in the bigs for the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals.
At MNU, Thompson’s coaching staff includes former Huntington (Ind.) University pitcher and Taylor University (Upland, Ind.) assistant Colton Punches as pitching coach. He was recommended by Trojans head coach Kyle Gould.
Cam Screeton, a Rochester (Ind.) High School and Indiana Wesleyan University (Marion, Ind.) graduate and former head coach at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., is a graduate assistant working with MNU Pioneers hitters.
In a program with around 60 players (varsity and junior varsity), Elkhart Central alum Brycen Sherwood (Craig Sherwood’s nephew) is a sophomore second baseman and Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School graduate Jake Bisland is a sophomore catcher.
Chad Jenkins, a teammate and roommate of Thompson at Bethel, is MNU’s Sports Information Director.
Thanks to Jenkins’ efforts, the Pioneers stream home baseball games in HD with a center field camera.
MNU’s last game before the shutdown of the 2020 season was March 13. Thompson opted to start the 2021 campaign Jan. 29 at Wayland Baptist in Plainview, Texas.
“It’s a little out of my comfort zone and not ideal, but we’ve been off long enough,” says Thompson of the early start. The Pioneers, a member of the NAIA and the Heart of America Athletic Conference, typically open in mid-February.
Players left campus at Thanksgiving and are due back Jan. 10 for COVID-19 protocol with the first practice Jan. 10 and in-person classes resuming Jan. 12.
The other Indiana connection is at home. Ryan’s wife Kristie is a graduate of NorthWood High School in Nappanee, Ind. The Thompsons have six homeschooled children (three boys followed by three girls) — Ty (15), Kade (13), Beau (11), Bailee (9), Kamryn (8) and Taylor (6). A homeschool hook-up on Fridays in Olathe has allowed the kids to explore different sports.