Kelby Weybright is going into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. The organization voted Weybright in as part of the 2023 class (players Drew Storen and Jeff Samardzija and veterans committee selections Lenny “Lefty” Johnston and Wayne Johnson are the others) and he will be recognized at a banquet held during the IHSBCA State Clinic. The dinner is slated for 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13 at the Sheraton at the Crossing in Indianapolis. Weybright coached baseball at Norwell High School near Ossian, Ind., for 17 seasons — the last 11 as head coach. On his watch, the Knights went 243-93 with two conference, seven sectional, four regional and two semistate titles to go with two IHSAA Class 3A state championships (2003 and 2007) and one 3A state runner-up finish (2006). The 2007 team went 35-0. “It’s an award that truly represents the commitment and efforts of a lot of people in our community who gave of their time and talents to give kids an opportunity to learn and play the game of baseball and to play it at a high level,” says Weybright. “(It reflects) the kids who worked their tails off, coaches who gave of their time and talents, our community who supported those teams and our school who stood behind us. “I was fortunate enough to be the person who had the title of head coach.” Fundamental soundness was a priority for Weybright. “There were fundamental drills we did every single day. I’m sure kids got tired of seeing it. “Our practices were detailed down to the minute with what we were doing.” Success could be achieved if Norwell had strong pitching, made the “everyday” play and won as many innings as possible. “Whatever we were doing it was nine guys working as one as much as possible,” says Weybright. “I loved to look out at the baseball diamond and see a play happen and all nine guys moving in rhythm and going where they’re supposed to be. “It’s like a symphony playing.” Bunting and running were major parts of the Knights’ game. So was hustle. Many were the times when players went first to third or two players scored on a suicide squeeze bunt. “We tried to play like our rear ends were on fire,” says Weybright. “I wanted guys who played the game hard. I wanted guys who competed. When we went on the field or came off the field it was at a dead run. “We want to come out and have a great pregame. We wanted to be fast and crisp. We wanted the people in the other dugout to go, ‘Mmm, dang, we’re going to struggle today.’ “Those are the kinds of things our kids bought into. When you see team play that hard it carries over to different aspects of the game.” His teams were well-conditioned, frequently coming in for 6 a.m. Saturday workouts during the winter. But beyond baseball it was about getting teenagers ready to be fathers and productive members of the community. “We’re proud of watching these guys grow and become the men they are,” says Weybright. After the 2012 Norwell season, Weybright stepped away from his head coach post to guide his sons in travel ball and tend to his school responsibilities. After years as assistant principal and dean of students, Kelby was named Norwell’s athletic director in 2017. Those duties keep him busy though he does help out with the baseball program when time allows. When the Knights advanced to semistate a couple of years ago he found time to work with the infielders. He trades videos and ideas with current Norwell head coach Dave Goodmiller. “I still try to stay involved,” says Weybright, 52. Kelby and wife of 25 years, Lisa, have three children — Garrett (23), Jacob (21) and Maria (19). Garrett Weybright (Norwell Class of 2018) and Jacob Weybright (Class of 2020) both played baseball in high school. Maria Weybright (Class of 2021) was a four-year varsity cheerleader at Norwell. Kelby was born in Wooster, Mass., to Garry and Linda Weybright (who now live in Elkhart County) and moved to Indiana around age 5. Brother Teague Weybright is one year younger than Kelby. A 1988 graduate of North White Middle/High School in Monon, Ind., Before graduating from Indiana University, Kelby played three baseball seasons at Blackburn College in Carlinville, Ill. “It’s about an hour from Busch Stadium (in St. Louis),” says Weybright. “When I was in college you could actually buy outfield seats for five bucks.” Growing up as a big Gary Carter fan, Weybright cheered for the Montreal Expos or New York Mets. Listening to Jack Buck on the radio or attending game changed his favorite team in college. “I’m a diehard (St. Louis Cardinals) fan,” says Weybright. “I live and die by the Redbirds right now.” For questions about Hall of Fame banquet reservations, program advertisements or events leading up to the ceremony, contact Hall of Fame chairman Jeff McKeon at 317-445-9899. Banquet tickets can be purchased at https://www.cognitoforms.com/Baseball3%20_2023IHSBCAStateClinic and can be picked up from Jeff on the night of the banquet at the registration table. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
Jamie Sailors knows baseball aptitude. He’s witnessed athletes with a knack for the game since he grew up in Logansport, Ind. Sailors moved to Brookston in the ninth grade and ended up as a 1991 graduate of Frontier Junior/Senior High School in Chalmers. The left-handed pitcher was chosen that year to participate in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series. Tom Potts was Sailors’ head baseball coach at Frontier. “He was also a football coach and very organized in his approach to practice,” says Sailors of Potts. “He was very likable. He always seemed to have a smile on his face.” Sailors got to appear in two Colt World Series at Lafayette’s old Loeb Stadium and had numerous other games at the stadium that was built in 1940 and replaced by the new Loeb (home of the Lafayette Aviators and Lafayette Jeff baseball) in 2021 in Legion ball. “What I remember about the old park is that it was historic,” says Sailors. “There were signs on the wooden outfield wall and a manual scoreboard in center field. “There was a light pole in-play in left-center when I played.” At 15, Sailors spent the first of four summers playing for Eric Harmon-managed Monticello American Legion Post 81 and regularly competed against Lafayette Post 11. Logansport won the 1991 IHSAA state championship. That team featured John Curl and Willie Hilton. Both were selected in the 1995 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft — Curl by the Toronto Blue Jays out of Texas A&M and Hilton by the Oakland Athletics out of Eastern Illinois University. Sailors was drafted in the 13th round by the St. Louis Cardinals out of Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., in 1992. He was with the Rod Lovett-coached Cobras for one season “He was a very good recruiter,” says Sailors of Lovett, who had the most pitchers drafted at any collegiate level in 1992. Three of them — Juan Acevedo, Shayne Bennett and Mike Grzanich — made it to the majors. That first professional summer, southpaw Sailors played for the Arizona Cardinals. In 1993, he was second in the Appalachian League in strikeouts, fanning 81 in 77 1/3 innings for the Johnson City (Tenn.) Cardinals. He split the 1994 season between the New York-Penn League’s New Jersey Cardinals and Midwest League’s Madison (Wis.) Hatters. “I faced some really good players in the minor leagues,” says Sailors. Along the way, the lefty played against future Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Jim Thome, MLB standouts Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez and long-time pro Ryan Jackson. Joe Cunningham was Sailors’ manager at Arizona, Johnson City and Madison. Roy Silver was his skipper at New Jersey. “I’ve been around really good players ever since I started,” says Sailors, who was recently named as manager of the summer collegiate Prospect League’s Lafayette Aviators for the 2023 season. “It helps to recognize talent and character.” Sailors, 50, reached out to Aviators general manager David Krakower and then met with him and team ownership and was hired to lead in a diamond space where he is very familiar. He spent four seasons managing in the same circuit with the Danville (Ill.) Dans (2005, 2006, 2012 and 2013). He split the job with Jason Watson the final summer. Danville went 41-19 in 2006. Future major leaguers that played for the Dans when Sailors was in charge include Louis Coleman, Mitch Moreland, Tanner Roark and Danny Worth. So what called him to the Aviators post? “I just want to get on a baseball field again with college players,” says Sailors is responsible for recruiting much of the 32-man roster. He is doing it through coach recommendations and information gathered on the internet. “They’re coming from everywhere,” says Sailors of the diverse Lafayette roster. “College coaches have a good gauge of knowing what we’re looking for. “I’m lucky I have enough connections and my network has expanded in the past few weeks.” While about two-thirds of players are signed, Sailors says he is looking for pitchers and might have to wait until spring to sign some of them based on their spring workload. Sailors’ coaching staff includes Doug Gove (pitching), Tyler Brown (hitting), Andrew Pratt (hitting) and volunteer James Smith (pitching). Beginning in 2008, Sailors coached and/or was on the board of the Northern Baseball Club before that travel organization shut down. Brooks Sailors — the second of Jamie and Sarah Sailors’ three children — played for the Northern Stars and graduated from Frontier in 2020. All but one of the players in his final travel season went on to college baseball. Brooks Sailors is a catcher/infielder at Purdue Fort Wayne. He took 2022 as a redshirt year and has three remaining seasons of eligibility. Jamie Sailors was head baseball coach at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville for five campaigns (2002-06) and UWP football assistant for three (2001-03) and pitching coach at Purdue University for two (2007-08). Doug Schreiber — who is now head coach at Purdue Fort Wayne — then led the Purdue program. “I learned a ton from him about how he thinks baseball and his managing of games and practices,” says Sailors of Schreiber. One of Sailors’ Boilermaker arms was future big leaguer Josh Lindblom. After leaving Purdue, Sailors served as strength coach at Delphi (Ind.) Community High School through the fall of 2015. He was the Oracles’ head football coach for three seasons (2009-11). Sailors was head football coach at Frontier for six seasons (2013-18) and served as Falcons athletic director from the fall of 2015 to the fall of 2018. He is in his third year as a physical education teacher and strength coach at Logansport Junior High School. He is also on the high school football coaching staff. The Mike Johnson-led Berries went 8-3 this fall. The Sailors now reside in Battle Ground, Ind., just outside Lafayette. In a very sports-minded family, Sarah Sailors (formerly Laurent) went from Watseka, Ill., to earn volleyball letters at Eastern Carolina University in 1993 and 1994. She now works for the State of Indiana in Child Protective Services. Oldest child Madisen Sailors (Frontier Class of 2017) played two volleyball seasons at UW-Platteville and is now teaching and coaching in Wisconsin while attending graduate school at UW-Madison. Fifth grader Ryne Sailors is the youngest.
Left-handed pitcher Zack Thompson, who was a star at Wapahani High School in Selma, Ind., and the University of Kentucky, made his Major League Baseball debut when he earned a four-inning save for the St. Louis Cardinals June 3 against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Thompson, 24, has made 10 starts for the Triple-A Memphis (Tenn.) Redbirds in 2022 and is 2-2 with a 4.67 earned run average. Zach McKinstry (Fort Wayne North Side/Central Michigan) has split his time between the minors and the big-league Los Angeles Dodgers and the lefty-swinging infielder is currently on the active roster with the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers. He made his big league debut in 2020. McKinstry, 27, is hitting .335 with three home runs and 20 runs batted in over 164 MiLB at-bats and is 1-for-5 with LA — the hit being a June 3 two-run home run off New York Mets right-hander Chris Bassitt. Right-hander Ryan Pepiot (Westfield/Butler) had made his MLB debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 11. He is back with the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers. Pepiot, 24, is 4-0 with a 1.77 ERA in nine appearances for OKC and 0-0 with a 3.18 ERA in three games (11 1/3 innings) in the big leagues. Many other players are also on active rosters in the minors. Right-hander Luke Albright (Fishers/Kent State) is with the High-A Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops (Arizona Diamondbacks). Albright, 22, is 3-2 with a 3.64 ERA in 10 starts. Third baseman Cole Barr (Yorktown/Indiana University) plays for the High-A Everett (Wash.) AquaSox (Seattle Mariners). Barr, 24, is hitting .172 with three homers and 17 RBIs. Right-hander Gabe Bierman (Jeffersonville/Indiana) toes the rubber for the Low-A Jupiter (Fla.) Hammerheads (Miami Marlins). Bierman, 22, is 2-2 with a 4.28 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts). Right-hander Garrett Burhenn (Lawrence North/Ohio State) takes the bump for the Low-A Lakeland (Fla.) Flying Tigers (Detroit Tigers). Burhenn, 22, is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in nine starts. Lefty-swinging outfielder Zach Britton (Batesville/Louisville) is with the High-A Vancouver (B.C.) Canadians (Toronto Blue Jays). Britton, 23, is hitting .206 with four homers and 11 RBIs. Right-hander Zack Brown (Seymour/Kentucky) is one step from the majors with the Triple-A Nashville (Tenn.) Sounds (Milwaukee Brewers). Brown, 27, is 1-0 with two saves and a 3.54 ERA in 17 relief appearances. Outfielder Drew Campbell (Jeffersonville/Louisville) swings from the left side for the High-A Rome Braves (Atlanta Braves). Campbell, 24, is hitting .266 with one homer and 22 RBIs. Left-hander Jacob Cantleberry (Center Grove/Missouri/San Jacinto) is with the High-A Great Lakes Loons (Los Angeles Dodgers) in Midland, Mich. Cantleberry, 24, is 2-1 with one save and a 6.10 ERA in 13 games out of the bullpen.
Right-hander Adysin Coffey (Delta/Wabash Valley) is on the Development List as a reliever with the Kannapolis (N.C.) Cannon Ballers (Chicago White Sox).
Coffey, 23, is 2-2 with two saves a 7.30 ERA in 13 games. Lefty-swinging outfielder Craig Dedelow (Munster/Indiana) takes his cuts for the Double-A Birmingham (Ala.) Barons (Chicago White Sox). Dedelow, 27, is hitting .226 with 13 homers and 35 RBIs. Lefty-swinging second baseman Clay Dungan (Yorktown/Indiana State) is with Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City Royals). Dungan, 26, is hitting .204 with three homers and 18 RBIs. Outfielder Elijah Dunham (Evansville Reitz/Indiana) bats lefty for the Double-A Somerset Patriots (New York Yankees) in Bridgewater, N.J. Dunham, 24, is hitting .346 with seven homers and 27 RBIs. Right-hander Parker Dunshee (Zionsville/Wake Forest) is spinning pitches for the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators (Oakland Athletics). Dunshee, 27, is 1-5 with a 7.24 ERA in 12 games (10 starts).
Righty-swinging outfielder Matt Gorski (Hamilton Southeastern/Indiana) is with Double-A Altoona (Pa.) Curve (Pittsburgh Pirates).
Gorski, 24, is hitting .290 with 19 homers and 46 RBIs. Left-hander Timmy Herrin (Terre Haute South Vigo/Indiana) takes the mound for the Triple-A Columbus (Ohio) Clippers (Cleveland Guardians). Herrin, 25, is 0-2 with one save and a 4.00 ERA in 17 relief appearances. Right-hander Bryan Hoeing (Batesville/Louisville) challenges hitters for the Triple-A Jacksonville (Fla.) Jumbo Shrimp (Miami Marlins). Hoeing, 25, is 7-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts. Lefty-swinging outfielder Jacob Hurtubise (Zionsville/Army) is with the Double-A Chattanooga (Tenn.) Lookouts (Cincinnati Reds). Hurtubise, 24, is hitting .299 with no homers and five RBIs. He has spent some time on the IL. Right-hander Drey Jameson (Greenfield-Central/Ball State) fires it for the Triple-A Reno (Nev.) Aces (Arizona Diamondbacks). Jameson, 24, is 3-5 with a 5.80 ERA in 12 games (11 starts). Catcher Hayden Jones (Carroll/Mississippi State/Illinois State) is also a lefty swinger and plays for the Low-A Daytona (Fla.) Tortugas (Cincinnati Reds). Jones, 22, is hitting .210 with one homer and eight RBIs. Righty-swinging catcher Scott Kapers (Mount Carmel, Ill./Valparaiso) is with the High-A Hickory (N.C.) Crawdads (Texas Rangers). Kapers, 25, is hitting .257 with five homers and 16 RBIs. Lefty-swinging first baseman Niko Kavadas (Penn/Notre Dame) competes for the Low-A Salem (Va.) Red Sox (Boston Red Sox). Kavadas, 23, is hitting .253 with seven homers and 31 RBIs. Right-hander Chayce McDermott (Pendleton Heights/Ball State) journeys around the circuit with the High-A Asheville (N.C.) Tourists (Houston Astros). McDermott, 23, is 5-1 with a 4.35 ERA in 12 games (six starts). First baseman Jacson McGowan (Brownsburg/Purdue) plies his trade with the Double-A Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits (Tampa Bay Rays). McGowan, 24, is hitting .276 with one homer and two RBIs. He has been on the IL in 2022. Right-hander Zach Messinger (Castle/Virginia) hurls for the Low-A Tampa (Fla.) Tarpons (New York Yankees). Messinger, 22, is 0-4 with two saves and a 4.85 ERA in 18 games (15 in relief). Right-hander Evan Miller (LaPorte/Purdue Fort Wayne) works mostly out of the bullpen for the Triple-A El Paso (Texas) Chihuahuas (San Diego Padres). Miller, 27, is 1-2 with two saves and a 6.59 ERA in 21 games (19 in relief). Lefty-swinging shortstop Colson Montgomery (Southridge) is with the Low-A Kannapolis (N.C.) Cannon Ballers (Chicago White Sox). Montgomery, 20, is hitting .295 with four homers and 23 RBIs. Righty-swinging infielder Nick Podkul (Andrean/Notre Dame) was with the Buffalo (N.Y.) Bisons (Toronto Blue Jays). Podkul, 25, is hitting .178 with two homers and nine RBIs. Left-hander Triston Polley (Brownsburg/Indiana State) has been a reliever for the High-A Hickory (N.C.) Crawdads (Texas Rangers). Polley, 25, is 6-2 with one save and a 5.67 ERA in 16 games (all out of the bullpen). Outfielder Grant Richardson (Fishers/Indiana) bats lefty for the Low-A Tampa (Fla.) Tarpons (New York Yankees). Richardson, 22, is hitting .207 with two homers and 16 RBIs. Left-hander Andrew Saalfrank (Heritage/Indiana) is a reliever for the High-A Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops (Arizona Diamondbacks). Saalfrank, 24, is 2-0 with a 3.52 ERA in 17 bullpen games. Andy Samuelson (LaPorte/Wabash Valley) pitched for the Rookie-level Braves (Atlanta Braves) until retiring June 11. Samuelson, 23, pitched 1/3 of an inning in 2022. Right-hander Caleb Sampen (Brownsburg/Wright State) pours it in for the Double-A Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits (Tampa Bay Rays). Sampen, 25, is 1-12 with a 5.02 ERA in nine appearances (five starts). He has been on the IL in 2022. Right-hander Reid Schaller (Lebanon/Vanderbilt) is part of the bullpen for the Double-A Harrisburg (Pa.) Senators (Washington Nationals). Schaller, 25, is 2-0 with one save and a 2.89 ERA in 14 bullpen contests. Lefty-swinging outfielder Nick Schnell (Roncalli) is back on the field after a long injury-list stint. He plays for the Low-A Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs (Tampa Bay Rays). Schnell, 22, was activated May 31 and is hitting .333 with no homers and six RBIs. The “Diamonds in the Rough” podcast features Schnell and Cole Wilcox. Left-hander Garrett Schoenle (Fort Wayne Northrop/Cincinnati) mostly comes out of the bullpen for the High-A Winston-Salem (N.C.) Dash (Chicago White Sox). Schoenle, 23, is 3-1 with one save and a 1.39 ERA in 14 games (13 in relief). Left-hander Avery Short (Southport) has been starting for the High-A Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops (Arizona Diamondbacks). Short, 21, is 0-4 with a 4.58 ERA in nine starts. Left-hander Tommy Sommer (Carmel/Indiana) is a starter for the Low-A Kannapolis (N.C.) Cannon Ballers (Chicago White Sox). Sommer, 23, is 2-4 with a 3.13 ERA in 11 starts. Right-hander Skylar Szynski (Penn) was drafted in 2016 and has missed much time because of injury. He is Low-A Stockton (Calif.) Ports (Oakland Athletics). Szynski, 24, is 1-1 with a 12.66 ERA in 15 bullpen games. Right-hander Nolan Watson (Lawrence North) is mostly a reliever for the Double-A San Antonio Missions (San Diego Padres). Watson, 25, is 1-2 with a 7.76 ERA in 14 appearances (12 in relief). Among those on the 7-day injury list are right-hander Sam Bachman (Hamilton Southeastern/Miami of Ohio) with the Double-A Rocket City Trash Pandas (Los Angeles Angels) in Madison, Ala., righty-swinging third baseman Kody Hoese (Griffith/Tulane) with the Tulsa (Okla.) Drillers (Los Angeles Dodgers), right-hander Michael McAvene (Roncalli/Louisville) with the High-A South Bend Cubs (Chicago Cubs) and righty-swinging third baseman Riley Tirotta (Mishawaka Marian/Dayton) with the High-A Vancouver (B.C.) Canadians (Toronto Blue Jays). Bachman, 22, is 0-0 with a 1.98 ERA in four starts. Hoese, 24, is hitting .284 with three homers and 21 RBIs. McAvene, 24, is 0-0 with a 40.50 ERA in one relief appearance. Tirotta, 23, is hitting .209 with three homers and 20 RBIs. Right-hander Tanner Andrews (Tippecanoe Valley/Purdue) with the Triple-A Sacramento (Calif.) River Cats (San Francisco Giants), right-hander Pauly Milto (Roncalli/Indiana) with the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Dash (Chicago White Sox) and righty-swinging third baseman Hunter Owen (Evansville Mater Dei/Indiana State) with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh Pirates) are on the 60-day IL. Andrews, 26, is 0-0 with an 11.12 ERA in four relief games. Milto, 25, is 0-0 with a 3.07 ERA in nine games (eight in relief). Owen, 28, is hitting .256 with no homers and five RBIs. He made his MLB debut in 2021.
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.