Mike Werling sees a diamond in the rough. The new head baseball coach at Fort Wayne (Ind.) North Side High School knows there’s been tough times for the Legends and plenty of challenges lie ahead, but his is hopeful he can turn around a struggling program. “It’s going to take time,” says Werling. “We’re going to take our licks (in 2023). I’m looking for commitment and improvement from day to day. “We have the talent to compete. We might sneak up on people that overlook North Side this year. It could be a fun ride.” The fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period is in full swing and the Legends work out Mondays and Wednesdays at Carington Field, which is about four miles southeast of the school. There are senior captain-led stretches, throwing projections with Tom Emanski drills, full infield/outfield cut-off work, drop-step drills for outfields and Pitchers Fielding Practice to name a few. “We want to make sure kids know what they’re doing now so it’s not an issue in the spring,” says Werling, who is helped by assistant coaches Reggie Williams and Dezmond McNeilly. Fort Wayne North Side (enrollment around 1,520) is a member of the Summit Athletic Conference (with Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne Snider, Fort Wayne South Side and Fort Wayne Wayne). SAC games are played in home-and-home series and some Saturday doubleheaders. “It’s a very big, very tough conference for baseball,” says Werling. The Legends were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Columbia City, Fort Wayne South Side, Fort Wayne Wayne, Homestead and Huntington North. North Side is seeking its first sectional title. Hamilton Park Little League feeds the Legends program. “There is a negative stigma for North Side baseball. It’s a matter of changing the culture and making the kids excited about wanting to come out there.” Werling says having Williams as Hamilton Park Little League president will help spread the word and lift up Legends baseball in a positive light. Two players from the Class of 2023 — righty-swinging shortstop/third baseman Gabriel Oliva and left-handed pitcher Christian Cox — have been getting looks for bigger colleges. Welling, who took his new post at the end of August, was pitching coach at North Side 2019 to 2021 and was junior varsity coach at his alma mater — Heritage Junior/Senior High School in Monroeville, Ind., in 2022. Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Famer Dean Lehrman has been a head baseball coach for 43 seasons — nine at Woodlan and the past 34 at Heritage. “Coach Dean is a special guy,” says Werling, who was a left-handed pitcher for Lehrman and graduated from Heritage in 2008 then at Ohio Northern University for one season and the Portland Rockets before a labrum injury caused him to stop. “There are mannerisms and ways about him he had then and nothing’s changed. They are the same drills and same workouts. He’s big on the little things and fundamentals. And there’s commitment.” “My Dean Lehrman comes out all the time in practice. He’s built a very successful program in his time there. What he does works.” Prior to coaching at North Side, Werling works 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays at Sauder Manufacturing in New Haven, Ind., where he drives a forklift.
Josh Clinkenbeard knows the life lessons that can be learned through athetics. He absorbed them as a baseball and football player at Fort Wayne (Ind.) Snider High School and continues to make it a focus as he has moved up from Panthers assistant to baseball head coach at his alma mater in 2022. “One of the biggest messages we are trying to share with our guys is about being a good community member,” says Snider Class of 1999’s Clinkenbeard, a former outfielder, first baseman and pitcher for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Andy Owen (Marc Skelton and Bruce Meyer were assistants; Skelton became head coach after Owen and both Skelton and Meyer retired from baseball coaching after 2021) and tight end for Indiana Football Hall of Famer Russ Isaacs. “As individuals, we will always be a part of some collective group. “We remind ourselves to be good teammates. We also try to relate our sport to real life like dealing with adversity and working with others, for example.” Clinkenbeard recalls lessons learned from Owen and company. “One of the biggest things I remember that still rings true with me is how to handle physical mistakes versus mental mistakes as a coach,” says Clinkenbeard. “Dealing with the mental side of sports can be taught and modeled in practice.” Snider (enrollment around 1,900) is a member of the Summit Athletic Conference (with Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne South Side and Fort Wayne Wayne). SAC teams play home-and-series in the same week against conference opponents. The Panthers are in an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Carroll, DeKalb (host), East Noble and Northrop. Snider has won 11 sectional titles — the last in 2017. Clinkenbeard was part of that coaching staff. With 31 players in 2022 for varsity and junior varsity squads, Clinkenbeard is assisted by Payton Bieker, Brandon Phelps, Chase Phelps, Tim McCrady and Jimmy Cunningham. All but Cunningham are Snider graduates. Bieker (Class of 2008) played at Purdue University, Brandon Phelps (Class of 2013) and Chase Phelps (Class of 2016) at what is now Purdue Fort Wayne. McCrady (Class of 1983) is the JV head coach. Cunningham is a first-year coach. The Panthers play on Hawley Field (a diamond four miles east of Snider named for former athletic director Michael Hawley who helped plan and build the complex). The facility has been upgraded with irrigation and improved drainage. “The long-term goal is to have lock rooms on-site with indoor batting cages,” says Clinkenbeard. Snider baseball once played at Carrington Field. When the original was torn down to make room for Memorial Stadium (home of the Fort Wayne Wizards), a new Carrington Field was establish across Coliseum Boulevard. When Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne (now PFW) purchsed the land, Snider went looking for a new home field. “The unique part is that we are not on-site which creates many challenges, but because we are nestled among some housing additions it gives us a feeling of being part of a community.” A 2003 graduate of Butler University with a degree in Biology with a teaching certificate, Clinkenbeard is in his 18th year as a middle school teacher. Before a rotator cuff injury ended his career, the first baseman was a walk-on at Butler for head coach Steve Farley. “Great coach who really showed me the details of the game,” says Clinkenbeard of Farley. “There are many drills we did in college that we incorporate in our team today.” Jakob Byler (University of Saint Francis) and Trevor Newman (Franklin College) are college commits. Mac Hippenhammer (Class of 2017) went to Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) to play baseball and football. Josh and wife Krisanne Clinkenbeard have three children — Olivia, Jase and Hayes.
Unseasonably-mild weather in December means that the first winter baseball workouts at Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran High School this week were outdoors on the Zollner Stadium football turf. During the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period, Concordia head coach Matt Urban led twice-weekly workouts on Jack Massucci Field, which has been renovated and re-leveled. There were 14 regulars. “We promote multi-sport athletes,” says Urban, who led the program during the 2013 season and since the 2017 slate. “We had 11 football players and four or five in soccer. “We’ve got 38 trying out now.” While several players were lost to graduation in 2021, the Cadets are expected to return three seniors and plenty of quality in other classes. “Last year we had the grittiest bunch of kids,” says Urban, who saw some into the work force with 2021 graduates Tyler Grossman (University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne) Cooper Harris (Siena Heights University in Michigan) going to play college football. “I’ve got a lot of good (returning) talent.” Urban expects to have around three dozen players populating varsity and junior varsity rosters. Other alum moving on to college include Trevyn Moss (Class of 2018) to Northern Kentucky University for baseball, Jaden Parnin (Class of 2020) to Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne for baseball and Jeren Kindig (Class of 2020) to Saint Francis for football. Concordia (enrollment around 630) is a member of the Summit Athletic Conference (with Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne Snider, Fort Wayne South Side and Fort Wayne Wayne). SAC teams play home-and-series on Tuesdays and Thursdays against conference opponents with an Saturday occasional doubleheader. In 2021, the Cadets were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Angola, Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Garrett, Leo and New Haven. Concordia has won eight sectional crowns — the last in 2018. Coming out of spring break, the Cadets face what Urban calls a “defining week of baseball” April 11-16 — Monday vs. Heritage, Tuesday vs. Dwenger, Wednesday vs. DeKalb, Thursday vs. Dwenger, Friday vs. Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian and Saturday in a doubleheader vs. South Side. Urban’s coaching staff includes pitching coach Randy Jackemeyer, hitting coach Alex McKinistry and Nolan Brooks at the varsity level with former Concordia players Christian Dick, Drew Bordner and Matt Miller working with the JV. Urban, who instructs classes in Geometry, Algebra II and Pre-Calculus at Concordia Lutheran, once taught and coached at Columbia City. He was a baseball assistant to Todd Armstrong prior to his first stint with the Concordia Cadets. A 1993 graduate of tiny South Central High School in Farina, Ill., Urban played fall baseball, basketball and spring baseball for the same head coach — Gary Shirley. “He’s one of the best coaches I ever had,” says Urban of Shirley, who was also an English teacher. “He taught me a lot about the game and was like a father figure. “He coached our summer stuff. I was around him 345 days a year.” Conference baseball games were played in the fall with about 52 contests during the school year. In 2021, South Central won an Illinois state title for Class 1A. After a year of study at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Ill. Urban went to what is now Concordia University Chicago in River Forest, Ill., and was a three-year baseball starter for former Chicago Cubs assistant athletic trainer Mike Palmer. Upon graduation with an education degree in 1998, Urban went right into teaching and coaching middle school basketball in Chicago before moving to the Columbia City/Fort Wayne area. Matt is married to Hallie and has six children — Tyson Urban (19), Hayley Urban (18), Landon Urban (16), Will Sappenfield (8), Stella Urban (2) and Selma Urban (1). Tyson Urban is on the baseball team at Indiana Tech. Hayley Urban plays softball at Ball State University.
Kristian Gayday was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Ind., and that’s where he learned about baseball and where he continues to share his knowledge. Gayday, who turns 30 on Dec. 20, is heading into his fourth season as an assistant coach at the University of Saint Francis, located on the Summit City’s west side. Growing up near Waynedale on the south end of town, Gayday played at Don Ayres Little League, travel ball for the Aboit Braves and Fort Wayne Cubs (coached by Cisco Morales) then played on the last four teams at Elmhurst High School (it ceased to be a high school after 2009-10) and four years at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne (now Purdue Fort Wayne). He has coached in the Fort Wayne Diamondbacks travel organization (formerly Fort Wayne Cubs). Gayday played three seasons for Eddie Fields and his senior year for Zac Pace at Elmhurst, helping the Trojans go 18-7 and win the program’s first sectional title in eight years. A power-hitting shortstop, he was named all-Summit City Athletic Conference and all-area as a senior. “(Pace) did a good team with a senior-laden team,” says Gayday. Bobby Pierce was the coach of the IPFW Mastodons and Gayday played shortstop or third base from 2011-14. A righty swinger, he hit .274 (183-of-667) with 16 home runs, two triples, 31 doubles and 104 runs batted in 201 games. “He’s such a cool person,” says Gayday of Pierce. “He’s figure out a way to develop guys. He’d break down the swing and show different perspectives. “He taught me most of what I know today and was such a good mentor.” In 2015, Gayday played mostly as a corner infielder for the Sonoma (Calif.) Stompers of the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs. That team was managed by Japan native Takashi Miyoshi. Gayday, who has worked at The Diamond Baseball & Softball Academy in Fort Wayne, was called away from coaching a Fort Wayne Diamondbacks team to play for Sonoma. He anticipates coaching for the Manny Lopez-led D-backs in 2022. At Saint Francis, Gayday is on the staff of Cougars head coach Dustin Butcher. “He’s such a likable guy,” says Gayday of Butcher. “You know he has your back. “I’m grateful to have him around and being a mentor to me.” Primary duties for Gayday include working with USF hitters and infielders while also aiding in the running game. One of the keys for Gayday’s hitters is “being athletic.” To Gayday, swinging a bat requires attention to pitcher’s tendencies and the mental side. “We want them to stay back instead of trying to force their body to do something,” says Gayday. “We do not want them having a good approach and not being pull happy. “Instead of pulling, they can hit a curveball to right field and see what happens.” Gayday stresses a “prep step” for his infielders. “It’s a nice hop down into our legs so we can stay low,” says Gayday. “We want to set our feet and make a good throw. “Everyone is progressing the right way.” It also helps that the hops at Cougar Field are getting smoother. “We’ve put a lot of time in that field to make it better,” says Gayday. Saint Francis, a member of the NAIA-affiliated Crossroads League, went 34-22 and stole 73 bases in 86 attempts. Keys to success include reading the pitcher’s delivery (slide step, leg kick etc.) and his pick-off move. “We want to put momentum into our steal,” says Gayday. “Being a half step quicker is what we’re looking for.” While its currently a period where athletes are away from the coaching staff, there can be communication through calls and social media. When the team comes back from break in early January, the Cougars will hit the ground running in preparation for the 2022 season opener Feb. 4 at Bethel (Tenn.) University. Besides coaching, Gayday runs the shipping and receiving department for McMahon Best-One Tire & Auto Care in Fort Wayne and answers directly to Pat “Bubba” McMahon, who is also head baseball coach at Canterbury School in Fort Wayne. Kristian lost both parents — Elmhurst graduates Johnny and Christine — in 2020. He has two older siblings — John Gayday and Natasha Nestleroad.
Will Coursen-Carr was recently named head baseball coach at his alma mater — Fort Wayne (Ind.) South Side High School — and the 2012 Indiana Mr. Baseball Award winner and three-time program MVP is working to put the pieces together for the 2022 Archers. “I know most of the guys,” says Coursen-Carr, who has helped out with the school the past couple of years. “We have some gamers. They’re ready to go. We do have a good core group of kids who really love the game. “We’ll have our first open gym Dec. 8 and a call-out before that.” Evan VanSumeren, a South Side alum and former Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne outfielder, has joined Coursen-Carr’s coaching staff and others will be added. South Side (enrollment around 1,450) is a member of the Summit Athletic Conference (with Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne Snider and Fort Wayne Wayne). SAC teams play home-and-series in same week against conference opponents. There also tends to be a non-conference game at Fort Wayne’s Parkview Field. In 2021, the Archers were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Columbia City, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne Wayne, Homestead and Huntington North. South Side has won three sectional titles — 2012, 2018 and 2019. Senior right-handed pitcher Perry Stow has singed to play at the University of Saint Francis, an NAIA school in Fort Wayne. Foster Park and Elmhurst are Little Leagues on Fort Wayne’s south side that feed South Side High. Coursen-Carr is familiarizing himself with things like the IHSAA pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days). “Is it perfect? No,” says Coursen-Carr. “But it makes sense. It protects student-athletes.” Coursen-Carr, 28, is involved with a new program on the southeast side called Youth Baseball Revival. Though not affiliated with the school system, it does focus on the basic skills of the game. “We want to get South Side kids involved at a younger age,” says Coursen-Carr. South Side plays its home games on Derbyshire Field on the old Elmhurst High School campus. There has been much reconstruction in recent years and new batting cages have been installed. “We take a lot of pride in the field,” says Coursen-Carr. An alum of Foster Park, the ASHE Centre and the Summit City Sluggers travel organization (with Dustin Sebastian as head coach and Mark Flueckiger as pitching coach), Coursen-Carr also participated in the Wildcat Baseball League until age 15 and worked the summer instructional program between his senior year at South Side and entering Indiana University. “It’s such a fantastic program they have,” says Coursen-Carr of Wildcat ball. As a left-handed pitcher, Coursen-Carr competed three seasons at Indiana (2013-15) and went 8-3 in 41 games (19 as a starter). He holds an International Studies degree from IU. He spent his final collegiate season at NAIA Huntington (Ind.) University in 2017 (where Flueckiger was Foresters hitting coach) and was 1-1 on the mound and hit .318 with five home runs as a lefty hitter. He also began progress toward an Organizational Leadership degree. Besides being named Indiana Mr. Baseball at South Side, Coursen-Carr was the Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year in 2012, a season which he went 10-1 with a 0.40 earned run average, 134 strikeouts and 21 walks in 70 innings while hitting .488 with four homers, 12 doubles and 36 runs batted in. He was chosen for the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series. He was also an all-SAC punter in football and lettered in basketball. Coursen-Carr is currently a long-term substitute History and Geography teacher at Wayne and is working toward his teaching license through online courses at Taylor University. Will is the son of Trine University professor Stephen Carr and General Motors line worker Amy Coursen. Older brother Theo Coursen-Carr is in the U.S. Army.
Garrett Schoenle was a very good passer during his football days at Fort Wayne (Ind.) Northrop High School. On the strength of Schoenle’s left arm, head coach Jason Doerffler had his Bruins go to the air often. “We spread it out and threw 40 passes a game,” says Schoenle. “I was baseball player who could throw it and we tried to use that to our advantage.” When the 2017 Northrop graduate left the program he was the all-time leader in passing yards and completions. Heading into his junior baseball season, Schoenle had gotten no offers for the diamond. But some bigger schools were interested in him for the gridiron. Schoenle, who also played two years of high school basketball, really began attracting college baseball teams in the spring of 2016 when he was the News-Sentinel Player of the Year and on the American Family Insurance/All-Indiana Team. He helped Northrop go 20-5 overall and 14-0 in the Summit Athletic Conference while winning the IHSAA Class 4A Fort Wayne Carroll Sectional. Southpaw Schoenle was the 2017 Gatorade Indiana High School Baseball Player of the Year and an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North-South All-Star. The Cincinnati Reds selected him in the 30th round of the 2017 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, but Schoenle was offered the chance to pitch at the University of Cincinnati by then-Bearcats head coach Ty Neal and went the college route. By the time the hurler arrived on-campus Scott Googins had taken over as UC head coach with J.D. Heilman as pitching coach. “They gave me a platform to showcase my skills at the Division I level,” says Schoenle of Googins and Heilman. In four seasons (2018-21), Schoenle made 37 mound appearances (30 starts) and went 11-5 with two saves and 5.13 earned run average. In 152 2/3 innings, he produced 174 strikeouts and 98 walks. Making 15 starts in 2021, Schoenle posted a 6-3 mark with one complete game and a 4.18 ERA. He fanned 89 and walked 24 in 75 1/3 innings. He at the front of the weekend rotation as a senior. “I tried to step up and be a leader,” says Schoenle, who was American Athletic Conference member Cincinnati’s “Sunday” starter as a sophomore in the pre-COVID-19 season of 2019. As a freshman in 2018, Schoenle learned in January that he had a torn labrum. Wanting to avoid surgery at all costs, he rehabbed, got stronger and made his collegiate debut in April. In the summer of 2019, Schoenele was with the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Vermont Mountaineers (Montpelier, Vt.). He used the summer of 2020 to make himself better and to fine-tune. After the 2021 spring season, Schoenle played for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Niles, Ohio) in the new MLB Draft League. He signed this week with the Chicago White Sox as an undrafted free agent. “They way I perceived it (the MLB Draft League) had the same talent as Cape Cod, but with older draft-eligible guys,” says Schoenle, 23. “I came out of the pen and got a few starts before the draft and came home (to Fort Wayne) after that,” About 45 minutes after the draft concluded on July 13, White Sox area scout Phil Gulley called. Was Schoenle interested in going with Chicago’s American League team? “Of course,” says Schoenle, who is now at a mini-camp for draftees and signees in Birmingham, Ala. After that some will be sent to Glendale, Ariz., and assigned to a minor league affiliate and others will be kept in camp. The top four farm clubs in the White Sox system are the Low Class-A Kannapolis (N.C.) Cannon Ballers, High Class-A Winston-Salem (N.C.) Dash, Double-A Birmingham Barons and Triple-A Charlotte (N.C.) Knights. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Schoenle throws five pitches from a three-quarter overhand arm slot — four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, change-up and splitter. His four-seamer sits at 91 to 94 mph and was up to 96 in the spring. He describes the action of curveball to be somewhere between a curve and a slider. Schoenle tosses a “circle” change and the splitter — which drops — was added to his repertoire this past season. Born and raised in Fort Wayne, Schoenle played his first organized baseball at New Haven Baseball Association from age 4 to 12. His 12U to 14U seasons were spent with the traveling New Haven Bulldogs and his father — Jeff — was the coach. Jeff Schoenle was a shortstop while at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne. Garrett competed in the Midwest Big League at Saint Joe Little League from 15 to 18, even playing a few times as a lefty-throwing shortstop. “Being left-handed, that’s opened a lot of doors for me in my career,” says Schoenle, who throws and hits from the left side but punted a football with his right toe. “I’m also an ultra-competitor and that helped me to where I am.” As a teen, Schoenle went to morning football workouts and 7-on-7 camps and also honed his baseball skills. “I spent my time during the summer trying to be the best athlete I could,” says Schoenle. As a Northrop baseball player, Schoenle played for Bruins head coach Matt Brumbaugh and pitching coach Dan O’Reilly. “Brum is one of the most influential people in my baseball career,” says Schoenle. “There’s a lot of people to thank in my journey and he’s definitely one of them.” O’Reilly pitched at Iowa State University and then in pro ball. “Having some people who had been there is big when you have those dreams yourself,” says Schoenle. With an interest in education and coaching, Schoenle pursued a History degree at Cincinnati and graduated last semester. “I always want to get into teaching,” says Schoenle. “My dad’s a teacher (of Social Studies at Fort Wayne’s Jefferson Middle School). “I want to have an opportunity to teach and coach and spread my knowledge to youth one day.” Garrett is the oldest of Jeff and Parkview Mental Health counselor Kim Schoenle’s four children. Gavin Schoenle (21) is a student at Indiana University. He was on many of the same teams as Garrett and played one football season at Ohio Dominican University. Gradyn Schoenle (17) plays football and baseball and is heading into his junior year at Northrop. Gabbey Schoenle (13) runs cross country. She is going into the eighth grade Jefferson Middle School.
Austin Mannan has found his “why” and he pursues it on a daily basis as an educator and coach.
“I felt like I’ve had so many people pour their time and effort into me,” says Mannan, a special education teacher at Lane Middle School in Fort Wayne, Ind., and the head baseball coach at Fort Wayne North Side High School. “I have a duty to give that back to kids.
“I want to change somebody’s life. At the end of the day I don’t care what kind of baseball player you are, I want you to be a better person than when you got to me.
“I want them to look back and say he really cared about me. He really went the extra mile.”
Mannan has embraced his mindset and takes a cue from motivational speaker Eric Thomas, who asks “What’s Your Why?”
“Everybody has a reason to get out of bed everyday,” says Mannan. “You have to decide what that motivation is and what you can do to get there.
“(North Side) is an inner-city school. These kids have challenging backgrounds. We want to help them to be a better person.”
The Legends are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Columbia City, Fort Wayne South Side, Fort Wayne Wayne, Homestead and Huntington North. North Side is seeking its first sectional title.
Also the home of the Fort Wayne Baseball Federation‘s Jackers, Carrington Field underwent renovations that the Legends did not get to enjoy in 2020 with the prep season being wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s pretty nice,” says Mannan, who notes that many previous games at Carrington were wiped out when it rained.
Eight seniors were on the 2020 roster, including college recruits in left-handed pitcher Max Meisner (Huntington University), shortstop Cameron Woehnker (Grace College) and hurler Taegan Armey (Indiana Tech).
Mannan’s 2021 assistants are Jordan Young, Toni Georgi and Armey, who developed an arm injury that caused him to shut it down rather than play college ball.
North Side junior right-hander Nate Spurlock has been getting attention from college programs.
As a player, Mannan got to know the junior college baseball grind from two head coaches — Kevin Bowers at Lincoln Trail and Clark at Spoon River.
“As a JuCo Bandit you’re a grinder,” says Mannan. “You’re putting in the work and getting after it.
“The grind of being a junior college player is incredible. You become so tough playing at that level.”
A typical schedule began with conditioning at 5 a.m., followed by classes, practice, study table and more practice with it all winding up about 10 p.m. Then the same thing the next day.
To get in games against top early-season competition, the team would cram 10 players each in three vans and drive 14 hours to Texas. Meal money was capped at $5 a day.
Junior college baseball is full of potential professional players and they are all MLB First Year Player Draft-eligible.
Two of Mannan’s Lincoln Trail teammates — Damon Olds (Kansas City Royals out of Indiana State University) and Justin Watts (Toronto Blue Jays out of the University of Southern Indiana) — were drafted in 2017.
In Mannan’s LTC recruiting class, 10 of 13 went on to NCAA Division I programs. Two went to NCAA Division II.
After a year at Spoon River (2014-15), Mannan landed at NAIA Saint Francis for two years (2015-16 and 2016-17). Greg Roberts was the Cougars head coach and his successor, Dustin Butcher, was an assistant.
Mannan, who also played summer ball for the Danville (Va.) Marlins in 2015 and Laramie (Wyo.) Colts in 2016, was honorable mention all-Crossroads League in the spring of 2016.
At Saint Francis, Mannan earned a Secondary Education degree in 2018 and a Masters in Special Education in 2020.
It was by coming to Fort Wayne that Mannan met an Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne student from Crown Point, Ind., named Adalyn.
Austin and Adalyn Mannan were married in September 2020. She is a manager at Planet Fitness.
“We were supposed to go on our honeymoon during Christmas break,” says Mannan. Instead, the couple had a bout with COVID. Austin spent a week in the hospital. Except for occasional shortness of breath, he says that has recovered.
“We will play small ball and try to hit the ball gap-to-gap,” says Brumbaugh. “We run the bases. We hit-and-run. At the higher levels you hardly see it at all. We probably use it more than most teams.”
Brumbaugh will take a hitter that may be struggling at the plate and ask them to hit-and-run.
“They can go up there thinking about nothing but putting the bat on the ball,” says Brumbaugh.
A 1985 Northrop graduate who played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Chris Stavreti, Brumbaugh was the starting second baseman and lead-off hitter on the Bruins’ 1983 state championship team. He was first-team all-Summit Athletic Conference, first-team all-area and second-team all-state in 1984. He is among Northrop’s leaders in career (104) and single-season (46 in 1984) for base on balls.
“It was a great opportunity for me to play for a coach who really stressed fundamentals,” says Brumbaugh of Stavreti. “He was a fiery guy who wanted to get the best out of every player he coached.”
Brumbaugh appreciates that Stavreti allowed him to immerse himself in every aspect of coaching as a Bruins assistant.
“He helped me to develop my overall skills as a coach,” says Brumbaugh, who sports a career record is 160-79 with four SAC titles.
In 2016, Northrop earned a sectional championship and Brumbaugh was IHSBCA Regional Coach of the Year.
Northrop has played on its current field since 1982. Since 1999, it’s been known as Stavreti Field. A project was recently completed on Stravreti Clubhouse, a structure with concession stand, rest rooms and coaches office on the first floor and a 37-stall locker room and press box on the second level.=
The field does not have lights. The diamond is sometimes in the flight path of planes flying in or out of nearby Fort Wayne International Airport.
One of Brumbaugh’s Northrop teammates was Eric Wedge, who went on to play and manage in the majors and is now head coach at Wichita State University.
“When he was a player, he was such a hard-nosed, goal-driven person,” saysBrumbaugh. “He was a freshmen playing at the varsity level and had goals and ambitions beyond high school baseball.
“I’m really happy for him he’s back in the game at Wichita State, where he won a College World Series. It’s going to be a challenge. But he’s the kind of guy who can rise to challenge. You could see that coming from a young age.”
Brumbaugh and Wedge has stayed in-contact over the years and he has been known to visit Northrop players when he’s in Fort Wayne.
A 1990 graduate of Huntington (Ind.) College, Brumbaugh was a first-team all-Mid-Central Conference shortstop 1987-89 and first-team all-NAIA district shortstop in 1988 and 1989, playing for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Mike Frame.
After college, Brumbaugh played for Crumback-Symons, a five-time Indiana state champion in Stan Musial baseball. The 1996 team placed third at the National Amateur Baseball Federation World Series.
Brumbaugh was a Northrop assistant coach 1990-97. The 1997 Bruins were a Final Four team in the final year of single-class baseball in Indiana.
From 1998-2005, Brumbaugh was an assistant to Lance Hershberger at Indiana Tech. He was the three-time acting head coach at the NAIA World Series. The Warriors won the NAIA World Series in 1998.
Brumbaugh was Hershberger’s assistants at Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran High School 2007-10.
“He’s one of the best teachers of the game. He’s a stickler for details,” says Brumbaugh of Hershberger, who started the baseball program at Ivy Tech Community College in Fort Wayne. “He’s a master of all aspects of the game. He’s a tremendous coach. You can’t learn enough from him.
“He’s intense, but he gets his point across.”
Brumbaugh leads a Northrop coaching staff that features Gary Gatchell (who works with hitters), former big leaguer Dustan Mohr (outfielders, base runners and hitters), Jeremy Downs (infielders), Chad Kohli pitchers), Ben Kline (infielders) and Caleb Wynn (catchers) at the varsity level. Mason Neuman is the head junior varsity coach and is assisted by Trevor Snyder and Northrop graduate David Keating.
It’s a big staff, especially considering that Northrop usually has 25 to 30 players for its two squads.
“Only two are paid and the rest are volunteers,” says Brumbaugh. “They love the game and they love the program.”
Current senior Jackson Foote has committed to Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
Northrop (enrollment around 2,100) plays 14 SAC games against Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne Snider, Fort Wayne South Side and Fort Wayne Wayne.
Most are home-and-home series in the same week or doubleheaders with the teams trading last at-bats. One of the Northrop-Snider games is slated as part of the Parkview Sports Medicine Series at Parkview Field on April 21.
The Bruins are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Carroll, DeKalb, East Noble and Snider. Northrop has won 15 sectional titles — the last in 2016. Besides being state champions in 1983, the Bruins were state runners-up in 1981.
Over the years, St. Joe Little League and Wallen Baseball, which serve players up to age 14, have been a feeder system for Northrop though more and more players are going the travel baseball route.
Matt and Karen Brumbaugh have been married for 22 years and have two daughters at Indiana University – Jensen (20) and Kendall (18).
Matt Brumbaugh, a 1985 Fort Wayne (Ind.) Northrop High School graduate, enters his ninth season as the Bruins head baseball coach in 2020.
Entering his third season in charge of the Knights in 2020, Jeff Stanski is part of a legacy that started with his father, Ron Stanski, and also includes Gary Rogers and Larry Gerardot.
Ron Stanski played at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., and got the baseball program at Fort Wayne Central Catholic running smoothly and won a sectional title in 1970.
When CC closed and Luers opened, the elder Stanski was there to get the program started in 1973. He went on to serve as a baseball and football coach at Harding High School in Fort Wayne and was athletic director at Luers before retirement.
Rogers followed Ron Stanski, led the Knights for 32 years and is now head coach at Leo (Ind.) High School.
“They were into fundamentals, playing the right way and working hard,” says Jeff Stanski of his head coach predecessors.
Now in his mid-70s, Ron Stanski is part of son Jeff’s coaching staff.
“He is a great resource to fall back on,” says Jeff Stanski, who played baseball for Luers and graduated in 1992, got a degree from DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. in 1996, and is now teachers U.S. History, Economics and Leadership at his high school alma mater.
Jeff Stanski is also offensive coordinator for a Luers football program which features Kyle Lindsay as head coach. Previous football coaching stops include assistant gigs at Luers, Tri-State University (now Trine University) and Fort Wane Snider High School.
Stanski has five baseball assistants.
“I have a great staff around me,” says Stanski.
Besides his father and “right-hand man” Tim Birkmeier, there’s former professional pitcher Pedro Hernandez, Luers graduate and former Michigan State player Larry Young as well as Ray Pickard and Miles Martinez.
The Knights are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Angola, Dwenger, Concordia, Garrett, Leo and New Haven. Luers has won seven sectional crowns — the last in 2012. Luers reigned as 2008 Class 2A state champions.
Kevin Kiemaier, who roams center fielder for the Tampa Bay Rays, is a Luers graduate. Some current players go to alum and former big league pitcher Mike Roesler.
While they have not made any college commitments, Stanski says seniors Nick Birkmeier and Carter Pickard and junior Lukas North have drawn interest.
Luers is fed by several Catholic grade schools. Stanski says that while the school is diverse, many did come from one of those feeder schools.
Jeff and Sara Stanski have three children. Freshman Charlie Stanski is a Luers freshman who plays football and baseball. Daughter Sophie Stanski is an eighth grader who plays volleyball and basketball. First grader Sam Stanski plays baseball.
Jeff Stanski is the head baseball coach at Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne, Ind. (Bishop Luers Photo)
“We were struggling with injuries,” says first-year head coach Ryan Dellinger. “(Ace left-hander Xavier) Croxton had arm soreness most of the season and we shut him down then built him up the last couple weeks.
“Once we got healthy, we were in pretty good shape. We had to fill a lot of different positions and it took us forever to figure that out.”
But the Archers beat Huntington North 6-4 and Homestead 4-0 at Huntington University to win the program’s second straight sectional title and earned a spot in the IHSAA Class 4A Lafayette Jeff Regional at Loeb Stadium.
South Side takes on Hamilton Southeastern in the first game at 11 a.m. The HSE Royals are coached by Dellinger’s best friend, Jeremy Sassanella. The two played met and played together in the Fort Wayne men’s senior leagues.
Fort Wayne South Side (enrollment around 1,400) is a member of the Summit Athletic Conference (with Fort Wayne Carroll, Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne Snider, Fort Wayne Wayne and Homestead).
The Archers are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with North Side, Wayne, Homestead and Huntington North. South Side has won three sectional titles — 2012, 2018 and 2019.
Dellinger joined Sheldon Van Pelt’s South Side coaching staff for the 2018 season and the Archers won the Huntington North Sectional and lost to Carroll in the regional semifinals.
This season, Van Pelt is an assistant to Dellinger and 32 players were kept after tryouts to fill varsity and junior varsity squads. The South Side staff also features Will Coursen-Carr, who was 2012’s Indiana Mr. Baseball and the Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year while playing for the Archers and went on to pitch at Indiana University.
Dellinger credits Coursen-Carr for his role in helping South Side pitchers.
“He gets them to throw strikes,” says Dellinger. “He can relate well to the kids since he’s so young.”
Besides senior Croxton (a University of Saint Francis commit), the Archers are armed with senior right-hander Elias Perez (the winning pitcher vs. Homestead), junior right-hander Blaine McCrae and freshman left-hander Logan Weber.
The catalyst for South Side’s offense is senior shortstop and lead-off hitter Cole Hapner (an Ivy Tech Northeast commit).
The Archers play their home games at Bill Derbyshire Field, located at the old Elmhurst High School. Van Pelt got the idle facility back in playing condition during his time as head coach.
A 1990 Concordia graduate, Dellinger played two years of baseball and then basketball for the Cadets.
Dellinger came to South Side from the world of travel baseball and he still coaches it in the summer. He was with the Strike Zone Spiders and AWP (Athletes With Purpose) and now the independent Summit City Spiders 15U team.
Ryan and Josie Dellinger have a daughter (Calah) and three sons (Addison, Zenden and Simon). Father and son got to compete against each other when South Side took on Snider, where Simon Dellinger is on the baseball team. A talented football player, he scheduled to play tight end next fall at West Point.
Fort Wayne (Ind.) South Side High School baseball coaches Ryan Dellinger, Sheldon Van Pelt and Will Coursen-Carr celebrate with the 2019 IHSAA Huntington North Sectional trophy.
The Fort Wayne (Ind.) South Side High School Archers won their second straight Huntington North Sectional baseball tournament and qualified for the Lafayette Jeff Regional.