Tag Archives: Teacher

NAIA RBI leader Bass, Taylor University heading into postseason play

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

T.J. Bass came out of the gate producing at the plate in 2022.
The righty swinger in his fourth baseball season at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., knocked in two run in the Trojans’ campaign-opening win against Kansas Wesleyan in Mesa, Ariz.
Heading into the Crossroads League tournament which begins May 7 at Taylor (note the change because of rain), Bass leads all of NAIA in runs batted in with 84.
Besides that, he’s hitting .382 (71-of-186) with 19 home runs, 14 doubles, 51 runs scored and a 1.254 OPS (.491 on-base percentage plus .763 slugging average).
“I need to start by giving credit to the guys batting before me,” says Bass of his big RBI total. “It seems like I come up with two or three guys on every time.”
Bass, who looks to be aggressive and barrel the ball up on the first good pitch he sees per at-bat, has been used by Trojans head coach Kyle Gould primarily in the No. 3 spot in the batting order with a few games in the 2-hole. He’s often found senior Nick Rusche (.337 with 63 hits) and freshman Kaleb Kolpein (.403 with 77 hits) — and for awhile — sophomore Camden Knepp (.282 with 44 hits)— reaching base before him. Rusche prepped at New Palestine (Ind.) High School, Kolpein at Homestead (Fort Wayne) and Knepp at Northridge (Middelbury).
“The back half the lineup has also been pretty good,” says Bass, a 2018 graduate of Greenwood (Ind,) Community.
Of his 19 homers, Bass has clouted three grand slams (vs. Reinhardt in Waleska, Ga., vs. Olivet Nazarene in Athens, Tenn., and vs. Indiana Wesleyan in Upland), four three-run bombs, seven two-run dingers and five solo shots. The enjoyed two-homer games against Reinhardt and Mount Vernon Nazarene.
Bass belted 14 circuit clouts in Crossroads League regular-season play.
Taylor (36-16) is the No. 2 seed in the eight-team Crossroads League tournament. Regular-season champion Mount Vernon Nazarene is No. 1.
The turf at Winterholter Field will also be the site of an NAIA Opening Round May 16-19.
“It’s incredible,” says Bass of playing at the facility located in the heart of the TU campus that was resurfaced after the 2021 season. “Coach Gould takes huge pride in how the field looks and it’s awesome to see so many fans come out.”
Bass has started in all 52 of the Trojans’ games in 2022, mostly in center field or right field. But he’s also been used as a catcher and first baseman. During his college career, he’s played everywhere but the middle infield and on the mound.
“It’s wherever the team needs me most based on who’s healthy if we need an offensive day or a defensive day,” says Bass. “Coach Gould does a good job of looking at Synergy in scouting teams.”
Taylor players watch videos of opposing hitters and pitchers to study their strengths weaknesses.
At 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, Bass has gotten physically stronger and faster since arriving on-campus thanks to off-season programs led by assistant coach Justin Barber as well as Gould.
When Bass arrived at Taylor in 2018-19, Josh Lane and Wyatt Whitman were seniors.
“They they were both huge role models taking a freshman and hour and a half from home under their wings,” says Bass. “They took the strain off.”
Bass was asked how they could help and if they could pray for him.
When Whitman moved on and acted jersey No. 11, Bass took it.
It was also during his first year at Taylor that Bass was undecided on a major. He landed on Elementary Education.
A camp counselor at a community recreation center since his junior year of high school and the son of high school teacher (Andy Bass) and pre-kindergarten teacher (Jenni Bass) with other educators on both sides of the family, T.J. sees that as a natural career path.
“I’ve been around teaching my whole life,” says Bass. “I really love to be able to work with kids and I like getting to know them and finding their interests.
“It didn’t feel like I would do as well with secondary (students). God was calling me to work with elementary.”
Andy Bass teaches Algebra II and Geometry at Greenwood Community, where he has been head baseball coach since 1998. Jenni Bass ran her own daycare for more than a decade and now works at Waverly Elementary School in the Mooresville corporation.
Timothy James Bass, 22, is the oldest of Andy and Jenni’s four kids. Sam Bass is two years younger than T.J. and living and working in Fort Wayne. Mary Bass is a Greenwood Community freshman. Claire Bass is a sixth grader in the Mooresville system.
T.J. was born and raised in Greenwood and played Little League baseball there. Around fifth grade, he played with the traveling Johnson County Jaguars. The summers following his freshman and sophomore years were spent with the Indiana Bulls. The next summer he played for the Indiana Nitro then was with Demand Command right before and right after his freshman year at Taylor.
Bass did not play during the COVID-19 summer of 2020. In 2021, he split his time between the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators and the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
With an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic, Bass plans to come back for a fifth season at Taylor in 2023. He expects to do his student teaching this fall.

T.J. Bass (Taylor University Photo)
T.J. Bass (Taylor University Photo)

T.J. Bass (Taylor University Photo)
T.J. Bass (Taylor University Photo)

Numbers important to Bloomington North’s Hurt in classroom, on diamond

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Richard Hurt teaches math in the classroom and baseball on the field.
At Bloomington (Ind.) High School North, Hurt leads second-Algebra students. He has taught the Indiana University Finite Math class for about 15 years.
“I’m not the kind of teacher that there’s only one way to do things,” says Hurt. “The kids I’ve had in class kind of make fun of me because I say, ‘how do you get from Bloomington North to the mall on the east side? Is there only one road that gets you there? No. There’s all sorts of roads.’ But you’ve got to show me your work. You’ve got to show me how you’re going.
“There’s all sorts of ways to solve math problems. But you need to show your work. You’ve got to prove what you’re doing. There’s that logical step-by-step approach to mathematics. I like that.
“Everybody talks about the book in baseball. I haven’t seen it yet. But there are certain things you tend to do in certain situations. If you can find a better way to do it, absolutely. If it works, that’s right. Baseball is a numbers game. I like dealing with numbers.”
Hurt was one of the first in his area to adopt arm band signals when went to them almost a decade ago.
“It opens up a lot more things because everything is on paper,” says Hurt of the numbers-based shorthand system. “It allows you to do more things with your signals.”
A 1977 graduate of Bloomington High School South, Hurt was double major in economics and mathematics at IU and earned a baseball letter for the Bob Lawrence-coached Hoosiers in 1980.
Hurt was an assistant baseball coach at both South and North and was head coach at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis for three seasons (1986-88). He led Bloomington North 1989-2002, stepped away for six years and came back to the Cougars as head coach in 2009. He has compiled close to 500 victories.
“I don’t live on wins and losses,” says Hurt. “They’re still important. You keep score.
“At the same time it’s working with kids trying to get them better. You see how they progress.”
Hurt has taught his player how to care for and maintain a field (that has changed a little since Bloomington North went to a turf diamond in 2021) and believes in the importance of fundamentals.
“My dad was very much that way,” says Hurt.
Warren Hurt, a graduate of Winslow High School (part of the Pike Central consolidation), played basketball with all-stater and future member of Branch McCracken’s Hurryin’ Hoosiers, Dick Farley. Hurt was a teacher and high school basketball coach (he guided Smithville High School for a time and later taught at Bloomington South) and also led youth baseball teams.
The same lessons that his father taught Richard were also absorbed by brother Mark Hurt who exhibits those traits as head girls basketball coach at Mooresville (Ind.) High School.
Hurt’s coaching has changed over the years. He saw the running at the end of practice was not vital and he no longer does that with his teams.
“Do we condition?,” says Hurt. “Yeah. Whenever we go from drill to drill, you better run. But that fits into baseball. You hit the ball. You run 90 feet. If you’re out you back to the dugout and rest for 10 or 15 minutes.
“You may get a double. You take a short break there.”
Not that running is completely out of the equation.
Recently, the Cougars had been striking out too much of Hurt’s liking so he came up with the “30 to 350” batting practice drill.
“I’m 30 feet away,” says Hurt. “I’m throwing the ball as hard as my 63-year-old arm will allow me which is probably about average for high school
“They have two strikes and if you strike out, you got to go to the 350 sign and back. The whole team does. You’ve got to dig in. You’ve got to battle. If you foul it off or put it in-play you’re good.”
Hurt has also noticed a change in his players on the artificial surface.
“Your fielders are much more confident now,” says Hurt. “They stay down on the ball and get true hops.”
Bloomington North (enrollment around 1,600) is a member of the Conference Indiana (with Bloomington South, Columbus North, Southport, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo).
There are five conference games.
The Cougars are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Bloomington South (2022 host), Columbus East, Columbus North, East Central and Shelbyville. Bloomington North has won 17 sectional titles — the last in 2013.
Several of Hurt’s players have gone on to college and pro baseball. Will Klein (Class of 2017) is a pitcher in the Kansas City Royals organization. Gant Elmore (Class of 2007) was a second baseman in the Milwaukee Brewers system. Sam Klein (Class of 2020) is the closer at Ball State University.
Hurt’s assistants are Erik Pearson, Clay Keltner, Dr. Terry Greene, Drake Smith (JV head coach), A.J. Willis (JV assistant), Gary Stratten (freshmen head coach) and Eizlee Nixon (freshmen assistant). Pearson, Willis and Nixon played for Hurt.
The Cougars have about three dozen players for varsity, junior varsity and freshman/C-team squads.
Two of Hurt’s sons — Jim (Class of 2009) and Tyler (Class of 2012) — played for him at Bloomington North. Jim Hurt played baseball at the University of Dayton and Tyler Hurt at Cedarville (Ohio) University. Hurt’s stepson is Abe Carney.
Richard and Cinder Hurt have been married since 1988. She is a dental hygienist and a Bloomington native.

Richard Hurt (Steve Krah Photo)

New Snider head coach Clinkenbeard sees diamond as a place to learn about more than baseball

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

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 Carroll, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne South Side, Fort Wayne Wayne and Homestead).
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.

Fort Wayne Snider High School coaches gather around the 2017 IHSAA Class 4A DeKalb Sectional championship trophy. They are (from left): First row — Payton Bieker, Marc Skelton and Tim McCrady; Second row — Rob Hale, Bruce Meyer, Josh Clinkenbeard and Bruce Dohrn.

Enright emphasizes mental approach with Wheeler Bearcats

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jeff Enright sees baseball as more than just physical. There’s what goes on between the ears, too.
“Baseball is kind of a unique sport,” says Enright, the head coach at Wheeler (Ind.) High School since the summer of 2019. “There’s so much thought that goes into every position and every pitch.
“There’s the mental approach and how to overcome short-term adversity.”
Players will face a bad call by the umpire or have a sure hit robbed by a great catch, but they must move forward or it becomes a negative.
“That’s what I enjoy most about coaching baseball,” says Enright. “You try to put them in healthy stressful situations as much as you can during the off-season.
“You make them uncomfortable and failing and then you build them back up.”
Enright equates mental training with mental health.
“These kids are 14 to 18,” says Enright. “They are still growing emotionally. Their highs are too high and lows too low.”
The coach goes for even-keel.
“We say you’re never as bad or as good as you think you are,” says Enright. “We talk about it all the time.”
For every four practices on the baseball field, the Bearcats are in the class room going over the last few practices or games. Enright likes to do this debriefing on a rainy day.
Wheeling won the program’s sixth sectional title in 2021.
While right-handed pitcher Rex Stills (9-1, 1.37 earned run average, 100 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings) and infielder Sean Conroy have moved on — Stills to Purdue Fort Wayne and Conroy to Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, Calif.
Returnees for 2022 include senior outfielder Nehemiah Parrish, senior catcher/outfielder Dylan Passauer, senior corner infielder/right-hander Kole Hutcheson, junior shortstop Kris Kingery, junior right-hander/outifleder Mason Leckrone, sophomore utility man Mark Johnson, sophomore right-hander Lucas McNamara and sophomore third baseman/designated hitter Jackson Smith.
Parrish, who plans to enter the U.S. Marines after graduation, hit .414 with 30 runs batted in and 17 stolen bases in 2021.
Passauer has committed to the University of Northwestern Ohio.
Kingery is expected to be the Bearcats’ lead-off hitter.
Leckrone and Hutcheson are likely the team’s top two starting pitchers.
Johnson (.317, 13 RBI) and Smith (.355, 19 RBI) are coming off solid offensive seasons.
Of the 21 players in the program, most are juniors and sophomores.
“For a (Class) 2A school we’re pretty deep this year,” says Enright.
Wheeler (enrollment around 450) is a member of the Greater South Shore Conference (with baseball members Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Hammond Bishop Noll, Hanover Central, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison, River Forest and Whiting).
With the addition of Illiana Christian, the conference is broken into divisions with teams playing two games with their division and one against squads in the other division. Wheeler is paired with Calumet New Tech, Lake Station Edision, River Forest and Whiting.
The Bearcats do not have a conference JV schedule but has scheduled JV games on days when the varsity does not play.
“I want to get the young guys some reps,” says Enright.
Wheeler is part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Bowman Academy, Hammond Bishop Noll, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison and Whiting (host).
Enright’s varsity assistant is Joe Kennedy, who was a player for Enright at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago. Enright was an assistant for the 2013 Class 4A Illinois state champions.
JV coaches are Union Township Middle School teacher Sean Cunningham and Alex Hutman (Wheeler Class of 2021).
Wheeler is due to get new baseball and softball fields with turf. First up is the turfing of the football field. The diamonds will be located on the other end of the property from their current locations.
“It may not be pure baseball in the traditional sense, but as soon as it stops raining you can play,” says Enright of playing on turf. “In our area of the country it’s tough to get a baseball season in in the spring.”
Wheeler is small incorporated Valparaiso community. The feeder system for the baseball program include Union Township Little League (T-ball through Senior League for middle schoolers).
Enright estimates that around 75 percent of players are with travel organizations, including Triple Crown Valparaiso, 5 Star Great Lakes Chiefs and Cangelosi Sparks (Lockport, Ill.). Some also play American Legion ball for Post 502 Blaze coached by Bob Wineland.
An alum of Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Ill. (1995), Enright with a double major in History and Political Science from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 1999. He went to Chicago-Kent College of Law and practiced product liability law at Schiff Hardin LLC in Chicago.
It was while clerking for a judge during law school that he got the idea that he might one day want to go into education. He teaches History and U.S. Government at Wheeler.
Before landing with the Bearcats, Enright was head coach at Calumet Tech. The 11 years prior to that was spent at Mount Carmel. He moved up from freshmen coach to sophomore coach and varsity assistant while working with Caravan head coach Brian Hurry.
“I learned most about coaching from him,” says Enright of Hurry. “The biggest thing was how to have a personal relationship with each kid to try to maximize their potential.”
A member of the Chicago Catholic League, Mount Carmel players are recruited while in middle school.
“We get to know them in sixth and seventh grade as you’re trying to entice them to come to your school,” says Enright. “You hope you know how they tick.”
During his time at Mount Carmel, the baseball community rallied over a series of tragedies. Complications of a heart defect took Steven “Stevie” M. Bajenski in 2009 (the first Steven M. Bajenski Memorial Baseball Tournament was played in 2012). The Caravan also lost a coach to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and another player passed on July 4.
“It brought everybody closer together,” says Enright. “Everybody was reeling.”
Jeff and wife Kerry have three children in the Union Township School Corporation — junior Emily (16), eighth grader Sarah (14) and sixth grader Jack (11).

Jeff Enright

Caston establishing system in first year of Hammond Central Wolves

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Hammond (Ind.) Central High School’s first baseball season in 2022 will come under the leadership of head coach Michael Caston.
The 1998 Hammond High graduate has set a path for the Wolves.
“We have a philosophy we’re going to follow,” says Caston. “You have to learn and buy into the philosophy to be successful.”
Caston, who was head coach at Hammond Gavit following stints as a Calumet College of St. Joseph assistant and assistant then head coach at Chicago State University, breaks his philosophy into offense, defense, pitching and base running.
“Early in the count we’re looking to drive fastballs in the strike zone,” says Caston of his hitting theory. “I believe in ‘back spin’ baseball.’ The ball travels father and we hit it into the gaps.
“We want to get front foot down early to create base. As the front foot gets down, you load your hands and transfer your weight to explode on the ball. We keep the barrel of the bat up and take the shortest path to the ball. That creates your launch angle.”
Knowing that there is a 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) in high school, Caston expects an attack mentality.
“If you have a good fastball, throw fastballs early in the county,” says Caston. “We we’re not going to waste any pitches. Why throw curveballs when nobody has hit your fastball yet?
“We like to pound the zone with fastballs early.”
With a dozen juniors and seniors and a mix of right-handers and left-handers in a group of 26 players (varsity and junior varsity), Caston expects them to carry the load for the Wolves and that includes on the mound.
“Defensively, it’s very simple,” says Caston. “If you can catch it and throw it, you’re going to be very successful.”
He has been teaching his players backhand and glove-side techniques as well as situational defense.
He wants his defenders to know what to do with the ball when it’s put in-play and practice reflects that.
“In the game it becomes natural to them,” says Caston. “In our system everyone knows they have a job on every play.”
Caston wants his Wolves to play a “very exciting brand of baseball” and that includes aggressiveness on the base paths.
“I like to advance runners various ways,” says Caston. “We don’t move runners by bunting. I pride myself in having players reading balls in the dirt before they even hit the dirt. We like to utilize fake bunt-and-steal.
“We’re very aggressive on the base paths on hits to the outfield. We want to force the (opposing defense) to make a clean play.”
Caston has been pleased at his player’s eagerness to learn.
“It’s a total change for most of the kids I’m coaching,” says Caston. “They’re amazed at all the new things they’ve been learning. They’ve learned to change their old habits to the new philosophy.
“They’re catching on pretty quickly.”
Hammond Central assistant coaches are Albert Carpen and Erick Chavarria at the varsity level and Michael Korba with the JV. All three are graduates of Hammond Clark High School. Carpen played for Caston at Chicago State and Chavarria at MacMurray College. Carpen was among the top hitters in NCAA Division I in 2012 when he posted an average of .426 and on-base percentage of .522.
Hammond High was razed to make way for the new Hammond Central and Clark was also closed, leaving the School City of Hammond with two high schools — Central and Morton.
In 2022, Hammond Central will play baseball home games at Gavit. A new field is planned on the Central campus.
Hammond Central’s first college baseball commit is Anthony Huber to Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, Ill.
Most Hammond Gavit players landed at Morton. Among those getting collegiate looks is Ryan Peppers.
The feeder system includes Lakeshore Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth, Hammond Optimist Youth Sports and Hessville Little League plus various travel ball organizations.
Hammond Central (enrollment around 1,950) is a member of the Great Lakes Athletic Conference (with East Chicago Central, Gary West Side and Hammond Morton).
Each GLAC team meets twice.
The Wolves are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with East Chicago Central, Hammond Morton, Highland (2022 host), Lake Central, Merrillville and Munster.
Among opponents not in the GLAC or sectional are Bowman Academy, Calumet Christian, Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Hammond Academy of Science & Technology, Hammond Bishop Noll, River Forest and Whiting.
Caston, a middle infielder growing up, played three seasons for George Malis and his senior year for Greg O’Donnell at Hammond High. He was a pitcher at Valparaiso (Ind.) University for head coach Paul Twenge.
“I was a young kid on a veteran team,” says Caston of his freshmen season at Hammond. “Coach Malis said ‘go out there and do your thing and focus on hitting the ball up the middle.’ I took those words to hear and executed what he told me.”
In his first year of college, famed pitching coach Tom House came in for a week and Caston adopted some of House’s ideas about mechanics.
Caston teaches Integrated Chemistry and Physics in his first year at Morton. He taught at Gavit for four.
Michael has been married to Tina Caston for five years and has three stepsons — Nathan (20), William (13) and Lukas (12). William plays football and baseball, Lukas soccer and baseball.

Michael Caston.

‘Name on the front’ important to Winkelseth, Decatur Central Hawks

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

One of the pillars of baseball at Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis involves selflessness.
Hawks head coach Sean Winkelseth wants his young men to concern themselves more with the needs of others than themselves.
As the 2022 season approaches, Decatur Central players have already contributed nearly 200 hours of community service.
They’ve helped clean up the grounds at Decatur Central Little League (where Winkelseth and junior varsity coaches Jim Bushee and Todd Conn are on the board), worked at elementary school carnivals and more.
“There’s been a lot of volunteer efforts,” says Winkelseth, who was a Hawks assistant for one season prior to taking over the program in 2019-20. “We’re trying to be seen in the community as a positive.”
In playing as a catcher/utility infielder for Ryan Kelley at Wayne State University in Detroit Winkelseth was exposed to this mentality and the 2017 WSU graduate has adopted it.
“(Coach Kelley) is by far my biggest mentor for coaching,” says Winkelseth. “He just really instilled the importance of playing for the name on the front of the jersey. The team is is more important than an individual.”
Winkelseth says Kelley is focused on making leaders who became successful as husbands and father.
“He cared for us more than on the baseball field,” says Winkelseth, whose wife Madison went from Avon, Ind., to play volleyball at Wayne State and is now a speech language pathologist at Central Elementary School in the Beech Grove school district. The Winkelseths wed in August 2018.
Sean Winkelseth is a fifth grade teacher at Valley Mills Elementary School in Decatur Township.
A 2012 graduate of Ypisilanti (Mich.) High School, Winkelseth played his last three prep seasons for Chris Dessellier.
He admires the Grizzlies head coach for building relationships with players.
“He was getting to know guys and investing time,” says Winkelseth. “I still talk with him today.”
Winkelseth also coached for the Michigan Bulls travel organization the summers before and after his final season at Wayne State.
Decatur Central (enrollment around 1,800) is a member of the Mid-State Conference (with Franklin Community, Greenwood Community, Martinsville, Mooresville, Perry Meridian, Plainfield and Whiteland).
The 14 MSC games are played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays as a home-and-home series.
In 2021, the Hawks were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Avon, Brownsburg, Plainfield (host), Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo. Decatur Central has won 16 sectional crowns — the last in 2019.
The Hawks play home games at Phil Webster Baseball Complex, named for the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer. Phil Webster is now back as an assistant at Pike with son Todd after a stint as Southport head coach.
Recent field upgrades at Decatur Central have been made the the bases, home plate area and infield skin.
Winkelseth’s varsity coaching staff in 2022 includes Alan Curry, Brandon Curry, Nick Jenkins and Noah Klick. Pitching coach Alan Curry is a longtime DC assistant. Brandon is Alan’s son. Jenkins is director of Armstrong Pavilion, Decatur Township’s health and fitness center. DCHS teacher and volunteer Klick played at Tiffin (Ohio) University.
Besides Decatur Central Little League (T-ball to age 12), the high school’s feeder system includes seventh grade and eighth grade teams at Decatur Central Middle School.
While current players are contemplating offers, Decatur Central has sent several recent graduates on to college baseball, including 2017 graduate Bradley Brehmer (Indiana University), 2018 grads/twins Alex Mitchell (Indiana Tech) and Austin Mitchell (Indiana Tech), 2020 alums Timmy Casteel (Manchester) and Brayden Hazelwood (Indiana University Southeast) and the Class of 2021’s Nico Avila (Marian University’s Ancilla College) and Bryce Woodruff (Marian University’s Ancilla College). Avila was an all-Marion County catcher in 2021.

Sean Winkelseth.
Decatur Central High School players do community service by cleaning up at Decatur Central Little League in Indianapolis.

Kutch, North Central Thunderbirds enjoy competition

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Joe Kutch has long taken a leadership role in youth sports in and around Sullivan County, Ind.
Kutch (pronounced Kootch) is entering his eighth season as head baseball coach at North Central Junior/Senior High School in Farmersburg.
He was junior high coach for about five years before taking over the varsity Thunderbirds.
After years as an assistant, Kutch became North Central’s head football coach midway through the 2021 season. The Thunderbirds won their two sectional football titles with Kutch on the staff — 2018 as defensive coordinator and 2021 as head coach/offensive coordinator.
COVID-19 hit Kutch the first week of September and he was in the Intensive Care Unit for nine days and missed three football games. He is still on oxygen. But he still coaches, teaches Automotive classes at North Central (through a co-op with Ivy Tech in Terre Haute) and works for Sullivan Auto Group.
The Nashville (Tenn.) Auto-Diesel College graduate got his teacher’s license through Ball State University and began teaching eight years ago.
Kutch is an alum of Terre Haute North Vigo High School (Class of 1988). While still in high school he started organizing non-high school athletics.
As an adult, Kutch once ran the Northeast Youth League, Tri-Towers Softball League (which once had 500 players and was a pilot site for Major League Baseball’s Pitch, Hit & Run contest) and is still on the board of the Southwest Youth Football League (formerly Quad County).
Joe and Dianna Kutch have been married 28 years and have two sons — Austin Kutch (North Central Class of 2014) and Brayden Kutch (Class of 2017). Both played football and baseball for the Thunderbirds and graduated from college (Austin from Indiana State University and Brayden from Indiana University).
North Central (enrollment around 260) is a member of the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eastern Greene, Linton-Stockton, North Daviess, Shakamak and White River Valley) for baseball and basketball.
Eastern Greene and Linton-Stockton have been IHSAA Class 2A schools on the diamond. Shakamak was a 1A state runner-up in 2021.
“I like the competition,” says Kutch, 52. “We take our sports serious. We compete every year in every sport.”
In 2021, the Thunderbirds were part of a Class 1A sectional grouping with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eminence, Shakamak and White River Valley (the 2021 host). North Central has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2011.
During the IHSAA Limited Contact Period, North Central has 26 athletes who have indicated that they plan to play baseball in the spring.
“Most of my key players are playing basketball, like six of the starting nine,” says Kutch. “(Our numbers) will will drop when we get to mandatory practice (March 14).”
Kutch, pitching coach Andy Fuson and hitting coach Brian Raber make up the current Thunderbirds staff. A few volunteers when official preseason practice begins.
The Thunderbirds play home games on-campus. A ball over the right field fence could reach U.S. 41.
A few years ago, infield dirt was upgraded. The facility has a grass infield with brick dust running lanes. About a decade, a brick press box was installed.
The high school shares the field with the independent junior high program.
“You need junior high baseball,” says Kutch. “You need a feeder system to keep your program going.”
Connor Strain, a 2012 North Central graduate, pitched at the University of Evansville and in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system.

North Central Thunderbirds.
Head coach Joe Kutch (left) and the North Central Thunderbirds.
Joe and Dianna Kutch.
Joe Kutch (foreground) with wife Dianna and sons Austin and Brayden.

Nelson returns to his roots with Portage Indians

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Doug Nelson came home to teach and coach.
Following a stint at Kankakee Valley High School in Wheatland, Ind., Nelson is now teaching health and coaching freshmen boys basketball and is the new head baseball coach at Portage (Ind.) High School. He graduated from the school in 1992.
“I enjoyed Kankakee Valley,” says Nelson, who was making the 45-minute commute from Portage to KV. “Great people. Very good facilities. They’re growing.
“This is just home to me.”
Nelson played baseball at Portage for Tom Levandoski, who died Aug. 26, 2021.
“That touched home with me,” says Nelson. “He meant a lot to me.”
Nelson took the basketball job first when good friend Bryon Clouse was hired as Indians head coach in that sport.
The baseball opportunity came later and Nelson took it for a chance to coach with son Nathan Ramian. The 2011 Portage graduate played four years of baseball for the Indians and is now Web Coordinator for Portage Township Schools. He will coach varsity infielders.
Other Nelson assistants include varsity pitching coach John Selman, junior varsity head coach Mike Bruner, JV assistant Dallas Milligan, freshman head coach Derek Logsdon and freshman assistants Bryan Bernacki and Tommy Mosley.
Selman was on the previous Portage staff. Bruner is a Portage and Purdue Northwest grad.
Milligan went to Chesterton. He has a journalism degree with an emphasis in sports broadcasting from the University of Kansas. He has worked for the Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs, ESPN and Fox Sports. He is a radio and video production teacher at the Porter Career Center while working toward a masters in communication at Purdue Northwest.
Logsdon brings four decades of experience in coaching youth baseball in northwest Indiana. He graduated from Hobart High School and played football at Franklin College.
Bernacki teaches Business at Portage and is schooled in analytics.
Mosley finished his college playing career at Calumet College of Saint Joseph in Whiting, Ind.
Doug is married to Ann Marie and has a younger son named Kale Nelson, who is a senior at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.
Nelson, who has a career diamond record of 166-91, was able to work with the Indians on the diamond during the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period.
“I got to meet some of the guys and see them throw and hit,” says Nelson. “We had good numbers (35 to 40 at each session).”
And that’s not including athletes in fall sports.
When strength training sessions before school began, participation was also high.
“Quite a few of them have committed themselves to what we’re trying to do in the weight room — not just for baseball but for health reasons,” says Nelson. “This winter has been great (with 40 to 45 players per practice) and we’re beginning in the (batting) cage.
“Guys in college have come back to talk to guys about hitting or life after high school. Being a Portage grad myself, it’s gratifying to see that.”
Alums who went on to college baseball in recent years include Scottie Hansen at South Suburban College in South Holland, Ill., Danny Puplava at Kankakee (Ill.) Community College and Xavier Rivas at the University of Indianapolis.
Josh Ortiz (Class of 2022) recently committed to Purdue Northwest.
“We’re relatively young with a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” says Nelson.
Portage (enrollment around 2,400) is a member of the Duneland Athletic Conference (with Chesterton, Crown Point, Lake Central, LaPorte, Merrillville, Michigan City and Valparaiso).
DAC games are played as home-and-home series on back-to-back days — mostly Tuesday and Wednesday.
In 2021, the Indians were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Andrean, Chesterton, Crown Point, Hobart, Lowell and Valparaiso. Portage has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2013.
To re-establish a feeder system, Nelson plans to meet with leadership in Portage Township to establish a program.
“We’re going to make it happen,” says Nelson. “There’s too many people not playing in the summer.
“We’re going to get that corrected.”
Plans also call for a middle school program to play games in the fall. While there is no middle school baseball in the DAC, Porter County Conference schools do have it and are likely Portage opponents.
“We’re in a time where you have to recruit your kids to stay at your own school,” says Nelson. “We have to do a better job of keeping them here in Portage. That starts with middle school baseball.”
The program will allow players to get onto the bigger diamond and use drop-three bats while playing on the same team with other Portage students.
“We can show the parents that we care of (their child’s) development and well-being.”

Ann Marie and Doug Nelson.
Kale Nelson (left), Nathan Ramian and Doug Nelson.

Hisner gets to see baseball from umpires’ view and more

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Randy Hisner has viewed baseball from four angles — player, coach, umpire and reporter.
A 1976 graduate of Heritage Junior/High School in Monroeville, Ind., Hisner played for the Patriots and was a freshman when current Heritage head coach Dean Lehrman was a senior. They were later men’s league baseball teammates.
Hisner, 64, spent the first four years of his career as an English teacher at Monroe Central Junior/High School in Parker City, Ind., then taught at Bellmont High School and Bellmont Middle School 1984-2018.
He has been the Braves head boys cross country coach for 37 years and led the Bellmont baseball program for two seasons — winning 19 games in both 2009 and 2010. While at Monroe Central, he was a baseball assistant for three years and head coach for one.
Hisner started umpiring in the summer around 2008. After his prep coaching stint, he got his high school license. He has called games from youth league to college and 30-and-over leagues.
Many of his college games are in the NAIA-affiliated River States Conference, which has baseball-playing members in Indiana (Indiana University Kokomo, Indiana University Southeast and Oakland City University), Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Semi-retired, Hisner plans to coach middle school track in the spring — cutting back his umpiring schedule during that season — and will continue to take sports assignments for the Decatur Daily Democrat.
Randy and wife Cheryl, who is part-time Title I elementary teacher, have four sons who all graduated from Bellmont — Erik (Class of 2001), Ryan (2002), Shane (2007) and Gavin (2009). All umpired as a summer job in high school.
Erik Hisner is athletic director and head baseball coach at Eastern High School in Greentown, Ind. He coached at Whitko for a decade and was the North head coach Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in 2017.
Ryan Hisner and Gavin Hisner are both teachers in Adams Central Community Schools in Monroe, Ind. — Ryan Title I at the middle school and Gavin English at the high school. Gavin also does some umpiring.
Shane Hisner used to teach English overseas and now does so online.
Harley Parnell Hisner, Randy’s father and a graduate of Hoagland (Ind.) High School, pitched in the Boston Red Sox system. In his only big league appearance, he started the final game of 1951 season against the New York Yankees. Two of the three strikeouts for Hisner came in that Sept. 30 contest came against rookie Mickey Mantle. He also yielded Joe DiMaggio’s last major league hit.
When Randy Hisner stepped away from coaching baseball, he saw umpiring as a way to stay connected to the game.
“As umpires, we get paid to know the rules,” says Hisner. “A lot of coaches think they do.
“I re-read the high school and college rule books every year. You really have to be on top of that.”
Umpires must also be ready when they see a situation that rarely comes up.
For instance, the time Randy was working a college game together a few years ago. As the base umpire, he was positioned in front of the shortstop with a runner at second base.
The next thing Hisner knew the runner, third baseman and batted ball all converged near the third base bag.
The runner was attempting to steal and made his slide into the third baseman at the same time the ball arrived. The ball dribbled away.
“In all the years I’d played and coached I’d never seen anything like that,” says Hisner. “I called interference on the runner. The runner did not give the fielder a chance to field the ball.
“If the fielder had fielded the ball and then the guy had hit him and knocked it loose that would’ve been different.”
In a travel tournament a few summers back, Randy and Gavin were working the game and the hitter sent a long drive to left-center field.
The center fielder made a great back-hand running catch, took four or five steps and ran into the fence and dropped the ball over the barrier.
“We called a home run,” says Hisner. “We had a long discussion with the defensive coach.
“The rule is that the momentum of the play has to stop and has release has to be voluntary and intentional.”
Hisner says there’s sure to be an argument when it comes down to hit-by-pitch and calling it differs between high school and college.
“In high school games, as an umpire you almost have to be a mind reader,” says Hisner. “The way the rule book reads the hitter can’t permit the ball to let the ball hit him. In high school, it’s a really tough call.
“They made a change to the college rule a couple of years ago. If the ball is in the batter’s box, he can freeze (and be struck by the pitch and take his base). He can’t move into it and try to get hit. You don’t have to read anybody’s mind.”
Since three-man is usually not employed during regular-season games he works, Hisner is accustomed to two-man mechanics.
“I’ve done well over 1,000 games of two-man so I just react,” says Hisner. “I went to a college three-man camp one time. But until you’re used to it, it’s really uncomfortable.”
Preferring to watch Erik’s teams, Randy does not apply for the IHSAA tournament series.
One two-man mechanic that many non-umpires may not consider is the plate arbiter covering second base.
With no runners on base and the base umpire positioned near first base and the right field line, a hitter hits the ball to right field. It might be over the fielder’s head, call for a diving catch and come down near the foul line.
If the batter/runner continues to second base, the base umpire won’t be in-position to make the call. That’s the plate umpire’s duty. With all his protective equipment and steel-toed shoes, he must get to second base before then batter/runner. His path takes him to the right side of the mound to avoid tripping on the rubber.
“That had never ever crossed my radar until I had started umpiring,” says Hisner of the plate ump going to second base. “As soon as its hit, I’m taking my mask off and heading out that way anyway.
“Ideally, you get within 30 feet to make the call. You also have to be ready if (the batter/runner) heads back to first base. That’s a play I hope I have in the first inning if I have the plate.
“I want the coaches and players to see that I’m working hard. This guy is not just collecting a check. He’s hustling like we are. He might not be getting every call right but it’s not for lack of effort.”

Randy Hisner.
The Hisners on a Disney vacation.

IHSBCA to induct McIntyre, Robinson, Allen, Carroll, Strayer in January 2022

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Five men will be honored as part of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame class for 2021-2022.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic environment that existed in 2021, the induction ceremony did not take place as the IHSBCA State Clinic was held in a virtual format.
The 2021 and 2022 Hall of Fame classes will be honored at a joint ceremony at the IHSBCA state clinic on Jan. 15, 2022 at the Sheraton at Keystone Crossing in Indianapolis at 7 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased online at https://www.cognitoforms.com/Baseball3/_2022IHSBCAStateClinic.
The induction ceremony is a part of the three-day IHSBCA State Clinic and room reservation information is available at http://www.ihsbca.org.
The 2021 class includes one coach — Chris McIntyre of New Albany High School; and one contributor/umpire — James Robinson; along with the Veterans Committee nominee — Bernie Allen.
The 2022 class includes one coach — Steve Strayer of Crown Point High School and one player — Jamey Carroll.
McIntyre graduated from Jeffersonville High School where he played for Hall of Fame coach Don Poole. McIntyre received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Indiana University Southeast. He began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Clarksville High School under Hall of Famer Wayne Stock.
McIntyre has been the head coach at New Albany High School for 25 years where his teams have gone 533-218 during that time.
His teams have won five Hoosier Hills Conference titles,10 sectional championships and one regional title while reaching the Final Eight three times.
He is a four-time District Coach of the Year and five-time Conference Coach of the Year.
Mcintyre was the 2014 IHSBCA President, has served on numerous committees and has been an All-Star coach three times. He has coached 13 South All-Stars; over 40 players have gone on to play college baseball; had 3 players drafted and 2 players reach the major league level.
Chris and his wife Shannon have two sons — Tyler and Kevin. He currently teaches Mathematics at New Albany High School.
Robinson graduated from Harry E. Wood High School in Indianapolis and from Indiana University Kokomo.
He played one year of baseball in high school. He started umpiring high school baseball in 1980 and his career lasted for 35 years.
During his career, he worked 33 sectionals, 25 regionals, 14 semistates, and six State Championships.
He has umpired six IHSBCA North-South series and was voted IHSBCA Umpire of the Year five times.
In 1994, James was elected to the National Federation Baseball Rules Committee and served from 1995-1998.
In 2002 was named IHSAA/ NFOA Baseball Official of the Year and he was named as the National Federation Distinguished Official of the Year.
Robinson coached Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball for 10 years.
He has been a high school and college referee in football. He worked six years in Division II and seven years in the Mid-American Conference. He has also refereed the state basketball finals and the state football finals.
Later in his career, he became a replay official for the MAC and then moved to the Big Ten.
He was a replay official in the National Championship game in 2014 at the Rose Bowl between Florida State and Auburn.
James and his wife, Nada, deceased, has one daughter, Chiquita and one grandson, Kameron.
Allen, a native of East Liverpool, Ohio, played his collegiate baseball in West Lafayette for the Purdue University Boilermakers, where he was twice named team MVP.
A winner of six varsity letters, he was also the quarterback on the football team and was team MVP in 1960.
As starting QB in 1960, he guided the Boilers to wins over No. 12-ranked Notre Dam, Ohio State and No. 1 Minnesota (Associated Press and United Press Internatonal national champion); while also outdueling Georgia’s Fran Tarkenton in the annual Blue-Gray game.
In the spring of 1961, his collegiate career ended after being named an All-American shortstop. He then signed with the Minnesota Twins.
Allen played for the Twins, Washington Senators, New York Yankees and Montreal Expos.
At 6 foot and 185 pounds, Allen was a second baseman for most of his career; playing over 900 games at the position. By the 1971 season, he was splitting his time between second and third base.
On Opening Day, April 10, 1962, Allen made his debut for Minnesota at second base. He was put into a position vacated by Billy Martin a week earlier. Allen had one hit (a triple) in four at-bats that day.
His rookie performance led to a selection to the 1962 Topps All-Star Rookie Roster and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting, finishing behind Tom Tresh and Buck Rodgers.
Allen played five seasons for the Twins and was traded to the Senators with pitcher Camilo Pascual for pitcher Ron Kline. After five seasons in Washington, the Senators moved to Texas and traded him to the New York Yankees.
Allen played for New York in 1972, backing up second and third base. He played 17 games for the Yankees in 1973 before being purchased by Montreal. The Expos released him two months later.
After baseball, he was in the sporting goods business in West Palm Beach and the owner bought a baseball team that Allen helped coach with manager Felipe Alou. They played together with the Yankees and Expos.
That team won the Florida State League and then Alou went on to manage in the majors.
He then moved back to Ohio and worked for Ferro Corp for 17 years in East Liverpool, the pottery capital of the world.
He moved to Carmel in the mid 80’s and has never left. He and his wife play a lot of golf.
In 1999, he was selected in the Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame.
Allen has been married for a total of 51 years and has a son; three daughters; a step-son and step-daughter; 16 total grandchildren; and three great grandchidren.
Carroll is a 1992 graduate of Castle High School and was coached by Chuck Hawkins.
Carroll’s number was retired by Castle and he was a 1992 South All-Star. He played collegiately at the University of Evansville for Jim Brownlee. He graduated in 1996 and was an All-American that same year.
His name appears 27 times in the U of E baseball record book. In 2021, the number 23 was retired by the university.
Carroll was selected in the 14th round of the MLB Draft by the Expos. Some career numbers are: 16.6 WAR, 1,000 hits, 13 home runs, .272 batting average, 560 runs, 265 runs batted in, 74 stolen bases, .349 on-base percentage and .687 OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging).
His career spanned 12 years with the Expos/Washington Nationals, Colorado Rockies, Cleveland Indians, Los Angels Dodgers, Twins and Kansas City Royals.
Some highlights from his MLB career are scoring the last run in Expos history; leading NL 2B in fielding percentage in 2006; and in 2007 he scored Matt Holliday with a sacrifice fly to win the NL Wild Card game.
Carroll is recently retired from the Pittsburgh Pirates where he spent four years as a Special Assistant and three years as Defensive Coordinator. He is his wife Kim have 13-year-old twins — Cole and Mackenzie.
Strayer attended Prairie Heights High school and received his bachelor’s degree from Manchester College and master’s degree from Indiana University Northwest. His teams have won 641 games with only 236 losses; 15 conference titles; 14 sectional championships; and nine regional crowns.
He has coached 13 Indiana All-Stars. 64 players have gone on to play college baseball (23 Division I).
Strayer has been named District Coach of the Year in 1996, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007, and 2019.
He began his coaching career at Boone Grove High School and won 223 games in 10 seasons, along with seven Porter County championships.
He is currently the head coach at Crown Point High School and is beginning his 20th season as coach of the Bulldogs.
His CP teams have won 418 games and numerous sectional and regional titles to go along with eight Duneland Athletic Conference titles.
He served as IHSBCA President during this time; and was a 2005 and 2021 North All-Star coach.
Strayer teaches Mathematics at Crown Point High School. He resides in Crown Point with love of his life Jennifer and beautiful daughter Charlotte.