Manaea pitched in 11 regular-season games for the 2020 Oakland Athletics.
Petricka has pitched in the big leagues with the Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Milwaukee Brewers.
Bacus took the mound in 11 games for the 2020 Washington Nationals.
Rae pitched in nine regular-season contests with the 2020 Chicago Cubs.
Outfielder Strausborger played 31 games in the big leagues with the 2015 Texas Rangers.
Smiley has been on ISU staffs helmed by three different men. He was hired by former head coach Lindsay Meggs in the summer of 2009.
After Meggs left to become head coach at the University of Washington, Smiley served four years on the staff of Rick Heller.
When Heller took the head coaching position at University Iowa, Smiley followed him to Iowa City in the summer of 2013 and came back to Indiana State upon the hiring Mitch Hannahs, whose first season as the Sycamores boss was 2014.
As assistant in his first eight seasons at Indiana State, Smiley was named associate head coach in August 2017. He’s done about everything a coach can be asked to do in his time in Terre Haute.
“I’ve done everything from laundry to you name it,” says Smiley.
His current duties include defensive responsibilities and coaching third base on game days.
Smiley is also ISU’s recruiting coordinator — a job that has been made more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Players being recruited can not meet on-campus with coaches — though there have been times where they could tour the school through the admissions office — and coaches have not been able to see players in-person at summer tournaments because of the dead period imposed by the NCAA by Division I baseball since March.
“We’re having to make decisions based on video and a coach’s word,” says Smiley. “You don’t get a good feel of how they play the game. You’re just grading out their tools on video.”
Under ideal circumstances, Indiana State would like to see a player at least two or three times and get the assessment of multiple coaches.
“(Recruits) can’t watch us practice. They can’t eat with us. They get to know us as coaches. We can’t sell them on things we normally would. There are guys that haven’t really been here that are committed to us.”
On a positive note, fall practice went pretty smoothly for the Sycamores though the window was moved up from the original plan of ending around Thanksgiving (ISU started in September and ended in the middle October).
“It was the right decision, says Smiley. “We feel like we were pretty fortunate. We got through team segment pretty healthy. We missed a few quarantined freshmen.
“With all our instrasquads, 90 to 95 percent of the team could participate. We could have been missing main players. You have that and it’s difficult putting in anything (as far as plays or schemes).”
Indiana State experienced good weather and went from individual practice to team and back to individuals.
The university has gone to virtual classes for the rest of the semester and most of the team has already returned to their homes with a plan of coming back to Terre Haute in January.
“I did pitching at Danville and helped with everything,” says Smiley. “I learned a lot from Tim. I’m very grateful for my year at Danville.
“He was very good with cuts and relays and being in the right place at the right time.”
Brian and wife Katie Smiley have three children — Isaac (5), Christian (4) and Vivian (2). Katie, whose maiden name is Grossman, is a 2004 Evansville Memorial High School graduate who played soccer at the University of Southern Indiana.
The 12-team Grand Park league sprung up when other circuits opted out because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Used mostly as a Tuesday starter (most CSL games were played on Mondays and Tuesdays with training at Pro X Athlete Development Wednesday through Friday), Tucker drove weekdays from Brazil to Grand Park to train or play for the Tropics, a team featuring Josh Galvan as manager and Ryan Cheek as an assistant coach.
Used mostly as a starter with some relief work on scheduled “bullpen” days, Tucker made one trip to Columbia, S.C. He made five mound appearances (three starts) with an 0-0 record, 4.97 earned run average, 14 strikeouts and seven walks in 12 2/3 innings.
His summer four-seam fastball was thrown at 90 to 93 mph, occasionally touching 94. That’s up from 89 to 92 and touching 93 in the spring and 89 to 91 and touching 92 as a freshman in 2019.
Thrown from a three-quarter arm angle like all his pitches, Tucker’s fastball is thrown with a split-finger grip and has sinking action.
His slider moves from 1-to-7 or 2-to-8 on the clock face, meaning the movement (both horizontal and vertical) is in to the left-handed batter and away from a righty.
He throws a “circle” change-up.
He’s working to add two other pitchers to his selection — a curveball an cutter (cut fastball).
“The curve plays off the slider,” says Tucker. “It is more vertical than horizontal.”
Tucker, who has logged two springs with the Hoosiers (he has started four of his nine games and is a combined 2-1 with a 4.10 ERA, 12 strikeouts and 11walks in 26 1/3 innings) and played in the summer of 2019 with the Prospect League’s Terre Haute (Ind.) Rex. That team was managed by Tyler Wampler. Jeremy Lucas coached pitchers and catchers. The PL did not take the field this summer either.
Soon after high school graduation, Tucker enrolled in summer school. By the fall, the coaching staff had changed and Jeff Mercer was in charge with Parker as pitching coach.
“I don’t have one single word to described what it’s like to describe working with them,” says Tucker of Mercer, Parker and the rest of the IU staff. “It’s very detailed and developmental. It’s structured to the point that you don’t need down time. You always have something to do.”
Even when pitchers are engaged in throwing bullpens, long toss or some other specific thing, they are expected to do something productive and help their teammates. The same is true for all of the Hoosiers.
Tucker was born in Terre Haute and grew up in New Palestine, Ind., moving to Brazil as he was starting high school. His father (Jim) grew up in Clay County and his mother (Tammy) was raised on the south side of Terre Haute.
Braydon started in T-ball in New Palestine and was 6 when he made an Indiana Bandits 9U travel team. He attended a camp at the old Bandits Yard in Greenfield, Ind., conducted by Harold Gibson (father of Texas Rangers pitcher Kyle Gibson). Jim Tucker retained the information and used it with Braydon.
After playing two more years with the Bandits, there were three summers with the Indiana Prospects (led by Shane Stout and Mark Peters) and one with the Hancock County-based Indiana Travelers (Mark Horsely).
From 13U to 16U, Tucker played for coaches Rick Arnold and Dan Metzinger with the Ironman Baseball out of Louisville. The 17U summer was spent with the Cincinnati Spikes. Trent Hanna was the head coach and was assisted by Aaron Goe, Stephen Rodgers and Joe Janusik.
Jim Tucker is a senior sourcing team leader at GE Aviation in Terre Haute. Tammy Tucker works is at Catalent Pharma Solutions in Bloomington. She had been in quality management at Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis.
Braydon (who turned 21 in July) has two brothers — Dakota (27) and Trey (19). Dakota Tucker played baseball and football at New Palestine then football at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, where he earned a mechanical engineering that he now uses at Ford Motor Company in Detroit. Trey Tucker is a sophomore at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. He played baseball and basketball at Northview.
Braydon Tucker, who is a Sports Marketing & Management major at IU, represented the Knights on the hardwood for three years. Now back at school, he is taking five classes this fall (all on online). Class begins Monday, Aug. 24. Tucker says baseball facilities are not to open until Sept. 17.
In 2014, former Logansport High School baseball players Young (Class of 1991) and Stephens (Class of 1993) joined forces to form an LLC.
Young is the bat maker. Stephens handles the business side of things.
The company grew and TItan moved to a 5,000-square foot building at 2135 Stoney Pike off U.S. 35 in March 2020.
The facility allows room for a semi-automatic copy lathe as well as new ultra-accurate MotionCat CNC machine and other necessary equipment.
“It allows us to keep up with the demand,” says Stephens. “The cupping machine allows us to take (up to) 6/10 of an ounce off a bat.”
There’s a place still tool bats by hand.
“On a good day, that’s a four-hour process,” says Young.
There’s an area for dipping bats in lacquer, painting them and applying logos.
The end of one room is devoted to the storing and caring of precious cargo.
It’s the wood that sets Titan apart. The company only uses Prime billets of ash, maple and cedar with 7- to 10-percent moisture content to turn a bat. In the wood industry, there’s Choice, Select and Prime and they all come with different price points.
“The billets are the best you can get on the market,” says Stephens, who lettered at Indiana State University in 1996 and 1997. “We could certainly buy cheaper.”
But Titan is making boutique hand-crafted baseball bats.
“We’re focused on quality,” says Stephens. “When makes us unique is that you can’t just buy wood from anywhere. We use wood that’s wedge-split that’s true to the slope of the grain.
“The wood can be too dry or too wet, which means it’s green inside and heavy. You have to have a specific bullet for a specific model.”
Titan is currently producing up to 30 models.
“We have a lot of repeat customers,” says Young. “We stick with Prime (wood) even for youth.”
Those loyal customers come back for the sound of a ball struck by a Titan.
“It stands out,” says Young.
There’s a reason the product carries that name.
Before thinking about going into business, former Logansport Church of Christ preacher Young was having a discussion with wife Tracey.
They came across the definition of Titan, which is a standout, powerful person.
“To me, that means the Lord,” says Young’
There’s sign in the shop letting visitors know that Titan is a “Kingdom Business” and cites Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”
He backstopped Babe Ruth League teams in Terre Haute, Ind., and at South Vermillion High School in Clinton, the second of four Terry brothers to playing for father Tim Terry. There’s T.J. (24), Canton (21), Cooper (19) and Easton (15).
Canton’s high school days also saw him catch two travel ball summers each for the Matt Merica-coached Indiana Thunder and Tony Smodilla-coached Indiana Havoc.
At present, Terry is a lefty-batting catcher/designated hitter at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind. The 2020 season was his third for head coach Jake Martin’s Little Giants.
“The catcher controls the game almost more than the pitcher does,” says Terry. “It comes down to good quality pitch calling. My whole career I’ve always called all the pitches. I take take a lot of pride in it. I take every pitch into consideration and how the batter did the previous at-bat and what pitches are working for (the pitcher).”
Terry has an aptitude for remembering what batters did within a game.
“I see how he handled the last pitch or even how his confidence looks at the plate,” says Terry. “Where they have their hands to load the swing (also comes into play).
“We definitely don’t give them their cream-of-the-crop pitch, but try to keep them off-balance.”
Sometimes, Terry puts on an auto-shake for the pitcher. He will appear to shake off the sign when he really intends to throw — for instance — a first-pitch fastball.
“Having him do that can throw off the batter,” says Terry.
Like he has for years, Canton also had a brother for a teammate. The 2019-20 school year was Cooper Terry’s freshmen year at Wabash.
“I helped him raise expectations and know what level of play he needs to get to,” says Canton of Cooper. “I also showed him the do’s and don’ts of college.
“Wabash is a pretty academically-rigorous school. You have to put in hard work.”
Canton’s leadership was not contained to his brother.
“I try to lead by example and not try to cut anything short,” says Terry, who notes that the Little Giants were still getting into the weight room and working out in the winter when coaches were not allowed to be a part of it. “Putting in the hard work it takes to make a championship level team.”
The COVID-19 pandemic halted the 2020 season for Wabash (6-2) in March and Terry started in three games and finished with a perfect fielding percentage of 1.000 with 11 putouts and two assists.
During the shutdown, he stayed ready for his next baseball opportunity and is now with the Nighthawks in the 12-team College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. He drives two hours from Clinton twice a week to play for the team that has Anderson University assistant John Becker as head coach.
“It’s been an awesome opportunity to get a lot of playing time and a lot of at-bats,” says Terry. “I’m with a great group of guys.
“I don’t think we’ve had a single bad game with chemistry.”
Terry played in 14 games with three starts as a Wabash freshmen in 2018. He hit .313 (5-of-16) and drove in five runs while reaching base at a .476 clip. In 2019, he got into 36 games with 29 starts and hit .318 (28-of-88) with one home run, 19 RBIs and a .462 on-base percentage.
All the while he’s enjoyed playing for Martin.
“He’s been a really good coach,” says Terry. “He’s definitely a coach that cares for his players — in and outside of baseball.”
This summer has not all been about the diamond for Terry. There is also an eight-week internship with a Neuroscience professor, doing online research.
“We’re studying impulsivity for quitting smoking and other addictive behaviors,” says Terry, a Psychology major and Biology minor.
Terry started on a path to be a double major in Physics and Math before taking and enjoying a neuroscience class.
When the Wabash campus was closed, Terry came home and finished his spring courses online.
It was not easy having to focus that long with five other people in the house, including three rambunctious brothers.
“There are a lot more benefits to in-person (learning),” says Terry. “Wabash has one of the lowest student-to-faculty ratios in the country. Overall, the learning experience is a lot more successful and functional in-person.”
On-campus classes at Wabash is scheduled to resume Aug. 12.
Terry is a 2017 graduate of South Vermillion. He earned 10 varsity letters — four in baseball and two each in cross country, soccer and basketball.
“I’ve been asked a lot about playing for my dad,” says Terry. “It wasn’t weird to me. I was always at high school baseball practices. It’s just the norm. There were no problems or issues.”
But expectations are higher.
“Being a coach’s son, you expected to give the hardest effort and have the most perfection,” says Terry. “That helped me.”
In 2017, senior class president and Fellowship of Christian Athletes leader Terry hit .612 and was named district player of the year, first-team all-state and to the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series. He was also team MVP and team captain for the second straight year. In 2016, he was on the all-Western Indiana Conference team and led the WIC in hitting (.490). He was South Vermillion’s rookie of the year in 2015.
Canton played soccer for Juan Montanez and basketball for Phil Leonard as a freshman and sophomore and ran cross country for Mike Costello as a junior and Kent Musall as a senior.
“I had several concussions in sports so I focused mainly on baseball,” says Terry. “As a catcher I always have a helmet on — on defense or batting.”
Melton was 21 when the corner infielder and outfielder came to Evansville in 1967 and hit nine home runs and drove in 72 runs. He made his Major League Baseball debut with Chicago in 1968 and led the American League in home runs in 1971 with 33.
Herrmann was a 19-year-old catcher in 1966 and was with Chicago briefly in 1967 before coming back to Evansville in 1967 and 1968. He stuck with the parent White Sox in 1969.
Cotton Nash, who had been a basketball All-American at the University of Kentucky and played in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers and San Francisco Warrior and ABA with the Kentucky Colonels, was played with Evansville in 1967, 1968 and 1970, belting 33 homers in the first season of the Triplets.
In a group shot, left-handed pitcher Lester Clinkscales is in the middle of the frame. His son, Sherard Clinkscales, was a standout at Purdue who was selected in the first round of the 1992 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Kansas City Royals and is now athletic director at Indiana State University.
Wirthwein captures roughly the first century of Evansville baseball in a book published March 2, 2020.
Through library files, digitized publications and the resources of the Society for American Baseball Research, he uncovered details about teams and characters going back to the Civil War, which ended in 1865.
Bosse Field, which is now the third-oldest professional baseball park in use (behind Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field) came on the scene in 1915.
Growing up, Wirthwein played youth baseball and then plenty of slow pitch softball.
He graduated from Harrison High School in 1972. He earned a journalism degree at Butler University in Indianapolis in 1976 and took job at The Brownsburg (Ind.) Guide, where he covered everything from sports to the city council and was also a photographer.
After that, he covered trap shooting for Trap & Field Magazine and had a short stint as editor at the Zionsville (Ind.) Times.
Desiring more in his paycheck, Wirthwein went back to Butler and began preparing for his next chapter. He worked toward a Masters of Business Administration (which was completed in 1991) and worked a decade at AT&T and then more than 20 years managing several departments at CNO Financial Group (formerly Conseco) before retiring in June 2019.
“I got lost for 30-plus years,” says Wirthwein, who has returned to his writing roots.
About three years before his last day at CNO he began researching his Evansville baseball book.
“I slowly assembled and had a manuscript shortly before retirement,” says Wirthwein, who is married with four daughters and resides in Fishers, Ind.
When it came time to find someone to produce the book, he found The History Press, a division of Arcadia Publishing that specializes in regional history.
It took a bit of digging to unearth the treasures from the early years. He was amazed that little had been written about the pre-Bosse Field era.
He did find details on teams like Resolutes, Blues, Brewers, Hoosiers and Blackbirds — all of which seemed to have monetary difficulties and scandals swirling around them.
“The whole 1800’s was just a mess,” says Wirthwein. “Teams were coming and going. Financial failures were everywhere.”
Jumping contracts was very commonplace in 19th century baseball. They were often not worth the paper they were written on since a player could get an offer for more money and be on the next train to that city.
To try to combat this, Evansville joined the League Alliance in 1877. It was a group of major and minor league teams assembled to protect player contracts.
It always seemed to be about money.
The 1895 Evansville Blackbirds led the Class B Southern League for much of the season. But, being nearly destitute, the club began throwing games for a sum that Wirthwein discovered to be about $1,500.
The Atlanta Crackers were supposed to be the beneficiary of the blown ballgames, but it was the Nashville Seraphs who won the pennant. Evansville finished in third — 4 1/2 games back.
In 1901, catcher Frank Roth hit 36 home runs for the Evansville River Rats of the Three-I League.
“The Evansville paper thought that to be a world record,” says Wirthwein.
The wooden park on Louisiana, which was built in 1889 near the Evansville stockyards, was in disrepair by 1914 when it collapsed and injured 42 spectators.
Seeing an opportunity, Evansville mayor Benjamin Bosse sprang into action.
“The city had bought this big plot of land,” says Wirthwein. “(Bosse Field) was built in a matter of months.
“He was ready.”
Unusual for its time, Bosse Field was meant to be a multi-purpose facility from the beginning and became home not only to baseball, but football games, wrestling matches and more.
Wirthstein’s book tells the story of Evansville native Sylvester Simon, who played for the St. Louis Browns in 1923 and 1924.
In the fall of 1926, he lost three fingers on his left hand and part of his palm while working in a furniture factory.
He came back to baseball using a customized grip on his bat and with a glove that was repaired using a football protector and played for the Evansville Hubs in 1927 and had pro stops with the Central League’s Fort Wayne (Ind.) Chiefs in 1928 and 1930 and played his last season with the Three-I League’s Quincy (Ill.) Indians in 1932. His bat and glove are at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Hall of Famers Edd Roush (1912-13 Yankees/River Rats), Chuck Klein (1927 Hubs), Hank Greenberg (1931 Hubs) and Warren Spahn (1941 Bees) also spent time in Evansville. Roush is from Oakland City, Ind. Klein hails from Indianapolis.
Huntingburg native Bob Coleman played three seasons in the majors and managed 35 years in the minors, including stints in Evansville.
The Limestone League came to town thanks to travel restrictions during World War II. The Detroit Tigers conducted spring training in Evansville. Indiana also hosted teams in Bloomington (Cincinnati Reds), French Lick (Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox), Lafayette (Cleveland Indians), Muncie (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Terre Haute (White Sox in 1945).
Wirthwein’s research found plenty about barnstorming black baseball teams in the early 1900’s.
In the 1920’s, the Reichert Giants represented Evansville in the Negro Southern League. The Reichert family was fanatic about baseball. Manson Reichert went on to be mayor (1943-48).
“(The Reichert Giants) played semipros when not playing league games,” says Wirthwein. “They lobbied hard to play at Bosse Field when the Class B (Hubs) were out of town, but they kept going turned down.
Games were played at the Louisiana Street park, Eagles Park or at Evansville’s all-black high school, Lincoln.
“They started playing games opposite the Hubs and outdrew them every single time. The Bosse Field people finally acquiesced.”
In the 1950’s, the Evansville Colored Braves were in the Negro Southern League and were rivals of an independent black team, the Evansville Dodgers. Games were played at Bosse Field and Lincoln High.
What about the “Global” disaster?
Evansville-based real estate tycoon Walter Dilbeck Jr. conceived of the Global Baseball League in 1966. It was to be a third major circuit to compete with the American League and National League. There would be teams all over globe, including the Tokyo Dragons from Japan, and the GBL was headquartered in Evansviile.
“It’s a pretty remarkable story,” says Wirthwein. “The guy just wouldn’t give up.”
Happy Chandler, commissioner of baseball in 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, was brought in as GBL commissioner.
Confidence and self-assurance was valued by Jason Van Skike as a baseball player and are traits emphasized by him as a coach.
“Baseball is a great teacher of things that happen in your life,” says Van Skike, the second-year pitching coach at Westfield (Ind.) High School. “You focus on the things you can control. There are three things we talk about everyday — work ethic, attitude and confidence.
“You can’t make up for a lost day,” says Van Skike. “You want to always go to bed at night knowing you put in your best effort.”
That’s work ethic.
“You have a choice to have a good attitude or a bad attitude,” says Van Skike. “It’s a mindset. It’s an opportunity to get better.
“If you believe good things are going to happen, good things tend to happen. If you believe bad things are going to happen, bad things tend to happen.”
“My job is to make sure (Westfield pitchers) feel that they are the absolute man,” says Van Skike. “That’s all do-able if they’ve done the things they need to do on the days leading to (the game appearance).”
Rick Heller, who is now head coach at the University of Iowa, was ISU head coach when Van Skike was in Terre Haute. Heller had him join the Sycamores after seeing the righty at a sophomore showcase while he was at Treasure Valley.
“(Heller) would preach ‘chest out; a lot of confidence,’” says Van Skike. “I would hear that all the time. I found out that body language plays into the game. If you can trick yourself into thinking you’re the man, you might be the man.
“(Heller) was always talking about body language and confidence.”
Van Skike says it was not until the end of his college career that this lesson really began to sink in.
“I was an excuse maker,” says Van Skike. “If I walked a guy, it wasn’t my fault.”
“(Herbst) made me feel comfortable,” says Van Skike. “He didn’t try to change too much of what I was.”
Herbst went on to help steer Sean Manaea, who is now in the majors.
“He was a baby giraffe at Indiana State and didn’t know how to pitch,” says Van Skike of Manaea.
Van Skike had come a long way by the time he pitched for the Sycamores.
He entered Gig Harbor, he was 5-foot-5 and maybe 135 pounds. He didn’t make the varsity squad until he was a senior.
“They kept me around since I had a sense of urgency,” says Van Skike, who played for Washington State Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Pete Jansen. “I ran on and off the field. I needed to in order to stand out.”
By the time he was a senior, he had began to fill out and stood 6-3.
He went to Treasure Valley, where Rick Baumann was head coach, with a fastball clocked at 78-82 mph. That’s when he began showing up an hour early for practice every day to do a towel drill. By the end of the fall, he was up to 84 mph. During indoor workouts, he was sitting at 83-86. On a nice day, the team went outside and he was at 88-91 and he was able to sustain that speed.
“I made a 10 mph jump in a four- to five-month span,” says Van Skike. “I needed those extra reps.”
Extra reps is what Van Skike got in junior college, where there is less restriction on the amount of times players and coaches can spend working on the game.
“I loved every moment of it,” says Van Skike of the juco diamond life. “You spend so many hours with your teammates and coaches. You build that brotherhood. Reflecting back, junior college baseball was the most fun for me.”
Van Skike sings the praises of junior college because it also offers a chance to develop. A juco player might get 60 at-bats in the fall between games and scrimmages and around 200 more in the spring. By the end of their sophomore year, they’ve gotten almost 500 at-bats and that doesn’t count summer ball.
Van Skike says a D-I player who does not crack the lineup as a freshman and sophomore — which is often the case — might go into their junior year with less than 100 career at-bats.
“You’ve got to play,” says Van Skike. “You’ve got to get game experience.”
Van Skike left college in 2011 unsure of his baseball future. Scout Mike Shirley (now amateur scouting director) brought him to Madison County for a workout and signed him to a White Sox contract as an undrafted free agent. He hustled to Bristol, Va., of the Appalachian League and picked up an extra-inning victory in his first outing.
His pitching coach at Bristol was Larry Owens, now head baseball coach at Bellarmine University in Louisville.
“(Owens) simplified the game for me,” says Van Skike.
Through 2013, Van Skike appeared in 73 games (64 as a reliever) and went 10-8 with a 3.18 earned run average in 150 2/3 innings. He was 3-5 with a 2.80 ERA in 74 innings at Advanced Class-A Winston-Salem in 2013.
“(Winston-Salem pitching coach) J.R. Perdew was a tremendous help,” says Van Skike. “He told me things I had never thought about before.
“The more simple you can keep baseball the better off you’re going to be.”
Perdew is now the White Sox assistant pitching coordinator.
Van Skike learned to use a cut fastball to be effective against left-handed hitters.
He had a six-month lease on an apartment in St. Louis and expected to be in spring training in 2014 when he was released by the White Sox. He went to live with his parents — Ike and Cathy Van Skike — in Arizona and got a job delivering pizzas. Not having a steady catch partner, he threw into a chain link fence. Occasionally, he would work out with a high school team and they had no trouble hitting his deliveries.
Still, an invitation was extended in Wichita. Even though he did not have a stellar spring training with the Wingnuts, he had enough of a resume on affiliated ball to keep him. The 2014 season saw him start 26 games and got 12-5 with a 3.35 ERA in 110 innings. He started the American Association All-Star Game and helped Wichita win the league title.
It tended to be very breezy out to left field in Wichita. Van Skike used it to his advantage.
“A lot of hitters get big egos when the wind blows,” says Van Skike. “I made my living down and away (to right-handed hitters) and got roll-overs to the shortstop.”
The 2015 campaign was not as successful (7-8, 4.89 in 116 innings) and Van Skike retired as a player.
“Getting into college coaching is extremely difficult,” says Van Skike. He went with friend Arlo Evasick, the head coach at Federal Way and the Eagles qualified for the 2016 state tournament.
That summer, Van Skike ended up back in Indiana on the coaching staff of Jackrabbits manager Matt Howard, who is now head baseball coach at Indiana University Kokomo.
Van Skike was starting to prepare for a chance to play pro ball in Australia when Heller let him know about an opportunity in Des Moines.
“I got extremely lucky,” says Van Skike.
David Pearson was hired as DMACC head coach and soon hired Van Skike as an assistant. The two had to dismantle the roster after the first season and went into the second year (2018) with mostly freshmen.
Near the end of that season, Van Skike began to examine his relationship with baseball.
“It consumed my life and I missed a lot of family events (as a player),” says Van Skike. “I began missing those again as a college coach.
“I need more of a balance. I didn’t know what that was at the time.”
Through a fortunate sequence of events, Van Skike moved to central Indiana and wound up taking a job as an Edward Jones financial advisor in Westfield.
He was at the right place at the right time since Westfield High School head coach Ryan Bunnell was also looking to fill a slot for a pitching coach.
“I’m still heavily involved with baseball and I can still be around my family and friends,” says Van Skike. “That’s what I was searching for.
“I’m extremely lucky I’m at Westfield.”
The COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic took away the 2020 season.
“We had an extremely talented group,” says Van Skike of a Shamrocks team that received votes in the Class 4A preseason poll. “We could’ve won state. But there’s nothing we can do to control it.
“It’s an awkward time for these seniors,” says Van Skike. “They almost don’t want to hear about baseball.
“It’s still a little tender.
“We’ve been talking with juniors and saying let’s do it next year for these seniors (in 2021). They shouldn’t complain one day. Don’t ever take things for granted.”
Jason Van Skike is a financial advisor at Edwards Jones and the pitching coach at Westfield High School, both in Westfield, Ind. The graduate of Gig Harbor High School in Washington pitched at Treasure Valley Community College Oregon and Indiana State University as well as in the Chicago White Sox organization and in independent professional baseball. (Edwards Jones Photo)
Westfield (Ind.) High School varsity baseball coaches in 2020 include (from left): assistant Bill Lindley, head coach Ryan Bunnell and assistant Jason Van Skike. Shamrocks pitchers are led by Van Skike, who played collegiately at Treasure Valley Community College in Oregon and Indiana State University and professionally in the Chicago White Sox system and with the independent Wichita (Kan.) Wingnuts. (Westfield High School Photo)
“I really feel bad for the players who had already lost their high school and college seasons, especially the seniors who missed an opportunity for a final season of baseball with their friends,” says Zvokel. “In the end, the No. 1 concern is safety for our players, coaches and fans.
“Hopefully things clear and we can still get some baseball in this summer.”
Jill Druskis, Director of the Americanism Division of the American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis, says that national capstone American Legion youth programs are National Oratorical Contest, eight Baseball regional tournaments, Baseball World Series, Boys Nation and the shoulder-to-shoulder match of the Junior Shooting 3-Position Air Rifle National Championship.
“And the awarding of one of our national youth program scholarships has been affected this year as well,” says Druskis. “It is through the Boys State and Girls State programs that youth are afforded eligibility to apply for a Samsung American Legion Scholarship.
His father, Ed Meyer, led the football and baseball program at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., for nearly four decades. The DePauw graduate’s baseball teams won 522 games. Ed and wife MaryAnn (who taught at Cloverdale High Schoolfor 30 years) both died in 2015.
“At my age, I look back at all the things that he taught me that I didn’t realize he was teaching me,” says Tony Meyer. “It was the way he dealt with players and parents. He could take a player and make him feel like a million bucks or take him down. He never had to raise his voice.”
The elder Meyer also stressed the importance of education.
“He was a very calming influence in the dugout, on the field and in recruiting,” says Tony Meyer. “If I could be half of what he was as a coach, I’d be pretty good.”
Brother Pat Meyer was a good baseball player, he went into sales and now lives in the Chicago suburbs. Sister Anne was a strong all-around athlete and is now in banking in Florida.
Two other brothers — Mike Meyer and Pete Meyer — went into coaching.
Mike Meyer is in his second stint as head football coach at Greencastle High School. He has also been the defensive coordinator at Northview High School in Brazil and served as a football assistant at Ohio Northern University and Case Western University and football head coach at Hiram College.
Pete Meyer was head baseball coach and athletic director at Florida Southern College before moving back to Greencastle.
Tony Meyer graduated from Greencastle in 1988 and Wabash College in 1993. He played baseball for the Little Giants and head coach Scott Boone for four seasons (1989-92) and football for head coach Greg Carlson for two (1990 and 1991).
After graduation, Meyer went to Hanover College to coach football and baseball. He was on the baseball staff of American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dick Naylor.
Meyer remembers Naylor for his persistence in finding players.
“He put me on the road to recruit,” says Meyer. “He showed me what to look for.”
Meyer spent 1994 conducting USA Baseball camps in Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma and was head scout for the U.S. team for the Pan-American Games.
He then went to DePauw and coached on the diamond with his father.
Terry Gobert, the long-time Jasper High School head coach and IHSBCA Hall of Famer, is a Greencastle graduate and was a graduate assistant to Ed Meyer in 1984 and 1985 along with basketball coach Mike Steele. He was a teammate of Mike Meyer and coached Pete and Pat in Babe Ruth baseball.
After his stint with the Tigers, Meyer coached various teams, including the Waukegan (Ill.) Waves and a summer collegiate team in Indianapolis.
When Meyer began a family, he went into sales but still volunteered in Babe Ruth and youth league baseball and gave lessons.
Then a unique opportunity happened at Cloverdale. The Clovers had an opening for a head football coach and head baseball coach and athletic director J.J. Wade hired Meyer to take both posts which he held in 2015-16 and 2016-17. He had volunteered with the baseball program during the 2014 season.
“It was a learning experience,” says Meyer of his time at Cloverdale, where he got guidance from former Clovers head football coach Mike Parks. “He showed me how he deals with kids, their lives and education.”
When IHSBCA Hall of Famer Rich Andriole resigned as head coach at Guerin Catholic, Meyer was encouraged to apply. He was hired by Ryan Davis, the Golden Eagles athletic director and a former assistant to Andriole at Indianapolis Cathedral High School.
“It’s been great so far,” says Meyer, who has been getting about 25 players at IHSAA Limited Contact sessions and expects up to 36 when the 2020 season rolls around. “This is one of the top baseball jobs in the state. There’s a whole lot to offer up there.
“I’ve got some good players. I think we’re going to be very competitive for 3A. Hopefully we can continue the upward trend Rich (Andriole) started two years ago.”
Meyer has named Jalen Cushenberry and John Magers, Eric Wott and Kevin Paulin as Guerin assistants and has two openings yet to fill.
What about the daily drive between Greencastle and Noblesville?
“It’s only a 53-minute commute,” says Meyer. “In sales, I drove to Carmel every day for five years.”
Barnes, a 1997 graduate of Vincennes Lincoln High School, played two seasons at Olney (Ill.) Central College and one at Indiana State University. A shortstop, he was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 10th round of the 2000 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and made is big league debut in 2003. He played with the Rockies, Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres and retired after the 2016 season in the Kansas City Royals organization.
His 13-year career included 1,186 games, a .245 batting average, 89 home runs, 208 doubles, 43 stolen bases and 415 runs batted in.
Since retiring, Barmes has jumped into youth coaching. He is part-time assistant baseball coach at Berthoud (Colo.) High School. Much of his time is spent coaching his own children.
Clint and Summer Barmes’ son Wyatt (12) and daughter Whitney (9) are involved in sports and are coached by one or both parents — Wyatt in baseball, basketball and soccer, Whitney in softball, basketball and soccer.
“Our weeks are pretty full,” says Barmes, who was going to go to Los Angeles from Indianapolis for Wyatt’s all-star travel tournament.
“We didn’t want to burn him out,” says Barmes. “He still wants to work and do that kind of stuff in the wintertime. I don’t want to hold him back either.
“I wanted to give him a chance to see what other talent’s out there at his age level and keep him going in sports.”
When Clint Barmes was 12 he was playing about 25 Bambino League baseball games a year in Vincennes. He played at Lincoln High for Phil Halsema and Chris Rhodes.
“I was a Cardinal fan growing up and I wanted to play in the big leagues,” says Barmes of his boyhood aspirations. “That didn’t change until around my senior year in high school. I didn’t know if it was going to happen for me. I was open to play college ball. Just past high school.
“At Olney Central, I got a little bigger and a little stronger. The work I was putting in compared to the high school level was night and day. Putting all that extra work into it, I really started to take off.”
“(Conley) taught the game and it was more than just seeing the ball, hitting the ball, catching it and throwing it,” says Barmes. “It was breaking down the simplicities of the game and trying to follow and think ahead.
“That’s when all that stuff really started to come to me. It started with him. He’s a brilliant man. He’s really passionate and knowledgable about the game.”
Barmes is grateful what Conley did for him when he was a player there and also for the chance to come back during the winters as a professional and train since Olney is only about 30 miles from Vincennes.
At ISU, Barmes played for Bob Warn. He credits the IHSBCA Hall of Famer for giving him freedom while also adding to his game.
“(Barmes) allowed me to play and be the type of player that I was at that time,” says Barmes. “He could have broken me down. There was so many things that I was doing that weren’t the right ways to do it.
“Once I got into pro ball I had to completely change my swing. But, thankfully, I had success like I did (Barmes hit 375 with 93 hits, 18 doubles, seven triples and 10 home runs to go along with 63 runs scored, 37 RBI and 20 stolen bases as a Sycamore). He let me play.
“I remember learning to play the game the right way once I got to college. It was anticipating — especially at shortstop. I was learning how to pay attention to hitters and pitchers on the mound and what they’re trying to do. It was following the game and whatever is being called. Before, I was waiting for the ball to be hit my direction as simple as that sounds.”
“You look at the sweet spot on a metal bat compared to a wooden bat — not to mention the weight is a little heaver with wood,” says Barmes. “I learned to use my hands and work down and through the ball to create backspin. (With a metal bat), I would get a little long, drop my back side and try to lift. I was thinking that was how you were supposed to drive the ball.
“The (metal) bats we used were pretty loaded when I played in high school and even college. You could get jammed and still hit home runs. The ball off our bats was pretty hot.”
While Barmes was used at other positions (he logged 351 MLB appearances as a second baseman), he identified himself as a shortstop.
“That’s where I loved to play,” says Barmes. “Shortstop was always my love. That was always my favorite position.”
Barmes came to understand what it meant to shift and that if the pitcher hit his spot, it was likely the hitter would send the ball to a certain spot on the infield and he would be ready for it.
“You try not to give it up too early,” says Barmes. “But you start cheating (in that direction) in certain ways.”
There came a point where Barmes might be asked to play in the hole for a right-handed pull hitter or told to play right of the bag with a hitter who projects to hit it that way.
“(Shifting) never happened to me until I was in the big leagues,” says Barmes. “Nowadays, I’ve seen it in Little League.”
“Don was a great coach all-around,” says Barmes. “He was very knowledgable about the game and more on the mental side.
“At the big league level, that’s very important. If you can’t hit by the time you get to the big leagues, it’s going to be a struggle. Now you have to work with your mental and approach.”
Barmes says it helps to clear the mind so the hitter can focus on seeing the ball or what they’re going to do in a particular (ball-strike) count.
“(Baylor) talked about throwing your hands in the slot,” says Barmes. “I picked that up from Don (as well as Cockrell, White and Todd).
“That was the old-school way of teaching hitting and it worked for me. My hands started my swing and my body would kind of do what it does. If I started thinking lower half or anything but my hands, a lot of times it slowed me down.”
Clint was not the first Barmes to play in the majors. A relative on his grandfather’s side of the family — Vincennes-born Bruce “Squeaky” Barmes — got a September call-up with the 1953 Washington Senators. He played 11 full seasons (1950-60) in the minors and hit .318 and made all-star teams in the Florida State League and Tri-State League. A 5-foot-8 left-handed hitter, he was known for his speed.
“I didn’t meet Bruce until I was in A-ball,” says Barmes. “I was playing for Asheville (N.C.) and we were in Hickory (N.C.).
“This older gentleman is yelling at me from the concourse, ‘Hey Barmes!’ and at that point nobody ever pronounced it right (it’s Bar-Muss). This guy must know me because he’s saying my name right. He starts talking about Vincennes and throws out all these names of people I’m related to.”
After that, Clint got to know Bruce and his family and would see them on trips to the East Coast.
During his speech at the IHSBCA Hall of Fame dinner, Barmes thanked all his coaches from youth leagues on up.
“Now that I’ve been coaching, I understand what it means for these kids to get good coaching,” says Barmes. “The role they are playing is very important. The impact that they have on these young players may be more than they realize.
“I’m one of them.”
Clint Barmes, a Vincennes (Ind.) Lincoln High School graduate who played at Olney (Ill.) Central College, Indiana State University and 13 seasons in Major League Baseball, was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Jan. 17, 2020, in Indianapolis — a week after he went into the Indiana State Athletics Hall of Fame. (Steve Krah Photo)
But long before these happenings, the Jasper Reds were on the diamond scene.
Established as the Jasper Acmes in 1893 and soon changed to the Red Jackets (then Reds) to match the colors of early uniforms, the Reds have been a baseball presence in Jasper ever since. The only interruptions were in 1918, 1922 and 1964-66.
In the early days, players would share in the team’s profits — if there were any — so the team was referred to as semi-pro. That label stuck even after the pay stopped.
There’s no age limit for players. For years, most were in their 20’s and 30’s. This year, there were two 30-somethings among mostly college-age athletes.
It was the Reds’ seventh NBC World Series appearance with 1993, 1994, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 being the other years.
The 2018 Reds went to Louisville to play in the Bluegrass World Series, an event that features former major leaguers.
After Jasper High is done for the season, the Reds play home games at Alvin C. Ruxer Field (formerly Recreation Field).
“They are good to us,” says business manager Bob Alles, noting that Jasper High head coach Terry Gobert mowed the grass on a Sunday so it would be ready for the Reds. “We get (cooling) fans in the dugouts. They bend over backward to help us.
“So many people are good to us. People in Jasper want to keep this team going. We go from one year to the next.”
Indiana Baseball Hall of Famer Ruxer once pitched for the Reds and was a big baseball backer. He set up trust funds for the team that helped to defray season costs.
Dating back to 1903, the Reds have also played at South Side Park, Jasper Academy and Gutzweiler Park.
Bob Alles has been with the Reds for 47 years. The 1971 Jasper graduate (he played for Indiana Baseball Hall of Famer Don Noblitt) who had one at-bat for the University of Evansville and became a coach (he was an assistant to Hall of Famer Ray Howard) and teacher as well as Reds manager from 1974-93 and 1996.
“I’ve poured my life into this thing,” says Bob Alles. “It takes in inordinate amount of time to get liability insurance, uniforms and equipment.
“It’s very, very time-consuming.”
A retired school teacher, Bob Alles recruits players and raises funds, trying to keep costs down for his athletes, especially the collegians with student loans.
“The easiest thing to get is the players,” says Bob Alles. “The other things are far more difficult.”
Like finding opponents. There are none in close proximity to Jasper.
“When teams come here it’s a free game for them (except gas money),” says Bob Alles. “We have a little money for umpires and a field.
“What I want from (opponents) is two games. We’ll play anybody. It’s very hard to get teams. That’s why we try to play a doubleheader.”
The weather was unkind to the Reds this season with seven rainouts.
“We try to play at least 20 games,” says Bob Alles. “We used to play 30 and 40. We can’t find that many any more.”
Bill Alles, brother of Bob, has served as Reds manager since 1999. Another brother, Tom Alles, is team historian. He wrote a 10-part series in 1993 as the team hit the 100-year mark.
Roman “Romie” Pfeffer was a star for the Reds in the ‘30s and ‘40s and was in the first class of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979. Romie and his two brothers — Revard aka “Riff” and Urban aka “Nigg” — were on the Jasper team that played in the Midwest Tournament at Terre Haute, where National/Indiana Baseball Hall of Famer Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown was commissioner.
Bob Alles played three summers (1970-72) for Jasper American Legion Post 147 — two for “Nigg” Pfeffer (good friend of Indiana Baseball Hall of Famer Gil Hodges, who may have suited up for the Reds for one game in 1941) and one for Noblitt.
Van Lingle Mungo pitched a few games for Jasper during a diamond career that included time with the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants.
Bob, Bill and Tom’s father — Jerome “Chick” Alles — played for the Reds from 1950-63 and was a three-term mayor, concluding with 1991. All four men are in the Greater Evansville Baseball Hall of Fame along with several others with ties to Jasper.
Brenda Alles, Chick’s wife and the boys’ mother, has also provided support throughout the years.
“We just asked guys to play hard,” says Bob Alles. “If they hustle, I can live with losses. It’s an experience. We like a challenge. We love baseball.
“My brother (Bill) and I don’t get paid to do this. We give money to do this. I can’t tell you how much fun I’ve had all these years. It’s all about relationships in life. How did you treat people?