A day removed from sitting in the office of Vanderbilt University head baseball coach Tim Corbin, Andrew Dutkanych IV was in a rural banquet hall in his home state being honored by prep coaches as the best player of 2022. Committed to play at Vandy, Dutkanych had a meeting with the Commodores coach in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, June 23. “It’s always cool to go down to Vanderbilt,” says Dutkanych. “I’ve been in-contact with them for so long. It’s becoming more and more real as it comes up on the next few months. “We were just talking about what the fall will look like if that’s what my decision comes to.” The 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-handed pitcher who went 8-1, struck out 114, walked 25 in 54 innings and led his high school team to the 2022 IHSAA Class 3A championship game could find himself back in Music City in the fall as part of a traditional college baseball powerhouse. Or Dutkanych’s name could be called early in the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft (slated for July 17-19) and cause him to go the pro route straight out of Brebeuf Jesuit High School in Indianapolis. On Friday, June 24 — the eve of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches AssociationNorth/South All-Star Series at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion — and with parents Andrew III and Caroline and brothers Sam, Jack and Luke plus high school head coach Jeff Scott in the audience at Roseburg Event Center, Dutkanych was honored as the 2022 IHSBCA Player of the Year. “Duke” knows many of the All-Stars from high school and travel ball circles. He will root on other South invitees, but he will not play in the games (two Saturday and one Sunday). After his time in Marion he will head back home and be a regular visitor to the weight room. “Right now I’m focusing on building some massive in my upper body a little bit,” says Dutkanych. “I want to get stronger up here and take a break from throwing.” Dutkanych says he will coordinate his training with PRP Baseball’s Anthony Gomez will doing most of the work at the gym next to his house. “The last week all I was focused on was the State Finals,” says Dutkanych. “It was obviously a heart-breaking (5-1) loss (to Andrean). “But it’s also been really cool to kind of reflect on the whole high school career and the relationships I had with the seniors and the whole team. I just felt a lot of pride in the last week for just being part of that team for four years.”
As of this writing, the DePauw staff features fifth-year head coach Blake Allen (who is in charge of pitchers and catcher) and Pustay (who is responsible for infielders, outfielders and hitters plus recruiting).
Pustay asks his infielders in particular to be aggressive.
“I want them making mistakes on their toes rather than making mistakes on their heels,” says Pustay. “I don’t want them to get in bad position and let ball play them.
“A rule we’ve tried to instill the last two years is for infielders try to say four words between each pitch (encouragement to the pitch or something strategic). It’s so they’re engaged and not waiting for something to happen.”
Outfielders are expected to make the play that’s “smart, controlled and correct.”
“Their aggression is a little more controlled,” says Pustay. “They have to be 90 percent sure to throw to the lead base. Otherwise, cut your losses and get the ball to second base (to keep the double play in order).”
Hitting is based on keeping things simple and playing to the athlete’s strengths.
“You win with who you are a a hitter,” says Pustay. “There’s a million different ways to win a ballgame. We’d like nothing better than putting a bunch of crooked numbers on the board, but there’s noting wrong with winning with a hundred paper cuts.
“We make sure we know ourselves as hitters. We are allowing guys the freedom to swing away if they feel that’s their game and really helps us.
“We want to make a good swing and hit the ball hard. We try to compete like heck on every pitch.”
In keeping the approach simple, the shorter the pre-swing thought the better.
“If you’re speaking to yourself in full sentences, you have to get out of the box,” says Pustay. “We want to use one or two words.”
As a two-man crew, Pustay and Allen conducted fall practice in September and October.
As a social distancing measure and so each student could have a solo dormitory room, only freshmen and sophomores were on-campus while juniors and seniors took online classes. Ballplayers worked out on their own or in small groups away from DePauw.
“It was sort of a blessing and curse all at the same time,” says Pustay. “For the freshmen, it was a great fall. They had a lot of great individual time — one-on-one development with the coaches.
“We had 12 position players on-campus. It was a nice crash course for freshmen for sure.”
Having the others off-campus was not ideal, but coaches and players made it work with plenty of Zoom meetings and phone calls. Pustay and Allen regularly checked in with their student-athletes.
“What I missed most this fall was the daily interaction with players walking by my office on the way to class or the weight room,” says Pustay. “As (DePauw head men’s basketball coach Bill Fenlon says), it’s a relationship business.
“You have to care for these guys on and off the field. You find out what’s important to them. It’s a mentorship.”
Pustay has been with Allen for the past four seasons after spending six with Jake Martin at the head of the Tigers program.
“The thing I really appreciate about Blake is that character counts with him,” says Pustay. “You win with the right people.
“Personally, not only has he given me a lot of responsibility but he also commands results. We’ve got to keep working. We can’t have time where we’re patting ourselves on the back for too long.”
As a father of three, Allen has also passed along lessons about balancing family life and baseball. Matt and Laura Pustay live in Indianapolis with daughter Ellie (3) and son Joey (1).
“It’s important to take time for your family during a pretty demanding coaching schedule,” says Pustay.
“It was a graduate course — essentially — in baseball,” says Pustay. “I could talk for days about Mike Roberts. He taught myself and the other assistants about how to treat people. He really taught us how to make everybody around the park feel like they were a part of it. That whole community lived for the Kettleers.
“It was a very family-friendly experience.”
Pustay got to know the names of a lot of dogs and kids.
“Mike Roberts taught me how to be a better person and trust myself,” says Pustay. “He’s a class act.”
Through Allen’s Vanderbilt University connections, Pustay has worked four fall camps at the NCAA D-I powerhouse (2015-19). Tim Corbin is the Commodores head coach.
Pustay has also worked camps at Notre Dame during the tenure of Mik Aoki and and Kentucky when Gary Henderson was head coach.
A native of Granville, Ohio, Pustay graduated from Granville High School in 2005 and earned three baseball letters at DePauw (2007, 2008 and 2009) as a catcher while playing for head coach Matt Walker (who is now head football coach at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls).
Pustay helped former high school teammate Sean Rainey with the Granville American Legion Post 398 team in the summer of 2009 then became an assistant at NCAA D-III Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, and was with the Ryan Grice-coached Crusaders for 2010 spring season.
“Coach Grice gave me a pretty long leash,” says Pustay. “He handed the catching position over to me. It was the best thing to happen to me as a young coach, being given that much responsibility.”
Grice did not nit-pick, he just asked that Pustay keep him posted about what he was doing.
Martin, who was a DePauw assistant when Pustay played for the Tigers, had put in a good word for him at Capital.
When Martin became DePauw’s head coach, he brought Pustay back to Greencastle. The two have remained close even after Martin went down the road to become head coach at Wabash College.
Quinn, who turns 26 in December, was a right-handed pitcher at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., for four years (2014-17) and an assistant coach at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., for two seasons (2019 and 2020).
The IHSAA Limited Contact Period for baseball ended Oct. 17. Quinn worked with a few players each Friday, showing them the fundamentals of playing catch and giving them a chance to field ground balls.
Many players were not available since they were involved in football or others were getting ready for basketball season. The dead period lasts until Dec. 7.
Jeff Pittard, the father of Quinn’s former DePauw teammate, Reid Pittard, has committed as a part-time assistant. Other coaching candidates are being considered.
Quinn says he gets a sense that the Bulldogs will be a senior-heavy team in 2021. Among that group of left-handed pitcher J.T. Holton, an Indiana University Kokomo commit.
The new coach recently reached out to youth leagues in Michigantown and Kirkland to build a relationship with future Clinton Central players.
A full-time substitute teacher at the school, Quinn is looking into getting his transition to teaching license. He earned his DePauw bachelor’s degree in Communications. He also holds a personal trainer certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Quinn was brought to DePauw by then-DePauw head coach Jake Martin (head coach at his alma mater, Wabash, since the 2017 season).
“Coach Martin drove all the way from Greencastle to St. Louis to take me and my parents to dinner and drove back in the same day,” says Quinn. “He obviously cared a lot about me and his program.
“He made it very clear about how he wanted to do things.”
As a DePauw Tiger, Quinn took the mound 48 times (24 as a starter). He was honorable mental all-North Coast Athletic Conference as a junior and second team all-NCAC as a senior while also serving as team captain.
During his four years (the last three playing for head coach Blake Allen), DePauw made the NCAA Division III tournament twice and posted the most victories in a four-year record (98) in the history of the program which dates back more than a century.
Allen is a St. Louis native, which helped Quinn relate to the coach.
“He’s super, super passionate,” says Quinn of Allen. “He knows his stuff.”
Allen spent two stints covering five years at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., where he learned from highly-respected Commodores head coach Tim Corbin.
“(Allen) got the best out of everybody on the team,” says Quinn. “He was really good at understanding the mental side and getting us to lock into that.”
Allen had DePauw hitters in an attacking mindset and Mike Hammel and Jack Thompson both set the school record for home runs in a single-season at 13 in 2017. The ’17 Tigers hit 46 bombs as a team.
As a college freshman, Quinn took a Baseball History class. He is familiar with the old Polo Grounds in New York, where the dimensions were short down the foul lines and deep to center. He looks at the Clinton Central field and is reminded of that image.
“Our center fielder has to be very quick,” says Quinn. “He’ll have a cover a lot of ground.”
He’ll be asking his pitchers to throw a lot of strikes, keep the pitch count down and work to all parts of the strike zone.
Quinn also plans to take a page out of Hall of Famer Bob Gibson’s book.
“Gibson said that with every pitch, act like you meant it to go there,” says Quinn. “Don’t get frustrated. Get the ball back and get ready for that next pitch.”
Conrad Gregor does his best to use baseball’s five physical tools (speed, arm strength, fielding, hitting for average and hitting for power).
As a third baseman, first baseman and left fielder for the New Jersey Jackals of the independent Can-Am League, the lefty swinger has played in 72 games for the 2019 season (through Aug. 9) and is hitting .324 with nine home runs, 15 doubles, four triples, 49 runs batted in, 68 runs scored, 61 walks, 34 stolen bases and a .459 on-base percentage.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder has amassed 22 multi-hit games with four in a “friendly” against the Cuba National Team and four three-hit games.
Besides the tools, Gregor also sees the importance of using mental skills, work ethic, mindset, consistency and a desire for excellence.
“It’s what’s between your two ears,” says Gregor of mental skills. “As a pro, you play on a nightly basis. You have to survive the ups and downs of being a hitter in baseball.
“I have to get my body ready to play 140-plus games a year. You have to be a good teammate at all times — even when things aren’t going well foryou individually. Have a ‘team at-bat’ — no matter what that may be.”
Eric Lentz was Gregor’s head coach at Carmel High School. They have stayed in contact through the years.
“He’s got a great baseball mind,” says Gregor of Lentz. “I learned a lot from him. He’s about bringing it everyday, keeping the blinders on, doing the little things and playing team baseball to win games.”
“I’ve passed it on to the people I teach.”
During the baseball off-season, Gregor runs Anchor Down Sports Performance in downtown Carmel and many of his clients are junior high, high school and college ballplayers.
“I want to help people the best that I can,” says Gregor, who completed his finance and entrepreneurship degree during fall semesters after beginning his pro baseball career in 2013 and is certified in weightlifting and functional movement systems.
Anchor Down — a name that gives a nod to the Vanderbilt Commodores — has a presence on social media, including Facebook and YouTube.
Gregor was selected in the 40th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago White Sox, but opted to go to Vanderbilt. He played three seasons for the Commodores (2011-13), hitting .327 with nine homers, 45 doubles, 115 runs batted in, 117 runs scored, 33 stolen bases and a .444 on-base percentage over 186 games.
“He helped me become not only a great baseball player, but a great person.”
Picked in the fourth round of the 2013 draft by the Houston Astros, Gregor signed that June then had an unforgettable family moment in 2014 in Davenport, Iowa.
Conrad slugged his first Midwest League home run and his father — Marty — caught the ball. Marty and Megan Gregor had made their way out to a restaurant near right field and Marty was there to collect the souvenir.
Gregor was in the Astros system into 2017 then played 69 games with New Jersey before being picked up with the Boston Red Sox organization at the end of 2017. He played 12 games in he Red Sox chain along with five for the independent Atlantic League’s Lancaster (Pa.) Barnstormers and 98 with the Can-Am League’s Rockland (N.Y.) Boulders in 2018.
The Can-Am League all-star hopes to help New Jersey to a league title in 2019 (the regular season ends Sept. 2 and the playoffs conclude Sept. 15) then come back to Carmel to re-charge and then head out again.
Gregor is currently shopping around for a chance to play winter ball in Mexico, Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic.
“I’m at the stage of my career where it’s ‘what have you done for me lately?’ It’s performance-based,” says Gregor. “I’m looking to continue playing.”
Always a righty thrower and lefty batter, Gregor sees advantages in swinging from that side of the plate.
“Being left-handed gives you a head start running to first base and you’re facing a lot of right-handed pitchers so the off-speed pitch is coming into your barrel.”
When teaching hitters, Gregor likes to point to the great left-handed swings — like the sweet one with the high finish used by Ken Griffey Jr. — and encourage his students to use what works best for them.
Conrad Gregor, a graduate of Carmel (Ind.) High School and Vanderbilt University, is playing professional baseball in 2019 with independent New Jersey Jackals. (New Jersey Jackals Photo)
Conrad Gregor, a graduate of Carmel (Ind.) High School and Vanderbilt University, is playing professional baseball in 2019 with independent New Jersey Jackals. Gregor has also played in the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox organizations and owns and operates Anchor Down Sports Performance in Carmel. (New Jersey Jackals Photo)
Following Tommy John surgery July 19, 2016 — the date is tattooed near the scar — the right-hander did not pick up a baseball until January 2017 and then participated in fall activities at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
In the GCL, he made five mound appearances (all starts) and was 0-1 with a 1.54 ERA. In 11 2/3 innings, he struck out 16 and walked three and was moved to the Auburn (N.Y.) Doubledays of the Short Season Class-A New York-Penn League.
Schaller has been in four games for Auburn (all starts) covering 16 2/3 innings. He is 1-1 with a 4.86 ERA, nine strikeouts and four walks.
He goes to the bump for Doubledays manager Jerad Head and pitching coach Franklin Bravo with a large pitch repertoire. He throws both a four-seam and two-seam fastball as well as a slider, change-up and cutter. He added the cutter to the four-seamer and slider during the NCAA Clemson Regional. Once he got to Auburn, he began working on the two-seamer — a pitch he used in high school.
At Lebanon, Schaller played four seasons for Tigers head coach Rick Cosgray and was a three-time honorable mention all-state selection and three-time all-Sagamore Athletic Conference performer. He captained the team as a junior and senior. In his sophomore year (2014), Lebanon won SAC and IHSAA Class 3A North Montgomery Sectionalchampionships.
As a freshman, Cosgray had Schaller splitting his time between the varsity and junior varsity teams, going down to get some more at-bats.
“(Cosgray) made me think — this is the time I can get better and bring it to the varsity team,” says Schaller. “Everything happens for a reason.
“You see how it develops through time.”
In 2013, Schaller was a teammate of future Los Angeles Angels minor league pitcher Travis Herrin.
When not pitching, Schaller was an outfielder early in his prep career and then settled at first base. He also played one season a little football for the Lebanon Tigers.
The determination that helped him back from injury has helped propel Schaller throughout his athletic career.
“I’m committed to the goals I’ve set and I’m hard-working,” says Schaller. “I’m determined to succeed on the mound.
“I have the ability to bounce back from a bad outing and be ready for my next bullpen. It’s all about being consistent.”
Born in Indianapolis, Schaller grew up near Thorntown and played Little League baseball at Dover and Thorntown.
Schaller is four semesters from completing his American Studies degree and says he plans to go back at some point to complete it.
Today, Matt Schaller sells insurance, Heather Schaller is a realtor and Mason Schaller is in business. He played baseball at Lebanon and graduated from Indiana University.
Reid Schaller, a Lebanon (Ind.) High School graduate who played at Vanderbilt University, is now with the Auburn (N.Y.) Doubledays in the Washington Nationals system. (Auburn Doubledays Photo)
Reid Schaller bears down for the Auburn (N.Y.) Doubledays in the Washington Nationals system. He is a 2016 Lebanon (Ind.) High School graduate who pitched one season (2018) for Vanderbilt University. (Rick Nelson Photo)
Former Lebanon (Ind.) High School and Vanderbilt University pitcher Reid Schaller lets one go for the Auburn (N.Y.) Doubledays. (Rick Nelson Photo)
Reid Schaller, 21, is in his first professional baseball season in the Washington Nationals system. (Rick Nelson Photo)
Reid Schaller, a Lebanon (Ind.) High School graduate, makes a pitch for the Auburn (N.Y.) Doubledays in the Washington Nationals system. Making his way back from Tommy John surgery, the right-hander made his college debut at Vanderbilt University and in professional baseball both in 2018. (Rick Nelson Photo)
After returning to the Greencastle campus and taking the position in August 2016, the former DU player and assistant coach did plenty of talent evaluation while tasking his captains and seniors with establishing the program’s core values.
Three cue words are used daily by the 2017 Tigers: Grit, Resiliency, Selflessness.
“We play the game the right way,” says Allen is describing the Grit. “We play hard. We get down the line. We run on and off the field. We feel it’s worth the price of admission for a family to come watch us play. A dad’s going to be able to sit in the stands with his son and say ‘that’s how you do it.’
“Selflessness is always doing something for someone else, whether it’s a teammate, a parent, a friend, a teacher, a professor. We’re not going to wait for someone to take the garbage out of our dugout. We’re going to do it ourselves. We’re not going to make another human being do that stuff.”
Having been a baseball and football player for two seasons at DePauw for two years before transferring and later serving on the Tigers staff, Allen knows that the idea at the NCAA Division III-affiliated institution is to strike a balance in campus life. DePauw offers the opportunity to be pushed in academics and athletics while also experiencing fraternities and other organizations.
With the high academic standards of the schools, grades and test scores are very important in the recruiting process.
“We are able to find plenty of good players that are really good academic kids,” says Allen.
By NCAA D-III rules, the team has four weeks of practice in the fall (16 days total) and 15 more weeks with a 40-game schedule in the spring.
“Not having a chance to see your guys every single day (like D-I coaches can), it’s been a tough transition,” says Allen. “You can’t be with them everyday talking about the swing or pitching mechanics.”
It also limits time to make personal connections. And that’s very important to Allen, who watched Vandy head coach Tim Corbin emphasize developing the person first.
“The relationships and how you communicate with your players is huge,” says Allen. “It’s teaching them more than just the game of baseball. As you become a parent, as you get older, you realize those are the most important things.”
Allen wants his Tigers to hustle at DU’s Walker Field and other diamonds, but also be respectful, look people in the eye and carry on a conversation.
“If you teach them how to be a good person and mold that, they’re going to be good players,” says Allen. “They’re going to do what you ask.
“It all comes full circle. Those are the same things that my dad taught me when I was a good player in Little League.
Sometimes you get lost in the X’s and O’s and mechanics of the game a little too much and you lose focus on the most important things. At the end of the day, it’s energy, attitude and effort. And it always will be.”
For the most part, NCAC games are played in Saturday and Sunday doubleheaders.
“I don’t like it,” says Allen. “You never have a chance to replicate it during the fall or early spring. You don’t have a winner coming out of a (four-game) series, which I don’t like.
“Because of the pitching depth, those Game 4 scores are rough (DePauw beat Wittenberg 16-4 and lost 14-12 to Denison).”
With at least 36 innings of baseball in 48 hours, it’s the survival of the fittest and the time the Tigers spent at the track and in the weight room during the fall and winter come into play in the spring.
“I’ve never looked at baseball as being a grind,” says Allen. “But with four 9-inning games, it’s a mental and physical grind.
“That’s why rest and giving these guys a break is crucial.”
After a recent grueling series and with a tall academic load starting at his players, Allen allowed his players to take a deep breath and re-charge.
“I never thought in a million years I’d give a team three days off in a row,” says Allen. “But they needed it. They appreciate that. I just want them to be fresh coming down the stretch.”
Besides DePauw, the NCAC includes Allegheny (Leadville, Pa.), Denison (Granville, Ohio), DePauw (Greencastle), Hiram (Hiram, Ohio), Kenyon (Gambier, Ohio), Oberlin (Oberlin, Ohio), Ohio Wesleyan (Delaware, Ohio), Wabash (Crawfordsville), Wittenberg (Springfield, Ohio) and Wooster (Wooster, Ohio). Plans call for the league to switch to a single round robin of doubleheaders between all teams. The top two teams from each division converge in mid-May in Chillicothe, Ohio, for the NCAC tournament.
Blake Allen, a former player and assistant coach at DePauw University, is in his first season as Tigers head baseball coach.