At 51, Roger Hasper still plays the game. He’s also sharing his love of baseball with youngsters — many who are experiencing it for first time. Hasper plays in the Indianapolis Baseball League and has competed in 25-and-over, 35-and-over and 45-and-over leagues. He came back to the diamond as a player at 41 after a two-decade absence. He has been a second baseman and third baseman and in his 35-and-over league, made the all-star team as a pitcher. “I throw a change-up and off-speed — 75 (mph) at the most,” says Hasper. “I use (hitters’) aggressiveness to my advantage.” IBL games are played at a variety of high schools with more than half at Grand Park in Westfield. Hasper is also the head baseball coach at Indianapolis Metropolitan High School and an English Language Acquisition Paraprofessional at the Goodwill-affiliated institution with an enrollment of about 275 about 1.5 miles northwest of Victory Field that caters to “students with barriers.” “We’ll get kids as juniors and seniors who are credit-deficient,” says Hasper. “We don’t get many freshmen.” Hasper started the program in February 2020 — a few weeks before the COVID-19 shutdown took away that season. The revamped revamped Pumas debuted in 2021 as a club team and finished the season with 10 athletes. Only one had played baseball before. “We have really good athletes here,” says Hasper. “It’s just changing their mind from basketball and football to baseball. “We had a really fun year last year.” Hasper, who was the lone coach last year, says there’s been a groundswell of baseball interest at the school. “I’m looking at 20 or 30 kids,” says Hasper. “If that’s the case I’ll definitely need some (coaching) help.” In 2022, Indianapolis Metropolitan will a bona fide IHSAA team with orange, blue and white uniforms. Metropolitan is a member of the Greater Indianapolis Athletic Conference (with Crispus Attucks, Eminence, Indianapolis Washington, Irvington Preparatory Academy, Purdue Polytechnic, Tindley and Victory College Preparatory). Last year, Metropolitan played two games against Purdue Polytechnic — one at Howe. Next spring, Hasper hopes the Pumas will be able to play and practice at either Howe or Rhoadius Park. Hasper got his coaching start at Herron High School in Indianapolis where he assisted Rusty Hughes for five seasons (2015-19). As a high school player and student, he attended what is now Prosser Career Academy in Chicago into the start of his junior year before moving to California and finishing at Los Angeles Baptist. He then went to College of the Canyons, a junior college in Santa Clarita, Calif. Decades later, he’s been taking two courses a semester at Ivy Tech in Indianapolis to finish his degree. Hasper says he plans to give many of his players a chance to pitch in order to cover the pitch county requirement and because of lack of stamina for those just learning mound skills. “I wouldn’t want to hurt anybody,” says Hasper. “Give me a good two (innings) and we’re good.” Hasper also sees baseball as a leverage tool. “You’ve got to get the grades to make the team,” says Hasper. “It’s bigger than baseball.”
Baseball players at George Washington High School in Indianapolis are analyzing data in an attempt to get better. Coach Kyle Carlisle’s Continentals have been going through individualized player development this fall and are crunching the numbers and studying the video. They are looking at on-base percentage, quality at-bats, batting average and more to improve the offensive side of the game. GameChanger clips are being used to change hitting mechanics, plate approach, defensive tendencies, etc. Indianapolis Washington is even doing a little scouting for the 2022 season. This effort is player-led. Carlisle provides the means and lets the athletes take it from there.
Carlisle is heading into his third season (second on the field since the COVID-19 pandemic took away the 2020 campaign).
The Continentals made great strides during the 2021 season, with four players earning First-Team All-GIAC honors. Senior Alfonso Gonzalez was an all-conference catcher and Indianapolis Washington’s 2021 Male Athlete of the Year. Junior outfielder Isaac Kolela earned First-Team honors, boasting a .333 batting average, and .500 OBP. Sophomore standout Frank Amador earned First-Team honors by posting a win vs. Purdue Poly on the mound in the conference tournament, pitching five innings, with 11 strikeouts and only three walks. Sophomore third baseman Darnell Stewart earned First-Team with a .400 batting average, and .600 OBP. His biggest moment was the walk-off single to send the Continentals to the GIAC Tournament Championship game. Carlisle teaches fourth grade at Phalen Leadership Academy 93. He also runs Carlisle Baseball Academy and gives lessons all over the city and consults for travel and youth teams.
“It almost doesn’t feel like work for me,” says Carlisle of coaching baseball. “I love doing it.”
Scott Hicks, George Washington’s athletic director and former Indianapolis Cathedral High School and University of Notre Dame basketball player and longtime Cathedral varsity basketball coach is in Carlisle’s words, “Is our biggest supporter.” Carlisle went on to say, “Scott has done an amazing job in being a mentor to my development as a varsity coach.”
There are challenges in every program and Carlisle and assistant coach James Tradup have their own unique obstacles. Indianapolis Washington went 11 years without baseball prior to Carlisle taking his first varsity head coaching job to reboot Continentals’ baseball.Washington’s “home” diamond is at Indy Sports Park, which is about 10 miles south of campus. The teams’ practices on-campus on a converted softball field and roll in portable mounds.
Indianapolis Public Schools are a “school of choice” – which essentially means that students living in Indianapolis, that attend public schools, can choose where they go to High School. No specific middle schools feed Washington.
“Coaching in the city is the hardest thing in the world to do,” says Carlisle. “We have to build relationships with families whose students play middle school baseball and/or travel ball in the city to commit to George Washington. “And based on proximity to where those families live, can be a hard sell. We hope to build a reputation that does recruiting for us soon.
”While there have been no commitments yet, Carlisle notes that he sees potential college players throughout his team.
A recent graduate received college baseball offers but opted to join the U.S. Army. Coach Carlisle is a 2007 graduate of Flint (Mich.) Kearsley High School. Carlisle was a pitcher for two seasons each at Olivet Nazarene University (Bourbonnais, Ill.) and Grace College (Winona Lake, Ind.). His head coaches were Todd Reid at ONU and Josh Bailey at Grace. Carlisle earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Grace in 2012 and holds a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership (2015) and a Master’s Degree in Psychology/Life Coaching (2017) from Grand Canyon University (Phoenix). Kyle married his wife, Valerie, in 2013. They reside in Speedway, Ind.
“We want to play hard and fast,” says Cushenberrry. “It’s cool to see kids come out and want to be part of something special.”
The Knights are in an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Bethesda Christian (the 2021 host site), Indiana School for the Deaf, Irvington Prep, Providence Cristo Rey and Tindley. Traders Point’s first year in the state tournament series was 2019.
Home baseball games this spring will be at Roundtripper Sports Academy or Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Cushenberry says a new turf field on the TPCS campus is expected by the end of this year.
“It’s going to be a very special time,” says Cushenberry. “The good Lord has blessed us with the opportunity to be part of something special.”
Traders Point added a high school program in 2008 and had its first graduating class in 2012. A junior high building was opened in 2020.
As a feeder for high school baseball, Grades 5-8 play on “A” and “B” junior high teams.
Jayden Cushenberry played recreational baseball at Warren Township Little League then travel ball from 10 to 13 with the Oaklandon Bombers and 14 to 17 with the Tom Caster-coached Irvington Rattlers.
“I coach exactly how I played,” says Cushenberry. “We’re going to be tough. We’re going to be gritty.
“We’re going to go after you every single inning.”
It’s all about hard work and dedication and reaping what you sew.
Cushenberry knows he’s one of the younger coaches on the scene. But he sees that as an advantage.
“I’ve always been called wise beyond my years,” says Cushenberry. “We’re in a time now where the young coaches do a better job of relating to their players.
“Everybody wants to know why. I can let them know why and still coach them hard. I believe they respond better to hard-nosed coaching. We’re preparing them for life and creating a family atmosphere.”
Jaylen comes from a large extended family. His mother, Donnice Cushenberry, is a former cheer and dance coach who instilled competitiveness and the willingness to understand people in her oldest son.
“I truly want to thank my family for engraving some core values that I live by,” says Cushenberrry, who is a brother to Jordan Cushenberry and stepson to Michael Howe.
When he’s not working at Zionsville or coaching at Traders Point, Cushenberry gives lessons at Roundtripper. He is heading into his fourth summer as a coach for the Indiana Mustangs. He leads a 17U squad.
“I want to thank (Roundtripper and Mustangs founder) Chris Estep,” says Cushenberry. “He believed in me when other people wouldn’t.
“He’s treated me like a son.”
Reid Andrews is Director of Baseball Operations at Roundtripper and coaches with the Mustangs and University.
“I’ve learned so much from him,” says Cushenberry of Andrews. “He’s a good source of information.
“I’m thankful to be colleagues with Reid.”
Cushenberrry was an assistant to Estep for two seasons at University, helping the Trailblazers win an IHSAA Class 1A state crown in 2019.
Stevens took over the Patriots just a few months before the 2019 campaign, got through a year without games because of the COVID-19 pandemic (2020) and expects up to 20 players in 2021 at a private school of about 85 students.
“I’m trying to make this program relevant again,” says Stevens. “Baseball has been an afterthought for awhile.”
Bethesda Christian’s junior high baseball coach for a few seasons, Stevens was asked to head up the varsity in January 2019.
“We had to circle the wagons and get some practices going,” says Stevens. “We had no equipment and no set routine for the varsity schedule.
“We started building it basically from scratch.”
The school has replaced its rickety press box and Stevens would like to get a new backstop.
The Patriots began workouts for 2020-21 in October and just finished the latest IHSAA Limited Contact Period for bat-and-ball activities. Players are now using a speed and agility routine devised by strength and conditioning expert Zach Dechant and a throwing strength training course put together by Jason Taulman, a former college coach who runs the Indy Sharks travel organization.
“I can’t tell you what a difference it’s made in the speed on my baseball team,” says Stevens of Dechant’s system. “It really works.
“I use (the throwing program) with the entire team. We use med balls and J-bands and do core work.”
With Bethesda’s basketball teams getting first priority on gym time in February, a handful of baseball players were at the school a 6 a.m. Friday workout.
Stevens’ assistant coach is Bethesda Christian graduate Josh Stroud.
Besides the junior high team, Stevens would like to establish a feeder system at the elementary level.
“I want to get them younger if I can,” says Stevens. “You have to build a program from the bottom up.”
“Before that Southmont played Crawfordsville and North Montgomery (school system players) and that was it,” says Stevens, who helped the league branch out to find a variety of competition around Indianapolis.
Tom and wife Christy’s daughter, Madi, transferred to Bethesda when she was a ninth grader. She’s now an elementary education major at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.
When their sister changed schools, brothers Garrett and Wyatt — who began playing T-ball at Southmont — decided to also make the switch.
Garrett Stevens is now a Bethesda senior. Bethesda is preparing to put stage “Beauty and The Beast” in March and Garrett is to play The Beast.
The Patriots’ top pitcher touches 90 mph on the radar gun, Garrett will be a teammate of freshman Wyatt.
Garrett is committed to play baseball at Anderson (Ind.) University.
“(Ravens head) Coach (Matt) Bair knows baseball, but he’s a good mentor and cares about the boys,” says Stevens. “I’m more interested in these boys become good young men and that they become all-stars at leaders in their communities and their families.”
Bethesda Christian graduate Brayden Sayre is on the baseball roster at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind.
Stevens is a licensed electrician, but has not worked in that field for about five years. He had a home improvement company in Crawfordsville. For the past three years, he’s been an apprentice to his wife in Winding Creek Ranch, a Crawfordsville-based dog breeding business specializing in Goldendoodles and Labradoodles.
Stevens has coached travel ball, but he’s partial to the community leagues for younger players.
“Travel ball has no place for any kid below the junior high level and that’s pushing it,” says Stevens. “Let’s play ball locally.”
Kyle Wade got the chance to be an athletic leader at a young age.
He was an eighth grader in Kokomo, Ind., and attending football workouts when Kokomo High School head coach Brett Colby let him know the expectations of the program and the community.
“This is your team next year” says Wade, recalling the words Colby said to the varsity Wildkats’ heir apparent at quarterback as a freshman in the fall of 2014. “On our first thud (in practice), I think I stuttered the words and dropped the ball.
“(Colby) told me, ‘you can’t show weakness to your teammates’ and ‘never act like you can’t.’ I took that to heart.”
“Coach Swan was positive, but he wasn’t afraid to get on us,” says Wade of his high school baseball experience. “(Swan) trusted us.
“We were an older team with a lot of guys who would go on to Power 5 (college) baseball (including Class of 2018’s Jack Perkins to Louisville and Bayden Root to Ohio State and Class of 2020’s Charez Butcher to Tennessee).”
Wade appreciates Moore for his organization skills and discipline.
“His scouting reports were next level,” says Wade. “Coach Wonnell won a state tournament (Class 1A at Tindley in 2017). He asked me about playing again (as a senior). He wanted a leader. He helped keep me in shape (Wade was 235 pounds at the end of his senior football season and 216 at the close of the basketball season).”
A combination of physicality, basketball I.Q. gained from having a father as a former Kokomo head coach (2000-05), he played on the front line — even guarding 7-footers.
“I had to mature. I’ve led by by example, pushing guys to get better and motivated to play. I’ve had to have mental toughness. I’ve never been one of the most talented guys on my teams.”
But Wade showed enough talent that he had college offers in football and baseball. He chose the diamond and accepted then-head coach Mark Wasikowski’s invitation to play at Purdue University.
“As a freshman coming into a Big Ten program, I had older guys who helped get me going and taught me about work ethic,” says Wade. “He have a lot of new guys (in 2020-21). As a junior, I’m in that position this year and doing it to the best of my ability.”
The COVID-19-shortened 2020 season was his second as a right-handed pitcher for the Boilermakers.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder appeared in five games (all in relief) and went 1-0 with a 4.05 earned run average. In 6 2/3 innings, he struck out two and walked one.
As a freshman in 2019, Wade got into 15 games (two as a starter) and went 2-2 with a 5.18 ERA. In 40 innings, he struck out 27 and walked 11.
Hardy teaches his youngsters how to play the game. But the teaching and the mentoring to does not end with a game or practice.
“I’m very involved with the boys,” says Hardy. “I’m not just a coach between the lines. I’m their coach all the time.
“I’ll help in any way.”
Hardy has his own remodeling business and he has some of his players help with cleaning up job sites, painting, drywalling and other handy skills.
“It keeps them out of trouble,” says Hardy. “We’re constantly stressing the importance of being a good person.
“It’s God, family, baseball and the classroom. It’s the total package.”
For players wishing to go to college, he will do what he can to make that happen.
“I’ll help in getting them tutoring,” says Hardy. “We stress the student-athlete.”
Former major league pitcher Justin Masterson, who lives in Fishers, Ind., came by practice last week to talk about faith, family and baseball with the IPA crew.
Hardy has watched his players come so far in the time he has been at Irvington Prep.
“Now that my (original class of) freshmen are juniors, I’m seeing a pay-off,” says Hardy. “That’s my satisfaction.
“That’s a W in my book.”
The inner-city high schools in Indy include Indianapolis Public SchoolsArsenal Tech, Crispus Attucks, Shortridge and Washington. Besides Irvington Prep, others include Herron, Howe, Manual, Providence Cristo Rey, Purdue Poly and Tindley. This spring, Howe and Washington did not field a baseball team.
What is now known as Irvington Prep Academy opened in 2006 as Irvington Community High School. The original location was on East Pleasant Parkway and is now home to Irvington Community Middle School on East Pleasant Run Parkway. IPA is housed in the former Children’s Guardian Home on University Avenue.
Baseball and softball teams play about three miles away in Irvington Park on Raymond Street.
Before landing at Irvington Prep, Hardy was an assistant to Jerry Giust at Broad Ripple.
The IPA Ravens went against the Broad Ripple Rockets a couple times before the latter IPS high school was closed.
Giust was the one who suggested that Hardy look into becoming a head coach.
“He knew I had been around the game for a long time and saw the enthusiasm I approach the game with and my knowledge,” says Hardy of Giust. “I loved him for it.”
Hardy graduated from Broad Ripple in 1997 after moving from South Bend, where he grew up. He went to South Bend Washington High School for three years and was drawn to swimming to fight his asthma. He was also drawn to baseball. He competed in summer ball before leaving for Indianapolis. Washington’s varsity and junior varsity both won summer titles.
“I loved the way the game was broken down,” says Hardy, who played as a sophomore and junior in a program then led by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Ric Tomaszewski, who learned much from South Bend coaching legends like Jim Reinebold and Len Buczkowski and LaPorte’s Ken Schreiber.
“The knowledge T gave us was phenomenal,” says Hardy. “He told us everybody has a job to do.”
Players at each position were supposed to know the duties of the other players on the diamond.
Rain in the first half of the season means IPA will be trying to make up many games leading up to the postseason.
The Ravens are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Eastern Hancock, Heritage Christian, Indianapolis Howe, Indianapolis Scecina Memorial, Knightstown and Triton Central. Irvington Prep has been competing in the tournament since 2013 and has not won a sectional title.
Hardy and fiancee Sandi have been together for seven years. They have one child together — Isaiah. He has three other children (Josiah, Iyanah and Ariyana) and she has two (Sylvanna and Gianna). Josiah plans to play baseball next year at Herron.
Davon Hardy (foreground) is the head baseball coach at Irvington Preparatory Academy in Indianapolis.
Former major league pitcher Justin Masterson delivers the baseball during an Irvington Prep Academy practice.
Former major leaguer Justin Masterson visited coach Davon Hardy and his Irvington Prep Academy baseball team to talk about faith, family and the game.