Ryan Troxel is splitting his time this summer between college pitcher, youth pitching coach banking intern. He takes the mound for the wood bat Northern League’s Lake County CornDogs, which call Legacy Fields in Crown Point, Ind., home. On his off days, he guides arms for Valparaiso (Ind.) American Legion Post 94 Juniors (17U). “I’ve missed a few (Legion) games because I had to pitch,” says Troxel. “Other than that, I’ve been there. “I’ve been a busy man.” Troxel, a 2019 graduate of Valparaiso High School, pitched a scoreless ninth inning with three strikeouts during the 2022 Northern League All-Star Game. A Finance and Management double major at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Troxel is a summer intern for Centier Bank in Merrillville, Ind. Troxel explains why he changed his academic path from Business to Finance. “Finance gives you the options to help people know their (money) goals,” says Troxel. “I also coach baseball because I love helping people.” On the diamond, the right-hander was on the winning side as the East topped the West 5-4 in 10 innings July 12 at Oil City Stadium in Whiting, Ind. Troxel’s performance was fitting because the CornDogs right-hander has a regular-season scoreless streak of 12 innings covering last three outings. In eight games (six in relief), he is 3-0 with a 0.65 earned run average. He has 35 strikeouts and eight walks in 27 2/3 innings. He was named Northern League Pitcher of the Week on July 5. A 6-foot-3, 220-pounder, Troxel is coming off his second season at NAIA member Indiana Tech. In seven games (all in relief), he was 0-4 with 14 strikeouts and 15 walks in 27 innings. In his first season with the Warriors (2021), Troxel came out of the bullpen 11 times and was 8-3 with a 4.46 ERA, 20 strikeouts and 20 walks in 35 innings. Kip McWilliams is Indiana Tech’s head coach and has also taken over pitching coach duties. “He gives us a lot of latitude to do what we want to get ready,” says Troxel of McWilliams. “He’s (coached) for a long time. He knows a lot about the game. “He’s definitely hard on guys. He expects a lot out of us. But — hey — we won a lot of games.” Tech went 32-21 and lost two one-run games as Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference tournament runners-up in 2022. McWilliams earned his 500th coaching win in April. Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Troxel uses a four-seam fastball (which has reached 87 mph), curveball, slider (which is generally clocked around 75 mph) and change-up. “I get most of my outs on off-speed pitches,” says Troxel. “I throw my change-up a lot more now. It’s really helped me against left-handers because left-handers have always killed me.” Last weekend, Valpo Post 94 won a regional championship. This weekend, Post 94 is hosting the Indiana American Legion Junior State Tournament at VHS. In 2020, Troxel played for Rocco Mossuto-coached Saint Xavier University (Chicago). In a season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, he appeared in three games (one start) and was 0-0 with one save, a 4.50 ERA, eight strikeouts and eight walks in eight innings. Troxel played for Todd Evans at Valparaiso High. “He gave me a chance during my senior year to prove to him that I could be in the rotation,” says Troxel of Evans. “I think I had a pretty good senior year and he helped me a long the way.” Troxel went 6-0 with a 1.97 ERA and was honorable mention all-state, all-Duneland Athletic Conference, all-area and team MVP in 2019. Born in Elmhurst, Ill., Troxel was 1 when he moved to Valparaiso, where he played Little League then travel ball for the Chesterton Slammers, Triple Crown, Morris Chiefs and Valparaiso Post 94. He is grateful Chiefs coach Dave Sutkowski for his support. “He kept saying, ‘I believe in you,’” says Troxel of Sutkowski. “It was never about him. He was very influential in my choosing to play college baseball and also to move on and keep playing.” Ryan is the oldest of Jeff and Michele Troxel. Brother Zach Troxel is heading into his sophomore year at Valpo. He is pitching this summer for the Indiana Bulls. Jerry Troxel, Ryan and Zach’s grandfather who died in 2021, coached baseball for four decades at Gary Wirt. One of his players was Ron Kittle, who went on to be a major league slugger. “I really do love (coaching),” says Ryan Troxel. “It’s in my blood. That’s definitely in the future for me.”
Valparaiso Post 94 is doing its part to keep American Legion Baseball in Indiana thriving. In 2021, Post 94 counts Wayne Coil as Senior team field manager and Dan Sherman in the role of general manager/director of operations. Brian Niksch is head coach of the Valpo Juniors. “We’re hanging in there,” says Sherman, who has been involved with the Valpo program for almost 10 years. Son Jake Sherman, a 2017 Andrean High School graduate, played for Charles Pratt Post 94. “Last year with the (COVID-19) pandemic and Indiana American Legion shutting down (its tournament series) hurt. “We’re probably down 10 teams in Indiana (which fields 19U senior and 17U junior squads). The strongest programs are in Rockport (Post 254), Terre Haute (Post 346) and Kokomo (Post 6).” As Post 94 GM/Director of Ops, Sherman helps raise funds, orders equipment and sets schedules. He’s even filled in as an umpire. Artificial turf is going in at Valparaiso High School. That means that the VHS Vikings were “Road Warriors” (Senior Night was held at Valparaiso University) in the spring and the Post 94 is playing an all-away schedule. Featuring many recent Valparaiso High graduates from the 2021 IHSAA Class 4A Chesterton Sectional champions, the Senior team plays American Legion and a few travel teams. Most games are within a 60-mile radius of Valpo. In Indiana, there’s Crawfordsville Post 72, East Chicago Post 100/369, Highland Post 180, Hobart Post 502, Kokomo Post 6, South Bend Post 151, South Haven Post 502 (the Blaze is based in Hobart and draws high school players from Hobart, Portage, Boone Grove, Wheeler and River Forest) and, possibly, Bristol Post 143. Michigan Legion opponents include Stevensville Post 568 and Three Oaks Post 204. There’s even Napoleon (Ohio) Post 300. Valpo, which has a Senior (19U) and Junior (17U) squad, has or will see the Midwest Rockets, Morris Chiefs, Northwest Indiana Shockers and two Indiana Playmakers squads. There will be regionals at sites to be determined for Senior and Junior teams. Junior regionals are July 8-11 with the State Finals July 15-18 at Terre Haute. Senior regionals are July 15-18 with the State Finals July 23-27 at Highland Park in Kokomo. The 94th American Legion Baseball World Series is slated for Aug. 12-17 in Shelby, N.C. Valpo placed third in the 2019 senior tournament staged in Rockport, Ind. “They play on bluegrass,” says Sherman of Joe Hargis Field, which Post 254 shares with South Spencer High School. “An army of guys to do maintenance and there’s covered stands. “It’s top quality.” Sherman, a former teacher and coach and a longtime attorney, played baseball at South Haven (Mich.) High School and Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Mich., then until age 29 in an adult league. He has an affinity for promoting amateur baseball and particularly likes the American Legion brand. “Baseball has almost become an elitist sport for some that have the money,” says Sherman. “ $250 donation (per player) pays for everything. “A big part of promoting baseball is having good facilities that are fan-friendly.” When the Post 94 Seniors traveled to River Valley High School in Three Oaks, Mich., Thursday, June 16 to play the Post 204 Oakers he knew that J.C. German and son Jason German would have the field prepped and fans would be there to cheer. Coil, a music teacher at Ben Franklin Middle School in Valparaiso who joined the Post 94 coaching staff in 2018, also coaches the junior varsity at Valpo High under varsity head coach Todd Evans, who encourages all his Vikings to play Legion ball in the summer. One of Wayne’s sons, Alex Coil (VHS Class of 2018), played for Post 94 as well as the Northwest Indiana Rippers in the Babe Ruth World Series. A broadcast intern this summer with the independent professional Frontier League’s Florence (Ky.) Y’alls, Alex is heading into his senior year in Sports Journalism at Arizona State University. Nolan Coil, another of Wayne’s sons and a 2021 Valpo graduate heading to Calvin University in Grand Rapids to study and play baseball, is on the current Post 94 Senior squad. Four other Post 94 players — Nick Koprcina (Calvin), Kyle Lawrence (Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio), Jake Nightingale (Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Mich.) and Lucas Siewin (Kankakee, Ill., Community College) — are headed to college baseball programs in the fall. The Post 94 Senior roster also includes Josh Brinson, Nate Guzek, Adler Hazlett, Erik Kallen, Matt Levenda, Matt Nightingale, Chris Rahn and Griffey Zborowski. Three 2021 Valpo grads who have made college commitments not playing Legion ball this summer are Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association District Player of the Year and North/South All-Star Series selection Grant Comstock (Northwestern University), Ty Gill (Purdue University), Carter Kosiara (North Central College in Naperville, Ill.) and Elan Reid (Manchester University). “I like the competition (of American Legion Baseball),” says Wayne Coil. “Many players have just finished their first year of college (at the senior level). The pitching is usually excellence. “The distance to travel and expense is less than when my boys were in travel ball. We get to know the (other Legion) coaches a lot better. They are all volunteering their time. It’s a bunch of great guys.” Coil sees Legion ball making a comeback. “The enthusiasm is greater for it,” says Coil. “If only more high school coaches would become aware of what American Legion is all about.” Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Gene Bottorff was infielder/pitcher Coil’s coach at Muncie (Ind.) Central High School. “He was a great mentor,’’ says 1984 MCHS graduate Coil of Bottorff. “My older brother (Class of ’82’s Neal Coil) and I learned quite a bit from him.” Wayne Coil graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and played in a summer baseball league after college. Niksch, a 1997 Valpo High graduate, is the freshmen baseball coach and a business teacher at VHS as well as an IHSAA-licensed umpire. Son Jake Niksch (Class of 2023) has played for the Post 94 Juniors and Seniors this summer. While most Post 94 Juniors players go to Valpo High, New Prairie, Portage and South Central (Union Mills) are also represented on a 14-player roster.
Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association members have voted and selected 16 district players of the year for 2021.
All-State and Indiana Player of the Year voting begins June 6.
The IHSAA state tournament series begins with sectionals May 26-31, followed by regionals June 5, semistates June 12 and the State Finals June 21-22. The IHSBCA Futures Games and North/South All-Star Series is slated for June 23-27 in Evansville.
Here’s a look at the 16 seniors chosen at Players of the Year in Districts A through P:
Says Swartzentruber: “Carter has been with us for two years following his transfer from Illiana Christian … Great kid, great student and great leader on our young team. One of my favorite players I have coached during my 24 years. … He has been a dominant player this year for us both on the mound and at the plate. There is not a doubt in my mind that he will do great things at Purdue and beyond. Great work ethic and very competitive young man.”
Lake Central is in the Class 4A Merrillville Sectional.
Says Evans: “He’s been a great pitcher for us, probably one of the more dominant pitchers in the (Duneland Athletic Conference). He’s a leader on and off the field. He also plays football and basketball. He’s a hard-working kid.”
Valparaiso is in the Class 4A Chesterton Sectional.
Says Smolinski: “Kyle has been blessed with an amazing ability to excel in both athletics and academics. Along with Kyle’s great leadership skills, he’s an outstanding teammate who respects his coaches, teachers and family. He’s hard-working, motivated and driven in everything that he does. I’m so proud of Kyle and very fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach him. I look forward to seeing him succeed on and off the field in the future … Kyle is the type of player where you wish you had nine of him on the field. He does everything you ask. He makes his teammates better.”
St. Joseph is in the Class 3A South Bend Clay Sectional.
Says Byall: “He has been a phenomenal player for us for four years. He is extremely talented, but has also worked extremely hard to transform his body and skills to an elite level … He is phenomenal to coach because you know he’s going to work hard and go about his business the right way every single day. He has been phenomenal for us this year, performing at such a high level, and by working hard everyday. He has a really bright future.”
Homestead is in the Class 4A Huntington North Sectional.
E — Jacob Loftus (Peru). A righty-swinging catcher for Tigers coach Chuck Brimbury, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Loftus has not yet made his college commitment. He plans to major in Secondary Math Education.
Say Brimbury: “Jacob is the best high school player I have coached at Peru High School in my two-plus decades. Hard worker, captain, tough, talented, and a model of ‘team first’ guy. We have have had two drafts, dozens of college players and several D-1 players from our program. Jacob ‘Yogi’ Loftus is our best to play here.”
Says King: “Hunter is a very talented player — one of the best I’ve had. Hunter is probably the best all-around hitter I’ve ever had. He’s definitely a five-tool player. He has the ability to play not only at the collegiate level but the professional level … He’s a good leader (for the program’s first outright Hoosier Heritage Conference championship). He talks hitting and situations all the time with our guys.”
Mount Vernon is in the Class 4A Pendleton Heights Sectional.
Says Marker: “I don’t think there’s another player in the state of Indiana that means more to his team than Luke means to ours. He strikes out between 15 and 21 guys (per game) … He’s had 11 strikeouts in four innings (a couple of times) … At the 1A level he strikes fear into the hearts of hitters … He’s got six pitches. He’ll have to whittle that down at the next level.”
Seton Catholic is in the Class 1A Seton Catholic Sectional.
Says Doty: “Kameron is the kind of player every coach hopes they will have the opportunity to coach — hard-working, dedicated, coachable, but most importantly a leader! Add it in the athletic ability and that describes Kameron Salazar. He has the ability to hit any pitch in any count to all fields. He is one of the best pure hitters I have had the opportunity to coach … His quick hands aid him both on the offensive and defensive side of the game. He will use all fields offensively and has significant range in the middle of the infield … All of those abilities — as great as they are — of course don’t come even close to describing his character! He is one of the nicest young men you would ever meet and terrific teammate! He has been (would have been) a four-year starter for us at shortstop if not for COVID. He has been the heart and soul of our program for the past four years and he will be great missed as he moves on to Marian next year. It’s truly been an honor to have the opportunity to coach him these past four years.”
Says Koeppen: “He’s by far one of the most enjoyable kids I’ve ever coached. He works as hard as anybody at practice. He does things the right way all the time … It’s been fun to sit back and watch him play this year.”
Lafayette Jeff is in the Class 4A Lafayette Jeff Sectional.
Says Cosgray: “Garrett is just a very well-rounded player. He’s an exceptional right-handed pitcher, topping out at 95 mph with good command of his curveball, slider and change-up … Defensively at shortstop, he’s very sound. He makes the routine play but also has the ability to make the spectacular play when necessary … He hits in the 3-hole for us. He can hit for power. He’s a gap-to-gap approach hitter, hitting over .500. It’s hard to find a more well-rounded player than him.”
Lebanon is in the Class 3A North Montgomery Sectional.
Says Freje: “He’s been a lead-off hitter and the top arm we go to … Chris is comfortable (as a sidearmer). He’s taken that role and run with it … He’s been incredibly impactful on the bases. He’s a gamer. He’s embraced all the roles he’s been given. He’s been a pleasure to coach.”
Says Jones: “He throws 92 mph-plus and he mixes his pitches real well. He gets a lot of strikeouts. He’s able to throw the ball up, throw the ball down and hit the corners … He hits well. He’s well over 400. He’s just a consistent guy.”
Edgewood is in the Class 3A Owen Valley Sectional.
Says Decker: “He’s had a really good senior year. He’s been good on the mound and at the plate for us. He probably could have gone some places to be a two-way (having played all over the field). He’s one of the better athletes I’ve got to coach … Stuff comes really easy to him.”
Silver Creek is in the Class 3A Silver Creek Sectional.
Says Mattingly: “He’s one of those kids who’s humble, hard-working and he competes. He want to be the best and he goes about his business to be the best … I’ve been around him a long time and he’s just a good kid.”
Southridge is in the Class 3A Southridge Sectional.
Says Goedde: “He’s been our most-consistent player all year. He’s in the middle of a good season. He’s had minimal slumps …. He’s versatile enough that he can play just about anywhere. Henry moves very well. He’s got a good, athletic body.”
Evansville Central is in the Class 4A Evansville Reitz Sectional.
IHSBCA 2021 District Players of the Year (School/Head Coach)
The 2013 Valparaiso (Ind.) High School graduate had been propelling the baseball from a high three-quarter arm slot. On this day in Cougars bullpen in 2017, he decided to drop down. He went from three-quarter to what he calls “a quarter” — a sidearm kind of delivery.
Weston was accurate and the new approach gave the 6-foot-2, 170-pounder some deception.
“It’s a little bit like Chris Sale, but the one I most emulate is Donnie Hart of the (Baltimore) Orioles. He’s a little bit lower even.”
A solid starter with the Muskies, he was chosen to start in the league’s all-star game and then signed for the rest of the summer to play in the Detroit Tigers organization.
In five games (three as a starter) with the Gulf Coast League Tigers West, Weston went 2-0 with a 4.50 earned run average, 12 strikeouts and two walks in 24 innings.
He was released by the Tigers in October 2017, but signed with the Chicago White Sox in April 2018.
At the start of extended spring training at the beginning of April, the White Sox were short on pitching so director of player development Chris Getz gave Weston a call and an opportunity to keep pitching as a professional.
“It’s such a cool opportunity to play the game that I love,” says Weston of the pro experience. “It’s a bonus to get paid for it.
“I get to play it at a high level with a lot of great guys.”
He made 32 appearances (all in relief) with the Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers and Arizona League White Sox and went 2-6 with a 4.87 ERA, 38 strikeouts and six walks in 47 1/3 innings. After a rough start at Great Falls, he had a streak where he gave up just one hit in six games. He was moved to Arizona with an influx of arms from the draft.
Weston, who turned 24 on Dec. 13 is now back in Valparaiso and juggling a busy schedule. He is working 40 or more hours a week while planning a February wedding and working out five or six days a week to get ready for spring training in March.
He is at the gym in Valparaiso most days, but occasionally drives over to the Chicago to work out with White Sox director of strength and conditioning Allen Thomas.
Right now, Weston is mostly lifting weights. He will begin throwing soon.
Weston met fiancee Amy Kanyer at Liberty Bible Church in Chesterton, Ind.
“We dated all this year long distance,” says Weston. “She’s learning quick (about the pro baseball lifestyle). She’s super supportive. I’m very appreciative of that.
“My mom did it for I don’t know how many years.”
Drew’s mother is Lisa Weston. Her husband of nearly 35 years (their anniversary is Dec. 31) is Mickey Weston, who played pro ball from 1982-96. A right-handed pitcher out of Eastern Michigan University, Mickey appeared in 23 games in the majors with the Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets. He went 1-2 with a 7.15 ERA, 11 strikeouts and 19 walks in 44 innings.
Since 1996, Mickey Weston has been the executive director for Unlimited Potential Inc., an organization founded by Tom Roy (now chaplain and co-head baseball coach at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.) whose vision is to “work to reach, teach, and train baseball players for the purpose of sending them out to make disciples of Jesus who love God passionately and love others radically.”
A key Bible passage for UPI is Acts 1:8: But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
“We want to get them outside of themselves,” says Mickey of the ballplayers that come in contact with UPI. “The game of baseball can make us fairly selfish folks.
“This gets the ballplayers to think of others more highly than themselves.”
Second daughter Kayla Aanderud is an OBGYN resident in Michigan. Her husband, Brian, is the U.S. Army Special Forces.
Youngest daughter Marissa Weston is a violinist in graduate school at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh after graduating from the Jacobs School of Music at IU. Lisa, Erica, Kayla and Drew also play instruments.
When UPI founder Roy handed over White Sox chaplain duties to Mickey Weston and Bryan Hickerson, the two made the commute from north central Indiana to Chicago. To cut down on the commute, the Westons relocated to Valparaiso in 2008 when Drew was entering the eighth grade.
It’s 50 minutes from Valpo to Guaranteed Rate Field. Through Baseball Chapel, Mickey offers services to home and away players plus the umpires. Lisa serves the wives.
The lesson that young Weston learned from Coyle was to “really persevere.”
“He had a football mentality,” Weston says of Coyle. “To overcome adversity, that was kind of his thing.”
Mickey Weston has always been his son’s personal pitching coach.
“He’d talk to me about about how I did and how I could do better,” says Drew. “It’s cool to have him in my corner, encouraging me.”
Mickey was asked to assess his son’s pitching strengths.
“It’s control and being able to change speeds,” says Mickey. “He’s able to locate really well and he has movement.
“I didn’t allow him to throw a curveball until he was about 16 and it really forced him to develop his change-up.”
Mickey’s own baseball stock rose when he developed a sinker. It was his third year in Double-A. He was pitching in the bullpen in Tulsa.
“The ball came off my finger and dropped off the table,” says Mickey. “(Former major league right-hander) Glenn Abbott was my pitching coach and had been working with me.
“Less than a year and I was in the big leagues.”
Mickey Weston was a sinker/slider pitcher who created a lot of movement and hovered between 88 and 92 mph while inducing ground balls with his right-handed deliveries.
Ambidextrous as a toddler, Drew Weston fell in love with sister Kayla’s mitt. He wore it all the time. He even slept with it. As a result, he became the third lefty in the Weston household, joining Kayla and his mother.
Drew Weston pitched from a high three-quarter arm angle for much of his career at Spring Arbor (Mich.) University. He later dropped down and is now pitching professionally in the Chicago White Sox system. (Spring Arbor University Photo)
Drew Weston, a graduate of Valparaiso (Ind.) High School and Spring Arbor (Mich.) University, pitched for the Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers in 2018. (Great Falls Voyagers Photo)
Drew Weston (left) and father Mickey Weston share a moment when Drew was with the Detroit Tigers organization in 2018.
Mickey Weston (left) visits son Drew Weston when Drew was with the Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers in the Chicago White Sox system in 2018. Former big league pitcher Mickey is executive director for Unlimited Potential Inc. and works through Baseball Chapel as chaplain for the Chicago White Sox.
Drew Weston (right) and fiancee Amy Kanyer share a moment during the 2018 baseball season. Drew pitched in the Chicago White Sox system. The couple are to wed in February 2019.
Dropping his arm angle helped Drew Weston earn a place in professional baseball. He played at Valparaiso (Ind.) High School and Spring Arbor University. First signed by the Detroit Tigers, he is now in the Chicago White Sox system. (Phrake Photography Photo)
Along the way, Murphy shined in football, basketball and baseball. He picked up plenty of baseball knowledge from nice man named Bob Rhoda — a coach he admired and, one day, would replace as the man in charge of the Vikings on the diamond.
After his days as Valparaiso student, Murphy traveled less than 50 miles south for higher education, attending Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer and graduating in 1965 as a social studies major and English minor.
Where did he go from there?
Back to Valpo, of course.
Murphy took a teaching job at his alma mater that would last 37 years. He taught a few English classes in the early years then concentrated on social studies and helped generations know about U.S. Government and U.S. History.
Pat and wife Nancy would raise two boys — Michael and Tim.
Michael went on to attend the U.S. Naval Academy and become a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Marines, leading a squadron of Stingrays at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas, while marrying and giving his folks two granddaughters. Tim earned a doctorate in cultural anthropology and moved out east.
Both Murphy boys gave their parents — married 45 years in 2017 — a reason to travel with Michael stationed for three years in Spain and Tim spending time in Brazil. In retirement, Pat enjoys walking with Nancy and sometimes gets her to accompany him on the golf course.
Back in Porter County, Indiana, their father was making a mark as a educator and a coach.
Pat Murphy spent 19 seasons on the Vikings football staff led by a pair of Indiana Football Hall of Famers — Tom Stokes and Mark Hoffman.
You had to play a hard-nosed brand of baseball to have any success.
“I had to play Schreib (at LaPorte) a minimum of three times (regular season and postseason) to get out of the regional,” says Murphy. “There were times four Duneland schools were in the regional.
“It was extremely competitive. You have to mean business. It’s not something you take lightly. In fact, you take it very seriously. In one week, I may play against three Halll of Famers.
“I’m honored to be considered one of them.”
Murphy’s philosophy: “Work hard, play smart, and most of all, have fun!”
“You can’t get things done unless you work hard,” says Murphy.
The catcher who blocks nasty pitch after nasty pitch is able to do so because of all the time he spent having balls whizzed at him in practice.
“Catchers are like (hockey) goalies, making 40 or 50 saves a game,” says Murphy. “You don’t get that unless you work hard at it.”
Staying with the catcher example, the man behind the mask must have the smarts to know the situation — the score, number of outs, position of runners and order of hitters coming up and what they had done the last time up.
“In baseball, there are more variables than most sports,” says Murphy. “Of course, I’m biased.”
Murphy says fun is an essential additive to this mix.
“Life’s too short not to have fun,” says Murphy. “Whether it’s coaching, teaching or your job,it can be a real tough thing to do if you dread what you’re doing.”
Murphy and his assistant coaches over the years taught young Vikings the game and then sent them into competition.
“You hope they perform the way you’ve told them, but kids are kids and sometimes it’s an adventure,” says Murphy. “You have to remember, these are 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids.”
Biff Geiss was a Murphy assistant the longest. A successful player at DePauw University, he came to VHS to teach languages and helped Murphy impart many baseball lessons.
Murphy expresses gratitude to many baseball assistants who also offered their talents to other sports. Among those are Todd Coffin, Dale Gott,Zane Cole, Dave Coyle, Rich Spicer, Steve Krutz, Jeff Wood, Gary Gray and John Gutierrez.
Current Valpo head baseball coach Todd Evans was a senior in Murphy’s last season in 1999. The former program leader likes what he sees.
“Todd has brought back things to the sport that are important,” says Murphy. “Things like punctuality, loyalty and accountability. Some of those things aren’t there any more in school or sports.”
Murphy recalls having two at least full teams playing summer games in June and July. That has been replaced by travel baseball when Valparaiso’s high school season ends.
“That’s not right,” says Murphy. “I’m pretty old school. But you have to have pretty deep pockets (for travel ball). Many kids who can’t do that. Some coaches are trophy hounds. I don’t know how much fundamental baseball is being taught and it takes away from the chemistry of the high school team the way it used to be.
Pat Murphy is going into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in January 2018. He was head baseball coach at his alma mater — Valparaiso High School — for 28 seasons and won 483 games.
Evans relishes the opportunity to teach his young Vikings about more than hitting, running, pitching and fielding.
There are the life lessons that carry them on to being husbands, fathers and productive citizens.
“Wins and losses are one thing,” says Evans, a 1999 VHS graduate who has been coaching baseball at his alma mater since the early 2000’s and is heading into his fourth season as head coach in 2018. “I want them to come away saying they learned more than baseball. I want them to be a good friend and teammate and, later, a father and member of the community.
“I’m looking to build a family just past my own.”
All of those years but the first his assistant has been big brother Chad (Valparaiso Class of 1996).
“It’s a family affair on a game day,” says Todd, who regularly sees wife Janelle, daughter Evangeline and son Sullivan at the park along with Chad’s wife Holly, daughter Lilly and son Aaron.
Todd and Chad’s parents — Dale and Cindy — and Janelle’s mother — Jaclyn — can also been seen cheering on the Vikings.
That rooting section is going to get a little bigger soon.
Todd and Janelle are expecting another girl in January. Todd won’t be surprised if he gets called away from an early-morning training session with his baseball players.
Todd Evans was a football, wrestling and baseball athlete at VHS — competing for three Hall of Fame coaches (Mark Hoffman in football, John Cook in wrestling and Pat Murphy in baseball).
Evans coached one baseball season at Westville High School then became a three-sport coach at Valpo High.
Starting in 2001, Evans has been a football assistant for Hoffman and then Dave Coyle and has moved to the freshmen team since becoming head baseball coach.
Evans was head wrestling coach at VHS before giving up that position in 2009 and has since become a mat official.
He started as a freshmen coach when Mickey Morandini was head baseball coach, moved to varsity assistant under Coyle and then replaced Coyle as head coach heading into the 2015 season.
Each of his coaches has lent something to Evans’ coaching style.
“I’m a little mold of every bit and piece I’ve taken,” says Evans, who is now 37. “In coaching three different sports, there are different mentalities. In football, you rely on everybody around you. Wrestling is about the individual. Baseball is a combination of both. You have to focus in and do your job at that specific time.”
“He was coaching against Hall of Fame coaches his whole career — guys like Ken Schreiber, Dave Pishkur, Jack Campbell and Bob Shinkan. This is a nice honor for him,” says Evans, who played on Murphy’s last Vikings squad. “Murph was a no-nonsense guy.”
Evans saw in Coyle a very organized and prepared coach.
“I still run my practice similar to the way he did,” says Evans.
A 5-foot-10 right-handed pitcher, Evans is grateful to Twenge (who is now head baseball coach at Minnetonka High School in Minnesota) for the opportunity he gave him to play college baseball in his hometown.
“Paul took a gamble on me,” says Evans, who would be the Crusaders’ closer by the end of his freshmen season. “He was the epitome of a players’ coach. You wanted to come to practice everyday. A lot of what (Twenge) did was routine, but once you got into the game you were prepared for those things.”
Evans does the same with his VHS players and concentrates on fundamentals.
“I want to be prepared for 90 to 99 percent of those situations,” says Evans. “Our kids will not bat an eye when those things occur.”
Another thing Evans gained in his college baseball experience was relationships — people who have continued to be in his life long after his VU graduation in 2003.
“You’ve got to love the you’re playing next to,” says Evans. “I’ve got 10-plus seniors (at VHS) and they’ve played with each other for a long time. It’s going to be a fun year. I’m looking forward to it.”
Evans’ paid assistants for 2018 besides brother Chad include VHS graduates Chance Garrison and Greg Simms. John Nuppnau is a volunteer.
It varies, but Evans likes to have 15 to 18 players on his varsity, junior varsity and freshmen squads.
“This year’s freshman extremely talented so I might push that number up to 20,” says Evans. “I try to have depth with the new pitching rules. More is better than less. We try to make everyone a pitcher at some time or other.”
Valparaiso plays on-campus on Viking Field. Last fall, pads and netted railings were added to the sunken dugouts. This was done for safety and also added more room to the bench area.
Evans says a referendum was passed in Valparaiso that could bring turf and lights to the field in the next few years.
“I’m not sure on the timeline,” says Evans. “It would be nice to be the first school in Porter County to have turf and may be able to host a sectional.”
The Vikings played in the IHSAA Class 4A Chesterton Sectional in 2017 and are grouped with Chesterton, Crown Point, Hobart, Merrillville and Portage in 2018. Valpo’s last sectional crown came in 2012.
The Duneland Athletic Conference, a circuit established in 1970, counts the Vikings as charter members. Other DAC schools are Chesterton, Crown Point, Lake Central, LaPorte, Merrillville, Michigan City and Portage.
As in the past few seasons, conference games will be Tuesday and Wednesday home-and-home series in 2018.
“The thought process behind this is that you couldn’t have same pitcher beat you twice,” says Evans.
LaPorte’s Evan Miller actually beat Valpo three times — twice in the regular season and then the sectional — a few years ago before the new format.
Evans, who is also a physical education teacher at VHS, has witnessed a change since his playing days and feels a responsibility.
“Kids now have more individual training and expect a higher level of coaching and competition,” says Evans. “It’s my job to see that when they step out against a D-I pitcher here and a D-I pitcher there that they are not made a fool of. They are prepared and can let their skills taken over.”
The Evans brothers — Todd (left) and Chad — have been coaching baseball together at their alma mater for more than a decade. Todd is heading into his fourth season as Vikings head coach in 2018.