Tag Archives: Todd Lillpop

Kennedy joins Butler Bulldogs coaching staff

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Matt Kennedy is back home again in Indiana after spending a few years coaching baseball in Florida.

The Lafayette native joined the staff at Butler University in Indianapolis in January. He is instructing catchers, infielders and hitters, helping pitching coach Ben Norton with recruiting, assisting with camps and clinics and office duties.

“It’s a group effort here,” says Kennedy. “We make sure we are all on the same page.”

Head coach Dave Schrage’s Bulldogs open the 2020 season Feb. 14-16 in Lexington, S.C., with two games each against North Carolina A&T and George Mason. Butler is a member of the Big East Conference.

Kennedy appreciates that Schrage values player development and promotes a family atmosphere.

“It’s about getting guys better and fundamentals,” says Kennedy of Schrage. “He’s a pitching and defense guy and believes in attention to details. He emphasizes base running, which a little bit of a lost art.

“We have a family feel within our clubhouse. He wants to make sure you get home and spend time with your kids. He knows how important that is, especially with the season right around the corner.”

Kennedy has has three children in West Lafayette. Son Karson Kennedy (16) is a junior catcher at Harrison High School, where Pat Lowrey is head coach. Daughter Emilyne (13) is a gymnast and a seventh grader at Battle Ground Middle School. Daughter Jolee (9) is a third grader at Battle Ground Elementary.

The 2018 and 2019 seasons saw Kennedy on the staff of Rick O’Dette at Saint Leo (Fla.) University. He had served three different stints with O’Dette at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. ((2005, 2007-08, 2016-17). The school closed its doors after the 2017 season.

“Rick is phenomenal,” says Kennedy. “He believes in the importance of work ethic and that blue collar feel.

“It’s made (going to Butler) an easy transition for me. (O’Dette) was so family-oriented with the team. Players were caring for each other playing for each other. He knew the importance of team and not the ‘I’ factor. He demanded a lot, but you see the rewards of that.”

That’s the way it was at Saint Joseph’s, where alum O’Dette was head coach for 17 years.

When Kentucky Wesleyan College graduate Kennedy came to the Pumas, there was immediate acceptance.

“I’m one of them,” says Kennedy. “(O’Dette) is instilling that culture down at Saint Leo.”

Kennedy began his high school baseball career at Lafayette Central Catholic High School. He was bumped up from the junior varsity to the varsity, took a baseball to the face which required reconstructive surgery and ended his freshmen season early.

He landed a McCutcheon High School. As a senior second baseman, Kennedy was part of coach Jake Burton’s 1999 IHSAA Class 4A state championship team.

The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Assocation Hall of Famer’s expectations were high for Kennedy and the rest of the Mavericks.

“He saw a lot more in me in what I thought I could do — both as a person and a player,” says Kennedy of Burton. “Jake was great for me. I owe that man a lot. Without his influence, I definitely wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now.”

Kennedy learned to never be truly satisfied as a player and has carried that into his coaching career, holding himself and his athletes to a high standard.

“You can always learn, always get better,” says Kennedy. “You see there’s little more in there (with players). You have to figure out a way to get them out of them.”

Burton expected his players to work hard, be good people, follow the rules and be accountable for themselves and their actions. They had to make good decisions or they couldn’t be a part of the McCutcheon program.

“That put me in the right direction,” says Kennedy. “It put me with a good group of friends that I still talk to today.”

Kennedy played one season for coach Todd Post at Kankakee (Ill.) Community College and three at Kentucky Wesleyan — one for Greg McVey and two for Todd Lillpop.

McVey demanded much from his players and kept them on-task.

“He was a planner,” says Kennedy, who is among the Kentucky Wesleyan career leaders in fielding percentage and assists. “We knew everyday what we were doing. These are the goals of the day and this is what we want to accomplish.”

Like O’Dette at Saint Joseph’s, Lillpop became a college head coach at a young age and learned on the fly.

“He stressed the importance of working everyday and improving,” says Kennedy of Lillpop. “As a team, we had some success.”

The Owensboro-based KWC Panthers made their conference tournament for the first time in well over a decade and turned the program around.

Kennedy received his Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Kentucky Wesleyan in 2003. He began his coaching career as a KWC assistant in 2004.

After his first stop at Saint Joseph’s, he was an assistant to Bob Warn in the Hall of Famer’s last season leading the Indiana State University program.

“He cared so much for that place,” says Kennedy of Warn. “Everything he did was for the good of Indiana State baseball. His legacy there is going to be forever. Guys played hard for him and he was great to work for.

“As a young coach, you think you know more than you do. It’s good to keep your mouth shut and your ears open and you’re going to learn a lot more. (Warn) opened my eyes. There are a lot of different ways to do things.”

After his second tenure at Saint Joseph’s, Kennedy took over the reins at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill. (2009-13). His first four teams went 49-9, 50-13, 43-11 and 40-20. The 2009 Cobras, featuring future Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, won the 2009 National Junior College Athletic Association Divison II World Series.

Kiermaier was primarily a shortstop when he came to Parkland. Kennedy, wishing to get some more repetitions for his infielders, asked Kiemaier to move to center field during a fall game. He later told him his path to the next level would be at that position.

Before being selected in the 31st round of the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Kiemaier was a two-time NJCAA All-American.

“His athleticism was unmatched,” says Kennedy of Kiermaier. “It was fun to watch him out there.”

From spring to fall of 2013, Kennedy was briefly an assistant at High Point (N.C.) University for head coach Chris Cozart.

With his parents in declining health, he decided to move back to the Midwest.

Kennedy knew Jeff Isom through Lafayette baseball circles and was introduced by Bobby Bell.

When Isom became manager of the independent Frontier League’s Joliet (Ill.) Slammers, he invited Kennedy to be his hitting coach. He served in that role during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

“Pro ball is something that always intrigued me a little bit,” says Kennedy. “I checked it out for a couple years.

“I missed the college end of things.”

So he went back with O’Dette at Saint Joseph’s.

And now he’s back in Indiana, doing his best to develop players at Butler.

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Matt Kennedy, a Lafayette, Ind., native, has joined the baseball coaching staff at Butler University in Indianapolis. His previous job was as an assistant at Saint Leo (Fla.) University. (Butler University Photo)

 

Buddies Quarles, Moralez to teach baseball in China

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jaylen Quarles welcomes new adventures in his life.

The Indianapolis native will soon experience new things and share his bat and ball knowledge on the other side of the globe.

“I’m ready to learn something different,” says Quarles, who holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in sports management from the University of Southern Indiana (2017 and 2019), where he played baseball. “I would love to learn a second language.”

The former Screaming Eagles outfielder/designated hitter will get a chance to pick up a Mandarin dialect spoken in Tianjin, China.

Quarles and best friend Andrew Moralez are scheduled to leave Monday morning (Sept. 15) from Indianapolis for Toronto and then on to China and a year as instructors for Dallas-based D-BAT Baseball & Softball Academies.

After a week of training in Beijing, Lawrence Central High School graduate Quarles and Bishop Chatard High School and Kentucky Wesleyan College grad Moralez will move about 70 miles southeast to the metropolis of Tianjin. With the help of translators, they will teach players ages 3 to 18.

“The contract is a full year,” says Quarles. “We get holidays off, but not enough time to come home.

“In the ninth or 10th month, we can negotiate for a second year.”

At 25, Moralez is also ready for adventure and getting himself experience toward his goal of coaching at the international level. He was recruited by D-BAT director of China Operations David Fisher and sent a resume and video montage.

“A lot of people don’t get to do this kind of stuff,” says Moralez. “I might as well take advantage of it.”

Quarles and Moralez have known each other since they were 9. Jaylen was playing for the Indiana Pony Express and Andrew, who moved to Indiana from Colorado at 6, the Westfield (Ind.) Indians. From 11 to 18, the two were summer mates with the Pony Express.

Jon Richardson was the leader of that travel organization.

“Jon was a really good influence on us when we were younger,” says Moralez, who later coached at 17U Pony Express team for Richardson. “He kept us accountable.

“I can’t being to explain how much he’s done for me and my career.”

Quarles is a 2012 graduate of Lawrence Central, where he lettered in baseball and football. He was honorable mention all-state, first team all-Conference Indiana and all-Marion County as a senior while hitting .463 with 20 runs batted in.

He was playing eighth grade football when coach Dan Roman fired a football into the air one day at practice and told Jaylen “make sure you call it.”

Roman, the head baseball coach at Lawrence Central at the time, knew that the youngster was familiar with the diamond.

But that was news to Quarles.

“I had no idea he knew I played baseball,” says Quarles. “I enjoyed playing for Dan Roman at LC.”

Besides the Pony Express, Quarles also played parts of two summers with Indianapolis RBI, playing in national tournaments in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

He went on to participate in two seasons of junior college baseball at Southeastern Illinois College. As a sophomore in 2014, the lefty-swinger hit .367 with 39 runs scored and team-best 26 RBIs.

After transferring to USI, Quarles played 33 games (22 starts) and hit .363 with 18 runs in 2015. After being a medical redshirt in 2016, he played 35 games (29 starts at designated hitter) in 2017 while hitting .310 with 14 runs and 14 RBIs.

Why degrees in sports management?

“Growing up all I wanted to do was play baseball,” says Quarles, who posted a 3.8 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale (in grad school). “I want to stay around the business.

“This is the type of job that I want. I’d eventually like to be a college coach at any level.”

Moralez was a three-year starter at Chatard, playing shortstop, second base, right field and pitching for Trojans head coach Mike Harmon. He was honorable all-Marion County in 2010.

What Moralez appreciates about Harmon is his ability to bring players together.

“He harped on family a lot with us,” says Moralez. “I look that into college and pro ball.”

“I wanted to want the team to be one and have good chemistry. I wanted to get everybody on board with one mission.”

The right-handed pitcher at Kentucky Wesleyan from 2013-16, making 39 mound appearances with nine victories for the Todd Lillpop-coached Panthers. He earned a degree in graphic design.

After college, Moralez took part in the California Winter League and then spring training with the independent Frontier League’s Evansville (Ind.) Otters in 2017.

Moralez landed with the Thoroughbred Mustangs of the independent Thoroughbred Baseball League in Lexington, Ky. With Scott Nathanson as manager, the Mustangs won the league championship.

Through BaseballJobsOverseas.com, Moralez was going to play in Austria when he developed bone spurs and instead stayed in the U.S. and took an office job.

While Moralez has been working in Indianapolis, Quarles has been living and working in the Evansville area. He got internship credit working for Kevin and Kate Brown at Kevin Brown Baseball & Softball School in Mount Vernon, Ind., and continued to give lessons and coach travel softball.

“I got really comfortable in Evansville,” says Quarles. “I gained and formed relationships.”

That includes USI head coach Tracy Archuleta, who he surprised recently by popping in at practice.

Quarles, 26, was offered the chance to join D-BAT in the spring through a Facebook message from former USI pitcher Dan Marcacci. But Jaylen was finishing his graduate degree and the softball season was about to begin.

“I had obligations,” says Quarles. “I’ve been all-in with these girls. I can’t leave them hanging.”

Fast forward to this week and Quarles has been in Indianapolis making preparations to travel to China, including getting shots and squaring away paperwork.

Jaylen is the son of Leonza and Crystle Quarles. He has a sister, Jazzemine.

Andrew is the youngest of Oscar and Julie Moralez. Jesse Moralez is the older brother.

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Andrew Moralez, a graduate of Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis and Kentucky Wesleyan College, delivers a 2017 pitch for the independent Thoroughbred Mustangs in Lexington, Ky.  He will soon be teaching baseball in China with best friend Jaylen Quarles. They played travel ball together on the Pony Express. (Thoroughbred Baseball League Photo)

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Indianapolis native Jaylen Quarles bats for the University of Southern Indiana. The 2012 Lawrence Central High School graduate will soon be teaching baseball in China with best friend Andrew Moralez. They played travel ball together on the Pony Express. (University of Southern Indiana Photo)

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Andrew Moralez fires a pitch for Kentucky Wesleyan College. On this day, he hit the radar gun at 94 mph. The KWC and Bishop Chatard High School graduate will soon be teaching baseball in China with best friend Jaylen Quarles. (Kentucky Wesleyan College Photo)

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Jaylen Quarles prepares for the pitch while playing for the University of Southern Indiana. The USI and Lawrence Central High school graduate will soon be teaching baseball in China with best friend Andrew Moralez. (University of Southern Indiana)

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At Kentucky Wesleyan College baseball senior day in 2017, Andrew Moralez is surrounded by his family. From left, there’s big brother Jesse Moralez, mother Juile Moralez and father Oscar Moralez.

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Crystle and Leonza Quarles share a moment with son Jaylen Quarles during the latter’s baseball-playing days at the University of Southern Indiana.

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Andrew Moralez played baseball at Kentucky Wesleyan College and will soon be teaching the game in China with best friend Jaylen Quarles. He is a graduate of Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis (Kentucky Wesleyan University Photo)

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Jaylen Quarles played baseball at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville and will soon be teaching the game in China with best friend Andrew Moralez. He is a graduate of Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis. (University of Southern Indiana Photo)

 

Pobereyko giving it his all along his winding baseball path

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The baseball career of Matt Pobereyko can’t be draw with a straight line.

The 6-foot-3 pitcher from Munster, Ind., has zigged and zagged his way and pursued opportunities at every turn.

“I’ve never been out in the greatest spots in the world,” says Pobereyko (pronounced Poe-Buh-Reek-Oh). “But I wouldn’t change the path that I’ve taken. It’s all been a learning experience.”

Pobereyko graduated from Hammond Bishop Noll Institute, where he did not crack the varsity lineup for then-Warriors coach Paul Wirtz until his junior season and graduated in 2010.

“P-Dub is awesome,” says Pobereyko of Wirtz. “He gave me a chance to pitch when somebody else went down. We are still friends. He coaches at Merrillville now we stay in touch.”

Pobereyko’s five-year college career started with two seasons for coach Steve Ruzich at South Suburban College in South Holland, Ill., and three for coach Todd Lillpop at Kentucky Wesleyan College.

The righty is grateful for Lillpop.

“He was a great guy,” says Pobereyko. “He kept an offer on the table for me. He gave me every opportunity I could get. He gave me his all and I — in return — gave him my all on the field.”

In 2012, the pitcher underwent Tommy John arm surgery. He went 2-2 for KWC in 2013 then tossed just three innings in 2014.

Coming back strong in 2015, Pobereyko went 9-2 with a 1.84 earned run average and 104 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings. He was the Panthers’ team MVP and an All-Great Midwest Athletic Conference first team selection and expected to get selected in that year’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

While waiting on the draft, he went to coach with the Midwest Collegiate League’s Northwest Indiana Oilmen.

A starting during the college regular season, it was in the summers of 2013 and 2014 with the Oilmen that Pobereyko was asked to be a late-inning relief pitcher.

He has been strictly a reliever in pro baseball.

Pitching from the stretch ever since his Tommy John surgery, Pobereyko says he’s always been max-effort guy whether he’s been a starter or a back end of the bullpen guy.

“I’m aggressive and that puts me into that role,” says Pobereyko, who is comfortable throwing a fastball, forkball or slider in any count. “(As a reliever), I’m able to put that little extra something on it and use a a little more adrenaline. That gives me a leg up being comfortable with it when not every hitter is comfortable with it.”

When the MLB call never came in 2015, the hurler went to the pay-to-play California Winter League for the first two months of 2016 and dominated, allowing just two earned runs (1.05 ERA) and fanning 17 in 13 1/3 innings. He drew the attention of Dennis Pelfrey, manager of the independent Frontier League’s Florence (Ky.) Freedom.

Pobereyko performed well enough in 20 games for Florence (1.33 ERA, 31 K’s in 20 1/3 innings) to be signed as a free agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

He took the mound at the Rookie, Low-A and High-A levels for a total of 15 games. After going 1-2 with three saves, seven games finished and whiffing 36 in 27 innings, he was released in October 2016.

Hooking on again with Pelfrey and Florence in 2017, Pobereyko showed well enough (1.00 ERA, 38 K’s in 18 innings) for the New York Mets to come calling and signed with that organization on June 22.

In 23 games and 34 1/3 innings with the Columbia Fireflies of the Low Class-A South Atlantic League, Pobereyko went 3-3 with a 3.15 ERA and racked up 53 strikeouts. He finished 11 games and recorded two saves. For less than a week, he was a teammate of Tim Tebow.

“I didn’t see any of the chaos and sold-out stadiums,” says Pobereyko. “He was just a regular guy in the locker room and the dugout.”

Pobereyko now finds himself among the best minor leaguers from each MLB organization in the Arizona Fall League.

So far, he has finished two games for the Scottsdale Scorpions and is 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA and four strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings.

He relishes the challenge of the AFL.

“I’m being put to a little bit of a test,” says Pobereyko. “This forces you to make your pitches a little sharper. It shows me what I need to do to compete at a higher level.

“I’m just very thankful for the opportunity (the Mets) gave me. They’ve really put the ball in my hands for my career to show what I can do.”

When the AFL wraps play in November, he sees himself coming back to northwest Indiana to work, train and give baseball lessons. The past few years, he’s done that at Morris Baseball and Softball Center (owned by Munster graduate and former pro Bobby Morris) and Triple Crown Baseball & Softball Academy (ran by former big leaguer Brent Bowers) — both in Schererville.

But Pobereyko, who turns 26 on Christmas Eve, is not looking too far down the road right now.

“Thinking where I’m going to be in the future is an additional stresser,” says Pobereyko. “I want to be in the now.”

Matt is not the only member of his family firing baseballs the past several seasons.

Younger brother Danny Pobereyko pitched at Noll and finished a four-year mound career at Butler University in 2017, twirling all but six of 60 appearances in relief. The 6-foot-5 right-hander played for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod League during the summer of 2015.

A knee injury made Danny decided to end his playing career. He is now teaching and working on his master’s degree at Northern Michigan University. A Creative Writing major at Butler, he is also working on a baseball-themed novel.

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Matt Pobereyko, a 2010 Hammond Noll Institute, delivers a pitch for the Scottsdale Scorpions on the 2017 Arizona Fall League. He is a member of the New York Mets organization. (27 Outs Baseball Photo)