Tag Archives: Tom Gandolph

Hanover College infielder Christie blooms into a powerful hitter

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Alex Christie describes himself as “kind of a late bloomer.”
Now a 6-foot-5, 225-pounder coming off a super baseball season at NCAA Division III Hanover (Ind.) College where he tied the single-season home run record with 11 in 38 games, Christie says it took him some time to coordinate his skill with his frame.
Christie was a capable player as he grew up in Greenwood, Ind., but he matured later than some of his peers.
As a Center Grove High School freshman, Christie was no more than 5-10. By junior year, he was up to 6-3 and then took another growth spurt.
“I really was just like a baby my freshmen and sophomore years, but I had a lot of talent,” says Christie. “It took the weight room a lot more serious my junior year.”
“(Center Grove strength and conditioning) Coach (Marty) Mills set me up for success with structure doing things with the right form,” says Christie. “(Trojans junior varsity coach Jordan Reeser) helped me a lot with my infield stuff. Coach Carp (John T. Carpenter) always kept me in-check with my swing.”
Christie has had many reps with the bat.
“When I was younger I was an average hitter,” says Christie. “My junior year of high school I didn’t play because I wasn’t very good at hitting. I started really grinding and swinging everyday.”
The winter of his senior year (2019-20), Christie and a group of classmates — Drew Dillon, Bryce Eblin (now at the University of Alabama), Anthony Smith, Adam Taylor and Jimmy Wolff among them — were regulars at Extra Innings Indy South.
Working with Center Grove head coach Keith Hatfield, Christie had gotten up to 88 mph as a pitcher.
Then the 2020 high school season was taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would’ve loved to see what I could have done my senior year of high school if I had the chance to play,” says Christie.
He did get to play that summer with the Nighthawks of the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
“I made all-star game and I hit really well,” says Christie. “I like to swing it.
“That’s normally what gets me into the lineup.”
As a Hanover freshman in 2021, righty-swinger Christie started in all 40 games and paced the Panthers in batting average at .340 (50-of-147) and runs batted in with 45. He also rapped six home runs and nine doubles and scored 33 times with .988 OPS (.464 on-base percentage plus .524 slugging average) while earning second team all-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference honors at shortstop. He tied a school record with seven RBIs in a game against Defiance.
Unable to land a spot with a summer team in 2021, Christie worked for FedEx but also found time to work on his craft.
He came back in 2022 and hit .316 (49-of-155) with 11 homers, 11 doubles, 39 RBIs and 44 runs. Using gap-to-gap power, he posted a 1.035 OPS (.422/.613) and was selected as second team all-HCAC at first base.
Hanover head coach Grant Bellak had Christie batting No. 2 in the order.
“He wanted me to get as many at-bats as possible,” says Christie of Bellak. “I bring a lot of runs in. I hit better with guys on-base. I lock in a little bit more.
“I’m in the driver’s seat.”
Christie was named HCAC Hitter of the Week in March. During a six-game stretch on Hanover’s trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., he cracked five home runs among his 11 hits and drove in 12 runs.
What makes tying the homer record at Hanover special to Christie is that both his parents — Turk and Staycee — are alums and that the standard was established by Jeff Knecht in 1985 when the team played more games as an NAIA member.
The last game of the 2022 season Christie hit a ball that had the distance for his 12th homer, but went foul.
“Something to look forward to next year,” says Christie.
Hanover’s career homer mark is held by Greg Willman, who slugged 25 from 1982-85.
Christie verbally committed to Hanover in December of his junior year.
“Coach Bellak made me feel wanted there,” says Christie. “I wasn’t expecting to play my freshmen year.
“I started every single game, which is a huge blessing.”
Christie got good grades in high school and received an academic scholarship at Hanover, where he is a Chemistry major.
This summer, Christie is the starting shortstop for the Prospect League’s West Virginia Miners (Beckley, W.Va.).
In his first 20 games, he was hitting .353 (24-of-68) with one homer, eight doubles, 16 RBIs, 15 runs and a 1.013 OPS (.439/.574).
“I’ve really been enjoying this,” says Christie, who counts Hanover teammate and right-handed pitcher Charlie Joyce (Perry Meridian High School graduate) among his four Miners roommates. “(Miners manager) Tim Epling) loves helping. He’s got a lot to offer.
“He’s given me some advice for my swing.”
On the Miners’ off day July 6, they were to attend the New York Yankees at Pittsburgh Pirates game (Aaron Judge had one of six home runs for New York).
Christie has been swinging bats crafted by Center Grove graduate Tom Gandolph in his Bargersville, Ind., shop. Tom is the son of Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dave Gandolph, who coached Turk Christie at CG.
The first couple turned for Christie were 34 inches and 31 ounces. More recently, he’s been wielding a patriotic 34 1/4/32 club.
“I’ve been hitting really well with it,” says Christie.
Born in Indianapolis, Christie lived near Valle Vista Golf Club then moved into the Center Grove district for his whole pre-college run.
Alex played rec ball at Honey Creek until about 8 then played travel ball for the Indiana Arrows (Turk Christie was one of the coaches) and Extra Innings Indy South-based Indiana Vipers.
As he grew older and more serious about the game, Christie got more help in his development.
“I learned so much from the Indiana Twins organization,” says Christie, who played his 17U season for Jeff Stout, received instruction from Jason Clymore and assistance in gaining weight, strength and mobility from Scott Haase.
The Indiana Twins recently joined the Canes family.
Alex, 20, has an 18-year-old brother — Asa Christie — who graduated from Center Grove in 2022 and is bound for Indiana University-Kokomo as a right-handed pitcher/third baseman.
Jarrod “Turk” Christie is an auto leasing officer for Indiana Members Credit Union. Staycee Christie works for Door Services of Indiana.

Alex Christie (Hanover College Photo)
Alex Christie (right) at first base (Hanover College Photo)

Alex Christie (25) (Hanover College Photo)
With the West Virginia Miners this summer, Alex Christie is swinging clubs made in Indiana by Gandolph Bats.
West Virginia Miners teammates Alex Christie (left) and Zach Doss (Phil Andraychak Photo)

Affinity for baseball, woodworking leads to Gandolph Bats

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Baseball has been a part of Tom Gandolph’s life since Day 1.

The third of Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Famer Dave Gandolph and wife Ann’s four children (following Dave Jr. and Dan and before Jennifer), Tom played at what is now known as Center Grove Youth Baseball in Greenwood and later played for his father at Center Grove High School, graduating in 1995, and then at NCAA Division II Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., graduating in 1999.

He was on a 15-year-old team that went to the World Series in Kissimmee, Fla., and played varsity ball in the junior and senior years of high school and college. 

Gandolph was a shortstop and pitcher at Center Grove, but was used only as a moundsman in varsity games by SJC head coach Mike Moyzis.

There was also a 13-year run in what was once called the Indianapolis Amateur Baseball League before Gandolph put baseball on the back burner.

A woodworking hobby became Smokey’s Wood Shop — a one-man operation run out of Gandolph’s garage in Bargersville, Ind., which is near Greenwood in Johnson County.

He made some wooden American flags and they were well-received.

Suddenly, the 43-year-old full-time firefighter had a side gig — and a fun one at that.

With son Tanner (who is 6) starting to play in the CGYB, Tom was drawn back to baseball and decided to branch out and added Gandolph Bats as a division of Smokey’s in the latter part of 2020.

“I saw bat-making wood lathe videos,” says Gandolph, who promotes his businesses on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. “I’ve been turning a lot of bats since October. Gandolph bats has been keeping me busy.

“I’ve gotten good feedback from friends and travel ball players. They say they’ve got really good pop and weight distribution.”

Counting display, game and fungo bats, Gandolph has produced about 75 so far and currently has orders for the next 15.

Just last week, Gandolph made plans to upgrade to an auto-lathe so he can increase his volume. 

Right now, he might be able to turn seven bats from the time he gets off work and the time he picks up 6-year-old Tanner from school.

Gandolph Bats are made of Maple — a hardwood that is just a little more expensive that Ash. He is also interested in making clubs from Birch.

Now back in the baseball world, Gandolph is learning about the many travel ball teams and training facilities around central Indiana. 

Good friend Jason Taulman, a SJC teammate, runs the Indy Sharks. When Saint Joseph’s shuttered after the 2017, Gil Hodges Field went to seed. Gandolph, Taulman and other friends of the Pumas, worked to rehabilitate the field and travel ball games have been played there.

Rick O’Dette, who played at SJC and was later head coach, is also a 1999 graduate of the school.

A.J. Zapp, who played with Gandolph at Center Grove and in pro ball, has been a coach for the Indiana Astros and Indiana Bulls.

Besides Tanner, Tom and wife Rachael Gandolph also have a daughter — Mia (20 months).

A custom bat turned by Tom Gandolph of Gandolph Bats, a division of Smokey’s Wood Shop in Bargersville, Ind.
Baseball friends from Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. — Jason Taulman (left) and Tom Gandolph. In 2020, Gandolph started Gandolph Bats as a division of his Smokey’s Wood Shop business.
Rachael and Tom Gandolph take in a baseball game. Tom played baseball at Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Ind., Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., and many years in the Indianapolis Amateur Baseball League. In 2020, he started Gandolph Bats as a division of Smokey’s Wood Shop in Bargersville, Ind.
Tom Gandolph runs Smokey’s Wood Shop and Gandolph Bats out of shop in Bargersville, Ind.

Hall of Famer Gandolph back at home at Scecina with high hopes

rbilogosmall

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis has won six IHSAA football sectional titles since the Crusaders last won a sectional baseball championship.

The Crusaders reigned on the gridiron in 2001 in Class 2A, 2002 in 2A, 2012 in 1A and 2015 in 2A. Scecina last hoisted a sectional trophy on the diamond in 1992.

Dave Gandolph, a football, wrestling and baseball standout for the Crusaders in the 1960’s, would like to give that ’92 trophy some company in the case.

“We are kind of on the verge,” says Gandolph, an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer who became head baseball coach at his alma mater prior to the 2014 season after 33 years leading Center Grove in Greenwood and two guiding Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter (with an assistant stint at Carmel in-between). He has a varsity record of 766-352-4 in 39 total seasons. “We’ve lost twice in the sectional by one run.”

Scecina bowed out of the tournament by losing 2-1 to Heritage Christian in the 2014 Heritage Christian Sectional final, 12-9 to Park Tudor in the 2015 Park Tudor Sectional semifinals, 8-7 to Ritter in the 2016 Speedway Sectional semifinals, 11-5 to eventual 2A state champion Ritter in the 2017 Park Tudor Sectional semifinals.

The Crusaders compete in the Indiana Crossroads Conference (along with Ritter, Park Tudor, Beech Grove, Indianapolis Lutheran, Monrovia, Speedway and Triton Central) and then there’s the Indianapolis city tournament.

Athletic director and former Crusaders head baseball coach Jason Kehrer and Gandolph craft Scecina’s non-conference slate.

“We play a pretty tough schedule,” says Gandolph.

To get ready for the postseason, Scecina has faced a buzzsaw of a regular season. The 2017 campaign, which carried the team-picked motto “Trust the Process,” opened with losses to traditional powers Indianapolis Cathedral (4A), Indianapolis Bishop Chatard (3A), Guerin Catholic (3A), Lafayette Central Catholic (2A) and Evansville Memorial (3A). Cathedral went on to win that program’s third state championship and seven-time state champion Lafayette Central Catholic was a regional finalist.

Gandolph has enjoyed plenty of success in his career by stressing the importance of hitters putting the ball in play and since he does not have many players who promise to mash the baseball out of Neidlinger Field or other parks, that is still his approach.

“I teach a lot about ‘small ball’ and moving runners over,” says Gandolph. “(The opposing defenders) have to catch it, throw it and catch it again.

“But you have to have good pitching. That’s where it starts.”

The 2017 season was first for the IHSAA’s new pitch count rules (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days).

“The rule was put in because pitchers were getting used too much, but that was more in the summer and fall and all that,” says Gandolph. “High school coaches — for the most part — were not abusing anybody’s arms. This (new rule) creates a little more paperwork, basically.”

At state tournament time, coaching staffs must plan and strategize with the pitch count in mind.

“Everybody puts the best pitcher out there they can and go with them as long as they can,” says Gandolph. “You get a complete game or near-complete game and you’re in pretty good shape. If you get a big lead, you may want to get your (top) pitcher out of there.”

One change Gandolph would favor is seeding the sectionals.

“Seeding the sectional might alleviate some of that imbalance that might happen with a blind draw,” says Gandolph. “The city tournament is seeded and has 16 or 17 teams. We’re only talking about five, six or seven teams in the sectionals. In most cases, it’s fairly obvious (how to seed the field). You don’t want a championship game that is a blowout. That is not good for our game.

“The IHSAA has seeded wrestling for a long time and that’s a lot harder than seeding baseball teams.”

While most athletes play a fall sport, Gandolph has been working with about 10 who are not once a week this fall while sharing part of the baseball field with the Crusaders’ soccer programs. His assistants are Ted Clements, Tim Anderson, Pat Gedig and Jim Maslar. Clements and Gedig are Scecina graduates and Maslar teaches at the school. Anderson graduated from Lawrence North.

Gandolph, a 1968 Scecina graduate, was in football for coach Dave Oberting, wrestling for coach Jeff Lazo and baseball for coach Larry Neidlinger when Scecina had about 1,000 students, encourages multi-sport participation at a school of school that now has about 450.

“At smaller schools, you have to share athletes,” says Gandolph. “Otherwise, you won’t be able to compete.

“I was in football, wrestling and baseball both at Scecina and Saint Joseph’s College (in Rensselaer). I’m a firm believer in a multi-sport athlete.

“For those who specialize, there are limits what they might be able to do in some other sport. They might get get burned out mentally and it’s good to use other muscles. It keeps you more balanced.”

Participating in wrestling kept Randolph in shape for baseball and football, where he was invited to training camp at SJC with the Abe Gibron-coached Chicago Bears in 1973. He played many years of minor league football around Indianapolis and was an assistant at Center Grove for two decades, retiring after a Class 5A state runner-up finish in 2000.

Gandolph notes that his top Scecina pitcher — 6-foot-3 junior right-hander Mac Ayres — is also the starting quarterback for the Crusaders’ 7-1 football team. To keep his pitching arm in shape, Ayres gets in workouts on Sundays.

A teacher for 40 years, Gandolph retired from the classroom Jan. 1, 2014. But he welcomed the opportunity to come back to the east side of town where so many memories were made and so many friends still live and keep coaching baseball.

“I’m glad I went back to Scecina,” says Gandolph. “It’s like going back home. There are still a lot of people around from my era. It’s where I met my wife (Ann). At the time, my mom (Pat and brother Ron) were were practically living across the street in the house where I grew up.”

Dave, the oldest of Eugene and Pat Gandolph’s seven children, lost Ron in November 2016 then his mother, Pat, in December.

“It was a tough winter and spring,” says Gandolph.

Dave and Ann Gandolph still reside near Center Grove. Their four children — Dave Jr. (47), Dan (42), Tom (40) and Jennifer (34) — and eight grandchildren are all on the south side.

Dave Jr. averaged more than two strikeouts per inning during his Center Grove career, which concluded in 1988.

“Those were some boring games,” says his father.

After playing at Indiana University, 6-foot-4 left-handed Dave Jr. was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 26th round of the 1991 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and logged five minor league seasons. He is one of seven draft picks developed by Dave Gandolph Sr.

Among the others is 1996 Mr. Indiana Baseball A.J. Zapp, who hit .524 with 16 home runs and 50 runs batted in and was taken in the first round of that year’s MLB Draft by the Atlanta Braves and got as far as Triple-A.

Dan Gandolph played football and Tom Gandolph baseball at SJC. Dave Jr. and Dan are now in financial services and Tom is an Indianapolis firefighter.

Jennifer Gandolph was a senior member of Center Grove’s 2000 4A state championship team which featured her mother as an assistant coach and went on to play volleyball at the University of Michigan. Now known as Jennifer Hawk, she is now head volleyball coach at Perry Meridian High School and manages Orangtheory Fitness, owned by retired WNBA All-Star Katie Douglas, in Greenwood.

Dave and Ann Gandolph (she is an IU graduate but “Puma at Heart”) have remained close with St. Joe alumni even through the closing of the school at the end of the 2016-17 academic year.

Embracing the idea of #PumasForever, the couple attended an off-campus homecoming event a few weeks ago.

“It’s such a strong bond that everybody has,” says Gandolph, who is hopeful SJC will be able to rise from the ashes like a Phoenix. “It’s a big part of our lives.”

More than 80 players have gone on to college baseball during Gandolph’s coaching career, including Scecina graduates Bradley Meade at Anderson University, Aaron Leming at Franklin College, Genero Angeles at the University of Saint Francis.

“We have had a lot of football players go on to college from Scecina,” says Randolph. “We are trying to make them think about playing baseball in college.”

Catholic grade schools that feed into the school have not had baseball programs in recent years. Many players come through Irvington Sports Association and various travel ball organizations.

SCECINAMEMORIALCRUSADERS

DAVEGANDOLPH

Dave Gandolph, an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer, is heading into his fifth season at Indianapolis Scecina Memorial — his alma mater — in 2017-18. It will be his 40th overall as a high school head coach, including two seasons at Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter and 33 at Center Grove.