Evansville Christian School in Newburgh, Ind., is preparing for its first season of IHSAA tournament eligibility in 2022-23. The Eagles’ program was started by Joe Paulin at the Cub (middle school) level in 2017. There were three players on the day he was hired, including son Thomas Paulin. He was one of seven “Trailblazers” in the Class of 2022. The Eagles went 10-8 last spring. Brandon Juarez (Class of 2022) became the program’s first college commitment, going to NCAA Division I University of Southern Indiana in Evansville. College baseball prospects include three from the Class of 2024 — shortstop/pitcher Josiah Dunham, left-handed pitcher Jaydon Gates and catcher Maddox Brenner. Josiah Dunham, one of Indiana’s top prep basketball players (he averaged 26 points per game in 2021-22), is the brother of New York Yankees minor leaguer and former Indiana University player Elijah Dunham. Evansville Christian athletic director Paul Dunham is the father of both Josiah and Elijah and has coached with Paulin at what is now Golfmoor Baseball Association (Dunham coached one team to within a game of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.) and Evansville Reitz High School. Paulin’s Evansville Christian coaching staff includes Paul Dunham, Matt Brunton and Chris Pillow. In the summer, Evansville Christian coaches guide Newburgh American Legion Post 44 teams with Paulin as manager. Both senior and junior squads have been state finalists the past two years. Before ECS, Paulin was an assistant to Todd DeWeese at Reitz for five years. A 1991 Reitz graduate, Paulin played three seasons for Steve Johnston. As a senior, he was a state champion in Speech and Debate before a short stint at Lincoln Trail College (Robinson, Ill.), playing for Tony Vittorio. “He was an excellent coach,” says Paulin of Indianapolis native Vittorio. “He would take advantage of every minute of practice.” During IHSAA Limited Contact Period practices twice a week this fall, Paulin overseen bullpen sessions. “We’re trying to develop our younger guys and the pitching staff,” says Paulin, a Greater Evansville Baseball Hall of Fame inductee. What’s Paulin’s “why”? “The reason I began coaching was to be with my kids and their friends,” says Paulin, who recently celebrated 24 years of marriage to Cariann (the mom other baseball moms go to for answers) and has three sons (Cory, Joe Jr. and Thomas) and three daughters (Destiney, Candace and Jacklyn). Cory (28) is the oldest and Evansville Christian first grader Jacklyn (7) and youngest. “I have been blessed enough to be able to coach my daughter Candace and my sons Joe Jr. and Thomas for about 12 years (in baseball or basketball). “As far as I’m concerned this has been the best years of my life and I have really enjoyed spending this time with them. It has been priceless. “I’m a relationship guy. I try to get involved with (athlete’s) lives. High school players need that.” Evansville Christian played its first high school season in 2018 and now has about 50 players for varsity, junior varsity and Cub squads. Experiencing steady growth in recent years, ESC has an enrollment around 210 for high school, which will make them a Class 1A team for IHSAA tournament play. It is a Pre-K-12 school. Its had elementary and middle school students for about 25 years and its first graduating class was 2020. The Eagles won Southern Roads Conference titles in baseball in 2018 and 2019 and are now an athletic independent. The schedule includes mostly Indiana teams though they have played team from Illinois and Kentucky. The Cub feeder program (Grades 7-8 with some sixth graders) plays a spring schedule but also some fall games. The team lost just twice this fall. Evansville Christian plays its home games at Scott Township Baseball & Softball, located about 15 miles from the campus. “Players make a commitment,” says Paulin.
Brendan Dudas determined that he needed on a career change and left the business world that he entered after college for education. He became a teacher in 2020-21. “It’s the best decision I’ve ever made and it’s so fulfilling,” says Dudas, who is teaching fourth graders at Mary Bryan Elementary in the Southport section of Indianapolis, in the first part of 2021-22. “I can be a male role model for some of the boys in the school. They might say, ‘I can be a teacher just like Mr. Dudas someday.’” The Mary Bryan campus is the site of Holder Field – home of Southport High School baseball. Dudas was hired as the Cardinals head baseball coach in July and plans call for him to begin teaching college and career prep to SHS freshmen after winter break. The high school dismisses at 2 p.m. and the elementary at 4. Just like he does with The Dirtyard as founder of Circle City Wiffle®, Dudas did some sprucing at Holder Field. “I’ve edged it,” says Dudas. “I want to give the kids something to be proud of.” A 2013 graduate of Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis (PM and Southport are both part of Perry Township Schools), Dudas went to the University of Indianapolis to study and play baseball. He redshirted as a freshman and then competed for the Gary Vaught-coached Greyhounds for four seasons (2015-18) while earning a bachelor’s degree in Supply Chain Management and a Master’s in Business Administration. Dudas describes the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period with Southport players. “I got right to work,” says Dudas. “I was excited to get out there and see what I had. “We did a lot of skill work and broke things down to the basics. By the end of the fall, the Cardinals were participating in modified scrimmages. Right now, players are working on conditioning and team bonding. “Last night they ran in the snow,” says Dudas, who is eager for the next Limited Contact window to open on Dec. 6. “On 12-6 we’re going to get reps after reps in the (batting) cage – whatever we have to do to simulate being on the field.” Southport has an indoor facility with cages and a turf floor. If it gets too cold in there, practice can be shifted to an auxiliary gym. Dudes’ 2022 assistants are Jordan Tackett (pitching coach), Thomas Hopkins, Keegan Caughey, Chris Cox and Mike Gaylor. Tackett (Perry Meridian Class of 2013) and Dudas played together at age 10 with the Edgewood Bulldogs (later known as the Indy Irish) and at Perry Meridian and UIndy. Dudas met Hopkins, who played at Hanover College, through Wiffle®Ball. Caughey is Dudas’ best friend and was also in the Perry Meridian Class of ’13. Cox is a holdover from 2021 and will be the junior varsity head coach. Southport (enrollment around 2,250) is a member of Conference Indiana (with Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Columbus North, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo). In 2021, the Cardinals were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Franklin Central, Perry Meridian, Roncalli and Warren Central. Southport has won 13 sectional crowns — the last in 2008. Senior Zachary Shepherd recently signed to play of Southport graduate Tony Vittorio at Wilmington (Ohio) College. Dudas says he may have a few more college commits in his senior class and sees plenty of potentials in his “young guns.” Left-handed pitcher Avery Short was selected in 12th round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks straight out of Southport. He competed at Low-Class A Visalia in 2021. The high school program is fed in part by Southport Little League. “(Administrators) want us to visit there and get it thriving again,” says Dudas. Southport Middle School plays condensed baseball schedule in the spring. Brendan and Madison Dudas have been married for two years. They’ve been best friends since they were in sixth grade. Madison Dudas is in the Indiana University School of Medicine-Indianapolis campus. The couple lives in Perry Township and are raising Brendan’s nephews – Kevin and Tristan. He was a true sophomore at UIndy when he took the boys in following the death of his sister to a heroin overdose. “We have a support system here,” says Brendan. “That’s why (coming to Southport) here is so appealing.”
At 62 and in a year where he lost his wife, Tyner has a different perspective.
“I’m pretty intense as a competitor,” says Tyner. “As you age you don’t lose your intensity, it becomes a different kind of focus. I’m a little more cerebral. Yelling and screaming might have worked in the ‘90s. That doesn’t work now. You have to think about who you’re talking to.
“Hopefully I’ve calmed down. As you mature, you go from thinking it’s your team to how can I serve the kid? Or how can I share the information I’ve learned in my 40 years in the game?”
It’s a horizontal relationship. Tyner lets his assistants take their strengths and run with them.
“I’m not ego-driven anymore,” says Tyner. “We can all learn something from each other and coaches and kids benefit.”
Coaching friends — like Tony Vittorio — are quick to point out when Tyner might lose sight of what his job is.
“I’m a father first and a coach second,” says Tyner. “I don’t have just one son, I have 38 his year. I’m older than all my coaches, so I have more even more sons.”
Tyner was a standout in Decatur, Ill., playing for Ray DeMoulin (a bird dog scout for the Cincinnati Reds who allowed Tyner to try out at 15) at MacAthur High School and Lee Handley (who played in the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers systems) as American Legion manager.
The coin came up heads. Tyner went to Florida, made the Hurricanes roster and played on College World Series teams in 1978, 1979 and 1980, earning Baskin Robbins Player of the Year honors in that final season.
At Miami, Tyner was around coaching legends Ron Fraser and Skip Bertman. The young outfielder marveled at how the two baseball minds could anticipate what was going to happen in a game.
“How did they do that?” says Tyner. who refers to Bertman as a walking baseball encyclopedia. “I hovered closed to him. His sixth sense was incredible.”
Fraser called them the “Miami Greyhounds.”
“I felt I was on a track team,” says Tyner. “That’s how much we ran. We were in shape.”
Before the current 56-game spring limit in NCAA Division I, Miami typically played more than 100 games counting fall and spring.
In 1981, he enjoyed his best offensive and worst defensive season. The parent Orioles had decided to move Cal Ripken Jr. from third base to shortstop and decided to make Tyner into a third sacker. But the hot corner proved pretty hot for him and he made 20 errors in 51 games at third for the Hagerstown Suns.
Fans down both baselines let him know about it with a group of ladies on the third base side pointing out the places where the ball struck the “human dartboard.” Hagerstown spectators donned hard hats on the first base side in case of errant Tyner throws.
His roommate on the road was pitcher Julian Gonzalez. During a game in Salem, Va., after Tyner committed his third error, Hagerstown manager Grady Little came to the mound. Gonzalez told the skipper that his roomie had to go.
There was a bus accident the first weekend of season. The vehicle landed on its side.
“I felt something pop in my back way down low,” says Tyner. “24 hours later I couldn’t move. I missed over 30 games that summer.
At the plate, Tyner was locked in, hitting .301 with 31 home runs and 113 runs batted for the Suns in 1981.
After that, Tyner went back to the outfield where he vied with Drungo Hazewood for the unofficial title of best arm in the Orioles organization.
He would go on to belt 79 home runs in 365 games, playing for Hagerstown in 1981 and 1983 and the Charlotte O’s in 1982 and 1983. Multiple surgeries for bone chips in his right elbow put and end to Tyner’s pro career.
“I put my arm through a little bit of abuse,” says Tyner. “I was a quarterback and pitched in high school. Who knows what I did? It didn’t fail me for five more years. At Miami, I had a really good arm.”
“I’m not sure it gets much better than that,” says Tyner.
It was while coming to Indianapolis to finish his degree at Concordia University that Tyner connected with Butler head coach Steve Farley and began coaching for the Bulldogs. The first go-round, he was on Farley’s staff from 1993-97.
A relationship with the Bulls led to the press box and stands that are there to this day.
At the time, Dave Taylor was president of the organization and Craig Moore was head coach of the 17U team. Tyner started out with the 15U squad.
After coaching four years at Butler making $325 per semester, Tyner decided it was time to make money for his family — wife Laura, daughter Lindsay and son Matthew and got into communication sales and real estate.
Lindsay Dempsey, who is worked as a Registered Nurse, is now 36, married with two children and living Switzerland. Matthew Tyner, 33, is married and a finance and operations manager in Indianapolis.
When Matthew became a teenager, the Bulls approached his father about coaching a new 13U team with Jeremy Guler. The next year, Matt Tyner and Jeff Jamerson coached their sons Matthew and Jason on the 14U Bulls.
“We had top-shelf athletes way ahead of their time,” says Tyner of a team that featured future pros Lance Lynn (Brownsburg), Tommy Hunter (Cathedral) and J.B. Paxson (Center Grove). “It was fun to watch them play.”
“He imparted so much baseball knowledge on these kids,” says Tyner of Alexander, who was integral current baseball fields at Purdue University as well as Indianapolis Bishop Chatard High School, where Matthew Tyner played for Trojans head coach Mike Harmon and graduated in 2005. “What a treat that was.”
A few years later, Matt Tyner got the itch to coach baseball again. This time Farley could pay him a living wage and he went back to work at Butler in August 2007. Pendleton Heights graduate Jason Jamerson was a Bulldog senior in 2009.
“They made me feel like a king and there was one great speaker after the next for 2 1/2 days,” says Tyner. “As a coach you can’t be everything to everybody. But I’m going to use this nugget and I’m going to use that nugget.
“That’s money well-spent.”
In the summer of 2010, Tyner was offered the head coaching position at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky. Knights athletic director Scott Wiegandt had been a Triple-A Louisville teammate of Tracy Woodson, a former big league third baseman, Fort Wayne Wizards manager who was then Valparaiso University head coach.
Farley, Woodson and University of Indianapolis head coach Gary Vaught gave Tyner their endorsement.
“We made some serious strides in that program,” says Tyner, who coached then-NCAA Division II Bellarmine to 26-26 and 27-23 marks in 2011 and 2012 with a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title and an appearance in the regional tournament championship game against the Grand Valley State University the second year.
Brandon Tormoehlen, now head coach at Brownstown (Ind.) Central High School, was on Tyner’s coaching staff.
Woodson became head coach at the University of Richmond (Va.) and called Tyner to be his recruiting coordinator and hitting coach. It was a post he held for four seasons.
“We had some pretty strong offensive teams,” says Tyner of his time with the Spiders.
Then Towson reached out and hit Tyner was an offer to be the Tigers head coach.
“The first two years at Towson was a challenge for all of us,” says Tyner, who saw his teams go 13-42 in 2018 and 14-39 in 2019. “We are process-driven and not results-driven. Took awhile for those entrenched in a different system to get it.
“Last year was their chance to shine.”
Indianapolis native Laura Anne Tyner passed away Feb. 10 in her hometown and Matt took a leave of absence at Towson. Matt and Laura were wed in 1983. She taught children with special needs and spent 20 years in real estate management.
With former Butler and Purdue University assistant Miller running the team, the 2020 Towson Tigers went 7-8 before the COVID-19 shutdown.
Tyner went down to see the team play in the opener of a weekend series in Miami. It turned out to be a pitchers’ dual. The Hurricanes held on for a 2-1 Feb. 28 victory. Freshman catcher Burke Camper just barely missed a home run in the top of the ninth inning.
“It was a game for the ages,” says Tyner. “It was unbelievable for me to watch and be a part of.”
A few days later, it was decided between Tyner and Towson athletic director Tim Leonard that the coach would come back to the program in mid-March.
“I needed baseball more than baseball needed me,” says Tyner, who got back in time to see the season prematurely halted with the campus being closed and all classes going online. He came back to Indianapolis.
When things opened back up, players were placed in summer leagues. This fall, the Tigers worked out with social distancing and other COVID precautions.
“It was the most competitive for all of us since I’ve been here,” says Tyner. “We have a chance to be pretty good (2021).”
Towson is a member of the Colonial Athletic Association. The Tigers are not fully-funded. There are 6.2 scholarships available and the NCAA Division I limit is 11.7.
“God love the AD and president of this university (Tim Leonard and Dr. Kim Schaztel),” says Tyner. “They’ve done a phenomenal job of keeping us afloat.
During his high school days, Jasper went 113-18 with three sectional crowns, two regional titles and two semistate championships. He was on the IHSBCA South All-Star squad in 2013. He was honorable mention all-state in 2012 (pitcher) and 2013 (second baseman).
Nick describes his prep days as “the worst/best four years of my life in terms of baseball.”
The baseball bar is set very high for the Jasper Wildcats.
“I was supposed to win four state championships in four years,” says Nick. “That was my mentality.
“I didn’t get special treatment.”
His junior year, he spent three periods during the school day with his father plus all the time on the baseball field. There were tense moments, but a lot of very good memories.
“I’m glad everything happened the way it did,” says Nick.
Terry and Caroline Gobert had five children. Sarah died of leukemia as a toddler. Maria just graduated from Indiana University in three years. Laura will graduate from Jasper this year and head to the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville. Julia is in the Jasper Class of 2021.
Nick is the lone Gobert offspring currently pursuing coaching. Along the way, he got a taste for working with older players and recruiting and adjusted his vision to the college game and pursue it while he’s still young.
“I’ve been social distancing since I moved to Iowa,” says Gobert.
The coach who turns 26 on May 27 serves on a staff led by Matthew Torrez and coaches third base, helps with recruiting and instruction of infielders, outfielders and hitters and a little bit with pitchers.
After graduating from Jasper in 2013, Gobert played for Tony Vittorio at the University of Dayton in 2014 and 2015.
A torn labrum in 2016 ended his season and he was given a medical redshirt. He transferred to the Southern Indiana, where he played two seasons for Archuleta (2017 and 2018), earning honorable mention NCAA Division II All-American and first-team all-region and first-team all-conference selection in 2018 after batting .357., and served as graduate assistant in 2019. He is working toward as master’s degree in Sport Management.
Gobert chose Dayton, which went to an NCAA D-I regional in 2012, and Vittorio for the coach’s blue-collar approach.
“He was very tough-minded and very organized,” says Gobert. “He embraced being a mid-major college. He had a lot of passion for the game.
He was a fiery individual.”
When it came time to travel, Gobert knew the winning tradition at USI led by Archuleta.
“I knew a lot of guys who played for him and spoke highly of him,” says Gobert of the man who brought NCAA Division I national crowns to Southern Indiana in 2010 and 2014. “He had high expectations. Our end goal was being in Cary, N.C. and winning a national title.
“He was concerned for our well-being with tough love. He was easy to play for and he helped me grow and develop and also pursue my passion for coaching.”
In Torrez, Gobert sees a combination of Vittorio and Archuleta.
“He coaches with a lot of energy and likes to put the time in,” says Gobert. “In junior college, you get a lot of hands-on time (more than at NCAA or NAIA schools).
“I’ve learned a ton about the game from him, especially about pitching. I pick his brain quite a bit when it comes to his philosophies.”
Gobert says he and Torrez bring new school and old school together.
“I’ve got old-school roots,” says Gobert. “I’m old school in how we conduct our business.”
The new school comes into play with the use of biomechanics, kinesiology and technology.
“We bounce ideas off each other,” says Gobert.
Indian Hills played around 20 games in the fall of 2019. The COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic caused the 2020 spring season to be shut down after 15 contests. The Falcons never got to play a home game. A March 13 date at Des Moines Area Community College, where Indiana native Nic Mishler is head coach, ended up being the finale.
Since the shutdown, Indian Hills has been conducting classes online (the last day is Monday, May 11) and coaches have been helping a 2020 roster that includes out-of-state players from California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin as well international talent from Canada, Japan, Netherlands, Panama, Puerto Rico, Spain and Venezuela.
Gobert says Indian Hills is also hoping to build the brand by attracting more local players.
“We have a contact we go through,” says Gobert. “It’s much easier to communicate these days.
“We get hundreds of emails a week. People looking for a place to play.”
There are about three dozen players in the program right now. There could be as many as 50 in the fall.
Gobert says five are expected to come back for a third year (a measure allowed by the NJCAA because of COVID-19).
Some players are feeling out offers from four-year schools and deciding if they want to come or not.
It’s not just the 2020 class that has been granted an extra year, but so has 2021, 2022 and 2013.
“What a lot of people don’t understand how good this is going to be for junior college baseball,” says Gobert. “This is going to be an ongoing thing for three — maybe — four years.
“Depth will get even better and it will be more competitive than it is now.”
Gobert’s day-to-day routine has only changed in that he can’t visit or see players off-campus or have them visit the Indian Hills campus.
But he can still make calls, watch videos, do office work and maintain the baseball field.
And some day, he will again be able to build those relationships in-person.
Nick Gobert (left) and father Terry helped Jasper (Ind.) High School win 113 games in Nick’s four seasons playing for the Wildcats (2010-13). Nick is now an assistant coach at Indiana Hills Community College in Iowa. Terry, an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer, has more than 800 wins, five state titles and three runner-up finishes as Jasper head coach. (Dubois County Herald Photo)
Nick Gobert, a graduate of Jasper (Ind.) High School and the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, played two baseball seasons at USI and served as a graduate assistant. He is now an assistant at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa. (University of Southern Indiana Photo)
Nick Gobert, a graduate of Jasper (Ind.) High School and the University of Southern Indiana, is an assistant baseball coach at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa. (Indian Hills Community College Photo)
Tony Vittorio is 53 and has been a college baseball coach for three decades.
It was as a teenager on the south side of Indianapolis that he decided that would be his path in life.
Vittorio grew up the youngest of three children at 2925 Anniston Drive, directly across the street from Southport Little League.
“We woke up to the sound of the crowd on Saturdays and Sundays,” says Vittorio. “That’s where the whole love of it came.”
At 15, Tony made the senior league all-stars coached by Jeff Mercer Sr. It was after his first practice with Mercer — then a player at Marian College in Indianapolis and later the father of Indiana University head coach Jeff Mercer Jr. — putting the all-stars through drills and game situations that Vittorio came home and exclaimed that coaching was for him.
“It was that one practice alone,” says Vittorio, who is heading into his second season as head coach at NCAA Division III Wilmington (Ohio) College, which is 35 miles southeast of Dayton.
“We we became close friends through the years,” says Vittorio of mentor Naylor. “I was honored and humbled to do his eulogy at his funeral.”
While playing for Naylor’s Panthers (then an NAIA program), Vittorio pursued a double major in business administration and physical education.
Vittorio spent the 1990 season as a volunteer/graduate assistant at Indiana University under Bob Morgan.
“I always thank Coach Morgan for teaching me how to practice properly,” says Vittorio. “His practice organization was second to no one in the country.”
At 23, Vittorio became a head coach at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., and went on to become known as a builder of programs.
“We do not complain about what you don’t have,” says Vittorio. “We just grind it out.”
Vittorio led Lincoln Trail — a junior college — for four seasons. After winning 20 games the first season (1991), the Statesmen won 39, 40 and 45 contests. The year before Vittorio came to town the team won just two games.
“He is as good of a person as I’ve ever met in my life,” says Vittorio of Madison, an American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer and National Baseball Director for SCORE International. “Coach Madison has this thing figured out — spiritually, mentally.”
Vittorio spent three seasons (1997-99) at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, when the Mastodons were NCAA Division II. His teams won 80 games after IPFW had gone 9-37 the year before he arrived in the Summit City.
“He’s a beautiful person,” says Vittorio of Hershberger.
Vittorio began an 18-year run at the University of Dayton in 2000. The program was 22-34 the year before his arrival and went on to 10 seasons of at least 25 victories and seven of at least 30 with the 2009 club winning 38.
His NCAA Division I Flyers won 463 games altogether. the 2012 team participated in the NCAA College Station Regional.
Several other former Vittorio players and coaches are coaching are various levels.
After his days at Dayton, Vittorio helped coach his son (Nic Vittorio) in the summer with Dayton Thunderbirds, but was not really looking for another college job when Wilmington, a member of the Ohio Athletic Conference, came calling.
His first Quakers team went 8-29 in 2019 and he’s working toward steady improvement.
“I feel revised and amped up again to build a program at this level,” says Vittorio. “There’s a locker room word — culture. We’re looking to change the culture.
“That means implementing your own program of everyday core values — hard work, loyalty, hustle, sportsmanship and the biggest one — passion and energy on a daily basis. I’m a true believer you can’t go to where you want to go without passion and energy.”
Coming from the Division I world, Vittorio has learned to make adjustments in his approach.
Instead of 30 contact dates in the fall, D-III schools get 16. There are 40 regular-season games in the spring instead of 56. D-III does not offer athletic scholarships, but aid is based on academics and need.
“To me, that’s a lot of time lost,” says Vittorio. “But baseball is more pure (at the D-III level). You don’t have to hold the players’ hands on everything they do as you sometimes have to do in D-I.
“Players have a chance to develop leadership skills. They have to form captain/open field practices (when the coaching staff is away).”
“You can’t win without good players,” says Vittorio, who counts the Midwest as his recruiting base. “It’s more strenuous at this level. You have knock on 100 doors — instead of 50 doors — to get 10 guys.”
Vittorio spends a lot of his time raising money for the baseball program and as director of athletic development, the rest of Wilmington’s athletic department (which includes 18 varsity sports for men and women).
As a coach, He is also working to inspire his players in the classroom, the community and on the baseball field. He is emphasizing player development and building a quality college baseball atmosphere.
“We’re all obsessed with winning and losing,” says Vittorio. “But this whole thing is about making young men the best they can be.”
Vittorio comes back to Indianapolis often. Just last Saturday, he was at Southport Athletic Booster Club Reverse Raffle. He counts Indiana University head men’s basketball coach Archie Miller as a friend from Miller’s six seasons as head coach. Vittorio grew up as a fan of Bob Knight’s IU teams and Notre Dame football.
“That’s the Indiana Italian Catholic in me,” says Vittorio. “I love the state of Indiana. I’m a Hoosier.”
Tony and Heather Vittorio have two children. Taylor Vittorio (21) is a former volleyball player at Sinclair Community College in Dayton. Nic Vittorio is a senior baseball player at Kettering-Fairmont High School in Kettering, Ohio.
Tony Vittorio, an Indianapolis native, is now the head baseball coach at Wilmington (Ohio) College. Prior to lead the Quakers, he was head coach at the University of Dayton, Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne and Lincoln Trail Community College. (Wilmington College Photo)
Taking baseball lessons he learned in the Midwest, Jared Broughton is now passing along his diamond knowledge in the South.
Broughton, who was born in and grew up in Indianapolis and played at Indianapolis Lutheran High School, Vincennes (Ind.) University and the University of Dayton (Ohio) before serving as an assistant coach at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., is heading into his third season on the baseball coaching staff at Piedmont College in Demorest, Ga.
As the associate varsity head coach and head junior varsity coach, Broughton leads the Lions in hitting, base running and infield play and also mans the third base coach’s box while helping head coach Justin Scali and assistant Luke Harris with recruiting for the NCAA Division III program.
“These kids are very intelligent and can really process information quickly,” says Broughton, who turns 29 in September. “It’s fun to coach those guys because they are very willing learn.”
With D-III schools giving academic but no athletic scholarship money, Broughton knows his athletes are there for “a degree first and foremost and also get a first-class baseball experience as well.”
Broughton was drawn to Piedmont because it is a perennially-strong performer in D-III baseball and got a recommendation from Jeremy Sheetinger. The two coached against one another when Broughton was an assistant at Earlham and Sheetinger the head coach at Spalding University in Louisville, Ky., and worked clinics together.
“I owe a lot of how I got down here to him,” says Broughton of Sheetinger, who is now the College Division Liaison with the American Baseball Coaches Association. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Broughton’s appreciation for Scali comes from his organization, attention to detail and fundamentally-based type of play.
“We play a brand of baseball that is very sound,” says Broughton. “You dominate the routine play and do not beat yourself. That’s a hard team to play against because they just won’t give you anything.”
Piedmont is a member of the USA South Athletic Conference. The northern-most member is Berea (Ky.) College. The Lions are to open their 2019 season in early February and finish about the time the academic calendar winds down in late April.
Broughton was hired for his first coaching job about two months after his playing career ended at Dayton and spent three seasons (2014-16) at Earlham with head coach Steve Sakosits.
“He took a big risk. I had no coaching experience,” says Broughton. “I will be forever grateful to Coach Sakosits for giving me that opportunity.”
While former college pitcher Sakosits focused on Quaker arms, he allowed Broughton to jump into the fire with what he knew about hitting and base running.
“He entrusted me as a young coach to implement my own system on the offensive side,” says Broughton. “I was able to take what I learned as a player and teach that to guys who were about my age.
“It was a great way for me to learn and grow as a coach.”
While at Earlham, Broughton met Tia Seymour from nearby Lynn, Ind., and she has moved with him to Georgia.
At Indianapolis Lutheran, his head coach was his uncle — Dick Alter (who is married to his mother’s sister). Jared and older sisters Jennifer and Jessica spent a good deal of time with the Alters as kids.
“I learned an awful lot from him,” says Broughton. “He was a big influencing act in my baseball career ever since I was a little kid.
“He taught me not only about hitting mechanics, but also the mental side of the game.”
Jared, who lost his mother, Kristi, in 2001, also credits his father, Leon (now married to Cathleen), for helping to teach him the intricacies of the game as well as playing hard.
Broughton was all-Marion County three times as a third baseman at Lutheran before playing two seasons of junior college baseball (2009-10) at Vincennes for Trailblazers head coach Chris Barney.
“(Barney) always had a lot of confidence in me,” says Broughton, who was used at third base, first base and in left field at VU. “He taught me not to ride the roller coaster of a season and stay steady.”
An injury caused Broughton to take a medical redshirt season at Dayton before playing two seasons (2012-13) at second base for Indianapolis native and Flyers head coach Tony Vittorio.
“(Vittorio) taught us that you have to have passion, energy and enthusiasm in everything you do,” says Broughton. “I was a passionate player.
“I was a little bit of a dirtbag — in a good way. Coach V brought out the best in a lot of players we had there.”
Why did Broughton go into coaching?
Being the nephew of Alter and the grandson of Indiana Football Hall of Famer Ray Schultz, Jared grew up in a family of coaches.
Sitting out the 2011 season at Dayton also gave him a different perspective on the game.
“I felt I was a leader on the field and someone the coaches came to get a pulse of the team,” says Broughton.
For him, the transition to coaching was a natural.
Jared Broughton, an Indianapolis native, coaches third base for Piedmont College in Demorest, Ga. (Piedmont College Photo)
The Piedmont College Lions play baseball at Loudermilk Field. (Piedmont College Photo)
Jared Broughton heads into his third season on the baseball coaching staff at Piedmont College in 2018-19. He is an Indianapolis native. (Piedmont College Photo)
Two Indiana natives — Jared Broughton (left) and girlfriend Tia Seymour — have found a home in Demorest, Ga., where Broughton is associate varsity baseball head coach and junior varsity baseball head coach at Piedmont College. (Piedmont College Photo)
After leading WSU to a 38-21 mark in 2017, Mercer had the Raiders at 29-13 heading into a May 4-6 Horizon League series against the University of Illinois-Chicago.
Mercer served as an assistant to Rich Maloney at the University of Michigan (2011), Matt Myers at Western Kentucky University (2012-13) and Greg Lovelady at Wright State (2014-16) before taking over the reigns of the RaiderGang when Lovelady took the heading coaching job at the University of Central Florida.
While playing for WSU, Mercer was a two-time all-Horizon League first-team selection at first base. In 2009, he was HL Player of the Year and a Collegiate Baseball Newspaper third-team All-American as he hit .357 with 26 doubles and 74 runs batted in.
As a Franklin Community Grizzly Cub, he learned from three coaches — Mark Pieper, father Jeff Mercer and Brian Luse.
Mercer, 32, credits Pieper for instilling an appreciation for relationships.
“If you want to bring out the best in them — physically, emotionally, academically and all those things — the core of that is the relationship where you can help them build and grow.”
Mercer, who earned an organizational leadership degree from Wright State in 2009, does not buy into the generation gap excuse.
“I am young — one of the younger (D-I) head coaches in the country,” says Mercer. “I take it a little bit personally when people talk about ‘kids these days.’ You take the time to develop a relationship, the generation of the kid you’re dealing with is no different.
“They need to know that you care. They need to know you’re invested.”
This trust allows Mercer and his staff to drive the Raiders.
“We’re hard on players,” says Mercer. “We push them. We have really high expectation levels.
“But if they knew you have their best interests at heart then they have no problem with that kind of tough love.”
“Everything was always very methodical,” says Mercer. “There was always an organizational plan. I took from that the confidence you have in preparation.
“We recruit a very confident kind of kid. First and foremost that comes from him. There’s only so much confidence we can give somebody. The confidence that comes from preparation can only be earned. It can’t be bought. You can’t pay for it.
“It just comes with time. It made me more confident as a player and as a coach knowing how much time and work we put into it.”
Mercer notes that Wright State has enjoyed much success against highly-ranked opponents and in hostile environments.
“Guys are confident because they know they are prepared to play at that level,” says Mercer, whose team earned two 2018 road wins against No. 20 Louisiana and one triumph against vote-getter Sam Houston State. The Raiders play at No. 29 Louisville Tuesday, May 8.
Mercer says Luse blend qualities from Pieper and his father.
“We played loose and free for him,” says Mercer. “But he also had a feel for the structure and discipline of it. Consequently, we had a lot of success. We were a very good team.
“You learn something from everybody you come in contact with and I certainly learned a lot during my high school time.”
Vittorio, who grew up in Indianapolis and graduated from Southport High School in 1984, brought toughness and discipline to his coaching.
“I knew that he cared,” says Mercer, who was a walk-on for the Flyers. “The relationship that I have with him now is really nice. He’s around a lot.”
While Mercer was at Dayton, another coach had a lasting impact on him.
“My relationship with hitting coach Cory Allen really shaped the way I view hitting from a mechanical aspect that I’ve carried forth to this day,” says Mercer. “It was the first time that anyone had discussed biomechanics, centrifugal force and different movements.
“It was an eye-opening experience and it drove me to be a much better player. I wasn’t a very talented player. Understanding a lot of those basics allowed me to have an advantage.”
After transferring to Wright State he formed a personal relationship with Cooper.
“At that point, there was nobody better in my career at making us all feel valued,” says Mercer. “I learned so much about that from him.
“He was the first person that introduced me to the mental game aspect.”
In the years since he played, Mercer has seen the field of mental skills training take off.
“It’s become an industry in and of itself,” says Mercer. “At the time, there was nobody talking about ‘don’t worry about the outcome, it’s the quality of the at-bat. It’s the process over the outcome.’ At the time it was very cutting edge and it was new information for me.
“I was a much better baseball player at Wright State than I was at Dayton
“It was directly attributed to the mental game and understanding that I couldn’t just play with reckless abandon when it came to my emotions. Physically, I could play very hard. But emotionally, there has to be some constraint.”
One of the keys is to know where place the emphasis.
“If I go through the process the right way and I work on things I’m supposed to work on and invest in things I’m supposed to invest in and I have the at-bat I’m supposed to have and putting a good swing on a good pitch, whatever happens from there is completely out of my hands,” says Mercer. “Once I did that I became a much better player.”
Mercer recruits plenty of football and wrestling athletes.
“Their mentality is I can work harder and harder,” says Mercer. “That’s not always effective in baseball.”
In his first season as head coach, he found the mental game to be a bit lacking and he thinks he knows the reason.
“When it comes from the head coach it can become a bit stale because I’m always talking and communicating with players,” says Mercer. “My voice is always heard.
“I like having a big coaching staff and having them deal with each player individually because it keeps things fresh. We need to have multi-faceted relationships.”
Then opportunity knocked.
Hall, who is from nearby Centerville, Ohio, had just ended his collegiate playing career and was looking to find his way in the mental skills field.
The decision was made to bring him on-board as the very first full-time mental skills coordinator in D-I baseball.
“We had a mutual need,” says Mercer of Hall. “He needed a place to begin his career. We needed someone who was a fresh face and had an ability to communicate with young people in an electric way, in an impassioned way. He has a magnetic personality.
“It’s been a beautiful union.”
Hall meets with players as a group and one-on-one, providing his knowledge and helping athletes reach their potential.
“We’re providing the players with the resources to be the best they can,” says Mercer. “It’s really about knowing yourself and what you need to be successful.”
Jeff and is one four boys born to Jeff and Pam Mercer. His mother teaches math at Whiteland Community High School.
Jeff and Stephanie are expecting their first child — a boy — in the fall.
Jeff Mercer, a 2004 Franklin Community High School graduate, is in his second season as head baseball coach at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. At 32, he is one of the youngest head coaches in NCAA Division I baseball. (Wright State Photo)
After all, it’s only 12 or so miles from the Cathedral campus on 56th Street to the downtown stadium and the Irish did beat Heritage Christian for the city championship at “The Vic” this spring.
On the other hand, Cathedral is the designated road team against the Kingsmen in a game slated for 5 p.m. Saturday, June 17, and that may make sense to some since the Fighting Irish did not have one “home” field during the 2017 season.
Irish varsity games had been played for years at Hair Field near Fort Benjamin Harrison, but when the lease to that facility was not renewed the Irish went looking for places to play.
“We had a month or two not knowing what we were going to do,” says Cathedral head baseball coach Ed Freije.
The independent Irish wound up with home contests at Marian University on the northwest side of Indianapolis and Grand Park in Westfield.
Meanwhile, the school purchased the former Little League International Central Region headquarters at 44th and Mitthoeffer and used that for practices and all junior varsity and freshmen games while construction began on a high school diamond and other athletic fields at what is now called Brunette Park.
But a nomadic season with a new coaching staff did not stop Cathedral from winning each and every time it took the diamond — wherever it was.
The 2017 Irish will be vying to be the fourth unbeaten team during the IHSAA state tournament era (1967-2017), joining Evansville Memorial (30-0 in single class in 1978), Brownsburg (35-0 in 4A in 2005) and Norwell (35-0 in 3A in 2007).
Cathedral’s record was spotless going into the 2013 4A championship game before falling 1-0 to left-hander Tanner Tully and Elkhart Central. The ’13 Irish wound up 28-1.
Freije, a 1999 Cathedral graduate and three-sport athlete for the Irish, returned to the baseball coaching staff after a hiatus when he spent five seasons as the school’s head girls basketball coach (winning 70 games from 2012-13 to 2016-17).
The ’17 Irish returned nine seniors from 2016 and plenty of capable arms.
“Depth of pitching has really helped us this year,” says Freije. “(Pitching coach) Brad Pearson did a a phenomenal job with that staff. We knew that pitching and defense would keep us in games and give us a chance day in and day out.
“(Pitchers have) been around the strike zone and let their defense work. That strong defense behind them gives them a ton of confidence. We like our chances if we’re not giving up more than two or three runs.”
Opponents have scored more than three runs in only three games out of 28 with 15 times have tallied one or no runs.
Senior left-hander Nick Eaton has emerged as Cathedral’s ace. He took the ball in the sectional final, regional semifinal and semistate game and is expected to start against Penn.
Senior right-hander Tommy Kafka, Cathedral’s starting second baseman, has been used effectively in relief.
The Irish also have starting right fielder and senior right-hander Jack Myers, senior right-hander Jack Phillips and starting first baseman and junior left-hander Jake Andriole at the ready for mound duty.
Freije said he did not see the new IHSAA 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) dictating how Cathedral handled its pitchers this season, though it did come into a play with a few opponents.
Ed Freije is not the first Indianapolis area coach with that name. His father — also named Ed — is a former baseball and basketball coach at Broad Ripple and basketball coach at New Palestine.
The younger Freije learned about coaching from his father and from Ken Kaufman, Rich Andriole, Tony Vittorio and Linda Bamrick among others.
Freije played baseball at Cathedral for Kaufman and then Andriole (then served as an assistant on his staff for a decade, 2004-13). As a head coach, Andriole won more than 500 games and the two state titles.
The Irish, which have also gathered 21 sectional, 13 regional and six semistate crowns, has sent many players on to college and professional baseball. Catcher Jake Fox made his Major League Baseball debut in 2007 and right-handed pitcher Tommy Hunter followed in 2008. Left-hander Dillon Peters was drafted in 2014 and right-hander Ashe Russell in 2015.
Indianapolis Cathedral baseball coaches for 2017 (left to right): Keith Yost, Austin Green, Jeremy Sinsabaugh, head coach Ed Freije, Brad Pearson and Will Hunker. (Cathedral Photo)
There should be no sleepless nights because of lukewarm effort.
It’s been that way since Winzenread took over as leader of the LN program in 1992.
“If we work hard, good things will come,” says Winzenread. “We want to be the best team our talent level will allow. If we do that, we’ve had a successful season.
“At tournament time, we’re a pretty tough out. You have to bring your best game to beat us.”
Winzenread has gathered a wealth of baseball knowledge from coaches at the high school, college and professional level and he shares that with his LN players.
Then he lets them take over.
“We don’t clone them,” says Winzenread. “I don’t want to take away their natural ability. I tell them it’s their responsibility to get better.”
Players need to take the initiative to get extra swings in the batting cage or more ground balls on their own time.
“We’ve had quite a few kids over the years that have made themselves better,” says Winzenread. “Kids have to take ownership.
“Kids today don’t practice enough. You should practice more than you play. You need to be the best player you can be, so you have no regrets.”
The coach can be tough, but he has the student-athlete’s best interests at heart.
“What makes me the most proud is seeing how the kid grows through his four years of our program,” says Winzenread. “I think the kids know I care about them. I want them to be the best version of a person they can be — as a student and a player. We want them to be ready for college.”
A right-handed pitcher, Winzenread was drafted in the 21st round by the Baltimore Orioles in 1986. In the O’s system he learned much from then-roving pitching instructor Mark Wiley — things he still uses today at Lawrence North.
In his third pro season, Winzenread was injured and decided to come back to Indy. He worked for UPS and helped coach at Southport with Cardinals head coach John Carpenter (John Dwenger was head coach when Winzenread was a Southport player).
Winzenread stayed close to the game by giving lessons and found many of his clients were in the Lawrence area. He completed his education degree and took a middle school teaching job in the Lawrence Township district.
After teaching at various middle schools, Winzenread landed at the high school four years ago as a physical education and health teacher.
Seeing another chance to give back to the game that had been so good to him, Winzenread applied to replace Tim Fitzgerald as LN head coach when he stepped down right before the 1992 season. Fitzgerald is now the varsity assistant on a Wildcats coaching staff that also includes Chris Todd (junior varsity) and Kyle Green (freshmen).
Not knowing how to run a high school program back in ’92, Winzenread made a trip to Indiana University to pick the brain of head coach Bob Morgan.
“He did a lot for me early in my career,” says Winzenread. “He’s one of the best baseball minds around.”
In Winzenread’s first decade at Lawrence North, assistant coach Bob Kraft brought things to the program he had gained while being associated with Stanford University baseball.
“He’s such got tremendous passion,” says Winzenread says of Vittorio. “He works those kids. He can be tough at times. But, in this business you have to be.”
Winzenread has a passion for developing pitchers. Ideally, the Wildcats will have seven or eight capable arms in a season. Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference games are played on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Winzenread uses his top two starters in those games with a third pitcher expected to handle to relief duties. Those pitchers have a bullpen session on Saturday and are ready to go again the following week.
“They build up arm strength to be a starter or build up arm strength to be a reliever and they work different,” says Winzenread.
LN hurlers are expected to throw strikes, but not necessarily rack up K’s.
“Strikeouts are fine, but they’re not something we strive for,” says Winzenread. “Our philosophy is to have (the batter) hit our pitch. Our pitch counts are usually not that high.”
Batters are kept off-balance by the mixing of speeds and location — up and down, in and out, back and forth.
One location in the strike zone is off limits.
“We don’t want to throw it over the middle of the plate,” says Winzenread. “When we warm up, the middle part is black and we have two white edges.
“We want to have a little bit of movement.”
Winzenread calls anything over 15 pitches a stressful inning.
If a pitcher strung together a couple of 26-pitch innings, he would be at 52 and might be done for the day, depending on the athlete.
If those same 52 pitches were spread over five innings, that would be a different story.
“I enjoy winning,” says Winzenread. “But I would never put a kid’s health in front of that — ever.”
With that in mind, he will always protect a pitcher’s arm. If they throw 85 pitches Tuesday, it’s a good bet they might be used as a designated hitter but will not take a field position Wednesday.
The 2016 Mt. Vernon (Fortville) Sectional — won by Lawrence North — was set up with pitching in mind. Games in the six-team format were played on Wednesday with semifinals and finals Monday.
“That’s the only thing that’s fair,” says Winzenread, who has seen LN take seven of its eight all-time sectional titles, both regionals, one semistate crown and one state runner-up finish (7-6 loss to McCutcheon in the 1999 Class 4A final) on his watch. “I wish we’d seed the draw and we don’t. Everyone says ‘pitching and defense (wins championships).’ You can hit all you want, but eventually good pitching is going to shut that down.”
With those factors in mind, LN changed its regular-season schedule and has as many three-game weeks as possible.
No matter where they play on the diamond, Winzenread expects his player to know their role. That might mean starting or coming off the bench.
“Everyone’s got a role to way and you’ve got to accept it,” says Winzenread. “(Reserves are) always constantly paying attention to the game so when you’re number is called, you’re ready.”
And with no regrets.
Richard Winzenread is in his 26th season as head baseball coach at Lawrence North High School.
Richard Winzenread took Lawrence North to the IHSAA State Finals in 1999. He has been head baseball coach for the Wildcats since 1992.