Chris Card plans to emphasize details as the new head baseball coach at Monrovia (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School. “We’re going to do all the little things right,” says Card, who was hired in July to guide the Bulldogs. “It’s the nuances of the game — how to field a baseball the proper way, how to lead-off — all the little things that are equivalent to the big things. “There are a lot of people that don’t teach that anymore.” Monrovia (enrollment around 525) is a member of the Indiana Crossroads Conference (with Beech Grove, Cascade, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter, Indianapolis Lutheran, Indianapolis Scecina, Speedway and Triton Central). The Bulldogs were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Cascade, Covenant Christian, Park Tudor, Speedway and University. Monrovia, which won five games in 2022, is seeking its first sectional title. Card comes to Monrovia with assistant coaching experiences at three high schools. The 1995 graduate of Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis started on the 2005 staff of Phil Webster and spent eight seasons assisting with the varsity Hawks. Decatur Central won an IHSAA Class 4A state championship in 2008. Card, who played second base for the man who landed in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, describes Webster as “very hard-working.” “It’s all the work done on the field and the countless hours he put in with the kids to get better,” says Card. “You learn dedication when you’re with him.” Born in Indianapolis, Card lived in Decatur Township until moving to the Monrovia district in May. While in school, he played baseball at Carson Park and one summer of American Legion baseball managed by Webster. Following his stint at Decatur Central, Card was away from high school coaching for few years then helped head Aaron Kroll at Ben Davis for one varsity season. After a few more seasons off, Card was with Kroll for one season as junior varsity coach at Roncalli. Card has also coached the Decatur Hawks travel team. An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 29-Oct. 15. Card began going through the basics and getting to know participating players Tuesday. The plan is for two hours of baseball activities on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the LCP with weight room sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays. “We want to introduce ourselves, what we are about and get on the same page,” says Card, who counts Terry McGlothlin, Anthony Eldridge and Casey Martin as varsity assistants and Cole Keeley and one as-yet-named person as junior varsity coaches. While there are not college commitments among current players, Card says he says .472 hitter in 2022 Julian Zhou (Class of 2023) and right-handed pitcher Brayton Belcher (Class of 2024) have a shot. Belcher is a pitcher. Zhou is on track to be the school’s valedictorian and foresees a career in medicine. Feeding Monrovia baseball are a school-sponsored seventh and eighth grade teams. Card says he hopes to develop a relationship with Monrovia Organized Baseball & Softball. Away from coaching, Card runs the family lawn care business. Chris and wife Mandy Card have three daughters — Franklin (Ind.) College senior Haley (21), dental assistant Breanna (19) and first grader Kendalee (6).
Cameron Decker was a young baseball player at McCutchanville Community Park on the north side of Evansville, Ind., when he donned a Dodgers jersey. Flash forward about a decade later and Decker is with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. The 18-year old was selected in the 18th round of the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Dodgers. The draft was held July 17-19, he signed July 30 and last week finished a short stint in the Arizona Complex League. He came back to Evansville for a few days then headed back to Glendale, Ariz., for “bridge” league and Arizona Instructional League (which conclude Oct. 8). The Dodgers’ training complex is at Camelback Ranch. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder enjoyed a super senior season at Evansville North High School in 2022. He made 115 plate appearances and hit .447 with 12 home runs, five doubles, three triples and .617 on-base percentage as a righty-swinging shortstop. He bashed six homers in the Huskies’ first three games. “It was my goal going in to hit a lot of home runs,” says Decker of the offensive approach at the end of his high school career. “(After the hot start), I saw a ton of curveballs and balls. I switched my mindset to be less aggressive and more patient and take what comes my way. “As a pro, I’ve tried to hunt fastballs. In two-strike counts, I’m looking to put something in-play.” While he has not fully committed to it, Decker is considering becoming a switch hitter. “When I was about 12 I took a few (lefty) swing in the cage and my body felt well and not awkward,” says Decker. “I’ll sometime hit (lefty) in the cage to loosen things up.” Decker was selected to play in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series June 25-26 at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion and Evansville North head coach Jeremy Jones was head coach for the South. A University of Central Florida commit, Decker opted to go pro rather than attend college. “It was a combination of a lot of things,” says Decker of the factors that went into his decision. “Three years of college is a lot of time. You’re not guaranteed to be drafted again. Development in pro ball is higher than three years of college. “My dream since I was a little kid to play Major League Baseball.” Decker, who turns 19 on Sept. 22, is getting used to the transition from amateur to pro baseball. “I’m enjoying you a lot,” says Decker. “It’s a job and it’s a lot of baseball. We’re at the field 9 to 12 hours a day getting work in and playing games. “I’m around a lot of smart people who love baseball. It’s pretty cool.” The Dodgers have used Decker as a corner infielder but he has also gotten reps in the outfield and at shortstop and second base. Decker considers strength and the ability to cover ground in the infield and outfield and run the bases well as some of his best qualities. “I’ve always been a strong kid,” says Decker. “I’ve always had power regardless of my height. I’ve been working on being more mobile and loose. “It’s part natural strength. I also hit weight room three times a week for a whole-body workout.” Since the end of his freshman year at Evansville North, Decker has worked out with Tyler Norton, who is a strength and conditioning coach for the Dodgers and runs TNT Fitness and Performance in Fort Branch, Ind. Decker was born in Evansville and grew up on the north side. After playing at McCutchanville, he was with Highland and competed in the Indiana Little League State Tournament at age 12. Playing for father Chad Decker, Cameron went into travel ball with the Evansville Thunder. “Then it was time to go chase bigger things,” says Cameron, who was with the Canes Midwest coached by David Bear and Phil McIntyre his 15U and 16U summers and 5 Star Midwest coached by Jerry Cowan at 17U. Along the way, Decker impressed scouts including those with the Dodgers, especially after he showed well in an event in Jupiter, Fla. Dodgers Upper Midwest area scout Mitch Schulewitz (who pitched the University of Illinois-Chicago) signed Decker to his first pro contract. Cameron — the oldest of Princeton (Ind.) Community High School graduates Chad and Libby Decker’s two sons — comes from a family with a strong baseball pedigree. Grandfather Joe Don Decker played at Indiana State and in the Cincinnati Reds system. He was a 1962 spring training roommate of Pete Rose and went as high as Triple-A. Father Chad Decker set records at Princeton then went to the University of Central Florida as a pitcher. After developing arm problems, he transferred to Indiana University to study business and now sells dental insurance. Cousin Jeff Goldbach broke Chad’s Princeton hitting records and was drafted in the second round of the 1998 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs. He was tragically shot and killed in Greensboro, N.C., in 2021. Uncle Quinn Decker pitched at Indiana State and lettered in 1996. Brother Cole Decker (Evansville North Class of 2024) is a lefty-swinging and lefty-throwing outfielder who spent the summer of 2022 with the traveling Louisville Legends. The spring high school season was his first baseball season playing with his big brother. “We’re a very tight family,” says Cameron. “But summers are usually split with mom and dad trading off (to followed one brother or the other).” Libby Decker is a former social worker now in marketing. She holds degrees from Indiana State and UCF.
Shane Smith has coached baseball for 24 years and at every level from T-ball and 18U travel with the past two years as an assistant at Wabash (Ind.) High School. Smith can now add high school head coach to his list of diamond experiences. Last week he was board-approved to lead the baseball program at Manchester Junior/Senior High School in North Manchester, Ind., which is about 20 miles north of Southwood Junior/Senior High School. Oldest son Blake Smith (19) graduated from Wabash in 2022 and is now a freshman baseball player and Sport Management major at Manchester University in North Manchester. Shane and Tiffany Smith’s younger sons Ashton (18 and a senior) and Jackson (15 and a sophomore) are still in involved in baseball at Southwood, which is also in Wabash County and conference rival to Manchester. Ashton Smith played at Wabash the past two years. Daughter Ella Smith is a seventh grade softball player and dancer. “Baseball has been our family thing,” says Shane Smith, who celebrates 20 years of marriage to Tiffany in October. “This is an opportunity I’ve always wanted: to run a varsity baseball program. “I prayed about it. I talked to my family. They’ve been supportive. I don’t take it lightly and I appreciate it.” Smith was involved with the Wabash Pride travel program for eight years, serving as president for six. He also coached for the USA Prime. At Wabash High, he assisted Apaches head coach Jack Holley. They had met when Smith was 13 and playing for the Prep League Blue Jays coached by Holley. “He’s an Old School baseball traditionalist and he’s got a great heart,” says Smith of Holley, who played on Wabash’s 1986 state champions and then at Valparaiso University. “He’s got a great deal of knowledge, but he puts things in perspective. “It’s bigger than baseball. We’re dealing with people’s sons.” During his high school years, Smith also played for Wabash American Legion Post 15 coached by Steve Furnas and Oren Wagner. Smith is a 1999 graduate of Wabash. One of his high school coaches in his younger years was Todd Adams, a former Anderson (Ind.) University player who was in charge of strength and conditioning for the Apaches. “He was a physical specimen,” says Smith of Adams, who is now his insurance agent. “He poured everything he had into us. We were than more than just our stats. “He got the most out of us simply by showing he cared. He expected maximum effort and that’s who I am as a coach.” Rick Espeset, head coach at Manchester University, coached with Smith for four years in the summer and made an impression. “You can achieve success and all these goals but you have to stay grounded,” says Smith. “Everything we did was fun and maximum effort He was a relationship-first guy, too.” Ethan Espeset, Rick’s son, is a 2022 Manchester Junior/Senior High graduate. Manchester (enrollment around 475) is a member of the Three Rivers Conference (with Maconaquah, Northfield, North Miami, Peru, Rochester, Southwood, Tippecanoe Valley and Whitko). The Squires were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Carroll (Flora), Lewis Cass, Rochester, Wabash and Whitko. Manchester has won nine sectional titles — the last in 2016. The 2002 Squires were 2A state champions. Jack Rupley was Manchester’s head coach from 1998 until retiring at the end of the 2022 season. “Jack was very consistent as far as leading a program and its expectations,” says Smith. “I want to add to the already-strong history.” Smith plans to bring his unique strengths and passions to the Squires baseball program. “I like to play fast and put pressure on the defense,” says Smith. He notes that Wabash stole 140 bases in 2022 and that’s a realistic goal at Manchester. “I like the kids to play loose and fail with confidence. I’m not looking for them to be a robot. I’m going to empower my players to steal that base.” Smith passionate about serving others and he’s going to bring that to the Squires. Wabash conducted a “dad’s practice” with a fathers and male role models joining the players and Smith plans to do the same at Manchester. “We’re going to have a good time,” says Smith. He wants to have walk-up songs and “cool gamed experience” for his players. “I’m an Old School guy with a New School side to me,” says Smith. “I want to mix it up a little.” In just a few days, the Manchester Squires Baseball Facebook page already had over 100 followers. “Excitement is growing,” says Smith. “We want to do something special.” Smith expects eight players with varsity experience to return in 2023. That includes the top four in batting average (junior Garrett Sites .389, sophomore Ethan Hendrix .365, junior Evan Martynowicz .338, junior Gavin Martin .303) and leading base stealers (Sites 11, Hendrix 10, Martynowicz 8 and Martin 7). As a pitcher, Martynowicz went 2-2 with a 2.31 earned run average, 38 strikeouts and 13 walks over 42 1/3 innings. Smith has already attended Manchester sporting events to meet players and parents and reached out to Manchester Recreational Association and wants to offer coach and player clinics. “My main goal is to generate excitement in the community,” says Smith. “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care. I plan to support these kids and families and have a good foundation of a relationship way before the first day of practice.” The coach plans to have a call-out meeting in the near future. Manchester does not currently have junior high baseball. Smith says he would like to start that, perhaps through MRA. “We want to make sure (younger players) have a sound foundation,” says Smith. “We want to make sure in T-ball they fall in love with the game. So many times we overwhelm the kids and it becomes a job. “They have to have a great experience, continue to love it and have the confidence. Youth baseball is all about fundamentals and gaining confidence. “If we are going to have a true feeder system, the focus has to be development and long-term success over short-term success.” Smith works as a social worker and school safety specialist for Wabash City Schools. He is currently in the L.H. Carpenter Early Learning Center. He is also on the Wabash County’s Child Protection Team, which is an accountability piece for the Department of Child Services. Smith earned a Criminal Justice degree with a minor in Human Resources Management from Saint Leo (Fla.) University.
Mark Walther helps run a business dedicated to the improvement of those who move and compete, particularly those in baseball, softball, football and golf. He is the Director of Operations at Pro X Athlete Development, which is at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind. “I wear a lot of hats here,” says Walther, a former collegiate and professional pitcher. “There isn’t much that I don’t do here.” Walther, 33, started as a lead instructor and taught velocity programs for pitchers and position players and gave pitching lessons. As Director of Operations, he is charged with everything from scheduling cages and turf time to making sure machines are in order to the cleanliness of the facility. He makes sure financials and daily reporting lines up with what’s coming into Pro X. After coaching at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., and the University of Indianapolis, Walther worked briefly for Bullpen Tournaments at Grand Park and still helps with that company while also serving as the commissioner of the College Summer League at Grand Park, which had its third season in 2022. The CSL came about out of players needing a place to compete and train (at Pro X) with many leagues being shut down in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of athletes had spring seasons that were cut short or didn’t start at all. “We had a lot of time on our hands,” says Walther. “Both of our businesses were shut down about the time (Indiana) opened up (from the lockdown) is when we were able to open up the league.” Walther says he was one of six people who created the CSL and other people were brought in to make it a reality. “To start up a league like that you want high-profile players,” says Walther. “It’s tough to get high-profile players if they’ve never heard of your league before. “Right way we wanted to be able to compete with the Northwoods, the Prospect and the Coastal Plain. I don’t know if anybody’s ever going to compete with the Cape, but we wanted to be up there.” Walther says getting the amount of players and talent that the CSL did (in 2020) is the whole reason it still exists. “We just want to make sure that the product we’re putting out there is good for college players as a whole,” says Walther. “It’s good for their development in games and while they’re training (at Pro X) and getting better. “We want to meet every ask of a college coach. If they have a redshirt and they need them ready for sophomore year when they return to school then we can get them 30, 40, 50 innings. If they want them to throw 20 innings and two innings a week in relief, we’ll follow that, too. “That’s really what’s set the College Summer League apart.” Over the past two years, Walther’s commissioner responsibilities have included finding and getting commitments from coaches, recruiting and placing players and taking care of everything from payments to jersey sizes to host families. He coordinates gameday operations and hires sports information interns for the eight-team league. Those positions are posted in November and December with interviews coming in January and February. Walther grew up on a farm on the west side of Kankakee, Ill., and is a 2007 graduate of Herscher (Ill.) High School, where his head coach was Eric Regez. His junior year, Walther was the last one to make cuts for the Tigers varsity and helped his team as a right-handed reliever. As a senior, he was a starter. “I played the underdog throughout my entire college career,” says Walther, who worked hard to grow his knowledge base while improving his athletic skill set. “I was a P.O. (Pitcher Only) before P.O. was even a thing. I think I had seven career varsity at-bats. “I just kept working at it.” Mark is the son of Eugene and Beth Walther and is about six years younger than brother Todd Walther. Eugene Walther died of brain cancer when Mark was 18. “Going into college that pushed me forward,” says Walther. “It always gave me something to work for: Trying to make him proud.” Walther showed up at walk-on tryouts at Parkland. “I wasn’t a preferred walk-on or anything,” says Walther. “I found a way to earn a spot.” The Cobras coaching staff changed Walther’s arm slot from overhand to sidearm/submarine. “That gave me a whole new life in college baseball,” says Walther, who was frequently used as a freshman and was on scholarship as a sophomore. The latter team won the 2009 National Junior College Athletic Association Division II national championship. After two years at Parkland playing for Mitch Rosenthal and Matt Kennedy, Walther transferred to NCAA Division II University of Southern Indiana in Evansville. He came out of the bullpen for Tracy Archuleta’s Screaming Eagles (which won an NCAA Division II national crown in 2010). “I tried to just extend the game and get us to the next guy,” says Walther. “My job was to get us out of jams. There’s not better feeling in the world than coming into the game with the bases loaded and one out and you’re trying to get a ground ball. I lived for those moments. “Being out there when the adrenaline’s pumping, I’ve yet to find anything to match it.” After pitching at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis., Todd Walther wound up on the baseball operations side with the Texas Rangers. Mark used the connection to his advantage. “I was able to bounce ideas off of him when thing weren’t going my way in bullpens or games,” says Walther. He got to see video of major league pitchers like Cody Bradford, Darren O’Day and Pat Neshek and could study their mechanics, grips and release points. Walther was on a path to become a Physical Education teacher and high school coach when a curriculum change at USI that would have taken him longer to get his degree caused him to change his major to Sport Management. “I started learning more about facility management and running a sports business,” says Walther, who took classes on sports marketing and sports law — things that help him in his position at Pro X. But Walther did pursue coaching out of college. He was an assistant at Parkland for a year and helped Kennedy with outfielders, operations and recruiting. He started what turned out to be a four-year stint at the UIndy as a volunteer learning from Greyhounds pitching coach Jordan Tiegs and serving for head coaches Gary Vaught and Al Ready. When Tiegs left for Indiana State University, Walther took became pitching coach and recruiting coordinator. Tiegs is now Drector of Pitching Research and Development for the Rangers — Todd Walther’s former job “I loved college baseball,” says Mark Walther. “I loved coaching it. “I really loved the recruiting aspect of college. (Players) need to come to us because we’re going to do a better job of developing them as a player. “I’m very appreciate of Coach Vaught and Coach Ready for everything they did for me.” Walther then went into tech recruiting for three months and decided he wanted to get back into baseball. Pro X has just launched into the travel world with its Phoenix softball teams. While travel baseball organizations, including the Indiana Bulls, Indiana Nitro and Indiana Prospects, partner with Pro X, there is currently no plans to field travel baseball teams under the Pro X banner. “Travel baseball really wasn’t a thing when I grew up,” says Walther. “I played community baseball until I was 16 years old. Shortly after that it began to grow a little more.” His first experience came when the Indiana Bulls and others brought teams to play fall exhibition games his first year at Parkland. Walther notes that he was lucky enough to be on a winning team from age 10 on. But that was not the case in his early community baseball days. “I got put on a terrible team,” says Walther. “I had to find a way to try to help the team win and to help players develop themselves and rely on our coaches to do the same. “Depending on where your talent is you can be put on an elite team and rarely ever have to deal with failure, losing or any kind of adversity and learn to overcome that. “Being on winning teams is also a positive because you learn what it takes to win. Whether you’re on the field or not you can find ways to help the team win.” Walther says travel ball is all about finding the right fit for you as a player. “You want to go where you have a chance to play or have a chance to compete for playing time,” says Walther. “You should never shy away from competing and trying to beat someone out to earn playing time. “In the game of baseball you’re going to have guys on the bench no matter what. It’s what type of bench guys you have. Do you have guys who are going to work and push themselves and the people that are technically in front of them? Or are they going to just roll over and complain until they move on or join another team?” Players should make sure the team will be doing what they want to do. Will it be mostly local tournaments are really hitting the road? Is the coaching staff going to help develop them as a player? Among the things coming up at Pro X are “Hard 90” classes with about 30 minutes each of hitting, defense and speed and agility. In September, the pitching academy and elite training academy for offense and defense cranks up. Pro X — with its staff of instructors including Jay Lehr, trainers and medical professionals and former big leaguer Joe Thatcher as president — is also an off-season place to train for professionals, including major leaguers Tucker Barnhart, Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon and minor leaguers Parker Dunshee and Collin Ledbetter. Rodon came to Pro X while doing rehab from Tommy John surgery. “He learned a lot about the body and how it moves and how to become efficient on the mound and use his lower half to try to stay as healthy as possible,” says Walther. “We just do whatever we can to service them whether that’s completely help them with their program or stay out of their way and let them use the weight room.”
University of Connecticut baseball enjoyed one of the best seasons in the program’s 126-year history in 2022 and a player from northwest Indiana played a major part. Austin Peterson, a right-handed pitcher and 2018 Chesterton (Ind.) High School graduate, was a dominant force in the Huskies starting rotation as UConn won a New England record 50 games and went to the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year and eighth time on head coach Jim Penders’ watch. Peterson, a 6-foot-6, 234-pounder, made 18 mound appearances (17 starts) and went 11-3 with a 3.83 earned run average, 147 strikeouts and 25 walks over 110 1/3 innings. Before he was taken in the ninth round of the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Cleveland Guardians, many accolades came Peterson’s way. He was chosen as an All-American by National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (first team), Collegiate Baseball (second team), American Baseball Coaches Association (third team) and D1Baseball.com (third team). Peterson was also New England Pitcher of the Year, NCBWA District 2 co-Pitcher of the Year, East Coast Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year as well as all-Big East Conference (first team), all-New England (first team) and all-Big East tournament. The tall righty also set a UConn single-season record for strikeouts and tied for second in single-season wins. He went six or more innings in 14 of 17 starts. Peterson was a team captain for a UConn team that finished 50-16 and bowed out in the NCAA Super Regional at Stanford. “It meant a lot, especially going to a historic baseball program like UConn” says Peterson of the leadership role voted upon by his teammates. “Being a leader of that culture is something I’ll never forget. I was a guy from the Midwest and was welcomed with open arms. “I gained a lot of respect out there.” Since 2004 — Penders’ first season as head coach — 65 Huskies have signed pro contracts with MLB teams and Peterson is part of that group. Joshua McDonald is Huskies pitching coach. “Coach Mac teaches you the mental side of baseball a little bit better than a lot of guys,” says Peterson. “He helps you find something you’re good at and make the most out of that. “I had to get my slider back. We worked together to figure what was going on. It came back this year and the strikeout numbers took a jump.” In 2021, Peterson was all-Big East (second team) and in 15 games (14 starts) went 7-1 with a 2.58 ERA, 82 strikeouts and 21 walks over 80 1/3 innings. Throwing from a three-quarter arm slot, Peterson uses a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, change-up, slider and curve. This past spring, the four-seamer sat at 90 to 93 mph and touched 94. The two-seamer “has a little big of late life to it,” says Peterson. “I like to throw it toward a lefty’s front hit and it runs back inside for a strike. It runs and sinks more than it cuts.” The change-up is of the “circle” variety. The curve has a sweeping motion and is like 1-to-7 on the clock face. Peterson landed in Storrs, Conn., after playing at Wabash Valley College (a junior college in Mount Carmel, Ill.) in 2020 at Purdue University in 2019. He went the JUCO route because he would immediately become eligible for the MLB Draft and at the time transferring from one NCAA D-I school to another meant sitting out for a year. “I just wanted to compete,” says Peterson. The COVID-19 pandemic helped cut the 2020 season short and the draft was cut to five rounds and Peterson was not selected. At Wabash Valley, Rob Fournier was then the Warriors head coach. Peterson worked closely with then-pitching coach Aaron Biddle (who is now WVC head coach). “Both were fiery guys,” says Peterson of Fournier (now an assistant/recruiting coordinator at Western Kentucky University) and Biddle. Coach Fournier hated losing more than anybody I’ve ever seen in my life. “The competitiveness they brought to the table helped me in my competitiveness.” Peterson got into 25 games (25 in relief) as a Purdue freshman and went 1-5 with one save, a 4.50 ERA, 49 strikeouts and 11 walks in 2019. At Wabash Valley, he got into five games (three starts) and went 2-0 with a 3.05 ERA, 29 strikeouts and seven walks in 20 2/3 innings. Born in Valparaiso, Ind., Peterson grew up in Chesterton. He got his organized baseball start at State Park Little League. His first travel team was the Duneland Flyers at 13U. Then came one season with Chicago’s Coyote Select then three (15U to 17U) with the Indiana Prospects. The 2017 Ed Woolwine-coached 17U Prospects won the Marucci World Series with the help of Peterson. Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Jack Campbell led Peterson and his Chesterton Trojans teammates for Peterson’s last three prep seasons. “Coach Campbell and I had a great relationship,” says Peterson. “We didn’t have the most talented group, but we played together our whole lives. Coach Campbell realized that and let us take it on our own.” With Peterson on the team, Chesterton won sectional titles in 2016 and 2018, a Duneland Athletic Conference crown in 2017 and a regional championship in 2018. Peterson was a two-time DAC Pitcher of the Year and three-time all-DAC, all-area and team MVP. He struck out 277 and posted an 0.80 ERA during his high school mound career. He was named Region Player of the Year in 2016 and Chesterton Male Athlete of the Year in 2018. On the basketball court, power forward/center Peterson was a two-time all-conference, all-area and team MVP honoree as a junior and senior. The Marc Urban-coached Trojans went 16-9 on the hardwood in 2016-17 and 21-4 in 2017-18. While rehabbing a knee injury, Peterson did not play baseball and attended classes at Purdue during the summer of 2018. The next two summers, he was with the 2019 New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Martha’s Vineyard Sharks and 2020 Coastal Plain League’s Peninsula Pilots (Virginia Beach, Va.). Peterson used the 2021 season as developmental time, getting his body right and working with UConn athletic trainer Joel DeMarco. Peterson earned an Applied and Resource Economics at Connecticut in the spring. Since signing with the Guardians July 30, Peterson has been in Goodyear, Ariz., building back up after not pitching since mid-June. He expects to begin pitching in games during instructional league at Goodyear Ballpark in mid-September then come back to Indiana in October and see what the Guardians have in-mind for him for November and December. Glenn and Audra Peterson have three sons — Glenn (31), Jordan (29) and Austin (22). The elder Glenn played baseball at Chesterton High and recently retired after three decades as a UPS driver. Audra Peterson is director of career and technical education for Porter County. The younger Glenn Peterson played baseball at Chesterton and walked on at Purdue before giving in up while pursuing at Civil Engineering degree. He works in that field in Munster. Jordan Peterson played baseball in high school and a Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., and is now a financial consultant in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Baseball took Allbry Major all over America. The Indianapolis native played in many places as a travel baller and then had college baseball adventures at three schools and with numerous summer collegiate teams. His playing career over, the 23-year-old reflects on his experiences as he finishes Week 1 on his first full-time job. What did he get out of baseball? “It taught me how to compete,” says Major. “That was something very important to me. Anything can be competition. “There’s also the relationships I made with people. It’s really a small world once you get to summer ball.” Major is now a manager trainee at a Enterprise Rent-A-Car store near San Francisco. He settled there with girlfriend and former Arizona State University softball player Mailey McLemore. Both finished their degrees this spring — Major in General Studies with a focus in Applied Sciences at Louisiana State University Shreveport and McLemore in Sports Business at ASU. Born in Indianapolis as the only child of Kendrick and Marcy Major (a trackster who competed for Indiana State University and a multi-sport prep athlete), Allbry was in Pike Township until attending North Central High School, where he graduated in 2017. In 2016, he named all-Marion County and helped the Phil McIntyre-coached Panthers to the county championship. He was academic all-Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference his last three years. Major made the basketball squad as a senior. He had classes with members of the team and would participate in pick-up games so he decided to go out for head coach Doug Mitchell’s squad. Mitchell went into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2022. People always assumed that at 6-foot-6 he was a basketball player. “That’s everybody’s first guess,” says Major. But his first love was for the diamond. His baseball journey got rolling around age 7 at Westlane-Delaware Little League. There were travel ball stops with the Pony Express, Smithville Gators, Indiana Bandits, Indiana Outlaws, New Level Baseball Tornadoes (Illinois) and then — during his junior high and high school years — the Cincinnati Spikes, including his 17U summer. “I didn’t like (being an only child),” says Major. “I always wanted siblings. I wasn’t a big fan of the spotlight.” Major enjoyed getting to know so many coaches and teammates. He also learned from travel ball trips that sometimes had four players to a room that there were stages to the summer in the early years. “I started out the season super excited to play again with my travel team,” says Major. “In the middle of the year, they got on my nerves. The last week or two I was irritated and mad at them. I grew out out that once I got to college. Everybody was more independent. You handle your business and get out.” The summer before going to Xavier University in Cincinnati, the 6-6, 215-pound switch-hitting outfielder was with the Elmira (N.Y.) Pioneers of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. Major played at Xavier in 2018 and 2019, but not during the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He was named Big East Conference Freshman of the Year in 2018 after hitting .291 (46-of-158) with two home runs, nine doubles, 21 runs batted in and 16 runs scored in 47 games (46 starts). As 16 games as a pitcher (eight starts), the right-hander went 3-5 with one save, a 4.96 earned run average, 54 strikeouts and 24 walks in 61 2/3 innings. He had just a handful of pitching outings after that. In 2019, Major played in 51 games (all starts) and hit .281 (57-of-203) with seven homers, 15 doubles, 34 RBIs and 32 runs. The Musketeers head coach was Billy O’Conner. Major was at Arizona State University in the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021. With the Tracy Smith-coached Sun Devils, he was in 27 games and hit .196 with two homers and 10 RBIs. “I trying to go D-I again (after Arizona State), but there was the road block of being academically eligible,” says Major, noting how credits transferred from one school to the next. A Finance major when he started at Xavier, he switched to Communications because it was easier with his full load of baseball activities. He was going to continue down that path at ASU, but not all credits transferred and he went with General Studies/Applied Sciences (including Business, Communications and Sociology). Along the way, Major discovered his learning style to be hands-on (aka Kinesthetic). On the VARK scale there is Visual, Auditory, Reading and writing and Kinesthetic. “I identify more with that,” says Major. “The better coaches made me understand why I was doing what I was doing. Once I understood I just kind of bought in more. “Not everybody’s the same.” Joining close friend Zyon Avery (Ben Davis Class of 2018) at LSUS gave Major the opportunity to play in the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, in 2022. The Brad Neffendorf-coached Pilots went 53-8 in their second straight World Series season with two losses coming in Idaho. In 51 games with LSUS, Major hit .333 (49-of-147) with 11 homers, 56 RBIs and 38 runs. Major encountered many wood bat summer league situations in college. He played briefly for both the Cape Cod Baseball League’s Brewster Whitecaps and New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Valley Blue Sox (Holyoke, Mass.) in the summer of 2018. He went back to the Cape in 2019 with the Cotuit Kettleers (his head coach was American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Mike Roberts). He had no summer team in 2020. In 2021, Major suited up for the Prospect League’s Chris Willsey-managed Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators. In 99 collegiate summer league games, he hit .302 with six homers and 49 RBIs. Major was hoping to be selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, but knew time was not on his side. “After Arizona State, that was my last real chance because of my age,” says Major. “I know how big of a factor that plays in the draft.” He had a chance to play independent pro ball, but decided to go with Mailey (daughter of former all-pro defensive back and San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl XIX-champion Dana McLemore and a former softball standout at Carlmont High School in Belmont, Calif.) and begin working. “It’s the first time I’ve had a job because I’ve been playing summer ball,” says Major. “I’m trying to adjust to that. “It’s the most expensive part of the country.” Major doesn’t see himself leaving baseball behind entirely. Coaching might be his next avenue. “I’m still going to be involved as much as a I can,” says Major. “I’ll have to see what my schedule is like now that I’m working.”
An investment has been made in the future of baseball at Western Boone Junior/Senior High School in Thorntown, Ind., and Michael Nance is part of it. After coaching travel ball in the community, in the junior high program that feeds the high school and helping at the high school level, Nance was hired in July 2021 to guide the Webo Stars. The junior high team has players in Grades 6-8 and plays 12 to 14 games in the spring. Nance reached out to Western Boone Little League and a partnership was formed. The Western Boone Baseball Club offers instruction on Sundays to players age 9 to 12 not involved in travel ball. “It’s an opportunity to get these kids more baseball reps all year,” says Nance. Out of that came 12U and 10U club teams that offer additional games to the Little League schedule. Knowing his current players and what’s in the pipeline, Nance is upbeat in leading a program which produced five varsity victories in 2019 and four in 2021. “I think we can win,” says Nance. “I’m very excited about the next six or eight years from what I can see coming.” Western Boone’s four seniors are Casey Baird, Will Barta, Evan Hine and Mitch Miller. Baird, who has committed to Franklin (Ind.) College for football, will be called on to play multiple positions, including shortstop, second base, catcher and relief pitcher. Barta is a designated hitter. Georgetown (Ky.) College-bound Evan Hine (.325 average with a team-best .509 on-base percentage in 2021) is a third baseman. Miller, who led the Stars with .349 average last season, is a center fielder and lead-off hitter. There’s also junior first baseman Andrew Foster, sophomore left-handed pitcher/right fielder Jackson Grimes, sophomore right-hander/left fielder Luke Jackson, sophomore righty/shortstop Bryce Kopriva, sophomore catcher and clean-up hitter Cole Wiley and freshman second baseman Gavin Hawkins. Nance labels Kopriva, Jackson and Grimes as 1, 1A and 1B on his pitching staff. He points out that athletic Hawkins was the No. 1 singles player in tennis and played on the junior varsity team in basketball. Former Marian University pitcher Gabe Westerfeld is a varsity assistant coach and the program’s pitching coordinator. “We are really, really young on the mound,” says Nance. “Gabe has our young guys believing and there have been velocity increases.” Eric Gubera is JV coach and is also in charge of outfielders and base runners. He has coached with Nance in the summer since their sons were 8. Two years ago, they became affiliated with the Indiana Braves. This summer, they will guide the 12U Indiana Yard Goats — a squad that includes six players from Western Boone, three from Avon and one from Brownsburg player. Nance, who was a catcher at Lebanon (Ind.) High School, Ancilla College (Donaldson, Ind.) and MacMurray College (Jacksonsonville, Ill.), handles catchers, infielders and hitters. There are 22 players in the program and all practice together. Western Boone (enrollment around 510) is a member of the Sagamore Conference (with Crawfordsville, Danville Community, Frankfort, Lebanon, North Montgomery, Southmont and Tri-West Hendricks). The Stars are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Clinton Prairie, Delphi (2022 host), Fountain Central and Seeger. Western Boone has won two sectional titles — 1982 and 1983. Western Boone is scheduled to open the 2022 season with three games this weekend in Unionville, Tenn., south of Nashville. An optional part of the spring break trip is attending Sunday’s Tennessee at Vanderbilt college game. The Stars play home contests on-campus with side-by-side varsity and JV diamonds north of the school building. This year, the Stars got new brick dust for the infield and new wind screens for the outfield as well as a Hack machine and new L screens. At the end of the season, lights will go up. “It’s a really nice place to play,” says Nance. A 2004 Lebanon graduate, Nance played for Tigers head coach Rick Cosgray. “He demanded a lot but got more out kids than they knew they were capable,” says Nance. “You knew he really loved the game. He was always so upbeat and positive. “I have nothing but admiration for Coach Cosgray. I try to run my program like him.” Nance played for two head coaches at Ancilla — Rockie Dodds and Joe Yonto. “(Yonto) had a profound impact on me,” says Nance. “He showed me how to see the ball out of the pitcher’s hand (through eye-specific muscle training.” In Nance’s last year at MacMurray, former high school coach Fred Curtis led the Highlanders. “He just loved the game,” says Nance. “He said if you do the fundamentals right and not walk people, you can win ball games.” Nance says he also appreciates the mentoring and assistance he’s received from men also leading high school programs — among them Matthew Cherry (Fishers), Troy Drosche (Avon) and Andy Dudley (Frankfort). “There’s been such support from the coaching community,” says Nance. “They’ve been willing to help.” Nance earned a Special Education degree at MacMurray and a masters in Criminal Justice from Xavier University in Cincinnati. This summer will mark 15 years with Boone County Community Corrections. After starting out as a probation officer, he is now executive director. Michael and wife Emily (who played softball at Manchester University and MacMurray and now works in cancer research at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis) have a son and daughter attending Thorntown Elementary — Easton (12) and Harper (10). He enjoys tennis, baseball and duck hunting. She likes soccer and plays travel softball with the Indiana Magic.
Tracy Smith became a head coach in NCAA Division I baseball at 30. For the next quarter century, the Indiana native taught the game and developed relationships with players, families and others. Smith grew up in Kentland — a small town of less than 2,000 folks in Newton County — learning fundamentals from Donald “Tater” Blankenship and then playing baseball and basketball for Denny Stitz at South Newton High School. Other mentors include (college baseball coach) Jon Pavlisko, (minor league manager and coach) Brad Mills and Bill Harford, (Miami University Middleton basketball coach) Jim Sliger and (father-in-law and former MUM athletic director) Lynn Darbyshire. Tracy and wife Jaime have three sons — Casey (as in Casey At The Bat), Ty (as in Ty Cobb) and Jack (as in Jackie Robinson) — and are grandparents. Smith, who played at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) and in the Chicago Cubs system, led programs at Miami Middletown, Miami and Indiana University — taking to the Hoosiers to the College World Series and receiving National Coach of the Year honors in 2013 — before becoming head coach at Arizona State University. Not including the COVID-19-shortened 2020 campaign, he took the Sun Devils to four NCAA regional appearances in six seasons. His ASU teams won 201 games. In June 2021, Smith was let go at Arizona State. He saw it as an opportunity to focus his energy on a venture called Diamond Allegiance — an organization dedicated to reimagining travel baseball. He had been serving on its board for a couple of years. “I looked at it as my way of giving back to help the game of baseball bigger and more impactful than maybe the 35 guys in the locker room that I’ve coached over my entire career,” says Smith of his reason for diving in full-time with Diamond Allegiance. “I’ve been working hard and pulling in some of my friends. “You’ve got this army of former professional players and big league players that want to give back to the game as well.” Smith, 56, is CEO for Diamond Allegiance and works with an Executive and Advisory Board committee that features current collegiate coaches Erik Bakich (University of Michigan) and Kevin O’Sullivan (University of Florida) and former Oregon State University coach Pat Casey. Matt Gerber is head of player business and development. Two-time softball gold medalist and ESPN analyst Michele Smith is also board member. The OSU Beavers won three CWS titles on Casey’s watch (2006, 2007 and 2018) while O’Sullivan’s Gators reigned in 2017. According to its website, Diamond Allegiance “helps members run better businesses, augments their player development capabilities, provides more career opportunities for coaches, reduces the cost for families/players, and increases participation of underrepresented communities. We generate this impact through a powerful mix of partnerships, services, technology, and philanthropy.” Partners include Canes Baseball, the Indiana Bulls and many more. Says Smith, who grew up playing Babe Ruth ball and for Remington (Ind.) American Legion Post 280: “As a coach you’re always on the receiving end of kids coming up through the travel ball system. I don’t want to say the system was broken because it’s not. People in the travel ball business do an unbelievable job. The industry itself has become more of a showcase/exposure industry and not as much development. “We want to focus on the development piece.” Diamond Allegiance, which was officially launched at the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Chicago in January, offers a 12-month development system with text designed by Bakich that is currently not on the market. At Chicago came the first chance for feedback from the baseball industry. High school coaches without access to travel baseball in their areas approached asking if they can tap into Diamond Allegiance resources. “They will have access to a version of what we’re doing,” says Smith. A predictive mechanism powered by CURVE, which creates a score taking into account brain, ball and body data that tells how high a player might go is another Diamond Allegiance perk. Partners receive the ability to reach college conferences and coaches, push content to their coaches and team while building brand and culture. There is also access to top baseball industry leaders and the best tech providers. Sandy Ogg, a CEO developer for Fortune 500 companies who Smith met through former Indiana University senior associate athletic director and current Diamond Sports Foundation CEO Tim Fitzpatrick, is part of Diamond Allegiance. Members get marketing and branding services and assistance with their businesses. “Owners can run better businesses and be more efficient in those practices,” says Smith. “They can make money that they’ll reinvest into creating and providing opportunities for kids who can’t afford to play. “I’m very passionate and have always been very passionate about creating opportunities for kids who can’t be a part of it. When you look at our rosters over time we’ve tried to have a diverse roster. We really made a conscious effort to beat the bushes to find kids to play.” The idea is to provide value and assistance in making important decisions. “I see the amount of money families spend on getting their kid a college scholarship,” says Smith. “On a $5,000 college scholarship they’re spending $20,000 a year. “We want to provide direction. It’s OK to spend that money, but let’s spend it wisely.” Diamond Sports Foundation allows families an opportunity to apply for help to offset or — in some cases — totally fund the travel ball experience. Diamond Allegiance will share knowledge to help guide parents and players through this recruiting process “There’s this myth out there that if you don’t play Power Five baseball (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC) that in some way, share or form you have failed. I’ve always hated that,” says Smith. “Anytime I would talk to groups, families and kids I would say every one of you can play beyond high school. There’s a place for you to do that. You just have to find the right fit. “One of the things we’re going to be doing with Diamond Allegiance is giving families and kids true direction so that they can reach their aspiration.” Knowing that others have attempted to do the same thing, Smith addresses question about the Diamond Allegiance difference. “We’ve got a really, really good group of people that are passionate about making this game better,” says Smith, who has been talking with up to 10 travel programs a week. “You have people that are motivated to do right and do well by the game. “It will not fail.” To learn more, visit diamondallegiance.com. To apply for a partnership, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the pillars of baseball at Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis involves selflessness. Hawks head coach Sean Winkelseth wants his young men to concern themselves more with the needs of others than themselves. As the 2022 season approaches, Decatur Central players have already contributed nearly 200 hours of community service. They’ve helped clean up the grounds at Decatur Central Little League (where Winkelseth and junior varsity coaches Jim Bushee and Todd Conn are on the board), worked at elementary school carnivals and more. “There’s been a lot of volunteer efforts,” says Winkelseth, who was a Hawks assistant for one season prior to taking over the program in 2019-20. “We’re trying to be seen in the community as a positive.” In playing as a catcher/utility infielder for Ryan Kelley at Wayne State University in Detroit Winkelseth was exposed to this mentality and the 2017 WSU graduate has adopted it. “(Coach Kelley) is by far my biggest mentor for coaching,” says Winkelseth. “He just really instilled the importance of playing for the name on the front of the jersey. The team is is more important than an individual.” Winkelseth says Kelley is focused on making leaders who became successful as husbands and father. “He cared for us more than on the baseball field,” says Winkelseth, whose wife Madison went from Avon, Ind., to play volleyball at Wayne State and is now a speech language pathologist at Central Elementary School in the Beech Grove school district. The Winkelseths wed in August 2018. Sean Winkelseth is a fifth grade teacher at Valley Mills Elementary School in Decatur Township. A 2012 graduate of Ypisilanti (Mich.) High School, Winkelseth played his last three prep seasons for Chris Dessellier. He admires the Grizzlies head coach for building relationships with players. “He was getting to know guys and investing time,” says Winkelseth. “I still talk with him today.” Winkelseth also coached for the Michigan Bulls travel organization the summers before and after his final season at Wayne State. Decatur Central (enrollment around 1,800) is a member of the Mid-State Conference (with Franklin Community, Greenwood Community, Martinsville, Mooresville, Perry Meridian, Plainfield and Whiteland). The 14 MSC games are played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays as a home-and-home series. In 2021, the Hawks were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Avon, Brownsburg, Plainfield (host), Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo. Decatur Central has won 16 sectional crowns — the last in 2019. The Hawks play home games at Phil Webster Baseball Complex, named for the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer. Phil Webster is now back as an assistant at Pike with son Todd after a stint as Southport head coach. Recent field upgrades at Decatur Central have been made the the bases, home plate area and infield skin. Winkelseth’s varsity coaching staff in 2022 includes Alan Curry, Brandon Curry, Nick Jenkins and Noah Klick. Pitching coach Alan Curry is a longtime DC assistant. Brandon is Alan’s son. Jenkins is director of Armstrong Pavilion, Decatur Township’s health and fitness center. DCHS teacher and volunteer Klick played at Tiffin (Ohio) University. Besides Decatur Central Little League (T-ball to age 12), the high school’s feeder system includes seventh grade and eighth grade teams at Decatur Central Middle School. While current players are contemplating offers, Decatur Central has sent several recent graduates on to college baseball, including 2017 graduate Bradley Brehmer (Indiana University), 2018 grads/twins Alex Mitchell (Indiana Tech) and Austin Mitchell (Indiana Tech), 2020 alums Timmy Casteel (Manchester) and Brayden Hazelwood (Indiana University Southeast) and the Class of 2021’s Nico Avila (Marian University’s Ancilla College) and Bryce Woodruff (Marian University’s Ancilla College). Avila was an all-Marion County catcher in 2021.
Jordon VanWienen has spent his life in the DeMotte/Wheatland, Ind., community and now he’s head baseball coach at his alma mater — Kankakee Valley High School. The 2006 KVHS graduate was officially moved up from Kougars assistant coach in July. He had served four years as junior varsity head coach — one on the staff of Doug Greenlee and three under Ryan Armstrong then three years as a varsity assistant to Doug Nelson. “Seeing the KV program excel is true to my heart,” says VanWienen, who was a catcher for Greenlee as a Kougar player. “He’s got a lot of heart and passion — not only for the game but for his players,” says VanWienen of Greenlee. “He’s about more than just winning baseball games. “He had our backs.” An IHSAA Limited Contact Period concluded Oct. 16 and VanWienen had about 20 to 25 athletes not in fall sports participating in the twice-weekly sessions. “We got outside every week that we went with good solid practices,” says VanWienen. “We would work on defense one day and offense another day. “We had a good turnout. The numbers were high, which is a good sign for the program. There are a lot of good work ethics. We’re headed in the right direction.” Kankakee Valley (enrollment around 1,100) is a member of the Northwest Crossroads Conference (with Andrean, Highland, Hobart, Lowell and Munster). In 2021, the Kougars were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Culver Academies, Glenn, Hanover Central, Knox and River Forest. Kankakee Valley has won four sectional titles — the last in 1999. Outfielder Nolan McKim (Class of 2020) is on the reserve baseball roster at Indiana Tech. VanWienen says a pair of current Kougars – left-handed pitcher Max Schultz and infielder-outfielder Luke Andree — have college potential and there are others that could play at the next level. VanWienen’s assistants are Jim Pint, Scott Holmes and Jeremy Rohzon. Hitting coach Pint has been a volunteer at KV for 22 years. Pitching coach Holmes and JV head coach/varsity assistant Rohzon are both Kankakee Valley graduates. KV has two baseball fields on its Wheatfield campus. A JV/freshmen diamond was used for the first time in 2021. A strong feeder system is a priority for VanWienen. “My goal is to have a large involvement with local Little Leagues,” says VanWienen, who sits in the DeMotte Little League board. A travel ball program of DeMotte/Wheatfield players — the NWI Warriors — was established in August. There are currently 9U and 12U baseball teams. “The program is designed to get boys playing in April in tournaments and they can play in Little League as well,” says VanWienen. “I intend to start middle school season after high school season.” VanWienen wants to narrow the gap between Little League and high school where some players lose interest or get involved with other things. After KV, VanWienen to Franklin (Ind.) College for a few years. He was with the Lance Marshall-coached Grizzlies in fall ball and was involved in athletic training. He now works in the grains department at Iroquois Bio-Energy Company, LLC in Rensselaer, Ind. Besides coaching Little League and at KV, VanWienen led Outcast Thunder 15U, 16U and 17U travel teams from 2017-19. Jordon and wife Julie (a 2008 Kankakee Valley graduate) have been married for 12 years. They have two children — son Ayden (10) and daughter Hayley (9). Ayden VanWienen is active in soccer, basketball, baseball and 4-H. Hayley VanWienen participates in soccer, gymnastics and 4-H. The VanWienens have a San Pierre, Ind., address.