Manaea pitched in 11 regular-season games for the 2020 Oakland Athletics.
Petricka has pitched in the big leagues with the Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Milwaukee Brewers.
Bacus took the mound in 11 games for the 2020 Washington Nationals.
Rae pitched in nine regular-season contests with the 2020 Chicago Cubs.
Outfielder Strausborger played 31 games in the big leagues with the 2015 Texas Rangers.
Smiley has been on ISU staffs helmed by three different men. He was hired by former head coach Lindsay Meggs in the summer of 2009.
After Meggs left to become head coach at the University of Washington, Smiley served four years on the staff of Rick Heller.
When Heller took the head coaching position at University Iowa, Smiley followed him to Iowa City in the summer of 2013 and came back to Indiana State upon the hiring Mitch Hannahs, whose first season as the Sycamores boss was 2014.
As assistant in his first eight seasons at Indiana State, Smiley was named associate head coach in August 2017. He’s done about everything a coach can be asked to do in his time in Terre Haute.
“I’ve done everything from laundry to you name it,” says Smiley.
His current duties include defensive responsibilities and coaching third base on game days.
Smiley is also ISU’s recruiting coordinator — a job that has been made more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Players being recruited can not meet on-campus with coaches — though there have been times where they could tour the school through the admissions office — and coaches have not been able to see players in-person at summer tournaments because of the dead period imposed by the NCAA by Division I baseball since March.
“We’re having to make decisions based on video and a coach’s word,” says Smiley. “You don’t get a good feel of how they play the game. You’re just grading out their tools on video.”
Under ideal circumstances, Indiana State would like to see a player at least two or three times and get the assessment of multiple coaches.
“(Recruits) can’t watch us practice. They can’t eat with us. They get to know us as coaches. We can’t sell them on things we normally would. There are guys that haven’t really been here that are committed to us.”
On a positive note, fall practice went pretty smoothly for the Sycamores though the window was moved up from the original plan of ending around Thanksgiving (ISU started in September and ended in the middle October).
“It was the right decision, says Smiley. “We feel like we were pretty fortunate. We got through team segment pretty healthy. We missed a few quarantined freshmen.
“With all our instrasquads, 90 to 95 percent of the team could participate. We could have been missing main players. You have that and it’s difficult putting in anything (as far as plays or schemes).”
Indiana State experienced good weather and went from individual practice to team and back to individuals.
The university has gone to virtual classes for the rest of the semester and most of the team has already returned to their homes with a plan of coming back to Terre Haute in January.
“I did pitching at Danville and helped with everything,” says Smiley. “I learned a lot from Tim. I’m very grateful for my year at Danville.
“He was very good with cuts and relays and being in the right place at the right time.”
Brian and wife Katie Smiley have three children — Isaac (5), Christian (4) and Vivian (2). Katie, whose maiden name is Grossman, is a 2004 Evansville Memorial High School graduate who played soccer at the University of Southern Indiana.
“If you just show up on your high-intensity or game days, you’re not going to get much better,” says Vogt. “Guys are around other guys with high energy and motivation who do not skip drills, warm-ups and recovery.”
During the week, there are also high school players (many of whom are in travel ball tournaments Thursday through Sunday) working out, too. There is weight training, Core Velocity Belt work to emphasis the lower half and the use of PlyoCare Balls.
Each player follows an individualized workout plan based on their Driveline Baseball profile.
“Everyone does a pre-assessment,” says Vogt. “We measure strength, power and velocity and create a plan off that.”
Because of COVID-19 many of the players have not been able to get on an outside diamond in a sanctioned game for months.
Many were not able to do much in the way of throwing or lifting weights for two months.
College players saw their seasons halted in mid-March. High school players heading into college lost their campaigns altogether.
Minor League Baseball has not began its 2020 season nor has the Utica, Mich.- based USPBL .It’s uncertain when or if MiLB will get going. The USPBL has announced it will start with smaller rosters June 24 and expand when fans are allowed at games.
“It’s just a really fun time to come out here and really put all the work that me and all these guys put in throughout the week to a test,” says Polley. “It’s really cool to be able to see the guys come out here and thrive whenever they’ve made adjustments.
“It’s a time to relax and get after each other.”
Donning a T-shirt defining culture as “A wave that inspires a community to achieve greatness” (by Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson), Polley relates to the atmosphere at PRP Baseball and Finch Creek.
“They bust your butt during the week and whenever it’s time to play, it’s time to play,” says Polley. “We don’t worry about the mechanics or the drills we’re working on throughout the week. Let’s see what you got and you make adjustments week to week.”
Polley’s focus was on having a good feel for all his pitches and moving the way they’re supposed to based on Rapsodo-aided design.
Though the timetable is unknown, Polley says being prepared to return to live baseball is the key.
“I view this as an opportunity to improve my craft,” says Polley. “I come off and throw and lift everyday to make myself better.
“Whenever it is time to show up, I’m going to be better than whenever I left.”
Polley came down with the coronavirus in March after coming back from spring training in Arizona and was unable to throw the baseball for two weeks.
For that period, he and his girlfriend stayed away from everyone else and meals were brought to the bedroom door by Polley’s parents.
With facilities shut down, he was able to train in a barn and at local parks.
“To just be a kid again was really cool,” says Polley. “As a kid, you’d go to the park with your friends and practice. You’d compete and try to get better.
“That’s all it has been this entire quarantine. You come back into a facility like (Finch Creek) ready to go.”
Vogt has noticed an attention to detail Polley.
“If the minor league season happens, he’s going to be ready to go,” says Vogt.
“This gives me a chance to compete and feel out my stuff,” says Milto. “I get a chance to improve and see what’s working and what’s not working.
“This time is kind of weird, not knowing when or if we’re going to go back. So I’m just here, seeing the competition and staying ready.”
Milto just began coming to PRP Baseball this past week after hearing about it through friends.
“I really love all that they offer,” says Milto.
While maintaining strength, Milto also makes sure he stays flexible.
“For longevity standards and being able to move well consistently for as long as possible, I think it’s important so I work on by flexibility,” says Milto. “Especially with my upper body. My lower body is naturally flexible.
“I’m working on by thoracic rotations and all that kind of stuff. It’s helped me feel good everyday.”
Milto just began adding a cutter to his pitch assortment.
“Using the cameras and the Rapsodo here is really helping me accelerate the development.
“I’m feeling it out (with the cutter). I’ve already thrown a slider. I’m trying to differentiate those two and make sure they look the same out of my hand but different coming to (the batter).”
Milto says he’s made a switch in his take on how electronic devices can help.
“At first, I didn’t buy much into the technology,” says Milto. “It was all just too much to look at. As of late, I’ve started to pay more attention to it. I’ve realized the benefits of it.
“My mentality has been to just go out there, trust my stuff and compete instead of I need to get my sinker to sink this much with this axis. But I’ve started to understand how important that stuff. You make everyone look the same until it isn’t.
“It’s immediate feedback when you’re training. You release it. You know how you felt. And you know exactly what it did.”
Gray, 25, is a right-hander who played at Columbus (Ind.) East High School, Western Michigan University, Gulf Coast Community College and Florida Gulf Coast University before being signed as a minor league free agent by the Colorado Rockies in 2019. He was released in February 2020 and reports to the Milkmen this weekend.
“I see that they get results here,” says Gray. “It’s always great to push yourself and compete with others that are good at sports.”
Gray, who has been working out with PRP Baseball since prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, counts down his pitching strengths.
“I compete. That’s a big one,” says Gray. “I throw strikes. I’m determined to get better and be the best version of myself.”
When the quarantine began, Gray had no access to a weight room.
“I did a lot of body weight stuff and keep my body there,” says Gray. “I was lifting random stuff. I was squatting with my fiancee on my back. I was finding a way to get it done.
“I knew at some point COVID was going to go away and baseball was going to be back and I needed to be ready.”
Strobel, 25, is a left-hander who played at Avon (Ind.) High School and for the final team at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. (2017) before pitching for the independent Frontier League’s Joliet (Ill.) Slammers that summer. He underwent Tommy John reconstructive surgery and missed the 2018 season. He appeared in 2019 with the AA’s Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats. When not pitching, he’s helped coach pitchers at Avon and for the Indiana Bulls 17U White travel team.
Strobel coached at Grand Park early Friday and then scooted over to Finch Creek for PRP “Compete Day.”
“I try to mimic what we do here,” says Strobel of his pitching coach approach. “It’s mainly work hard and be safe.
“Summer ball is now acting like the high school season. It’s been about getting everyone up to speed. Some guys were not throwing over the spring. They just totally shut down. You have other guys who’ve been throwing.”
Strobel has been training with Vogt for about four years.
“I like the routine of everything,” says Strobel. “Everything’s mapped out. You know what you’re doing weeks in advance. That’s how my mind works.”
And then comes the end of the week and the chance to compete.
“Everything’s about Friday live,” says Strobel. “Everyone has a routine getting getting for Friday.”
Strobel has been told he’s on the “first call” when the USPBL expands rosters.
He was “on-ramping” in February when the pandemic came along and he switched to training at the barn before coming back to Finch Creek.
“I really didn’t have to shut down,” says Strobel. “It’s just been a long road from February and still throwing.
“I help out in any way that I can,” says Sullivan, who reached out to Vogt in the spring of 2019, interned last summer and then came on board full-time. “We mesh well together because we believe in a lot of the same sort of fundamentals when it comes to pitching and developing a pitcher.
“It helps to have an extra set of eyes and that’s where I come into play. I dealt with a lot of mechanical issues myself and my cousin help me out. That sparked me to want to do the same for other players.”
Sullivan is pursuing his Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).
“Once I have that, it opens up a lot more doors and opportunities for me in the baseball world,” says Sullivan. “Baseball has had a funny route to where it is today. When I grew up a lot of times you threw hard because you were blessed and had the talent.
“Now, it’s been proven that you can make improvements — whether it be in the weight room, overall health or mechanical adjustments in your throwing patterns — and can train velocity.
“A lot of people are trying to find a balance of developing the mechanical side of things while strengthening things in the weight room. They kind of go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other.”
Sullivan says that if the body can’t support the force that’s being generated through it, it’s going to lead to a faster breakdown.
“That’s where the weight room comes into play,” says Sullivan. “Being able to transfer force is kind of the name of the game right now.”
“The best part of my game is my ability to make anything happen,” says Rosselli, a 6-foot-2, 220-pounder. “I don’t really have a cap on the limits on what I can do during a ball game. I don’t have a roof. I feel like when we’re down, I feel like I can be that guy every time (to pick the team up).”
Through games of June 13, Rosselli was hitting .284 with seven home runs, 20 runs batted in and 15 runs scored in 20 games played.
In four seasons at Indiana State (2014-17), Rosselli hit .290 and clubbed 22 homers, 16 doubles and stole 14 bases.
While playing for the summer collegiate Coastal Plain League’s Edenton (N.C.) Steamers in 2015 and 2016, Rosselli set a league mark for homers over a two-year period with 24 (10 in 2015 and 14 in 2016). Edenton won the league title in 2015.
Rosselli played 60 games with the Dogs in 2018 with a .240 average and eight homers.
A teacher of speed and agility classes who also works as a rehabilitation aide at Athletico Physical Therapy in Terre Haute in the off-season, Rosselli says his speed is displayed more in his ability to get around the bases and to track down fly balls than a 60-yard dash time or stolen base total.
“Baseball is really not a straight-line speed sport,” says Rosselli. “How much torque and power you have, that has a bigger impact.”
From a young age, Rosselli learned from parents Bruce (a former Indiana State track and field star who was an Olympic bobsled driver) and Cheryl (a former world-class table tennis player with 27 international titles for the U.S.) that to succeed you have to have carry yourself with certainty.
“They stuck that in my head,” says Rosselli, 26. “Know your the best, you’re going to perform at the highest level
“In any sport I’ve ever done, there’s never been a different message.”
Rosselli graduated in 2012 from North Vigo, who he hit .373 with eight home runs and 51 RBIs and was named the Wabash Valley Baseball Player of the Year as a senior for the Shawn Turner-coached Patriots. He redshirted his first year at ISU before playing four years for Sycamores head coach Mitch Hannahs.
The ISU coach emphasized the simple things.
“It is just a game,” says Rosselli. “But in order to play it, you have to grind it out every single day.
“We were blue collar baseball players that gave our best every time. In order to succeed, we had to put int he work. That gave us a mental edge on team’s we played. It allowed us to believe in ourselves.”
That’s why Indiana State was able to stand up to powers like Vanderbilt.
Playing for the hometown Rex in 2014 gave the younger Rosselli another full season of swinging the wood bat.
He graduated from Indiana State with a degree in Sport Management. He minored in motorsports management and marketing.
With the Chicago Dogs, Rosselli plays for a squad managed by former big leaguer Butch Hobson. D.J. Boston is the hitting coach.
“The competition level is a lot higher than I thought it was going to be (in the American Association) last year and it’s even better this year,” says Rosselli. “It’s just a very competitive league, which I like.”
While the average age on the Dogs is 27, that number is brought up by Carlos Zambrano, a 38-year-old right-handed pitcher who played 12 seasons in the majors with the Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins and is making a comeback.
“He’s had a really big impact on me,” says Rosselli of Zambrano. “He’s a pastor now. His life has changed around since he found God. He’s a new man. He’s brought that to the team.”
Tony Rosselli is single. Older sister Paige is in marketing sales for Embroidery Express in Terre Haute.
Tony Rosselli, a graduate of Terre Haute (Ind.) North Vigo High School and Indiana State University, is in his second year with the Chicago Dogs of the independent professional American Association. (Chicago Dogs Photo)
Tony Rosselli played four seasons at Indiana State University (2014-17) before beginning his professional baseball career — first with the Utica (Mich.) Unicorns and now with the Chicago Dogs. (Chicago Dogs Photo)
Tony Rosselli, a graduate of Terre Haute (Ind.) North Vigo High School and Indiana State University, brings a combination of power, speed and confidence as a player with the Chicago Dogs of the independent professional American Association. (Chicago Dogs Photo)
The senior left-hander knows what it means to face pressure situations and to perform in hostile environments when the Sycamoresgo on the road.
At 22 and with 210 collegiate innings logged, Polley does his best to be the calm in the storm. Like the eye in the hurricane.
“We’ve played in some of the biggest ballparks in the country in my time here,” says Polley. “It’s the same everywhere you go.”
Polley, a 2015 Brownsburg (Ind.) High School graduate, was in one of those stressful situations in his last start Friday, May 3 at Illinois State.
“It was one of his best outings in terms of competing and giving us a chance to win the game,” says Indiana State head coach Mitch Hannahs. “I was really impressed with what he did (in the game) with the composure and from a competing standpoint.”
The host Redbirds collected 12 hits against Polley, but he battled for six innings and gave up just three runs in a no-decision.
“There’s always going to be games that don’t go your way,” says Polley. “You have to be able to keep a calm mindset and stay aggressive throughout it all and not fold, which is what the other team wants.”
Polley says it would be easy to get rattled pitching in front of a loud crowd and opposing dugout.
“It almost feels like things can speed up on you,” says Polley. “There was one point in the game (at Illinois State), where I just had to take a step off of the mound, re-group, try to figure out what I was and go at the other team again.”
As Polley and Indiana State (34-11, 11-4) enter a Friday-Saturday-Sunday Missouri Valley Conference series at Dallas Baptist, he is 6-0 with a 2.23 earned run average in 12 starts and 80 2/3 innings. He has struck out 65 batters and walked 33. Opponents are hitting .203 against the southpaw.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Polley competes using a sinking fastball, cutter/slider, change-up and big breaking ball.
He credits Hannahs and pitching coach Jordan Tiegs for helping him to develop an aggressive mindset on the mound and to hit his spots.
During winter breaks, Polley has worked with Greg Vogt (founder and operator of PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind.) on things like pitch design.
“He’s a really good dude and nice resource that I have,” says Polley of Vogt. “I can pick his brain. He’s a very knowledgable guy.”
Polley has also spent much time on his own doing research online to find the philosophies and routine that works best for him.
“I stick with ti and got about it everyday,” says Polley.
Growing up in Avon, Ind., Polley took the mound in high school as a strong-armed lefty. He later learned the craft of pitching.
Polley credits the Indiana Bulls travel organization for giving him a chance to play NCAA Division I baseball at Indiana State.
He says he’s come a long way since arriving in Terre Haute.
“A lot of it has to do with mentally (maturing),” says Polley. “I was an off-the-wall freshman.
“Once I got here, I knew if I took a step mentally, because I knew I had the physical ability that everything was going to play up.”
For his ISU career to date, Polley is 16-4 in 57 mound appearances (30 as a starter) with a 3.51 ERA, 167 strikeouts and 98 walks.
Triston Polley is a senior starting pitcher for Indiana State University. In 12 starts, he is 6-0 for a team that is 34-11 heading into a weekend series at Dallas Baptist. (Indiana State University Photo)
Triston Polley has been aggressive and calm at the same time at the front of the Indiana State University baseball team’s pitching rotation. The ISU senior is a graduate of Brownsburg (Ind.) High School. (Indiana State University Photo)
Indiana State University opens its 2019 baseball season with a three-game series Feb. 15-17 at Jacksonville (Fla.) University.
Fifth-year Sycamores pitching coach Jordan Tiegs is getting ISU arms ready for the opener and beyond.
“We’re full-go,” says Tiegs. “We’re building guys now. Some are up to four innings. We’d like our starters to be able to go six innings that first weekend.”
The process has been happening with both both scrimmages and bullpen sessions. They train with overload and underload throwing balls.
“We want to get it as close to what it’s like during the season as possible,” says Tiegs. Pitchers generally pitch live in intrasquad games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday while there is more bullpen work on Monday through Thursday.
ISU’s online roster lists 17 pitchers. All three of the team’s weekend starters from 2018 when the Sycamores went 31-24 overall and 11-10 in the Missouri Valley Conference — senior left-hander Triston Polley (Brownsburg High School graduate), senior right-hander Tyler Ward (Heritage Hills) and junior left-hander Tristan Weaver — return.
Polley went 7-2, Ward 6-3 and Weaver 3-5 in 2018.
Redshirt junior right-hander Colin Liberatore, who pitched at the University of Pittsburgh in 2016, is in the starting mix. Weekday starter Weston Rivers is not back.
While primary closer Ethan Larrison (25 appearances with nine saves) has moved on to professional baseball, 6-foot-5 junior left-hander Tyler Grauer (21 appearances with three saves) did some closing in 2018 and he’s back.
“We lost a lot of leads in sixth and seventh innings last year,” says Tiegs. “That will be a big emphasis this year.”
Cross, a 6-7 junior, is one of seven pitchers on the staff who were in junior college last season.
Tiegs calls junior Frey, also a JC transfer, a “competitive bulldog” who throws strikes.
Coming to Indiana State as a two-way player as a JC transfer, the Sycamores have decided to let junior Kramer focus on pitching.
“He may have the best arm on the staff,” says Tiegs.
Sophomore Ridgway impressed ISU coaches during a showcase camp and was made a full-time pitcher as a freshman.
Junior Guerrero is considered a “swing” man who could be used as a starter or in long or short relief.
Being tall with long limbs is helpful for a pitcher.
But size is not always the determining factor in success.
“In a perfect world, they could all be 6-3 and 215 (the average size of a big league starter),” says Tiegs. “But what about the 5-9 guy who throws in the low to mid 90’s and can really spin it and is really competitive?.
“We have a bit of a mix here,” says Tiegs, who has 6-9 junior left-hander Will Buraconak and 5-9 freshman righty Paul Wendling in the pitching corps. “Both are going to help us a lot.”
Of course the plan on paper in February is not always what unfolds by May.
But one thing is constant.
“We want guys who are going to compete for the right reasons and execute their game plan,” says Tiegs of his pitchers. “We want to generate as much weak contact as we can.
“For some guys play book is simple. For some, it’s more complicated. It’s what they can handle.”
When recruiting, Tiegs wants pitchers who have a feel for the game around them and not ones who “can win the 60-foot, 6-inch battle” only.
“These are the ones who can’t hold runners and can’t field their positions,” says Tiegs. “Guys don’t work on these days as much as they used to.
“You can forget that a whole game is being played.”
“He’s a very smart baseball guy,” says Tiegs of Hannahs. “He knows what pitching means to a team. It can make or break your entire season.”
Hannahs gives his perspective while giving Tiegs the freedom to develop his staff his way.
“As a former infielder, he has a pretty good feel for what pitchers go through on the mental side,” says Tiegs.
The mental side of the game is something that is addressed daily by Tiegs in practice.
“We get them in the right frame of mind on the mind,” says Tiegs. “We want them to be in control of their thoughts and in the moment.
“They should keep things as simple as possible and not get the wheels spinning too much.”
Speaking of spinning, Indiana State does keep tabs on spin rate, spin axis and rotation using Rapsodo technology.
Tiegs notes that the use of TrackMan is another way of getting analytic feedback.
This can help players “develop a better version of themselves.”
“We don’t want to overkill with it,” says Tiegs. “It’s just another tool.”
Tiegs is a 2005 graduate of Huron Park Secondary School in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada.
There was no high school baseball in his district. But he played on an elite travel team. The London Badgers played about 80 games a year from April to September with three or four tournaments in the U.S.
Tiegs also participated in volleyball, basketball, hockey and tennis and is definitely a believer in the concept of the multi-sport athlete.
“It can hurt your athletic growth if you eliminate things at a younger age,” says Tiegs. “Using different movements, it’s only going to help in baseball with agility and coordination.
“The more you can be exposed to that stuff is only going to benefit you. You’re going to get enough isolated work when you get to college.”
Tiegs wants his pitchers to be as athletic as possible.
“Pitchers can get a bad rap at being the non-athletes on the field,” says Tiegs, who has his ISU hurlers go through circuit training — strength and mobility — each day before they ever throw a baseball.
Having played and coached at the two levels, what is the main difference in NCAA Division I and II from a pitching perspective?
“It’s in the depth of lineups you see day in and day out,” says Tiegs. “You can get away with more mistakes (in D-II). With the better D-I teams, you need to be sharp for 7, 8, 9 guys in lineup. When they hit your mistakes, it’s usually louder.”
Jordan and wife Chelsea Tiegs are expecting their first child in late March.