Tag Archives: Turf Monsters

Hug looks to do damage or do a job in each plate appearance

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

Chase Hug has a plan when he goes to the plate.
“My general offensive approach is try to find a ball where I can do some damage early in the count,” says Hug, who played his first season at the University of Evansville in 2022 after a year off for Tommy John (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) surgery and rehabilitation. “Late in the count, get the job done — advance or score a runner.”
Hug, a lefty-swinging first baseman/outfielder, was with the Jaxon Shirley managed-Turf Monsters in the 2022 College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., before joining the Northwoods League’s Wausau (Wis.) Woodchucks.
In his first 14 Northwoods League games, Hug is hitting a robust .373 (19-of-51) with six home runs (including three circuit clouts Tuesday, July 26 at Madison), 17 walks (vs. seven strikeouts), 20 runs batted in, 18 runs scored and a 1.353 OPS (.529 on-base percentage plus .824 slugging average).
“I try to make sure everything feels right with my swing — day in and day out,” says Hug, a 6-foot, 190-pounder.
A 2018 graduate of Pike High School in Indianapolis, Hug hit .484 with 12 homers and 46 RBIs as a senior for the Todd Webster-coached Red Devils.
“He was a good guy,” says Hug of Webster.
At Dennis Conley-coached Olney (Ill.) Central College, Hug played in 37 games and hit .358 with 17 extra-base hits (five homers), 35 RBIs and 30 runs for the 2019 Blue Knights. He also made five mound starts and went 2-1 with a 2.63 earned run average and 28 strikeouts in 24 innings.
In the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, Hug hit .516 in 31 at-bats with nine extra-base hits (two homers), 20 RBIs and 10 runs as Olney Central went 14-1.
After transferring to Evansville in the fall of 2020, Purple Aces coaches advised him to get checked out when his mound velocity began to dip. Hug learned in December 2020 that he needed Tommy John and had the procedure done Jan. 12, 2021.
Hug missed the spring and summer seasons in 2021. His NCAA Division I debut came Feb. 19, 2022 at North Carolina State. He went on to play in 47 games (40 starts) and hit .238 (36-of-151) with 11 homers, 39 RBIs, 32 runs and a .906 OPS (.396/.510).
“Everybody is truly a brother with one another,” says Hug of the culture fostered by Purple Aces head coach Wes Carroll.
This past spring, Evansville went 32-24 and scored 7.2 runs per game.
“It was pretty fun to watch and be a part of,” says Hug.
Having experienced both junior college and D-I baseball, Hug has witnessed differences.
“JUCO is a harder grind,” says Hug, 22. “At Evansville, we ride charter busses and have our own bed in hotel rooms. Per diem is $15 and we have trainers travel with us.”
Junior college travel was done in vans. Hotels weren’t all that comfortable, per diem was much lower and no trainers made these treks. Then hitters had to face pitchers throwing near triple digits. Olney Central is in National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Region 24 with teams like John A. Logan, Lincoln Trail and Wabash Valley.
Hug, who has two years of eligibility remaining, is an Exercise Science major at UE.
“The last few years I’ve gotten really big into (weightlifting) to help me get better as an athlete,” says Hug. “In this major I’ve been able to learn a lot.”
While job-shadowing college athletic trainers and personal trainers, he’s been able to see what it means to train for bodybuilding vs. the regular athlete.
Older brother Logan Hug is a personal trainer in Atlanta. The 2011 Pike graduate played four years of collegiate baseball in Indiana — two at Ancilla College and two at Manchester University.
Chase, Logan and older sister Stephanie Hug (who manages a shoe store in Evansville) are the children of Jeff and Anne Hug. Jeff Hug manages a printing firm. Anne Hug is a nurse.
Born in Indianapolis, Chase Hug grew up in Pike Township. He played at Westlane-Delaware Trail Little League and then was in travel ball with the Indiana Mustangs from 10U to 17U.
The summer of 2018, he played for the Lebanon (Ind.) Merchants collegiate team.

Chase Hug (University of Evansville Photo)

Chase Hug (University of Evansville Photo)
Chase Hug (University of Evansville Photo)

Chase Hug (University of Evansville Image)

Chase Hug (Wausau Woodchucks Photo)

Valparaiso U.’s Hannahs contributes with glove, bat

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

Kaleb Hannahs has a purpose when he puts on his glove and trots out to his position in the infield.
Support the man on the mound.
“I’m trying to get my pitcher to trust me,” says Hannahs, who has completed two baseball seasons at Valparaiso (Ind.) University. “It makes them so much more comfortable attacking hitters when they know you’ll take care of balls put in-play. They’ll throw more strikes for you.
“I let my hands do the work.”
A shortstop throughout his days at West Vigo High School in West Terre Haute, Ind., Hannahs played shortstop, second base and third base this summer for the Coastal Plains League’s Peninsula Pilots (Hampton, Va.) and spent all but one game at third base for the Brian Schmack-coached VU Beacons in the spring.
Hannahs was named to the all-Missouri Valley Conference defensive team in 2022.
With the bat, the righty swinger hit .275 (55-of-200) with four home runs, 15 doubles, 25 runs batted in, 36 runs scored and seven stolen bases over 48 games (all starts). His OPS was .751 (.341 on-base percentage plus .410 slugging).
He enjoyed 16 multi-hit games — including four with three RBIs in Game 1 of a doubleheader against Indiana State — where father Mitch Hannahs is the head coach. Kaleb tied for the team lead with seven multiple-RBI games.
“My dad’s always been my mentor when it comes to baseball,” says Kaleb. “He’s just always guided me along the right path. I’ve grown to completely trust what says and the knowledge he has.
“It’s extremely helpful for me to have that connection.”
Kaleb sees in his dad — who played at Indiana State and in pro baseball before launching into a coaching career — a combination of Old School and New School.
“He’s figured out stuff that will always work,” says Kaleb. “He does a good job of teaching those things.”
The younger Hannahs was born in Terre Haute and started school in Robinson, Ill., when his father was head coach at Lincoln Trail College.
Kaleb, who is now 20, was 12 and in the sixth grade when he moved to Terre Haute. From Grades 7 to 11, his summers were spent with the Indiana Reds travel ball organization.
Hannahs played for Culley DeGroote at West Vigo in 2020 — the year the COVID-19 pandemic took away the season, which would have been his fourth on varsity.
“The whole DeGroote family take care of the West Vigo baseball program,” says Hannahs. “They do it well. You learn how to play the game.
“With Culley, everything was always in-line. He kept our heads pointed in the same direction.”
Hannahs also earned four high school letters each in football and basketball and was all-Western Indiana Conference in both sports.
In 2020, Hannahs was part of the first season for the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., helping the Turf Monsters to the championship. Alex Thurston, who would be his roommate at Valparaiso U., was also on the team.
Hannahs enjoyed a super 2021 spring that included being honored as the MVC Freshman of the Year, all-MVC second team and Valpo’s 2020-21 co-Male Newcomer of the Year.
In 51 games, Hannahs hit .296 (55-of-186) with three homers, six doubles, 22 RBIs, 22 runs and four stolen bases. His OPS was .776 (.389/.387).
He was in 41 games with the 2021 Prospect League’s Terre Haute Rex and hit .293 (46-of-157) with two homers.
Hannahs explains his offensive approach.
“What I try to do is keep my mind as empty as possible,” says Hannahs. “It’s a one-on-one battle against the pitcher.
“My dad presented that to me. It’s best for me to keep it competitive.”
Hannahs was usually in the No. 2 spot in the batting order with Kyle Schmack (.292, 7 HR, 27 RBI) hitting behind him.
“I know I’ll get a lot more pitches to hit,” says Hannahs. “They’re not going to pitch around me to get another good hitter.”
Schmack and Hannahs were teammates at Peninsula before both returned to Indiana for the rest of the summer.
Hannahs hit .306 (26-of-85) with two homers over 24 games.
“It was a great league with great competition,” says Hannahs of the CPL. “You can tell the area is invested in that league.
“It was packed every night.”
A Civil Engineering major his first year at Valpo U., Hannahs, who turns 21 in February, has changed to Integrated Business and Engineering.
Kaleb is the youngest of Mitch and Robinson (Ill.) High School English/Social Studies teacher Amy Hannahs’ three children. Former second baseman Derek Hannahs (30) played at Ohio State and Indiana State (even before his father coached there). He now lives in Indianapolis and sells insurance. Kylee Hannahs (25) resides in Greenwood, Ind., and is a social worker.

Kaleb Hannahs (Valparaiso University Photo)

Kaleb Hannahs (Valparaiso University Photo)

Kaleb Hannahs (Peninsula Pilots Photo)

Kaleb Hannahs (Peninsula Pilots Photo)

Baseball takes service-minded Morlen to Mississippi

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

Andrew Morlen sees a future in public service — perhaps as a police officer or detective.
That’s why he is pursuing a Criminology degree.
“My dad is a first responder,” says Andrew of Greg Morlen, a firefighter in Fishers, Ind. “I have a lot of respect for the men and women in black and blue.
“If I can contribute to and protect the city where I live I feel like I’m doing my part.”
As a college baseball player, Andrew Morlen contributes now as a right-handed pitcher.
Morlen, a 5-foot-11, 190-pounder, spent the 2022 season at Delta State University — an NCAA Division II program in Cleveland, Miss. He made 10 mound appearances (all in relief) with five scoreless outings while posting a 1-0 record with one save and a 3.75 earned run average. In 12 innings, the righty struck out eight and walked nine.
After competing for the Bag Bandits during the 2022 season of the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., Morlen plans to return to Delta State in the fall. He still has two years of eligibility and will consider his possible graduate school options based on how the 2023 season goes.
He landed in Mississippi after the DSU Statesmen were attracted by a video posted by the coaching staff at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Ill., where Morlen pitched during the springs of 2020 and 2021.
Andy Rincker, pitching coach and recruiting coordinator, reached out to Morlen and brought him in for a visit.
“I just fell in love with the campus and atmosphere,” says Morlen. “We have a really good coaching staff (led by Rodney Batts) to go along with it.”
Delta State went 32-17 with an appearance in the NCAA D-II South Regional in 2022.
After spending the summers of 2019 and 2020 training — much of the time with Greg Vogt at PRP Baseball in Noblesville — Morlen hurled for the CSL’s Turf Monsters in 2021.
Born and raised in Fishers, Morlen played local rec ball and then travel ball with the Indiana Nitro from ages 16 to 18. His head coach was Craig Huls (who is now pitching coach at Fishers High School).
A 2018 graduate of Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Morlen played for then-Royals head coach Scott Henson.
“He made sure you did the little things right,” says Morlen of Henson. “If we take care of the little things it will take care of the bigger things down the road.”
Morlen was at NCAA D-III Anderson (Ind.) University in 2019 before transferring to National Junior College Athletic Association Division I member Lake Land.
In the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, he got into five games and was 0-0 with four strikeouts and four walks in 4 2/3 innings.
Playing for Lakers head coach Julio Godinez and pitching coach/recruiting coordinator Gordon Cardenas, Morlen started five times out of nine games in 2021 and went 3-1 with 4.81 earned run average. He fanned 33 and walked 17 in 24 1/3 innings.
Throwing from an arm slot between three-quarter and over-the-top, Morlen uses a four-seam fastball (which has been recorded at 89 mph) with arm-side movement.
“My slider is my go-to pitch (for swing-and-miss or light contact),” says Morlen.
Greg and Susan Morlen have two sons — Andrew (22) and A.J. (19). Susan Morlen is a senior credit analyst for Delta Faucet in Fishers. A.J. Morlen, a 2021 HSE graduate and former baseball player, attends Purdue University.

Andrew Morlen (Delta State University Photo)
Andrew Morlen of the 2022 College Summer League at Grand Park’s Bag Bandits (Steve Krah Photo)

Former Fort Wayne Carroll catcher Jones decides time is right to turn pro

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

Three years after graduating from Carroll High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., Hayden Jones is bigger and stronger and more mature.
Jones, who signed last week as a free agent with the Cincinnati Reds out of Illinois State University, says his biggest growth since his prep days has come on the mental side. That’s why he wanted to go to college first instead of pursuing his pro career right away.
“I put the dollar amount so high no one was going to sign me (out of high school),” says Jones, who turned 21 on April 27. “I’ve learned to accept failure when it comes, knowing its not going to be the end of the world.”
Hayden, whose father Ken Jones was drafted as a catcher by the San Diego Padres in the 33rd round of the 1995 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and is now a Purdue Fort Wayne assistant coach and grandfather Bill Jones (who died in November 2015) was a founding member and longtime executive director of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association and selected as an IHSBCA Hall of Famer in 1982, played for Dave Ginder at Carroll. The lefty swinger and earned four letters while garnering IHSBCA all-state honors three times and being selected as MVP of the 2018 IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series.
Hayden’s uncle, Brad Jones, lettered in baseball at Ball State University. His son, Tyler Jones, played at the University of Dayton in 2021. Cousin Chris Menzie was a baseball letterwinner at Huntington (Ind.) University. Jennifer Jones is Hayden’s mother.
Hayden Jones spent his freshmen season at Mississippi State University in 2019, appearing in 27 games (14 starts) and hitting .224 (11-of-49) with one home run, four doubles, five runs batted in, five runs scored and a .636 OPS (.269 on-base percentage plus .367 slugging average). His fielding percentage with the Chris Lemonis-coached Bulldogs was .971 with 64 putouts, three assists and two errors.
Because of NCAA Division I transfer rules, he had to sit out the 2020 season.
In 2021 at Illinois State, he played in 38 games (31 starts) and hit .230 (28-of-122) with five homers, two triples, six doubles, 28 RBIs and 15 runs. His OPS was .730 (.296/.434). He also fielded at a .990 clip with 182 putouts, 21 assists and two errors.
“I loved Mississippi State,” says Jones. “My girlfriend (Savannah Shinn) still lives down there. It just wasn’t a fit (baseball-wise).”
At ISU, Jones worked with Redbirds head coach and former big league catcher Steve Holm.
Jones’ mechanics were changed back to where he had been while working with his father in high school.
“It all clicked from there,” says Jones. “I was growing and maturing and understanding the game at a faster pace.”
To Jones, blocking, receiving and controlling the opponents’ running game are important. But overall baseball knowledge is a major key to catching.
“My dad and grandpa gave me that big piece,” says Jones. “You need that support staff. Now they can let go and let the Reds do the magic. I text my dad every single night. He’s learning from me now.”
Playing 18 games this summer in the new MLB Draft League with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Niles, Ohio), Jones hit .237 (9-of-38) with one homer, one double, seven RBIs, six runs and .725 OPS (.383/.342). He learned from manager Coco Crisp and coach Ron Mahay — both former big leaguers.
While he still has years of eligibility left, Jones decided now was the time to move forward as a baseball player.
“I was ready,” says Jones, who was draft eligible three years out of high school. “I wanted to get my career going and get my foot in the door.”
Jones’ name was not called during the 20-round 2021 MLB Draft. The phone did ring five minutes after its conclusion with his agent telling him that Reds senior director of player personnel Jeff Graupe wanted the catcher.
In short order, he was traveling to Goodyear, Ariz., to take a physical and sign his contract with scouting supervisor Andy Stack.
“It was not the money I was expecting, but you don’t make your money until you get to the big leagues,” says Jones, who has began training. He and other free agents and draftees will see if the Reds assign them to the Arizona League, send them out to an affiliate (Low Class-A Daytona, Fla., Tortugas, High Class-A Dayton, Ohio, Dragons, Double-A Chattanooga, Tenn., Lookouts, Triple-A Louisville, Ky., Bats) or just keep working at camp.
“Nobody knows what to expect,” says Jones. “It’s where they need help in the organization.”
Jones spent the summer of 2020 with the Brent McNeil-coached Turf Monsters in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Among those running the CSL were Phil Wade and Blake Hibler, who coached Jones on Team Indiana in the Fall of 2016 and 2017.
Outside the all-star series, Jones was at Mississippi State in the summer of 2018. He was the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Newport (R.I.) Gulls in 2019.
Jones was pursuing a Recreation and Park Administration at Illinois State. He says he could complete it in another year.

Hayden Jones on Fox 55.
Hayden Jones (Illinois State University Photo)
Hayden Jones (Illinois State University Photo)
Hayden Jones (Illinois University Photo)
Hayden Jones (Mahoning Valley Scrappers Photo)
Hayden Jones (24) (Illinois State University Photo)
Savannah Shinn and Hayden Jones.
Hayden Jones (Cincinnati Reds Photo)

Kokomo graduate Perkins chooses Indiana University for next phase of mound career

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

Jack Perkins has decided to continue his college baseball career a little closer to home.
The 2018 Kokomo (Ind.) High School graduate pitched for the University of Louisville in 2019, missed 2020 while rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery and competed again for the Dan McDonnell-coached Cardinals in 2021.
Right-hander Perkins was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 39th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, but chose instead to go to college.
As a U of L freshman, right-hander Perkins made 16 mound appearances (four as a starter) and went 3-0 with one save and a 4.18 earned run average for a pitching staff coached by Roger Williams. In 32 1/3 innings, he struck out 37 and walked 18. One of his starts was May 14, 2019 at Indiana University. He tossed three shutout innings then faced five batters with recording an out in the fourth.
Nine days later in a relief stint against Clemson, Perkins felt a tear in his elbow. Within a week, he had his operation and began his journey back.
Suiting up for the Snapping Turtles, Perkins started a few times during the 2020 season of the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
The righty went back to Louisville, where he completed a double major in Finance and Marketing in three years (he came out of high school with several college credits) and got into 11 games (10 as a reliever) in 2021. Perkins was 1-1 with one save and a 7.31 ERA. He fanned 15 and walked 22 in 16 innings.
Perkins, a 6-foot-2, 215-pounder, competed for the CSL’s Turf Monsters at the beginning of this summer then waited to see if he was chosen in the 2021 MLB Draft (he was not).
He also opted to change schools. His final three choices coming out of high school were Louisville, Kentucky and Indiana.
This week, Perkins announced that he is transferring to IU where he will work with Hoosiers head coach Jeff Mercer, pitching coach Justin Parker and will be reunited with assistant and former Indiana Bulls coach Dan Held.
Jack visited Indiana and the pitcher came away impressed with Mercer and Parker.
“I made a great connection right away,” says Perkins, 21. “They’re great people as well as great coaches. My dad (Scott) came with me on the visit and thought the same thing.”
Perkins was with the Bulls n his 13U to 17U summer, including 16U with Held as head coach and Alex Graman as pitching coach.
“Dan Held is great guy,” says Perkins. “I loved playing for Dan. I’ve been close with him since high school.
“I’m very grateful for the Bulls organization and all they’ve done for me.”
Perkins, whose family moved to Westfield after he left high school, has been working with former big league pitcher Graman and Dr. Jamey Gordon at Pro-X Athlete Development at Grand Park the past couple of years.
It also helped Perkins in his decision to transfer to Indiana that already knew many Hoosiers players from competing with or against them in travel ball or in the College Summer League.
Perkins and Parker have already had conversations about “tunneling” each delivery from his high three-quarter overhand arm slot so the batter can’t tell the difference between his four-seamer, two-seamer, change-up, curveball or cutter coming out of his hand.
“We want to get all my pitches coming out of the same spot to create a little more deception and swing and miss,” says Perkins. “We’re feeding everything off the fastball.”
Perkins’ four-seam fastball sits at 94 to 97 mph and hit 99 in the spring.
At its best, Perkins’ change-up has been recorded on Trackman with 20 inches of vertical break and 14 inches of horizontal.
He describes his curve as having slurve action.
“It’s pretty hard and steep with a lot of late break,” says Perkins of a pitch he tends to throw in the 82 to 86 mph range.
The cutter is a pitch that Perkins has used to get out of jams with ground balls and quick outs. It has been clocked at up to 95 mph and can break in on left-handed hitters for weak contact or even broken bats.
Since his undergraduate work is complete, Perkins has the option of pursuing a masters or a graduate certificate.
While he secures an apartment in Bloomington, registers for classes and waits for his transfer to process so he can go on campus, Perkins is honing in Westfield.
“My goal to stay in shape, have a clean slate in the fall and get to work,” says Perkins, who has two years of remaining college eligibility.
Perkins was born and raised in Kokomo. He played T-ball through age 12 at what is now UCT Baseball.
At Kokomo High, Perkins played football for Wildcats head coach Brett Colby and baseball for Kats bench boss Sean Swan.
“They are the favorite coaches I’ve ever played for,” says Perkins of Colby and Swan. “They invested in you as a person and a player. They took the
invest in you as a person and a player. They took the extra effort to show why they care about you.
“There were tons of life lessons.”
Scott Perkins was a football player at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind. His wife, Carrie, studied nursing at DePauw University.
Scott and Carrie have three children — Caitie, Jack and Brooklyn. Caitie started at IU-Bloomington, transferred to IU-Kokomo is on a path to being a nurse practitioner. Guatemala-born Brooklyn was adopted at a young age. She is entering her freshman year at Guerin Catholic High School in Carmel, Ind.

Jack Perkins
Jack Perkins (University of Louisville Photo)
Jack Perkins (University of Louisville Photo)
Jack Perkins (University of Louisville Photo)

Right-hander Geesaman seeking next baseball opportunity

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

Wyatt Geesaman is seeking other baseball opportunities and he’s honing his pitching skills in the College Summer League at Grand Park.
A 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher, Geesman graduated from Jay County High School in Portland, Ind., in 2019 and began his college experience at the University of Cincinnati, where he made two mound appearances in two years.
The former Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series participant is now in the NCAA Transfer Portal.
“I’m looking around and seeing what is a good fit,” says Geesaman, who is with the CSL’s Caleb Fenimore-coached Bag Bandits in 2021 after twirling for the Park Rangers in the circuit’s inaugural season of 2020. “I go out there and try to compete.
“I focus on that pitch and try not to let what happened before effect me or what happens next.”
Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., is about a 90-minute trip from Portland. Geesaman does his training at home and travels on gameday.
Geesaman identifies the area where he’s improved most since his Jay County days.
“I’m more consistent,” says Geesaman. “In high school I was kind of wild. I’ve settled down a little bit.”
Delivering from a high three-quarter overhand arm slot, Geesaman throws a four-seam fastball which sits at 85 to 89 mph and has been up to 92. He also has a 12-to-6 curveball and a “circle” change-up.
Beginning in high school, Geesaman began pitching from the stretch even with the bases empty
“It simplified things a little bit,” says Geesaman.
At Jay County, Geesaman played for veteran coach Lea Selvey.
“I love him,” says Geesaman of Selvey. “He’s a great guy to play for. He still helps me out today if I need help.”
Geesaman, 20, was born in Muncie, Ind., grew up in Portland and played his first organized baseball in the Redkey (Ind.) Junior League.
At 10, he switched to travel ball and was with the Indiana Longhorns, Summit City Sluggers and Indiana Prospects before spending his high school summers with the Indiana Bulls.
Geesaman earned four baseball letters for the Patriots — tossing a perfect game with 18 strikeouts helping his team to a sectional title as a senior. Jay County won conference, sectional and regional titles his junior season. He also played forward in basketball and receiver in football for JC.
At Cincinnati, Geesaman was working toward at Marketing degree.
Jeff and Lisa Geesaman have two sons — Jacob (a 2021 Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology graduate) and Wyatt.
The Bag Bandits are scheduled to play a single game with the Turf Monsters at 7:05 p.m. Sunday, June 20 at Championship Park in Kokomo and a 3 p.m. doubleaheader against the Park Rangers on Monday, June 21 at Grand Park.

Wyatt Geesaman (U. of Cincinnati Photo)

Pro X allows players to develop at Grand Park

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Bringing instructors, athletic trainers and strength and conditioning experts under one roof, Pro X Athlete Development serves clients in Westfield, Ind.

Pro X (short for “Professional Experience”) celebrated its grand opening at it Grand Park facility in April 2019 after getting started in a temporary downtown location in 2017.

“We want to provide an all-inclusive training experience for our athletes,” says Joe Thatcher, former major league pitcher, co-founder and president at Pro X. “We provide sports performance so athletes can get bigger, stronger and faster. We have rehabilitation with Dr. Jamey Gordon. We have sports-specific instruction (for baseball, softball, golf and football).”

Thatcher, a Kokomo, Ind., native who worked with Gordon (who is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist as well as partner and Director of Athletic Development at Pro X) during his baseball playing career, wanted to replicate what he experienced in the majors.

“Everyday I walked into the clubhouse the coaching staff, training staff and strength staff knew what I was doing,” says Thatcher, who last pitched for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in 2016.

Pro X staffers, which include instructors Jay Lehr, Bryan Chestnut, Jaylen Quarles, Alex Graman, Jordan Estes and Zeth Tanner, share notes on athletes. One might have a hip mobility that does not allow a player to do what an instructor is asking of them.

“We take any physical limitations barrier and it leads to better success in baseball training,” says Thatcher. “One of the stigmas is that we’re an indoor baseball facility. We are about true athlete development.”

Using the latest innovations in the field, Pro X develops a plan for each athlete while working to keep them healthy.

“We make sure you’re moving the way you’re supposed to while getting bigger, faster and stronger so your body can handle more force,” says Thatcher. “You have to decelerate or you’re going to get hurt.

“That only happens if you’re training the right set of muscles to do that.”

During the winter, Pro X has 10 to 15 professional players working out at the elite facility which features 60,000 square feet in total with over 35,000 square feet of open turf space, 22 batting cages (11 full), 3,000 square-foot weight room, golf simulators and much more.

“The sports rehabilitation/training area is the heart and soul of who and what we are,” says Thatcher of the place where athlete assessments and private-pay rehab sessions are performed. There’s a full strength staff.

Catcher Tucker Barnhart and right-hander pitcher Drew Storen, who both went to Brownsburg (Ind.) High School, have trained at Pro X as has Chicago White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon and Kansas City Royals right-hander Jesse Hahn

Rodon, who resides in Veedersburg, Ind., did his Tommy John surgery recovery at Pro X.

This past week, former Southport High School and current Arizona Diamondbacks minor league left-hander Avery Short was pitching live to hitters on the Pro X turf.

“It’s fun to work with high-end athletes,” says Thatcher. “But our focus is capturing the young kids and starting them early.

“We want level the playing field for kids in the Midwest who don’t get to play all year-round. We’re exposing them to the training and all the innovations that’s out there.”

With a Diamond Sports Membership at Pro X, clients can have unlimited access to cages and turf. 

A Sports Performance Membership allows holders to attend all classes, including Weight Room 101 Transition. It starts with athletes around 7 and goes all the way up. 

A Diamond Plus Membership combines Diamond Sports and Sports Performance.

Pro X and Bullpen Tournaments partnered to sponsor the 12-team College Summer League at Grand Park in 2020.

“We saw an opportunity,” says Thatcher of a circuit that gave a place for several players displaced by the Coronavirus pandemic shutting down summer leagues. “We threw it together in about a month. It took a lot of work to get it up and running and a lot of flexibility with state regulations and COVID-19.”

About 100 players took advantage of a play-and-train option which allowed them to play in games — usually on Mondays and Tuesdays at Grand Park with occasional games at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis or Kokomo Municipal Stadium on other days — and train at Pro X Wednesday through Friday.

“(The CSL) is centrally-located which can be an advantage for us,” says Thatcher. “We’ve had a lot of really good feedback from college coaches who had kids in our league.

“We’re already starting to work on next year.”

The league has also featured players who graduated from high school in 2020.

“They’ve got to see what (college baseball is) going to be like,” says Thatcher. “They get on the field with the same field of guys you’re going to be competing against.”

The No. 5-seeded Turf Monsters bested the No. 2 Snapping Turtles 5-4 in the inaugural CSL championship game contested Friday, July 31 at Victory Field.

Julian Greenwell (two), Ethan Vecrumba, Jake Plastiak and Kollyn All drove in runs for the Turf Monsters (10-7-5).

Tyeler Hawkins scored a run on a wild pitch. Sam Crail, Brodey Heaton and Brendan Hord plated a run apiece for the Snapping Turtles (11-7-4).

Reese Sharp, who did not give up a hit until the sixth inning, was the winning pitcher. Cameron Pferrer earned a two-out save. Arian Coffey absorbed the loss.

Joe Thatcher is the co-founder and president of Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind. The Kokomo, Ind., native pitched in the majors. His last pro team was the 2016 Iowa Cubs. (Chicago Cubs Photo)
The 2020 College Summer League at Grand Park was won by the Turf Monsters with a 5-4 win Friday, July against the Snapping Turtles at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis. (College Summer League at Grand Park Image)
Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind., offers a “Professional Experience” for all members, including Diamond Sports (baseball and softball). The facility is located at Grand Park. (Pro X Athlete Development Image)