Damien Wallace is finally getting to see what it’s like to be a college baseball pitcher again. The right-hander got to toe the rubber in the spring for Marian University in Indianapolis and competed this summer for the Local Legends in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. The 6-foot-5, 175-pounder made 14 mound appearances (all starts) for the MU Knights and went 4-6 with a 6.92 earned run average, 72 strikeouts and 28 walks in 66 1/3 innings. Wallace was a once-a-week starter at Grand Park. Before his first outing on Feb. 4, 2022, Wallace had not thrown a gameday pitch since Feb. 8, 2020 at Bethel (Tenn.). Entering in relief in the third inning, Wallace got three outs including a pair of strikeouts. But 20 pitches in, he hurt his arm. He wound up having Tommy John (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) surgery in November 2020 and began throwing again in May 2021 while taking that season as a medical redshirt. “It was like (2022) was my first season of college baseball,” says Wallace, who turns 22 in September and will head back to Marian in August with three years of eligibility. Todd Bacon has been the Knights head coach since the 2014 season. The 2022 season was Jason Taulman’s second as pitching coach at the NAIA Crossroads League member school. “(Bacon) is a real hard-nosed guy,” says Wallace. “He wants you to keep yourself accountable out there. Somebody will always be watching and know if you did it or not. “(Taulman) is great with understanding the game of baseball. He knows that not every pitcher is the same. We have an open relationship with him. You get what you want to get out of the program from him.” Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Wallace uses a four-seam fastball (which got up to 92 mph in the spring), a two-seamer, slider and curveball. “My two-seamer has normal run action,” says Wallace. “It comes in on a right-handed batter (and away from a lefty). I have two separate grips for the slider — sweeping and a two-seam slider (which is thrown harder). My curveball is like 1-to-7 is a more vertical than my slider.” As a student, Wallace is about a year from completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Performance. After that he says he is leaning toward pursuing a Psychology degree. “Being hurt and going through the whole injury progression has brought to light the psychological part and understanding the mind of the athlete,” says Wallace. “I like being able to dive deep.” He has already taken psychology classes, Exercise and Sports among them. Born in Indianapolis, Wallace spent his early years in Normandy Farms around the Traders Point area. In elementary school, he moved to Richmond, Ind., for a few years and then back to Indy. He played at Eagle Creek Little League and was on teams that lost in the major state championship when he was 12 and won back-to-back junior state titles when he was 13 and 14. His travel ball experiences include the Indy Thrashers then the Chad Newhard-coached 17U Indiana Nitro in the summer of 2018 and occasional appearances with the 18U Indiana Astros in the summer of 2019. A 2019 graduate of Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter High School, Wallace was on varsity for three years including the 2017 season when the Raiders won the IHSAA Class 2A state championship. Senior Blake Malatestnic was the winning pitcher in the title game. Alex Vela, a 2017 Ritter graduate, went on to play at Ivy Tech Northeast Community College in Fort Wayne and the University of Indianapolis, is an assistant this summer to Local Legends head coach/manager Adam Cornwell. Dave Scott was and still is Ritter’s head coach. “Hands down he is one of my favorite coaches,” says Wallace, who was chosen for the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series. “He loves the game and loves teaching it right. “Making the game fun is one of his biggest things. Treating the game with respect is another thing.” Damien is the son of Sarah Dufek. His stepfather is Craig McIntyre. His mother helps run the family business, Andy’s Backflow Irrigation. Siblings are Layla Shoemaker (11), Liam Shoemaker (8) and Lachlan McIntyre (4).
Blake Malatestnic’s prep baseball ended with a flourish. The right-handed pitcher helped Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter to the 2017 IHSAA Class 2A state championship by hurling a complete game in a 10-4 win against Wapahani. Malatestnic went seven innings and threw 95 pitches while yielding nine hits and four runs (three earned), striking out four and walking one. He finished the season at 12-1 and was also named as the L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award recipient. But at 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds, he received just one college baseball offer. That came from Eastern Illinois University. “Eastern was my only school,” says Malatestnic, 23. “They saw something in a 5-foot-9, 150-pound kid. I was a small kid, but I had quick arm and I competed. (EIU head coach Jason Anderson) took a chance on me. “It’s something I’m forever thankful for.” More than five years later — including a pandemic and a major medical procedure — Malatestnic is preparing for one last go-round with the Panthers in 2023. Now up to a solid 175, Malatestic can look back on three competitive seasons so far. He pitched in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022. The 2021 season was lost when he needed Tommy John (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) surgery. In 55 games (35 in relief), the righty is 10-11 with four saves, 149 strikeouts and 72 walks in 169 innings. During the 2022 season, he appeared in 16 games (10 starts) and was 4-4 with 6.09 earned run average, 51 strikeouts and 21 walks in 54 2/3 innings. Malatestnic went to the summer collegiate wood-bat Northwoods League’s Kenosha (Wis.) Kingfish and pitched in 13 games and 20 1/3 innings before reaching his limit of combined frames for the spring and summer. “The surgeon and (Anderson) wanted me at about 75 (total innings),” says Malatestnic, who hurt himself doing velocity training just days before he was going to the Coastal Plains League to pitch for the Wilson High-Tobs in 2020 following a COVID-19-shortened EIU season in which he went 3-0 in four games (three in relief) with a 1.69 ERA, 23 strikeouts and six walks in 26 2/3 innings. A 32-week rehab program began in October 2020 and concluded in April 2021. “It was a roller coaster of feelings and situations,” says Malatestnic. “But I knew I could do it.” The pitcher was with the 2021 Northwoods League’s Lakeshore Chinooks (Mequon, Wis.). He made seven rehab starts capped at about 65 pitches each. He worked 24 innings with 29 strikeouts and seven walks. “Lakeshore was fantastic,” says Malatestnic. “They saw the long-term goal of why I was there in the first place. “(Chinooks manager Travis Akre) was a great communicator with the whole process.” Malatestnic pitched for the Prospect League‘s Danville (Ill.) Dans in the summers of 2018 and 2019 Over the years, Malatestnic’s relationship with Anderson has also grown. “He has a real open office,” says Malatestnic. “He behind me on Tommy John and did what he could with the school being shut down and all this COVID compliance stuff.” Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Malatestnic uses a four-seam fastball (clocked as high as 94 mph when he was coming out of the bullpen at the end of the 2022 spring slate). He also uses a slider and change-up and — this summer — developed a two-seam sinker. “On the days when the slider’s sharp it has more of a cutter action,” says Malatestnic. “It moves more right to left without a ton of depth. I feel comfortable throwing it a lot. It plays off my fastball. “My change-up goes down and to the arm-side. There are so many good hitters in the Ohio Valley Conference to get fastballs by them.” Malatestnic credits Kenosha pitching coach Steve Andrade, who pitched in the majors and counts Indiana Tech among his coaching stops, for aiding him. “He had me using classical mechanics and posture and staying over the rubber,” says Malatestic. “Those helped me finish my pitches with the right grip and a quick arm.” Born in Indianapolis, Malatestnic grew up in Avon, Ind. He played T-ball through junior league at Ben Davis Little League. He was on a team that won district and went to the state tournament at 12. He played travel ball from 13U to 15U with the Indy Predators — coached by his father (Dave Malatestnic) and Terrance Davis. Going into his junior year of high school (16U), he was with the Indy Raiders. The next summer it was the Eric Osborn-coached Indiana Nitro. Malatestnic dressed for selected varsity games as a Ritter freshman and and even made his first start as a shortstop against Indianapolis Cathedral. He was a varsity player his last three seasons. He was three-time all-Indiana Crossroads Conference, two-time all-city, all-city Player of the Year (2017), Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association District L Player of the Year (2017), IHSBCA All-State and a North/South All-Star Series participant (2017) and a MaxPreps Small School All-American honoree (2017). He went a combined 15-5 on the mound his sophomore and junior seasons while helping Ritter to sectional titles. “Coach (Dave) Scott gave me tests and little benchmarks and I passed those,” says Malatestnic. “He really had an attention to detail which was a really good foundation for success. “He was a hard-nosed kind of guy. We were a pretty scrappy bunch.” While there were not many future college players on the team, the 2017 Raiders hustled. “We would run hard, put down bunts and were not afraid of being down two strikes,” says Malatestnic. “We were aggressively calm.” Malatestnic still stays in-contact with Scott and makes it a point to look him up when he’s home from school. “You see a lot of guys go back to Ritter after the fact,” says Malatestnic. “That says a lot about Coach Scott. He invested a lot into his players and gave them a lot of life advice or baseball advice.” Malatestnic earned a degree in Elementary Education last winter then entered graduate school for Curriculum and Instruction. He is taking one online class this summer and plans to finish up next spring. Though he started out college on a Biology path, Malatestnic explains why he opted to pursue an education degree. “I started thinking about all the teachers I had growing up,” says Malatestnic. “Then I had to decide on what level I wanted to teach.” His senior year at Ritter he was a cadet teacher at St. Christopher School in Speedway with his fourth grade teacher, Miss Elizabeth Anderson. “It was a crazy amount of fun,” says Malatestnic. “I really enjoyed it.” Malatestnic did his student teaching the spring of 2021 while he was also rehabbing from his Tommy John. He is grateful for the time put in my graduate assistant athletic trainer Maria Garcia (now Assistant Director of Sports Medicine at Eastern Kentucky University). The graduate of Twin Lakes High School in Monticello, Ind., and Purdue University often met him early in the morning before he began his student-teaching day. Blake is the son of Dave (Karen) and Noelle Malatestnic. Dave Malatestnic works in IT at Hopebridge Autism Center. Noelle Malatestnic is an interior designed for Flaherty & Collins Properties. Blake’s siblings are Brenna Malatestnic (25), Jarek Malatestnic (21), Maddie Griffith (21) and Mary Griffith (19). Former Marian University soccer player Brenna lives in Indy. Jarek is a former track athlete at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.
Pitching a baseball subjects large (sometimes dangerous) forces on the arm particularly on the elbow; the weakest link in overhand throwing activities as most orthopedic surgeons and sports medical experts will attest.
When a ball player throws, a substantial force is concentrated principally on the inner part of the elbow (as the arm rotates first externally and then internally).
Placing undue stress on the inner elbow often results in injury, which can lead to ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) surgery (aka Tommy John surgery).
A physics professor and former pro baseball player in New York — Don R. Mueller, Ph.D. — who knows something about pitching and the physics behind it along with a successful senior adult baseball leaguer in St. Louis — Randy Tiefenthaler — suggest that there is an alternative way to throw (with less chance for UCL injuries).
“You supinate the wrist as the arm swings back (in preparation to throw) and then you pronate the wrist “naturally” as the arm moves forward to release the ball,” says Mueller. “This method of throwing is also powerful because supination creates two unique opportunities for power: (1) activating the biceps muscle to contract (storing energy within the throwing motion itself) and (2) engaging the band-like pronator teres muscle by stretching it across the inner part of the forearm, which like a stretched rubber band releases its energy as the wrist pronates to release the ball.
“Power-Pronation can be viewed as an efficient way of pulling something like a rope, for example, over-your-shoulder (as a construction worker does) or pulling your arm from back-to-front as a MLB pitcher does to throw a ball.
“If only more folks realized that throwing a ball is more precisely depicted as the action of pulling the ball from back-to-front before it is released by the thrower, then perhaps they would better understand Power-Pronation.”
Mueller, a left-hander who threw hard, pitched in the independent Empire State League in 1987 (injuring his shoulder in 1986 and then tearing his UCL in 1989; ending his quest to play further) wants to help others avoid arm injuries; however, still adding a few mph to their fastball by using the power-pronation technique.
“The inner elbow is a time bomb for pitchers who throw hard,” says Mueller. “My research is focused on moving the force away from the inner elbow more toward the outer elbow, which may be more resilient for some players.
“Pitching like other sports activities, which require the player to essentially do the same thing over-and-over again, is a proving ground for various repetitive strain injuries (RSI). I suggest that they try power-pronation if for nothing more that to give their arm a rest from RSI.”
Mueller offers ball players what he calls “3-Points on Pitching/Throwing.”
1. Get the throwing arm up quickly (supinate the wrist if you choose to power-pronate) 2. Carry the center of mass forward as the arm moves from back-to-front. 3. Get the arm out in front with a longer delivery (less elbow strain more shoulder power) as the back leg drives the body forward.
On the follow-through don’t drag the back leg. Get the back leg off the rubber and into the air as the center of mass rotates forward: Explosive power from the legs, hips and shoulder; not so much emphasis on the arm and its weakest link the elbow.
“I’m a guy who still throws with power even at age 57, but perhaps more importantly I’m an expert in throwing pain,” says Mueller. “I have hurt myself repeatedly (from head-to-toe) in different ways and have learned by many trial-and-error experiments how to throw with more power and less pain.”
Mueller states emphatically: “Harness the power of your overall body. Be more like an Olympic athlete; an overall body user. They are the best athletes in the world. For example, Jan Zelezny (javelin thrower) who had just won the Gold Medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta showed coaches with the Atlanta Braves (a few days later) that he could throw a ball over 400 feet! Although he never made a go of pro baseball, his ability to harness his overall body into a throw was remarkable.”
More recently, in using Power-Pronation principles, Tiefenthaler helped his fellow Midwest Pirates win the 53-and-over Roy Hobbs World Series in 2015 and he was named tournament MVP in 2017 as the Pirates came close to winning the title again.
“In September I will be 60,” says Randy Tiefenthaler. “And I can legitimately say that I can throw 80 mph with no pain or injury.
“It was (former major league pitcher) Mike Marshall that taught me the value of early forearm turnover and powerful pronation as the keys to getting the most out of your throwing arm. Those two keys help unlock increased velocity. “I am totally convinced that powerful and properly timed actuation of the pronator teres not only produces higher spin-rates on all pitches, but has the added benefit of preventing the olecranon process of the ulna (bony tip of the elbow) from violently colliding with the fossa of the humerus (upper arm bone).
“In other words, you can prevent the violent ‘hitting of the doorstop’ so to speak, on the back of your elbow, which can lead to excess ossification of the back of the elbow and sometimes even fractures.”
Mueller emphasizes the importance of the Power-Pronation as a method for kids to try. “
“If young ball players are willing to learn these techniques from a couple of old guys (who have been there and done that with the associated pain) then perhaps they can avoid such injuries altogether or at least greatly reduce the chance of hurting themselves,” says Mueller. “I also think kids need to extend their arm forward a bit with a longer delivery (like Aroldis Chapman who has a long fluid motion from start to finish) to allow for maximum acceleration of the arm forward, but also improved deceleration (slowing) of the arm once the ball is released.
“I see kids wanting to whip their arm forward, when it is still basically stuck behind them. I want them to carry their center-of-mass slightly forward before they begin to think about releasing the ball. In other words, I want kids to throw more downhill (and further down the hill) as they push themselves off the mound with their back leg. As the physics professor, I refer to this as converting potential energy into kinetic energy with maximum efficiency.”
Mueller also contends that kids don’t get their throwing arm up in time. As a consequence, the arm continues to lag behind the lower body, which begins its motion toward the target; with a dragging arm more likely to become an injured arm in time.
“Get the arm high and throw it lower,” says Mueller.
The professor has analyzed pitchers throughout the history of baseball as he applies his knowledge of physics. He still marvels at the compact and efficient delivery of former Detroit Tigers ace Denny McLain.
“Likely the last 30-game winner I will see in my lifetime,” says Mueller. “Dwight Gooden also had a beautiful delivery with near-perfect timing of the lower and upper body to throw his blazing fastball.”
Furthermore, Mueller observed that with both of these hurlers the arm was the “last thing to happen” as the lower body led the way and he prefers that today’s pitchers go back to this efficient use of the leg kick.
He explains that as the leg first kicks out and then pulls in (with the pitcher turning toward home plate) the big moment of inertia of the extended leg is converted into rotational angular acceleration of the upper body. The arm can then follow through more effectively with greater power and in all probability less chance for injury to the relatively delicate structure of the elbow.
Mueller says, “To maximize your pitching potential you need to use the upper body and lower body in tandem. Too many of the MLB pitchers I see in 21st century baseball are more upper body and not enough lower body.”
Although Mueller views the throwing of the arm forward as a pulling activity as it goes from back-to-front he understands and appreciates the importance of pushing (i.e., pushing off the mound) as a key element to pitching with power.
“I think immediately of Newton’s Third Law of Motion — For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” says Mueller. “You probably can’t throw the ball hard unless you are using this ‘ground force’ effectively.”
While Mueller agrees that you should push hard off the mound, he disagrees with “pitching experts” who advocate the dragging of the back foot (what they commonly refer to as the dragline) as part of this process.
He says, “I suggest that the thrower push forcefully off the pitching rubber and as the upper body rotates fully to the target, get the foot off the ground. If you want to have a 6-inch dragline fine, but I see no “physics-based” reason for a 2-foot dragline as recommended by some pitching coaches.”
Mueller also wants to make it clear that “he is not a pitching coach.”
He is a physics professor who investigates the physics of sports.
Tiefenthaler offers the following advice to anyone who wishes to avoid Tommy John surgery:
1. When breaking the pitching hand from the glove, lead with the
pitching hand in a pendulum swinging fashion that gets the hand up to your driveline position, with the forearm laid back in a supinated fashion ready to throw — this before your front foot plants and the hips and shoulders rotate forward.
2. During and after hip and shoulder rotation while you are driving the ball to the plate, powerfully go from forearm supination to full pronation while attempting to “inwardly” rotate your shoulder in a powerful fashion.
3. Learn to pronate the release of not just the fastball but all off speed/breaking pitches as well.
“Do those three things and you can bullet-proof your arm from UCL injuries,” says Tiefenthaler. “Tim Lincecum comes to mind as a Power-Pronator.
“You can see (in the slow-motion video) how Lincecum outwardly rotates his forearm at the beginning of the final drive home. Then the pronation begins as he drives his fingers through the release such that after release, his pitching hand turns inwardly so much that his palm is facing upward.
“For the novice fan, they would think that this action would injure the arm. However, it actually helps to protect the arm from the elbow to the hand, while at the same time maximizing spin torque on the ball at release.
“As far as the timing of when he gets his arm up and into driveline height; he is late with that, but that is another subject. However, as far as the powerful pronation action is concerned this is a good example.
“There aren’t too many MLB guys who understand how important pronation is to being able to throw the ball with ‘life’. The amount of late, sharp movement on the ball is directly related to the amount of ’powerful pronation’ as it is applied through the release.”
Physics professor Don Mueller applies his knowledge on the tennis court, too, and can swing effectively with either hand. Mueller is a proponent of Power-Pronation.
Randy Tiefenthaler (center) is a 2019 inductee into the Greater St. Louis Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame. Here is pictured with two men with St. Louis Cardinals ties — David Freese (left) and National Baseball Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith. Tiefenthaler is a proponent of Power-Pronation.
Former New York Mets pitcher had a delivery which started high and finished low — just like Professor Don Mueller recommends as a part of Power-Pronation.
Denny McLain, the last 30-game winner in the major leagues, was a Power-Pronation kind of pitcher.
Tim Lincecum also pronated his way to effectiveness on a Major League Baseball mound.
“If Coach Vaught had wanted to continue to coach, I would have stood by him every step of the way,” says Ready, who turns 41 on Aug. 5. “He’s just a phenomenal person. He treated me like his own son over the years. He’s done a lot for me and my family. I’m going to miss him.”
Looking far and wide, Ready and his staff are currently recruiting a few players to fill out the 2018-19 signing class while also working on 2019-20.
“I look for very strong academic student-athletes,” says Ready. “You can really stretch your dollars our if you are recruiting student-athletes who are able to receive both academic and athletic aid.”
At UIndy, academics is No. 1.
“I hope all of our players make it to the big leagues and make a million dollars,” says Ready. “But their overall quality of life is going to be determined by their degree and not by their baseball career.
“You’re coming in here to get a degree from the University of Indianapolis. You’re not coming here because we are giving you an opportunity to play baseball.
“If we don’t have the degree you’re looking for, I’ll tell them not to come here.”
Ready says the Greyhounds typically dress about 35 at home and 28 on the road.
“The full-ride in baseball is kind of non-existent if you’re just talking in terms of just athletic dollars,” says Ready, who notes that players that can meet the stacking criteria of the NCAA coming out of high school can accumulate quite a bit of academic, athletic and aid money.
Pitchers are a priority on UIndy’s wish list.
“You’re only as good as the guy you roll out there on the mound,” says Ready. “We like arms. We’re only as good as the guy we’re going to be pitching that particular day.”
Offensive players are improved through training.
“We do a really, really good job of developing our offense,” says Ready. “Development, especially at the Division II level, is vital to your survival.
“You don’t necessarily get the kind of kids it takes to win a national championship at the Division II level right out of high school.”
The Greyhounds roster is typically a mix.
“How do we get them?,” says Ready. “Either right out of high school, bounce-backs from Division I schools or transfers from junior colleges.”
NCAA Division II allows a 45-day window in the fall for team practices. The limit is 15 hours per week.
“Our practices in the fall are really systematic,” says Ready. “We teach them our bunt coverages, first-and-third plays, pick-off plays, double cuts and things like that.
Outside of that 45-day window, D-II teams get two hours a week of skill development with individual and small-group workouts.
“That’s the stage were guys will really start to get better,” says Ready, whose athletes play games at Greyhound Park and train in the 95,000-square foot Athletics & Recreation Center (The ARC was the NFC practice site for the 2012 Super Bowl) as well as have access to the turf of Key Stadium (football).
“I really like the Motus technology,” says Ready. “It provides certain metrics that you just can’t see when you’re just watching a kid pitch. You can keep track of the number of pitches a kid throws. But it’s almost impossible to keep track of the number of throws that the kid makes over a certain period of time whether that’s a day, a week or whatever.
“Motus has allowed us to get a good grasp on how much throwing each player is actually doing. The first six weeks of throwing kind of establishes the baseline for each player. It’s really nice to have.”
“Of course, Tommy John surgery is considered an epidemic in baseball,” says Ready. “Those are important numbers to know when you’re trying to figure out how to train each kid.”
Ready notes that training over the years has really shifted toward customization.
“When I got started in the early 2000’s, it was more of a ‘cookie-cutter’ type of approach,” says Ready. “We were teaching each player the same thing. But what’s right for this player may not necessarily be right for the guy beside him.”
Last season, the technology helped diagnose an issue with a UIndy starting pitcher.
While not decreasing in velocity after a few innings, Motus data indicated that the player was dropping his arm slot and losing some control. The pitcher was switched to a relief role and he excelled.
Knowing the numbers can determine training methods.
“A weighted ball will work to increase velocity but it also increases the risk of getting hurt,” says Ready. “Wouldn’t you like to know which of your guys have more stress on their UCL when they throw? Those are the guys who probably shouldn’t be working with weighted balls — at least as much as some of the other guys.”
On the offensive side of things, Ready likes to use Motus sensors when a hitter is going really well.
“You want to know what the swing length, attack angle, hand speed, and rotational speed is,” says Ready. “When the player’s scuffling a little bit, you can put the sensor back on him and see if there’s any difference.”
Ready, a London, Ont., native, attended Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School and learned much about the diamond at the National Baseball Institute of Canada in Vancouver, B.C. After a few years there, he played two seasons at Sauk Valley in Dixon, Ill., then transferred to UIndy.
The switch-hitting catcher batted .352 with 18 home runs and 74 runs batted in as he earned Second-Team All-American honors and UIndy (43-23) placed third in the 2000 NCAA Division II World Series.
In 2001, Ready was a Verizon First-Team Academic All-American while helping the Greyhounds to a school-record 51 wins and fourth straight NCAA D-II regional berth. He still holds the school records for most walks in a career (109) and a season (55 in 2000).
Ready graduated from UIndy in 2001 with a 3.44 cumulative grade-point average in Computer Information Systems. He posted a 3.74 GPA while earning his Masters of Business Administration from the school in 2008.
Al and Sarah Ready were married in 2003 and have four children — sons Jacob (10) and Camden (8) and twin daughters Alaina and Evelyn (who turn 3 in December). Sarah Ready is a former Sauk Valley multi-sport athlete who got her undergraduate degree in psychology and masters in counseling at Indianapolis in 2001 and 2003. She is now a guidance counselor at Franklin Township Middle School-East.
“To make it all work, you have to have great wife who supports what you do,” says Ready. “To be a college coach, you have to have people in your corner backing you up and helping you out. There’s no question about it.”
Al and younger sister Jennifer are the parents of Ken and Gayle Ready of Ontario.
One of the Ready’s managers at Evansville was Greg Jelks, who played in the majors with the Philadelphia Phillies and also played and coached in Australia. Two Aussies — Daniel Lee and Greg Johnston — have worn the Greyhounds uniform since Ready has been on the UIndy campus.
Al Ready is now head baseball coach at the University of Indianapolis. The former Greyhounds player had spent several seasons as associate head coach to Gary Vaught, who retired at the end of the 2018 season. (UIndy Photo)
Gary Vaught (left) was head baseball coach at the University of Indianapolis for 24 seasons and won 808 games. His replacement is Al Ready (right). The former Greyhounds player was an assistant and then associate head coach for several seasons. (UIndy Photo)
Since his last game with the Ravens, the pitcher has been experiencing life as an independent professional player. The 6-foot-6, 230-pounder left-handed pitcher is currently on the disabled list for the Washington (Pa.) Wild Things of the Frontier League.
“Faith has been a vital part of my baseball journey — in large part thanks to my development at Anderson University — and I feel fortunate that I am today in pro ball,” says Eaton, who completed his undergraduate accounting degree in 2015 and Masters of Business Administration with a focus on global business in 2016.
“It was from wear and tear,” says Eaton. “The ligament wasn’t torn. I had just put so much stress on it over the years, it wasn’t protecting the nerve anymore.
“I talked with a surgeon at Methodist Sports Medicine in Indianapolis. I wanted to continue playing baseball.”
Eaton was given the option of skipping the surgery and going through physical therapy with a chance of success at about 45 percent or getting the procedure with an expected 90 percent success rate.
“It was kind of a no-brainer for me,” says Eaton, who came back to pitch for the Ravens in 2015 and 2016.
David Pressley was the head coach at AU for Eaton’s first four years at the school.
After Anderson won the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championship and qualified for NCAA Division III regional play in 2015, Pressley went back to his home state of Alabama to coach at powerhouse Madison Academy High School.
“I really grew as a person and player at Anderson,” says Eaton. “I learned to be role model for kids. (Presley) taught me how to be a better man and helped me develop my faith.”
“(Glant) helped me increase my velocity 6 mph in the (2015-16) off-season,” says Eaton. “I wouldn’t have stood a shot at pro ball if he wasn’t there for my last season at Anderson.”
In three college seasons, the southpaw appeared in 34 games (30 as a starter) with a 16-5 record, 3.21 earned run average, 161 strikeouts and 84 walks in 193 2/3 innings.
Spending much of his time for seven years studying, playing or working out around Anderson, Eaton also was employed part-time doing accounts payable and receivable for Reflectix, a stock reflective insulation manufacturer.
Eaton’s pro path has included stops with the Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats of the American Association and Tucson (Ariz.) Saguaros in the Pecos League in 2016 and the AA’s Salina (Kan.) Stockade (which played all its games on the road) and Washington in 2017. He signed with the Wild Things in July, made 12 appearances (all in relief) with 1-0 record, one save, 2.21 ERA, 23 K’s and seven free passes in 20 innings and was re-signed in October for the 2018 season.
“I’m working on my core, cardio or legs — or a mix of them,” says Eaton of his regular gym sessions. Just this past week, he began doing light biceps and shoulder work.
It’s all about building strength back up around his left elbow.
Eaton says he expects to begin throwing again around July 2 and report back to the Wild Things a week after that, though the “diehard Indianapolis Colts fan” did plan to be in Washington to see former NFL Pro Bowl punter Pat McAfee play for the Things at It’s All About the Warrior Field at ConSol Energy Park.
Eaton has been following the team’s game on video streaming.
Four pitches are in Eaton’s arsenal — four-seam fastball (he does work on a two-seamer during bullpen sessions), curveball, slider and “circle” change-up from the three-quarter overhand arm slot. He was consistently clocked at 86 to 89 mph on his heater while touching 90 a few times last season.
“As a left-hander, I can get away with a lot more than a righty would,” says Eaton.
But he has learned that there is a drastic difference between facing D-III and professional hitters.
“You have to use a lot more off-speed going into pro ball,” says Eaton. “Sometimes, you can blow it by them in D-III ball. (Pro) hitters a lot better at adjusting.
“They are good at picking up on your mechanics. That’s like smelling blood in the water for the hitter. They see it’s going to be a off-speed pitch and sit back on it.”
At LaPorte High School, Eaton was part of the Scott Upp-coached Slicers varsity for his junior and senior seasons. In 2010, he was 1-0, 1.05 and 20 strikeouts and six walks in 13 1/3 innings for a 27-4 team.
Eaton was 4-3, 4.16, 34 strikeouts and 14 walks in 38 2/3 innings for a 20-10-1 club in his senior season of 2011.
Upp is credited for teaching Eaton about always having an aggressive approach to the game.
“You can’t go in with a soft approach,” says Eaton. “You have to attack everyone.”
One thing Eaton appreciates about the Wild Things is that they are not as likely to swiftly cut someone after a few sub-par performances or for the promise of a better player.
“They stick by you and trust you and give you a sense of security,” says Eaton. “As long as you do everything to your full potential.
“That’s why we usually have such a good clubhouse. Guys can get close and don’t have to worry about leaving the next day.”
Eaton doesn’t mind the distance from home with the way he is treated.
His summer travel baseball experience included the Indiana Breakers in 2010 and Plymouth American Legion Post 27 in 2011.
Summers during his college days, were spent working a job and working out.
Eaton counts work ethic as his best quality as an athlete.
“I’ve always got a focus and a plan going into my workout or my day,” says Eaton. “I know what I need to do to get better.”
Jake is the son of Steve Eaton and Terri Wainscott and has a older half sister named Nikki.
His father is a retired from more than 40 years as a bricklayer.
“I mixed a lot of mortar for him over the years,” says Jake of projects around the house.
His mother is a registered nurse.
Jake Eaton, a LaPorte High School graduate who holds undergraduate and masters degrees from Anderson (Ind.) University, is in independent pro baseball with the Washington (Pa.) Wild Things. (Washington Wild Things Photo)
Turned from a starter to a reliever in his first professional season (2010), Barrett made the big league team out of 2014 spring training and appeared in 50 games and was 3-0 with a 2.66 earned run average, 49 strikeouts and 20 walks in 40 2/3 innings while also pitching in 10 games and 10 innings at Triple-A Syracuse.
In 2015, Barrett made 40 MLB appearances and was 3-3 with a 4.60 ERA. He fanned 35 and walked seven in 29 innings, but landed on the 15-day disabled list with a right biceps strain in both June and August.
“I was pitching nearly everyday and I was in pain for two or three weeks before I went on the DL,” says Barrett, who was soon transferred to the 60-day list. “Being a reliever, throwing everyday is part of the grind.”
Along the way, it was discovered that Barrett had a 90-percent tear in his Ulnar Collateral Ligament and so he underwent the reconstruction then he had his next setback.
But Barrett, signed to a two-year contract by the Nationals to rehab, began throwing again last summer and has worked hard at the club’s training complex in West Palm Beach, Fla.
He now finds himself close to getting closer to the road back to the majors.
Barrett and other players rehabbing injuries have been competing in extended spring training camp games against other organizations along the Space Coast.
“I’m building arm strength and knocking the rust off,” says Barrett. “I hope to go north on a rehab assignment the next few weeks.”
Washington has full-season affiliates in Hagerstown (Low Single-A), Potomac (High Single-A), Harrisburg (Double-A) and Syracuse (Triple-A) and Barrett expects that his assignments will come as a progression.
Barrett — aka “The Bear” — has stayed connected to his buddies in the big leagues and watches the broadcast of nearly every Nationals game.
“I still have many close friends on the team, guys I came up in the farm system with,” says Barrett.
Barrett explains why he kept going back into the draft.
“The money was not enough for me to turn away from college,” says Barrett. “I wanted to finish my (liberal arts) degree (three minors — history, sociology and park and recreational management — equals a major). “Iwas a ninth-round senior. That’s pretty good. It all worked out.”
As a 13-year-old, Barrett was on a team that went to Nebraska and won a national championship. Among his teammates was Preston Mattingly, son of Don Mattingly and still one of Aaron’s best friends, and Adam Champion.
Preston Mattingly was a first-round MLB draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006 and played in the minor until 2011.
Champion played four years at the University Arkansas-Little Rock and then two years in the minors and two in independent baseball.
Ryan Barrett, Aaron’s older brother, graduated form Evansville Central in 2003 and played shortstop for four years at the University of Evansville.
Younger brother Drew Barrett was a left-handed-hitting infielder who played two years at Wabash Valley and two at Lindsey Wilson College (Columbia, Ky.).
Two cousins — Evansville Central graduate Jason Barrett and Evansville Reitz Memorial graduate Zach Barrett — also went on college baseball — Jason at Ball State and Zach at Olney (Ill.) Central College and Middle Tennessee State University.
“Evansville is such a good baseball town,” says Barrett. “The state of Indiana doesn’t give it enough credit for how good of a baseball town it is.”
While working on the baseball field to make his hometown proud, Aaron is also spending quality time with wife Kendyl and 7-month-old daughter Kollyns.
Aaron Barrett, an Evansville native, is working to get back to the big leagues with the Washington Nationals after breaking his humerus while rehabbing from Tommy John elbow surgery. (Washington Nationals Photo)
In 2017, he went 6-3 with a 3.19 ERA, 53 strikeouts and 22 walks 79 innings over 19 appearances (14 in relief).
After the draft, he made one-inning stint with Arizona League Diamondbacks then was sent to the Missoula Osprey of the short-season Pioneer League. He went 1-0 with four saves and a 2.53 ERA, 30 strikeouts and four walks in 32 innings over 21 appearances (all in relief).
“It went pretty well,” says Bartlett of his first pro season. “I put put up some good numbers, got good experience and gained a lot of knowledge.”
One thing he learned is that the tempo of the game is faster in the minors than it is in college — even in the ultra-competitive Southeastern Conference.
“In college, we played more small ball and bunted runners over,” says Bartlett. “Pro ball is really not like that. Everyone is swinging the majority of the time.”
It also becomes more serious when players begin getting paid to play.
“Everything is on you,” says Bartlett. “if you don’t want to get better that’s on you. You really have to take initiative of your own career.”
Since Bartlett had already logged a substantial amount of innings in the spring, the Diamondbacks restricted his use in the summer. The rule for him and other rookies was one day of rest for each inning thrown.
“I was pretty max effort every time I went out there, especially out of the pen,” says Bartlett. “I would sit 88 to 92 mph. My fastball gets a lot of movement. It’s basically a sinker.”
Hallmark was his pitching coach at Missouri for one season. Former Tigers head coach Tim Jamieson handled the pitchers in Bartlett’s second and third seasons and Matt Hobbs was pitching coach his freshman year.
“(Hobbs) told me, ‘Never turn your back to the hitter. Show them you’re confident,” says Bartlett. “(Jamieson) worked with me on my change-up.”
Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Lloyd Michael was Hagerstown head coach in Bartlett’s freshman campaign before Brad Catey took over the program.
Bartlett remembers that Michael believed in discipline.
“We had to run strong to first base and do everything right,” says Bartlett. “That’s what stuck with me.”
A catcher and shortstop when he was not pitching, Bartlett remembers that Catey liked to play small ball.
Being a pitcher only, he never got a chance to hit at Missouri.
Did he miss it?
“I did,” says Bartlett. “But after seeing guys throw 100, I was OK with not hitting.”
Bartlett played from T-ball through age 12 at Hagerstown Little League then with the Centerville (Ind.) Yard Dogs travel team. He attracted the attention of the Dayton (Ohio) Classics and was asked to try out. He ended up playing for them in the summer the rest of his high school days.
The hard-throwing righty opted to go pro and saw limited action the summer in the rookie-level Arizona League.
On an innings restriction limit coming off his senior high school season, Szynski appeared in seven games (all starts) in a month with the Arizona League Athletics. His professional debut came was June 29. He gave up three hits and four runs in 1/3 of an inning. He went on to log 13 1/3 innings, going 0-3 with an 8.10 earned run average, eight strikeouts and four walks.
After a short break, he went back to Arizona to throw bullpen sessions in the fall instructional league.
It had been hoped that rest would allow him to continue without surgery. But that was not possible.
Would he have right-arm ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (Tommy John surgery) or repair?
Szynski chose UCL repair — which generally has a recovery time half as long a reconstruction.
Decoding against a stem-cell shot, collagen tape was wrapped around the repaired elbow and then the pitcher started on his journey to get back in the game.
The last few months, Szynski has been at Oakland’s spring training complex in Arizona for five-days-a-week rehabilitation program.
“It’s going pretty good,” says Szynski. “I work on shoulder strength and have soft tissue massage on my elbow and forearm.”
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Szynski and a half dozen others are led by Athletics pitching rehab coordinator Craig Lefferts, a former big league pitcher. This week, they moved from 60 to 75 feet to play catch.
Lefferts watches Szynski and company to make sure they are using the proper mechanics and not overdoing it.
“We’re throwing around 65 mph,” says Szynski, who goes through arm care protocol with shoulder and elbow movement after these sessions. That is followed by working out, 10 minutes in the cold tub and a consultation with trainers.
When Szynski is in Indiana (he lives in Granger with parents Brent and Robin and little brothers — sophomore Camryn and eighth grader Bradyn), he is a regular at Sharpley Training in Elkhart.
Former Notre Dame baseball and football player Evan Sharpley pushes Skylar to the limit.
“Everyday is brutal,” says Szynski. “There’s no easy days at Sharpley’s.”
At 6-foot-2, Szynski has been looking to put more weight on his frame and get to around 215 or 220.
“That should help with my durability,” says Szynski, who was at 207 as a Penn senior.
Szynski throws both a four- and two-seam fastball, circle change-up and curve.
“The change is the pitch I need to work on the most,” says Szynski, who turned 20 on July 14. “I need to throw more strikes with that. In high school, I really didn’t need it. Here, you need three pitchers or better to succeed.”
Szynski says the Athletics sees his breaker as more of a slider. He is trying to fine tune the pitch and get more break downward and less sweeping action.
“I should be game ready toward the end of spring training if everything works out,” says Szynski. “I’ll probably be in extended spring training to get some innings in.”
From there, he hopes to be once again standing on a mound in a regular-season game. It could happen close to home. The Athletics’ Low Class-A team is the Beloit (Wis.) Snappers. Beloit is slated to visit the South Bend Cubs July 11-13.
Skylar Szynski delivers a pitch for the Arizona League Athletics during the summer of 2016. The 2016 Penn High School graduate had elbow surgery and missed the entire 2017 season. He is working his way back for 2018. (Robin Szynski Photo)