An American shined in Canada and got the chance to play in Mexico. That’s the story of Tasker Strobel’s 2022 as a professional baseball pitcher. Strobel, a graduate of Avon (Ind.) High School (2013) and Saint Joseph’s College (2017), spent the spring and summer with the independent/MLB Partner League American Association’s Winnipeg Goldeyes. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound left-hander performances for the Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats against Winnipeg in 2021 made Goldeyes manager/pitching coach Rick Forney want Strobel in 2022. The 27-year-old southpaw was given a chance to compete for the closer role, landed it and made 53 appearances (all in relief) and went 2-3 with 21 saves (second in the AA to the 23 for Fargo-Moorhead’s Alex DuBord) and a 3.41 earned run average. Strobel racked up 58 strikeouts with 21 walks in 55 1/3 innings. “(Forney) was good for my career,” says Strobel. “If you were doing well he let you ride and do your own thing.” The longtime baseball man maintains connections South of the Border and had former Winnipeg slugger Kyle Martin play for Mayos de Navojoa of the Mexican Pacific League (Liga Mexicana del Pacífico or LMP in Spanish) in 2021-22. Navojoa — managed by Homar Rojas — reached out saying they needed a closer for 2022-23. Strobel and his agent deemed it a good fit and he signed to compete in the 10-team league that has a 68-game regular season runs from October to December and is followed by a playoff series in January to determine the league champion and a berth in the Caribbean Series. The way it was explained to Strobel, the winter league is essentially all-star teams from the 18-team Mexican League (which runs from April to August) with a few imports mixed in among native Mexicans. Mayos teammates include three players from the 2022 American Association season — infielder Grant Kay (Chicago Dogs), pitcher Max Kuhns (Sioux City Explorer) and outfielder Zach Nehrir (Cleburne Railroaders). Through Mexican Pacific League games of Nov. 1, Strobel had finished seven games and was 0-0 with four saves, 4.26 ERA, four strikeouts and one walk in 6 1/3 innings. What makes a closer in Strobel’s eyes? “You’ve got to be a little crazy and have that mindset of getting everyone out,” says Strobel. (The other team is) not going to score a run on you. “You have to lock it in. You can’t miss a spot with any pitch, especially the American Association.” Throwing from a low three-quarter arm slot, Strobel employs a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, slider and change-up. His four-seamer sits at 90 to 91 mph and has been up to 94. His curve has more of a sweeping action that his slider, which is tighter and faster. “I have two sliders that vary depending on counts and batters,” says Strobel. “I throw a class ‘circle’ change.” While in Mexico, Strobel is working to learn the basics of Spanish. “I took German in high school,” says Strobel, who is expanding his vocabulary with online lessons. He also uses Google Translate extensively. Tasker was born in Overland Park, Kan., and moved to Indiana at 4. The oldest of Chris and Janelle Strobel’s two sons (2017 Avon graduate Spencer Strobel is a super senior lefty pitcher at Indiana Tech) grew up in Avon and went from rec ball to travel ball as soon as he could with the Hendricks County Hurricanes. In high school, Tasker played with the Indiana Bulls and Jeff Mercer Sr. Strobel’s varsity coach at Avon High was Troy Drosche. The Orioles pitching coach then was Bob McPike and Strobel also took lessons from former big leaguer Bill Sampen. These days, Strobel helps Drosche with his high school and Indiana Bulls teams when he is able. His two seasons at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill. (2014 and 2015) are what Strobel calls “one of the greatest experiences of my life.” Kevin Bowers was — and still is the Statemen’s head coach. Max Hudson coached pitchers in 2014 and Kyle Medley led them in 2015. “It was literally baseball and school,” says Strobel. “It was about being a JUCO Bandit and I loved it.” That diamond chapter was followed up by two campaigns with head coach/pitching coach Rick O’Dette at NCAA Division II Saint Joe. “I love that guy,” says Strobel of Coach O. “He led me into how I think about pitching now. “We would sometimes butt heads, but we were a good pairing.” Strobel was a SJC senior in 2017 — the year the school closed and the Pumas program went with it. That spring, Strobel made 14 appearances (13 starts) and was 7-3 with three complete games, a 3.17 ERA and 68 strikeouts and 30 walks in 88 innings. As a junior, he hurled in 12 games (nine starts) and went went 4-4 with a 4.53 ERA with 57 strikeouts and 13 walks in 57 2/3 innings. Business degrees were earned from both Lincoln Trail and Saint Joseph’s. The lefty began his professional career in 2017 with seven appearances for the Frontier League’s Joliet (Ill.) Slammers. Strobel had Tommy John surgery on his elbow at the end of 2017 and did not play in 2018. As soon as he was cleared, he began training at PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind., and still goes there in the off-season to work with Greg Vogt and Anthony Gomez and to coach other pitchers. Bullpen Tournaments and Pro X Athlete Development — both at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. — also employed Strobel during his time away from playing the game. With the independent Utica, Mich.-based United Shore Professional Baseball League’s 2020 Westside Woolly Mammoths, the lefty played in 10 games (nine in relief) with no decisions, a 3.97 ERA, 18 strikeouts and four walks in 11 1/3 innings. Strobel pitched parts of 2019 and 2021 with the Greg Tagert-managed RailCats, getting into 34 games and going 3-5, a 3.84 ERA, 72 strikeouts and 21 walks in 70 1/3 innings. Strobel, who is contracted to return to Winnipeg in 2023, wasn’t the only Indiana native in the 2022 Goldeyes bullpen. Right-hander Zac Ryan, an Andrean High School graduate and former Georgia Tech pitcher drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in 2017 and released in 2021, made 32 appearances (all in relief) for Winnipeg in 2022. He was 2-1 with a 3.72 ERA, 33 strikeouts and 16 walks in 29 innings.
Three years after throwing his last collegiate pitch, Indianapolis native Kenny Ogg has a joined a Major League Baseball affiliate. Ogg, a right-hander who graduated from Lawrence Central High School in 2015 and Ohio University in 2020, is with the Arizona Complex League Diamondbacks Black after beginning the 2022 season with the independent Frontier League’s Joliet (Ill.) Slammers. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder who turns 25 on July 4 has made five relief appearances since being signed by D-backs indy ball scout Chris Carminucci. Ogg threw at a February showcase in Arizona — where he now trains and works for facility owner and Oakland Athletics throwing performance coach Casey Upperman — and was told if he put up good numbers at the beginning of the season they would likely sign him. “That’s essentially what happened,” says Ogg, who went 2-1 with a 2.84 earned run average in three starts with Joliet. He pitched for Ohio from 2016-19. In 64 games (14 starts), he was 8-11 with a 4.96 ERA. He struck out 101 and walked 67 in 161 1/3 innings. He spent a few weeks in the summer of the 2019 with the independent United Shore Professional Baseball League’s Birmingham Bloomfield (Mich.) Beavers. Ogg was a graduate assistant at OU while completing his Specialized Studies degree with an emphasis on Health and Service Administration and Communications in 2020. In September of 2020, Ogg moved to the Phoenix area and trained in the off-season. He was still training and teaching lessons when he caught on with the independent Pioneer League’s Boise (Idaho) Hawks at the end of the 2021 season. In 13 games out of the bullpen, he was 1-0 with two saves and a 5.30 ERA. Ogg has a large repertoire of pitches — sinker, cutter, change-up, slider and cutter. “I’ve never thrown a four-seamer, always a two-seamer,” says Ogg. “My sinker and cutter are close to the same speed. “My change-up is similar to my sinker. It has run and some depth to it, too. My slider is a work in progress. I’m trying to decide whether to go more traditional or gyro.” While he describe his arm angle as high three-quarter, that is not his focus. “It’s less about where my arm is and more about where my shoulder plane is,” says Ogg. “The more tilt I have with my shoulder plane the higher my arm slot.” Born in Indianapolis, Kenny grew up in Lawrence Township and was coached up until high school by father Orien Ogg (now a substitute teacher and Irvington Prep Academy assistant). Andy Arnett coached alongside Orien with the Oaklandon Bombers. Kenny played at Oaklandon Youth Organization, the OYO Bombers and then for USAthletic (coached by Mark Westlake), the Giants Fall Scout Team (Kevin Christman) and the Indiana Dirtbags (Jim Reboulet). While at Lawrence Central, Dan Roman was the LC head coach his freshman year with Matt Buczkowski in charge his final three seasons. “He’s a great mentor,” says Ogg of Buczkowski (who is now head coach at Carmel High School). “Whenever I have any baseball news he’s one of my first calls. He taught a lot about baseball in high school and he continues to do that when I go home. “(Former Lawrence Central and current Carmel assistant) Fred Moses was a big part of developing my mechanics in high school and college.” Kenny’s mother is interior designer Kimberly Curry. His sister is Katie Ogg (27).
Franklin (Ind.) College enjoyed a 25-14 baseball season in 2021. The Grizzlies hit .299 as a team with 152 extra-base hits (45 home runs) and 87 stolen bases. Of the top eight players in at-bats, six were seniors. Franklin’s fall workouts included many newcomers. “We worked a lot on team offense and defense,” says Jake Sprinkle, who is in his second season as a Franklin assistant coach in 2021-22. “We have a lot of new faces and we want to get those guys acclimated. “We had a lot of scrimmages, letting pitchers and hitters show what they’ve got.” NCAA Division III rules restrict coach-player contact in the winter. “We don’t have individual time,” says Sprinkle. “Seniors and leaders are setting up hitting and throwing groups. They’re making velo and exit velocity jumps and getting stronger in the weight room.” Sprinkle, who works for head coach and associate director of athletics Lance Marshall, has been hitting the recruiting trail and getting plans in place and equipment ordered for the spring of 2022. The season is slated to begin Feb. 26 against Albion at Grizzly Park. “This time of year we’re getting a lot of kids on-campus,” says Sprinkle of recruiting. “We’re trying to get some guys bought-in. We’re still working on 2022 (recruiting) class and reaching out to some 2023’s we’ve seen in the past.” The Franklin website lists a 2021 roster of 45 with 40 of those hailing from Indiana. Sprinkle, who turns 26 on Dec. 28, was born and raised in the Franklin Township section of Indianapolis. He played tennis and baseball at Franklin Central High School. Twin brother Ben was his tennis doubles partner and a baseball teammate. The Flashes were coached on the diamond by John Rockey. “He was an awesome guy,” says Sprinkle of Rockey. “He brought a ton of energy to practice. He taught us what we needed to do at a younger age and prepared guys for college. “We wanted to show up and work every single day.” Jacob Wickliff (now head baseball coach at Beech Grove High School) was a Franklin Central teammate of the Sprinkle brothers. Sprinkle was a right-handed pitcher at the University of Indianapolis. As a UIndy freshman in 2015, Sprinkle went 8-2 with 2.97 earned run average. He struck out 32 and walked 11 in 63 2/3 inning. Tommy John arm surgery caused him to miss the 2016 season and he was granted a medical redshirt before pitching for the Greyhounds from 2017-19. For his four college seasons, he was 22-9 with 3.86 ERA, 179 strikeouts and 68 walks in 240 innings. Sprinkle’s first four years were spent with Gary Vaught as head coach with Al Ready moving up to be head coach his fifth year. “(Coach Vaught) was so personable,” says Sprinkle. “He made everybody feel like they were special and created a personal bond. He would make sure people knew he was there for them. “(Coach Ready) is extremely dedicated and hard-working. He’s a guy who’s going to put his best foot forward, do his research and whatever he can to win.” Landon Hutchison was the Greyhounds pitching coach Sprinkle’s last few seasons. After his college playing days, Sprinkle was briefly in the United Shore Professional Baseball League in the summer of 2019 then spent a year as a UIndy graduate assistant. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Marketing/Information Systems and a master’s degree in Sports Management from UIndy. He joined Marshall’s Franklin coaching staff in September 2020. “(Coach Marshall) is an awesome guy,” says Sprinkle. “He’s extremely hard-working and does everything the right way. “He builds a championship culture — on and off the field.” Besides recruiting, Sprinkle is in charge of Grizzlies infielders and hitters and helps with pitchers. “With our infielders, we’re big on making the routine play,” says Sprinkle. “We re-set every play. It’s about being athletic. “The hitters’ approach is about being on-time and driving the baseball in the gap.” Last summer, Sprinkle coached a 17U travel team for Mike Chitwood’s Indiana Elite organization and will be leading a 17U squad for Chad Fowler’s Powerhouse Athletics group in the summer of 2022. “I thought that’s where my path would take me,” says Sprinkle of coaching. “I was very fortunate to have a lot of great coaches. “I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.” Sprinkle comes from a baseball-loving family. He and his brother grew up being coached by their father, Tracy Sprinkle with support from mother Lori Sprinkle and sister Malorie Sprinkle (a former Franklin Central softball player who’s now a Butler University freshman). Ben Sprinkle began went to Kentucky Wesleyan College for baseball before transferring to Franklin.
The Battle rages Aug. 1-Sept. 13 with games contested Wednesday through Sunday at Florence’s UC Health Stadium and Lexington’s Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
Claycamp, who commuted from Columbus to begin the season, has made arrangements for an Airbnb in Lexington. When the Legends play in Florence, he stays with family friends in the Lawrenceburg/Sunman, Ind., area.
Ellis, a Jeffersonville High School graduate, played at the University of Louisville and is now in the Arizona Diamondbacks system. The third baseman plays home games only for the Legends and Leyengas.
Thompson (Floyd Central) is a 6-6 right-hander who was at Louisville and in the Detroit Tigers organization. He was in indy ball at Sussex County in 2019.
Right-hander Talcott (McCutcheon) last pitched for Earlham College in 2019.
Outfielder Baker played at Ball State University and was in independent ball in the American Association in 2019 (Texas and Kansas City).
Righty Dougherty (Morgan Township) pitched for Grace College before taking the mound in the United Shores Professional Baseball League in Utica, Mich.
Floyd (Jimtown) was at Ball State University and the righty hurled for the Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats in 2019.
While his primary position growing up and through college was shortstop, Claycamp has moved around the field.
“I’ve been a utility player my whole life,” says Claycamp.
At Columbus (Ind.) East High School, where he graduated in 2015, he was a shortstop as a freshman, shortstop and second baseman as a sophomore, third baseman as a junior and third baseman, shortstop and second baseman as a senior.
He played those same three spots in his one season at the University of Dayton (2016) and then was locked in at short in three campaigns at Franklin (2017-19). He helped the Grizzlies win back-to-back Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference titles in his final two campaigns.
Claycamp was invited to pre-Major League Baseball Draft workouts by the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies in, but was unable to attend with Franklin making the school’s deepest ever postseason run, reaching the regional final in Sequin, Texas.
After getting into eight games at NCAA Division I Dayton (two starts), Claycamp transferred to D-III Franklin and played in 128 contests for the Grizzlies. He hit .354 (174-of-491) with 20 home runs (tied for No. 9 in program history), 46 doubles (No. 5 all-time), 133 runs batted in (No. 6) and 143 runs scored (No. 4).
Right-handed pitcher Gray went on to Florida Gulf Coast University, the Colorado Rockies organization and is now in independent pro ball with the Milwaukee Milkmen.
Right-hander/outfielder Curry started at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. When SJC school closed, he went to Kentucky Wesleyan College.
Anderson, a 6-foot-8 righty, pitched at Northern Illinois University.
Left-hander Brian Wichman was at Murray State University then hurled for the University of Indianapolis.
Catcher Christian Wichman played briefly at Thomas More University in Crestview Hills, Ky., where he was also a football player.
Claycamp played in both Bartholomew County Little League (weekdays) and travel baseball (weekends) until he was in high school. Bartholomew County (now Youth Baseball of Bartholomew County) won a state title when he was 12 and lost in the Great Lakes Regional championship. The winner went on to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
Early travel ball teams were the Columbus Crush, Indiana Blazers and BCLL All-Stars. In high school, Claycamp donned the jerseys of the Indiana Redbirds, Indiana Outlaws and Johnson County/Indiana Jaguars.
Besides baseball, Sam played football until middle school. He was on the school basketball team through eighth grade then played intramural and church hoops.
His falls were dedicated to deer hunting.
David and Tammy Claycamp have two sons — Sam and Kobbe (22). David Claycamp is machine shop manager at Innovative Casting Technologies in Franklin. Tammy Claycamp is a teacher at Faith Lutheran Preschool in Columbus. Kobbe Claycamp played baseball and football at Columbus East. He was on the IHSAA Class 5A state championship team in 2017 and state runner-up squad in 2016. He also played club rugby in high school.
“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.”
“I’m super-excited about going there,” says Troyer, a righty-swinging third baseman/shortstop. “I know I can get signed to an affiliated club.”
Since getting his business management degree in May 2019, Troyer has been splitting his time between work and honing his game. Joined by former Jimtown High School and Ball State University pitcher Nick Floyd, training is done in a friend’s barn. Troyer also works out with the Northridge team.
Troyer has been traveling regularly to the St. Louis suburb of O’Fallon, Mo., to work with hitting coach Kevin Graham, whose son, Kevin, was the 2018 Gatorade Missouri Player of the Year and now plays at the University of Mississippi.
“He’s the best hitting coach I’ve ever had,” says Troyer of the elder Graham.
Bailey, Joel Mishler and George Hofsommer founded the Chargers. Troyer played for the organization from 13 to 18, missing his 17U summer for Tommy John surgery.
“I considered (Bailey and Mishler) both my mentors,” says Troyer. “They’ve been there, done that
they have their connections.
“They know what they’re talking about.”
Troyer attended various tryout camps that went nowhere then in January and February, he went to Palm Springs to play in the California Winter League, a showcase for unsigned players. He impressed former big leaguer Von Joshua and the Birmingham Bloomfield manager invited him to join his club. Joshua was a coach for the 1993 South Bend (Ind.) White Sox.
USPBL spring training is scheduled for April 25-May 7 in Utica. The Beavers’ first game is slated for May 9.
Troyer appeared and started in all 53 games for Evansville as a senior in 2019, batting .249 with two home runs, 11 doubles, 25 runs batted in and 27 runs scored. He also stole 21 bases in 25 attempts. He usually hit first or second in the order to take advantage of his speed.
“I was getting on base and creating opportunities for everybody else to drive in runs,” says Troyer.
As a junior in 2018, Troyer played in 42 games (40 as a starter) and hit .220 with two homers, four doubles, 16 walks and 13 stolen bases in 14 attempts.
“It was my best scholarship,” says Troyer, who had a friend sell him on the academics at UE. “I enjoyed my two years (at Rend Lake).”
Troyer played for the Warriors in 2016 and 2017. Tony Etnier was his head coach his freshmen year and Rend Lake player and strength coach Tyler O’Daniel took over the program his sophomore season.
Etnier offered Troyer a full ride on his first day and O’Daniel was high energy.
“The thing I loved about going to Rend Lake, the competition out of high school was no joke,” says Troyer. “I immediately got better. It turns you from a boy into a man real quick.
“(The Great Rivers Athletic Conference with John A. Logan, Kaskaskia, Lake Land, Lincoln Trail, Olney Central, Rend Lake, Shawnee, Southeastern Illinois, Southwestern Illinois, Wabash Valley) is one of the better junior college conferences in the country.”
As a sophomore at Rend Lake, Troyer was hit by a pitch 22 times and ranked second among National Junior College Athletic Association Division I players in that category.
In two seasons at Rend Lake, he hit .285 with two homers, 59 stolen bases and was hit by 41 pitches.
“He’s intense, but in a good way,” says Troyer of Brabender. “He brought out the best in me.
“He was able to mold me to be ready for college.”
Troyer earned four letters for the Raiders and hit .429 with seven homers and 35 stolen bases as a senior while earning team MVP and best bat awards. He was a two-time all-Northern Lakes Conference honoree and was named all-state and to the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series (The North swept the three-game series in Terre Haute in 2015).
Sam is the third of Steve and Shanna Troyer’s four children. Sean Troyer was not an athlete. Scot Troyer played baseball and football in high school. Sara Troyer is currently a diver at the University of Nebraska. In the recent Big Ten meet, she placed fifth in the 3-meter and 10th in the 1-meter.
Sam Troyer, a graduate of Northridge High School in Middlebury, Ind. (2015) and the University of Evansville (2019), is to play in the independent United Shore Professional Baseball League. He is a righty-swinging third baseman and shortstop. (University of Evansville Photo)
“It means a lot to me,” says Maloney of the recognition of his willingness to persevere. “They saw me as hard-working and blue collar. Not a lot of people know it, but I played through a lot of injuries in college.”
It’s that kind of approach that Maloney is taking as the pitching coach at Wayne State University, an NCAA Division II program in Detroit. He is a graduate student pursuing his masters degree in business.
‘This team is a really special team to be around,” says Maloney, 24. “It’s a great group of hard-working kids. They make my job easy.
“We’re getting after it.”
Before transferring to Delta High School in Muncie, Ind., midway through his senior year (2013), Maloney attended Chelsea (Mich.) High School — located about 60 miles from Detroit — and played baseball and football for the Bulldogs. Alex transferred to Delta when father Rich Maloney returned as Ball State in Muncie as head baseball coach.
Terry Summers was head coach at Delta when Alex and younger brother Nick played for the Eagles.
Alex Maloney, the oldest of Rich and Kelle Maloney’s three children (Nick is a Ball State senior and daughter Natalie is a BSU freshmen) was recruited to Ball State as a two-way player. Injuries limited his pitching appearances. He worked nine stints and 8 2/3 innings in his freshman and junior seasons. He was primarily a shortstop or third baseman.
After playing in 227 games (226 as a starter), Maloney graduated from Ball State in 2017 with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Business Information Systems, played a few games with the Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers of the United Shore Professional Baseball League in Utica, Mich., then signed as a free agent with the Chicago White Sox organization. He played 23 games in 2017 and was released in June 2018.
He was on his way to testing to becoming a Michigan state trooper when Wayne State contacted him about continuing his education while coaching baseball. He started at WSU in August.
“Coaching or federal law enforcement — I’m debating each one I want to do,” says Maloney. “This is a great opportunity. It gives me two years to figure out what I wanted to do in life.
“It’s a win-win for me. I’m getting great coaching experience.”
Maloney experienced what he calls a learning curve in the fall as he was getting to know his pitchers and they were getting to know him.
Though he was mostly a position player in college, he welcomes the chance to learn more about guiding pitchers.
Maloney has made the conversion from player to coach with the help of some mentors.
Besides his father and Wayne State’s Kelley and Hepner, there’s been Ball State pitching coaching coach Dustin Glant and University of Alabama at Birmingham volunteer assistant Ron Polk (who was a head coach for 35 years, including 29 at Mississippi State University) among others.
Maloney is also learning about NCAA Division II baseball, which is allowed to give nine scholarships (it’s 11.7 in D-I) and the teams on Wayne State’s schedule while also making connections with members of the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association and beyond. The MHSBCA staged its annual state clinic Jan. 11-12 in Mt. Pleasant.
For his prep career, Dougherty won 20 games with 253 strikeouts — both school records. He was 9-3 with a 1.83 ERA and 102 K’s as a junior in 2012 as Morgan Township went 23-5 and followed that up with 18-10 in 2013.
Dorshorst, who went to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, told Dougherty he thought he had what it took play college baseball.
“He helped me a lot,” says Dougherty of Dorshorst. “He understood me as a player. He encouraged me to go after my dream.”
With newfound confidence, that dream had changed pursuing baseball at the college level and — maybe —beyond.
“I give him credit for giving me the opportunity for playing college baseball,” says Dougherty, who made 30 appearances with Barr as head coach and 12 as a senior with Cam Screeton in charge of the Lancers program.
Dougherty fanned 78 and walked 58 in 106 1/3 innings at Grace.
During Grace’s spring trip, Dougherty met Diamond Hoppers manager Paul Noce.
A baseball veteran, Noce who played for the 1987 Chicago Cubs and 1990 Cincinnati Reds and was a successful head coach at Hillsdale (Mich.) College saw potential in Dougherty and invited him to Michigan to throw a bullpen session after the college season.
“It was only throwing in the mid-80’s at that point,” says Dougherty of his velocity. “(Noce) encouraged me to keep working hard.”
So Dougherty went to play for the Shawn Harper-managed Mishawaka Brewers of the Northern Indiana Adult Baseball League and worked out with Shane Zegarac, pitching and strength coach at South Suburban College in South Holland, Ill. — a short drive from Valparaiso.
“He deserves a lot of credit for getting me here in the first place,” says Dougherty of Zegarac, who pitched in the Texas Rangers organization and parts of three seasons with the Windy City Thunderbolts of the independent Frontier League.
The 6-foot-3 Dougherty packed on about 20 pounds and his heater was up to low 90’s when he went to pitch for the Canada A’s of 2018 California Winter League. He made eight mound appearances (three as a starter) and was 1-1 with a 2.41 earned run average, 35 strikeouts and 12 walks in 20 1/3 innings.
The league takes Mondays off. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are non-public day games. Thursday through Saturday are night contests and Sundays are day games. The regular season began May 11 and wraps Sept. 2. Each team plays 50 games. Rosters are limited to 20 players age 18-26.
“This league is focused on getting players to the next level,” says Dougherty. “They are pretty good at giving guys plenty of time to develop those skills.
“They give you a really good shot to further your career here.”
More than 20 players have gone on to sign contracts with Major League Baseball-affiliated teams since the USPBL debuted in 2016.
Dougherty has been starting and is 1-1 with a 5.09 ERA, 12 strikeouts and 17 walks in 17 2/3 innings.
Between starts, he does a lot of recovery work and maintenance in the weight room — staying away too much in-season heavy lifting. He also does a lot of running, including sprints.
Dougherty was born and raised in Valparaiso the third child of Keith and Beth Dougherty. His older sisters are Rachel and Kelsey.
He played summer league at Morgan Township and then a little travel baseball in junior high and high school.
At Grace, Joe earned a degree in Design Engineering Technology. He says he is especially interested in computer-aided design.
Joe Dougherty, a graduate of Morgan Township Middle/High School in Valparaiso, Ind., and Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., is now playing for the Eastside Diamond Hoppers of the independent United Shore Professional Baseball League. (USPBL Photo)
Joe Dougherty goes into his wind-up during a game at Jimmy John’s Field in Utica, Mich. All games in the four-team United Shore Professional Baseball League are played there. (Matt Cripsey Photo)
Determination shows on the face of Joe Dougherty as he warms up for the Eastside Diamond Hoppers on the independent United Shore Baseball League. He is a graduate of Morgan Township Middle/High School and Grace College in Indiana. (Matt Cripsey Photo)