When Ball State swept a doubleheader Saturday, April 23 at Northern Illinois it allowed Cardinals head coach Rich Maloney to reach the 900th victory of his career. Maloney is in his 27th season as a college head coach with two stints at Ball State (1996-2002 and 2013-present) and one at Michigan (2003-12). Ball State (24-14 overall, 18-4 in the Mid-American Conference) went on to win, Sunday, too. Game 4 of the series was slated for today (April 25). Maloney has won 580 games with the Cards. “I have had the great privilege of coaching so many outstanding young men and coaching alongside so many outstanding assistants,” said Maloney Saturday. “Milestones like this give us a time to reflect on the many relationships built through the years. “What a blessing!” Ball State — which got wins from starters Tyler Schweitzer (Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate) and Ty Johnson (Lawrence North), both 6-2 in 2022, Saturday and Sunday — is chasing first-place Central Michigan (27-10, 21-1) in the MAC. There are more coaching victory milestones on the horizon for NAIA Taylor’s Kyle Gould (597), NAIA Indiana Wesleyan’s Rich Benjamin (498), NAIA Bethel’s Seth Zartman (397), NAIA Marian’s Todd Bacon (195) and NCAA Division III DePauw’s Blake Allen (98). The best weeks among the state’s 38 college baseball programs April 18-24 belonged to NAIA Indiana Tech at 6-0, NCAA Division-I Notre Dame at 5-0, NCAA Division III Wabash at 5-1, NAIA Calumet of St. Joseph at 5-1 and NAIA Oakland City 4-1. Notre Dame won midweek games against Valparaiso and Purdue Fort Wayne and swept three from Atlantic Coast Conference foe Wake Forest. The Irish (26-8, 11-7) are tied with Louisville atop the ACC Atlantic Division. ND is No. 2 in the D1Baseball.com RPI behind Tennessee (37-3). Evansville is No. 67, Indiana State. No. 91, Ball State No, 123, Indiana No. 135, Purdue No. 163, Valparaiso No. 202, Butler No. 208 and Purdue Fort Wayne No. 237. Indiana State (21-11 overall and tied for first in the Missouri Valley Conference at 6-3) tied a school record with six home runs in Sunday’s 12-9 loss to Evansville — two by Aaron Beck (Evansville Harrison) and one each by Tyler Nelson (Chesterton), Jordan Schaffer (West Vigo), Sean Ross and Keegan Watson (New Palestine). Indiana Tech (27-18, 13-7 in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference) won four WHAC games Saturday and Sunday by a combined 66-27. The Warriors and others are looking up conference leader Northwestern Ohio (32-9, 19-1). Wabash (19-12) is now 4-4 in away games after a doubleheader split at Oberlin and twin bill sweep at Anderson. Calumet of St. Joseph (14-27) earned all its wins for the week on the road. The same is true for Oakland City (25-17). The Mighty Oaks have already won eight more games in 2022 than 2021.
Week of April 18-24 NCAA D-I Tuesday, April 19 Western Michigan 14, Ball State 12 Butler 6, Northern Kentucky 5 Miami (Ohio) 9, Indiana 7 Indiana State 12, Illinois 6 Notre Dame 5, Valparaiso 1 Illinois-Chicago 9, Purdue 6
Wednesday, April 20 Butler 7, Dayton 2 Notre Dame 12, Purdue Fort Wayne 2
Friday, April 22 St. John’s 8, Butler 6 Indiana State 7, Evansville 6 Indiana 8, Nebraska 7 Belmont 3, Purdue 2 Notre Dame 8, Wake Forest 3 Purdue Fort Wayne 4, Northern Kentucky 2 Purdue Fort Wayne 4, Northern Kentucky 3
Saturday, April 23 Ball State 13, Northern Illinois 0 Ball State 6, Northern Illinois 1 St. John’s 8, Butler 7 (10 inn.) Evansville 14, Indiana State 0 Indiana 8, Nebraska 1 Notre Dame 21, Wake Forest 3 Belmont 11, Purdue 1 Purdue Fort Wayne 10, Oakland 2 Oakland 10, Purdue Fort Wayne 2 Missouri State 14, Valparaiso 2 Missouri State 9, Valparaiso 4
Sunday, April 24 Ball State 9, Northern Illinois 5 Butler 12, St. John’s 12, tie Evansville 12, Indiana State 9 Nebraska 19, Indiana 7 Belmont 8, Purdue 6 Oakland 10, Purdue Fort Wayne 9 (10 inn.) Missouri State 6, Valparaiso 1 Notre Dame 13, Wake Forest 12 Northern Kentucky vs. Purdue Fort Wayne
NCAA D-II Tuesday, April 19 Grand Valley State 10, Purdue Northwest 5 Purdue Northwest 5, Grand Valley State 4 Kentucky Wesleyan 4, Southern Indiana 14
Friday, April 22 Indianapolis 9, Davenport 1
Saturday, April 23 Davenport 12, Indianapolis 10 Davenport 18, Indianapolis 6 Lewis 10, Southern Indiana 9 Southern Indiana vs. Lewis Purdue Northwest 22, Wisconsin-Parkside 0 Purdue Northwest 18, Wisconsin-Parkside 5
Sunday, April 24 Lewis 15, Southern Indiana 3 Lewis 8, Southern Indiana 5
NCAA D-III Tuesday, April 19 Anderson 11, Bluffton 4 Bluffton 6, Anderson 0 Wittenberg 11, DePauw 10 DePauw 4, Wittenberg 3 Rose-Hulman 12, Franklin 10 Rose-Hulman 10, Franklin 4 Defiance 4, Manchester 2 Manchester 12, Defiance 11 (11 inn.) Trine 22, Adrian 14 Wabash 8, Ohio Weselyan 2 Wabash 3, Ohio Weselyan 2
Wednesday, April 20 Indiana Tech 14, Manchester 4
Saturday, April 23 Anderson 8, Defiance 5 Anderson 7, Defiance 6 DePauw 16, Hiram 0 DePauw 11, Hiram 0 Earlham 8, Rose-Hulman 6 Earlham 11, Rose-Hulman 2 Franklin 5, Mt. St. Joseph 4 Franklin 14, Mt. St. Joseph 4 Hanover 10, Bluffton 8 Bluffton 13, Hanover 3 Calvin 7, Trine 3 Trine 7, Calvin 2 Oberlin 3, Wabash 2 Wabash 15, Oberlin 12 (10 inn.)
Sunday, April 24 Wabash 14, Anderson 5 Anderson 21, Wabash 6 Rose-Hulman 16, Wilmington 9 Manchester 5, Trine 4
NAIA Monday, April 18 Calumet of St. Joseph 19, Lincoln 4 Calumet of St. Joseph 15, Lincoln 5 Grace 10, Marian 8 Marian 8, Grace 3
Tuesday, April 19 IU South Bend 8, Calumet of St. Joseph 4 Indiana Tech 18, Saint Francis 1 Oakland City 4, Bethel (Tenn.) 2 Oakland City 1, Bethel (Tenn.) 0
Wednesday, April 20 Siena Heights 4, Goshen 0 Siena Heights 6, Goshen 3 Indiana Tech 14, Manchester 4 Georgetown (Ky.) 4, IU Kokomo 3
Thursday, April 21 Spring Arbor 7, Bethel 5 Bethel 3, Spring Arbor 2 Mt. Vernon Nazarene 7, Grace 5 Mt. Vernon Nazarene 4, Grace 2 Indiana Wesleyan 11, Taylor 7 Taylor 6, Indiana Wesleyan 3
Friday, April 22 Huntington 15, Goshen 12 Goshen 6, Huntington 4 IU Southeast 10, IU Kokomo 3 Roosevelt 6, IU South Bend 5 Marian 6, Saint Francis 5 Marian 5, Saint Francis 1 Brescia 4, Oakland City 2
Saturday, April 23 Bethel 7, Spring Arbor 6 Bethel 12, Spring Arbor 10 Huntington 16, Goshen 12 Huntington 18, Goshen 3 Mt. Vernon Nazarene 11, Grace 10 Mt. Vernon Nazarene 7, Grace 3 Indiana Tech 20, Siena Heights 3 Indiana Tech 16, Siena Heights 1 IU Kokomo 12, IU Southeast 11 IU Southeast 18, IU Kokomo 2 Roosevelt 15, IU South Bend 3 Roosevelt 9, IU South Bend 5 Taylor 11, Indiana Wesleyan 1 Indiana Wesleyan 9, Taylor 5 Marian 11, Saint Francis 10 Saint Francis 13, Marian 8 Oakland City vs. Brescia Oakland City vs. Brescia
Northeast Indiana Baseball Association plans to honor longtime high school coaches Dave Ginder and Dean Lehrman and former professional player Steve Finken as part of its Hall of Fame class of 2022. Heading into the spring, Dave Ginder is 335-118 in 15 seasons at Carroll with eight sectional titles, four regionals, three Final Four appearances state championships in 2010 and 2011. The 1991 Carroll graduate was a Chargers assistant for six years. Ginder graduated from Anderson (Ind.) University with a Mathematics and Secondary Education degree and is in his 21st year as a math teacher at Carroll. He also holds a Masters in Administration. Dave and Kristen Ginder, a Parkview SurgeryONE surgical case coordinator, have three children — son Langston (18) and daughters Drezdan (16) and Jantzyn (13). In 43 seasons (nine at Woodlan and 34 at Heritage, including 2020 COVID-19 year), Lehrman has 615 wins, 12 Allen County Athletic Conference titles with eight sectionals, three regionals, one semistate and three semistate appearances with a state runner-up finish in 2007. He’s also been a district coach of the year and twice named an Indiana High School Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series coach. Lehrman, who retired as a high school math teacher at Heritage in 2020, coached football for 39 years and was 40-26 in six seasons at head coach. Dean and wife Janice have three children — Camryn, Derek and Ryne — and four grandchildren. Finken is a graduate of Fort Wayne Elmhurst High School and was an All-American at the University of Michigan. He was selected in the 21st round of the 1988 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers and played in the minors from 1988-92. The infielder was in Triple-A with the Dodgers in 1991 and played his last pro season in the San Francisco Giants system. Overall, Finked hit .267 with a .373 on-base percentage, .431 slugging average, 49 home runs and 227 runs batted in for 473 games. Journalist Steve Krah will also go into the NEIBA Hall of Fame during a banquet at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 12, 2022 at Classic Cafe in Fort Wayne. Jeff Herring will receive the organization’s Colin Lister Award from the Hall of Fame for his 25-plus year of service to high school sports, specifically baseball. He has been an assistant coach at both Elmhurst and Wayne high schools.
“We’ve got a veteran team,” says Maloney of his sales pitch to Goetz. “They didn’t get to go last year (because of a pandemic-shortened 2020 season). They’re hungry. We wanted to be able to go somewhere and play.
“I try to schedule really good opponents and get the kids to have the opportunity for experiences that they can remember and go to places they’ll never forget.”
A couple of items sweetened the deal. Arizona offered a guarantee in case the series could not be played because of COVID-19.
Also, one of Maloney’s former players at Michigan — Derek Kerr — is an Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at American Airlines and that just happens to be the carrier the Cards chose to take to Tucson.
“It was totally incidental,” says Maloney. “I called and asked Derek if there was any way he could help Coach out and get an extension in case we got hit with COVID and couldn’t make the trip to Arizona. He promised and that’s what gave Beth Goetz the green light to say it’s OK to schedule the flight.
“Our guys have done a nice job of staying in their bubble the best they can and we’ve been able to make these trips.”
With senior right-handed pitcher John Baker playing a major role, Ball State split four games Feb. 19-22 at Arizona, went 2-1 Feb. 26-27 against Bradley in Normal, Ill., and 2-1 March 5-7 at Kentucky for a 6-4 start to 2021 season.
Baker has made four appearances (three in relief) and is 1-0 with a 1.45 earned run average. Opponents are hitting .127 against him.
“He should have gone to pro ball a long time ago,” says Maloney of Baker. “He has amazing moxie.
Those nine represent 521 games (with 465 starts) in their Ball State careers.
Sebby, the 2019 MAC Defensive Player of the Year, has started 122 of his 130 games while Messina and Simpson have started all 83 times they’ve been in the lineup.
“We’ve got a great bunch,” says Maloney. “It’s a fun team to coach. They’re highly-competitive and they’re experienced.
“They’ve done some pretty incredible things in the first couple of weekends. I’m certainly happy for them. They’ve created some great memories. But we’ve got a long way to go. We can get a lot better than we are.”
Maloney says he is encouraged by the “grit” of his team, which has several players back — right-handed fireballers Drey Jameson and Kyle Nicolas being the notable exceptions — from that went 38-19 overall and 20-5 in the MAC while Central Michigan was having stronger year at 47-14 and 22-5.
“In any other year we would have been a (conference) champion,” says Maloney.
WarrenNolan.com has Ball State No. 1 in both RPI and Strength of Schedule among NCAA Division I programs. Indiana State is No. 9 and No. 10, Notre Dame No. 20 and No. 35.
Maloney says high-profile wins can only help the Cards.
“Over the years we’ve been good enough to be in the NCAA tournament but because (the MAC) has been a one-team bid we just haven’t been able to get over the top in tournament play.
“The RPI — the power of the league — has held us back.”
When Maloney was head coach at Michigan, the Big Ten had bids for the conference champion and an at-large bid — something not enjoyed by the MAC.
“I talk about it a lot with the other coaches. There’s going when we can get two teams in. I don’t know if this is the year or not. Our conference is winning some games out of conference.
“The Mid-American Conference is at the highest level its been in a long, long time.”
For example: Kent State beat No. 2-ranked Mississippi State Saturday, March 6.
“The difference between David and Goliath isn’t really that big,” say Maloney.
Next up for Ball State is a three-game series March 12-14 at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.
The Cardinals is scheduled to open the home portion of their season with a four-game set March 19-21 against MAC foe Western Michigan.
A former all-Big Ten Conference and professional infielder was hired in the fall of 2019 as head coach of the baseball program at Hamilton Heights High School in Arcadia, Ind., and was getting the Huskies ready when the 2020 season was placed on hold and — eventually — canceled because of the pandemic.
Recent Hamilton Heights graduates playing college baseball include Sam Fulton (Chattanooga, Tenn., State Community College), Alex Hewitt (Butler University in Indianapolis), Ike Peterson (Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.) and Reese Wills (Marian University in Indianapolis. VanOeveren says some current players are weighting their options.
“Recruiting is challenging for everybody because of COVID,” says VanOeveren. “I was recruited to numerous schools all over the Midwest. My advice: Don’t select the school just based upon baseball.
“Baseball comes to an end at some point for all of us.”
A 1991 graduated of Grandville (Mich.) High School near Grand Rapids, VanOeveren was initially recruited by Michigan assistant Ted Mahan (who went on to be head coach at Michigan State University) and Wolverines head coach Bill Freehan got involved near the end of the process. VanOeveren committed in May of his senior year.
“(Indiana Primetime) is good to the kids at Hamilton Heights, giving them the opportunity to play really competitive baseball,” says VanOeveren. “I love Finch Creek. We’re spoiled getting access to that place.
“We’re very fortunate to live in this area and have those opportunities.”
Besides VanOeveren, the 2021 Husky coaching staff features varsity assistants Brian Clancy and Brad Pitts, junior varsity head coach Adam Hughes and JV assistant Cole Meyer. Clancy, who played at Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill., was on the 2000 staff. Pitts, who had coached at Harrison High School in West Lafayette, is a newcomer to Hamilton Heights.
Husky Ballpark has received laser-leveling and upgrades to the irrigation system from Marschand’s Athletic Field Service and a new backstop is going up. VanOeveren says new dugouts and other improvements could come this summer.
Brad Pitts is an assistant bseball coach at Hamilton Heights High School in Arcadia, Ind.
Growing up playing sports in Zionsville, Ind., Michael Tucker knew what it was to be a teammate.
A center in basketball and catcher in baseball, Tulsa, Okla.-born Tucker played at Zionsville Community High School and graduated in 2008. Some of his closest friends to this day played on those squads.
“We had some great teams,” says Tucker, who played for head coaches Dave Ferrell and Shaun Busick in basketball and Darrell Osborne and Adam Metzler in baseball and counted Matt Miller as a mate on the court and the diamond. Miller went on to pitch at the University of Michigan and in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
Tucker was a standout hitter while playing catcher and first base for the Ravens and the Hall of Famer they called “Bama” for his first two college seasons followed by two with David Pressley.
Brandon impressed Tucker with his memory.
“He can tell you the situation — who was on the mound and the count — (from most any game),” says Tucker. “He was really fun to learn from.”
Pressley was a first-time head coach at Anderson. Tucker credits him with lessons on and off the field.
“I learned how to be a man,” says Tucker. “(Pressley) is a huge man of faith.
“He taught a tremendous amount of life lessons.”
Tucker also gained knowledge from Brad Lantz, who was an AU senior receiver when he was a freshman and went on to be a high school head coach at Guerin Catholic and Lapel and is now coaching in the Indy Sharks travel organization.
“I learned so much about catching, counts and what to look for,” says Tucker. “I learned more from (Lantz) than anyone else.”
Ground was recently broken for Championship Park in Kokomo, Ind., and that complex will also be used by Bullpen and PBR.
The 2021 summer will mark Tucker’s seventh with Bullpen Tournaments.
Hired by BT president Blake Hibler, whom he knew from working Prep Baseball Report showcases, Tucker started at Bullpen in time to experience Grand Park’s first full summer.
“I did everything,” says Tucker. “I tried to be a sponge. Being in baseball your whole life is completely different from the tournament industry.
“There’s learning the business side and scheduling.”
While at the Incrediplex near Lawrence, Tucker had done scheduling on a smaller scale and had become comfortable with software.
Tucker appreciates that Hibler lets him seek out processes.
“If I can find a better mousetrap, he lets me run with it,” says Tucker.
Bullpen is a very large operation.
“We’re a different beast in a lot of ways,” says Tucker, who notes that on any given weekend the company may have as many as 45 fields under its control, including those on and off the Grand Park campus.
Tucker says the key is getting the word out to teams, families and recruiters.
“You have to be able to communicate,” says Tucker. “Half of scheduling is the communicating of the schedule.”
With Hibler having a large part in brainstorming and development, Bullpen first used the Tourney Machine app and now works with Playbook 365 while also helping develop PitchAware and ScoreHQ.
Bullpen hires scorekeepers for every high school tournament game (15U to 18U) at Grand Park. In 2020, there was also video on six fields.
“It’s huge to have accurate data,” says Tucker. “We can overlay video with stats.
“(A college) coach can recruit from his office.”
But even though Bullpen is dealing with many moving parts, there are only a half dozen full-time employees.
“Guys are tasked to learn a lot of different things,” says Tucker. “But we never feel like this is something I can’t do. Our mentality is we’re going bust our butts and how do we solve this problem?
“Our guys do a tremendous job of being flexible.”
An example of teamwork and flexibility is the creation of the College Summer League at Grand Park, which came about when so many other leagues were canceling the 2020 summer season during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With many players reaching out, Bullpen saw the need and went to work to put together what became a 12-team league with most games played at Grand Park with a few at Kokomo Municipal Stadium and Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis.
The league was constructed with safety, NCAA and recruiting regulations in mind. Players were placed, umpires were lined up and jerseys were distributed in a very short time frame.
“We had about seven days to do it,” says Tucker. “We’re excited for it to come back (in 2021).”
As a D-III alum, Tucker was especially pleased that the CSL allowed top-flight players like Joe Moran (who pitched for Anderson and has transferred to Taylor University) was able to compete against D-I talent.
While the pandemic slowed the start of the 2020 Bullpen season, Tucker estimates that there were upwards of 80 percent in games played as compared to a normal year.
The fall included more contests than ever.
“Teams couldn’t play in the spring and that baseball hunger was still there,” says Tucker. “They wanted to play a little longer.
“We had a great fall.”
Weather plays a part, but the first games each year at Grand Park with all its turf fields are collegiate in February.
“If we get a warm-weather day our phone blows up,” says Tucker.
Activity starts to ramp up in March with the first 8U to 14U contests the last weekend of that month.
Of course, the pandemic will have a say in what happens in 2021.
“With all the uncertainty it’s tough,” says Tucker. “It’s going to be an interesting spring.”
A perk of Tucker’s position and location is the relationships he gets to build with high school coaches.
Through hills and valleys, the right-handed pitcher persisted and persevered until he finally stood on a major league mound at 28 and its those kind of lessons he passes along to the next generation with his baseball/softball business — Demand Command.
McClellan, who stands 6-foot-5, earned three letters at Indiana University (1998, 1999 and 2000). He pitched in 41 games, starting 22 with five complete games and one save. In 159 1/3 innings, he posted 111 strikeouts and a 4.58 earned run average while playing for Hoosiers head coach Bob Morgan — a man he credits as much for what he did in stressing education as what he did between the white lines.
Long before that McClellan started giving back. He started the Zach McClellan School of Pitching in Bloomington, Ind., in 2002.
Zach and future wife Sarah met at IU. She is from nearby Ellettsville, Ind., and a graduate of Edgewood High School.
During his pro off-seasons, Zach was a student teacher during the day and gave lessons at night during his off-season.
With the growth of the business, McClellan began looking for a new name and a suggestion came from one of his pupils who noted how he was constantly telling them, “Don’t just accept control, demand command.”
McClellan says the difference between control and command is that with control you can throw to a general area and command is being able to execute your pitches to the catcher.
The two main aspects of pitching as McClellan sees them are how hard you throw and can you locate it. In other words: Velocity and command.
“I try to marry those two things,” says McClellan, who notes that location becomes very important when it comes to getting good hitters out.
Believing that training should be fun and challenging, McClellan began getting his young pitchers to play H-O-R-S-E baseball style.
While in the basketball version, a player has to replicate a made shot or take a letter, McClellan’s baseball variation requires one pitcher to execute a pitch — say a fastball to the outside corner — and have the next one up replicate that or take a letter.
The first Demand Command T-shirts McClellan ever had made asked: “Can you play H-O-R-S-E on the mound?”
“It was an inside joke between the instructed kids, myself and their parents,” says McClellan. “People would ask the question about what it meant.
“We were doing something kind of unique and kids were actually executing pitches. What I’ve noticed through the years is that if they have to call the pitch, it’s even better. Now they’re not just throwing a ball in the generally vicinity.”
McClellan never wants training to be drudgery for his players.
“If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing it becomes more of a job,” says McClellan. “It’s not a job, it’s an opportunity. It’s fun. If you’re going to come to me it’s not going to feel like work.
“You have to make sure that the kids are enjoying what they’re doing, but learning at the same time.”
Since he began offering instruction, McClellan has preferred small-group lessons of three of four players.
“I say make sure kids aren’t just doing solo private lessons,” says McClellan. “A lot of parents want their kids to work one-on-one with a coach, but when they go on a field they have eight other teammates.
“At the end of the day there’s nobody behind the mound holding your hand and telling you how to correct yourself in a game. You have to have a feel on the adjustments you’re making.”
Every now and then, McClellan likes to match 17-year-old prospect with an 8-year-old learning how to pitch.
“The 17-year-old learns how to teach,” says McClellan. “The more you learn how to teach the better you get at your craft.
“(The teen is) learning how other people receive the information which makes them more receptive of the information.”
Now that he has been at it this long, another McClellan goal is coming to fruition.
“I’ve always wanted to create a community of baseball players that became future leaders,” says McClellan. “Kids that played for me or took lessons from me are now coming back to be coaches for me.”
Matt McClellan played at Oakland University in Auburn Hills, Mich., and pitched in the Toronto Blue Jays organization (Toronto selected the right-hander in the seventh round of the 1997 MLB Draft) and for the independent Newark (N.J.) Bears and Kansas City (Kan.) T-Bones.
The DC website states the mission: “Demand Command was built on the principles that baseball and softball are teaching mechanisms for more than just the games.
Baseball and Softball have many life lessons within the games. Some examples are leadership, hard work, determination, discipline, working together with many types of people, dealing with success and failure and good character.
“The goal is to teach people the value of Demand Command life principles through baseball and softball. Demand Command stands for much more than commanding pitches or at bats. Demand Command is a way of life.”
Numerous DC alums have gone on to college and pro baseball. Among them is Dylan Stutsman, who pitched at the University of Indianapolis and then pitched for the independent Schaumburg (Ill.) Boomers.
Former Texas Rangers draft pick Renton Poole is now a senior pitcher at Indiana University Kokomo.
Zach and Sarah McClellan live in Columbus and have three athletic daughters — Mia (14), Miley (12) and Emery (10).
The McClellan brothers — Jeff (46), Matt (44) and Zach (42 on Nov. 25) — are the offspring of former college athletes.
Father Dave a basketball player at the University of Michigan and Mother Diane a track and field athlete at Bowling Green (Ohio) State University.
Jeff played baseball at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio.
Zach’s nephew, Sebastian McClellan, is a freshman basketball guard at Lawrence Technical University in Southfield, Mich. Niece Mallory McClellan recently signed a letter of intent to play softball at Fordham University in New York.
Gursky recalls the unusual atmosphere when he took the mound at Dedeaux Field.
“Only essential personnel were allowed in the stands,” says Gursky. “It was like a travel ball game. Only parents were there.”
Gursky tossed the first two innings, facing eight batters with three strikeouts and yielding one hit as the first of seven USC pitchers.
“The next day I wake up and my phone is blowing up,” says Gursky of what turned out to be a COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.
Thinking the situation would blow over, he spent about a week at his uncle’s house in Orange County then came home to Granger, Ind.
“I had not been in Indiana in March in years,” says Gursky. “We were having a great start to the year then comes the sad news. We worked so hard in the fall.”
The Trojans were 10-5 when the 2020 slate was halted. Southpaw Gursky was 1-1 in four appearances (three starts) with a 0.00 earned run average. He fanned 12 and walked three in 12 innings. Opponents hit .105 against him. On March 3, he pitched the first six innings against UC Irvine and held the Anteaters hitless with seven strikeouts.
USC coaches talked about placing Gursky in the Cape Cod Baseball League in the summer. But that league canceled its season and with all the uncertainty, Gursky opted to take 15 weeks away from throwing and reported to USC this fall fully-refreshed.
An online accounting class taken this summer will help Gursky on his path to graduating with a Business Administration degree next spring.
“That was a fun time,” says Gursky of his days with the Indians. “I have a lot of great teammates.”
Some of Gursky’s pals were Danny Torres, Tony Carmola, J.R. Haley and Carlos Matovina.
In his senior year (2017), Gursky played for former major leaguer Chris Sabo at a IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Gursky enjoyed a solid inaugral campaign at USC in 2018, but struggled in 2019.
“I had a good freshmen year and a disaster of a sophomore year,” says Gursky. “I was in a bad place.”
Playing for then-Trojans head coach Dan Hubbs, Gursky made 22 appearances (two starts) as a freshman, going 3-1 with a 4.93 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings.
His second college appearance was at Cal State Long Beach’s Blair Field, where played for the Brewers in the 2015 underclass Area Code Games and was named to the upperclass game in 2016 but did not play because of a forearm injury.
As a sophomore, Gursky got into 12 games (five starts) and was 0-1 with a 9.82 ERA. He struck out 18 in 22 innings.
“I thank (Hubbs) so much for getting to come to the school of my choice,” says Gursky.
“I was kind of inconsistent,” says Gursky. “I working on stuff at the same time I was competing and trying to win games.
“But that was a the beginning of the turnaround. It set up a good fall and spring.”
Back in Los Angeles, Gursky had a new head coach (Jason Gill) and pitching coach (Ted Silva) in the fall of 2019.
“(Gill) has continuous energy,” says Gursky. “We all love playing for him. We feed off that energy.
“(Silva) helped me out. He saw something in me. He’s straight forward like Sabo.”
Gursky appreciates the approach of Sabo, the former Cincinnati Reds third baseman and current University of Akron head coach.
“He never sugar coated anything,” says Gursky. “He was a great guy to talk with in general.”
Another ex-big leaguer — Steve Frey — was the IMG Academy pitching coach.
“He was great communicator,” says Gursky of Frey. “We connected very well.
“We’re both lefties so we felt the same way.”
Back in northern Indiana, Gursky has gotten pitching pointers from Curt Hasler, who pitched for the 1988 South Bend White Sox and is now the bullpen coach for the Chicago White Sox. Son Drew Hasler has pitched in the White Sox system.
“He’s great with the mental game,” says Gursky of Curt Hasler. “I like that he’s been around guys who’ve pitched at the highest level possible.”
A 6-foot-2, 200-pounder who played basketball through his freshmen year at St. Joseph describes his aggressive athletic mindset.
“I’m an attacker,” says Gursky. “Either I’m attacking the basket or attacking the strike zone.”
Delivering the baseball with a three quarter-plus arm slot, Gursky throws a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, change-up and curveball.
His four-seamer has a high spin rate and occasionally touched 94 mph in the spring.
His two-seamer sinks and run and was usually 88 to 91 mph.
“My change-up is very slow,” says Gursky of a pitch clocked at 76 to 78 mph. “It’s been my main strikeout pitch the last two years.
“I grip it petty deep and pretty hard. It’s not in my palm.”
His sweeping curve comes in 79 to 82 mph and breaks left to right — away from left-handed batters and into righties.
Born in Bloomington, Ind., Gursky moved to Granger at 5 and attended Saint Pius X Catholic School. His first baseball experience came at 10 or 11 at Harris Township Cal Ripken.
After that, Gursky was with a number of travel teams around the country. Locally, he did a couple stints with the South Bend Cubs and manager Mark Haley (father of J.R.).
“He knows the bigger picture,” says Gursky of Mark Haley, who played at the University of Nebraska, coached at the University of Tennessee and was a manager in professional baseball for 12 years, including 10 with the South Bend Silver Hawks (2005-14) before becoming general manager of the 1st Source Bank Performance Center and executive director of the South Bend Cubs Foundation. “He’s big on development.”
Gursky’s grandfather, Will Perry, was a pitcher at the University of Michigan. A broken leg suffered in a car accident kept him from a starting role with the 1953 national champions. He was later sports information director and assistant athletic director for the Wolverines.
Uncle Steve Perry played baseball at Michigan and was selected in the first round of the 1979 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 6-foot-5 right-hander advanced to Triple-A in 1983 and 1984.
“He taught things when I was younger,” says Gursky. “Now I get what he was saying.
“When you have a growth mentality, you take what other people are saying and apply it to yourself.”
Perry was one of three first-round draft picks for Michigan in 1979. Outfielder/first baseman Rick Leach and left-handed pitcher Steve Howe both went on to play in the majors.
University of Notre Dame employees Matt and Susan Gursky have three children — Elena (24), Brian (22) and Natalie (18). Westland, Mich., native Matt Gursky is a mathematics professor. Ann Arbor, Mich., native Susan Gursky is a pre-medicine advisor. Elena Gursky played softball at St. Joe. Natalie Gursky is an equestrian.
Haddad has been in the organization since 2013. He was signed by the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent and was a catcher is the system until 2016, when he served as a player-coach at Staten Island in preparation for a minor league coaching assignment.
But an opportunity came with the major league club and Haddad has been on the Bronx Bombers staff since 2017. He can use his knowledge to help Blake and Swanson with their transition.
Radley and wife Arielle, a Franklin, Ind., native who he met at Butler, moved from Manhattan to New Jersey in January. It’s a 20-minute drive to Yankee Stadium.
Being close year-round has made it easy for Haddad to get to know the ins and outs of the team’s analytics department.
Hadded earned a Finance degree at Butler. His familiarity with regressions, progressions and algorithms allows him to work with weight averages and other analytic concepts.
“You need to have some experience in some upper level math,” says Haddad. “You don’t have to be a genius. It’s math and it’s computers and being able to write codes.
“(Players) are very open to what we’re trying to do. Kids coming from college programs are more up with technology and buzzwords and they understand the value. We’re all trying to accomplish the same thing. Sometimes you just have to use different verbiage.”
Haddad notes that 29-year-old right-hander Gerrit Cole, who signed as a free agent in December 2019 and likely would have been tabbed by manager Aaron Boone as the Yankees’ Opening Day starter had the 2020 season started on time, has embraced analytics during his career.
“He’s really smart guy and cares about his career,” says Haddad. “He applied what they gave him in Houston. He used the information presented to him.
“We’re trying to parlay off of that and make him just a tick better.”
With Haddad being close by, he’s also been able to catch area residents Coleand righty reliever Adam Ottavino during the current COVID-19-related shutdown. Some of those sessions happened in back yards. The Stadium was just recently made available.
Players and staff are literally spread across the globe and have stayed in-touch through group texts and Zoom calls. Sharing of Google Docs has allowed coaches and other pitchers to keep up with their progress.
Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey makes sure they have what they need, including a catcher, so they can stay on track and be ready.
Haddad likes the way Gerrit puts it: “I will keep the pilot light on so I can fire it up.”
Haddad moved with his family to Carmel, Ind., at 10. He played travel baseball with the Carmel Pups. They were in need of a catcher so Radley put on the gear and fell in love with the position.
“I loved everything about it,” says Haddad, who was primarily a catcher at Brebeuf, two seasons at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C. (2009 and 2010), and two at Butler (2012 and 2013). “I liked the mental side, being involved in every pitching and calling games. I liked working with all the pitchers and seeing how guys can manipulate the ball.”
John Zangrilli was a frequent spectator at Carmel Pups games and is now Greyhounds pitching coach on a staff led by Matt Buczkowski.
Zangrilli was head coach at Brebeuf when Haddad was there and had a major impact.
“He was the most beneficial person in my baseball career,” says Haddad of Zangrilli. “He taught me about being a real baseball player and taking care of business.
“That meant doing things the right way, paying attention to details.”
It was also the way you treat people. It was more than baseball, it was life skills.
Zangrilli was at Radley and Arielle’s wedding in 2018.
Haddad earned honorable mention all-state honors at Brebeuf. He helped the Braves to an IHSAA Class 3A No. 1 ranking and a Brebeuf Sectional title while hitting .494 with 38 runs scored as a senior.
Playing time at Western Carolina was limited and Haddad decided to go to Butler, where he started 89 games in his two seasons.
NCAA rules at the time required players transferring between Division I school to sit out a transfer season. That’s what Haddad did when he went to Butler, where Steve Farley was Bulldogs head coach.
“Steve was a great guy,” says Haddad. “He welcomed me. He didn’t have any stigma about who I was and why I was leaving a school. He knew I wanted to get on a field.
“He’s a good man who taught people how to live the right way.”
Though he doesn’t get back to Indiana often, Haddad stays connected to central Indiana baseball men Zangrilli, Farley, Chris Estep, Jay Lehr and Greg Vogt.
“We played together or against each other our whole lives,” says Haddad of Vogt. “He’s done a great job of building a program he believes in.”
Bob Haddad Jr., Radley’s father, is Chief Operating Officer at Harrison Lake Country Club in Columbus. Radley’s mother, Lauren Schuh, is remarried.
Radley (30) has two younger brothers — Griffin Haddad (28) and Ian Schuh (20).
Grffin is an assistant athletic trainer for the Green Bay Packers. He went to Brebeuf for four years, earned his undergraduate degree at Texas Christian University and his master’s at the University of Michigan.
Ian spent one year at Brebeuf and finished high school at Carmel. He is at South Dakota State University with his sights on being a conservation officer.
The professional left-handed pitcher was not willing to settle.
So when the Lafayette, Ind., native became a free agent after the 2019 Major League Baseball season, he decided a transformation was in order after appearing in 275 MLB games (210 as a starter) since 2008.
“My performance was not matching up with what I desire to be,” says Richard, who went 1-5 with a 5.96 earned run average in 10 starts with the 2019 Toronto Blue Jays and was released Sept. 12 (his 36th birthday). “I decided to make a tangible change to improve production.
He established a plan of action and came back to Lafayette and started implementing it. He built a barn next to his house and goes out there every morning.
“I’m throwing into a net quite a bit, which isn’t the most fun,” says Richard. “But the net never lies. It shows you exactly where the ball went.
“A good catcher can manipulate pitches.”
The pitcher also wrote down his plan, painstakingly laying out the details.
“Before the baseball world came to a screeching halt, I was frequently asked ‘What are you doing now?’ by friends and family alike,” writes Richard in the introduction to the project. “Although the question was simple enough, I honestly didn’t feel comfortable enough to delve into exactly what I was doing with my time – mostly due to the fact that I didn’t think the majority of people really care where my spin axis was that week.
“Like most unsigned free agent pitchers in professional baseball, it is much easier to state, ‘just throwing every day and waiting for the right opportunity.’
“The reality is I have been up to a lot more than simply throwing a few baseballs everyday. I have used the last few months to make significant changes this off-season. The effectiveness of my pitching repertoire had changed for the worse over the past two seasons.
“Based on that, I could choose to continue down the same path, one with an aim to execute pitches at a higher rate but likely be relegated to a LHP bullpen role, or veer headfirst into changing how my pitches profiled to RHH in an effort to level out the platoon splits for longer outings.
“I honestly debated the choice many times over – my wife likely got sick of my asking her or talking to myself. Ultimately, I came up with a plan to revamp my arsenal to return in time as the starting pitcher, the role I have worked to become since first pitching in my backyard with my dad squatting behind the plate and my mother standing in the box.”
Clayton is the oldest of Barry and Cindy Richard’s three children ahead of daughters Casey (Davenport) and Taylor (Bumgarner). Barry is a retired Lafayette Police offer and has served as sheriff of Tippecanoe County and the executive director of Lyn Trece Boys & Girls Club of Tippecanoe County. Cindy has worked with troubled teenagers.
Most of Richard’s charitable work in baseball has been centered on at-risk youth. He and his wife have worked with the Lyn Trece BGC and and clubs in San Diego.
“We only get to play baseball for so long,” says Richard. “The impact off the field really lasts.”
Richard was the Padres’ nominee for the Heart & Hustle Award (given out annually the the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association to a current player who not only excels not he field, but also “best embodies the values, spirits and traditions of baseball”) and the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award (given annually to a Major League Baseball player “whose on-field performance and contributions to his community inspire others to higher levels of achievement”).
“To be honored with those types of things is really humbling,” says Richard. “It shows what’s really important in life.”
“Sept. 12, 2004,” says Richard, who was then a redshirt freshman. “That was the day after Michigan was upset 28-20 against Notre Dame. Sophomore Chad Henne was kept at quarterback for that game and moving forward. “I saw writing on the wall. I knew my football career at Michigan was probably coming to an end.”
Soon after the Rose Bowl, Richard went to the baseball team. He appeared in 21 games and went 0-1 with five saves and a 2.43 ERA. He was selected in the eighth round of the 2005 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago White Sox and signed by Anderson, Ind.-based scout Mike Shirley.
Richard made his big league debut with the White Sox in 2008 at 24. He was dealt to the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline in 2009. He elected free agency after the 2013 season.
Richard was traded to the Chicago Cubs and returned to a big league mound in 2015. He returned to the Padres in August 2016 and remained with them until he designated for assignment in December 2018. That same month Richard was traded to the Blue Jays.
For his career, he is 69-84 with a 4.51 ERA and 824 strikeouts in 1,284 2/3 innings.
Richard has been described as a contact pitcher.
“You never set out to have guys hit the ball,” says Richard. “Weak contact on contact on the ground is a really good thing.
“Guys who typically have a lower spin rate tend to sink the ball. That creates more early contact and more early outs with balls on the ground.”
As he began “Project 2020” in earnest, Richard met with Driveline founder/owner Kyle Boddy and started working with manager of online training Dean Jackson.
More from 2020 Project:
“I need to use my past as a compass to my future. I am too evolved in my career to think what I have done doesn’t matter while looking to improve.
“My Past: I learned how to throw a football first.
“Why that’s important: If I desire to make some fundamental changes to my delivery, I need to be willing to change in complete, as the foundation of my throwing process was built around throwing a football.
“I had to make arm, body, and mechanical compensations mid-career due to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. (TOS: the compression of the brachia plexus that is the highway of nerves, arteries and/or veins that controls and supplies to the arm. In myself it manifested as drastic pain in the anterior shoulder).
“Why that’s important: I need to be aware of why I started to do ‘strange’ things throwing a baseball and understand that it’ll be difficult to kick those old habits.
“I made additional compensations in 2018 to get past knee issues.
“Why that’s important: For very much the same reason as the TOS. My body had compensated to cover up inefficiencies, and I had to retrain myself to get back to my old self.
“The combination of these three athletic factors left me with a delivery that was nonathletic and not overly effective, so I tried to throw the old delivery out the window.
“Getting rid of that old delivery has been much like getting water out of a tire. You can see it. You don’t want it there. Yet, you are forced to keep flipping over that tire again and again because only a small portion comes out with every flip.
“The easier part for me was self-evaluating thru identifying pitches and zones that needed improvement from my past. The info was sadly pretty clear to me that not much of my arsenal was effective vs RHH other than my slider. The worst part of the self evaluation was that the slider was largely ineffective last season also due to a whole host of reasons.
“What I also found was that my sinker at the bottom of the zone – my bread and butter that generated ground balls — had turned from a viable option to one that was generating less and less favorable results.
“My change-up as well had blended into a pitch that too closely mirrored the not so great metrics of my sinker. My analytics study showed my ability to cut and spin the ball was also compromised, due to the lower arm slot and release angle that had been an effective and physically necessary approach a couple of seasons prior.
“A few years ago after another brief self evaluation, I moved to the other side of the rubber, spent the offseason trying to manipulate the change up, and reintroduce a cut fastball into my mix.
“To my naked eye, these worked great and I was oozing with confidence. The ball flight suggested they were good, catch partners loved them, and bullpen catchers were on board. Everything was smooth and positive until a RHH got into the box and took swings at the pitches.
“Going into this offseason, I set the goal of raising my arm angle to create a better four seam fastball vs RHH. This adjustment would change my approach angle, movement profile, and velocity. The new angle would also allow me to differentiate my off-speed from the FB more effectively.
“I felt like I had a good idea of what I wanted to accomplish but didn’t want to lose out on the opportunity to consult specialists in this area of pitching.
“Last year, I worked with a longtime pitching coach that requests to be anonymous. This year I had started to follow Driveline (DL) through social media and been reading up on their research. I decided to reach out to Kyle Boddy. He quickly responded and gave me all the information I needed. I made the trip to Washington to check out Driveline.
“Their information surprised me a bit but offered a roadmap of the last few months: my lower body was not creating much force, and my delivery was not syncing up efficiently enough to create optimized velocity into the ball.”
Richard offered a summary of his Driveline Report:
“Key Notes: Arm action is overall clean and efficient, elbow is a bit low at ball release. However, this is not currently having a negative effect on the rest of the arm action.
“The trunk opening early into foot plant is most likely pulling the arm out of efficient positions too early in the throw.
“Trunk opens early into foot plant. Hip/shoulder separation and timing are inefficient with room to improve.”
Biomechanics details: “Richard’s upper body kinematic positions are within normal to above average ranges for the most part. He does a great job creating above average scap retraction into foot plant (47 degs). Low shoulder abduction at ball release (79 degs). Besides that, no other glaring inefficiencies noted.
“He does a good job staying stacked with good forward (-10 degs) and lateral (4 degs) trunk tilt early into foot plant. However, there are some other inefficiencies noted. Richard’s trunk is opening early into foot plant (21 degs). This is limiting Richard’s ability to create hip/shoulder separation (18 degs) and timing from peak pelvis to peak torso angular velocity (0.0111 secs). This is most likely a product of inefficient trunk/pelvis positions at foot plant making it hard to create separation and sequence efficiently. Hip/shoulder separation drills should be emphasized to work on this by holding counter-rotation and staying stacked with the trunk while the pelvis opens into foot plant.
“With those notes, I had all the information I needed to start down my path of change,” writes Richard of his plan. “Here is a sample formula for a delivery that I will refer to a few times moving forward: Just as 10+10+10+10+10+10+10+10+10+10=100, Mindset+Focus+Breath+Feet+Legs+Hips+Torso+Arms+Hand+Sights=Delivery or an Executed Pitch.
“This is an oversimplification pitch delivery to try to illustrate my point. Every pitcher will have a unique equation that reaches their own version of 100.
“When a pitcher changes one small thing in his delivery, he will no longer be at his desired 100.
“Example: I moved my throwing foot to be more flush with the rubber (had to exaggerate to feel as if my toes were pointing at the plate to get there).
Changing that ‘10’ in my foot to an ‘8’ left my solution at ‘98’. Then, I had to go step by step through the rest of my delivery to see what else needed adjusted to get back to 100. In this case, it was just my sights.
“The foot adjustment happened quickly, and my sights adjusted without much issue. Some fixes come relatively easily, but other changes require many frustrating training sessions to find out what was changed and what correlated adjustment needs made.
“Here are a few of the most frustrating parts I encounter when setting out to make a significant change:
“Seeing what is wrong and not feeling it.
“Feeling an adjustment made and not seeing it.
“Expectations not lining up with reality.
“Physical restrictions limiting a faster progression (in my case, blisters).
“I have also figured out you have to go through the frustrating parts to make progress. If you are not getting sore in new places, experiencing blisters, throwing balls off the backstop, then you’re likely not making much of a change at all.
“Making a fundamental change takes hundreds, even thousands of reps, and the outcome revealed is often incremental. My mind and body have worked together so long and over so many reps, it takes a while to break up the chemistry they have going.
“I started working from home while staying in contact with Dean Jackson of DL. We decided to start working from the ground up. Working on my lower half was a very frustrating process.
“Before the past couple of years, I had never put any thought into what my lower body was doing when I was pitching.
“The first part of my lower half adjustment was easy enough: moving my throwing foot flush with the rubber.
“I originally moved my heel off of the rubber to even out my delivery equation when I moved from the other side of the rubber to face RHH two years ago.
“I was having trouble with my command and made a quick fix to change the way by body angled to the plate vs changing something else.
“In getting my heel closer to the rubber, it improved my ability to get into my left hip. What felt good was often wrong and what felt foreign was generally right where I needed to be.
“I spent months trying to get more out of my legs to no avail. I was going back and forth with Dean, almost daily, toiling over changes that could make the positive impact we so desired. He did a remarkable job promptly responding and sending video examples when necessary.
“My mind was totally on my legs, but that is exactly where I was going wrong: I was putting too much emphasis on them. If I think back to when things were going well before the knee issues, there was no thought put into what my lower half was doing.
“Thinking about how it moves, I’m essentially locking it up. I stole a cue from Trevor Cahill, who sent me a video of him getting his foot down before an obstacle (keeping his glove foot on the throwing side of the midline to the plate). “That is what clicked with me after countless attempts to get my lower half moving ‘right’. What I had been doing was putting so much focus into my leg movement that the process of the lower half going down the slope was taking too long for my foot get down. It was just the opposite of what I was trying to accomplish.
“The next step was how my torso was moving in space at a couple of different points through my delivery.
“Closing off my upper half relative to my hips; Hip/Shoulder separation. The elite throwers do this very well. Over time, my natural ability to do this had been compromised by the many adjustments made to command the ball.
“One of the first attempts was to try to ‘glove tap’ at leg lift. Rob Hill suggested it, and this helped a little, but I didn’t feel that it made as drastic of a change as I desired.
“One day, I remembered back to learning to pitch for the first time in the back yard with my father. I originally misunderstood what he meant when he was telling me ‘all the way back’.
“We would play out imaginary at-bats and call ‘balls’ and ‘strikes.’ If I were to fall behind, he would exclaim, ‘Come on Clayton. All the way back!
“Six-year-old me understood this as reaching my glove and ball all the way back towards second base as far as I could before I delivered the pitch. I didn’t understand ‘all the way back’ as a saying to get back into the count until embarrassingly late in my baseball days.
“So, I used the input from Rob and my father to start getting a little more counter rotation with my upper half by driving my hands back at leg lift.
“Getting on top of the ball: One of the biggest obstacles to get the ball to act how I want it to is to get more ‘on top’ of it. My spin axis has gotten pretty low since my return from TOS.
“My spin axis was measured around 9:45. This leads to a terrific amount of arm side run, but in the past couple years it was not enough to keep the RHH at bay. I needed to find a healthy way to raise my hand and effectively raise my spin axis. “One thing I have heard from many pitching coaches and baseball minds more advanced than mine, is that you don’t mess with a player’s arm angle.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t always listen to this wisdom, and I battled to change mine at times earlier in my career, which led to some arm issues. That left me with the challenge to get my hand more vertical without raising my arm relative to my body.
“Enter Torso Tilt: I elected to use my torso to ‘lean’ glove side in an effort to raise ‘arm angle’ and get my spin axis to a more desirable slot. This worked initially, but then proved to be very inconsistent in terms of spin axis.
“The ball was coming out of the same slot consistently, but the axis was very inconsistent.
“I couldn’t figure this out for a long time. I was throwing with RHP Parker Dunshee and took note of his arm slot that is relatively low compared to his 1:00 spin axis.
“We talked it over, and I tried changing the positioning of my thumb on the baseball. Boom. Spin axis at or above 10:30 nearly every pitch following adjustment.
“My thumb was on the side of the ball and I moved it under or essentially polar opposite of my power fingers.
“After my four-seam fastball was starting to profile how I envisioned it, it was time to start commanding that pitch and doing so at higher intensity levels.
“One thing that I have found when implementing changes into a delivery is that I can perform them fairly easily in drill work or super low intensity situations. The real challenge lies in creating my new outcome as soon as a higher level of intensity is introduced and there is more focus on the outcome of the pitch.
“The moment in which I envision a hitter in the box or try to execute a pitch, my mind/body has a tendency to revert back to the form in which it performed that action in the past.”
“Outside of family, there is nothing in my life that has had as much of an impact on my actions and mindset as baseball. I had a high school football coach that would routinely acknowledge ‘pain is a good teacher’.
“There is not much more painful than giving up a home run to give up the lead or lose an MLB game. Those game experiences of pitches that I was beat on are burnt into my mind and body. If I try to tell my body to throw that pitch, my mind will override a poor decision to stay away from that uber painful experience it was once put in.
“It also provides a level of comfort with the delivery that has worked, for the most part, over the course of my career.
“Unfortunately, that delivery that I revert back to is not one I want moving forward while facing RHH. So, I have to make a habit out of making the uncomfortable, comfortable.
“This is where slow-motion video and pitch measuring tools such as Rapsodo really provide an advantage.
“It is impossible to find big league level talent to take swings off you every time you take the mound to work things out.
“The combination of Rapsodo and film have been introduced to somewhat fill that void.
“Nothing can fully replace the feedback of a big-league hitter, but the metrics and video provided from these sources has been a big step forward in seeing the necessary changes, and if I was making the changes the way I had envisioned.
“Now, instead of ‘feeling’ like that was a good pitch, I can look up and check to see if the numbers backed it up. Whenever I think of mental cues and how our mind perceives our body to be moving,
“I recall a conversation with former MLB veteran and fellow Hoosier, Joe Thatcher. I faced him his senior year of high school, and he threw ‘normal’.
“He developed into a Big Leaguer as a guy that dropped down and was very difficult on LHH. I asked him, “When did you start throwing like this?” when we were teammates in SD. He replied, ‘I feel like I’m throwing the same as everyone else, completely normal.’
“It goes to show, no matter how good we are or how far we have come, very rarely is the vision of our mind’s eye 20/20.
“All too often, early in the process, what felt like a great pitch only felt great because it was closer to how I used to throw.
“I wanted to feel weird and make the weird feeling my new normal. This process takes thousands of throws. It can take thousands of throws at each level of intensity.
“Playing catch — Flatground, Side Work, Live BP, Simulated Game, MiLB Game, MLB Game. As I have worked at each level, I have found that there are certain obstacles that pop up because of my body/mind recalling how it used to perform.
“Back to the process – Command: At this point, many of the variables in my delivery equation have been manipulated.
“The only thing remaining is throwing until my new sights line up with where the ball is actually going, without regressing towards what I’m comfortable with.
“This remains easier said than done. Thousands of throws, even a few off the glove were made in this process.
“I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with so many intelligent baseball minds over the course of my career. In these times of introspection, I will find myself recalling the cues Darren Balsley used to help me improve my sinker, or how Jim Benedict helped get my velo back after the TOS. Whether it was sights under the glove or the concept of throwing it easy and pulling down, I still draw from those interactions and now I have the 4S FB that I desire.
“Unfortunately, I do not throw 101 mph and have the luxury of living off of one pitch. I am forced to incorporate my off speed to compete at the highest level.
“Every time I use a different grip, some part of my delivery is driven back in time due to the muscle memory of that grip. Some grips take weeks to figure out what was not adding up, like my slider (turns out I was failing to drive my hands back at the top of my leg lift like I was with my FB).
“Other grips took just a few throws to iron out the kinks, like my CH. The new hand placement has allowed for the reintroduction of my cutter and curveball, which was kind of like learning new pitches all over again due to the lack of action those pitches have seen over the past few years.”
“I still have some work to do in getting the release points of my off-speed to mirror more closely that of my FB.
“However, they have gradually gotten closer over the last couple of weeks, and I just need to flip that tire a few more times. A couple more flips and the water will likely be out of it – just like I will be back to my ‘new, old self.’”
There is uncertainty about when the Major League Baseball season is going to begin — if at all — and if there will be Minor League Baseball in 2020.
“He is one of he best human beings of all-time,” says Etchison of Stoudt. “He was close with his players and his players were close with each other. Everyone who played for him just loves him.
“He was so much more than a baseball coach. He was invested in you. He genuinely cares about people.”
Etchison, 31, makes it a point to look Stoudt up whether it’s in Indiana or Florida.
In his third year as an area scout for the Cleveland Indians, Etchison greatly values character.
“The Indians very progressive in how they go about scouting,” says Etchison. “We collect information and get to know a player. Every player has strengths and weaknesses.
“We emphasize make-up as an organization. The make-up is just so huge.”
Etchison, who played at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., Chipola College in Marianna, Fla., and the University of Maryland after his Pendleton Heights days (which included back-to-back Hoosier Heritage Conference championships in 2006 and 2007 and a senior season in which he hit .392 with five homer runs, seven doubles and 20 runs batted in and a spot on the 2007 IHSBCA North/South All-Star team; former Arabians head coach Travis Keesling assisted Stoudt; The PHHS program is now headed by Matt Vosburgh), wants to know a player’s level of perseverance and his ability to overcome challenges and perform under pressure.
His job is to identify someone who will impact the game at the big league level.
As an area scout living in Dexter, Mich., Etchison is responsible for a territory which includes Indiana and Michigan plus Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, northern Kentucky, South Dakota, western Ohio and Wisconsin.
He goes to games and tournaments in the spring and summer and scout days in the fall featuring players from these territories or — especially in this time of no live baseball because of the COVID-19 pandemic — analyzes video to do player assessments and projections.
“I don’t know what we would have done without Synergy (Sports Technology) video,” says Etchison. “We can see mechanical things on tape — things that weren’t possible 10 years ago — and go through it with a fine-tooth comb.”
That’s one piece of the scouting puzzle.
“We’ll never not value going to the ballpark,” says Etchison. “There are a lot of things you can’t see on tape.”
Among those are pregame routines and what the player does during warm-ups or batting practice and how he interacts with his coaches and teammates. Body language won’t always show up on a video that is cut up by pitch and swing.
It is said that there are five tools in baseball (hitting for average, hitting for power, base running, throwing and fielding).
“Old school scouting relies so heavily on tools,” says Etchison. “In the majors, a lot of players have one or two.
“The hit tool, that’s the one that matters (for non-pitchers).”
Etchison hears people say that an outfielder can run like a deer and has a cannon for an arm.
But can he effectively swing the bat? Those defensive tools might show up once or twice a week.
“The bat shows up four times every game,” says Etchison. “All (big league) outfielders are offensive positions.”
Etchison, who also played travel baseball with the Indiana Bulls prior to college, redshirted his first season at Ball State (2008) and apparel in 20 games for Greg Beals-coached Mid-American Conference West Division champions in 2009.
Knowing that he would see limited playing time in his third year, Etchison made the choice to transfer to Chipola and joined the that program just weeks before the start of the 2010 season.
“The first time I really took a chance on myself was going down there,” says Etchison. “It was a sink-or-swim situation.”
He could either make it or go back to Indiana and leave his baseball career behind.
Playing for Jeff Johnson on a team loaded with future pro players, Etchison became part of the Chipola Indians brotherhood.
“It’s one of the top junior college programs in the country,” says Etchison. “(Johnson) had a very similar impact on his players as Coach Stoudt. He was a big personality, a great baseball coach and a great mentor.
“(Chipola) opened doors for me.”
Johnson had a relationship with then-Maryland head coach Erik Bakich and it helped Etchison land with the Terrapins as part of Bakich’s first recruiting class. He played in 28 games (25 as a starter) in 2011 and 31 (20 as a starter) in 2012. He threw out 14-of-25 runners attempting to steal during his senior season which opened with a dislocated finger that caused him to miss two weeks. He had already suffered a broken hand and a torn meniscus while at the Big Ten school.
Etchison was a Maryland team captain as a senior, helping the Terps win 32 games.
Meanwhile, Bakich encouraged Etchison to consider coaching when his playing days were over. He graduated from Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in Finance from the Robert H. Smith School of Business in December 2012.
“He thought I’d be good at it,” says Etchison. “I had a few real world job opportunities in the finance industry. My parents (Jeff and Shelly Etchison) encouraged me to get into (coaching). They’ve always wanted me to go out and take chances.”
“I fell in love with coaching,” says Etchison. “I really loved being around baseball everyday.”
There was continuity in the Wolverines program and chances to earn money by working camps.
“I was in a great spot,” says Etchison, who briefly got the chance to go on the road and recruit when Sean Kenny left Michigan for the University of Georgia. “Financially, I was able to survive.”
He also got to spend time around a mentor in Bakich.
“He is one of my closest friends,” says Etchison, who got married last summer with Bakich performing the wedding ceremony.
Aaron became the stepfather to two boys — Reid (now 10 and in the fourth grade) and Grant (now 7 and in the first grade). Emily Etchison, who is from Saline, Mich., is due to bring a baby girl into the family at the end of July.
Etchison explains why he became a scout for the Cleveland Indians.
“The organization was extremely impressive,” says Etchison. “It was a great opportunity for growth.”
Another significant person in Etchison’s baseball life is fellow Anderson, Ind., native Mike Shirley, who is now Director of Amateur Scouting for the Chicago White Sox.
Growing up, Etchison was a regular at Shirley’s training facility.
“Like so many players who grew up in the area and are proud to be ‘Barn Guys,’ I would be remiss if I did not give credit to him for being a baseball mentor and friend for over 20 years,” says Etchison.
Aaron Etchison, a Pendleton (Ind.) High School graduate who played baseball at Ball State University, Chipola College and the University of Maryland and coached at the University of Michigan, is an area scout for the Cleveland Indians.