Johnny Maynard is not yet sure where he’ll throw his next regular-season collegiate pitch. But he is certain how he will approach baseball. The way he always has — with a strong work ethic and bulldog mentality. “It’s how I raised by my parents,” says Maynard, who turns 22 today (June 30). “Whatever you start you have to finish. I never quit anything ever. Always go full-out. “I really don’t care who I’m competing against, I know they’re not going to beat me. I’m a 5-foot-10 right-handed pitcher. I’m usually one of the smaller guys on the team. I have to work harder to the get the results and earn respect.” Maynard (rhymes with Play Hard), a 2019 Griffith (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School graduate who is now in the Transfer Portal after two seasons at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., (2020 and 2021) and one at NCAA Division I Radford (Va.) University. The Sports Management and Marketing major hurled 5 1/3 innings in six appearances for the 2022 Highlanders. Alex Guerra was hired as Radford head coach after the season. This summer, Maynard is pitching for the Coastal Plain League’s Jeremy Knight-coached Asheboro (N.C.) ZooKeepers. Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Maynard uses on four-seam fastball, one-seamer, curveball and change-up. The four-seam sits 87 to 89 mph and has been up to 92. “The one-seamer (finger on just one seam) I learned this year,” says Maynard. “My two-seamer was not moving the way I wanted it to. (The one-seamer) gets pretty good movement away from a lefty and has pretty good sink to it. It works off my (circle) change-up (which is generally thrown 82 to 84 mph.” Maynard employs a curve that is 1-to-7 on the clock face. “It drops off the table pretty well,” says Maynard. Born in Munster, Ind., Maynard moved to Griffith as a sixth grader. He played in Munster and Griffith youth leagues then went into travel ball and suited up for the Northwest Indiana Shockers, Steelheads, Cobras, Slammers, Hammond Chiefs and 18U Midwest Irish. At Griffith High, Maynard played four years for Panthers coach coach Brian Jennings, starting as a freshman. “He’s a great guy,” says Maynard of Jennings, who retired after the 2022 season. Lincoln Trail coach Kevin Bowers allowed the righty got to close some games for the Statesman. One of his highlights is slamming the door on highly-ranked John A. Logan during the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Maynard split the summer of 2019 between the Irish and Midwest Collegiate League’s Northwest Indiana Oilmen. He also got in a few innings with that Whiting-based team in 2020. He was with the Tropics of the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., in 2021, which allowed him to work at home and then commute two-plus hours to games. Johnny’s mother, Jen Maynard, is a cardiac tech in northwest Indiana. Father Mike Maynard is recently-retired and living in Florida. Sister Lauren Maynard played and coached softball at Purdue Northwest and is now in nursing school.
Mark Yoder thought he was done with umpiring for 2022. His college slate wrapped up last week with an Atlantic-10 series and he was gearing up for rotator cuff and knee surgeries. Then he gets a call to work one more game as a substitute in the Class-A Carolina League. Yoder was the base umpire Tuesday, May 24 as the Fredericksburg (Va.) Nationals hosted the Salem (Va.) Red Sox. In the pregame plate meeting he saw a familiar face from days gone by in Virginia baseball circles in Jake Lowery, who is now the FredNats manager. This game was also rehab start for right-handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg (the 2019 World Series MVP). But as Yoder, who worked in the 2021 NCAA Division III World Series in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, took his spot on the field he began chatting with the Salem first baseman. “His face looks really familiar to me but I just can’t place it,” says Yoder. “I ask him his name and he says, ‘Niko.’ There’s not that many guys named Niko.” Yoder’s next question: “Where’d you play college ball?” Niko Kavadas tells him: “Notre Dame.” Come to find out Yoder (55) and Kavadas (23) both played at Penn High School — decades apart — for Greg Dikos. The latter was in his first season as Kingsmen junior varsity coach when Yoder met him. So there they are in a professional game in Virginia. Kavadas, who was selected in the 11th round of the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Boston Red Sox, smacked a two-run double off Strasburg in the top of the third inning. Strasburg wound up throwing 2 2/3 innings and giving up three runs (all earned) and throwing 61 pitches. The lefty-swinging Kavadas is hitting .264 (29-of-110) with three home runs, one triple, 12 doubles, 19 runs batted and 16 runs scored in 34 games. Shortly before the game was over, Yoder came to the slugger and fellow Penn alum. Said Yoder, “I told Niko in the ninth inning: I can’t root for you tonight but I’m rooting for you the rest of the year and the rest of your career.”
Friday night starter Austin Peterson has been sitting batters down at a consistent pace so far in 2022. The 6-foot-6 senior right-handed pitcher has made four starts for the University of Connecticut and was 2-0 with 44 strikeouts and five walks in 24 2/3 innings heading into the Week of March 14-20. A 2018 Chesterton (Ind.) High School graduate, Peterson played at Purdue and Wabash Valley College before winding up at UConn. Peterson is more than one of 120 players from Indiana high schools (or hometowns) on NCAA Division I rosters outside the state. Many are key contributors. Freshman right-hander Casey Sorg (Floyd Central) sported a 1.59 ERA in five mound appearances for Bellarmine, a squad with nine Indiana products on a team led by Jeffersonville alum Larry Owens. Sophomore outfielder Carson Husmann (South Central of Union Mills) was hitting .318 with two home runs and 11 runs batted in for Bradley. Senior outfielder Damon Lux (Shelbyville) had driven in 12 runs for Duke. Redshirt junior right-hander Blake Malatestnic (Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter) was 3-0 with a 2.82 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings for Eastern Illinois. Sophomore second baseman Tim Borden II (Providence) was hitting .316 with four homers and 11 RBIs for Georgia Tech. Freshman outfielder Jared Comia (Hanover Central) was hitting .283 with two homers and eight RBIs for Illinois. Redshirt senior catcher/first baseman Nolan Metcalf (Penn) was hitting .306 with nine RBIs for Kansas. Senior right-hander Jack Myers (Indianapolis Cathedral) had 16 strikeouts in 19 innings for Kennesaw State. Sophomore left-hander Michael Dunkelberger (South Bend Saint Joseph) was 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA for Lipscomb. Senior right-hander Jared Poland (Indianapolis Cathedral) was 1-1 with 1.38 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 13 innings for Louisville. Redshirt sophomore J.J. Woolwine (Fishers) was hitting .439 with one homer and eight RBIs and freshman right-hander Luke Leverton (Seton Catholic) was 1-0 with 1.00 ERA and nine strikeouts in innings for Miami (Ohio). Senior shortstop Riley Bertram (ZIonsville Community) was hitting .293 with one homer and 11 RBIs for Michigan. Sophomore outfielder Roman Kuntz (New Prairie) was hitting .370 with three homers and 10 RBIs for Morehead State. Freshman right-hander Landon Kruer (Providence) was 1-0 with 1.59 ERA for Navy. Redshirt junior outfielder Trevyn Moss (Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran) was hitting .274 with one homer, one triple and 14 RBIs for Northern Kentucky. Redshirt junior shortstop Xavier Haendiges (Salem) was hitting .353 for Ohio. Junior right-hander Bayden Root (Kokomo) was 1.0 with a 2.61 ERA in six appearances for Oklahoma State. Senior right-hander Cameron Pferrer (Carmel) was 1-0 with a 3.12 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings for Saint Louis. Freshman Nick Mitchell (Carmel) was hitting .357 with eight RBIs for Western Illinois. Junior infielder/outfielder Matthew Meyer (Westfield) was hitting .260 with one homer and 11 RBIs for Western Kentucky. Senior outfielder Ryan Missal (Lowell) was hitting .257 with four homers and 11 RBIs for Western Michigan. Sophomore first baseman Julian Greenwell (Columbus East) was hitting .310 with one homer and nine RBIs. There’s several more coaches with Indiana prep roots — head coach Billy Gernon (New Albany) and associate head coach Adam Piotrowicz (John Glenn) at Western Michigan, head coach Eric Wedge (Fort Wayne Northrop) at Wichita State and assistants Jared Broughton (Indianapolis Lutheran) at Clemson, Nick McIntyre (McCutcheon) at Toledo, Justin Parker (Fort Wayne Wayne) at South Carolina, Matt Reida (Western) at Alabama and Bobby Rinard (Mishwawaka Marian) at Dixie State.
INDIANA D-I PLAYERS OUTSIDE STATE 2022 Alabama So. IF Bryce Eblin (Center Grove) Volunteer Assistant Coach Matt Reida (Western)
Not all high school baseball players in Indiana are tied to a school. There are homeschoolers who also take to the diamond. Indy Genesis is a homeschool sports organization that will field its first baseball team in 2022. While the majority of players are from the Indianapolis area, some come from as far away as Greensburg and Lafayette. Phil Smith, who teaches life skills students to Special Education students at Beech Grove (Ind.) High School (he is a 1999 BGHS graduate), is Indy Genesis head coach. “One of my strengths is the mechanics of a swing or throw, emphasizing technique and honing in those skills,” says Smith, who began winter workouts with athletes in early December. “We have a wide range of really good ballplayers and kids who haven’t played much. “It’s interesting coaching the chasm. Some just need to be left alone. I know some coaches like it done their way. If they need something then we attack it.” There are 14 players getting ready for a schedule that is slated to begin April 2 against Arsenal Tech. Indy Genesis will only have a varsity team in 2022. There will be a mix of varsity and junior varsity teams on the slate. Indy Genesis practices indoors at Beech Grove and outdoors at nearby Sarah T. Bolton Park. The lone “home” game is scheduled for May 2 against Greenwood Christian Academy at Center Grove Youth Baseball in Greenwood. Other opponents include Crispus Attucks, Eastern Hancock, Edinburgh, Horizon Christian, Indiana Deaf,Morristown, Oldenburg Academy, Purdue Polytechnic Englewood, Purdue Polytechnic North, Triton Central and University. Indy Geneis is not an IHSAA member. A Midwest Homeschool World Series is scheduled for May 19-20 at a site to be determined. “One of my goals is to not treat it like travel ball,” says Smith. “We do not have an exorbitant amount of cost.” Assistant coaches include Phil’s brother, Chris Smith, Charles Howard and, occasionally, Indy Genesis founder Matt Hogan and oldest son Mekhi Smith. Smith played baseball at Beech Grove for former University of Indianapolis pitcher Steve Bair (now assistant superintendent Beech Grove City Schools) as well as American Legion ball in the summer. He received offers to play college football. “Baseball was always my first love,” says Smith. “My dad (David Smith) was a great baseball player growing up in Virginia.” The elder Smith (who died in 2021) was part of multiple state championship teams at Turner-Ashby High School in Bridgewater, Va., with five players who were selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, including Alan Knicely (1974 by the Houston Astros) who played eight years in the big leagues. A machinist for 17 years, Phil Smith obtained his teaching certification through WGU and is in his third year in the classroom. Phil and wife Taunya Smith, who celebrated 20 years of marriage in February, have homeschooled their four children. Mekhi Smith graduated in 2021. Oldest daughter Maya Smith is a senior. Youngest son Keyton Smith is a freshman and an Indy Genesis player. Youngest daughter Abigail Smith is a fourth grader.
Frank Podkul’s baseball journey has taken him to many places in North America. The trek began in northwest Indiana. Podkul’s first organized experience came at Schererville Little League. That was followed by a Lake Central travel team, Northwest Indiana Shockers (coached by John Mallee), Indiana Playermakers (coached by Dave Griffin), Hammond Seminoles (coached by Ryan Pishkur, Tyler Oche and Matt Pobereyko), Hammond Chiefs (coached by Dave Sutkowski) and Midwest Irish (coached by Shane Brogan). Podkul graduated from Andrean High School in Merrillville, Ind., in 2014. He helped the 59ers (steered by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dave Pishkur) win an IHSAA Class 3A state title that year. Younger brother Nick Podkul played up on most of Frank’s teams, including Andrean. Nick went on to Notre Dame and is now with Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats in the Toronto Blue Jays organization. “We talk just about everyday,” says Frank. “We’e really close.” Frank and Nick grew up in a neighborhood with kids who played many different sports — football, basketball, baseball, tennis etc. “When you build that culture growing up you get a better appreciation for everything,” says Podkul, who turned 26 June 3. “:earn to be an athlete first. Everything else falls into place after that. “It hurt when people want to specialize early. Let kids be kids.” After he thought he might be a pitcher in college since he didn’t swing a potent bat in high school, Podkul played four seasons in the infield for Lance Marshall at Franklin (Ind.) College (2015-18). “He’s just the best,” says Podkul of Marshall. “He would do anything for any of his players — no matter what. The way he’s built that program over the years it is one big family. “On the baseball side of it, he let guys be themselves and got the best out of everybody.” A corner infielder for the Grizzlies (mostly third base his last two years), Podkul appeared in 132 games and hit .290 (134-of-462) with 29 home runs, 25 doubles, 122 runs batted in, 109 runs and a .946 OPS (.414 on-base percentage plus .532 slugging average). In 2018, Podkul hit .327 (53-of-162) with 16 homers, 10 doubles, 57 RBIs, 52 runs and a 1.129 OPS (.444/.685) while Franklin went 39-5 and ending the season at the NCAA Division III Central Regional. “We had a ridiculous lineup,” says Podkul. “The amount of times we scored four or five runs in the first inning was almost comical.” With baseball workouts and games, classes and his duties as a student athletic trainer, Podkul felt like a two-sport athlete as a senior. In the fall, he would awake at 5 a.m. for soccer practice, followed by classes, baseball practice and weightlifting then football practice and staying on top of his homework. “At Franklin you have to be a good student,” says Podkul. “There’s no gimme classes. “Everything is challenging.” In his first two college summers, Podkul played for the Midwest Irish in 2015 and in the Virginia Beach (Va.) Collegiate Baseball League in 2016. Podkul got a kickstart to his senior season at Franklin by spending the summer of 2017 with the Medicine Hat (Alberta) Mavericks of the Western Canadian Baseball League. “It was amazing,” says Podkul. “There’s really good competition in that league. Learning some stuff from those guys helped me in my senior year.” One of his fond memories is playing a game in Fort McMurray, Alberta, which is 890 kilometers (428 miles) north of Medicine Hat and seeing the sun out at 1 a.m. After graduating from Franklin as an Athletic Training major with minors in Exercise Science and Coaching, Podkul went through some workouts in the independent pro Frontier League. Nothing came of those and he went to the California Winter League where he landed a spot with the Frontier League’s Joliet (Ill.) Slammers in 2019. In the fall of that year, Podkul contacted Joe Torre (not that Joe Torre) of Torre Baseball Training LLC in Ridgewood, N.J. He runs an independent ball spring training camp in Palm Beach, Fla. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and much of baseball was shut down, a four-team league — the Yinzer Baseball Confederacy — was established with all games played in Washington, Pa., run by Torre and Washington Wild Things president/general manager Tony Buccilli. Podkul split his time between the Road Warrior Black Sox and Baseball Brilliance Sox. The Frontier League put in the two other teams — the Wild Things and Steel City Slammin Sammies. The YBC is back for 2021 with the Road Warrior Black Sox, Baseball Brilliance Sox, Killer Bees and Wolfpack. Players are not paid. They are reimbursed clubhouse attendant dues if they are picked up by another league. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Podkul is with the Carson McCurdy-managed Black Sox — playing corner infielder and occasionally in the outfield. Through 32 games, he was hitting .284 (27-of-95) with five homers, 10 doubles, 13 RBIs, 16 runs and a .981 OPS (.433/.547). The Yinzer league provides the opportunity for players to stay sharp and build up their numbers while looking to catch on in independent leagues. Rosters are set a month at a time. “It’s real games,” says Podkul, who plays daily — either afternoon or night — at Wild Things Park. “It’s not a showcase. “You’ve got to play and get in front of (coaches and scouts). You go where you’re going to be a good fit.” Since January, about 60 Yinzer league players have moved to other clubs.
Arsenal Indiana is expanding for the 2021-22 travel baseball season. The affiliate of Arsenal USA Baseball is to go with 12U, 13U, 14U and 15U squads in its third season. “Within two or three years I want to have teams from 12U through 17U,” says Arsenal Indiana director Jeff Cleckner. “I want to have one team at each age group and be very competitive. “I don’t want to water down the brand with seven 15U teams.” Cleckner, a graduate of Fremont (Ind.) High School (1989) and Purdue University living in Fishers, Ind., says the focus is on skill development at the younger levels and that the older ones grow their mental approach to the game as they prepare for college baseball. But first the current campaign where Arsenal is fielding a 17U team with Cleckner as head coach and Arsenal Indiana director and a 14U squad guided by Steve Smitherman. In 2020, 16U and 13U teams took the field for the organization. Playing six weekends of seven — starting with the first one in June — the 17U team has competed or will take part in events sponsored by Prep Baseball Report, Perfect Game and Bullpen Tournaments. The team placed second during the holiday weekend at the PBR Indiana State Games at Championship Park in Kokomo. The 17U’s were 22-9-1 through 30 games. The season wraps with the Perfect Game 17U BCS National Championship July 21-26 at Major League Baseball spring training fields in Fort Myers, Fla. All the other tournaments have been staged at Grand Park in Westfield. “It’s nice with Grand Park,” says Cleckner of the large complex in central Indiana. “Everyone comes to us.” High schools represented on the 17U roster include Avon, Fishers, Harrison (West Lafayette), Heritage Christian, Huntington North, Indianapolis Cathedral, Indianapolis North Central, Noblesville, Penn, Plainfield, South Adams, Wapahani, Wawasee, Westfield and Zionsville in Indiana and Edwardsburg in Michigan. Since the older teams can play as many as seven games in five days, there are often a number of pitcher-only players (aka P.O.’s). “It’s nice to have P.O.’s,” says Cleckner. “We can supplement as needed with position players. “We’re mindful of arm care and arm health.” The 14U Arsenal Indiana team began in early April and will play until mid-July and could easily get in 60 games in 3 1/2 months. The 14U team plays in same types of tournaments that the 17U teams plays at Grand Park in Westfield. Arsenal Indiana tryouts are planned for late July or early August, likely at Grand Park. A fall season of four or five weekends features a trip to the Perfect Game WWBA 2022/2023 National Championship Oct. 7-11 in Jupiter, Fla., for the upperclassmen. “The goal of the fall season is getting a little more work going into the winter,” says Cleckner. “You have new kids who’ve joined your team and you’re creating some chemistry and camaraderie.” The fall also provides more college looks for older players. Arsenal Indiana trains in the off-season at Finch Creek Fieldhouse in Noblesville. What is now Arsenal USA Baseball was began in 1995 by Joe Barth Jr. and son Bob Barth as the Tri-State Arsenal with players from southern New Jersey, Delaware and eastern Pennsylvania. Besides USA National in New Jersey, there are affiliate locations in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. Many professionals and college players have come through the Arsenal program.
After beating Virginia Tech 8-0 and losing to Virginia 14-1 at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C., the Irish will host the South Bend Regional. It will be the first time postseason baseball has been at ND since 2004.
Each regional field features four teams, playing in a double-elimination format. All 16 regionals are scheduled to be conducted from Friday, June 4 to Monday, June 7 (if necessary).
Notre Dame (30-11) plays Central Michigan (40-16) at 1 p.m., followed by Connecticut (33-17) against Michigan (27-17) at 7. Irish head coach Link Jarrett was named the ACC Coach of the Year.
Indiana State went 3-2 at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in Carbondale, Ill. — beating Illinois State 5-2 and Southern Illinois 11-8, losing to Dallas Baptist 10-1, beating Southern Illinois 9-7 then losing to Dallas Baptist 12-8 (in 11 innings).
The Sycamores are in the Nashville Regional. Georgia Tech (29-23) plays Indiana State (30-19) at 1 p.m. Friday while Vanderbilt (40-15) takes on Presbyerian (22-21) at 7.
Indiana State earned its 11th NCAA postseason appearance in program history and the third under head coach Mitch Hannahs.
Ball State (38-18) swept a four-game Mid-American Conference home series with Miami (Ohio). The Cardinals did not hear their name called Monday.
Nor did Indiana (26-18). The Hoosiers went 1-2 in a Big Ten Conference series at Maryland.
Purdue (16-26) wrapped the season with one win against Penn State and a doubleheader split against Minnesota in a Big Ten pod weekend.
The 2021 season also closed at the MVC tournament for Valparaiso (16-35) and Evansville (28-27). Valpo went 2-2 and UE 1-1 in Carbondale.
“Last year we didn’t get to play,” says Marker. “We’re very young this year.”
Louie Falcone, a Seton Catholic graduate, was a freshman on the baseball team at Hanover (Ind.) College this spring.
Seton Catholic (enrollment around 90) wrapped the 2021 regular season with a 7-6 win against Union County. Patriots head coach Jordan Ashbrook, a former Richmond assistant, helped get the game moved to Day Air Ballpark — home of the High-A Central League’s Dayton (Ohio) Dragons.
Seton Catholic, which has three buildings in downtown Richmond (elementary, middle school and high school), has added a middle school baseball program of grades 6-8 in 2021.
“There’s work to be done to grow the program,” says Marker.
Marker, who teaches K-5 physical education at Test Intermediate School and is in his 23rd years in Richmond Community Schools, was a baseball assistant to Shawn Turner for four seasons (2016-19) at Richmond High after 10 seasons as assistant to Red Devils softball coach Kyle Ingram. His assistants at Seton Catholic are Ingram, Robert Cornell and Brice Brown.
A few summers back, Marker coached for the Midwest Astros travel baseball organization.
A graduate of Randolph Southern Junior/Senior High School in Lynn, Ind., where father Larry was a longtime athletic director, Marker played for the Rebels and for the John Lebo-managed Richmond Post 65 state runner-up team.
“I’ve had some pretty good coaches who took me under my wing,” says Marker.
It was in March 1986 while Marker was away playing baseball that his hometown was rocked by a tornado.
“That was before cellphones,” says Marker. “For three days, I did not get ahold of mom and dad.”
When he got back to Lynn, his parents were fine.
After college, Marker had a few professional tryouts and hurt his arm. He played for the Portland (Ind.) Rockets and in fast pitch softball with K&G Sporting Goods (Seymour) and New Construction (Shelbyville).
Marker also teaches summer school P.E., umpires church league softball and likes to run haunted houses.
In 2016, Yoder was a D-III regional alternate. He made it onto the field in the postseason in 2017 and 2018 and was a regional and super regional crew chief in 2019 — the year that D-III adopted the D-I postseason model of regional, super regional and College World Series.
Yoder had noticed that super regional crew chiefs tend to be assigned to the D-III CWS the next year. The COVID-19 pandemic ended the 2020 regular season early and took away the postseason.
This past week it was confirmed that Yoder is part of the D-III College World Series crew.
The son of Mishawaka residents Keith (who was on the Penn-Harris-Madison school board) and Virginia Yoder (who was a teacher) and brother of Granger’s Kevin Yoder, Mark was a youngster traveling with his father to basketball referee gigs when he got his first taste for athletic officiating.
At Penn, Mark Yoder was a tight end for Indiana Football Hall of Fame coach Chris Geesman and a junior on the Kingmen’s first state champion in 1983.
A football assistant and head football coach at Penn was Chuck Wegner, also an Indiana Football Hall of Famer.
“I love Geez,” says Yoder. “As a kid you don’t realize what you learn from your coaches. They just instilled such a mentality of teamwork and counting on each other.
“(Geesman) was hard, but he was always fair. I got to play because I worked hard or didn’t get to play because I didn’t work hard.”
Yoder remembers Wegner’s policy with game officials.
“He would never let us mouth off to an umpire,” says Yoder. “That was a huge no-no. He would never tolerate that.
“Occasionally he would chirp about a pitch. But I don’t ever remember Chuck getting silly with officials.”
Current Penn head coach and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Greg Dikos coached Yoder as a junior varsity player and then led the Kingsmen for much of his senior season while Wegner was away on medical leave.
Through it all, Yoder was able to apply criticism as an athlete and get better.
“It’s no different in umpiring,” says Yoder.
After graduating from Penn in 1985, Yoder played two football seasons at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., for RHIT Hall of Famer Scott Duncan.
When an injury ended his gridiron playing career, Yoder transferred to Indiana State University in Terre Haute and earned his degree.
On an ROTC scholarship and commissioned to the Army, Yoder was an intramural basketball official for $10 a game at Rose-Hulman and also worked other sports at Rose and ISU.
Yoder took a hiatus from officiating while focusing on his military career. The last few years of active duty, he found himself in Germany and served Department of Defense high school baseball, basketball and volleyball.
When he arrived back in the U.S. and the Richmond, Va., area Yoder aligned with the Old Dominion Umpires Association — a group that trains and supports baseball officials.
Yoder spent the winter of 2008-09 honing his skills and worked his first high school game in the spring at the Class 3A varsity level (the highest in Viriginia at the time).
He figured he has earned his way.
“If you have the skills, ability and game management you’re going to work,” says Yoder. “It’s not the good old boys club.
“You can’t hide a good umpire and you can’t hide a bad umpire. I had enough potential to keep an eye on.”
Walls was not only high school commissioner for the ODUA but supervisor of umpires for the D-III ODAC.
In 2009 and 2010, Walls gave Yoder high school and American Legion ball assignments with umpires who did college baseball. At the same time, the Indiana native attended two-man camps as well as a three-man camp ran by Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Umpires.
Yoder worked junior college games in 2011 and 2012 and his first D-III game in 2013. By 2015 he was doing almost a full conference season. After that came some D-I assignments.
Yoder has four children all living in northern Indiana — Andrew (Southwest), Sarah (New Paris), Zac South Bend) and Matthew (Elkhart). Matthew Yoder just enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Now he’s enjoying a unique diamond and educational experience in the sunny Southwest.
Batting in the No. 3 hole, the righty-swinging freshman center fielder is hitting .412 (21-of-51) with two home runs, two triples, six doubles, 23 runs batted in, 21 runs scored, 12 walks, six times hit by pitch and three stolen bases for Arizona Western College in Yuma.
Max (19) is the youngest of Matt and Jennifer Weller’s three sons. Trent (23) and Sam (20) both played soccer at Chesterton.
Max decided a day or two after Christmas 2020 to transfer from Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill. — where he spent the fall — to Arizona Western College (a school that also recruited him in high school). He packed up all he had at his Illinois apartment in his truck and went with his parents on a 26-hour drive.
“It was a journey out here,” says Weller. “But all for the good.
“I loved it out here. We get to practice outside reps every single day.”
Using a machine, AWC outfielders field pop-ups and work on their communication.
Most teams on the Matadors’ schedule use wood bats.
“The metal bat games would drag out too long,” says Weller. “The (wood bat) barrel is definitely smaller and does not have as much pop. But there are many truer hits and it’s so much more satisfying.”
Good wood is what 6-foot, 180-pound Weller got on the ball in the first game of a home doubleheader March 9 against Chandler-Gilbert Community College and smacked a homer over the right field fence at Walt Kamman Field. His other college bomb came in a Feb. 18 win against Northeastern in which he plated seven runs.
Weller’s lone four-bagger in high school came as a sophomore in a junior varsity win at LaPorte.
Weller played on the CHS freshmen team in 2017, moved up to JV in 2018 and was on the varsity in 2019, sharing time in right field with Tyler Nelson and at designated hitter.
Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Jack Campbell leads the Chesterton Trojans.
“He taught me the foundations of the game and how to move runners from first to second,” says Weller of Campbell. “I came to understand the concept that everybody has a role.
“You’ve got to trust the system.”
For a time in high school, Weller was called “Sunshine.” Then wearing long locks, he resembled Ronnie “Sunshine” Bass from the movie, “Remember The Titans.”
COVID-19 took away spring sports in Indiana in 2020. But Weller found a summer baseball home.
Many circuits canceled their seasons, but the 12-team College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., sprang up and Weller was one of a few who had not yet played past high school to participate.
“I loved it,” says Weller, who was assigned to the CSL’s A-Team. “There was a lot of good talent.”
Weller’s weekly routine was to travel from northwest Indiana to his grandparents’ lake house in Monticello, Ind., on Sunday night and then drove back and forth for Monday and Tuesday games at Grand Park.
Weller’s says he has connections for the Grand Park or Valley League in Virginia this summer, but could land elsewhere.
“It’s about finding an opening,” says Weller.
Having chosen to attend Wabash Valley, Weller joined the Warriors in the fall of 2020. Because of the pandemic there were no outside games, but lots of intrasquad action against players bound for NCAA Division I or — in some cases — those that had already played at that level.
“I saw all these great pitches,” says Weller. “I learned how to play with a (ball-strike) count.
“We were practicing everyday for every single week. I was managing that load as student-athlete. All those reps were beneficial.”
Wabash Valley, currently ranked No. 1 in NJCAA D-I, has been led for a quarter century by Rob Fournier.
“He had a lot of knowledge on the game,” says Weller of Fournier. “He was a really personable guy, but he worked you really hard during practice.”
Keehn played at Central Arizona College and in the Colorado Rockies organization.
Mitchem, who played at Brown Mackie College and Tri-State University (now Trine University in Angola, Ind.) has coached at Georgia College, Henderson State University, Drexel University and Marshall University as well as in Germany, Australia and Costa Rica.
Being at AWC has also afforded Weller the opportunity to learn about many cultures and bond with young men from all over the globe.
Besides Indiana’s Weller, there are two Matadors with hometowns in Arizona plus one each from California, Georgia, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania and Utah plus seven from Dominican Republic, three from Netherlands, two from Australia, two from Saskatchewan, two from Venezuela and one each from Czech Republic and Mexico.
Weller’s roommate is Nevada’s D.J. Contreras. They share a dormitory suite with two Dominicans.
“Everyone is open-minded here,” says Weller. “It’s one of the best groups I’ve ever been a part of so far.”
Contreras is from Las Vegas. Weller smacked three doubles for the Matadors in a Feb. 19 trip to Vegas to play a doubleheader with the College of Southern Nevada — the same school where slugger Bryce Harper played prior to pro ball.
Weller is working toward an Associate Degree in Science at the two-year school. This term he is taking Calculus, Chemistry and Astronomy (online).
He takes most of his meals in the campus cafeteria.
“I load up on lunch and get the calories up,” says Weller. “You’re definitely going to burn them in practice.”
After playing in a local league, Weller started playing travel ball at 10U with he Chesterton Slammers. Uncle Brian Eaton was his head coach for three summers. The team then changed its name to the Indiana Strikers. Weller played his 14U summer with the Indiana Breakers.
Rob Kucharski was Weller’s head coach at 15U and 16U with the Chicago-based Elite Baseball Training team. That squad had many northwestern Indiana players.