Brian Driver spent more than 20 seasons as an assistant to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Jake Burton at McCutcheon, North Newton and Twin Lakes. Driver, a 1992 McCutcheon High School graduate, played for Burton and was his pitching coach at three stops — the past six at Twin Lakes. Now head baseball coach at Attica Junior-Senior High School, Driver is building a program culture based on discipline and attention to detail. “We’e going to focus on every rep and every ground ball,” says Driver, who was hired in July to lead the Red Ramblers. “Every cut has a purpose. You don’t take any rep off — in practice, games, everything. “Footwork and handwork has to be correct.” Driver also went to Milligan College in Johnson City, Tenn., where he played for Doug Jennett. Attica (enrollment around 190) is in Fountain County and a member of the Wabash River Conference (with Covington, Fountain Central, North Vermillion, Parke Heritage, Riverton Parke, Seeger and South Vermillio,). In 2021, the Rambers were part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Covington, Faith Christian, North Vermillion and Riverton Parke. Attica has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2017. Driver and the Ramblers participated in baseball activities during the recent IHSAA Limited Contact Period (Aug. 30-Oct. 16) with about at dozen players, including junior high athletes, taking part with many players busy with Attica fall sports. “We have a lot of field projects,” says Driver of the Rambler’s home facility. “We want it to be something they can take pride in.” With community support, a full infield renovation and reworking of the mound and plate areas is in the offing thanks to former Victory Field head groundskeeper Jamie Mehringer, J&D Turf and Advanced Turf Solutions products. “We want to be competitive with neighboring schools and those in Tippecanoe County,” says Driver of the Rambers’ field. Driver’s coaching staff features four Attica alums — Theron Schmid, Seth Rooze, Kevin Burris, Carson Davis and Brian Powers. Schmid, who is also the Ramblers head football coach, was part of Attica’s state championship boys basketball and state runner-up football squad in 2000-21. Powers helps in the high school and junior high programs. The feeder system at Attica includes school-affiliated junior high baseball (seventh and eighth graders and sometimes sixth graders). Attica Baseball Softball Association at Happy Walter Field is part of Town & Country Baseball. In the works are the establishment of high school and youth summer travel teams. Brian Driver has two children in Attica schools. Freshman Katelynn Driver (15) plays volleyball and softball. Sixth grader Cullen Driver (11) is in tennis, basketball and baseball. Driver is a software salesman for Passageways, which has offices in Lafayette and Indianapolis.
Jack Myers had only been to Georgia a couple of times. Travel baseball took him there as a teenager. Now 22, Myers is looking forward to playing at Kennesaw (Ga.) State University after four seasons (2018-21) at Butler University in his hometown of Indianapolis then entering the NCAA Transfer Portal. “It’s really good opportunity to put myself in a place to play at the next level,” says Myers. “It’s been my dream since I was a kid and I’m going to go chase it.” A 6-foot-7, 220-pound right-handed pitcher, Myers joins the KSU Owls after making 40 appearances (16 as a starter) as a Butler Bulldog, going 10-10 with three saves and a 5.05 earned run average. In 128 1/3 innings, he racked up 126 strikeouts with just 38 walks. In 2021, Myers started 11 games and went 4-5 with two complete games and a 4.39 ERA. He fanned 54 and walked 18 in 65 2/3 innings. A May 20 win at Georgetown was a seven-inning outing with eight strikeouts and no walks and earned him Big East Conference Pitcher of the Week honors. “Command is usually one of my strong suits,” says Myers. “I’m around the (strike) zone and keep the fielders in the game. “I’m very competitive and mentally tough. I like the competitive aspect of pitching, going one-one-one with the hitter.” Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Myers mixes four- and two-seam fastballs with a change-up, slider and curveball. His four-seamer got up to 93 mph last fall and again in the spring. His change-up grip is a modified “circle.” The action on Myers’ slider can be described as “gyro.” “It’s more vertical than horizontal,” says Myers. “It’s a lot different than the curveball.” His curve, which he like to throw as close to “12-to-6” as he can, has been measured with up to 16 inches of vertical drop. Myers played for head coach Dave Schrage and pitching coach Ben Norton at Butler. “I loved it,” says Myers of his time with Schrage and Norton. “I developed a ton and came into my body.” As a freshman, a lanky Myers tipped the scales at about 180 pounds. “They gave us the resources that we needed,” says Myers. “(Before college), I had never done any mechanical work with weighted balls. It was all foreign to me. I was put into program (with running, ab work and arm care). I you’re sore, you don’t push it. They really look out for your arm health.” Myers was attracted to NCAA D-I ASUN Conference member Kennesaw State because that’s where Matt Passeuer landed as pitch coach after serving in that role at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio), where he worked with fireballer Sam Bachman (the graduate of Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Ind., selected No. 9 overall in the 2021 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Angels). “He had a development plan and a track record of putting velocity on guys,” says Myers of Passeuer, who is on Owls head coach Ryan Coe’s staff. Myers earned a Finance degree from Butler in May and plans to take Professional Sales classes at Kennesaw State. Myers did not play in the summer of 2018 after getting surgery for a nerve issue in his elbow. He was with the Jesse Lancaster-coached Morehead (N.C.) Marlins of the Coastal Plain League in 2019 and 2021. He was to play for that team in 2020 when the CPL shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic and he competed the last month of the season with the Josh Galvan-coached Tropics of then College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Born and raised on the north side of Indianapolis, Myers played T-ball for the Tigers at 3 and travel ball for the Shane Cox-coached Indiana Prospects, Tim Burns-coach Indiana Nitro, Dwayne Hutchinson-coached Indiana Outlaws, Ray Hilbert-coached Indy Stix and Ryan Bunnell-coached Indiana Bulls. Myers attended St. Pius Parish Catholic School for Grades K-8 then went to Indianapolis Cathedral High School, graduating in 2017. A shortstop as a freshman and sophomore, Myers took a growth spurt up to 6-4 and then had another one up to 6-7 his last two years of high school. He dressed with the varsity as a sophomore. Myers was a pitcher/first baseman as a junior and a pitcher/right fielder/first baseman as a senior. At Cathedral, Myers played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Rich Andriole then, for the 2017 IHSAA Class 4A state championship season, Ed Freje. “I was a 14-year-old kid when (Andriole) instilled discipline and mental toughness,” says Myers. “He had an impact on college career. I had played under pressure. “(Freje) came in our senior year and let us create the identity of the team How do you want this to be run? He held us accountable and we had a lot of success. He allowed us to play loose, but also required discipline.” Jack is the eldest of financial advisor Mike and Cathedral counselor Jenny Myers’ three children. Indianapolis North Central High School graduate Kate Myers is entering her freshman year at Indiana University-Bloomington to study business. Volleyball player Josie Myers is a Cathedral freshman.
Mike Monaco, who began his professional baseball broadcast career with the South Bend (Ind.) Cubs in 2015, is scheduled to be the play-by-plan man for his first ESPN-produced Major League Baseball broadcast. Monaco, a 2015 University of Notre Dame graduate in Film, Television and Theatre with concentration in TV, is to pair up with Doug Glanville and Tim Kurkjian on the San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks game at 9:40 p.m. EST on Thursday, July 1. It will be Monaco’s first game working with veterans Glanville and Kurkjian. “With those guys as accomplished as they are, it will be my job to feed off them,” says Monaco. “They’re the real stars of the show. “I think the world of them as baseball minds and broadcasters.” Working remotely from his Chicago home studio, Monaco will tell the audience what is happening for Giants-Diamondbacks at Chase Field. “It’s very different. That’s for sure,” says Monaco of not being on-site. “It’s a credit to ESPN that they’ve built this model. It’s amazing to see how they’re able to pull this off on such a large scale.” Monaco and his partners will have access to multiple camera angles and a statistician and work with a production crew. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Monaco had experience calling baseball remotely from the Big Ten Network offices in Chicago. “It’s not as much of a culture shock for me,” says Monaco, who has trained himself to watch various monitors to convey the action. The example he likes to cite is a ball hit into the right-center gap with a runner at second base. “The camera might be showing you the ball landing in the outfield,” says Monaco. “You train our eyes to find another camera that might be showing you the runner.” There’s also the judging fly balls off the bat, which is a skill even for in-person broadcasters. “It’s the more reps you do the more familiarized your mind and your eyes get,” says Monaco. While calling baseball or other sports, Monaco reminds himself that he is part of a team of commentators, graphics people etc., and that fans can see what’s happening on their sets and devices. “It’s on us to accentuate, inform and entertain,” says Monaco. “In radio, you have to describe every pitch and every swing. You paint a picture. “In baseball, you have time to break down swings and pitch sequences and tell stories. We make you care about a guy you’ve never heard of before, the stakes of a live competition and why the participants care so much and why the fans at home care so much.” Hired by ESPN in November 2019, Monaco has called college basketball and college baseball the most for the network with some lacrosse, volleyball and football. At the end of 2019, he filled in on New England Sports Network (NESN) for Boston Red Sox TV broadcasts, working with Jerry Remy and Baseball Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley. He is scheduled to be pair with Ellis Burks for road series July 2-4 against the Oakland Athletics and July 5-7 against the Los Angeles Angels. “Growing up a Red Sox fan it’s been special to be a small part of that operation,” says Monaco, who once dressed up for Halloween as Nomar Garciaparra, counts Jason Varitek as his first autograph and graduated from Cohasset (Mass.) High School in 2011. “It’s an honor to fill the chair of (lead play-by-play man) Dave O’Brien.” Having watched and listened to Remy and Eckersley, Monaco came to appreciate their blending of hitting and pitching knowledge. He even knows the language of Eck. “Cheese” is an excellent fastball. “Educated cheese” is a well-located fastball. “Hair” is a fastball with late movement. “Moss” is what grows on a person’s head. “Salad” is stuff thrown by a finesse pitcher. “Going Bridge” is a home run. “Johnson” is an important home run. “I laugh as hard as anyone,” says Monaco of Eckisms. Monaco called Cape Cod Baseball League games in the summer of 2013 and 2014. He is grateful for the opportunity he had with the 2015 South Bend Cubs, where he worked with Chris Hagstrom-Jones. In 2016, he was on the air for the Fort Wayne (Ind.) TinCaps where his regular partner was Mike Maahs and counts Broadcasting & Media Relations Manager John Nolan, Team President Mike Nutter and Vice President of Marketing & Promotions Michael Limmer among friends in baseball. Monaco did play-by play for Western Michigan University men’s and women’s basketball in 2015-16. His first BTN games came in the winter of 2017-18 and he moved to Chicago more than three years ago. He broadcast for the Triple-A Pawtucket (R.I.) Red Sox for three seasons. Monaco’s resume also includes productions for the ACC Network and FOX Sports.
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.
The Michigan resident attended ECA all four years of high school.
“I absolutely loved it there,” says Ganger. “It was the perfect size for me.
“You get to know everybody in your class.”
Ganger attended the Elkhart Area Career Center as a junior (2017-18) and senior (2018-19) where Audio/Video Production instructor Warren Seegers taught camera operation and concepts like the “rule of thirds” and helped Ganger build the skills that allowed him to tell sports stories on WVPE HD3 88.1 FM and conduct interviews on Facebook Live.
“Mr. Seegers is awesome,” says Ganger. “Everything I learned over my two years I’m using now.”
Ganger got to interview South Bend (Ind.) Cubs President Joe Hart and Notre Dame men’s basketball associate head coach Rod Balanis.
He counts his Q&A with ND women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw after the 2018 national championship as a career highlight.
Before the interview began, McGraw was kind of standoffish and giving one-word answers. Then she began to respond to Ganger’s thoughtful questions.
“I started as camera operator then I told my boss I wanted to get into broadcasting and learn everything,” says Ganger, who got to host the on-field pregame show, work with replay on TV broadcasts and occasionally operate the Four Winds Field video board.
“It was fun getting to learn all different sides of the industry,” says Ganger. “I want to be not just a broadcaster, but be as well-rounded as I possibly can.
“You can’t always rely on other people. You need to know how to do everything yourself.”
In 2020-21, Ganger has done play-by-play or color commentary for Cardinals baseball, football, basketball and volleyball while also helping to create social media video content for Ball State Sports Link.
For his first Ball State Sports Link broadcast, Ganger was on the call for BSU’s football opener at Miami in Oxford, Ohio. With COVID-19 restrictions, it was a remote production. A monitor showed him the action which he conveyed to his audience.
“It was definitely different,” says Ganger. “Numbers on the screen is different than being at the game.
“I can’t be picky. Any opportunity I have to go for it.”
Ganger can’t say enough good things about Sports Link.
“It’s the best of the best for sports media anywhere,” says Ganger. “(Senior Director of Sports Production and Lecturer) Chris Taylor does literally anything he can to get us this opportunity.”
According to Ganger, keys for a good broadcast include knowing the players’ names.
“Memorize those the best you can,” says Ganger. “In basketball — when they’re running up and down the court — you have time to look down at your score chart.”
For a radio game, Ganger is sure to give time and score every 90 seconds.
“You have to be the listeners’ eyes,” says Ganger. “You want to have descriptive words for everything.”
It’s important to pinpoint the ball and it’s trajectory. The broadcaster tells his audience where it was hit and if it’s a line drive or a slow roller.
“We also build story lines,” says Ganger. “Why is this game important? What’s at stake? Throughout the game we recap what’s happened.”
The voice is to be used as an instrument.
“Be creative with ways to say things with voice inflection,” says Ganger. “You need a balance between sounding excited and not yelling all the time.
“I’m still learning. You can never be too good at broadcasting. It’s very competitive. You have to find ways to set yourself apart.”
Ganger used COVID quarantine time last summer to get in the reps that would help prepare for Sports Link broadcasts and to land an internship for the summer of 2021.
“I didn’t want to sit around,” says Ganger, who took old tapes of football, basketball and baseball games which he described by himself or with a friend and posted on YouTube. “I wanted to get better and be ready for games at Ball State and I wanted to get that internship.”
Ganger got it.
During the process of searching and interviewing, he encountered the Expedition League. It’s a 12-team summer collegiate circuit that plays a 64-game schedule beginning in late May.
“It’s been cool for Tyler and I to be he first-ever voices of the team,” says Ganger.
Not only will the duo get to enjoy the first with a team playing at 3 Legends Stadium (a facility that debuted in 2017 which has gone from a capacity of 470 to 1,300), Ganger and King will get to know a wide swath of territory.
There’s a place where a baseball can be pitched and struck in Indiana and land in Illinois.
That place is Hermits Park in the 4200 block of Dearborn Avenue on the north side of Hammond, Ind.
In the spring of 2021, the big diamond — where a home run to left field or deep center can clear the state line which cuts through the outfield — will be home to the Hammond Academy of Science and Technology (HAST) baseball program. The school’s softball team will also play at Hermits.
“We started a partnership last year then COVID hit and everything stopped,” says Hensley. “We were one of the last (youth baseball/softball) associations to fold. We were down to only our high school level team that traveled.”
In the fall, Hermits Outlaws played in a fall league at the Ho Chunk Sports Complex in Lynwood, Ill., which is 12 miles southwest of Hermits Park.
Hensley, who is assisted by Travis McKimmey and Ryan Massey, held his last HAST baseball call-out meeting March 11 and has had 10 coming to conditioning sessions. There is hope that more will joint the team. The first IHSAA practice is Monday, March 15.
“We have a real fresh batch,” says Hensley, noting there a a few players who’ve played high school baseball with others who have been away for years or are fairly new to the sport.
“We’ll start with new or younger guys,” says Hensley. “But we gladly accept that challenge.
“There might be more of a level playing field since everybody did not play last year.”
While the focus this spring will be on a varsity team, Hensley says he hopes to bring baseball to middle schoolers — at HAST and the surrounding area — through the partnership with Hermits.
The IHSAA announced this week that Washington Township will be sectional host.
HAST’s first appearance in the state tournament series was in 2017. The Hawks have not won a sectional championship.
While changes continue to be made to the schedule, Hensley says he expects his club to have around 20 regular-season games.
HAST, which was established in 2010, is a charter school focused on both science and technology with a heavy emphasis on a small teacher-to-student ratio. It is both a high school and middle school with grades ranging from 6-12.
Not affiliated with HAST, School City of Hammond currently has four high schools — Hammond, Clark, Gavit and Morton — and will cut down to two.
The district is scheduled in 2021-22 to have Hammond and Clark combine into the new Hammond Central with current Gavit students being divided between Hammond Central and Morton.
“It’s always sad to see a part of someone’s history go,” says Hensley, a 1988 Clark graduate. “But we’re looking for change and something new.”
Dennis and Gail Hensley have been married for 26 years. The couple has two adult children — Taylor (25) and Dennis (20).
As a Lancers assistant, Love is in charge of outfielders and base runners and assists head coach Ryan Roth with hitters. Roth works with pitchers and infielders. Assistant Ryan Moore handles catchers. Graduate intern Josh Thew is also on the coaching staff. Tom Roy is a special assistant to head coach.
“I want my outfielders to be aggressive and to understand the game,” says Love, 45. “I want them watching hitters and understanding what pitchers are trying to do to hitters.
By doing this, the outfielders have a good idea of where the ball might go.
“Outfielders very aware of what’s coming (in terms of pitch type and location),” says Love, who leads drills for tracking and footwork.
At this time of year, much of the work is done indoors. But the Lancers will bundle up and go outside if the weather allows.
“It’s definitely a challenge being an outfielder in northern Indiana,” says Love, who sometimes uses a light in the gym to simulate tracking a ball in the sun.
Love knows that coming from high school baseball, some of his runners are aggressive and some are timid.
He teaches them about getting a good lead-off without getting picked off. He wants them to know what the pitcher and catcher are trying do.
What made Love a good base stealer when he was playing?
“It comes down to confidence and feeling comfortable,” says Love, who instructs his Grace runners in the proper footwork and the mental side of the running game — what pitches and situations are best for stealing.
Love has his runners get a feel for how much time it will take them to get from first to second or second to third once the pitch crosses home plate. Then they calculate the pitcher’s delivery and the catcher’s Pop Time — the time elapsed from the moment the pitch hits the catcher’s mitt to the moment it reaches the intended fielder.
For Lancer hitters, Love and Roth go over the mental approach and the mechanical side. It comes down to hitting balls hard as often as possible and having gap-to-gap power.
Grace, an NAIA school, is scheduled to open the 2021 season Feb. 19 against Trinity Christian University at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
Love was a standout outfielder at Northridge High School in Middlebury, Ind., and Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., where he graduated in 1998. He also spent the summer of 1998 with the independent professional Richmond (Ind.) Roosters then began his business management career while also coaching football (three years) and baseball at WCHS — first on the staff of Will Shepherd and then Mike Hepler.
A 1994 Northridge graduate, the 5-foot-9, 160-pound Love earned three letters each in football for Dennis Sienicki, basketball for Tom Crews and baseball for Rollie Schultz and Mike Logan.
Love, who is in the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame, was a three-time all-Northern Lakes Conference performer in football as well as an IHSAA Class 3A all-stater and team MVP in 1993. He set school records for receiving yards, receptions, interceptions and scoring and was chosen for the Indiana Football Coaches Association North-South All-Star Game.
He helped Northridge to a basketball sectional title in 1993 — the Raiders’ first since 1975 — and was all-sectional and a team captain and defensive player of the year in 1994.
On the diamond, Love was a two-time all-NLC honoree and was all-state, all-regional and all-sectional as well as team MVP and captain in 1994. He set school records for stolen bases, runs, walks and triples.
Love considered a few offers to play football in college before setting on Ball State University for baseball. He played one season with Pat Quinn as Cardinals head coach and three with Rich Maloney in charge.
A four-year starter at Ball State, Love set a single-season stolen base record in 1997 with 44, leading the Mid-American Conference and helping him earn a spot on the all-MAC team. Overall his junior year, he hit .346 with 71 hits and 67 runs in 59 games.
As a senior in 1998, Love swiped 30 stolen bases to rank second in the MAC. The first-team all-MAC selection led the conference with 62 runs scored and was sixth with 120 total bases and 10th with nine home runs. He batted .344 in 57 games.
Love gives a nod to all his coaches — high school, college and pro.
“I appreciate every one of them — the time they put in to help me with my dreams and aspirations,” says Love. “They were passionate for the sport they coached.
“Pat (Quinn) was pretty direct. He knew the game. He had a fiery spirit to him. Rich (Maloney) was very intense, very knowledgable and very caring also.”
Justin and wife Rosemary have three children — Kendra (18), Jordan (16) and Spencer (12). Kendra Love is a senior volleyball and track athlete at Warsaw. Jordan Love is a sophomore soccer player and trackster. Seventh grader Spencer Love is involved with football, wrestling, track and baseball.
“I’m super-excited to get after it,” says Hammel, who was originally hired as pitching coach but became a head coach candidate when Jon Vernon opted to spend more time with family and focus on his duties as Benton Central’s head volleyball coach. “We want to do everything with a purpose.
At South Newton — a K-12 school in Kentland, Ind. — Jarrett got a chance to help with younger kids as a high school junior and senior.
“I knew I wanted to be a positive role model — someone to look up to,” says Hammel. “I look up to my parents a lot. They made a lot of sacrifices for me to be where I am today.
“They’ve always had my back.”
Coming from a close-knit family where both sets of grandparents live within 15 minutes, Jarrett counts younger brother Jay as his best friend. They grew up pushing each other in academics and athletics.
With 1,195 points, 6-foot-4 Jarrett Hammel was the No. 1 all-time scorer in South Newton boys hoops history until he was surpassed by younger brother Jay Hammel with 1,363. The 6-6 Jay is now a 21-year-old junior right-hander on the Quincy (Ill.) University baseball team and a Multimedia Journalism major.
A 2016 South Newton graduate, Jarrett Hammel played baseball for Glenn Donahue and basketball for Mike Hall.
Hammel was born in Lafayette, Ind., and grew up in Brook, Ind., where he still resides. He knew Donahue as a youth baseball coach who moved up to the high school ranks.
Jarrett played four high school summers of travel ball with the Indiana Nitro.
The Bison are in an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Maconaquah, Northwestern, Peru, Twin Lakes, West Lafayette and Western. Benton Central has won 25 sectionals — the last in 2009.
While the COVID-19 pandemic took away the 2020 season, Benton Central fielded two teams in 2019 and Hammel says he expects to have about 30 players for two squads in 2021.
Hammel is in the process of finding assistant coaches. He would like to have a Benton Central alum on his staff. Bringing in coaches from Newton County is not practical since Brook is in Central Time and Oxford is in Eastern Time.
In looking to his feeder system, Hammel likes the youth program already established and plans to place players in competitive summer leagues and with top travel organizations.
“We want to get them out of their comfort zone and change their outlook on life,” says Hammel, who also plans to start a fall baseball program at BC.
“We went to keep kids at it and try to perfect their craft year-round,” says Hammel. “We’re trying to maximize everyone’s potential.”
In his second stint as head baseball coach at LaCrosse (Ind.) High School, Snyder expects his Tigers to say “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’am” and to keep their hair neat and jerseys tucked in. They must stay on top of their studies.
“Today’s society shies away from discipline,” says Snyder, who led LaCrosse for five seasons (2000-04 with IHSAA Class 1A top-10 rankings in four of those seasons and a West Central Sectional title in 2002) then took time off to raise his children. “There’s a way to win and it does take discipline.”
During his first Tigers tenure, 18 players went on to college baseball in five years.
“I push extremely hard with grades,” says Snyder. “That’s part of the discipline factor. I want people to say that’s a baseball player at the school.
“They know we’re different.”
Snyder derived this approach from the men he encountered along his baseball path. A 1986 graduate of South Central High School at Union Mills, Ind., he played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bob Schellinger and later coached with him. He also coached C-team boys basketball and was involved in Hanna youth baseball.
Snyder was on the Satellites high school baseball staff for 11 years before taking over the reins at LaCrosse.
While still a player, Snyder was on a world champion Junior Olympic team that featured IHSBCA Hall of Famers Ric Tomaszewski and Len Buczkowski plus Jim Dermody among the coaches. These men all ran extremely disciplined high school programs — Tomaszewski at South Bend Washington, Buczkowski at South Bend Adams and Dermody at Warsaw.
Teammates included LaPorte High School’s Scott Upp and Greg Perschke. Upp went on to be head coach at LaPorte, following legend Ken Schreiber and Perschke the head coach at Trine University in Angola, Ind.
One of Snyder’s best friends in coaching is Washington Township’s Randy Roberts. They share similar styles.
“I had a good upbringing,” says Snyder, 52. “I’m very appreciative of all the people that came into my life.”
While he came back to just in time to have the 2020 season taken away because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are plenty of positives surrounding LaCrosse baseball.
Nearly $60,000 — most of it donated — has been poured into the improvement of Tiger Field, which is located less than a mile northeast of the school building.
“It’s going to surprise a lot of people,” says Snyder of an ongoing project at the Dewey Township-owned facility that has added a new net back stop with a four-foot brick wall inside and stone outside plus updated dugouts, mound and plate areas and an infield sprinkler system with more to come.
Snyder is approaching 19 years with North Star Stone in Valparaiso, Ind. The company manufactures and installs stone products.
Snyder expects as many as 28 players (including 13 freshmen) this spring, meaning the Tigers will be able to field a junior varsity team for likely the first time ever.
Helping Snyder coach are Brian “Chico” Lipscomb, J.T. Snyder and Dan Snyder. Lipscomb was a standout at LaPorte who played in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. J.T., Eric’s son, and Dan, Eric’s nephew, played at South Central. Dan Snyder, who pitched and was the athlete of the year at Purdue University Northwest, is LaCrosse’s pitching coach.
Other former college or pro players have come in to help teach the Tigers.
Feeding the high school program is the Southwest County Conference — a youth league for ages 5 to 12 with teams feeding schools at LaCrosse, Wanatah, Clinton, Hanna and Union Mills. LaCrosse uses the softball field near Tiger Field.
“I’m a big part of that,” says Snyder. “I want to teach them everything I need them to know (at the high school level).
“We teach them how to bunt, lead off and steal. We treat the youngest kids just like they were freshmen.”
In coaching LaCrosse fifth and sixth grade boys basketball players this winter, Snyder took over a team with a 1.7 grade-point average. By season’s end it was 3.1.
“That’s why I’m involved at the lower levels,” says Snyder.
LaCrosse conducted fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period workouts and is just getting started with winter conditioning/practice given that so many baseball players also play basketball.
Eric and Sara Snyder have five children (two girls followed by three sons) — Alex (26), Danielle (25), J.T. (23), R.J. (21) and Eli (10). The four oldest were all South Central athletes — Alex in volleyball, basketball and softball, Danielle in softball, J.T. in baseball and basketball and R.J. in baseball and basketball. R.J. Snyder is an outfielder at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.
With lasting influences from two coaches, John Zangrilli decided that education and coaching were for him when he was still a teenager.
It was while learning and playing for Jeff Massey (baseball) and Ken Randle (basketball) that Zangrilli saw his career path. Massey was the head baseball coach for Zangrilli’s last three years at Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis, following Steve Goeglein. Randle was a freshmen/assistant coach, teacher and mentor.
Since graduating from Lawrence Central in 1994, Zangrilli has enjoyed many baseball experiences and encounters with successful diamond minds.
Zangrilli — aka Z or Coach Z since his father (Papa Z) and son (Little Z) are also named John — has coached in three central Indiana high school programs (two assistant stints at Carmel and head coaching tenures at Brebeuf Jesuit and Zionsville).
As a head coach, Coach Z-led teams went 247-81 with six sectional championships (2004, 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010 at Brebeuf and 2012 at Zionsville), three regional crowns (2005 and 2009 at Brebeuf and 2012 at Zionsville), one Final Four appearance (2012 at Zionsville), two Hoosier Crossroads Conference titles (2011 and 2012 at Zionsville) and one Marion County crown (2010 at Brebeuf in a an extra-inning game against Lawrence Central at Victory Field that Zangrilli calls the best game he’s ever seen).
“Coach Farley and Coach Morgan couldn’t be any more different in terms of their personalities
Intense,” says Zangrilli, describing Morgan as intense and Farley possessing an even-keel temperament. “Coach Morgan was extremely detail-oriented. Every moment of every day was organized. It’s the first time I was introduced to something like that. It was about understanding your role on the team. As a coach, I drew on that a little bit.
“I really enjoyed the way Coach Farley created a calm atmosphere for his athletes to relax and take what they had been taught and then go out and play the game.”
Zangrilli earned an Elementary Education degree with an endorsement in Physical Education and Health from Butler in 1998. He has worked in Carmel schools for 22 years and is now a Wellness Education teacher at Woodbrook Elementary School.
His first high school coaching gig was a three-year stint on the coaching staff of Carmel Greyhounds head coach Tom Linkmeyer in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Carmel lost 1-0 in 11 innings to eventual state runner-up Evansville Harrison in the 2000 State semifinals.
Born in central Pennsylvania, Zangrilli roots for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Penn State University. He came to Indiana early in his elementary school years.
At 14, Zangrilli worked for Jeff Mercer Sr., at Mercer’s Sports Center on the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
One of the first players to log more than one summer with the Indiana Bulls, Z was with the elite organization 1992-94. Mike Stein was head coach that first year. The next two years, Dennis Kas was head coach and was helped by Kevin Stephenson, Brent Mewhinney and Linkmeyer, who was also the Wellness Education teacher at Woodbrook prior to Zangrilli.
“They were imparting all this baseball knowledge on us,” says Zangrilli. “It was eye-opening. It was the intersection of talent and instruction and we took off. We had a great deal of success.
“Dennie Kas was the first guy I played for who instilled an appreciation for preparation,” says Zangrilli. “He had a real knack for reading the pulse of his team.
“He could walk in the dugout and know if they needed to be calm or pick up the energy.”
Zangrilli was head coach at Brebeuf for seven campaigns (2004-10) and Zionsville for three (2011-13).
“Between my years at Brebeuf and Zionsville it was an embarrassment of riches,” says Coach Z.
Among his assistants at Brebeuf were Andy McClain (former player and assistant under IHSBCA of Famer Bill Tutterow at Martinsville and head coach at LaVille and Arlington who went on to be head coach at Brebeuf, Norwell and Lawrence Central) and Tim Phares (son of IHSBCA Hall of Famer George Phares).
Standout Braves players included catcher Radley Haddad (Western Carolina University, Butler University, player and coach in New York Yankees system), outfielder Jack Dillon (Butler University), Tres Eberhardt (Xavier University), outfielder Nathan Koontz (Ball State University), catcher Mitch Overley (Ball State University, Wabash College), infielder/outfielder Ty Adams (University of Notre Dame), outfielder Kevin Simms (University of Dayton, Wright State University), outfielder Stevie Eberhardt-Gipson (Northern Kentucky University) and right-handed pitcher/catcher John Krasich (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology).
Right-hander Parker Dunshee (Wake Forest University, Oakland Athletics organization), infielder/outfielder Max Kuhn (University of Kentucky, Oakland Athletics organization), infielder Troy Kuhn (Ohio State University), third baseman Ben Kocher (Belmont University), outfielder Drew Small (Butler University), left-hander Alex Westrick (Xavier University) and outfielder Nick Barrientos (Wabash Valley College, Northwood University) are part of a long line of Eagles players who went on to college and/or professional baseball.
John and wife Jackie have two children. After the 2013 season, Z turned his focus to teaching as well as coaching Little Z and daughter Olivia (a travel volleyball player).
When former Butler teammate Matt Buczkowski (son of IHBCA Hall of Famer Len Buczkowski) became head coach at he — and all the returning Carmel talent — lured Zangrilli back into high school coaching.
Coach Z remembers Buczkowski’s request going something like this: “I’ve got a Ferrari of pitching staff. I need to have somebody help me drive it.”
Buczkowski inherited a stable of arms developed by former Carmel pitching coach Jay Lehr.
The spring of 2021 will be Coach Z’s fifth since returning to the Carmel dugout.
Zangrilli, Buczkowski and former Westfield and Carmel field boss and current hitting coach Eric Lentz represent more than 500 head coaching victories on a Hounds staff. Pitching coach Fred Moses came to Carmel from Lawrence Central with Buczkowski.
“My role is whatever they need as any given day,” says Zangrilli, who has been a pitching coach, first base coach and a camp coordinator. The past five years, he helped oversee the Carmel Pups.