The right-handed pitcher from Columbus, Ind., playing independent professional baseball has been dominant in his back of the bullpen role.
As the closer for the American Association’s Milwaukee Milkmen, Gray goes into play today (Aug. 26) with a 2-0 record, 10 saves and a 0.00 earned run average. In 24 innings, he has yet to allow a run and has struck out 41 (15.375 per nine innings) and walked 10.
“For the most part, I try to stay with myself and pitch to my strengths,” says Gray. “I’ve been able to catch some breaks.
“It’s been fun so far.”
A 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, Gray delivers a fastball, slider and change-up from a three-quarter overarm slot. The slider breaks in on left-handed batters and away from righties and the “Vulcan” change sinks.
But it’s his four-seam fastball that’s been his out pitch. It travels 90 to 93 mph and — he learned while working out in the off-season with Greg Vogt of PRP Baseball at Finch Creek Fieldhouse in Noblesville, Ind. — that it has an above-average spin rate.
The 2020 season marks Gray’s third in pro ball. He was signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Colorado Rockies in 2018 out of Florida Gulf Coast University and played rookie-level and Low Class-A ball in the Rockies system in 2018 and 2019.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Association is operating with six teams — Milwaukee, Chicago Dogs, Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks, Saint Paul Saints, Sioux Falls Canaries and Winnipeg Goldeyes — playing a 60-game schedule. When the season began, Milwaukee was one of three hubs. Later on, Chicago and Saint Paul opened back up and began hosting games. Winnipeg has been playing mostly road games.
Milwaukee is about a five-hour trip from Columbus meaning his family has been able to see him play in-person.
“They’re huge baseball fans,” says Peyton of father Billy Gray and older brother Jordan Gray. “They get to live their baseball dream through me. They’ve traveled and supported me through all these years.
From 12 to 17, Peyton played travel baseball for the Indiana Blazers. Billy was head coach of that team in the early years and Shelbyville’s Terry Kuhn filled that role in the later ones.
Bowling is a big deal in the Gray family. Billy owns Gray’s Pro Shop in Columbus Bowling Center. Jordan is the men’s bowling coach at Marian University in Indianapolis and his fiancee — Jerracah Heibel — is an associate head bowling coach at MU. Billy Gray is a Knights assistant.
Lisa Gray, wife of Billy and mother of Jordan and Peyton, works for Bartholemew County Youth Services Center.
Peyton Gray holds a Criminal Justice degree from Florida Gulf Coast and goes on ride-alongs with police officers during the baseball off-season. He says he sees himself going into some form of law enforcement in the future.
“If you just show up on your high-intensity or game days, you’re not going to get much better,” says Vogt. “Guys are around other guys with high energy and motivation who do not skip drills, warm-ups and recovery.”
During the week, there are also high school players (many of whom are in travel ball tournaments Thursday through Sunday) working out, too. There is weight training, Core Velocity Belt work to emphasis the lower half and the use of PlyoCare Balls.
Each player follows an individualized workout plan based on their Driveline Baseball profile.
“Everyone does a pre-assessment,” says Vogt. “We measure strength, power and velocity and create a plan off that.”
Because of COVID-19 many of the players have not been able to get on an outside diamond in a sanctioned game for months.
Many were not able to do much in the way of throwing or lifting weights for two months.
College players saw their seasons halted in mid-March. High school players heading into college lost their campaigns altogether.
Minor League Baseball has not began its 2020 season nor has the Utica, Mich.- based USPBL .It’s uncertain when or if MiLB will get going. The USPBL has announced it will start with smaller rosters June 24 and expand when fans are allowed at games.
“It’s just a really fun time to come out here and really put all the work that me and all these guys put in throughout the week to a test,” says Polley. “It’s really cool to be able to see the guys come out here and thrive whenever they’ve made adjustments.
“It’s a time to relax and get after each other.”
Donning a T-shirt defining culture as “A wave that inspires a community to achieve greatness” (by Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson), Polley relates to the atmosphere at PRP Baseball and Finch Creek.
“They bust your butt during the week and whenever it’s time to play, it’s time to play,” says Polley. “We don’t worry about the mechanics or the drills we’re working on throughout the week. Let’s see what you got and you make adjustments week to week.”
Polley’s focus was on having a good feel for all his pitches and moving the way they’re supposed to based on Rapsodo-aided design.
Though the timetable is unknown, Polley says being prepared to return to live baseball is the key.
“I view this as an opportunity to improve my craft,” says Polley. “I come off and throw and lift everyday to make myself better.
“Whenever it is time to show up, I’m going to be better than whenever I left.”
Polley came down with the coronavirus in March after coming back from spring training in Arizona and was unable to throw the baseball for two weeks.
For that period, he and his girlfriend stayed away from everyone else and meals were brought to the bedroom door by Polley’s parents.
With facilities shut down, he was able to train in a barn and at local parks.
“To just be a kid again was really cool,” says Polley. “As a kid, you’d go to the park with your friends and practice. You’d compete and try to get better.
“That’s all it has been this entire quarantine. You come back into a facility like (Finch Creek) ready to go.”
Vogt has noticed an attention to detail Polley.
“If the minor league season happens, he’s going to be ready to go,” says Vogt.
“This gives me a chance to compete and feel out my stuff,” says Milto. “I get a chance to improve and see what’s working and what’s not working.
“This time is kind of weird, not knowing when or if we’re going to go back. So I’m just here, seeing the competition and staying ready.”
Milto just began coming to PRP Baseball this past week after hearing about it through friends.
“I really love all that they offer,” says Milto.
While maintaining strength, Milto also makes sure he stays flexible.
“For longevity standards and being able to move well consistently for as long as possible, I think it’s important so I work on by flexibility,” says Milto. “Especially with my upper body. My lower body is naturally flexible.
“I’m working on by thoracic rotations and all that kind of stuff. It’s helped me feel good everyday.”
Milto just began adding a cutter to his pitch assortment.
“Using the cameras and the Rapsodo here is really helping me accelerate the development.
“I’m feeling it out (with the cutter). I’ve already thrown a slider. I’m trying to differentiate those two and make sure they look the same out of my hand but different coming to (the batter).”
Milto says he’s made a switch in his take on how electronic devices can help.
“At first, I didn’t buy much into the technology,” says Milto. “It was all just too much to look at. As of late, I’ve started to pay more attention to it. I’ve realized the benefits of it.
“My mentality has been to just go out there, trust my stuff and compete instead of I need to get my sinker to sink this much with this axis. But I’ve started to understand how important that stuff. You make everyone look the same until it isn’t.
“It’s immediate feedback when you’re training. You release it. You know how you felt. And you know exactly what it did.”
Gray, 25, is a right-hander who played at Columbus (Ind.) East High School, Western Michigan University, Gulf Coast Community College and Florida Gulf Coast University before being signed as a minor league free agent by the Colorado Rockies in 2019. He was released in February 2020 and reports to the Milkmen this weekend.
“I see that they get results here,” says Gray. “It’s always great to push yourself and compete with others that are good at sports.”
Gray, who has been working out with PRP Baseball since prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, counts down his pitching strengths.
“I compete. That’s a big one,” says Gray. “I throw strikes. I’m determined to get better and be the best version of myself.”
When the quarantine began, Gray had no access to a weight room.
“I did a lot of body weight stuff and keep my body there,” says Gray. “I was lifting random stuff. I was squatting with my fiancee on my back. I was finding a way to get it done.
“I knew at some point COVID was going to go away and baseball was going to be back and I needed to be ready.”
Strobel, 25, is a left-hander who played at Avon (Ind.) High School and for the final team at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. (2017) before pitching for the independent Frontier League’s Joliet (Ill.) Slammers that summer. He underwent Tommy John reconstructive surgery and missed the 2018 season. He appeared in 2019 with the AA’s Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats. When not pitching, he’s helped coach pitchers at Avon and for the Indiana Bulls 17U White travel team.
Strobel coached at Grand Park early Friday and then scooted over to Finch Creek for PRP “Compete Day.”
“I try to mimic what we do here,” says Strobel of his pitching coach approach. “It’s mainly work hard and be safe.
“Summer ball is now acting like the high school season. It’s been about getting everyone up to speed. Some guys were not throwing over the spring. They just totally shut down. You have other guys who’ve been throwing.”
Strobel has been training with Vogt for about four years.
“I like the routine of everything,” says Strobel. “Everything’s mapped out. You know what you’re doing weeks in advance. That’s how my mind works.”
And then comes the end of the week and the chance to compete.
“Everything’s about Friday live,” says Strobel. “Everyone has a routine getting getting for Friday.”
Strobel has been told he’s on the “first call” when the USPBL expands rosters.
He was “on-ramping” in February when the pandemic came along and he switched to training at the barn before coming back to Finch Creek.
“I really didn’t have to shut down,” says Strobel. “It’s just been a long road from February and still throwing.
“I help out in any way that I can,” says Sullivan, who reached out to Vogt in the spring of 2019, interned last summer and then came on board full-time. “We mesh well together because we believe in a lot of the same sort of fundamentals when it comes to pitching and developing a pitcher.
“It helps to have an extra set of eyes and that’s where I come into play. I dealt with a lot of mechanical issues myself and my cousin help me out. That sparked me to want to do the same for other players.”
Sullivan is pursuing his Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).
“Once I have that, it opens up a lot more doors and opportunities for me in the baseball world,” says Sullivan. “Baseball has had a funny route to where it is today. When I grew up a lot of times you threw hard because you were blessed and had the talent.
“Now, it’s been proven that you can make improvements — whether it be in the weight room, overall health or mechanical adjustments in your throwing patterns — and can train velocity.
“A lot of people are trying to find a balance of developing the mechanical side of things while strengthening things in the weight room. They kind of go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other.”
Sullivan says that if the body can’t support the force that’s being generated through it, it’s going to lead to a faster breakdown.
“That’s where the weight room comes into play,” says Sullivan. “Being able to transfer force is kind of the name of the game right now.”
“It was a pretty good timing situation,” says Jones, who was asked to join the staff of new Mastodons head coach Doug Schreiber in the same town where he teaches lessons. “He was looking for some guys and I wanted to get back into it.”
“Coach Decker treated you with a lot of respect and communicated very well,” says Jones. “He told you what he expected and you needed to do it. I still have a lot of his attitudes that I use today.”
“(Maloney) helped me get my start. He was really good on the infield. On the recruiting side, he was good as projecting what kids were going to be. He looked at their body type and athleticism. Mid-majors have to project some kids and then they develop over two or three years and become that top-level kid.”
Twice an academic All-American at WMU, where he earned a degree in aviation operations, he gained a master’s in sports administration at BSU in 1998.
The relationship at Purdue Fort Wayne brings together sons of baseball pioneers. Bill Jones and Ken Schreiber helped form the Indiana High School Baseball Association in 1971. The elder Jones was the organization’s executive director for many years. Schreiber won 1,010 games, seven state titles and was elected to 13 halls of fame. Jones passed away in 2015 and Schreiber in 2017.
“I think I’ve got my old dad in there,” says Jones of his coaching approach. “Every once in awhile you have to light a fire under a guy. You can’t be one-dimensional. You have to know your kid and know what works for them. You coach accordingly.
“When my dad coached you could be a little more tough, demanding and vocal. It was a different generation. You have to roll with the times a little bit and see how kids respond. It’s a different society. You have to understand how the kids tick.”
At PFW, Ken Jones has been working with hitters, catchers and outfielders.
“My strongest abilities lie with hitters,” says Jones, who came to find out that he shares a similar philosophy on that subject with Doug Schreiber. “We want low line drives. We want hitters to keep the barrel on the ball through the zone as long as possible.
“We want guys to focus gap to gap.”
Jones says his hitters sometimes ask questions about things like exit velocity and launch angle, but he has the Mastodons focusing on what happens once they strike the ball.
“We can still see what needs to be done without having all the bells and whistles,” says Jones, noting that PFW pitchers do some work with Rapsodo motion detection data. “In our first 15 games (before the 2020 season was halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic), it was refreshing to see we had some decent results without all the technology focus.”
As a player for his father at DeKalb High School in Waterloo, Ind., and for Decker at Western Michigan, Jones was a two-time all-Mid-American Conference catcher and was selected in the 33rd round of the 1995 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and played briefly in the San Diego Padres system.
His emphasis with Purdue Fort Wayne catchers has been on receiving, blocking and throwing.
“I’m learning through my son and other catching guys,” says Jones, whose son Hayden Jones, a lefty-swinging backstop who played at Carroll High School of Fort Wayne and sat out 2020 after transferring from Mississippi State University to Illinois State University. “I’m trying to gain some new knowledge.
“You never want to be satisfied with where you’re at and educate yourself on better ways to get things done. You soak in some information and put those things in your tool box. We do that as coaches and players. You figure out what works and what doesn’t work.”
McNeil is the pitching coach and organizes much of the recruiting. The coronavirus shutdown has made that process a little different.
“It’s phone calls,” says Jones. “We wan’t have kids on-campus. We are able to walk through campus with FaceTime.”
In some cases, a player might commit before ever coming to Fort Wayne.
Some summer collegiate baseball leagues have canceled their seasons and others are playing the waiting game.
“Guys will be scrambling (for places to play),” says Jones. “It will be a very fluid situation the whole summer for the college guys.”
Ken Jones is an assistant baseball coach at Purdue Fort Wayne. He is also senior lead instructor at the World Baseball Academy in the same Indiana city. He was an assistant at Western Michigan (1999-2004) and Ball State University (1997 and 1998). (Purdue Fort Wayne Photo)
While you’ll only see Adam Piotrowicz donning one cap — usually a brown one with a gold “W” — he essentially wears three.
A member of the Western Michigan University baseball staff since the 2014 season, 2020 was the second for Piotrowicz as associate head coach. He also served as hitting coach and recruiting coordinator on a group led by Billy Gernon.
“I help out more with scheduling, budget and things of that nature,” says Piotrowicz. “I have more administrative responsibility.”
Piotrowicz guides the Broncos’ offense. In 2019, WMU hit the most home runs (32) since the BBCOR Bat era in 2010 and posted the second highest batting average (.287) since 2012. The team also scored the most runs per game (6.0) since 2008 and racked up the most stolen bases (50) since 2013.
When the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic brought Western Michigan’s 2020 season to a close after 15 games, the Broncos had belted seven homers with a .261 average, 8.6 runs per contest and 35 stolen bases.
“I’m a big believer in having a great two-strike approach and competing in the box,” says Piotrowicz. “It’s about our daily routine — whatever it is.
“Each guy’s different.”
Some hitters are focused on power and others are looking to get the most out of their speed.
It’s the routine that keeps hitters sane.
“This game will drive guy’s crazy,” says Piotrowicz. “Just focus on the day-to-day process. It gets you over the 0-of-10 slumps and keeps you grounded during the 10-for-10.”
It’s helpful to Piotorowicz to know the style of learning that suits hitters best — Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic — in order to best communicate and assist them with their approach, mechanics etc., while competing at all times.
“We want to be a tough out,” says Piotrowicz. “We want to make other team earn all 27 outs.”
Piotrowicz is also aware that all players do not respond to the same coaching techniques based on their personality. Calling a player out in front of his teammates may not be appropriate for one while another will respond well.
“Our center fielder (Blake Dunn), I can yell at him,” says Piotrowicz of a junior from Saugatuck, Mich., who he expects to go high in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. “He was a multi-sport athlete and football player. He needs that. He wants that hard coaching.”
The analogy that Piotrowicz favors is the mail. A package, whether sent first class air mail or standard third class will carry the same message and expectations regardless of delivery method.
Piotrowicz says Western’s recruiting territory is reflective of the 2020 WMU roster which features 19 players with hometowns in Michigan, nine from the Chicago area and three from Indiana high schools — junior Ryan Missal (Lowell), sophomore Bobby Dearing (Lafayette Harrison) and freshman Hayden Berg (Penn). The Broncos have received a commitment from Ryan Watt (Mishawaka).
Piotrowicz says the school has helped by making out-of-state tuition only $2,000 to $3,000 more than for in-state students.
Working with Gernon, Piotrowicz absorbs knowledge someone who has plenty of coaching experience. He was an assistant at Indiana University, helped Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne (now Purdue Fort Wayne) transition to NCAA Division I as assistant then head coach then was a Michigan State University assistant before his first season in charge in Kalamazoo in 2011.
In 2016, WMU won its first Mid-American Conference tournament. Jeffersonville (Ind.) High School graduate Gernon has 210 victories as Broncos skipper, including 104 in the MAC.
“I couldn’t ask for a more supportive boss,” says Piotrowicz of Gernon. “He’s given me a lot of freedom and responsibility.
“(Woodson) gave me a ton of freedom and a lot of trust,” says Piotrowicz, who go to work with hitters, infielders, catchers and outfielders while splitting strength and conditioning with Schmack.
In 2012, Valpo was regular season and tournament champions in the Horizon League and competed in the NCAA Gary Regional, losing to Purdue and Kentucky.
In 2013, the Crusaders won the HL tournament and took part in the Indiana Regional, losing to Indiana and Austin Peay but not before knocking out Florida.
Piotrowicz got his college coaching start with two seasons at NCAA Division III Heidelberg University (2009-10) in Tiffin, Ohio, where they won Ohio Athletic Conference Conference and regular-season titles both seasons. The 2010 team won the Mideast Regional and competed in the D-III World Series in Grand Chute, Wis., beating Johns Hopkins and Wisconsin-Stevens Points and losing to eventual champion Illinois Wesleyan and Linfield.
Though he was a graduate assistant, he worked like a full-time coach and had his perceptions of what a coach is shaped while developing head coach Matt Palm’s Student Princes. He aided hitters and catchers and shared in recruiting.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Matt Palm,” says Piotrowicz.
After a season at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Ind. (now Bethel University), Piotorowicz finished his playing days at Manchester.
“(Zartman) was a good guy,” says Piotrowicz. “He was very big on team culture.
“(Siler) was amazing. He was very, very knowledgable guy and a down-to-earth person. He worked with catchers and made sure I was in shape.
“(Jimenez) also brought a ton of knowledge.”
Rick Espeset was and still in head baseball coach and athletic director at Manchester. Given his workload and Espeset’s young family, Piotrowicz and his teammates marveled at how organized he was.
“Practices were always detailed,” says Piotrowicz. “He did a good job of teaching guys how to the win the game.”
Points of emphasis included baserunning, defense and playing the game hard and fast.
“You do that and winning will take care of itself,” says Piotrowicz. “We called (Espeset) the ‘Silent Assassin.’ He was a psychology major with a very dry sense of humor. The mental side of the game, that’s where he was the strongest.”
Adam and Heather Piotrowicz, a former Manchester basketball player, have two sons — Hunter (4) and Elliot (1).
A member of the Western Michigan University baseball staff since the 2014 season, 2020 was the second for Adam Piotrowicz as associate head coach. The graduate of John Glenn High School in Walkerton, Ind., and Manchester College (now Manchester University) in North Manchester, Ind., also served as hitting coach and recruiting coordinator on a group led by Billy Gernon. (Western Michigan University Photo)
Tech concluded play in 2020 much sooner than planned because of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.
With a win against Viterbo March 11 in Georgia, the Warriors finished at 11-5.
Since then, the Tech team and coaching staff have been moving forward while social distancing.
“Everybody’s numb to how it happened,” says second-year assistant coach Brent Alwine of how the season was rolling and then came to a screeching halt. “We’ve got (players) doing workouts. We’re hoping a lot of guys get to play this summer.
“So much is unknown.”
What is known for Alwine is that he is not the same coach at 36 and married with three sons and with many different diamond experiences behind him than he was at 23 and just out of college.
“I used to think there was only one way to teach,” says Alwine, who works with infielders and hitters. “You learn to adapt to the personnel you have rather than philosophy that’s cut and dried.”
It has also become relational vs. transactional. It’s a point that has become clearer since Brent and Brandi Alwine, a physician’s assistant for Parkview Health in Fort Wayne, have had Beckett (7), Bode (5) and Brooks (8 months). All three have baseball ties to their names.
There are four reasons for Beckett — the sports card magazine, the ballplayer (Josh Beckett), the brand of boilers his father, Jim, sells, and the town in Massachusetts where he worked at a camp with former Indiana University head baseball coach Bob Morgan. The boy’s full name is Beckett Steven James Alwine. Brandi’s father Steve passed away in 2001. The other middle name to to honor Brent’s father, who has coached high school baseball at North Miami and Peru.
Bode’s middle name is Maddux as an homage for Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.
Brooks is a nod to former Western Michigan University catcher Brooks Beilke.
“I’m coaching someone’s kids,” says Alwine. “I want to win. But I would rather win and 10 years down the line have a relationship with the players I coached.”
Alwine joined head coach Kip McWilliams in Fort Wayne, Ind., having been an assistant to Billy Gernon at Western Michigan (2011 and 2012), Ed Servais at Creighton University (2009 and 2010) and Gernon at alma mater Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne (2007 and 2008). He holds a bachelor’s degree from IPFW (now Purdue Fort Wayne) and a master’s degree from Indiana University.
“You learn a lot when you coach younger kids,” says Alwine. “You have to really explain things and get them to buy into it.”
An attribute that Alwine appreciates about McWilliams is that he values the opinions of his assistants.
“He lets his assistant coach,” says Alwine. “He doesn’t micro-manage and he looks for our input.
“I trust him. In today’s world, it’s hard to trust everybody.”
Alwine has a few points of emphasis with his infielders.
“I want them to be athletic and take good angles to the baseball,” says Alwine. “It starts with our throwing program. Throwing and catching is the main thing in baseball.”
He makes it a point to observe when his fielders are playing catch to see that they are getting their footwork right and taking it seriously.
“When the pressure’s on, a good throw is going to win you a game,” says Alwine, who has his infielders practicing double players during between-innings warm-ups.
Alwine observes how organized McWilliams is, something that is vital when you carry a roster of more than 60 players — varsity and developmental.
“You have to be organized to get everybody involved,” says Alwine. “Year 2 helped me see that a little better than Year 1.”
The Warriors make a point of hustling all the time — even the coaching staff runs on the field.
“That’s the way it should be,” says Alwine. “(On game day), it sets a tone for your own team and the team you’re getting ready to play.
“These guys are here for business.”
Alwine says having the season stopped is likely to make the players more appreciative of the opportunity to play when fall camp rolls around.
“Fall can be a tough time to motivate because there’s nothing on the line,” says Alwine. “(Players) should be excited. They had baseball taken away from them.”
Alwine says 10 of 14 seniors this spring have opted to come back for an extra year of eligibility granted by the NAIA.
With the Indiana Tech campus closed to all but essential workers, students have been finishing their spring term online.
“It’s new to a lot of these professors, too,” says Alwine. “Everybody’s going through the same thing. It’s brought a sense of community back.”
To stay connected the to the baseball community,Alwine says Tech coaches have regular Zoom meetings. These have been done by class and within the staff, which also includes Gordon Turner, Miguel Tucker and Marshall Oetting, and will also include positions, incoming freshmen and transfers.
Alwine was born in Peru, Ind., and grew up in Mexico, Ind. He played soccer, a little basketball and baseball North Miami Middle/High School. John Burrus was the head coach for basketball and baseball. Alwine was a shortstop on the diamond.
At IPFW, he played second base for Gernon.
“He does things the right way,” says Alwine of Gernon. “He demands a lot of his players. He care for his players, too.”
Alwine went to Creighton to be a volunteer coach. Within a month of arriving in Omaha, Neb., a paid assistant position opened up and he took it. There, he was in charge of outfielders and catchers.
“It made me a better coach,” says Alwine. “I had to learn those positions in detail to make players better.”
Servais displayed an attention to detail and stressed the fundamentals.
“That’s why Creighton — year in and year out — leads the country defensively.”
Servais, the uncle of former big league catcher Scott Servais, did not get too high or too low.
“He’s very level-headed,” says Alwine. “He thinks forward — next player, next pitch, next at-bat.”
The Bluejays skipper has been rewarded with 745 career victories.
More than 20 players that have been selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, including two at Creighton that made it to the majors — San Franciso Giants first baseman Darin Ruf and Baltimore Orioles left-handed pitcher Ty Blach.
Alwine coached infielders and hitters at Western Michigan. He was in the fall of his second year with the Broncos when he got into a very bad car accident on I-94 near Kalamazoo, Mich.
Among the first requests he had was for a second opinion on the plastic surgeon.
“I am very, very fortunate to be alive,” says Alwine. “God was looking out for me that day. The biggest thing is the amount of people who prayed for me.
“I had very positive people around me who supported me and got me through it. I get to coach baseball and see my kids grow up.”
Brent Alwine (left) observes players during Indiana Tech’s 2019 NAIA World Series appearance. It was Alwine’s first season on the Warriors baseball coaching staff. (Indiana Tech Photo)
Brent Alwine (center) is in his second season as an assistant baseball coach at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 2020. He is a graduate of North Miami High School and Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne. (Indiana Tech Photo)
Dave Krider and wife Lois led the FCA chapter and helped plant that compassion in Mumma, who earned 11 athletic letters for the LaPorte Slicers (three in football and four each in basketball and baseball), where he graduated in 1999.
“My coaches were fantastic role models and leaders for me,” says Mumma.
After playing for Bob Schellinger on the gridiron, Joe Otis on the hardwood and Ken Schreiber and Scott Upp on the diamond, the Slicer lefty went on to play baseball at Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., and Western Michigan University, where he met his future wife Rose (the Mummas now reside in the Detroit Metro town of Fraser, Mich., with their four children — Madelyn, 8, Bradley Jr., 7 Ellie, 3, and Max, 1).
He was in the Blue Jays system through 2006 then spent three seasons in independent professional baseball with the Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats, Schaumburg (Ill.) Flyers and Joliet (Ill.) JackHammers.
When Mumma decided to get into the world of travel baseball and to cross-promote, he decided to call his group Baseball Utility Travel.
“I found some like-minded people,” says Mumma. “We can do this without some undesirable things about travel ball.
“Parents can really put a lot of pressure on their own kids.”
It’s about player development and human development.
Something as seemingly innocent as “Come on, Johnny, throw strikes!” can be a negative cue or phrase.
“Studies show that players don’t want you to say these things,” says Mumma. “We’re trying to help guide (parents) on what is proper to say.
“A clap is sometimes better than saying something.”
Baseball Utility Travel’s mission statement: “Development. Our mission statement could end right there. We are about developing your child into the best player he can possibly be at the age and skill level he is currently at. Striving for that on a year to year basis you will see the growth of your child both on the field and off the field. Nothing, including winning will ever trump the development of your child, period. All of this being done in a positive environment that promotes maximum growth.”
Mumma has crafted a comprehensive Code of Conduct for both players and parents and has them sign a copy.
In part, that code states that players are expected to be on time (which means being ready to go 15 minutes before any activity). If they are going to be late, they are expected to call or text their coach.
Another expectation: Spikes on, uniform on, belt on, hat straight, Shirt tucked in, pants not sagging.
“You can rock your hat backward at the mall, I do myself, but on the field it’ll be straight with no hair showing out the front,” says Mumma. “Take pride in how you look.”
Mumma notes that umpires are going to miss calls and players should get used to it. If you show-up an umpire on the field they will promptly be taken out.
“I don’t care if he blew the easiest call ever, we will play with class,” says Mumma. “When you fail, which you will, act like you’ve played the game before and you understand that failure is a big part of this game.
“If you decide to put on a show after you strike out or make an error a replacement will be sent in without hesitation. The same will take place if you hit a pop up and don’t run it out as hard as you can. We will sprint on and off the field as if we were running from the cops.”
Another lesson to be learned is responsibility. So players are expected to carry their own bag, bring their own drinks and equipment.
“Control the things you can control and this will be a great experience,” says Mumma. “Things players can control: Attitude, effort, preparation, hard work and dedication. Things they can’t: Umps, crappy fields, crappy weather, umps, umps, where you hit in the lineup, and much more. And umps.”
As for parents, they are expected to get their player to practice and games on time and communicate with the coach if they are going to be late.
Mumma also tells parents how to deal with game officials.
“Umpires won’t be great so please understand that,” says Mumma. “It is not your job to communicate with them, you will directly affect your son and our team if you take that matter into your own hands. We’re teaching our coaches how handle them with class, and how to get on them when necessary.”
There is a policy where parents can ask a manager or coach about playing time or the place in the batting order 24 hours after a competition. But they must be ready to hear something they might not want to hear.
Parents are asked to cheer and avoid negative cues. They are to stay away from the dugout unless it is absolutely necessary. They are not to approach a coach in the dugout, after a game or in the parking lot.
“Please wait until the next day to handle your issue,” says Mumma. “After games please tell your kids that you are proud of them and you enjoyed watching them play. Baseball will suck the life out of a growing child because it is a game of failure.
“They do not need to get into the car after the game and hear how they went 0-4 and made two errors. Our coaches will handle that part of it and very rarely will it be in the heat of competition or after. We will take care of those types of conversations in practice and training sessions, the correct avenue for learning.”
There are now about 150 players on 12 teams ages 9U to 18U that train and play based out of a facility shared with the Detroit Diamond Jaxx in Warren, Mich., a northern suburb of Detroit.
High school players participate in six tournaments during the summer, finishing by Aug. 1. The younger kids play in eight and are done by July 1.
“Kids need to be kids and have a summer,” says Mumma. “Rest time — physically and mentally — is important for them.”
The season generally begins when the weather breaks in April.
Baseball Utility Travel has won some trophies. But that’s not the important thing.
“It’s not a prestige thing for us,” says Mumma. “Our ratio of practice to games is 2:1.
“(Beginning in late October), we have 70-80 training sessions and 35-40 games.”
Mumma is one of the lead instructors on a staff of 17 — all being former college or professional players.
“We have no parent coaches,” says Mumma. “All our guys coach all the teams in the winter. We train in big groups.
“All of our coaches) has something to offer.”
Joe Small, a former assistant at Macomb Community College, has come aboard to coordinate defensive concepts and do administrative work.
When Mumma was with the Blue Jays, minor leaguers participated in Baseball 101 class room sessions.
That’s when Mumma realized how much could be taught about the game on a chalk board and has brought that to Baseball Utility Travel.
“In these non-competitive situations, kids learn so much better,” says Mumma. On the field — with so many other players and coaches around — some might have a tendency to “clam up.”
To get messages across to his players, Mumma and his staff have brought in many guest speakers — players, coaches, sports psychologists, nutritionists and more.
While the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic has players and coaches physically apart, Mumma wants his players to be ready when baseball resumes.
“We give them things to do at home,” says Mumma. “Throwing the ball is the best way to get your arm feeling good again. Your body wants the consistency of work.
“Make sure you’re throwing.”
Not just about balls and bats, Baseball Utility Travel is also a charitable organization. Mumma says the group annually spends $25,000 to $30,000 in the community. This is done through such deeds as delivering Thanksgiving meals, Christmas gifts or paying the rent for families who lost their home in a fire.
“I always wanted to do that,” says Mumma. “We have the power of numbers. But it’s just a helping hand.”
Baseball Utility Travel celebrates with (from left): Chuck Rinehart, Broc Riggs and Brad Mumma. Rinehart is the father-in-law of organization founder Mumma.
Brad Mumma talks to Baseball Utility Travel players via Zoom conference. The graduate of LaPorte (Ind.) High School and Western Michigan University founded the organization in the suburbs of Detroit. (Steve Krah Photo)
Fraser, Mich.’s Mumma family (from left): Max, Rose, Madelyn, Bradley Jr., Ellie and Brad. Baseball Utility Travel was founded by Brad Mumma as a way to lead player and human development.
Lowery, who was the West Virginia high school player of the year in 1988 and four-year right-handed pitcher at the University of Minnesota, was in his third season of coaching collegians when Maloney was hired at BSU in the summer of 1995.
After finishing his playing career, Lowery was on Joe Carbone’s staff at Ohio University heading into the 1995 season when Mike Gibbons left the Ball State staff to pursue a scouting job and Pat Quinn, a good friend of Carbone, was looking for a pitching coach for what turned out to be Quinn’s final coaching season. Lowery was hired in January.
When Maloney, who had been an assistant at Western Michigan University, was named Cardinals head coach he inherited Lowery.
“He gets his first head coaching job at 30 years old and he has to keep an assistant for a year,” says Lowery, who was in attendance at the 2020 American Baseball Coaches Association convention in Nashville. “He was open-minded about it but he told me you need to be able to recruit and evaluate players and you’ve got to be loyal.
“We did have some good players over the years.”
While Lowery was on the BSU staff, the Cardinals produced four players that went on to be drafted in the first round — right-handed pitcher Bryan Bullington (No. 1 overall byPittsburgh in 2002), outfielder Larry Bigbie (No. 21 overall by Baltimore in 1999) and left-handers Luke Hagerty (No. 32 overall by the Chicago Cubs in 2002) and Jeff Urban (No. 41 overall by the San Francisco Giants in 1998).
Hagerty hails from Defiance, Ohio. The rest are Indiana high school products — Bullington from Madison Consolidated, Bigbie from Hobart and Urban from Alexandria-Monroe.
There was also catcher Jonathan Kessick (third round to Baltimore in 1999), right-handers Justin Wechsler (fourth round to Arizona in 2001) and Paul Henry (seventh round to Baltimore in 2002) and left-hander Jason Hickman (eighth round to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2000). Wechsler prepped at Pendelton Heights.
In addition, MLB came calling in the first 20 rounds for left-hander Sam McConnell (11th round Pittsburgh in 1997), catcher Doug Boone (15th round to the Florida Marlins in 2001 and 36th round to the New York Yankees in 2002), left-hander Adam Sheefel (17th round to Cincinnati in 2000), right-hander Bruce Stanley (18th round to Kansas City in 1997) and shortstop Shayne Ridley (19th round to Baltimore in 2000).
Tapping into Indiana high school resources, Boone went to Providence and Stanley Shenandoah.
“He was definitely energetic,” says Lowery of a young Maloney. He was about getting after it. That’s for sure.
“He was aggressive. He could recruit. He understood projectability of players. That’s why he had so many first-rounders. He could look at guys who were sort of under-valued. We can do this, this and this with this kid and he has a chance to be pretty good.”
Lowery says Bullington was undervalued because he was such a good basketball player. He just hadn’t played a lot of baseball.
“For whatever reason he chose to play baseball instead of basketball in college even though his father (Larry Bullington) is one of the best basketball players ever to play at Ball State,” says Lowery. “(Bryan Bullington) really got good at the end of his senior year (of high school in 1999) to the point that he was offered to sign (by Kansas City) and did not.
In three seasons at BSU, Bullington went 29-11 with 357 strikeouts in 296 2/3 innings was selected No. 1 overall in the 2002 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates with a $4,000,000 signing bonus.
Lowery recalls that Hagerty’s parents moved into a smaller house so he could come to Ball State. He ended up being a first-round “sandwich” pick.
Urban was a 6-8 southpaw who got better.
“He could always throw strikes but he couldn’t throw very hard,” says Lowery of Urban. “All of a sudden, he got a lot stronger, did a lot of long toss and started throwing in the lower 90s.”
Urban was also first-round “sandwich” pick.
In their seven campaigns together in Muncie, Lowery and Maloney were part of 256 wins along with three Mid-American Conference titles and four MAC West crowns.
Lowery followed Maloney to Ann Arbor and those first two Wolverines teams won 64 contests and placed in the top three in the Big Ten Conference.
Top MLB draftees during those two years were Indianapolis Cathedral product Jake Fox (third round to the Chicago Cubs in 2003, Carmel graduate Jim Brauer (ninth round to Florida in 2005), Derek Feldkamp (ninth round to Tampa Bay Rays in 2005) and Brock Koman (ninth round to Houston in 2003).
“He’s a great communicator,” says Lowery of Maloney. “He has a vision. He’s intense.
“Kids like to play for him.”
At the end of his second season at Michigan, John and Tricia Lowery had three children under 6 — Abbee, Beau and Brooks — and he decided to leave college coaching and went back to West Virginia.
Lowery has a unique distinction. He turned 50 in 2019 and his high school and college head coaches — father John Lowery Sr. (a founder of the West Virginia High School Baseball Coaches Association and WVHSBCA Hall of Famer) at Jefferson High School in Shenandoah Junction, W.Va. and John Anderson at Minnesota — are still serving in the same positions as when he played for them.
For seven seasons, Lowery was head coach at Martinsburg High School. The Bulldogs’ arch rivals are the Jefferson Cougars, coached by his father.
Martinsburg won a state title in 2009 and Jefferson bested Martinsburg on the way to a state crown in 2011. The Lowerys won a state championship together when John Jr., was a player.
The younger Lowery, who now teaches at Jefferson, coached travel ball and softball on and off the next few years then became head baseball coach for four years at Mercersburg Academy, a boarding school in south central Pennsylvania that is about 40 miles from Martinsburg.
Last spring, he traveled often to see Beau Lowery play as a walk-on left-handed pitcher at West Virginia University.
How did Lowery end up going from the Mountaineer State to Minnesota?
Rob Fornasiere, who ended up as a Golden Gophers assistant for 33 years, was a good friend of Bernie Walter, who coached Denny Neagle at Arundel High School in Gambrills, Md., and had gotten the pitcher to come to play at Minnesota.
Fornasiere was at the 1987 Olympic Festival watching Dan Wilson and John Lowery Sr., approaches him to say that his son is talented and would consider playing for the Gophers.
“To Rob’s credit, he didn’t blow my father off,” says Lowery. “Rob was always very organized. At another recruiting even later that year, John Anderson saw me play. I was good enough.”
Lowery spent a short time in the Giants organization at Everett, Wash., and Clinton, Iowa, after signing for $1,000 as a free agent with scout Mike Toomey on a car trunk in Huntington, W.Va. His pro debut was memorable.
“I was nervous as all get out,” says Lowery. “I come in with the bases loaded. I balk all three runs in because the balk rule is different in college. You can basically change direction. In pro ball, you had to set.”
John Lowery Jr., was an assistant baseball coach at Ball State University 1995-2002 and the University Michigan 2003-2004 — all but the first year as an assistant to Rich Maloney. Lowey is a former West Virginia high school player of the year who pitched at the University of Minnesota. (Steve Krah Photo)
Not all hitters are the same, but what are Pascoe’s points of emphasis?
“Being on time with the barrel, staying athletic in the box and working their bodies properly to get the most out of their swing,” says Pascoe. “A hitter’s approach is largely dictated on the situation as to where they are at in the count, who is on the mound, where runners are, and how they have been pitched by a team or pitcher.”
Butler hitters have a routine as they go through fall, winter and spring.
“We try to hit on the field as much as possible throughout the year so they are able to see the flight of the ball, which can give the hitter good feedback,” says Pascoe. “We go through a lot of drills as well early on to get them to feel their body moving properly – this will be done in the fall and preseason daily in the cages.
“When we get on the field we look more to situational hitting and hitting high velocity and breaking balls.
“Another component is also giving them more tools as a hitter – working on base hit bunting is big for a large majority of our guys. “While we talk about approach the entire year, the regular season is where we mainly focus on that so they do not get bogged down by mechanics and they can just be athletic and let everything work.”
Video and pitching machines are used often in training for Bulldog hitters.
“This past year was the first year that we used the hitting Rapsodo, which is a great tool to use in the cages when we can not get outside on the field,” says Pasceo. “Weighted bats have also been a big tool we have used at Butler.”
Launch angle and exit velocity are also a part of the equation.
“LA and EV can be useful data when tracking progress and what range for those works best for each hitter,” says Pascoe. “Certain guys are better with higher LA while others are better at lower LA. “EV can be good to give a hitter feedback to progress with getting stronger or gaining bat speed as well as just overall ability to square the ball up.
“When it comes to game time, we try to not chase these numbers so much and just look to get in there and compete.”
Analytics has become a big part of the collegiate game and it’s no different at Butler.
“Analytics do come into play quite a bit as we look at how to play certain hitters, shifting our infielders and outfielders around,” says Pascoe. “We also use analytics to determine certain matchups from both and offensive and defensive standpoint.”
Pascoe sees several outstanding qualities in Schrage as a coach.
“Coach Schrage has a lot of knowledge about the game of baseball, but he also has the drive to continue to learn more and grow as a coach,” says Pascoe. “He is very good at developing and maintaining a strong culture in programs – a lot of which attributes to his strong communication skills, his passion for the game as well as his players, and how he holds players and coaches accountable.”
Schrage, Pascoe and pitching coach Ben Norton all share in recruiting duties, but it is Pascoe that is typically on the road a little more during fall and spring practices.
Pascoe, an infielder and catcher, played at Evansville for head coach Wes Carroll from 2007-10. As a junior he was on the all-Missouri Valley Conference second team at designated hitter, leading the Purple Aces in hitting at .331.
“I enjoyed my time playing for Wes,” says Pascoe. “He always pushed me to be a good ball player and a good person while holding me accountable.
“Playing for him, he brought a lot of energy and passion for the Evansville program. For me, it was easy to play for him because I knew he cared about me and had a lot of pride for the program while also teaching me about the game of baseball.”
After his playing career was over, Pascoe joined Carroll’s coaching staff and spent five seasons (2011-15) learning the craft.
“Coaching for him provided me with a lot of experience early because he gave me the freedom as a coach to work with hitters and catchers a lot, while also giving me many responsibilities with recruiting,” says Pascoe.
One of the Aces was Kevin Kaczmarski, who played his last season in Evansville in 2015 and made his Major League Baseball debut with the New York Mets in 2018.
“We really worked with Kevin on getting rhythm to his swing, especially early in his college career,” says Pascoe. “He came in with an extreme amount of athleticism but was a little stiff with his swing so once he learned to loosen up, have some rhythm and load up on time, he really took off.
“Once he gained some rhythm to himself and to his swing, we got him to use the whole field with authority. All of this was done because he wanted to learn it and he put in a lot of work to do it.”
Pascoe has several men he considers leaders in his life, including father Paul, Schrage, Carroll, high school coach Ian Hearn (now head coach at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern High School), former Evansville assistant Marc Wagner and former Traverse City Central, Western Michigan University and Detroit Tigers organization player and college coach Sam Flamont.
“All of them have taught me about the game of baseball and the intricacies, but also how to handle different players and their personalities and to enjoy the process that goes into everyday coaching,” says Pascoe. “(Flamont) has also been a major role model and mentor for me – he is the biggest reason why am where I am at in my life.”
Pascoe, who is single, will keep busy this summer, running tournament games on-campus and recruiting.
Andy Pascoe, a graduate of Traverse City (Mich.) Central High School and the University of Evansville, is an assistant coach at Butler University. Among his responsibilities, he leads the hitters and helps with recruiting. (Butler University Photo)
Andy Pascoe (left) has seen offensive numbers improve since taking over as Butler University hitting coach for the 2017 season. (Butler University Photo)
Andy Pascoe just completed his third season as hitting coach at Butler University in 2019. Before arriving in Indianapolis, he played and coached at the University of Evansville. (Butler University Photo)
“There certainly is a lot of fire and passion in myself, yet a consistency in how we train, how we practice and what our expectations are,” says Smith, who was hired to lead the Bobcats program June 11, 2012. “I would like to think that I’m very competitive. I would like to think that resonates with our team and that we value hard work.”
“Schreib is a very fiery, passionate coach,” says Smith. “He could really put a charge into a team. Coach Servais had that as well. He was probably the most consistent person I’ve ever been around.
“I’d like to think there’s a combination of a little bit of both (in me).”
Smith was a volunteer assistant at Purdue in 1999 then spent two seasons managing in the summer collegiate Northwoods League with the Wisconsin Woodchucks (winning a championship in 2001) before being hired by Schreiber as the Boilermakers pitching coach.
“Everything that I have been able to do as a coach I owe to that man without question,” says Smith of Schreiber. “He gave me a chance to be a college coach when I really didn’t have the resume to get that position.
“I had five awesome years there.”
Chadd Blasko, who was selected in the first round of the 2002 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, was among Smith’s Purdue pitchers.
Smith was associate head coach at Creighton in Omaha, Neb., 2007-12, while gaining wisdom from Servais.
“He’s — without a doubt — one of the 10 best college baseball coaches in the country,” says Smith of Servais. “He’s an outstanding coach, a great teacher of the game.
“A lot of the things I learned about how to run a practice, how to manage a ball club I learned from my time at Creighton with Ed.”
Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, now with the San Francisco Giants organization, was a part of the Smith-led Bluejays staff.
Smith has built the Ohio Bobcats on a few simple concepts.
“In our program pitching and defense are two very big things that we spend a lot of time talking about,” says Smith. “It’s handling the ball and eliminating free bases.”
Ohio, a member of the Mid-American Conference, won MAC tournament titles and qualified for NCAA regional play in 2015 and 2017. Prior to 2015, the Bobcats had made just two NCAA tournament appearances in the 43 previous seasons.
Smith coached four Bobcats — right-handed pitchers Brett Barber, Tom Colletti and Logan Cozart and outfielder Mitch Longo — that went on to play minor league baseball. Colletti is currently in the San Diego Padres system, Cozart with the Colorado Rockies organization and Longo in the Cleveland Indians chain.
The 2019 team is 17-32 overall and 11-14 in the MAC and fighting for a spot in the six-team conference tournament, which is May 22-26 in Avon, Ohio. The Bobcats split the first two of a three-game series at Western Michigan, coached by Indiana native Billy Gernon, May 16 and 17.
“Coach Blemker taught me a lot,” says Smith. “Certainly baseball stuff, but probably more so about discipline, growing up and being a man.
“He’s been very instrumental in my life. He helped me mature. He was very patient with me through some times where I probably not the easiest player to coach.
“His patience and understanding and his toughness helped me in so many ways.”
At IUS, Smith saw right away Parr’s passion and knowledge about hitting.
Smith’s first college coaching gig came in 1998 at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, where Mike Moyzis was head coach and Rick O’Dette (who would coach the the Pumas for years until the school was closed and is now leading the program at Saint Leo University in Florida).
At Ohio U., Smith uses statistics, trends and analysis to make decisions, especially in pitch calling.
“I believe in analytics,” says Smith. “I believe there’s a place for it. It’s very useful if you can get the right information.
“That’s always been the issue at the college level. The information you can get your hands on at times is spotty. It’s getting better and better. There’s the ability to watch film and more games are on TV.There’s a lot more resources to gather good information to make decisions.”
Smith says the higher the sample size, the more reliable the information.
Rob and RaeAnna are the parents of four teenagers — identical twins Sierra and Serena (19), Tyson (15) and Isabelle (13). The twins just completed their freshmen year at Ohio. Tyson is a high school freshman. Isabelle is in the seventh grade.
Rob Smith brings combination of intensity and consistency in his seventh season as head baseball coach at Ohio University in 2019. (/Emilee Chinn/Ohio University Photo)
Rob Smith started as head baseball coach at Ohio University June 11, 2012. He took he Bobcats to the Mid-American Conference tournament titles and NCAA tournament berths in 2015 and 2017. (Maddie Schroeder/Ohio University Photo)
Rob Smith is the head baseball coach at Ohio University. He grew up in Ellettsville, Ind. He played and coached Edgewood High School, played at Vincennes University and Indiana University Southeast and coached at Purdue University and Creighton University before landing in Athens. (Ohio University Photo)
“Having the discipline to do the work is what gets you to the ability,” says Ryan Roth, co-head coach of the Winona Lake, Ind.-based Lancers. “Work ethic is a form of discipline.
“I think it’s necessary. It’s a non-negotiable.”
Roth, who has as been on the Grace coaching staff for a year, and co-head coach Tom Roy, who was Lancers head coach 1980-83 and has served a few seasons as chaplain and a short stint as pitching coach, are leadingyoung men on and off the diamond.
“You’ve got to have guys at this level who want to work hard and get better,” says Roy, who is helping the NAIA-affiliated school prepare to compete in the Crossroads League. “You have to be able to grind. You have to be disciplined and do the fundamentals properly. That’s what we’re focusing on.”
Fall practice was spent on fundamentals and learning offensive philosophy and swing mechanics and continues as the team returned from winter break this week.
“He’s a very good coach,” says Roy of Roth. “I’m no worried about that at all. Coach Roth is really good with pitching and these kids are really improving already.
“We’ve known each other for 13 years. We’re pretty excited about it. We’ll love on the kids. That’s our philosophy.”
The Lancers went 9-18 in the Crossroads in 2018, but swept a doubleheader at eventual conference tournament champion Marian and took a game against regular-season champion Indiana Wesleyan.
“Anybody can win on any given day,” says Roth. “If you give yourself a chance mentally and prepare to win, it doesn’t matter (what the standings say).
“You’ve got to respect your opponents. Make sure you handle your business on game day.”
With 10 teams in the Crossroads, Grace will play nine series. Eight of those will be on the weekend with a 9-inning single game on Friday and a doubleheader with 7- and 9-inning games Saturday. the other series will be held on Tuesdays with a 9-inning single game one week with 7- and 9-inning contests the next. This year, the Lancers host Indiana Wesleyan April 9 and 16 at Miller Field.
“We are men for Christ,” says Roth. “We have the utmost respect for all the coaches in the league.
“We are honored for the opportunity to be a part of it.”
The 2019 roster includes junior pitcher David Anderson, sophomore infielder Houston Haney and senior pitcher Logan Swartzentruber. Pitcher Anderson and infielder Haney were honorable mention all-Crossroads selections in 2018 while pitcher Swartzentruber was on the academic all-league list.
Other commitments mean Roy won’t be with the team full-time until March 1. The two men have divided up responsibilities.
Roth said is handling all administrative work and leading efforts in recruiting and establishing the program’s culture.
Love played at Northridge High School and Ball State University and has almost 20 years of coaching experience. He handles outfield instruction and helps with base running. Love and Roth have both coached at nearby Warsaw High School.
Moore, who is from Kokomo, Ind., played at Indiana Wesleyan where he was an NAIA Gold Glove catcher. He works with Grace receivers.
Skelton is a graduate assistant from Forsyth, Ga., who played at Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga. He handles infielders and helps with recruiting.
With their connections, Roth and Roy have a large network from which to recruit.
“We want to recruit regionally and locally if we can, but we’re not opposed to going coast to coast,” says Roth. “First and foremost, we’re looking for character.”
The 2019 recruiting class has a number of players from northern Indiana and a few from Ohio.
Grace coaches are looking for players who are good teammates, hard workers and those who have a relationship with the Lord.
“We’d like to get a Christian athlete, but they need to be able to play, too,” says Roy. “We’re looking at measurables (like 60-yard dash time etc.) — all the things you do as a pro scout.”
Roth talks with high school and travel coaches and seeks players willing to do the extra things on the field and in the weight room.
“We know if he’s doing it there, he’ll do it here,” says Roth. “The big thing is work ethic. That kind of thing is innate. We look for that in guys.”
To allow more opportunities to grow as baseball players and as men, Grace has added a junior varsity program. Those games will be played in the fall.
Roth played for head coach Jack Rupley at Manchester High School in North Manchester, Ind., where he graduated in 2003.
He was part of the Squires’ IHSAA Class 2A state champions in 2002 and also played football.
Ryan followed in the footsteps of older brother Marc Roth and playing for head coach Mike Frame at Huntington U.
Coach Rupley made fundamental baseball a priority.
“He taught the basics of running bases, bunt defense and situational hitting,” says Roth. “We also believed in treating everybody fairly and letting everybody be the best version of themselves.
“You knew he was going to care about you and value you no matter what happened on the field.”
Playing for Mike Frame (who Roy recruited to Huntington in his time as a coach there) and with Mike’s son, Thad Frame (a current Foresters assistant), Roth received many lessons.
“I learned a lot about how to be a disciplined player,” says Roth. “I learned a lot about the game. My I.Q. increased a ton.”
He also found out how to accept challenges and develop resilience as an athlete.
“Playing for (Frame), you just have to push yourself to get better,” says Roth. “I have a ton of respect for him.”
Roth served in the U.S. Navy 2010-13.
Citing family and personal reasons, Cam Screeton stepped down as Grace head coach in December 2018.
Tom Roy (left) and Ryan Roth are co-head baseball coaches at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind. (Steve Krah Photo)