Jaylon Cushenberry is now in charge of the baseball program at Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis. His hiring was finalized in November and he went about establishing the culture for the Bears. “At LC we’ve padded our schedule. It’s a lot tougher than it’s ever been,” says Cushenberry, who won IHSAA Class 1A sectionals in both his seasons as head coach at Traders Point Christian in Whitestown, Ind. “We play teams like Zionsville, Western, Westfield, University and a couple of other teams. “Our goal with our regular season is to play as many championship caliber teams as we can and see how we stack up. “When you think of LC Baseball from here on out you’re going to see blue collar workers who won’t quit. We have a lot of grit and determination. “They’ve all bought into the plan — play very, very hard for seven-plus innings.” Lawrence Central (enrollment around 2,365) is a member of the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference (with Ben Davis, Indianapolis North Central, Lawrence North, Pike and Warren Central). MIC teams play home-and-home series on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The Bears are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2023 with Ben Davis, Indianapolis Cathedral, Indianapolis Crispus Attucks, Indianapolis North Central, Lawrence North and Pike. Lawrence Central has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2004. Cushenberry, a graduate of Avon (Ind.) High School and Marian University in Indianapolis, is a Special Education Paraprofessional at Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School, where he is also defensive line coach for the football team. Because of the timing of his hiring he was not there to guide IHSAA Limited Contact Period sessions in the fall, but Cushenberry has regularly had 35 to 40 as winter activities and expects 10 to 15 more when winter sports are complete. The focus so far has been on getting to know one another while also teaching the game. “We want to build a great relationship with our players,” says Cushenberry. “We’re trying to get our guys to buy into who we are. “We want to build that mindset to be aggressive and not be passive and look for the easy way out.” A year ago, the Bears fielded varsity and junior varsity teams. Cushenberry says if there are enough quality players LC may have three teams this spring. Three of Cushenberry’s 2023 assistants — Conner Madding, Nolan Nihiser and Ernie Mudis — were on his Traders Point staff. At Lawrence Central, Madding is the pitching coach, Nihiser the outfield coordinator and Mudis a varsity assistant. In addition, there varsity assistant Jack Johnson, varsity assistant/junior varsity head coach Davon Hardy, JV assistant C.J. Wilson and infield coordinator Uriak Marquez. The Venezuelan played several years in professional baseball, including two in the Chicago Cubs system. Cushenberry is hitting and baserunning coordinator. He will be helped on the hitting side by Nihiser and Marquez. “Traders Point taught me how to coach,” says Cushenberry. “It taught me patience and understanding how to work with kids of lesser talent and also how to develop players at a high level. “It also taught me how to be humbled. With every high there’s a low. Our kids found that out very quickly. You win back-to-back sectionals and are a couple or runs or mistakes from being in the regional championship. “Baseball is a humbling game and teaches you so many life lessons.” The Bears play on-campus on Community Health Field. Plans call for a new all-turf field with lights next to the current one in 2024. Like Lawrence Central, Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township partner Lawrence Central is also due to get turf fields for baseball and softball, according to Cushenberry. Rainouts — which take away game and practice time — are significantly lessened with turf and a major reason so many schools are going to it. “Turf is a necessity item for us,” says Cushenberry. The Lawrence Central program is fed by Belzer and Fall Creek Valley middle schools and Fall Creek Softball & Baseball. Among Lawrence Central graduates in college baseball there’s Class of 2019’s Zach Lane (Ball State University) and Class of 2022’s Charlie Hawk (Purdue Fort Wayne). Class of 2024’s Ahmaad Duff is committed to the University of Alabama. Two others from that class — Nick Johnson and Bryson Luter — have been getting looks from collegiate baseball programs. Cushenberry, who has coach with the Indiana Mustangs travel organization in the summer, was among the many Indiana high school coaches attending the 2023 American Baseball Coaches Convention in Nashville. “It was so much fun and we learned so much,” says Cushenberry.
Building team chemistry is among the priorities for Josh Ulery as he takes over as head baseball coach at his alma mater — Peru (Ind.) High School. Hired in the fall to lead the Tigers program, the 1999 Peru graduate graduate has also been stressing fundamentals, conditioning and offensive approach while assessing his team’s strengths and weaknesses during IHSAA Limited Contact Period activities. “We want to hit the fastball and be aggressive in the (batter’s) box,” says Ulery of his hitters. “We want to swing hard but have a controllable swing.” This week, players were in the gym for Tuesday hitting. Fielding practice is slated for Saturday. Ulery wants his team — which has most varsity players back from 2022 — to be “tip-top defensively.” Thanks to moving to a new shift and role for the Peru Police Department (he went into police work at 25 and is now a detective) Ulrey is able to coach baseball in an expanded capacity. In the past he’s been a paid assistant and last year was a volunteer for Chuck Brimbury, who was his head coach when he was a standout right-handed pitcher/first baseman for the Tigers and offered a baseball scholarship to Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne (which he did not pursue). “A lot of my coaching comes through Chuck Brimbury,” says Ulrey. A four-year varsity performer, Ulrey was with Dick Keller for the first two years and Brimbury the next two. Peru went 22-5 in 1999. With many of that team returning in 2000, the Tigers won their only IHSAA Class 3A regional title. With an enrollment around 660, Peru is the largest school Three Rivers Conference (which also includes Maconaquah, Manchester, Northfield, North Miami, Rochester, Southwood, Tipppecanoe Valley, Wabash and Whitko). TRC teams see each other once during conference play. Peru is slated to begin the regular season April 7 against Bluffton in the Howard County Invitational. The slate also features at April 29 home doubleheader against South Bend Saint Joseph, a May 6 round robin at Western at May 13 Miami County Classic. The Tigers are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2023 with Bellmont, Maconaquah, Mississinewa, Norwell and Oak Hill. Peru has won five sectional titles — the last in 2018. Lief Astrup graduated in 2022. Returnees include several players who Ulery says have college baseball aspirations — Class of 2023’s Logan Gatliff and Fox Huppenthal, 2024’s Ian Potts, Matthew Roettger and Jackson Rogers and 2025’s Gavin Eldridge. “We have an amazing freshman class,” says Ulery, who could see as many as 17 representing the Class of 2026. “Those guys are really competitive. I can image a few pushing for varsity positions. “It should be an exciting and motivated year.” There have been 36 players at various open fields and conditioning. Ulery says he expects to keep up to 28 in the spring. His varsity assistants are Rob Hileman, Chris Beauchamp, Ron Potts, Adam Butt and Gary Loe with the varsity. Hillman works with hitters and fielders and coaches third base. Beauchamp is assistant hitting/outfielders coach. Potts is in charge of drill work. Butt and Loe do scorebook work for varsity and junior varsity. Jacob Loftus is head JV/catching coach. Jody Beauchamp (brother of Chris) is program pitching/first baseman coach and JV assistant. Ron Whitney is a JV assistant and also works with outfielders. Peru fields a junior high team of seventh and eighth graders that plays about a dozen contests in the spring. Jeff Dicken is the head coach. His assistant is Cody Hiles. Volunteers are Andre Ambrose and Joe Bockover. Former head coach Mike Stewart is the public address announcer for Peru baseball. Bob DeWire coordinates field maintenance at Tiger Field. Ulery says there is talk about a new field being put in — with turf and new lights — in 2024. But those details have not been set. Josh and wife Becky (formerly Mannies) have been married for 17 years. The couple has three children (a girl and two boys) — junior Jordyn, eighth graders Lukas and kindergartener Blake. Jordyn Ulery is a varsity cheerleader. Her mother is Peru’s varsity cheer coach.
New head baseball coach Aaron Wood has long been a part of athletics at West Lafayette (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School. As a 2000 West Lafayette graduate, Wood earned eight varsity letters for the Red Devils — three in baseball, three in football and two in basketball. His head coaches were Dan Walbaum in baseball, Ernie Beck and Lane Custer in football and father David Wood in basketball. Wood has been an assistant coach for all three sports at West Lafayette. “It’s my way of giving back,” says Wood, who has gotten to work with Walbaum and Joel Strode in baseball, his father in basketball and Shane Fry in football. “I’ve been a member of this baseball program for a long time. The opportunity (to be head coach) presented itself and I took it.” In Wood’s 13 years on the baseball staff, West Lafayette won three sectionals, two regionals and seven Hoosier Conference titles. Next year will mark two decades for Wood with Red Devils football. He was the running backs coach under Fry this fall and the 2022 team was ranked No. 1 in IHSAA Class 3A and finished 13-1. “I have really enjoyed my time with that program,” says Wood. “I hope in some ways we can mimic the success (football) has had in the baseball program in terms of the postseason. “We want to have some fun and win a whole bunch of games in the process.” David Wood retired after the 2020-21 season — his 27th as Red Devils head boys basketball coach. He earned nine sectional titles, including in 1999 and 2000. Aaron Wood, who is in his fifth year as a Physical Education/Health teacher and strength and conditioning coach for West Lafayette, was hired last week to lead West Lafayette on the diamond. Strode is the Red Devils athletic director. West Lafayette (enrollment around 730) is a member of the Hoosier Conference (with Benton Central, Hamilton Heights, Lafayette Central Catholic, Lewis Cass, Northwestern, Rensselaer Central, Tipton, Twin Lakes and Western). Each conference baseball team plays each other twice in a home-and-home series during the same week. The Red Devils are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2023 with Frankfort, North Montgomery, Northwestern, Twin Lakes and Western. West Lafayette has won nine sectional titles — the last in 2011. The Red Devils play home games on Bob Friend Field, a facility which recently got new paint and work on the dugouts. West Lafayette went 13-8 overall and 8-1 in the conference last spring. Senior Evan Cooke (.353 with six home runs and 27 runs batted in and 4-2 on the mound with a 1.51 earned run average for 2022) and junior Jack Shaeffer (.400 with 18 RBIs and 2-3) are expected back for 2023. Cooke scored 34 goals this fall for West Lafayette’s 20-1-1 boys soccer team. While it is not affiliated with the school, West Lafayette Youth Baseball teaches the game at the younger levels. While he was busy with football, Wood noticed that some baseball players were getting in work at various places in the fall. He looks forward to the next IHSAA Limited Contact Period (Dec. 5-Feb. 4) where baseball activities will be permitted two times a week for two hours. Wood is in the process of assembling his coaching staff. “We need to get administrative things out of the way and start focusing on player development,” said Wood. A former multi-sport athlete himself, Wood is a believer in it. “We have to have it for our school to have success,” says Wood. “It does wonders for your support and it develops the sort of toughness that we need to win. “You’re remaining in competitive environments.” Wood went into the working world out of high school and earned an degree in Organizational Leadership and Supervision degree from Purdue University more than a decade later. The husband of West Lafayette Elementary School third grade teacher Jennifer Wood later decided to go into education. “I have a passion for students and coaching,” says Wood. “I got a graduate certificate from Indiana Wesleyan and here I am. “It’s the best decision I’ve ever made professionally.” With Aaron and Jennifer both being teachers they are on the same schedule and able to spend time together and with daughter Carson (6) and son Carter (3). “They enjoy being at the various fields and making it a family affair,” says Wood.
Has it really been a generation since Indiana widely adopted high school class sports? Of course there were classes in football going back to the 1970s, but check the records and you will find that 1996-97 (when Jasper outlasted Carmel 10-8 for the IHSAA baseball championship) was the last year that other sports were in the all-comers category at state tournament time. With the COVID-19 pandemic taking away the 2020 spring season, that makes 2023 the 25th year of class baseball in the Hoosier State. In the multi-class era, 56 different schools have won state baseball championships. Of that number, only Jasper, LaPorte and Penn earned titles prior to 1997-98. There are 22 schools with multiple state runner-up finishes. That accounts for 60 red ribbons — all but 12 coming from 1997-98 forward. Noting that some schools came about in recent years because of consolidation, unification or other reasons, those that won their first sectional championship during the multi-class era include 4A’s Elkhart (2021), Evansville Harrison (1999), Fishers (2017), Fort Wayne South Side (2012) and Michigan City (2002), 3A’s Angola (1999), Charlestown (1999) and Hamilton Heights (2006), 2A’s Austin (2002), Central Noble (2009), Clinton Central (2005), Covenant Christian of Indianapolis (2008), Delphi (2008), Fairfield (1998), Hanover Central (2011), Heritage Christian (2005), Illiana Christian (2022), Lewis Cass (2000), North Decatur (2011), Parke Heritage (2021), Sheridan (2004), South Knox (2004), Southwestern of Hanover (1999), Southwood (1999), Taylor (1998), Triton Central (2003), Whitko (2017) and Woodlan (2005) and 1A’s Argos (1998), Bethesda Christian (2008), Caston (2012), Christian Academy of Indiana (2004), Cowan (2004), Daleville (1999), Edinburgh (2009), Elkhart Christian (2013), Eminence (2005), Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian (2001), Fort Wayne Canterbury (2009), Greenwood Christian (2014), Hauser (2004), Henryville (1999), Indianapolis Lutheran (2017), Kouts (1998), Marquette Catholic (2002), Milan (1999), Monroe Central (2001), Morgan Township (2004), Morristown (1998), New Washington (1998), Northeast Dubois (1998), North Miami (2019), Oldenburg Academy (2003), Park Tudor (1998), Pioneer (2016), Randolph Southern (2010), Rising Sun (2002), Seton Catholic (2011), South Central of Elizabeth (2005), Southwestern of Shelbyville (1999), Tecumseh (2000), Traders Point Christian (2021), Trinity Lutheran (2009), Triton (2000), Washington Township (1999), Union City (2012), University (2012), Waldron (2001), West Washington (2021), White River Valley (2017) and Whiting (2008). A quarter century in, there are still plenty of opinions in the Indiana high school baseball community about the system. These questions were posed to several coaches around Indiana:
Is class baseball a positive or a negative?
Who benefits the most from class baseball?
If you could change anything about class baseball what would that be?
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It has allowed schools of all sizes to be recognized and have some success at the state level while increasing fan interest in our sport. The players and the communities truly benefit the most from class baseball, in my opinion. “The IHSAA does a great job of administering the state tournament and ending each year at Victory Field allows our sport to be showcased on a big stage! However, the tournament format itself needs to be addressed, especially at the sectional level, and we can’t continue in a ‘one size fits all’ cookie-cutter format. Our sport is different than others and our tournament format needs to reflect that. Seeding, success factor, and travel also need to be looked at in light of the fact(s) that class sports are here to stay and there are geographical constraints/factors based on the location of the school(s). “Baseball in general is changing for the better in Indiana … the IHSBCA and the IHSAA need to continue to work together on formats/philosophies/participation guidelines that foster growth in our sport and develop a mutual relationship where everyone’s input is valued. We, the IHSBCA, have several ideas to share about the state tournament format/setup and how we can better grow our sport, in general. We are all stronger when we are working together and my goal as the Executive Director is to help facilitate positive changes that will grow our sport and unify our coaches at the same time.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. “I assume that smaller schools are more likely to benefit so they play teams that are more competitive. “I would support adding a fifth ‘super class’ of the largest schools and then balance the rest of the four classes.”
“Class baseball is definitely a positive thing. It levels the playing field for teams when it comes to player depth and facilities. “For example, a school with an enrollment of 2,200 has a lot more players to work with and pull from than a school with an enrollment of 300. Both teams can be good and have good players, but the bigger school is very likely going to have more depth. The smaller school is likely to have one really good pitcher where the bigger school is likely to have two, or even three really good pitchers. As a result, the bigger school would have a big advantage in the sectional and regional. “The other way it levels the playing field is when it comes to facilities. Bigger schools tend to have nicer facilities to train and practice in during the off-season where some schools, usually the smaller ones, don’t have anything close to the facilities of larger schools. Many schools either can’t get access to the facilities they have during the off-season because other in-season teams are using them for practice or games, or they just don’t have the facilities or space period. “It can put teams at a big competitive disadvantage when they can’t train or practice the way they want to and need to during the off-season, and I think class baseball helps in this regard because schools that have similar enrollments tend to have similar facilities. “Everyone benefits from class baseball. The smaller schools obviously because of what I mentioned in my previous answer to the first question, but also the larger schools. When you’re competing for anything, let alone a state championship, you want it to really mean something and be a challenge. It’s what competing is all about. It’s not going to mean as much when a school with an enrollment of 2,200 plus kids goes up against a school with an enrollment of 300 plus kids and beats them in a sectional or regional. They should be able to do that again referring back to what I mentioned in my previous answer to the first question. “Not only would they win but they wouldn’t have to throw their No. 1 pitcher to do so and would have them available for the next game, where the smaller school would likely need to throw their best pitcher in that situation. And if they did win, do they have a pitcher that could compete and win against another team with a large enrollment…not likely. “There are two things I would change about class baseball, and one of them is being talked about right now. First, I would seed the postseason. It’s frustrating when you have teams that have done really well during the regular season and they meet in the first or second round of the sectional, and there are teams that didn’t fair as well in the regular season getting a bye in the first round and/or playing another team that didn’t do as well in the early rounds. “It’s something I feel wouldn’t be too difficult to do or set up and it would make the postseason better and provide even more meaning to the regular season. I like that everyone makes the postseason because you can have something happen with injuries and get a player back, or a team hasn’t quite figured things out yet but later in the year they do and are still in it. “But, there needs to be something in place for teams that do better in the regular season. I think seeding the sectional would be really good for Indiana high school baseball. “The other thing I would change is going from four classes to five classes. Again, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned previously. Many times there’s such a large gap between the teams in 4A. I think going to five classes would help this and it’s something the IHSBCA and IHSAA are talking about and looking into. “The success factor has worked well and is set up well. How they have it set up is good and I think it’s accomplishing what they wanted it to.”
“There’s no doubt that class sports have provided more opportunities for athletes, coaches, schools, and communities by creating a level of fairness with classified state tournaments. I understand the traditional approach of one class and experienced it as a player as we advanced to the semistate finals as a small school (at Western) in ’93 and ’94. But as a coach, the class system allows for accomplished small school teams to aspire to be state champions instead of hoping to win a sectional in a one class system. “All stakeholders of a school’s baseball program (benefit most from class baseball). Having ranked teams and winning championships builds a greater sense of tradition within communities and raises interest amongst school children, faculty, and administration. Players and coaches benefit from the sense of accomplishment by developing a highly competitive team within a post-season setting. “I would make the tradition factor a four-year stay in an elevated class — not just two years. Those who are state champion caliber teams seem to continue to dominate the current landscape. Also, if a team moves up in class and wins a sectional, regional, etc., a system needs to be created to keep them in that class because they are showing the ability to compete. “We need to restructure our tournament. Six-team sectionals and format need to be uniformed. Only the sectional final should be played on Memorial Day. We’d have two-team regionals, four-team semistates and seed the tournament. “We are the only sport that, based on pitching restrictions (pitch counts and days rest) and may not have our best lineup on the field in a championship setting. Too many sectional championships are decided by Team 1’s ace dominating vs Team 2’s bullpen because of weather, graduation or the draw. Basketball will always have their point guard.”
“There have been a lot of positives (with class baseball). There have been some very good smaller schools that have gotten the chance to experience state tourney runs that might not have happened in areas where there were perennial large school programs had too much depth for the smaller schools. I think that has been a good thing for Indiana high school baseball. “Small schools with open enrollments and the ability to reach out from beyond what would be considered a normal attendance area have done extremely well (in class baseball). This, however, is not entirely the fault of class sports. Open enrollment and increased club and travel athletic teams have opened up a whole different experience for high school athletes today. “High school athletes are far more likely to travel further, meet and become friends with new teammates outside of their own school in the off-season and subsequently more likely to travel further away to attend a school of their choice. In a way I can’t blame them. Unfortunately, that choice often comes with a greater financial obligation and not all athletes and their families can afford to do so. Smaller schools have benefited in some areas directly. That’s not necessarily a criticism of the class sports, it’s the trend and we aren’t going to a one-class tourney.”
“Overall (class baseball) is a positive. At times, schools being up a class or down a class will dictate how successful they can be. “The smaller schools probably benefit most (from class baseball). Winning a sectional would be a huge feat for a small school (during the one-class era). I know it was for us (at Northwestern) when we played in the sectional with Kokomo). “There’s talk of the IHSAA going to a five-class system. I’d probably be in favor of that. If you’re going to do class might as well break it up a little more. “How are sectionals are being distributed and seeding of the tournament would take much more priority over how many classes there are. “Let’s set up a season where the regular season is more meaningful and the better teams are meeting at the end (with semistate- and state-caliber games at those stages rather than at the sectional level). “I like the way Ohio (has seeded). The way I understand it, teams have been ranked off their MaxPreps ranking. Head coaches have a meeting. If you’re ranked No. 1 you pick your sectional. If you’re No. 2 you pick your sectional and you’re probably not going to put themselves in the same sectional as the No. 1 team.”
“(On the positive side,) class baseball provides more kids, coaches, and communities an opportunity to be a state champion. (On the negative side,) prior to class baseball we were used to minimal travel. We’ve also lost the local rivalries because of class baseball. “Good smaller programs who were fundamentally sound yet they usually didn’t have the pitching to advance deep into the tournament (benefit most from class baseball). “I would place all private schools into Class 4A or 2A. The success factor has helped every two years, but you still have those schools who dominate every two years they move down. “I’ve coached at the 4A and 3A level and even though I am at a 3A school, I would still rather compete against local rivalry teams rather than class baseball. However, we will never return to a one class system and I understand why!”
“Class baseball is a positive and helps balance the playing field. Since I’ve been coaching, I believe all but just a few schools that have made the State Finals in 4A are in the top 32 in enrollment in the state. “Baseball is a game where you are not always putting your best 9 or best team on the field depending on pitching rotation and availability of arms. “The larger enrollment typically means there are more available players trying out, which creates a greater opportunity to development quality depth in your pitching staff. That is one advantage that bigger schools have. So, the idea of class baseball helps to control some of the variables on both sides of the field. It is not perfect, but it is a way to try and help control some of the unique variables that are different in baseball than other sports. “I believe the top half of each class benefits the most from class baseball, especially at the 3A and 4A levels because the range of enrollment is so much bigger from the smallest school to biggest school in those classes. The range in enrollment in 1A and 2A is much closer from top to bottom. “I don’t really want to go down this path, but the private schools also benefit from class baseball, especially in 1A, 2A, and often 3A. Private schools are not limited to school district lines and are able to draw from a wider range of students compared to the smaller enrollment schools in 1A and 2A. “Not really answering the question, but if I could change anything about the IHSAA tournament, I would make the regular season matter and seed the tournament (or at least seed the teams that feed into the regionals). “You might not be in the same sectional each year if you are seeded from the regional level. I would also create double-elimination rounds at the different levels (sectional, regional, etc.). Similar to the thought above that you are not always putting your best team on the field depending on pitcher availability, a double-elimination tournament would help to insure the best team advances and not just the team with the best pitcher and the best blind draw. “Classes need to be set by a specific enrollment range and not try to keep every class the same size. I would add a fifth or even a sixth class and set the range for the enrollment so that each school in the class is close to the same enrollment size. If that means that one class only has 32 teams, another class has 48, another class has 64, and another class has 96, then that is what should be done and would help make the tournament as fair as possible.”
“Overall (class baseball) is a positive. It has given a lot of smaller schools a chance to be successful and show some of these coaches at smaller schools can really coach. “Smaller schools definitely benefit the most (from class baseball). Some of the teams that have won state championships would never make it out of their sectionals if we were one class. Nothing against them but when schools have 2,000 students to pick from they are going to have a lot more athletes and in the sports that require more players like baseball and football that makes a big difference. “(I favor putting) private schools in their own class. I think they have such a huge advantage. Not because they recruit or anything like that, but they tend to get the players that are more apt and able to do the extra things such as lessons, travel ball, etc. “Overall (class) been good for sports in Indiana. I know Silver Creek has won three state championships in boys and girls basketball in the past four years and made we have made some long runs in baseball. Not sure we would have been able to do that in one class. If you ask any of those kids that were on the state championship team and I am sure they could care less whether it was one class or four.”
“I have no issues with class baseball. I like competing against other schools my size because they have the same issues (positive and negative) that I have. “(Class baseball) definitely helps the smaller schools being able to compete against other schools their own size. “Baseball is a sport where a dominant pitcher can have a great bearing on the game. I remember playing Bremen in the semistate in ’94. (John Glenn head coach) John Naldony has had some very good teams that can compete against larger schools. “As far as changes, a double-elimination sectional would be interesting. I am not sure if a five-class baseball system could accommodate that.”
“Wapahani is in favor of class sports. I believe it makes sports a more even playing field. We won the state in 2014 in 2A, that would not have happened if there was one class. “Our girls volleyball just won state, which is a big deal for small communities, they lost to Yorktown twice and HSE (Class 4A finalists) all were sweeps and not really close. “Even though our team in 2014 and our girls last week were very good, competing against the bigger schools in the tournament would be very difficult. That being said, our State Championships are still a very big deal for our community, school, and students. “Therefore, class sports are a positive. As little league participation in small communities keep losing kids to travel ball and other activities small school numbers are seeing less kids playing baseball and softball unless they have a successful program which is a minority. “Small schools at least feel like they have a chance to win in the tournament and maybe even a state championship when they are playing schools close to their same size. Very few 1A or 2A teams can compete in the tournament with the bigger schools, once they realize that kids quit playing or go to another sport where they might have a chance to win. “The current format is fine for the tournament. Adding additional classes or a class would benefit big schools only in my opinion. Four classes has been a success. Can you tweak things? Maybe. But why change if it is not broken?”
“I like the one-class system but also know that class sports are not going anywhere so we can take the positives from it and live with it. “It is probably the small class schools and communities that benefit the most as they typically have a greater opportunity to advance when playing similar size schools. “Class sports are here to stay so one change I’d like to see for baseball would be the tournament run in some way that has a series feel to it as baseball is not a sport that is suited for a ‘one and done’ tournament.”
“I’m fine with class sports but concerned about the impact of some private and parochial schools that seem to put great emphasis on athletic success which can make it difficult for public schools to compete on an annual basis. “Class sports are here to stay but this situation and the number of transfers at public schools are the next challenges for the IHSAA.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It has created more excitement for more schools and their fans. “Probably the smaller schools feel as if they have a better chance to experience sectional and regional championships than when it was one class. “The only drawback (in class baseb all) I could see is you may have farther travel but in your sectional pairings than when it was one class. When I played in the single class, your sectional would be more local. It would have teams of various sizes, but we seemed have greater rivalries because many times you played against those teams in the regular season or against those players in your summer leagues. “As a coach today, I want to play the best schools we can (no matter the size). I want to prepare ourselves for our conference and sectional. When I was a player, we wanted to be able to compete with Logansport, Kokomo, Marion and LaPorte. Today, we want to compete with Andrean, Jasper, Brebeuf and Southridge.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. I witnessed first-hand what the state tournament does in small communities. The student-athletes have a more balanced playing field. “The benefits go to the teams that advance the furthest in the tourney. Without class baseball a 1A could defeat a 3A or 4A school in the tournament on a given day. However, in most cases those smaller schools don’t have the depth, especially with pitchers. “We are at the point that we need to look at the number of classes. I would be in favor of adding a fifth class. The current disparity in school sizes is extremely large in the upper class. With the growth and addition of smaller, private schools, other mid-size schools are being bumped up. “The biggest problem facing our tournament currently is the number of schools in the sectionals. Host schools have roughly a week to host a sectional tournament. “Depending on your sectional, you could have anywhere from 5-8 teams in that sectional. Huge difference between five and eight. In a five-team sectional the winning team would have to win two or at most three games, and could possibly do that with two pitchers. In an eight-team sectional, the winning team would have to win three games and would possibly need three if not four pitchers in that 5-7 day window for the games.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It levels the playing field for all schools, especially the ones that are not in that top quarter or so. “The smaller schools and even the medium-sized schools benefit the most. “The thing that football did with the Top 32 (being in the largest or super class), I’d like to see that in the other sports. There are different things you could do with the other four (in a five-class system). You could divide it up evenly. There’s been discussion of capping 1A at 128. There’s a big discrepancy right now between the bottom of 4A and the top of 4A. “(The Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association) has talked about running data and see how people would fall. There would not be (an) equal (amount of) schools in every class. We’re still in the process of gathering information. The IHSAA was at our last two athletic directors conferences and present for those discussions.”
“Class baseball will have a positive effect on high school baseball. I think that it levels the playing field for the state tournament. Also, having class baseball will allow more schools the opportunity to earn a state title just like with football’s six classes. “I believe that the smaller schools will benefit.” “It would be fun to see all state title teams play in a small tournament to see who is the best of all of the classes.” “Even with the change to class baseball, there are very good teams at each class level. It will still not be an easy road to get the opportunity to play at Victory Field.”
“Had class sports been in place (when I was at Clinton Prairie) I may have never left. One of the things class sports does is that you can achieve everything positive you want to achieve from a goals standpoint. “Class sports kind of levels the playing field during the state tournament. I had some terrific teams back at Prairie. In five years, we won two sectionals. “A disadvantage for class sports is that when you get to a bigger school like Noblesville there’s no ceiling on the enrollment. “Believe it or not once we went to class sports Noblesville had the smallest enrollment in our sectional at 1,250 (Clinton Prairie was around 300). “If I were at Clinton Prairie I’d welcome it as a smaller school. I might have one really good pitcher that could help me compete against anybody, but in most years would have a drop-off in pitching depth. “At Noblesville — a larger school — I have the chance to have more depth. In baseball it always comes down to pitching. You can be good in a lot of areas of the game. If you have a question on the mound you’re going to struggle.”
There’s positives and negatives for everything, but it’s good for baseball to have class. “If we expand to another class it’s going to be even better. It makes everyone feel like they have a chance. If you’ve got the right group of guys you can win. “At the State Finals you see a difference between the 1A game and 4A game. The lineups are deeper at the bigger level. The 4A game is little more of a college game than a high school game. “The smaller schools probably benefit more (in class baseball) than the bigger schools). “In baseball, it’s how the pitching lines up. “I like how Iowa does it. They don’t start baseball until the end of April and their tournament’s in July. I don’t know if that will ever happen here.”
“Class baseball is a positive (but classification should be addressed) … The number of schools in each class doesn’t need to be the same. “Breakdown of each class needs to be more than an arbitrary enrollment number. There needs to be thought into why the lines of demarcation are made (spread, standard deviations, range). Athletic department size (percentage of the student body participating in each sport should be used for classes) could be used to determine classes. “Many large schools have very small baseball programs. Some small schools have very large baseball programs in terms of numbers. The class system should be used to place a school into its appropriate level of competition, not just for the number of students that attend a school. There are many other variables to consider.”
“I don’t know if (class baseball) is a positive or a negative per say. I played when there wasn’t any classes and I think the class system has taken away for the local rivalries. Now depending on your class and the location of your sectional, you may have to travel up to an hour to play in sectionals, although more teams have the opportunity to win a state championship, a win over a neighborhood rival might mean more, bragging rights. “There are eight teams every year who have the opportunity to play in a state championship game so that’s a benefit (to class baseball). More players, coaches, and schools who have a chance to experience a state championship game. “I’m not sure that I agree with the success factor movement (for all schools), aside from private schools you may be punishing kids who aren’t even in high school because current classes are winning. In small towns you may have a group of kids who all hit at once and then the next year they have nothing, those young men, in the current format are being punished for the success of prior classes. “For me it comes down to the local excitement, the rivalries, the competition between kids who know each other, who’ve grown up playing each other since little league. That’s what’s I believe is missing with the class system. Coming from a coach at a small school I know that if there wasn’t a class system the likelihood of us winning a sectional would go down dramatically, but just think if we would ever knock off one of the local big boys, it would be remembered forever.”
“Overall you can’t make a real argument that (class baseball) is a negative. You’re putting more kids and more schools in successful situations. I get that part. “We were fortunate enough to win eight sectionals (at Northeast Dubois) which wouldn’t have happened in single-class. “That being said, I’m not sure its been a positive for small-school athletes as far as recognition goes (for all-star consideration or scholarships). “The smaller schools were the target when this all started 25 years ago.” “There are private schools that have it better than other private schools (some have thrived and others have had a hard time fielding a team).”
“Class baseball is a positive for the most part. The obvious plus is that there are more ‘winners.’ The big negative in my opinion is that schools lose local rivalries. Pre-class era, we had great rivalries with all the local schools because you were going to potentially play one of them at the sectional or regional level. Those teams and games are now just another game on the schedule unfortunately, especially in my neck of the woods. “Terre Haute South and Terre Haute North are on a ‘big school island.’ We have to travel at least 50 miles to play another 4A baseball team. It was much easier to have a rivalry with say a West Vigo, South Vermillion, Sullivan, etc. before class baseball because we would most likely see them in the state tournament. It is difficult to have a rivalry with a school that is located in or around the Indianapolis area. “The IHSAA can expand to five classes for baseball — that’s fine. But, in my opinion, the private schools need to have their own class/classes.”
“I think class baseball has been positive even though I was a little skeptical when it first started. “Class baseball probably benefits the smaller schools the most because it gives them a realistic chance in the tournament. “The biggest thing that I think that could help class baseball would be looking at creating a separate parochial school class.”
“Having been a high school football coach for 40 years and a head high school baseball coach for 45 years, I have seen the ‘evolution’ of class sports here. My connection to friends and relatives in neighboring Ohio and Michigan has also allowed me to ‘watch’ the evolution of class sports there. In my early years (1981), I was part of Leland Etzler’s Woodlan football staff that went to the Class A state championship game vs. Hamilton Southeastern. There were three classes of football at that time compared with the six we have now. The game was played outdoors in a blizzard on November 20, 1981 (the night before my wife and I were married). It was an awesome experience for everyone connected to the small town communities of Woodburn and Harlan, Indiana. That puts my vote on the positive side of class sports in general and class baseball in particular. “In 2007, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Class 2A baseball championship game at Victory Field with my Heritage Patriots. We came up short to a powerhouse from South Spencer, but once again it was a tremendous experience for the communities of Monroeville and Hoagland. Players, parents and fans were the biggest beneficiaries in both cases. “I have seen point systems both here and in Ohio. I have seen other limited entry systems where not everyone gets to participate. I have seen ‘seeded’ systems (currently in Ohio) where top seeds are given regional choice and early round home games. Later rounds are played at ‘neutral’ sites. There are good and bad characteristics to all of these hybrid systems — depending on where you fall in the ‘rankings.’ I feel that things continue to evolve and therefore should only get better in the future — as long as we keep all kids in mind.”
“I believe it to be positive for the student-athletes throughout the state as class baseball has provided opportunities for schools of all sizes to compete with more of a level playing field. Being at a smaller school for five years (Delphi) and now at a bigger school for the last 11 (Harrison), I have been lucky enough to see several outstanding programs and coaches at all levels. “While at Delphi, we were fortunate enough to advance to the 2010 2A state championship game. While I would like to say we’d compete well in a one-class system, the truth of the matter is, we would have struggled to compete against bigger schools in a two- or three-game sectional (or regional) due to the differences in depth of our roster in comparison to bigger schools. “At Harrison, we have been lucky enough to have several arms that we could run out in an elimination game. At Delphi, that number is quite smaller, which would have really hurt us if we were to play vs. bigger schools in a two- or three-game sectional (or regional). That is a huge competitive advantage for the larger schools and something that is beyond the control of smaller schools. When class baseball started, it provided schools of all sizes the ability to compete on a level playing field in each of the four classes.
“I really see (class baseball) as a positive for the lower classes. Class A and AA have the opportunity to get a State Championship and not have to butt heads with the larger schools. In Class AAA and AAAA, there’s not as big a difference in talent.”
“Class baseball is both positive and negative in my mind. You lose some of the regional rivalries although you could still play local/smaller and larger teams on your regular season schedule. We certainly have more sectional champions and more kids are able to enjoy success playing baseball so that is a huge plus. It leaves more kids with positive experiences while in high school and playing our great game. “I would have to think that the smaller schools benefit the most from class baseball with all respect to them. Our state has tremendous coaches and programs at all levels. Again the opportunity for kids at those schools to be able to compete in the state tournament and enjoy success is a great benefit. “I’m not sure there is much to change for the better — possibly a Champions Tournament but on the flip side it may be rough to win a title and then turn around and possibly get beat. Basketball got away from it, obviously. Some schools have to travel quite a bit for sectional play, but again not sure if there is a way around that. “Baseball at the 3A level on a whole rivals the baseball being played at 4A. Jasper and Andrean’s success when they bumped up is a testament.”
“As in other sports, classification was created to level the playing field keeping schools with similar enrollment sizes within the same bracket and to also create more winners per sport. Classification has added hope to teams who may otherwise not have it if they are put into a sectional with bigger schools. To be perfectly honest most of the time the bigger schools just have access to more choices, such as players, facilities and money. “The smaller schools benefit the most from classification. It has allowed talent to grow and flourish, as having an opportunity to win a sectional breeds hope, which makes it easier to get kids out to play. “I would create a separate class for private schools, the advantage that they have can not be matched by the public school. I will say open enrollment has helped, but the private schools have distanced themselves a lot especially in baseball. “I like where we are at with baseball in the state of Indiana. The training facilities and opportunities that our kids have after high school has grown since I have been in the game the last 20 years.”
“I am somewhat of a traditionalist, so a single class had a little soft spot in my heart. That said, there are some benefits to a class system. The class system allows for: 1. More state winners, 2. A chance for smaller schools to compete at a high level, 3. It helps promote the game of baseball in the state. “I would say the smaller schools and the schools that fall just under the class limits (benefit the most from class baseball). What I mean by that is if the top 101 enrollments go to 4A, school number 102 has an advantage because they are playing in 3A. The private schools also benefit from the class system. “If we are to stay in the class system (which we will), I would say that for baseball there needs to be five classes instead of four. “Another change I would enact would be to not separate by an equal number. If there are 400 schools, it doesn’t need to be 100 in each class of four. “A final change would be the success factor rule. The requirements need to be adjusted, mainly the length at which they must stay up a class should be longer. “One thing that class baseball hurt (along with class basketball) was the community sectionals. I graduated in ’93 when it was still one class and I remember that all the sectionals in every sport were heavily-attended. The attendance has gone down in terms of sectionals.”
“Class baseball is a positive thing, especially for schools with lower enrollment. It helps create a somewhat even playing field for tournament play. Class sports have allowed for multiple smaller enrollment schools to have teams thrive and have success that may not happen if class sports didn’t exist. “Class baseball has allowed our kids to compete against schools of like enrollment. It has allowed our school to enjoy tournament success. It has allowed our school and community to host sectional and regional tournaments, whereas without class sports, we may have not had these opportunities. “I understand the log jam in class sports that occurs at the 4A level, especially in larger city schools. Oftentimes top teams match up early in a tournament, which I am sure is frustrating for those programs. “Overall, class baseball has been a positive thing, especially from the Caston baseball programs perspective. We feel as though it provides parity for our kids, and it gives them a chance to be successful in tournament play. Like in any system, there are pros and cons, but our feel is this has more pros than cons for our student athletes.”
“Class baseball is a positive thing. Teams get a chance to play vs comparable sized teams, better chance for success in state tourney. “The lower classes (benefit most from class baseball) as they all have a legitimate chance for tourney success. “My thoughts about change, which I presented to LaPorte AD, Ed Gilliland, over five years ago is this: All classes play their sectionals. Winners would then meet up in a demographic regional competing with those winners meeting in a four-team semi and finally in a final four State Championship tournament. I actually broke it down statewide with who goes where potentially each stage. This give each class a chance for a sectional title and a tourney overall state champion. I also put this idea for basketball as well. “IHSBCA has done a tremendous job in supporting high school baseball. Baseball and basketball are sports where small schools can compete vs. larger schools. My format would appease all schools with a chance for a sectional trophy, but let’s see one overall state champion.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. “Smaller public schools definitely benefit the most from class ball. “I don’t feel there is anything wrong with our classification system. There will always be some argument that private schools should perhaps have their own division.”
“I am from the group that favors the one-class system when it comes to the tournament. I think in baseball you can still be competitive with bigger schools if you are a smaller school. “If you have four or five classes then you really don’t have a ‘state champion.’ You have four or five ‘state champions.’ “If you want a true state champion then, let the class winners compete against each other a week later and really come up with a ‘state champion.’ Until then, you just have ‘class champions.’” “If you are going to have class state champions, why are big schools and little schools playing during the regular season?”
“Class baseball is a positive thing. I would say I grew up as a traditionalist and loved the single-class basketball era; however, I’ve grown to appreciate the advantages/disadvantages that come with the size of schools. “Classifying baseball is something that benefits all programs, schools and communities. At the end of the season, eight communities get to compete for the state title at an amazing stadium. Maybe that will soon expand to 10! “I am excited to see the potential of a fifth class built into the state tournament. This would help create more balance among the classes once it is all said and done. It would be interesting to see how things would shake up if multipliers were given to various things like private/public schools, free/reduced percentages, etc. I’ve heard arguments for the success factor to be implemented differently as well. I am not sure it’s entirely fair that the success of graduated juniors and seniors determines the fate of the rising freshman and sophomores who were not directly a part of that success. “I would love to see consistent sectional/regional alignments across as many team sports as possible. I feel this would enhance the rivalry aspect of the state tournament from a sectional/regional standpoint.”
“For us, class baseball has certainly been a positive. Realistically we don’t have the manpower to compete in a tournament with the larger schools. It gives us something to shoot for, and a legitimate chance to win tournament championships. “All small schools benefit from class baseball. Even at the state tournament there is a very noticeable difference in the talent level between the class A game, and the Class AA game. Larger schools have 4-5 times more kids try out for their team. Valpo has over a hundred, we typically get 20 boys out per season.”
“(Class baseball) has been a real positive for high school baseball. Although every once in awhile you have a team you feel can compete in any class, the class system gives teams a level playing field on a more consistent basis. “The kids and community benefit most (from class baseball). At the end of the day when you are a state champion, none of those kids or community identify as a class state champ, they identify as a state champion and the memories from that success. “Baseball should be a double-elimination tournament in order to get a true team champion. A team can eliminate a really good team in a single-elimination tournament with a dominant pitcher. “In 2008 we had Tyler Watts and Kevin Kiermaier get seen by the Parkland College coach because we had the opportunity to advance in the state tournament in Class 2A. They both went to Parkland and Kevin is having a pretty good major league career.”
“In our area, the vast majority of schools are 3A and 4A. I’m not sure it makes a ton of difference one way of the other. I’m sure for many small schools, (class baseball) provides some positive benefits. “(Class baseball) is beneficial for some of the smaller schools that may not have a chance for success against bigger schools. “There should be other factors involved in the equation when classifying schools. You’re not always comparing apples to apples when you look at enrollment numbers. You can compare similar-sized schools and athletes in one district that do not necessarily have the same opportunities and resources that athletes in another district do.”
“(Class baseball is a) very positive thing. Enrollment is definitely not the only factor, but it does make a big difference. It’s not realistic to think that small schools can compete consistently with the higher enrollment schools. The depth that the larger schools have because of numbers and the in-team competition that brings gives them a major advantage. Larger schools often have more resources — including indoor facilities and more coaches that is also advantageous for them. “The benefits from class baseball can be seen throughout all classes. The idea is that schools are competing against similar schools is good for all. “I would actually like to see five classes. The descepancy between the biggest schools in 4A and the smaller schools in 4A is very large. We have schools with over 3,500 students competing against schools that have less than 1,500 students. That is a major difference that brings some big advantages for the larger schools.”
“At Rossville, we benefit from class baseball. I cannot speak for any other coaches or programs but my guess is most would say that smaller schools and/or private schools benefit from the most. With that said, sectionals are generally aligned by geographical location so my guess is a 4A Sectional in the Indianapolis area might not see significant change if we had one class. I could be wrong though. “I would love to see baseball do something like basketball did for a short time with the Tournament of Champions. Baseball — unlike basketball or football — has what I consider to be an equalizer with pitching. It would be neat to see it played out. “I am a fan of the old school single-class system as well. I don’t know what it feels like winning a sectional in a single-class system and I do not want to undermine how special winning a sectional championship is. It is a great accomplishment and there is a great amount of pride felt from the program, school and community. “With that said, I would think winning one in a single-class system would feel different for small schools because of the enrollment differences with the teams you would have to beat.”
“Class baseball is a positive. It creates an opportunity for more competition across the board. “Smaller schools with fewer arms benefit the most from class baseball. Larger schools with more pitchers only are at a great advantage over the smaller schools whose best position players are typically also their best arms and usually have far fewer pitcher-only type players. “I would love to play three-game series in the postseason rather than the one-and-done model. I’m not sure it is even possible and have no idea how they could arrange it but I think it better fits baseball. You would get the better TEAMs winning sectionals as opposed to the team with the best arm or two winning them.”
“(Class baseball) is mostly positive. It gives hope for many of the smaller schools to earn a sectional, regional, semi-state ,and state championships. “The negative would be private schools seem to be earning most of these championships. “Private schools (benefit most from class baseball). In the lower classes, private schools have been piling up the state championships. “I would like to have three classes of public schools and one or two classes of private schools.”
“I am old-fashioned, I began coaching when it was a one-class system. I liked the rivalries and going to the local areas to play the sectional games (playing at home or in Terre Haute or Brazil against Northview, Terre Haute North Vigo, Terre Haute South Vigo or West Vigo). “The reason I bring it up, I felt that it was some Hoosier Hysteria in baseball. It was the local teams playing in a sectional and no one had to travel a great distance.
“It is a benefit for a smaller school to advance farther in the (class baseball) tournament. It takes away the big upsets, but more have a chance to reach the state.”
“Class sports has worked out to be a good thing for everyone involved. The competitive nature of each class is relative and that gives everyone the opportunity to see different teams in different years be successful. “The smaller schools most definitely benefit the most due to the shear numbers that are limited they have to choose from. This allows them to compete against like size schools and provide a great experience for the athlete.
“I think the way the IHSAA has it set up is good and there’s not really much to change.”
“Overall class baseball is a positive. It allows for a more-even level of competition. If we look at the schools with larger enrollment it is more common (especially now with pitch count rules) for them to compete with schools their size who have a similar pitching staffs.
“(Who benefits the most from class baseball is a two-pronged answer. On one hand you have smaller schools 1A, 2A, even 3A who have had more of a chance to compete and have success against schools their size. Again, looking at depth of pitching on those levels it creates a more even playing field. Second answer would be the private/parochial/preparatory schools. They have had more success than most public schools in the tournament, yes they fluctuate in classes because of success factor, but also they have the advantage of being able to set an enrollment where public schools do not.
“Maybe add one more class, I’d like to see just what that would look like. Northview is at the top of the 3A scale so that may move us to the bottom of 4A. I don’t know how that would effect everyone. Also maybe look at a multiplier for the private/parochial/preparatory schools in sports like other states have done. Other states have done it and I think it does create a more even system.
“Overall I think class baseball is great. I think however we could all look back to the days of the David vs. Goliath matchups which brought in huge crowds. I would also like to say that I’m not trying to bring anyone down in this because right now I would argue the state of Indiana has as much baseball talent as any state in the Midwest. The coaching in our state has been really great. I enjoy competing against these coaches from all the different classes and I think baseball in Indiana is as good as it has ever been and I think with the classes we’ve seen some great tournaments and will continue to do so in the future.”
“I think (class baseball) is a positive. I was fortunate to have some teams make deep runs in the tournament during my career that likely would not have happened under a one-class system. In fact, one of my best teams at Northfield was during the one-class era and we were beaten by what is now a 4A school. Had that been a class season, we may have had a chance to win state, minimally, made a deeper run. It provides a few more teams the chance to finish as champions thanks to a more level playing field. “More communities (benefit from class baseball). When we came back into town after our first championship years ago, there were thousands of people in the Kmart parking lot waiting for us. Then we took the fire engine ride through town and spent the next week getting treated like royalty … That was a great experience for the community of Wabash and the players and their families. All have a memory that will last a lifetime. In the one-class era, very few small communities got to experience the state level. “(Class baseball) is pretty good overall, but I would like to see a more consistent schedule set at the sectional level for all sites as much as possible. That is hard to do since some sectionals have lights, others don’t, and trying to work around graduations. But host schools have the slight advantage of setting a schedule that best suits their pitching staff. Of course, weather can play havoc to the best of schedules and no matter how the schedule is set, someone will still likely be unhappy. “There’s some talk about a slight revamp of the class system to help break down the large enrollment gap between the top and bottom 4A schools. Like most, those at the bottom of 4A just want to have a more balanced system. I appreciate the IHSBCA and IHSAA exploring possible options.”
Ty Calloway and George Phares were on opposite sides as coaches of baseball and basketball in Indiana’s Howard County. Calloway, a 1968 graduate of Western High School in Russiaville was at his alma mater and 1965 Shelbyville Senior High School grad Phares at Taylor High School on the side side of Kokomo. Success came to both men and Phares (656-412 in seven seasons at Morristown and 31 at Taylor with an IHSAA Class 2A state championship for the Titans in 2000) was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2004. Calloway (662-310 with a 3A state title in 2012) joined his friend in the Hall in 2012 and retired after the 2013 season. Taylor’s diamond was renamed Phares Field in 2006. After retiring from the classroom, he helped out at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion on the staffs of Mark DeMichael and Chad Newhard for seven or eight years. Phares says he enjoyed his interactions with former Bethel University assistant and fellow IHSBCA Hall of Famer Dick Siler. Future major league pitcher Brandon Beachy went Northwestern High School in Howard County to IWU. Phares also volunteered at Taylor and Kokomo and could be seen in recent years helping each January with registration at the IHSBCA State Clinic in Indianapolis. He is also on Hall of Fame selection committees. As retirees, Calloway and Phares share a log cabin on Dewart Lake near Leesburg in Kosciusko County. They often spend New Year’s Eve there with wives Dallas Calloway and Martha Phares. Ty and Dallas are the parents of Wendy and Betsy. George and Martha have Jennifer, Tim and Susan. “We are the second-most famous George and Martha in the United States,” says Phares with a nod to the Washington’s. Recently, Calloway and Phares offered their views on a variety of topics related to baseball and education. Calloway was in the last eighth grade class that went through in Taylor Township prior to the completion of the high school. Ty’s two younger brothers — two and three years behind him — both went to Taylor. “My parents had to split time going to my games and their games,” says Ty, who got to compete against middle brother Mike on both the diamond and the basketball court. Mike’s class played a junior varsity schedule as freshmen then a varsity schedule as sophomores. There was one baseball game between the two schools where Ty was on second base and one of his teammates hit a deep fly to center field. “We didn’t have fences back then at Western,” says Ty. “Mike took off and I thought for sure it was over his head and I came all the way and stepped on home plate. All of a sudden, he did one of those ‘Willie Mays’ over-the-back catches. I had to retreat back. He threw (me) out at second. “I was at shortstop when we picked Mike off second base. That was an interesting game.” Ty and Mike guarded each other on the hardwood. There was one season of baseball for Ty at Ball State University in Muncie and summers with the Kokomo Highlanders. He went on to earn a bachelors and a masters degree at BSU. He applied in several places but was offered a chance to teach and coach at Western by Norm Llewellyn and took it. Calloway taught middle school Health and Physical Education. Beginning in the spring of 1974, he was JV baseball coach for four years. He was also a varsity assistant or JV boys basketball coach for about 20 years. Phares played baseball at Seymour High School as a freshman and the next three at Shelbyville. He went to Indiana State University and was cut from the team. He graduated with a degree in Mathematics and Physical Education and went to Morristown in 1969-70. “I had played (American) Legion baseball at Morristown and knew a lot of people there,” says Phares. “They hired me as a junior high baseball coach. I graduated from college on Sunday and Monday I started working. I was made head coach at the end of the first year. “Throughout my high school career I was always the head baseball coach.” Phares was also a varsity assistant in basketball at the beginning of his time at Taylor. Calloway says it was his raising with his brothers and sister that led to his philosophy as a coach. “My dad taught self-discipline and being responsible,” says Ty. “No matter whatever did give 100 percent effort and that’s what I told (our players) we’re gonna get.” At tryout time when it came down to cutting down the roster and Calloway had two players of equal ability, character would be the tiebreaker. Students and athletes on Calloway’s watch were expected to behave. “You can’t win with kids who have bad character,” says Calloway. “You’ve got to have good kids. “As much as you can you’ve got to be a good role model for those kids.” Between the lines, Calloway stressed fundamentals and saw to it that those were being taught at Russiaville Little League. Among those fundamentals was the proper throwing mechanics. “The teams that win games are the teams that play the best pitch and catch,” says Calloway. “That’s a fact.” Calloway organized practices where his player got plenty of repetitions and got better. “In high school baseball, reps is the key to winning,” says Calloway. “Sometimes I said we play too many games. We need a couple more practice in-between.” Calloway says games are where skills are showcased. Practices are where they are built. One Western player who got better even after being cut multiple times was Steve Bagby. He started as a senior then played in the outfield at Coastal Carolina University. “He was one of those kids who just kept getting better and better and better,” says Calloway of Bagby. “He matured and he worked on a skill.” Both former coaches talked about dealing with parents. “I was blessed,” says Phares. “I really didn’t have problems mount. I had parents who were unhappy. I tried to explain things to them and — for the most part — it worked out OK. “You try to be fair.” Calloway says he had few problems with parents during his lengthy career. “You went to be straight up with them,” says Calloway. “You want the administration to back you.” Phares, who later coached in the college ranks, made a point of being a straight shooter when a college coach came to evaluate of one of his players or even others in the area. “I was always honest with him,” says Phares. “High school coaches can’t lie to those college coaches. You gotta tell the truth. “Most parents would rank their kid better in their skill level than where they’re at. It’s just nature.” Calloway was the same way. He’d know an athlete’s potential and his maturity level and would share that with recruiters. “You’ve got to have the skill,” says Calloway. “And you have to have the strength and the speed. I’ve had a kid who had the skill and strength but was slower than molasses and couldn’t play at the (NCAA) Division I level.” Many parents and players don’t realize that a “full-ride” scholarship is a rare thing in college baseball with rosters of 30-plus and 13.7 scholarships at the D-I level (and less at D-II, NAIA etc.). Phares became a Brooklyn Dodgers fan in 1955 the year the team won the World Series and his home is full of Dodgers memorabilia. Through his relationship with Dodgers scout Dale McReynolds (who signed Bob Welch, Jeff Hamilton and Steve Howe), there is a photo of Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda standing with Phares and Calloway. It was the New York Yankees — who won plenty and were on the “Game of the Week” on TV with Dizzy Dean and Peewee Reese at the mic as Calloway was growing up that became his team. The coaching veterans are not fans of some of baseball’s changes reflected in Major League Baseball and moving down. “It’s changed for the worse,” says Phares. “Now the baseball game has become kind of a side show and all the antics of the players. “They all have to flip their bats, stare down and do this and do that. I just don’t like it. It’s television. That’s what they want. I can’t stand to watch the Little League World Series anymore. They’re encouraging those kids to act like (the bat-flipping big leaguers). “When they get to high school they’re got a bad attitude.” Calloway sees a lot of self-centered behavior. “The the Little League to the high school you’re starting to see kids where it’s about ‘me’ instead of ‘we.’” He sees it reflected in Kokomo shrinking at the neighborhood park level. Many are leaving for travel ball and the youth leagues have shut down leaving them to play at Championship Park. “We had a park in about every little area of town — UCT, Southside, Indian Heights, Northside,” says Calloway. “Local teams now are dwindling.” When Calloway was coaching he would often have his top players on a travel or American Legion team and then there was a focus on the others. “If I could devote time and make my 6 through 9 players better than your 6 through 9 players I’m going to beat you because baseball is consistently up and down the lineup,” says Calloway. “We would work in the off-season to develop these kids.” Phares always enjoyed going to clinics and attended about four every year. He went with a purpose. “My goal is to find one thing that we can use that will fit the Taylor Titan program that we can use to make us better,” says Phares. “I don’t think most coaches have a program. They play their games and they spend all winter going to these (showcase) camps and saying this kid throws 95 mph.” The way Phares sees it, a testament to a program is one that can do well with multi-sport athletes who have chosen not to specialize in one area. “(Taylor) didn’t have enough athletes and had to pass them around,” says Phares.
Rob Jordan was to lead his first Tipton (Ind.) High School baseball season during the spring of 2020. But the COVID-19 pandemic kept the Blue Devils from playing a game. Jordan’s first on-field campaign as head coach was 2021. Most of the players from that team graduated, leaving very little varsity experience in 2022. “Last season was pretty tough on us,” says Jordan of year where Tipton went 2-18 with 27 players in the program. “We had a whole new pitching staff.” Jordan does expect most of his pitching to return in 2023, meaning they will have more experience. There is a big freshman class and the Blue Devils should have eight seniors (Zane Goodrich, Chase Higgins, Houston Nasser, Jack Nasser, Clark Rodibaugh, Joe Shelly, Eli Shook and Austin Smith). “We’ve got good young kids,” says Jordan. “With our veteran leadership, we hope it’s a breakout year.” Ten to 15 players — those not in a fall sport — have been going over fundamentals with Jordan at twice-a-week IHSAA Limited Contact Period fall practices. Tipton (enrollment around 450) is a member of the Hoosier Athletic Conference (with IHSAA Class 2A Tipton, 3A Hamilton Heights, 2A Lewis Cass, 3A Northwestern and 3A Western in the East Division and 3A Benton Central, 1A Lafayette Central Catholic, 2A Rensselaer Central, 3A Twin Lakes and 3A West Lafayette in the West Division). The Blue Devis were part of an 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Blackford, Eastbrook, Eastern (Greentown), Madison-Grant and Taylor. Tipton has won seven sectional titles — the last in 2009. Tipton plays its games on-campus. A new 30-by-30 college-style scoreboard was installed in the summer and new dugouts are nearing completion. Feeding the high school program are travel baseball teams plus Tipton Youth Baseball League (Little Sluggers ages 3-5, Pee Wee 5-8, Cal Ripken 9-12 and Babe Ruth 13-15). Right-handed pitcher Trayjan Phifer (Class of 2021) moved on to Cleary University in Howell, Mich.). Jordan says pitcher/first baseman Vince Hoover (Class of 2024) has been getting looks for colleges. Jordan’s coaching staff for 2023 includes varsity assistant Steve Cherry, junior varsity head coach Andy Hussong and JV assistant Brian Middleton and possibly two more. A 1988 graduate of Tri-Central Middle/High School in Sharpsville, Ind., Jordan played for Trojans head coach Dave Driggs. “We got a fair opportunity,” says Jordan of his prep days. “Politics wasn’t a factor for playing time.” At the time, there was a big rival between Tri-Central and Tipton and the Trojans are still on the Blue Devils schedule. At Missouri Valley College (Marshall, Mo.), first baseman/utility player Jordan played three seasons and learned about conditioning and hard-nosed play from Vikings head coach Ron Givens before an arm injury ended his career. Jordan coached youth league baseball before taking the reins at Tipton. Rob is foundation seed manager for Beck’s Hybrids. He and wife Laura had a daughter (Jessica) and son (Dylan). Dylan Jordan passed away in 2019 at 16. He was in the Tri-Central Class of 2022.
What drives Patrick Mills as a baseball player? “My passion for the game is definitely No. 1,” says Mills, a 22-year-old outfielder/first baseman for Indiana University-Kokomo. “Every day I get up out of bed the one thing I want to do is go play some baseball. “That’s the reason I keep playing. I enjoy the game. Everything else will follow. I will do everything I can to get better and keep playing it. It comes down to passion and discipline.” Mills, a 2018 graduate of Western High School in Russiaville, Ind., spent two years at Olney (Ill.) Central College and the past two years at IUK. He plans to use his extra year of COVID-19 eligibility with the Cougars in 2022-23 while completing his Computer Science degree. A lefty thrower and batter, Mills hit .374 (65-of-174) in 2022 while helping IUK go 26-22 overall and 16-7 in the NAIA River States Conference. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder belted 15 home runs, four triples and 16 doubles while driving in 44 runs and scoring 51 — all team-leading totals. His on-base percentage was .453. “I make sure I stay balanced in my body and my mind,” says Mills of his approach at the plate. “I learn what the pitcher is throwing and try to hit the ball hard. “When you hit the ball hard good things happen.” Mills has had many mentors besides father Eric. “It’s not just one person in particular,” says Mills. “It’s a collective of everybody I’ve met in the game. “It’s little bit of advice here and there. I’ve put it together like a puzzle.” Jeremy Honaker coached Cougar outfielders and hitters in 2022. Mills credits him with helping him with the mental side of the game and bringing out his full potential during games. “There were little snippets for me to think about during (batting practice),” says Mills. “They were more mental notes than actual physical cues.” A lot was achieved during the fall and winter. “All that work built up,” says Mills. “By the time the season came around it was second nature.” Mills has head coaches at IUK with different styles. Matt Howard was intense and Drew Brantley is more laid-back. “(Howard) lent a level of excitement and discipline,” says Mills of the man who is now a Kokomo police officer. “He wanted us to compete to the best of our abilities every single day. He wanted to make his players as tough as possible and he definitely did. “(Brantley) has created an environment where we’re not afraid to fail. If we can control what we need to control, the results will follow. Follow the process and try to get better everyday. That philosophy — in my opinion — worked very well. Next spring it will be even better.” Mills was born in Kokomo and got his formal baseball start at what is now Russiaville Youth Baseball League. He played travel ball with the Westfield-based Stonecutters then went with the Indiana Eagles for his 14U to 17U summers. “(Eagles coach) Jamie Roudebush gave us a platform to work on our skills and get better everyday during those years,” says Mills. At Western, Mills played two years each for Quentin Brown then Ryan Berryman. “(Brown) was all about passion when playing the game. He once jokingly said to me, ‘you care about this game too much. If you keep your passion like that you’ll go wherever you want to go.” Mills and the Western Panthers were 2016 IHSAA Class 3A state runners-up. “Playing for (Berryman) was a different experience from Brown,” says Mills. “He brought the intensity level, but also the technicalities of baseball. He challenged me to become better fundamentally. It was the mechanics and more than just the mental side.” Mike Shirley, who at the time was a Chicago White Sox area scout and is now that organization’s director of amateur scouting, ran a fall league for high schoolers in Pendleton, Ind., in which Mills participated. “He gave us a lot of information and where we need to improve,” says Mills of Shirley. “He was challenging us mentally and physically. It was a great experience.” Mills played for Don Andrews-managed Kokomo American Legion Post 6 the summers before and after his first year of college. “He was always supported me since I played for him,” says Mills of Andrews. “He was very similar to how Drew Brantley goes about his business. He’s calm and collected. “Back then I was very intense and wild and wanted to do everything with one swing. He taught me how to handle my emotions. It went over my head then but I eventually learned from his teachings.” At Olney Central, Mills played for veteran coach Dennis Conley. “He definitely pushed his players to the limit and got the most out of them,” said Mills of Conley, who has been in charge of the Blue Knights program for 42 years and has a record of 1,530-773. “Junior college tests your love of the game. Do you really love the game or kind of like it?” Mills was with the Portland (Ind.) Rockets during the COVID summer of 2020. One of his teammates was former Yorktown High School, Lincoln Trail College, Wright State University and independent pro player Zach Tanner. “He took me under his wing and taught me about the mental game,” says Mills of Tanner. Last summer he played for the Prospect League’s West Virginia Miners and manager Tim Epling. The summer of 2022 sees Mills with the Northwoods League’s Battle Creek (Mich.) Battle Jacks. The team is managed by Caleb Long. In 28 games with Battle Creek, Mills is hitting .360 (41-of-114) with two homers, 27 RBIs and 21 runs. Eric and Sundai Mills have three children — Jaymee (Mills) Birky (28), Hayley Mills (24) and Patrick. Jaymee is married and living in Madison, Wis. (where Battle Creek recently played the Madison Mallards), and competition in swimming, softball and track at Western. She also was part of a state championship marching band. Hayley nows teaches elementary school in Raleigh, N.C. She was in volleyball, basketball, swimming and softball during her school days.
Indiana Wesleyan University will be at center stage when the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series is held Friday through Sunday, June 24-26. Practice is slated for Friday, June 24. The North works out from 1:30-3 p.m. and the South 3-4:30. The All-Star banquet is slated for 7 p.m. Friday, June 24 at Roseburg Event Center with former big league pitcher and 2008 Indiana Wesleyan alum Brandon Beachy as keynote speaker. A doubleheader is scheduled for Saturday, June 25. The three-game series concludes with a wood bat contest Sunday, June 26. The North leads 68-66 in the all-time series. Indiana all-stars are seniors nominated by IHSBCA members and selected by a committee. In addition, the IHSBCA Futures Game (non-seniors) is to be staged at IWU Wednesday, June 22. A doubleheader featuring four teams is scheduled to begin at noon.
Rosters have been established for the 2022 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Futures Game. The showcase for players with remaining high school eligibility is slated for Wednesday, June 22 on the turf at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion — site of the IHSBCA North/South Series June 24-26. Beginning at 9 a.m., Futures Game participants show their skills. Games are slated for noon (Navy vs. Gold) and 2 p.m. (Gray vs. Red).