Tag Archives: Wood bats

Hoosier Townball Association gearing up for seventh season

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Tying communities together and enjoying camaraderie and competition.

That’s what the Hoosier Townball Association — a 30-and-over baseball league for men and women — brings to west central Indiana.

“There’s interest and it’s growing,” says Matt Nelson, who runs the organization with the help of Edwin Walker and is a second baseman/manager with the Pittsboro Sluggers. “Baseball is rooted in values, playing hard and having work ethics.

“It’s a very positive experience. It’s something that unites and unifies people. It’s the same people we’ll cross paths with in our occupations and personal lives. 

“We’re playing kids’ game as old men. You don’t get this with other sports.”

With many players having families and being youth coaches, HTA contests are slated at 1 and 4:15 p.m. with 3-hour limits in the Sunday wood bat league.

“We wanted to play ‘real’ baseball,” says Nelson. “There’s nothing like swinging a piece of lumber.

“At some point you don’t want to play church league softball. You want to play hard ball.”

Safety is also taken into a account. Balls tend to come off wood bats at a slower clip than metal bats.

“Plus it just sounds better,” says Nelson. “Everybody tries to find the most obscure bat company they can find. But it seems we all wind up with a $19.99 Louisville Slugger we can pick up at Dick’s (Sporting Goods).”

There is free substitution on defense and everyone in the lineup bats.

“This is an at-cost league,” says Nelson. “We try to play at the nicest fields we can for the least amount of money.”

HTA venues include Franklin Park and Hummel Park in Plainfield, Memorial Park in Lebanon, Cascade High School in Clayton, Virgil Benge Community Sports Complex (ask The Benge) in Jamestown and Kokomo Municipal Stadium for Saturday barnstormer series games, if those are allowed this summer.

July 12 is scheduled as Opening Day for the league’s seventh season.

The Coatesville Bluz won the league title in 2019.

Before that, Plainfield Fireball strung together four straight championships (2015-18).

The Mooresville Reds took the first HTA crown in 2014. The champion of the end-of-season tournament — usually played in early October — earns a traveling baseball bat trophy. The league is not affiliated with any other organization.

“It’s a compact season,” says Nelson. “We play for three months and talk about those three months for the next nine months.”

A 12-team circuit in 2020, the league also features the Avon Athletics, Brownsburg Bats, Clermont Bombers, Danville Tomahawks, Greencastle Toxic, Lebanon Chiefs, Martinsville Mayhem, Monrovia Longhorns and Thorntown Rangers.

There was a time all around the country that townball meant that all players came from the same place. 

When the HTA began there was not enough interest to pull 15 or 16 from some of these small towns. But many squads have a core group from that locale who have brought in their friends and relatives to join in the fun.

The Pittsboro Sluggers and Coatesville Bluz take their names from town teams that played back in the 1910’s.

During that era, many players rode the railroad to and from the ball field on Sunday afternoons.

“Baseball history is important to a lot of us,” says Nelson, who has a collection of old baseball gloves. 

A unique aspect of this 30-and-over league is that the players’ parents — some well into their retirement years — come to the games, cheer and snap photos.

“They remember seeing their kids play in high school,” says Nelson, a former center fielder for head coach Chris Goodwin at Yorktown (Ind.) High School. 

While nothing is yet on the books, Nelson has been in contact with the Jasper (Ind.) Reds about playing a game against players from the HTA. 

The Reds trace their origins back to 1893.

“I told (team historian) Bob Alles, you have to keep your steak alive,” says Nelson. “You have to play at least one game.”

The “original” Pittsboro (Ind.) Sluggers circa 1913. (Hoosier Townball Association Photo)
Matt Nelson (Pittsboro Sluggers) takes his cuts during a Hoosier Townball game. Nelson is team manager and runs the league along with Edwin Walker. The 30-and-over wood bat Sunday baseball league in west central Indiana started in 2014. (Hoosier Townball Association Photo)

Jake Tharp (Pittsboro Sluggers) pitches to Wes Hayden (Lebanon Chiefs) in Hoosier Townball Association action. The 30-and-over wood bat Sunday baseball league in west central Indiana started in 2014. (Hoosier Townball Association Photo)
Michael Williams (Avon Athletics) makes a catch in Hoosier Townball Association play. The 30-and-over wood bat Sunday baseball league in west central Indiana started in 2014. (Hoosier Townball Association Photo)
The scene at a Hoosier Townball Association game played at Virgil Benge Community Center (aka The Benge) in Jamestown, Ind. The 30-and-over wood bat Sunday baseball league in west central Indiana started in 2014. (Hoosier Townball Association Photo)
Gabe Cuevas (Clermont Bombers) winds up in Hoosier Townball Association play. The 30-and-over wood bat Sunday baseball league in west central Indiana started in 2014. (Hoosier Townball Association Photo)
Brian Carrington (Greencastle Toxic) pitches in a Hoosier Townball Association contest. The 30-and-over wood bat Sunday baseball league in west central Indiana started in 2014. (Hoosier Townball Association Photo)
The Hoosier Townball Assodciation – a 30-and-over wood bat Sunday baseball league – started in 2014. (Hoosier Townball Association Image)

Northwest Indiana adult baseball league lets men continue to play boys’ game

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Fun, camaraderie and competition is on display at diamonds around The Region when the men of the Northwest Indiana National Adult Baseball Association league come to play the game they enjoyed as boys.

Line drives and laughter filled the air Aug. 3 as the league gathered at Robertsdale Complex — home of Lakeshore Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth League — in Whiting for the NWINBA’s 16th annual all-star game.

Hours before teams managed by Luis Gonzalez and Geovanny DeJesus took the field, a home run derby was staged. Twenty-one players entered for $10 each. Danny Garcia of the Brewers took the $210 first prize, besting Theo Owens of the Cubs in a five-pitch swing-off.

The league, established in 2003 by Steve Carpenter, is for players 28-and-over but there is a plus-3 rule that allows for three players per team that must turn 25 by the start of the season.

The oldest player in the league in 2019 is the Yankees’ Hector Tellez, 63. He joined the Diamondbacks in the loop’s second season while working in East Chicago. Mike Bochenek and Wally Bochenek were in the league then and still are playing. He now travels from his home in Coal City, Ill., which is more than 60 miles from Whiting.

“This league has developed so much since it began,” says Tellez. “We’ve all improved — myself included.

“I’m fortunate to be on the field with so many good players.”

The season goes from late April through September. This year, there are 18 regular-season games plus playoffs. Most contests are on the weekends, but there are some Wednesday night games.

“We’ve played just about any place in northwest Indiana,” says NWINABA president Astros player Jeramy Ortiz. The main fields this season have been at Robertsale, Dyer Babe Ruth, Kenny Lofton Field in East Chicago and Heartland Park in St. John. Each team plays two games at U.S. Steel Yard, home of the independent professional Gary SouthShore RailCats.

Teams used Major League Baseball names and wear replica jerseys. The 2019 NWINABA sports 210 players that come northwest Indiana, Chicagoland and the South Bend area and features the Astros, A’s, Brewers, Cubs, Mariners, Marlins, Nationals, Pirates, Red Sox, Tigers and Yankees.

By league choice, players swing BBCOR metal or wood bats.

Ortiz is in his ninth NWINABA season. Why does he play?

“I love baseball,” says Ortiz, who is 38 and lives in Munster. “I played in high school (at Hammond Bishop Noll for Craig Pavlina and Doug Ferry Jr.) and college (at Muscatine Community College in Iowa and Culver-Stockton College in Missouri) and was looking for something different than softball.

“It’s Little League for adults. We have players who played just played Little League to guys who played in the pros.”

There are a number of former college players, including those from NCAA Division I schools.

Pitching varies widely.

“There are guys who bring it and those who use control and junk,” says Ortiz.

Will Lanter, 45, is manager of the Mariners and in his 10th season.

“I don’t want to give up the game yet,” says Lanter. “This is family. It’s friends.”

Many games feature full bleachers. There are cookouts on Father’s Day weekend. Little League players come out and watch the older generation.

Like Ortiz, Lanter is involved at Lakeshore Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth. They have helped with field maintenance, fundraisers and more.

“We need to keep the program going,” says Lanter of the youth league. “Without these programs, these kids have nowhere to go.”

In his 10th season, Mike Gerlach, 53, lives in Crown Point and is Red Sox manager. He is a former youth coach. He once coached his son, Mitchell, and now father and son are teammates. Mike’s brother, Keith, also plays for the team.

“It’s one big family in this league,” says Mike Gerlach.

Kyle Hon, 28, resides in Cedar Lake and is manager of the Mariners. This is his third NWINABA campaign. He is a Lake Central High School graduate. He did not play baseball for LC, but has been involved with travel ball or town ball since age 5. He played in a now-defunct adult league in Crown Point.

“I love the game,” says Hon. “I want to play until Father Time tells me I can’t.”

Ken Henriott, 43, played for legendary LaPorte High School coach Ken Schreiber.

“He was probably the best coach in the country,” says Henriott of the man inducted into 13 different halls of fame.

Henriott played for Schreiber’s Slicers and then at Southwestern Michigan College and Grand Valley State University.

In his first season in the league and an all-star representing the Yankees, Henriott enjoys playing in front of his two children.

“It means a lot to me,” says Henriott. “They get to see what they couldn’t see back in the day.

“I’m a pitcher and I can still hang with these guys. You always keep the batter guessing. It goes back to the basics. You use your fastball and change-up and then the curveball or slider.

“It’s the pitcher against the hitter — always. It’s a chess game. It’s tough to fool these guys. They’re all good players.”

Luis Gonzalez, 35, is manager of the Yankees. The Hammond resident is in his third season in the league. He played at George Washington High School in Chicago.

“I like this league because it caters to older players,” says Gonzalez. “I can’t keep up with the high school kids.

“It’s competitive and a lot of fun.”

Gonzalez says adult baseball for someone married with children is ruled by two things.

“It’s what you’re family is willing to let you do and if your body can keep it up,” says Gonzalez.

Chris Evans, 32, lives in Hammond and is manager of the Nationals. He is in his fourth NWINABA season.

He entered the league as White Sox infielder, managed the Diamondbacks for one season then spent the off-season recruiting players for the Nationals.

“Last year we had a pretty good team,” says Evans, who currently skippers an 8-5 squad.

Ortiz says the league is looking to expand and may create a 38-and-over division in 2020. The NABA, headquartered in Littleton, Colo., allows for flexibility in local leagues and sponsors events for various age divisions, including 50-and-over, 60-and-over and 65-plus.

For more information on the Northwest Indiana League, email NWINABABaseball@gmail.com.

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James Frasure (Cubs) swings for the fences during the Northwest Indiana National Adult Baseball Association league all-star home run derby Aug. 3 in Whiting. (Steve Krah Photo)

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Theo Owens (Cubs) competes the Northwest Indiana National Adult Baseball Association league all-star home run derby Aug. 3 in Whiting. Danny Garcia (Brewers) beat Owens in the finals. (Steve Krah Photo)

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Derrick Goad (Tigers) smack the ball during the Northwest Indiana National Adult Baseball Association league all-star home run derby Aug. 3 in Whiting. (Steve Krah Photo)

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Jeremy Ortiz (Astros) gets loose for the Northwest Indiana National Adult Baseball Association league all-star game Aug. 3 in Whiting. (Steve Krah Photo)LUISGONZALEZCHRISEVANSNWINABA

Luis Gonzalez (Yankees) and Chris Evans (Nationals) consult prior to the Northwest Indiana National Adult Baseball Association league Aug. 3 in Whiting. (Steve Krah Photo)

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The patch for the Northwest Indiana National Adult Baseball Association league all-star game Aug. 3 in Whiting. (Steve Krah Photo)

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The Northwest Indiana National Adult Baseball Association league has a close relationship with the Lakeshore Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth League and held its all-star festivities Aug. 3 at Robertsdale Complex in Whiting. (Steve Krah Photo)

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Jeramy Ortiz (Astros) is president of the Northwest Indiana National Adult Baseball Association league.

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The Northwest Indiana National Adult Baseball Association league held its all-star festivities Aug. 3 at Robertsdale Complex in Whiting. (NWINABA Photo)