Four Winds Field, S.B. Cubs host IHSBCA Futures Games
SOUTH BEND -- The text message came into Zach Trojanowski's phone late Monday.
It was from New Prairie baseball coach Mark Schellinger and simply read, 'Do you want to play?'
A spot had opened for Tuesday's Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Futures Games at Four Winds Field, and the Cougars senior catcher didn't need long to respond.
"I was like, yeah, I want to play," Trojanowski said after singling and knocking in two runs for the Green team. "It's a heck of an opportunity. This is a crucial year for recruiting, so this is huge. I'm just putting my name out and hoping for the best."
Trojanowski spent his sophomore season backing up Ethan Nielsen, so varsity playing time was sparse.
"Ethan was a stud, he taught me a lot, so I can't complain," Trojanowski said.
He was poised to take over the signal-calling duties as a junior, but the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out spring sports, putting a premium on the summer season for Trojanowski to generate some attention. He made his coach smile by taking a pitch down the right-field line in the seventh inning.
"Just like coach Schellinger says, middle-away," said Trojanowski, who plays for Triple Crown Threat out of Valparaiso. "It's been really good. I'm seeing the ball really good, I'm catching good, I'm blocking good."
While Trojanowski is working to establish himself, fellow catcher Jaden Deel of Hobart came to Tuesday's event without any performance pressure, having recently committed to Huntington. The games and skills showcase are an important recruiting tool for colleges, but for Deel, a member of the Morris Chiefs, it was just a chance to play, something that isn't to be taken for granted in these uncertain times.
"I thought it would be good to still get out here and participate since I'd already signed up for it," Deel said. "Just the whole summer thing, we finally got up to 30 games, as of (Monday), so we're pretty close to a whole high school season. Thinking of it that way, it's close to 60 games, so you really see how much we missed not having a high school season."
The majority of the 60 or so participants are going into their senior years, but there were some exceptions, including La Porte's Gavin Zolvinski, yet another backstop, and Boone Grove's Drew Murray, a pitcher-first baseman. Both will be juniors.
"It's just nice to have something to do, sitting at home the last several months," said Zolvinski, a Slicers starter as a freshman. "It was a pretty fun experience, just to get out here and play, meet some new people from other schools. I'm younger than everybody (here), so it's nice to show what I can do."
Zolvinski has spent the summer playing for Maple City, a La Porte High School-based team coached by the Slicers' Scott Upp.
"We've been playing pretty well," he said. "It's pretty much going to be our varsity team next year."
Like Zolvinski, Murray, an imposing 6-foot-3, 215-pound left-hander, plays football, and could eventually be tasked with choosing which route to take at the collegiate level.
"I guess it's a good problem to have," Murray said. "I'm getting more interest in baseball. I'm being recruited pretty decently as a two-way guy."
Murray impressed at the plate, doubling and scoring a run, and on the mound, where he worked a scoreless inning with a strikeout. He clocked 81 to 83 miles per hour on the speed gun and had big-time tumbling movement on his breaking pitch.
"It was definitely cool playing with some guys you know, some guys you don't, especially playing with some of best guys in the state, being a younger guy, looking at what could happen in the future," Murray said. "I definitely wanted to not act like I was younger. I was mostly (class of) '21s. There were a couple of us who are '22s. I just came out and competed the best I could."
Some of Murray's tournaments with the Indiana Mustangs were cancelled due to the pandemic, but he's made the most of that time, working out.
"It's been tough with all this going on," he said. "I just try to focus on doing what I can, especially in the weight room, try to get physically better, as strong as possible."
Other local players included Cal Curiel and Gabe Stout of Crown Point, Wheeler's Rex Stills, Lake Central's Jack Fiorio, La Porte's Carson Stalbaum and New Prairie's Noah Brettin. Stout, Stills and Brettin all threw scoreless frames with Stills posting a 1-2-3 inning. Schellinger and Griffith's Brian Jennings were among the coaches.
"It's a great event," IHSBCA past president Kevin Hannon said. "(IHSBCA executive assistant) Phil McIntyre and (IHSBCA president) Jeff McKeon work really hard behind the scenes to bring this all together. Most of these kids are involved in travel, but I have a kid from Knox (Zac Rose) who's a football-basketball kid who doesn't do travel ball and he's just excited beyond belief to be a part of this. The local colleges really support it, whether they're here or live streaming it. It's amazing we were able to bring all together and get it done."
This summer's games were particularly difficult to pull off since the original host site in Evansville was unavailable after the spring season was cancelled. The IHSBCA tried to secure a field at a college in Indianapolis, but Hannon said they didn't want to take on the liability of having the players on campus. In the last three weeks, the organization worked with the South Bend Cubs to secure the use of their beautiful facility.
"The Cubs have been great," Hannon said. "They were more than willing to bring the kids up."
Prior to the games, players were timed in the 60-yard run, catchers made throws to second, outfielders threw to the bases and home, infielders took ground balls and everyone did batting practice. Pitchers were given 10 showcase warm-up tosses and a maximum of 25 pitches in their inning. All participants had the option of having video of all their drills and game action set up as a personal link for recruiters, courtesy of the S.B. Cubs staff.
"The kids are able to send the link wherever they want," McKeon said. "It was put in place after COVID, since there wasn't a whole lot of options for coaches to come."
Four Winds Field played host to the IHSBCA Futures
Games on Tuesday. Roughly 60 players from across the
state took part in a seven-inning game and did position
work during the showcase portion of the event.
(Photo by Jim Peters)