TERRE HAUTE —
Attracting the highest quality baseball players as possible may be as important as any goal for the Terre Haute Rex management team.
Doing so is a year-by-year process in which word of mouth can be the best advertising method to appeal to college programs around the nation.
Team president Kevin Hoolehan thinks the Rex got that goal off to a strong start in the team’s first season in 2010.
“We tried to treat our players as well or better than anyone else in the league,” Hoolehan said. “We wanted to become the team of choice so that we know these players will go back to their respective teams and share their stories with the other guys. We just presumed if we had the best family program, if we had the best game meals and went through every bit of that, word would spread.”
General manager Roland Shelton did all he could to provide a professional experience for the Rex players last summer.
That professional experience has been one of Shelton’s primary goals since the purpose of summer collegiate league baseball is to prepare college players for pro ball. Collegiate leagues across the nation are wooden-bat leagues for that reason.
The Rex are determined to make Terre Haute a prime destination for college baseball players. Professionalism and developing players can also appeal to college coaches, who pride themselves on sending players to the pros.
“We’ve given the players an incredible experience last season,” Shelton said. “It translates to a good reputation around the baseball world.”
Manager Brian Dorsett provides former Major League Baseball experience in the dugout, and last season assistant coaches Casey DeGroote and John Gardner provided minor-league experience in the dugout as well.
<b><center>A unique process</b></center>
Dorsett, who is signed on as manager through the summer of 2012, began working on this summer’s roster last fall.
With Dorsett already on board, preparation for the 2011 season was much different for general manager Roland Shelton.
He had only a few months to assemble a roster for the 2010 season, but the Rex management team went to work right after the inaugural season concluded.
It’s been a more patient process, Dorsett said of a roster that was finalized early in 2011.
“I think last year was one of those years where because when we got into the league when we did, it was a little bit of a hurry-up process. In our minds to find the right kind of guys. Making phone calls and having relationships have helped us.”
The process of signing players for collegiate summer leagues is a unique one.
College coaches recruit players in person, and big-league teams send scouts all over the nation, scouring high schools, junior colleges and big-time universities for talent.
In collegiate leagues, team management must trust their contacts.
“If we haven’t been able to watch kids play, there’s a little bit of a reservation,” Dorsett said. “Often times, college coaches are going to be protective of that situation for that individual player that needs more playing time. You always hear the best of that player’s potential, and you kind of have to read in between the lines. You call some scouts and ask them, ask other guys that recruited him.”
Dorsett hopes to continue to talk to big-time programs about getting talented players.
“We’ve talked to all the big programs. What we’re trying to do is at least get our name out there. We’re going to provide you with a great place for your players to experience the game. Great facilities. Top-notch set up, meal money. We travel in style with our Turner bus.”
<b><center>A glance at the 2011 roster</b></center>
With a limit of four players allowed to represent each particular college, the Rex will once again maximize that limit with Sycamores. Koby Kraemer and Brandon Dorsett will return to the team, and Jordan Pearson and outfielder Lucas Hileman will round out the ISU representatives. Pearson played briefly late in the 2010 season for the Rex.
Nick Johnson of Southern Illinois, an outfielder hitting .293 with three homers, adds some additional Missouri Valley Conference flavor.
Returning Rex players in addition to Kraemer and Dorsett are first baseman Jase Morgan, Joe Meggs, who was a late-season addition last summer and No. 1 starting pitcher Clayton Hicks.
Meggs, whose father Lindsay is the former ISU coach, is currently hitting .309 for his dad.
Derek Hannahs, an Ohio State freshman, will also play for the Rex. He is the son of Mitch Hannahs, a former All-American for Indiana State. Derek Hannahs played at Robinson, Ill.
Hannahs is one of two Ohio State players who will suit up for the Rex. Both Buckeyes’ freshman have seen limited action so far this spring, but sometimes that’s the type of player that the Rex will sign.
For example, the Rex have signed Tyson Schmitt, a 6-foot-7 right-handed pitcher who plays for Meggs at Washington. Schmitt has yet to pitch in a game for the Huskies.
“Sometimes guys that had great numbers in high school, we know there’s a learning curve in college,” Dorsett said.
The Rex have 25 players signed, but things can always change with injuries so Dorsett and Shelton have to pay attention to how the players are producing for their college teams.
“We should have a pretty nice ball club,” Dorsett said. “Always staying aware of how guys are playing.”
Terre Haute Rex roster
Player Position college
Kevin Upp RHP Valparaiso
Clayton Hicks RHP Danville CC
Conner Fisk RHP Wabash Valley CC
Tyson Schmitt RHP Washington
Matt Kohorst RHP Kansas
Justin Hancock P Lincoln Trail
Taylor Pierce RHP Seminole State
Brandon Dorsett RHP Indiana State
Ben Johnson LHP Upscomb
Christian Slaznik LHP Eastern Illinois
Gavin Petrea LHP Rend Lake College
Lincoln Wagner LHP Eastern Kentucky
Blake Fonfare LHP Lipscomb
Nick Paradossi C Murray State
Brett Teschner C Lipscomb
Jase Morgan 1B/OF Clarendon College
Jordan Pearson INF Indiana State
Derek Hannahs INF Ohio State
Karch Kowalczyk 3B/P Valparaiso
Chris Manning OF Valparaiso
Ronnie Mitchell OF Seminole State
Jacob Hayes OF-INF Ohio State
Lucas Hileman OF Indiana State
Joe Meggs UTIL Washington
Koby Kraemer UTIL Indiana State
Nick Johnson OF Southern Illinois