Summer baseball series scheduled to start

Herald file photo


HUNTINGBURG — It looks like there will be summer baseball in Huntingburg after all. It seemed like League Stadium would go empty after the Dubois County Bombers announced on April 25 the cancellation of their season. But a local effort is working to change that.

Southridge baseball coach Gene Mattingly wants to create an opportunity for current college baseball players and recent graduates who will be joining college teams to get better and sharpen their skills this summer. With the cancellation of area summer leagues, Mattingly has been working with PIG Baseball, a local non-profit, to reserve League Stadium for what’s being billed as the Collegiate Sandlot Series starting June 14 for that purpose.

“A group of individuals got together and thought, ‘With the Bombers season being canceled, what do we offer with a resource like that?’” Mattingly explained. “[We wanted] a format where pitchers could pitch to live hitters, and hitters could get live at-bats.”

Mattingly said all he and the non-profit are doing is setting up the space and providing necessary logistical support, like liability insurance, to make such a thing possible. In terms of structure, it’ll be up to the players who come out to decide what they want and how to do it. It could be routine drills or full-on pickup scrimmages.

“They won’t be overcoached,” Mattingly said. “They won’t be told what to do. We’re going to provide an opportunity and facility for them to use for their training and to compete. How they choose to do that is entirely up to them.”

He has considered a similar concept in the past for middle-aged baseball players where they gathered at a park, were provided the necessary equipment and were left to their own devices, save for one adult to provide supervision. The cancellation of the Bombers’ season opened a way to bring that vision to life, and Mattingly thinks college players have the maturity to work together and maximize their time. He’s been reaching out to college coaches around Southern Indiana to put the word out about the Collegiate Sandlot Series and the opportunity it provides for players to get live reps.

“I was asked to have conversations with coaches on players that might be able to get here weekly and let them know we had an opportunity locally,” he said.

Former Southridge Raider Tucker Schank is also hitting the trail to spread the news about the series. The former Southridge outfielder and current Indiana University team member has been working with Mattingly and PIG Baseball to bring players to Huntingburg. He said his experience with the Hoosiers showed him the importance of summer baseball, and hopes the series can fill the hole caused by summer leagues canceling their seasons because of COVID-19.

“A lot of us who are in college or college-bound were going to struggle to get reps,” Schank said. “There’s no better way to prepare for the fall than playing summer ball. I felt a sense of urgency because I have experience with what it’s like to go into a Division I program. It’s a very rigorous and stressful time.”

Schank said there has been a high level of interest coming from the players he’s been in contact with, and estimates that between 20 and 30 guys will come out. There are still a load of details he and Mattingly are trying to figure out between now and June 14, but Schank hopes the series can fill the need of providing guys the time and space to grow as baseball players.

“My main goal for this whole thing is to get other people and myself ready for the fall,” he said. “It’s where baseball goes from being a sport and a hobby to a job. It gives myself and others a chance to fix some flaws in our game that we would have originally used summer ball for.”

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