Harrisonburg’s Roster Will Have a Midwestern Flavor This Year

3/31/04 – Daily News Record

Hoosiers Crack Turks By MICHAEL ROTHSTEIN Daily News-Record Bob Morgan had become a pest. Every year, the Indiana University baseball coach would call Harrisonburg Turks manager/owner Bob Wease and try to promote some of his players. And every year, Wease would end up with zero Hoosiers, opting for players from other schools. This summer, things will be a bit different. The Turks will have a distinct red-and-white flavor, as Wease virtually lifted the middle of Indiana’s lineup. Four IU players –infielders Corby Heckman and Ryan Parker along with outfielders Joe Kemp and Reggie Watson – will become Turks. Part of the reason Heckman, a third-team All-Big Ten selection last season at second base, chose Harrisonburg was the relatively short road trips in the Valley League. "Last year in the Great Lakes League, the travel was four hours every game," Heckman said from Bloomington, Ind., on Tuesday. "There were like 10 teams and seven of the nine trips were four or more each way." The Valley is much cozier, with most teams within 1¼ hours of Harrisonburg. Those annual phone conversations between Morgan and Wease weren’t random calls. Morgan played for the Turks in 1968 and 1969, even pitching a no-hitter against Shenandoah in ’69. On Tuesday, he reminisced about eating at the L&S Diner and recalled how the big thing in those days was to attend Turks games. Harrisonburg has grown and the Turks may no longer be a hot ticket, but at least Wease’s squad once again will have Hoosiers in the lineup when it opens the season June 4 at home against Woodstock. "He kept getting Illinois players and he wouldn’t get Indiana players," Morgan said of Wease. "I was like, ‘Bob, these guys can play, take my word for it.’" Heckman is second at IU (15-7) in average, hitting .390. Kemp is third at .379. Watson is fifth at .329 and also has 10 stolen bases in 20 games. Morgan said having a group of his players going to the same location will help all involved: the players, the Turks and the Hoosiers. "If I sent one of our players somewhere, I’d want a couple because they get to know them better," Morgan said. "It’s beneficial to have kids playing together like that. It’s a good experience for them." Among those joining the Indiana quartet in Harrisonburg will be a pair of left-handed pitchers from Iowa: sophomore Tim Gudex and junior Tim Maitland. Wease is excited about his pitching staff this year – especially returning Valley League all-star Grant Hansen. Wease said Tuesday that Hansen will be the Turks’ closer. Hansen is one of three Oklahoma City University players on this year’s Turks roster. Unlike most players in the NCAA-sanctioned Valley League, the OCU contingent plays in the NAIA, where they finished second nationally the past two seasons. "It doesn’t matter where these kids come from," Wease said. "We’ve had guys from Texas A&M who aren’t that good." Wease’s normal pipelines of Texas and Arizona dried up this year due to the formation of the Texas Collegiate League. Only Arizona’s Pat Lawler and two junior-college players – pitcher Pat Caldwell and infielder Gered Mochizuki from Yavapai Junior College – played college ball in either one of the two baseball-rich states. Three James Madison players – infielders Mitchell Moses and Nathaniel Schill, and catcher Matt Sluder – will play for Harrisonburg. So will Eastern Mennonite University infielder and Waynesboro native Shelton Stevens.