Wednesday, April 11, 2018
By Lisa Hornung | Photos by Christian Watson
In December 2015, Alan Hecht of
Leavenworth was in his mid-60s, enjoying his life
with his wife, children and grandchildren, when he
got devastating news: He had pancreatic cancer.
He had eight rounds of chemo, Whipple surgery
(a procedure to remove the head of the pancreas,
the first part of the small intestine or duodenum,
the gallbladder and the bile duct), then eight more
rounds of chemo, then 30 rounds of radiation.
The whole process took a toll on his life and his
“We were kind of getting after each other’s
throats,” admitted Hecht.
His wife, Jackie, did some research and found
Gilda’s Club, at 633 Baxter Avenue in Louisville.
The two went and were interviewed, and they
were placed into support groups that fit for their
circumstances. Jackie was put in a group of people
whose spouses were battling cancer, and Alan was
put into a group of people with cancer.
“And you start to realize that you can talk to
people on the same level as you with no barriers,
and you go, ‘Hey you’re not so unusual after
all.’ And what spouses do from the other side is
trying to help their spouse heal as well. They just
gave us a new sense, a new direction. Helped us
understand, hey we’re not so unusual, even though
we’re fighting all the same battle.”
Gilda’s Club was founded in 1995 by comedian
and actor Gene Wilder, the widower of comedian
Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989.
Wilder teamed up with Joanna Bull, Radner’s
therapist, and movie critic Joel Siegel, who later died of colorectal cancer. The Louisville location
has been open for more than 10 years, and its
demand has exceeded its capacity, said Karen
Morrison, president and CEO.
Starting next month, the club will offer support
groups at the Norton Cancer Institute’s Pat
Harrison Cancer Resource Center at 1206 Spring
St., in Jeffersonville, Morrison said.
Right now, Gilda’s Club only has about 12
percent of its members coming from Southern
Indiana. “It’s really only about a mile from here,”
Morrison said, “but we know there are a lot of
folks, whether it’s the toll or the downtown traffic
or whatever, who want to be in that community
where they’re comfortable, and so we want to
improve their access and make it comfortable
Alan and Jackie Hecht said they’re glad to see
the expansion, but they were more than willing to
cross the bridge. They drove to Gilda’s Club from
Leavenworth, Indiana, which was a bit of a haul.
“I think it’s great,” Alan Hecht said. “I hope the
people of Southern Indiana will take advantage
of the opportunity given to them to improve
their way to life. It doesn’t matter if you are in
Louisville or Southern Indiana, people are going
to have cancer.”
About a year from now, the club will move
into a new one – just one mile away from its
current site – at the corner of Ray Avenue and
Grinstead Drive, which will be bigger and have
more parking. In 2020, its opening a branch at
18th and Broadway streets, to meet the needs of
people in the West End.
The Ohio River is a perceived barrier to getting
“West Louisville is a community that is missing
a lot of resources, and so we just want to make it
convenient and accessible as possible,” Morrison
said. “It is a community that is disproportionately
impacted by cancer. The Passport Health campus
gave us an opportunity to go into a location where
we could offer basically a mini-clubhouse where
we will have two support group rooms, a small
‘Noogieland’ (for kids), a little kitchen. For those
who can’t or won’t come here, we want to make
sure they have access, and we are doing that in
collaboration with Kentucky African Americans
Gilda’s Club Louisville sees about 1,600 unique
individuals per year, with about 14,000 visits.
About seven new people living with cancer come
through its red doors every week, Morrison said.
The club hosts support groups, cooking classes,
gentle yoga classes, kids’ camps and activities,
social events and more.
Now 69, Alan Hecht’s cancer has been in
remission for more than a year. He knows he’s
very lucky because pancreatic cancer is a killer.
The five-year survival rate is only 9 percent.
When he gets his regular blood tests, the lab
techs and nurses ask Hecht what kind of cancer
he had. When he tells them “pancreatic,” they say,
“You’ve got to be kidding me! You’re a miracle!”
He attributes his positive attitude during his
treatment to Gilda’s Club.
Hechgt still struggles with the toll the treatments
have taken on his body. “Yes, it is a pain in the rear
end, but it is a small price to pay,” he admitted.
“I get to enjoy my wife. I get to enjoy my family.
I get to enjoy my eight grand kids, so life’s pretty
And he’s on a new mission now: “I made a
promise that I was going to try to see if I could
find the one dollar that opens the door to cure
this disease,” Hecht said. In 2016, he bought a new
“neon blue” Corvette, and he and his wife travel
the country telling people his story.
And he often asks people to donate one dollar
to cancer research in their communities.
Thanks to Gilda Radner’s comedy, Gilda’s Club
is not just a place for tears, though there are still
people who don’t win the battle, Morrison said. The
club adheres to the idea that living with cancer is
not a choice, but how you live with it is, “with joy,
with style, with laughter, with purpose, that’s what
Gilda’s Club is really all about. Gilda Radner said,
‘Cancer is the most unfunny thing I’ve experienced,
but sometimes laughter beats the alternative,’ so
there’s a lot of laughter here.”
Seven local notab les will compete in
BreakAway Dancing 2018 May 15 at Kye’s.
The event benefits The BreakAway,
a nonprofit residential facility for
women in recovery from addiction.
BreakAway Dancing 2018 pairs each community
member with a professional dancing partner.
Judges include Angie and Mark Maxwell, Valerie
Canon and Kye Hoehn. Dinner will be prepared by
Stumlers Catering. Sounds Unlimited Productions
will provide the music.
The public is invited to “vote” for the dancers
via donations that can be made at
Located at 1514 E. Spring Street in New Albany,
The BreakAway currently houses 14 women from
Southern Indiana counties. The facility opened its
doors to women who need support in their recovery
because of the vision of Lisa Long-Livingston, who
has struggled with addiction herself. Inspired by her
own foundation in recovery, and in memory of her
friend Nicole, Lisa moved forward with assistance
from many community hands, developed a plan,
located a suitable building, and created a program
to serve women in Floyd and surrounding counties.
Melissa Scully is
manager and sales
administrator for Kentucky Truck Sales,
Inc. in Jeffersonville. She also assists in
overseeing operations of her brother Michael
Gibson’s nonprofit Warrior’s Path, Inc., which
organizes events for veterans who struggle
with transitioning from military life to civilian
life using three fundamentals: nature, art and
community service. Her love for children is
displayed in her volunteer work at the local
Greater Clark County Schools, serving as PTO
President, as well as creating and volunteering
for events to help raise funds for the educators,
students and schools. When asked, she
believes her greatest accomplishments are
her children and grandchildren, Sid (27)
and Presley (21), Logan (6), Tegan (2) and
Remington (newborn). Her love for them and
their significant others, Emily and Brandon,
as well as Patrick, Grayson and Khaki’s, is
what inspires her to keep looking up. As a
lifelong member of the Southern Indiana
community, Melissa has seen firsthand the
struggle of addiction not only through the
eyes of acquaintances and friends but also her
family. Her belief in that “it takes a village” is
what makes her participation in this event so
important to her.
W. ERIC HEDRICK graduate d from Jeffersonville High School in 1987. Eric enlisted in the U.S. Army as a military counter intelligence agent. As a MI agent and Army paratrooper, he participated in two combat situations: Operation “Just Cause,” Panama 1989 and Operation “Desert Storm,” Persian Gulf, 1990. While in the military and stationed at Fort Bragg, North Caarolina, Eric married his high school friend, Toni. Eric and Toni will celebrate their 28th wedding anniversary this year. They have one child, Haylee, who will start her senior year of high school this year. After completing his military service in 1992, Eric enrolled at IUS. In 1994, he took a position as a Jeffersonville Police Officer. Eric acted as a patrol officer, K-9 officer and a member of the Emergency Response SWAT Team. In 2001, he transferred to the city fire department and was appointed the Jeffersonville Fire Chief in 2012. In 2012, Eric became a member of the Indiana Deptartment of Homeland Security District 9 Task Force and was appointed by former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to lead the team as the task force commander. Eric is the Principal Owner of HamHed, LLC, where he supervises the management of government and commercial operations. HamHed currently has contracts in 42 States and is the proud home to over 85 employees.
PAUL KIGER, the team leader of Paul Kiger Group at RE/MAX Advantage, has served his community on both sides of the river ever since he joined the real estate industry in 2007. Paul is from New Middletown and moved to New Albany in 2007. Paul’s previous accolades include REALTOR Magazine “30 under 30” in 2010, REALTOR of The Year 2011 for the Southern Indiana Realtors Association, and, most recently, he was featured in Louisville Business First’s “20 People To Know in Real Estate.” Paul served on the Develop New Albany board of directors for five years and is currently the vice president of Southern Indiana Tourism Bureau (also known as SoIN). He is a member of the Vestry at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in New Albany and is now stepping into politics for the first time as the treasurer for Jason Applegate’s run for Floyd County commissioner. Paul has found many ways to serve his community while building his network. “One day at a time and love wins,” his personal philosophy, is rooted in his own success story. He is committed to continuing his journey by supporting others on their road to well-being in sobriety.
ASHLYN WEBER is a 16-year old junior at Jeffersonville High School. She is a member of the National Honor Society, was named Student of the Month in January 2017 and is a captain on both the Jeffersonville color guard and winter guard teams. Ashlyn also sings in the school chamber choir. She wants to help raise money for The BreakAway because she is all too familiar with the heartbreak of losing a loved one to drug addiction. Ashlyn’s mother, Nicole, lost her battle with addiction in February of 2016. Nicole’s passing helped inspire Lisa Livingston to create The BreakAway so other women battling addiction might find a way out and other daughter’s wouldn’t have to experience the senseless loss that Ashlyn, her younger sister Kailyn and so many in our community have.
MAJOR JOE HUBBARD was born and raised in Clark County. After graduating from Jeffersonville High School, he served in the United States Marine Corps until 1994. He attended Indiana University Southeast studying business management, and in 1996 was hired as a full-time officer of the Jeffersonville Police Department. Joe has held several leadership capacities within the department, including patrol officer, K-9 officer, certified firearms instructor, SWAT team operator, sniper team leader, entry team leader, SWAT team commander, river patrol operator, and currently serves as the uniform patrol commander where he oversees the officers who encompass the uniform patrol division and special units. Joe served was the president of the FOP Jeffersonville Lodge #100 for seven years. He served as a county councilman and currently serves on the 911 Central Alarm Fiscal Board and the Clark County Emergency Management Board. He is married to Amanda and they have two children, Joey (6) and James (3). Joe has spent his career serving our country and protecting our community.
JULIE GRANNAN is a family nurse practitioner with a practice in New Albany, focusing on family medicine. Julie graduated from Providence High School in Clarksville in 1994 and earned her bachelor of science in nursing, with honors, from Indiana University Southeast in 1999. She worked as a nurse in emergency medicine while pursuing a master of science in nursing from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, graduating in 2004. She is a certified nurse practitioner through the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. She serves as a clinical instructor for students pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner and is also active in the Jeffersonville chapter of Tri Kappa, a philanthropic sorority in Indiana dedicated to service in the community, where she has held the office of vice president. Julie resides in Jeffersonville with her devoted husband John, a local attorney, and their son, Leo.
ANNA MURRAY is a local attorney with a general law practice in Jeffersonville. She is currently running for state senate on the Democratic ticket, with one of her platform issues being Practical Solutions to the Opioid Crisis with a focus on long-term rehabilitation, mental health treatment, counseling and medically-assisted treatment instead of trying to simply arrest the problem away. She has served the community by providing pro bono legal work for the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence and with Indiana Legal Services. She is serving her third term as president of the Clark County Bar Association and previously served as chair of the Solo and Small Firm Section of the Louisville Bar Association. She is a past member of the board of directors of Best Buddies of Kentucky and has also done volunteer work with the Clark County Youth Shelter and Family Services. Anna earned her undergraduate degree in international studies on the environment in Seattle, Washington, and her law degree from Willamette College of Law in Salem, Oregon. She is married to Phil Murray, and they have two children, Coral and Iris.
5:30 p.m. May 15
Kye’s, 500 Missouri Ave. in Jeffersonville
By Angie Fenton
I hope you’ve noticed that this issue of Extol
Magazine is bigger, better and more: We’ve
increased our pages, added better content and are
featuring more about Southern Indiana because
all of us on the Extol Team know our community
We’ve also undergone a redesign, thanks to
Adam Kleinert, our creative director.
I first met Adam in 2012 just after the tornado
outbreak wreaked havoc on Henryville and
Kentucky communities. At that time, I was working
for another publication and quickly figured out
he was someone special. Despite enduring a
horrifying natural disaster – Adam’s property
and home still bear evidence of the tornado
outbreak – he and photographer Josh Adwell
quickly assembled a calendar featuring those
affected and donated the proceeds for rebuilding
of the Southern Indiana town.
Fast forward a few years to when Adam joined
the Extol Team. While everyone plays an important
role, there is no one who is as imperative – and
loved by all – as Adam.
Not only is Adam a treasured member of his
community and incredibly-involved father and
husband, but his commitment to Extol Magazine
deserves a moment of public gratitude.
With this issue, we have increased our pages
(32, if you’re counting) and added content from
around our Southern Indiana community, too.
None of this would be possible without Adam
Kleinert, the MVP of our team.
Thank you, Adam, and thank you to our readers
and advertising partners as well.
The Premier Homes team recently spent a day volunteering with
Home of the Innocents, which provides a range of important
residential, treatment and community-based programs,
including offering a safe haven for at-risk children; pediatric
medical care; shelter and education for pregnant and parenting
teens; crisis and intervention services; clinical treatment services
and therapeutic loving foster and adoption services. The Home –
as it’s often called – also operates a pediatric convalescent center
for children who are dependent on technology to sustain life, as
well as children who are terminally ill. Learn more about the
organization by visiting homeoftheinnocents.org. The Premier Homes team organized, sorted and collected
items needed for families and children who are in a tough spot.
“Supporting our community and, more specifically, children
in crisis has always been a passion,” said Premier Homes Sales
Manager Cat Stevens.
Premier Homes, which is headed up by President Jeff Corbett, is
known for quality construction and exceptional value as well as
the team’s continued commitment to the community. To learn
more about the company, go to premierhomesonline.com.
Photo by Antonio Pantoja
So maybe it’s not quite warm enough to hit the beach or
local pool, but it’s the perfect time to start making plans
for how you’ll spend the summer. What to include on your
list? Atlantis Water Park in Clarksville, the Charlestown
Family Activities Park, River Run Family Water Park in New
Albany, Deam Lake in Borden, Jeffersonville’s Aquatic
Center or Crystal Beach Pool in Madison.
By Adam & Kristin Kleinert
If you’ve read our column before in the now-tabled Extol Sports (Extol Magazine’s sister publication), you’ve probably heard about our enthusiasm for our Instant Cooker. It’s worked its way into our dynamic and is quickly becoming a dear family member. This month, we wanted to share a handful of our go- to recipes.
While handy in a multitude of ways, the Instant Pot is a game-changer for our household due to the sheer amount of time it saves us. In the past, crockpot meals have been a staple, but the Instant Cooker allows for almost zero advanced planning. We can throw something in at 4 or 5 p.m. and enjoy a dish that would previously have needed to cook all day long. Even frozen foods can be ready (and delicious) in less than half an hour. Overall, this handy gadget is one more way to save precious amounts of time and, for our crew, that’s always a blessing.
PORK CARNITAS (SHREDDED PORK LOIN)
We do two of these loins at once and store the leftovers in the fridge for a day or two to eat in tons of ways: lettuce wraps, tacos, sandwiches, over salads. It’s lean, flavorful protein that our whole family loves…and it’s FAST.
RECIPE FOR ONE LOIN:
(again, we just double this and do two):
2 lbs boneless pork loin, cubed
1 1/2 T Olive Oil
1 t salt
1 t ground chipotle chili pepper
1/2 t black pepper
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup lime juice
2 t dried oregano
1 1/2 t cinnamon
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, peeled and quartered
Mix rub ingredients and rub cubed meat into
it. If you have time and want let this sit, it’s extra
yummy, but not a must. Turn Instant Pot to the
saute mode and drizzle a bit of olive oil into pot.
Add the rubbed meat, stirring occasionally, until
browned on all sides. Add the juice to the pot and
secure the lid. Cook on high pressure: 17 minutes
for one loin, 23 for two loins. Quick release the
pressure and shred the meat. (Use a whisk or a
potato masher for this). Enjoy!
Meatloaf & Mashed Potatoes
So it’s more of a splurge than a healthy, family
recipe, but it’s a favorite comfort food at our
house and we’ve found it soothes the soul after
a busy week. Besides, who can resist trying it
out when it cooks together, in one pot, in just 25
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground sausage
1 small onion, chopped small
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup bread crumbs
Splash of worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cajun spice, old bay, or italian seasoning
*3 or 4 strips of microwavable bacon, if desired
1 cup ketchup
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp hot sauce
3 1/2 to 4 lbs of potatoes, washed, peeled and quartered
1 1/4 cups of chicken broth (butter, milk, broth…
whatever you like to add to mashed potatoes)
Layer the cut potatoes in the bottom of the
instant pot and pour the broth over top. Lay
the rack that came with the cooker on top of
the potatoes so that it lays pretty flat. Combine
meatloaf ingredients (minus topping ingredients)
and shape into a rounded loaf. Place on a piece
of tinfoil, large enough to shape the sides up as
if meatloaf is in a pocket. *If you are using bacon,
lay strips over top of loaf. Place on top of rack
and secure lid. With the steam release closed,
use manual mode on high pressure and set for
23 minutes. When finished, quick release steam.
Lift meatloaf out of cooker and place on a
baking sheet. Mix topping ingredients, spread
over top and place under broiler for 3-4 minutes,
until topping is caramelized.
Meanwhile, add your desired ingredients to
the potatoes (we use a heaping
spoonful of butter, a little chicken broth and
some salt and pepper) and mash until smooth.
Serve sliced meatloaf together with potatoes.
Like the pork, this chicken is so
versatile that it’s an invaluable
staple in our meal cycle. Here’s the
kicker (and thus, the beauty of an
Instant Cooker): It’s a bag of frozen
chicken. And it’s ready to serve or
add to another recipe in less than
half an hour!
1 bag of frozen chicken breasts
(about 3 lbs)
1 can of salsa verde, OR 1 jar of
any Asian sauce or chicken broth
and spices of your choice
Mix rub ingredients and rub
cubed meat into it. If you have time
and want let this sit, it’s extra yummy,
but not a must. Turn Instant Pot to
the saute mode and drizzle a bit of
olive oil into pot. Add the rubbed
meat, stirring occasionally, until
browned on all sides. Add the juice
to the pot and secure the lid. Cook
on high pressure: 17 minutes for one
loin, 23 for two loins. Quick release
the pressure and shred the meat.
(Use a whisk or a potato masher for
FAST Hard-Boiled Eggs
Quick, wholesome sources of
protein are key for our busy tribe
and the Instant Pot delivers
perfectly cooked hard-boiled eggs
with amazing efficiency. It’s so
easy our kids can do it themselves.
We cook a batch in record time
and have go-to snacks on hand for
several days. Bonus: this method
causes the shells to slide off so
8 to 12 fresh eggs (a friend swears she
does 18 at a time but we’ve never tried
more than a dozen at once)
1 cup water
Using the rack that came with
the Instant Pot, sit the eggs gently
inside on the rack. Pour in one cup
water and slide lid into place. Set
to high pressure for just 5 minutes.
Natural pressure release (which just
means to leave them alone) for 5
minutes, then release rest of steam
and put eggs into an ice bath for 5
minutes. (Use a whisk or a
potato masher for this). Enjoy!
Drew Ellis is in sunny Scottsdale right now, on a journey to make a major league baseball team.
There are no guarantees. He’s not asking for any.
By Steve Kaufman | Photos by Tony Bennett
In February, Drew Ellis of Jeffersonville,
Indiana, got on a plane to Arizona, along with
thousands of other people escaping winter snows.
It was the warmer weather and sunshine
drawing him there. But he wasn’t going to sit
around a resort pool. He was going there to
work. He has a job in Scottsdale, which started
in February, with April not far behind.
For the next couple of months, Ellis would
be running and exercising, swinging a bat and
scooping up infield grounders, throwing and
catching. What he really hoped to catch was
Ellis works for baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks,
who had their best season last year since the team
of Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling and Luis Gonzalez
won the 2001 major league championship. The
Diamondbacks won 93 games in 2017, third-best
in the entire National League, before succumbing
to their division rival Los Angeles Dodgers in the
Ellis wasn’t in Phoenix while all this was going
on. He was in Hillsboro, Oregon, playing for the
Hillsboro Hops of the Northwest League, Arizona’s
affiliate in what is called Short Season A. Only the
Rookie League is a lower designation.
Hillsboro did the parent club one better, winning
its league pennant, beating out the Eugene (Ore.)
Emeralds, a Chicago Cubs affiliate; the Boise
(Idaho) Hawks, a Colorado Rockies affiliate; and
the Salem-Keizer (Ore.) Volcanoes, a San Francisco
Giants affiliate, in the league’s South Division.
Ellis was the Hops’ starting third baseman once
he got to Hillsboro, hitting what for him was a
disappointing .227, but getting eight home runs
and driving in 23 runs in his 41 games.
“I played really well for the first 30 or so games,
then struggled a bit,” he said. “My power numbers
were good, but my average wasn’t where I wanted
it to be. Probably good to have those struggles
early in my career, though, so I know what it takes
to overcome them, how to work out of them.”
And now it’s on to spring training camp.
Hillsboro is far from Phoenix, and not just on a
line drawn on a map. It’s the lowest rung on a very
high ladder going up through four more minor
league levels in the Diamondback organization,
all the way to Reno, Nevada, the team’s Triple A
affiliate in the Pacific Coast League.
The highest rung on the ladder, of course, is
the ultimate goal – an Arizona uniform. A seat in
the D-backs’ dugout. Hearing your name called:
“Batting fifth and playing third base, Drew Ellis!”
For this summer, the Jeffersonville youngster
has set his sights on an assignment to the Visalia
Rawhide of the Advanced A California League.
It would be a promotion, all part of the climb.
It’s a slog. And a numbers game. Most of the
ballplayers in the Short Season League will likely
never get to the majors. Ellis knows that.
His short season was shorter than most. He
wasn’t drafted until June, in the second round
of Major League Baseball’s 2017 draft, the 44th
overall pick. That spring, he had been a key cog in
the University of Louisville’s march to the College
World Series. So, he’s now 22, a mere baby in most
professions but a late starter in professional sports.
On the other hand, a good thing about playing
sports is that your performance is out there on
the field. If you’re good, you’re good.
Ellis was good at the University of Louisville.
He hit .367 with 20 home runs and earned All-
American honors on the team that won 53 of 65
games, all the way to Omaha, beating Texas A&M
before back-to-back losses to Florida and TCU
cancelled the dream.
“It was a super-special year,” he recalled. “The
most fun I’ve had playing baseball – not just
because we were winning, but because of the
way we were winning.”
He also said “the atmosphere on campus was
great. One reason I chose Louisville was because
of the fan support. They showed up even when
it was cold out.”
It was a close team, too, and Ellis spent much
of the off-season working out at the UofL athletic
facilities with ex-teammates like Brendan McKay,
Colby Fitch and Devin Hairston, three of several
Cardinals who were also drafted by big-league
McKay was a first-round pick of the Tampa Bay
Rays. He spent the season in Wappinger Falls, N.Y.,
with the Hudson Valley Renegades of the New
York-Pennsylvania League. A versatile athlete
who played first base and pitched in college, he
hit .232 and won his only pitching decision.
Shortstop Hairston was drafted in the fourth
round and spent 2017 in Appleton, Wisconsin,
with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, a Milwaukee
Brewers property in the Class A Midwest League.
He hit .210 and made 10 errors in 44 games.
Fitch, the Cards’ catcher, was drafted in the 13th
round by the Philadelphia Phillies. He split the
summer between the Lakewood (N.J.) Blue Claws
of the South Atlantic League and Williamsport
(Pa.) Crosscutters of the New York-Pennsylvania
League. Fitch hit only .217 at Lakewood, but .350
The point is, it’s a long haul for almost everybody,
even the best college players. But it’s all part of
the dream, a dream so many young athletes have
Ellis recalled first dreaming the dream at
Jeffersonville High School, when he saw other
local players getting scouted by pro teams. “I
remember thinking, ‘I’m as good as these guys,
but I’m not getting any attention.’ So I changed
my thinking, and started working my butt off.”
He had been a shortstop in high school, but
Louisville coach Dan McDonnell moved him to
third in college because the Cardinals already had
slick-fielding Hairston. That makes Ellis’ prospects
on the Diamondbacks somewhat problematic.
They already have a third baseman. Jake Lamb
hit 30 home runs and drove in 105 runs last year.
And he’s only 26.
A scouting report on Ellis said defense is his
biggest question mark – “lack of range” – and that
maybe first base is a better option. But the D-backs
also have a first baseman. Paul Goldschmidt hit
.297 last year, with 36 home runs and 120 RBIs. He
was third in the National League’s Most Valuable
Still, Ellis knows major league rosters are fluid.
Free agency makes everything unpredictable.
Who knows where Lamb or Goldschmidt will
be in two years?
More important, Ellis knows he can only worry
about Ellis. The rest will follow. “They haven’t
talked to me much yet about where I’ll be,” he
said. “Wherever I play, my expectation is to play
as well as I can play. They’ll put me where they put
me. I’ve just got to do what I’ve always done, by
preparing the way I prepare. Do the little things I
need to do, to make sure I’m on top of my game.”
There’s a level-headedness there about an
outcome Ellis can’t control except to prepare for
the best so he can expect the best. Partly, that’s
a work ethic first drilled into him by his high
school coach, Derek Ellis, who also happens to
be his father.
And partly, it’s the result of a faith he acquired
while in high school, when he was baptized by
his friend, “one of best decisions of my life, to
He said he struggled a little bit as a high school
freshman, as so many freshmen do, not knowing
which crowd to follow. But since his baptism, he
said, “I know who my Lord and Savior is. And
life is easier when you have someone to rely on.
When times are hard or going well, through ups
and downs and struggles, it’s been good for me
to rely on my faith to get through those.”
He said he’s seen teammates make some choices
he wouldn’t have made, “not necessarily because
they’re bad people but because they haven’t had
a faith to help them out.”
There will be ups and downs in Ellis’ baseball
career, just because there are ups and downs in
that life for everybody. He seems well-equipped
to handle both.
And it’s not just because he can hit the fastball.
By Howie Lindsey
After a year filled with terrible news,
national embarrassment and scandal, you can’t
blame Louisville fans if they’ve been a little giddy
these last few weeks.
Not only did the Board of Trustees hire fan favorite
Vince Tyra as Louisville’s athletic director,
but Tyra then turned around and hired the next
Hall of Fame coach to run Louisville basketball,
We’ll get back to Tyra in a second, but the big
news is Mack.
Amidst scandal and turmoil, Louisville landed
one of the top young coaches in basketball.
Mack was the 2017-18 Big East Coach of the
Year. He led Xavier to three conference titles, and
his team landed a Top 5 national ranking and a
No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament this season.
He already has 11 NCAA Tournament wins,
and he’s only 48 years old. He has four Sweet 16s
and one Elite Eight to his credit. And yes, the Final
Four has eluded him thus far, but he has built a
consistent winner at Xavier, and Louisville fans
can’t wait to see what he can do with Louisville’s
Mack is so well-respected in the coaching ranks
that he has been a candidate for several other Top
10 programs before. In fact, Mack was reportedly
pursued by Indiana, Georgetown and Ohio State
just within the last two years.
Which brings us to why Louisville fans are giddy.
Hiring Chris Mack answers a massive question
for Louisville fans: Are we still elite?
Given all the scandal and the likely future
punishment from the Brian Bowen recruitment,
there are some nationally who tried to paint the
Louisville job as a scrap heap. And there were some
loud voices locally who tried to portray the job as a
complete rebuild that would necessitate a former
player or first-time head coach to take the job.
Meanwhile others, like me, continued to point
out the incredible advantages Louisville has as a
program. Not only is it one of the Top 10 programs
of all time, the Cardinals are one of the mostprofitable
programs in the nation. UofL plays
in the most incredible college-only arena in the
world, and the facilities and fan support here
at Louisville are among the Top 5 in the nation.
Hiring Mack proves that Louisville is still elite.
Louisville is on another level than the jobs at Ohio
State or Indiana (jobs Mack turned down). And
THAT should make Louisville fans happy.
Hiring Mack is also an indication of the power
of Louisville’s status as elite.
Mack wasn’t just Xavier’s coach. Mack was a
Xavier lifer. He played there until 2000. He came
back to be an assistant coach at Xavier in 2004.
And he’s been Xavier’s head coach since 2009.
But the Louisville job just had too much allure.
Hear him tell it.
In a thank you note to Xavier just before he was
announced as Louisville’s coach, Mack wrote:
“For over 18 years I called Victory Parkway home.
From the day I walked on campus as a studentathlete
in 1990 – to returning as an assistant coach
in 2004 – to that life-changing moment when
I was named your head coach in 2009. … THIS
PLACE has always had my heart. That feeling
has made it so easy for me and my family to let
opportunities outside of Xavier come and go. No
other opportunity has ever felt ‘right,’ until now.
Ultimately, I felt like this situation offered a new
and unique challenge that I could not turn down.”
Louisville was too good to turn down.
After nearly three years of scandal, most
Louisville fans I know have this battered and
weary expression when talking about their men’s
basketball program. “Scandal fatigue” was one
of the many reasons listed why attendance was
down the last two seasons.
It was a messy divorce with Rick Pitino. And
the last six months have been spent hearing jokes
and snide remarks from friends in Kentucky or
Indiana gear. Louisville fans desperately needed
to hear someone outside the program tell them
they’re still attractive.
Mack did that in spades. One of the hottest
coaches in America just broke away from his
lifetime program to come coach at Louisville, likely
at one of the lowest points in program history.
And beyond that, when we heard for months
that no recruit would want to come to Louisville,
Mack turned that on its head. Even before he
officially landed the job he offered some of the
top talent in the country and made contacts with
several elite recruits still left in the 2018 class.
Speaking of good recruiting, let’s get back to
Tyra. Not only was Tyra extremely impressive
during his six-month stint as interim athletic
director, but he landed Chris Mack on the second
day of his term as the official AD.
Does Tyra still have more to learn about
collegiate athletics and running a department?
Sure. He’d tell you that as well. But his business
background and seemingly no-nonsense
communication style has made for good, positive
conversations around the athletic department.
The day he got the job as Louisville’s AD, Tyra
thanked previous Athletic Director Tom Jurich for
collecting such an incredible group of coaches
in all of Louisville’s sports. Tyra noted that day
he was ready to add another thoroughbred to
Louisville’s stable of coaches, and he did just that
when he hired Mack.
So even though Mack hasn’t won a game yet for
Louisville, it’s easy to see why Louisville fans are
giddy about the future of their program.
Hiring Chris Mack answers a massive
question for Louisville fans:
Are we still elite?
Travel tournaments are increasingly dominating
youth baseball. It provides great opportunities to
play a lot of games around the country. But is it
good for the kids themselves?
For more than a century, it was the summer
game, a sunshine outlet for American kids. Their
Whether it was neighborhood pickup games
in the park or a more organized trip through
one of the local Little League programs, it was
a fun leisure-time sport for teens and pre-teens
to look forward to once school was out. It was as
informal, unstructured and relaxed as their long
summer days were.
That is changing. And not everyone believes
the change is a good one.
But some do, too.
Competition, which runs through every channel
of our lives, leads to elite selection – the best
movies, biggest-selling songs, winning politicians,
highest batting averages, most popular kids.
So, it was inevitable that it would creep into
summer baseball, as well. Someone had to pitch;
someone had to start while someone else sat the
bench; someone had to play shortstop while
someone else was shunted off to right field. And,
ultimately, all-star teams were formed that traveled
around the town or to other towns playing other
“Travel” became the key definer. It separated
the best of the best from the old come-one-comeall
afternoon game in the neighborhood park.
Today, the concept of travel baseball has
exploded, from traveling around the immediate
area to traveling around the country. There are
tournaments nearly every weekend, in which
teams might play six games in the space of three
days. That’s lots of baseball against high-level
competition. In a country where the feeling is
baseball is slipping as a youth activity – to football,
to basketball, to soccer, to video games – travel
ball juices up the interest level by the travel,
competition and opportunities it offers.
But Adam Kleinert wonders if it’s having exactly
the opposite effect. Kleinert, a graphic designer
who owns Hatch Design in Henryville, is the
father of two sons and two daughters; baseball
coordinator at the local youth park; and baseball
coach at Henryville Junior High School. He sees
travel baseball potentially diminishing interest in
youth baseball because it’s causing the summer
rec leagues to disappear.
“Because of the entry fees and travel demands,
travel ball has become something for the affluent
families and the single-child families,” said
Kleinert, who turned down travel ball for his
older son, Eli (now 13), partly because he felt it
wasn’t fair to his three other children. “A lot of
kids, left off of travel teams and with no other
opportunities to play organized baseball in the
summer, are turning to other sports.”
Kleinert said a friend pays around $10,000 for
his son’s travel ball activity. That includes the entry
fees, of course, but also the private lessons and
expensive equipment – because, said Kleinert,
parents insist on providing only the very best bats
and gloves for their sons. (He notes, wryly, that
in the Dominican Republic kids play the game
using hand-me-downs and makeshift equipment.)
And for what? For those who play, the immediate
prize for winning one of the tournaments is a
The trophy is a nice prize, too, for those who
run the teams – mainly because it allows them
to recruit other good players, not unlike the way
Alabama brings the best high school football
players to Tuscaloosa. That recruiting is profitable
in travel baseball because of the money the
organizers make on the membership fees they
charge – as much as $1,500 to $2,000 per player’s
family. If they have several teams in a variety of
age groups, that loose change becomes a sizable
profit for them.
The prize for the kids (and perhaps even more
so for their parents) is a chance to perform in front
of the college coaches and professional scouts
who come out to the tournaments and sit in the
stands. That means scholarships, pro contracts
major league salaries, free-agent signing bonuses,
endorsements, shoe deals, glove deals, book deals.
Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels earns
more than $34 million a year – and that’s just his
salary. Little wonder parents want their kids to
impress the scouts and coaches.
One of those college coaches whose attention
is sought by travel players and their parents is
Larry Owens, baseball coach of the Bellarmine
University Knights. So, he must love the idea of
these tournaments, in which he’s able to see and
assess promising athletes from all over the country.
Not so much.
“Yes, it gives kids the opportunity to play a
lot of baseball and to travel around the country,
and that’s a good thing,” Owens said. “But here’s
my gripe. When these kids show up here (at
Bellarmine), we’re having to teach them things
we shouldn’t be having to teach: how to play the
game! It’s little things they should know by the
time they get here: cutoffs, relays, rundowns,
fundamentals that are not getting taught at the
youth level because they don’t have time to do it.”
Because, Owens said, “the tournaments are
set up only to play games – as many as they can
pack into a three-or-four-day weekend. So, kids
just play games, they don’t practice, they don’t
learn, they don’t develop.”
Amazingly, he said, “When I was coaching in
the minor leagues (he was a pitching coach in
the Chicago White Sox organization), those kids
didn’t know the fine points of the game, either.”
And that’s just for the kids who get that far.
Many more have been left on the side of the
road because they were forced to pitch too many
innings in these tournaments, or to throw too
hard, and they blew out their arms.
“In too many cases, these coaches just want to
win, so they’ll pitch their best kid over and over,”
Owens said, “unless the tournament has limits
on how many innings a kid can pitch. And the kid
wants to open it up and throw hard because he
thinks that’s what the scouts in the stands want
to see. It’s too much for young arms.”
Nor is the problem just about preserving arms.
It’s also growing up and maturing off the diamond.
Ben Reel, the baseball coach at Indiana
University Southeast, would like to see youth
sports be more of a training ground for life,
“teaching you all the different facet sports can
teach – patience, discipline, commitment, hard
work, everyday habits.
“My objection to travel ball is its priorities,”
said the successful coach of IUS’s championship
program. “Travel baseball is built around playing
the game, not around learning the game. Kids
don’t want to practice, or prepare, or get coached.
“They just want to go hit in the cage and start
the game. It’s ‘The more games we play, the better
we’re gonna get – right?’ But the game itself should
only be the culmination of all that preparation.”
What disappoints Reel is that travel can be
positive in providing all the opportunities to
play and develop. “With travel ball, kids just get
the chance to play more – maybe as much as 150
games a year.”
But they don’t practice. “Practice is more than
just taking three rounds in the cage before the
game, or a half-hour of infield,” said Reel. “Practice
is understanding baseball and how it works.
Baseball is a thinking man’s sport – strategies,
nuances, situational approaches. On every pitch,
there are so many things happening, so many
different ways to handle whatever happens next.
And so many rules kids have to be aware of.”
In travel ball, he said, “it’s ‘told’ versus ‘taught.’
I often find myself spending a lot of time teaching
my players the rules. And they’re in college! The
game’s a lot more than having a good swing.”
It’s a theme that resonates throughout the
coaching fraternity, at all levels. Ricky Romans,
coach at Charlestown High School, agreed that
“travel baseball had to be more about learning,
instruction and teaching.
“Kids get so wrapped up about going out to
play in tournaments, and win tournaments,” he
said, “that they’re missing the ultimate objective:
how to play the game.”
Romans said he can see one benefit of travel
ball: playing against better competition. “But
when the parents see it as a better opportunity
to put their sons on this specific team, with its
specific reputation, to improve the chance of a
college scholarship, that’s where I get frustrated.”
He reasserts the complaint that the kids don’t
get proper preparation. “They can go to all these
batting instructors and pitching gurus, but when
they get on the field, do they know how to play
the game? Do they know what to do when the
ball’s put in play?
“It’s frustrating when a kid gets to us and he
doesn’t even know how to hold a ball!”
So, will it change? Or is travel ball slowly
eliminating the summertime Little League
programs, American Legion ball and pickup
games among friends?
Adam Kleinert offers a refreshing possibility.
Because participation in travel ball often seems
to be something the parents want rather than the
players, Kleinert wonders whether that’s a cyclical
thing that will take a 180-degree turn in the future.
“Today’s kids give up their summers for travel
ball, at least partly because their fathers are
pushing them,” he said. “So, I wonder if these
kids, when they grow up and become fathers,
will say, on behalf of their sons, ‘Let him relax
and do what he chooses. Let him go to the park
and play ball with his friends if he wants. It’s
“ it’s ‘told’ versus
‘taught.’ I often find
a lot of time teaching
my players the rules.
And they’re in college!
The game’s a lot more
than having a
HEAD Baseball coach
Indiana University Southeast