Author Archives: Christian Watson


Horseshoe Foundation FamFest

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


Gilda’s Club Louisville Brings Its Mission To Southern Indiana

doorBy 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


Cancer survivor Alan Hecht and his wife Jackie sign one of Gilda’s Club’s signature red doors.

Cancer survivor Alan Hecht and his wife
Jackie sign one of Gilda’s Club’s signature
red doors.

“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.

Leavenworth residents Alan and Jackie Hecht are grateful for Gilda’s Club Louisville, which is now offering support groups in Southern Indiana.

Leavenworth residents Alan and Jackie
Hecht are grateful for Gilda’s Club
Louisville, which is now offering support
groups in Southern Indiana.

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

for them.”

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

Against Cancer.”

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

darn good.”

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.”


Local Celebs Hit Dance Floor for Charity

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

the finance/insurance

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.


Dancing 2018

5:30 p.m. May 15

Kye’s, 500 Missouri Ave. in Jeffersonville


Extol Magazine Creative Director Adam Kleinert – photographed by Danny
Alexander – is a good sport and a tremendous part of the Extol Team

Letter From The Editor | April/May 2018

Extol Magazine Creative Director Adam Kleinert – photographed by Danny Alexander – is a good sport and a tremendous part of the Extol Team

Extol Magazine Creative Director Adam Kleinert – photographed by Danny Alexander – is a good sport and a tremendous part of the Extol Team

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

deserves more.

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.


Premier Homes Pitches In

1 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 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


Start Your Summer List

1Photo 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.

Pork Carnitas Lettuce Wrap

Instant Cooking: A Blessing for Our Busy Kitchen

By Adam & Kristin Kleinert

Pork Carnitas Lettuce Wrap

Pork Carnitas Lettuce Wrap

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.



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.


(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

Cooking Juice:

    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

Meatloaf & Mashed Potatoes

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

    (your preference!)

    *3 or 4 strips of microwavable bacon, if desired

For Topping

    1 cup ketchup

    1 1/2 tsp brown sugar

    1 tsp hot sauce

For Potatoes

    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.


Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas

Weeknight Chicken

    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

this). Enjoy!

Hard Boiled Eggs

Hard Boiled Eggs

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


5-5-5 Recipe:

    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!


Arizona Dreaming

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.screen-shot-2018-04-04-at-2-39-17-am

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

someone’s attention.

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!”

But first…

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.screen-shot-2018-04-04-at-2-40-37-am

“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

in Williamsport.

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

growing up.

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

Player voting.

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

follow Jesus.”

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.


Landing Mack Proves Louisville is Still Elite

screen-shot-2018-04-04-at-2-59-21-amBy 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,

Chris Mack.

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.

1Hiring Chris Mack answers a massive

question for Louisville fans:

Are we still elite?


Play Ball?

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?

Youth baseball.

For more than a century, it was the summer

game, a sunshine outlet for American kids. Their

national pastime.

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

all-star teams.

“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.”

Why not?

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

summertime!’ ”

“ 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.”


HEAD Baseball coach

Indiana University Southeast