Tag Archives: soin

Talented baker
Lydia Sprigler.

Letter From the Editor | June/July 2018

By Angie Fenton   

The Extol Team is thrilled to have Lydia Sprigler as the subject of our featured cover story. The winner of MESA’s Kid Baking Contest, Lydia wowed the judges with her sweet skills and will be the guest of honor at our launch party, which is 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. June 21 at MESA, 216 Pearl St. in New Albany. Attendees of the free, family-friendly event will get a chance to enjoy Lydia’s baking and other appetizers at this edition of our signature event. We hope you’ll join us. By the way, if you have a budding young baker in your family, Food Network contacted MESA KIDS (coming soon to New Albany) and asked for help finding talented kids ages 8 to 13 to cast for season 5 of the network’s Kids Baking Championship show. You can find more information at www. mesakidscookingschool.com.

Talented baker Lydia Sprigler.

Talented baker
Lydia Sprigler.

In this issue, we remember and celebrate the life of Bekki Jo Schneider, who made Derby Dinner Playhouse a must-visit Southern Indiana institution. We are grateful to Jon Huffman and Arts-Louisville.com for allowing us to share his tribute to Bekki Jo.

It has been enjoyable watching basketball standout Romeo Langford mature into a young man who is preparing to head to Indiana University. We caught up with the Hoosier for a quick Q&A and photo shoot at The Pepin Mansion, where he, once again, displayed why he’s a fan favorite on and off the court.

Romeo Langford with fans Elliott Baker, 7, and his sister Eve Baker, 5.

Romeo Langford with fans Elliott
Baker, 7, and his sister Eve Baker, 5.

Amid the articles and columns about summer fun, food, exploring Southern Indiana (and beyond), sports, fitness, fashion, home renovation and philanthropy, you’ll also find several though-provoking first-person pieces. Zach McCrite shares an honest account of his recent 80-pound weight loss. Ray Lucas imparts the wisdom he learned from his father. Guest contributor Amy Gesenhues gives a glimpse of her family’s 100-year garden. And Miranda McDonald details a recent trip that includes coming to terms with what it means to be divorced.

Many thanks to our advertising partners for their support, which allows us to remain a free publication. And, all of us at Extol greatly appreciate you, our readers.



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.


Ben Franklin Beauties

By JD Dotson

For 27 years, Ben Franklin Crafts in New Albany

has been Southern Indiana’s go-to supply stock

up store for all kinds of crafts persons and artists.

Home to an eclectic mix of gifts and accessories,

frame shop, fabric store, and the largest collection

of art, crafting and scrapbooking supplies, Ben

Franklin’s also makes your Derby ensemble easily

customizable and unique. Their collection of

fascinators and women’s hats range from subtle

and demure to show-stopper and avant-garde.

Hats are ready to go right out of the store, or

for the extra personal touch can be embellished

by a team of designers to match an outfit or a

personal style.

Ben Franklin Crafts even has every bit, piece

and part, feather, ribbon and sequins, and hat or

fascinator base for the DIY crafter to build their

own masterpiece.

Ben Franklin’s also did not forget about the guys

and carries a huge selection of handmade local

bowties and pocket squares by local designer Ethan

Thomas. Ethan’s use of pattern and color add a

bit of spring flair to a Derby suit. Top the look off

with one of their straw hats, add a feather in the

band and you are ready to place bets.

Ben Franklin also carries a line of clear and

correctly-sized bags to comply with Churchill

Downs’ regulations, as well as a credit card,

tamper-free wallet to keep your bank account

safe from thieves.

We have picked out a few of our favorites.


Reality PD

denver-14Jeffersonville’s Sgt. Denver Leverett is a fan favorite on A&E’s “Live PD”

By Jim Nichols | Photos by Christian Watson and courtesy A&E

Check out social media most weekend

nights and chances are you’ll see someone

talking about “Live PD.”

That’s because A&E’s hit show frequently

features the Jeffersonville Police Department

and Clark County Sheriff’s Office. Social media

seems to thrive on drama and “Live PD” offers

plenty from right here in Southern Indiana.

The program follows police departments from

across the country in real time as they patrol

their communities. Think of it as live “Cops” with

minimal edits.

Even with showcasing as many as eight

departments per three-hour episode, some

officers stand out. But none get more attention

than Sgt. Denver Leverett of the Jeffersonville

Police Department.

Often referred to as “The Human Lie Detector,”

Leverett seems to play Jedi mind tricks on suspects

he encounters on patrol. After a series of questions,

he’s uncovered a sawed-off shotgun, had a family

admit to buying crack and correctly told a woman

she has drugs in her bra – all on live TV.

“When you’ve had 17 years to perfect your

craft, you’re going to get good at it,” he says. “It’s

like a game of cat and mouse. It’s like a game of

tag. It’s verbal judo.

“The process of doing that is very rewarding.”

So, is he just showing off for the cameras?

“I’m going to do what I do whether they’re

there or not,” he says. “They don’t influence how

I do my job.”

Sgt. Denver Leverett and Flex

Sgt. Denver Leverett and Flex

According to Leverett, it’s all about his

observations and approach. He notices sweating,

shaking and lack of eye contact, all the while

treating the suspect with dignity.

“When I go up to a car, for the first 60 seconds I’m

just looking for criminal indicators,” he explains.

“If you talk down to people or belittle them, they

aren’t going to talk to you. If you treat them with

respect, they’ll talk to you.”

That’s all well and good, but how does he get

suspects to admit to crimes through what seems

like a casual conversation?

“The key to being the ‘Lie Detector’ is you have

to be persistent,” he explains. “I’ll have to ask the

same question two or three times in different ways.

I’ll do anything to get to the truth.”

He’ll also throw out an exaggerated question

like, “You got five pounds of pot in your glove

box?” only to have a suspect admit they have a

smaller amount somewhere else.

Jedi mind tricks, indeed.

The man behind the badge

Leverett says he’s wanted to be a police officer

since he was a boy – more specifically, a “K-9

cop.” A graduate of Jeffersonville High School

and Indiana University, he’s part of a family with

a long line of public service. Those connections

helped him find his calling.

“My uncle was the police chief, so as a young boy,

I was able to ride with the K-9 Unit and volunteer

my time,” he said. “That’s how I developed my


He joined the Jeffersonville Police Department

in early 2001 and became part of the K-9 Unit

within a couple of years.

They say when you do what you love, you never

work a day in your life. That saying holds true for

Leverett. “I still enjoy coming to work 17 years

later,” he says.

A big part of his passion is getting drugs off the

street. For him, it’s personal. He’s had family and

friends struggle with addiction, even resulting in

death. Helping others avoid the same fate keeps

him going.

“I couldn’t find a drunk in a bar,” he says. “My

passion is drug work. Narcotics is my bread and


Outside work he enjoys Crossfit and cheering

on the Louisville Cardinals and Houston Texans.

Most important, though, are his wife and 2-yearold

son. “When I’m off, you’d never know I was a

policeman,” he says.

Paws down, he’s a celebrity

Chances are, even casual fans of “Live PD,” know

Leverett’s canine companion, Flex, who’s been

by his side for more than four years. The brindle

Dutch Shepherd serves two purposes – narcotics

detection and patrol.

How good is he at what he does? According

to Leverett, Flex can find a quarter in an open

field from the human scent it retains. Although

drug traffickers try to conceal the scent of their

cargo with a variety of aromatics few, if any, get

past Flex’s sniff.

His appearances on “Live PD” earned him a

visit to New York for an in-studio appearance

with Leverett. The trip came complete with a

first-class flight – Flex flew at Leverett’s feet – and

accommodations. Throughout their appearance,

Flex calmly rested on a platform as his handler

provided commentary along with the show’s hosts.

According to Dan Cesareo, creator and executive

producer of “Live PD,” Leverett provided priceless

perspective during his appearance.

“The primary goal of ‘Live PD’ is to provide

viewers a deep dive into what policing looks like

across America and what officers encounter on a

regular basis while patrolling their communities,”

he said. “It’s been fascinating to watch how viewers

engage with various officers featured on the series,

and there’s consistently a vested interest in how

officers, like Sgt. Denver Leverett, work with K-9

units. It was a good opportunity to invite Sgt.

Leverett and Flex to come in-studio last November

to provide additional commentary and analysis

from his unique perspective during the live show.”

Leverett also answered viewer questions during

that episode. One tweeted about what type of food

Flex eats. He replied with the name brand and

found out the next week he’d received a year’s

supply from the manufacturer.

That’s not all Flex has received. Fans have sent

collars, toys and even pig ears to Jeffersonville’s

most notable narc.

But when the day’s over, he heads home with

Leverett and transitions to a family pet.

“When he’s home, he’s totally different. He’s

just a dog … a pet,” Leverett says. “But when he

sees me through the glass door, starting to put on

my uniform, he gets excited. He knows every time

I put on the uniform, we go to work or to train.”

The ‘Live PD’ effect

Sgt. Denver Leverett (middle) with “Live PD” host Dan Abrams (left) and analyst Tom Morris Jr.

Sgt. Denver Leverett (middle) with “Live PD” host Dan Abrams (left) and analyst Tom Morris Jr.

Leverett’s abilities, which are often cited on “Live PD” even

when he’s not on the show, have earned him somewhat of a

following both locally and across the country.

“Denver is a great ambassador for the City of Jeffersonville,”

says Jeffersonville resident Larry Thomas. “His honor and

professionalism, often in the face of ridiculous behavior by the

people he is sworn to protect, has helped me become a fan.”

Tim Hess, a “Live PD” viewer from Citrus County, Florida,

shares Thomas’s respect for Leverett. “’Live PD’ host Dan

Abrams doesn’t refer to him as the ‘Human Lie Detector’ for no

reason. Denver has seen it all and is a great judge of character.

The streets of Jeffersonville are safer because of the job he and

his K-9 partner Flex do on a nightly basis.”

Still, there are detractors. Some say the show puts Jeffersonville

in a bad light, only showing the negative side of a city with so

much going for it. Leverett understands the sentiment but

contends the program reveals a reality few are aware of.

“It’s been nothing but a positive experience,” he says of his

time on the show. “You’re always going to have naysayers, but

you can’t please everybody.”

“It gives a realistic view of what we deal with on a daily basis,”

he continues. “Unless it’s on the news or in the papers, people

don’t know it happens.”

Like Flex, Leverett receives his share of gifts from viewers.

Each one is answered with a signed photo, patch or other piece

of memorabilia. For some fans, like a 10-year-old autistic boy

from Pennsylvania, Leverett takes it a step further, making a

call or speaking via FaceTime.

“(This person is) facing challenges I could never understand,”

Leverett says of his fan in the Keystone State, “yet I’m his

happiness for three hours on a Friday night.”

TV time has also led to several appearances at area fundraisers,

galas and functions. Leverett is honored, but manages to keep

things in perspective.

“Sometimes they think you’re a star,” he says. “But I’m just

a father and a husband. I’m just me.”


Louisville Zoo Hosts Party for the Planet

screen-shot-2018-04-05-at-3-25-15-pmThe Louisville Zoo is throwing its annual bash for the Earth: Party for the

Planet: A Month-Long Celebration of the Earth, powered by Louisville Gas

and Electric Company and Kentucky Utilities Company. The month of April

will feature special activities including zoo keeper presentations, a regional

art contest for students, $8.25 admission on April 29 and conservationminded

events every weekend.

“While celebrating the Earth is the focus of the event, one of the most

wonderful things about it is the awareness it instills in our community and

its children,” said LG&E and KU Director of Corporate Responsibility and

Community Affairs Angie Evans. “Teaching them from a young age to respect

our planet and habits that help to preserve it is a good reminder for us all.”

Visit louisvillezoo.org/earth for full details about the entire month.


Indiana Tourism Association Awards Night

March 6 • Radisson Louisville North in Clarksville

Photos by Christian Watson

The Indiana Tourism Awards, presented

by Midwest Living, were awarded on

March 6. The awards honor tourism

businesses who are creative, innovative

and maximize the dollars invested.

Jim Epperson, executive director of

Clark-Floyd Counties Convention

Tourism Bureau (also known as SoIN),

received the Indiana Tourism Association

Member of the Year award. The full list

of winners include: Best Cooperative

Partnership – Visit Fort Wayne for

“CurrentFortWayne.com”; Best Culinary

Focused Marketing Campaign – Visit

South Bend Mishawaka for “Indiana’s

Cool North Taco Wars”; Best Digital

Marketing – Visit Bloomington for

“Bloomington Tourism Advocacy/

Convention Center Expansion

Campaign”; Best Event/Festival –

Elkhart County Convention and Visitors

Bureau for “Quilt Gardens Along the

Heritage Trail 10th Anniversary”; Best

Leisure Travel Promotion – Grant

County Convention and Visitors Bureau

for “Classic Cool Brand Launch”; Best

Visitor Guide (Marketing Budgets under

$300,000) – Columbus Area Visitors

Center for “Columbus In Style”; Best

Visitor Guide (Marketing Budgets over

$300,000) – Visit Hendricks County

for “2017 Visitors Guide”; Best Tourism

Website – Visit Madison; and Indiana

Tourism Association Member of the Year

– Jim Epperson, SoIN


Imagine Awards

March 10 • Horseshoe Southern Indiana in Elizabeth

Photos by Christian Watson

The 2018 Imagine Awards, presented by

German American Bank and benefiting

the Rauch Foundation, were held March

10 at Horseshoe Southern Indiana.

“America’s Got Talent” season 12

contestant Kechi Okwuchi – who was

one of two survivors of a 2005 plane

crash – spoke and performed at the

event. Winners included Ima Abbott

(Individual Honoree), Cindy Cecil

(Community Leader Honoree), and

Archie Engle of Archie’s Barber and Style

Shop (Business Honoree).


47th Jeff Ruby’s Steaks

March 10 • Horseshoe Southern Indiana in Elizabeth

Photos by Amber Chalfin

Just more than two lengths covered the

top three finishers in a thrilling renewal

of the $200,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3)

at Turfway Park Saturday, with Blended

Citizen hitting the wire a neck in front

to earn 20 points toward a spot in the

Kentucky Derby gate. Pony Up was

second, a length ahead of Arawak in

third. Final time for the 1 1/8-mile race

over Polytrack was 1:50.87.


2018 Imagine Awards