Evanston’s Kade Lym hurls some heat during an Outlaws game last season. Photo by Judd Kishpaugh
EVANSTON — Mirroring the high school sports which surround it, American Legion baseball is preparing for the 2013 season around Wyoming, including the Evanston Outlaws. As with high school sports. graduation results in player losses, which brings about change and creates opportunities for others.
The Herald caught up with Outlaws coach Dr. Todd Hoover, who expressed that losses of multi-year players, such as Matt Lawver, Caleb Crump and Cody Roberts, who have meant so much to the program, “put a pit in your stomach.”
Evanston Outlaws baseball is for athletes ages 16 to 18. A high school athlete can extend his glory days beyond his graduation date, if he does not turn 19 before Jan. 1 of the coming year.
“So if a kid doesn’t turn 19 until, say, Dec. 28, his Legion career is still over,” Hoover explained.
This season will represent more change than usual for the Evanston Outlaws. Coach Jared Stimpson has relocated to Torrington, clearing the way for Judd Kishpaugh to officially join Hoover and Travis Martinez in the coaching ranks.
“We’re so excited to have Judd join us,” Hoover told the Herald. “Man, that guy has just stepped up and done so much work already for us, making our jobs so much easier and so much more delightful. It’s so nice to be able to focus on what we do, and for me that’s primarily been defense,” Hoover explained. “But it’s only made possible by all of the legwork Judd has done, and the fundraising efforts being spearheaded by his wife, Katie Kishpaugh. That’s also been a huge help.”
Each Outlaws player is requested to obtain three sponsors to defray expenses of new equipment and cover transportation and lodging costs. Anyone can donate to the Outlaws’ account at anytime, but Hoover is hopeful when players call on businesses, local business people will generously respond, as they have in the past.
Another major change deals with the schedule. The Outlaws finished 30-25 in 2012, going down swinging in a 9-10 heartbreaking loss to the Jackson Giants in the Southwest District tournament. Doing the quick math, that’s a 55-game schedule. The 2013 schedule will consist of only 35 games.
“We feel with a 35-game schedule, we can keep the kids sharper and more focused,” Hoover declared. “With 55 games, we kind of felt like we were losing interest at points along the road. Plus, there are so many other sports and activities many of our kids are involved with, vying for their attention.”
In a spirit of cooperation, striving for what is mutually best for the kids, Hoover told of meeting with high school coaches in the sports of football, basketball and wrestling in a bid to minimize conflicts that put undue pressure on student athletes for choices they must make. Not only was the schedule cut back, but efforts were made not to schedule games during the periods of the major camps attended in the summer by Red Devils high school athletes, who also wear their blue and white Outlaws uniforms with pride.
Hoover reiterated the difficulty in replacing players like Lawver, Crump and Roberts, and believes they have 12 to 14 ballplayers ready to make an impact, with 14 being a good number to work with. The cupboard is not bare, with pitcher Kade Lym returning to the mound. Lym signed a baseball scholarship with Western Nebraska College on Super Bowl Sunday of this year, making Hoover especially happy, with words to the effect at the time, that “Lym could focus on becoming a better baseball player and leading his team, rather than being concerned with what scouts may be in attendance,” with Lym playing for the camera, so to speak, to impress scouts and earn a scholarship. Hoover had words of praise for Lym, explaining the soon-to-graduate senior will be the Outlaws’ workhorse.
“It’s tough to take Kade off the field, because he’s such a gamer, and never wants to come off,” Hoover boasted. “He has a great attitude and a tremendous baseball work ethic. Our younger players can glean so much from his experience, his ability and what it takes to succeed. They can learn from and benefit a great deal from emulating Kade, and I’ve been really impressed with his willingness to work with and help our younger guys along, when his focus could be all about himself.”
“Another guy coming back from college, we’re very happy to have back, is Skyler Baldwin,” the doctor of chiropracty and longtime Outlaws’ coach continued. “Skylar will be another leader for us, and he’s such a cerebral ball player.”
Hoover is also high on current high school junior Ian Fisher.
“Ian is a special, special ballplayer. If he’s not an All-State player this season, I will be very surprised,” Hoover offered. “He’s the kind of guy you need to replace a Matt Lawver, Caleb Crump or Cody Roberts. I believe baseball is his first love, and his other coaches know the quality of athlete Ian is. I believe he will go down as one of the premier top five — for sure top 10 — players in Evanston Outlaws baseball history before he’s done — and that’s saying something.”
When asked about players no longer eligible coming back to work out with the team, Hoover spoke of the current staff “pushing Lawver to become an assistant coach,” and the same for Crump.
“Those guys are ball rats,” Hoover shared, ”and their baseball work ethic is second to none. They understand the many blessings and benefits baseball has created in their lives, have a sincere desire to pass it along, and we would love to give them that opportunity.”
One more player Hoover is excited to see blossom is Will Kishpaugh, who will be the mainstay at the catcher position for the Outlaws.
“You give Will something to work on, tips to improve his game, and he just does everything you ask of him with a targeted focus,” Hoover detailed. “He started and ended last season as a whole new ball player, and I believe he will make that much of a jump again this year. He’s already a well-tuned ballplayer, but I think he will advance to become more elite, a leader and a great benefit to our team.”
The Outlaws open on the road against the Green River Knights on May 2, a team Hoover believes will be a contender.
“With the horses in our lineup last year, we handled them relatively easily,” Hoover opined of Green River. “I think they got us once and we beat them seven times. But with the talent they have returning we’ll battle with them, back and forth. They may be able to get us early on, but I believe we will come on as the season progresses. Green River knows they’re real close, and if they play to their capabilities and continue to improve, they may be vying for a district championship this season.”
Hoover shared his philosophy of not being too concerned with wins and losses early on, but rather becoming better baseball players. The Outlaws will also venture into Utah and Idaho again this season, states that — unlike Wyoming — offer high school baseball.
“Those teams will have 60 games under their belts by the time we face them, when we will have played around 10,” Hoover detailed. “It might be a good thing to get shellacked a time or two to expose the areas we need to improve upon, and prove we can overcome adversity, before the district tournament.”
The lineup will evolve, but Hoover had a good idea where his talent would be placed, starting with Lym, who represents the strength of the pitching staff, and will be utilized in the outfield when not hurling for the Outlaws. Hoover figures playing centerfield, when not pitching, will be the best preparation for Lym to move on to college baseball.
Kishpaugh will hold down the catcher’s spot to begin the season. Fisher will start at shortstop, with Tucker Leland playing third base and spending time in the outfield. Hoover claimed Baldwin will “play in the infield, somewhere,” adding Miles Piper as an infielder.
Robbie Nowicki and Pat Asmus were expected to be both infielders and outfielders, with Mountain View Buffalo brothers Austin and Alex Houskeeper joining the Outlaws, and tabbed as outstanding athletes by Hoover, assured to find a place in the lineup.
The final name mentioned was James Asmus, a returning player, with the versatility to play first base, outfield and pitch for the Outlaws, though Hoover was adamant about additional younger players who would see time in the rotation.
“The lineup is not completely set, but we have a good idea about who can play where,” Hoover explained, “and the kind of situations we can put them in, for our best shots at success.”
He noted the Outlaws’ strategies, with regard to personnel, will become more clear once the team is able to practice outside with more regularity.
“It’ll become more solidified as we move into the heart of our season,” Hoover concluded.
The first of 10 scheduled home games will feature the visiting Rawlins Generals in a doubleheader on Saturday, May 4, with the Green River Knights due in town on Thursday, May 9.
Watch the Herald for Evanston Outlaws’ baseball coverage all season long, and check the team’s Facebook page for breaking news and updates.