May 18, 20241234567RHE
Indiana State212062215150
Win: Gilley (3-0) 3.120025
Loss: Guazzo (0-7) 3.065512
Hernandez (INS) 433211
Sears (INS) 333502
Urdaneta (INS) 423101
Hannahs (VALPO) 311111
Schmack (VALPO) 301100
Ryan (VALPO) 401000
Maka (VALPO) 401000
Patton (VALPO) 211101
Reinertson (VALPO) 201000
Thurston (VALPO) 211010
A Game That Meant Nothing on a Day that Meant Everything as Valpo Baseball Salutes Senior Class
Saturday, May 18, 2024
By Brandon Vickrey
A Game That Meant Nothing on a Day that Meant Everything as Valpo Baseball Salutes Senior Class
Senior Kaleb Hannahs exchanged lineup cards with his father, Indiana State head coach Mitch Hannahs, prior to the game.

The game meant nothing, but the day meant everything on Saturday afternoon at Emory G. Bauer Field.

A father and a son together on a baseball field – that’s how so many stories involving this glorious sport truly begin. And that’s how this story begins, too, as the game that so many of us love delivered one of those special moments that only baseball can provide.

Our job is to write a game story after each game, but we know a story when we see one, and every once in a while, the game is not the story.  

The first pitch was a few minutes away, and it was time for the head coaches to meet at home plate to discuss the ground rules and exchange lineup cards. Only this time, something was different, as neither dugout had a head coach emerge. The man who stepped toward home plate from the visiting third base dugout had been a head coach a few minutes earlier as his 20th-ranked Indiana State Sycamores prepared for a game that was important for them in terms of NCAA seeding. He’d be a head coach again a few minutes later when the game got underway. But at that moment, Mitch Hannahs was not a head coach. He was a dad.

The man that emerged from the home first base dugout was not a head coach at all. Mitch Hannahs had spent time with this individual on the baseball diamond when he was a boy, but now “man” was certainly the right word to use as Kaleb Hannahs prepared to play his final game as a four-year starter for the Valparaiso University baseball team. As father and son locked hands at home plate during Saturday’s Senior Day lineup card exchange, this moment and all that it represented was special not only for Kaleb and Mitch, but for all of us, too. For many it may have been Dad, for others it was Mom, Uncle, Grandma or Grandpa, but for all of us who love this game, the bond with the person who introduced us to baseball holds a special place.

We told you the game wasn’t the story, but something that happened in the game was part of it. Leading off the bottom of the third, Hannahs homered to left, touching them all in his final collegiate contest against his dad’s team. Liam Patton would also homer on the season’s final day for the Beacons, who fell 15-4 in seven innings to the No. 20 Sycamores.

The year was 2022 and Valpo head coach Brian Schmack made a phone call. Schmack didn’t call in many favors to the Missouri Valley Conference office, but this one was worth the ask. Knowing the league works well ahead on the conference schedule, Schmack’s plea was this – Valpo vs. Indiana State to close the 2024 season at Emory G. Bauer Field. Mitch Hannahs didn’t get to see many of his son’s collegiate games – after all, he was busy coaching his own MVC club – but he saw the final three games of Kaleb’s career, including Saturday’s Senior Day that was years in the making.

While Mitch’s viewing of Kaleb’s collegiate career was limited by his head coaching responsibilities, there was another dad who accompanied his son on Saturday after watching all 207 games that he played in a Valpo uniform as a five-year starter. That dad had the best seat in the house for every hit and every home run as Brian Schmack often described coaching his son Kyle as the greatest honor of his baseball career. That era reached its end on Saturday the same way so many baseball stories – this one included – begin, with a dad and a son spending time together at the ballfield.

Kyle and Kaleb were the story, but they sure weren’t the only story on Saturday afternoon at Emory G. Bauer Field. The story was all 15 seniors, including a core of five longtime starting position players who waved goodbye to the program after playing their final collegiate contest. Three-year starting center fielder Alex Ryan, four-year starting first baseman Brady Renfro and four-year starting shortstop Alex Thurston joined Kaleb – a four-year starter at third base – and Kyle – a five-year starter in left field – to form the position-player core of this class. They combined for 860 starts at Valpo. These young men may have been the “kids” for one more day during Saturday’s senior celebration, but soon Thurston will be the “dad” in that father/son baseball equation as he and his wife Ashlyn will welcome a baby boy to the family in September.

The aforementioned position players aren’t the only veteran members of the program who poured their blood, sweat and tears into Valpo baseball over the years. The pitching staff was well represented in Saturday’s Senior Day ceremony including fifth-year Trent Turzenski, fifth-year Grant Jablonski and fourth-year Griffin McCluskey. Those eight program mainstays were joined by seven others who transferred into the program at various points in their collegiate careers – Chase Maifield, Carson Husmann, Bryce Konitzer, Josh Spencer, Kaleb Krier, Jonathan Hyman and Brady Nowicki – to form the massive and impactful senior class.

All represented Valpo with class and will walk away with degrees in hand. Husmann (with his fiancé Sarah) and Ryan (with his fiancé Katie) will join Thurston as married men before long. Ryan is starting a position with Generac this summer, Jablonski has a job lined up with Patrick Industries and McCluskey is headed to work at State Farm in Bloomington. As they transition into the next phase of their lives, they’ll carry with them the memories created together more so than the wins and losses. From the team meals to the hotel stays to the many hours on the bus (Picking the Godfather. Picking the Godfather. Picking the cops. Picking the cops.) to the lifts to the practices to visiting the training room for treatment, a baseball team becomes a family. And family was the story of the day on Saturday afternoon at Emory G. Bauer Field.