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VENERABLE BASEBALL PROGRAM RETOOLS FOR FALL AND 2013 SEASONS

Saturday, August 4, 2012 • POSTED BY:  John Burbridge Times Correspondent

HAMMOND | Too many chiefs, not enough Indians.

Dave Sutkowski, founder of one of more revered baseball programs in the area, has decided to double down -- or make that triple down -- in regards to the "Chiefs" at the expense of the "Seminoles."

"No, we're keeping all of this up," Sutkowski said of the banners that grace the main field at Riverside Park that honor the Hammond Chiefs and Seminoles.

"Our players have accomplished so much," said Sutkowski, whose Chiefs won the Senior Babe Ruth World Series in 2003 and finished runners-up in 2009. Many players from the program went on to play in college, and some went on to play professionally.

"And we still have players playing (affiliated) ball," said Sutkowski, who started the program more than three decades ago.

Now it's coming to an end -- in terms of the name "Hammond Chiefs" and "Seminoles."

"We are now called the Indiana Chiefs of Hammond," Sutkowski said. "We decided to do some restructuring ... change our approach of doing things."

For the 2013 season, there will be a 14U team, a 15-16U team and a 17U team. In seasons past, the program's 16-18 team was referred to as the "Chiefs and the 15-16 team was the "Seminoles."

"We added a 14U team," Sutkowski said. "The 17U team will be our Senior Babe Ruth team."

Gone this year will be the program's fall wooden bat league, which had a 16-year run dating back to 1995.

"That's where we decided to re-evaluate what we do," Sutkowski said. "Kids nowadays are playing 60, 70, 80 and more games a year, and that's not including fall leagues.

"The problem with all these fall leagues is there tends to be a lack of instruction. And now you're seeing more and more kids breaking down with arm troubles."

The Chiefs will field a pair of Sophomore- and Junior-class exposure teams this fall. In addition to showcase tournaments, the Sophomore team will participate in the Pastime Fall Prospects Tournament in Indianapolis, and the Junior Team will travel to Ft. Myers, Fla., for the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Underclass Championships.

Also this fall, the Indiana Chiefs of Hammond are offering a long toss throwing program starting in September.

"We're going to emphasize proper throwing and conditioning," Sutkowski said of the three-day-a-week program for ages 8-18.

For your information

The Indiana Chiefs of Hammond will be holding tryouts for their 2013 summer teams and 2012 fall exposure teams at Riverside Park.

The 2013 summer teams include 14U, which will have tryouts at 10 a.m. Sunday and Aug. 12; 15/16U, which will have tryouts at 1 p.m. Sunday and Aug. 12; and 17U, which will have tryouts at 4 p.m. Sunday and Aug. 12. Players ages based as of May 1, 2013.

The 2012 fall exposure teams include Sophomore (class of 2015), which will have tryouts at 1 p.m. Aug. 19 and Aug. 26 -- team will attend showcase tournaments on weekends at various colleges as well as participate in the Pastime Fall Prospects Tournament in Indianapolis; and Junior (class of 2014), which will have tryouts at 4 p.m. Aug. 19 and Aug. 26 -- team will attend showcase tournaments at various colleges and will participate in the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Underclass Championship in Ft. Myers.

* The program will be offering a fall long toss throwing program with baseball instruction three days a week -- Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 3 p.m. -- from Sept. 2 through Oct. 14 at Riverside Park in Hammond. The program is for players ages 8-18. Cost for the program is $100 for Hammond residents and $125 for non-residents. Registration is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. today and Aug. 11 and 18 at Riverside Park.

For details, call (219) 852-9461 or go to hammondchiefs.com.