BY DEAN HOCKNEY
GREENTOWN – Matt Simmerman loves baseball. And when he moved to Greentown from Shelbyville at the start of his junior year, he knew the Comet baseball team would not be his final stop – he wanted to play college baseball. In mid-January, he got his wish when the senior catcher signed a letter of intent to continue his hardball career at a top junior college program in West Burlington, Iowa – Southeastern Community College.
“A big part of me choosing Southeastern was the coaches and facilities; all of those are great,” said Simmerman, who plans on becoming a history teacher. “The facilities are just spot on. And I get to play right away every day of the week. I look to play 50-plus games my freshman year, and I am excited about that.”
Eastern head coach Nick Sale was equally excited about Simmerman’s signing.
“This is great for Matt,” said Sale. “He came here from Shelbyville and was an immediate leader. Our guys look up to him, and with nine seniors, he is leading the way. He cares about his team and works hard in the classroom. He is a great person and you will never see someone work harder. It has been great to have him around.”
Sale said that with Simmerman’s early signing, it takes pressure off the catcher and team.
“With this out of the way, I think you are going to see his best baseball – the pressure is off,” said Sale. “He can relax. And I think the team can feel that pressure, so it helps them.”
Simmerman quickly became a power in the area last season, leading Howard County with a .478 batting average and .604 on-base percentage. The all-Mid-Indiana Conference first team performer ripped 33 base hits, had a .739 slugging percentage and was rock solid as the Comets backstop with just one error.
“He is a great hitter, and we need someone in the middle of our lineup who can knock in some runs,” said Sale. “Matt brings some power to the order. And we have some guys around him so they can’t pitch around him. He is a top-level catcher.”
He will also return as the top Eastern pitcher this season after a team-high 42 strikeouts last season. He threw 28 innings and had a 3-1 record.
“My high school journey has been pretty crazy since this is my second school,” said Simmerman, who played with the Indiana Prospects last summer and will play with the Indiana Blue Jays this coming summer. “I was mature when I got here and had a decent year. I think we will have a good year this year with nine seniors. It should be a fun year, and I hope we win the MIC and sectionals – the sky is the limit.”
The sky will also be the limit for the Blackhawks when Simmerman arrives. Under 10-year head coach Justin Schulte, Southeastern was 45-22 last year and 19-7 in the Nebraska Community College Athletic Conference. The squad took a No. 4 junior college ranking into the post-season and qualified for the NJCAA Division II World Series.
Second year assistant coach Mark Michael drove from Iowa to attend Simmerman’s signing ceremony.
“We are excited about Matt; he is a big time hitter and will be an immediate impact player for us,” said Michael.
“We like a big-body guy behind the plate, and I like the way he can block and throw. He is a big, strong kid with a good future in front of him. We have kids from Vegas to Florida to the Bahama’s – we recruit from everywhere and we are excited to have him.”
Simmerman said he would like to continue his career after his two-seasons at Southeastern come to an end, and the Blackhawks are known for moving players on to four-year schools.
In the last three years, 27 graduating sophomores signed with a four-year program, seven went on to a NCAA Division I team and one was an MLB draft pick.
But before he can move on from Southeastern, he has a senior season at Eastern to tackle – and goals have been set high for a banner year for the Comets.