HAMMOND | Dave Sutkowksi was like a proud father Tuesday night at Riverside Park. The manager of the Hammond Chiefs worked with his team before its game.
But a lot more good stuff was already taking place off the diamond.
Two former Chiefs -- Neal Frendling (Lake Central) and Mike Caston (Hammond) -- are leading the Chicago State University baseball coaching staff.
Caston is the Cougars' head coach and Frendling as an assistant.
Three current Chiefs have already signed to play at CSU next year. Hobart's Tony Curatalo, Gavit's Aveeno Nasiloski and Whiting's Elliott Bajda are all signed, sealed and ready to be delivered.
Plus, a former Chief, Hanover Central's Andy Wellwerts, has also signed to play at Chicago State.
"Both Neal and Mike like the way our guys are ready to play at the next level," Sutkowksi said. "Chicago State is an up-and-coming program. They play the top programs around and they travel out west and to the south.
"It's great for our kids to go there and play Division I baseball. I know the coaches there and they're great baseball guys. And it's not that far away from home."
The pipeline from the region to CSU is not just this year's class. There are five former players from the area competing for the Cougars. Clark grads and brothers Albert, Jon and Mike Carpen are there.
So are E.C. Central grad Greg Day and Calumet's James Tucker.
Curatalo was working out when Tucker started talking to him. Tucker asked him where he planned on playing. Curatalo wasn't sure. So Tucker spoke to Frendling and the spark started to smoke.
Frendling saw him pitch for the Brickies and the conversation began.
"He told me they loved the way the Chiefs ran their program," Curatalo said. "I'm really excited about this. They play a great schedule and I can't wait to get there."
Bajda's and Nasiloski's story is different. The two have been playing summer ball together since they were 13. It looked like their baseball careers would divert after this Chiefs' season ended.
They knew Neal through the Chiefs. The conversation started. The two went and saw CSU play Illinois-Chicago in April.
"I really liked Neal's personality," Bajda said. "That got the whole connection going."
So they committed in the last week of May.
"They said they wanted freshmen with experience who could help them right away," Nasiloski said. "That got me excited about it."
CSU went 9-41 this past season and 4-19 in the Great West Conference. But with a lot of local talent heading their way, the future looks bright for the Cougars.
"We're working on getting more Chiefs to Chicago State," Bajda said.