When Dan Faulkner left the Region after a memorable career on the mound for Bishop Noll, he didn't know when he'd be back.
Faulkner enrolled at John A. Logan College in Carterville, Illinois, after the Philadelphia Phillies selected him in the 2006 MLB Draft out of high school, but shoulder and elbow injuries derailed his career. As Faulkner and his wife, Victoria Chan, periodically drove from their home in Cincinnati to Northwest Indiana, however, they knew they wanted to return.
After taking a job as Director of Sales for the RailCats, The Times 2006 Baseball Player of the Year reaps two huge benefits — Faulkner and Chan can raise their family in the Region, and he's back involved with the game he loves.
Faulkner spoke with The Times about his desire to return to the Region and his time at Bishop Noll, which included the 2004 state title.
Q: How does it feel to be back in baseball?
A: “I don't think I realized how much I missed it until I got back in the area. I actually went over to Dave Griffin's (Baseball School in Griffith) — he was my high school coach. I stopped by his indoor shop, and it just kind of brought back all these good memories and all these good times I had.
"So, getting to kind of go through some of that stuff again and realize, 'Hey, baseball was something that defined my life for 23 years,' and then kind of turning it off, you don't realize how important the game was to you. And so now being back around it, it's starting to bring back all those old memories and all those things. Now, I walk around the front office here, and there's a baseball in my hand the entire time, and all I want to do is go play long toss in the outfield.”
Q: Did you expect to return to baseball?
A: “I left the area, I went off to college and then I lived in Chicago for a year, then moved to Columbus, Ohio, then down to Cincinnati for six years. I don't think that I ever really thought I'd be in baseball and/or back in the Region.
"My wife and I, we had a son (Cash), he's 2 years old now. We just got to the point where it was like, we realized we really wanted to spend time with our families, and we wanted the same life we had growing up. So it was a no-brainer: We've got to figure out a way to get back to the area. Then I found this posting, and I emailed the general manager (Brian Flenner) directly. We hit it off, and the rest is history.”
Q: What was the No. 1 thing you missed about the Region?
A: “I never realized missing much of anything until we got to the point where we were traveling home for Christmas and every year we would try to figure out how we could spend an adequate amount of time with my family, with my wife's family, and then see the childhood friends we have. We got married three years ago, and pretty much everyone we know had to travel from this area down to Cincinnati to come to our wedding. It got to the point where we literally just said, 'Our whole life is there, and we want to be there.'
"Then, I come back, and there's people who are still in the same places. Some of the businesses are still the same, and the restaurants and the bars and all those things. Then you realize: Life was pretty good when you were here — I'm not really sure why we left.”
Q: What do you remember most from your baseball career at Bishop Noll?
A: “Obviously, winning the state championship in 2004. Making it to the state championship in 2006. Beating Andrean three times in one year. That was my senior year.
"But the same thing, right? Getting to spend time with the guys on the team and Dave Griffin, who's still a huge mentor to me. Just getting to spend time with those people. We had a really good run, competitively, on the field, but the brotherhood that comes along with being on a team and spending so much time with those guys and building relationships and maintaining friendships (is memorable)."
Q: Boone Grove and Andrean both won state titles last year. What do you think of the state of high school baseball here in Northwest Indiana?
A: “I ran into (Andrean coach) Dave Pishkur here on like my second day, and he said they won something like five titles since I graduated. That's just, like, insane. They're crushing it, which is good to see.
"Any time the other schools start getting in on it, like Boone Grove winning the title ... I think it's really cool to see, because when I think of baseball, I don't necessarily assume Indiana as a hotbed of talent. You think of the South and the West and some of those kind of places.
"... As more and more teams continue to win and more and more teams place an emphasis on that being one of their sports, I think it's gonna be good. I learned a lot from the game, so I just love seeing kids getting excited about it and seeing people want to play.”