Coaches

Matt Plante
Matt comes to Top Tier after serving as a recruiting coordinator and hitting coach at Oakland University for two seasons, 2011-2012. In 2012, Plante helped lead the Golden Grizzlies to the best conference record in school history at 15-6, ranking them second in the Summit League. He helped guide the offensive unit at Oakland to the top half of all the offensive categories in the Summit League. The 2012 season was the best finish in school history and helped Oakland's head coach win Coach of the Year in the Summit League, which was the 1st time a coach from Oakland had one that award. Prior to Oakland, Plante served as a volunteer assistant and graduate manager at Kansas State University. With the Wildcats, he served as the head of video operations and also assisted with infieldand hitting instruction. In that 2010 season, Kansas State finished 37-22, they ended up third in the Big XII, earned a trip to the NCAA Regionals at University of Arkansas and were ranked in the Top 25 by the end of the season. Prior to Kansas State, Plante was at the Division III level as an assistant at Springfield College in Massachusetts, where he gained his Masters in Athletic Administration. In addition to his collegiate work, he has coached two years as an assistant at Lake Forest High School. He served as the Head Coach and assistant coach for the 17U and 18U teams from 2004-2010 at Top Tier, along with coaching many youth teams to multiple championships. His most notable accomplishment during those years was winning back to back CABA National Championships with the 17U teams in 2009 and 2010. He currently, now serves as the Vice President of Operations, and coaches our 17U Americans and 12U Navy teams, along with mentoring all the players in the Top Tier program.

Griffin Phelps
Griffin is a former New Mexico Gatorade Player of the Year, as well as a former Division I left-handed pitcher at the University of Arizona. He was a member of their 2004 College World Series team. He also played at Central Arizona College in 2005 and 2006. He graduated from the University of Nevada in 2009. He began coaching in 2008, and in 2010, as the head coach, he led the Strike Zone Cardinals to the Connie Mack World Series where they finished 2-2. Beginning in the fall of 2009 he coached for 3 years at his high school alma matter, Farmington High, in his hometown of Farmington, NM. He has been on staff with Top Tier since 2012 and is currently the High School Director and head coach of Top Tier's 16u Americans.

Seth Kenny
Seth is a former Division I college pitching coach for nine years, serving five years at Illinois State University and four at Austin Peay State University. He also served as the recruiting coordinator for two years. In his nine years as a college coach, he's had nine pitchers drafted under his tutelage, including two who made the major leagues. After his pitching career at Eastern Michigan University, he played two years of professional baseball in the Oakland A's organization. He began working for Top Tier as academy director and as a high school coach in 2011. He now is the director of player development and director of youth baseball (9U-14U).

Jorge Garza
Jorge Garza was born and grew up in Rockford, IL. Jorge attended Boylan Central Catholic High School in Rockford and graduated in 2007. In 2008, he signed with Coach Bill Angelo & Elgin Community College. In Jorge's Freshman year of 2008, the Spartans won the North Central Region IV DII tournament to advance to the NJCAA DII World Series in Millington, Tennessee for a 5th consecutive year, placing 5th overall. In 2010 he went on to play infield at Robert Morris University where they won the CCAC tournament. In the summer of 2010, Jorge played 2nd base for the Rockford Foresters in the inaugural season of the Midwest Collegiate Baseball League and went on to win the MCBL Championship. In the Fall of 2011, Jorge began his coaching career as a Graduate Assistant with the Robert Morris Eagles. In the summer of 2012, Jorge was an Assistant Coach on the Dupage Hounds of the MCBL. In the summer of 2014, Jorge Managed the Joliet Admirals in the MCBL. In the fall of 2014 he began coaching with Top Tier as the 16u Nationals coach in the summer of 2015, 17u Nationals head coach in 2016, head coach of the Top Tier 15u Americans in 2017, Director for the 13u age group, the Top Tier Academy Operations Leader and Camp Director. Currently, he is the Director of the 10u age division and head coach of the 10u Navy team.

Brian Duffy
Brian Duffy played baseball at Archbishop Molloy HS in Queens, NY where he was named First Team All-City during his senior season. After graduation, he went on to pitch at the Division I collegiate level for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) from 2004-2008. While at UMBC, Duffy interned for the The Baseball Factory, and a minor league affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, the Bowie Baysox. After college, Brian coached at the United States Naval Academy, assisting in on campus recruiting, on-field coaching, and working camps across the country to promote Navy baseball. He then went on to become the Prep Baseball Report Illinois State Director in 2010 and the High School Director for Top Tier Baseball from 2011-2014. At Top Tier, he connected with college coaches across the Midwest and built relationships with other travel and high school programs, helping over 100 student-athletes across the country play at the collegiate level. Brian understands the concept of a "student-athlete" better than most. He holds an MBA with a concentration in Sports Management from the Loyola University Chicago Quinlan School of Business and a Juris Doctorate from the John Marshall Law School. He currently serves as a director for the Top Tier North program and can be reached by phone at 917-528-8544 and email at duffy@toptierwins.com

Tim Barry
Attended Oak Forest HS 2007-2011 where he set, and still holds, the IHSA records for most HR (53) and RBI (203) for a career. After playing 4 years with the Top Tier 17u Americans he went on to play at Daytona CC in 2011 before transferring to Wabash Valley for the 2012-2014 seasons where he was a 1st team All-American. He has been coaching with Top Tier since 2015 and works with hitters and first basemen.

Connor Riley
Connor played for Top Tier in 2012 and 2013 and graduated from Marmion. He went on to play two years at Black Hawk College in Moline IL. He received a scholarship in 2015 to the University of South Carolina Aiken. In the Summer of 2016, he played for the Wilmington Sharks a member of the Coastal Plains summer league, where he went 6-3 with a 2.03 ERA while striking out 100 batters in 66 2/3 innings becoming second all-time in Coastal Plains League history in strikeouts for a single season. Was also named pitcher of the year that summer. In his 2017 season at the University of South Carolina Aiken, Riley went 6-2 on the year pitching 83 innings, striking out 130 batters while holding opponents to a .190 batting average. In the summer of 2017, Connor was drafted in the eighth round by the Los Angeles Angels. He is now back coaching with Top Tier as the assistant coach on the 16U Americans and also working with pitchers in the Velo Depot off-season pitcher's programming.

Luis Gil
Coach Gil grew up in Dominican Republic. At the age of 16, Luis joined the Dodgers organization as part of the Rookie team in the developmental league in San Pedro, Dominican Republic. In 2006 Luis moved to the United States and singed with Olive Harvey College on a full Baseball scholarship. In 2007 he signed with Trinity Christian College on a full baseball scholarship where he graduated with honors with a teaching degree. During his collegiate days he play for the Chicago zephyrs in the CSBL and MWCL where he was an all-Star middle infielder for 3 consecutive years with an All-Star Game MVP award in 2009. He coached the Chicago Zephyrs in the Midwest Collegiate league in 2010. In 2011, Luis signed with the Solingen Aligator of the Bundesliga in Germany. During and after his collegiate and professional career, Coach Gil have been involved in numerous organizations such as White Sox training academy and RBI as a hitting and infielders instructor. His worldwide baseball experience and commitment to excellence in baseball fundamentals drove him to join Top Tier in 2015 as a 13u assistant, 15U Americans Head Coach, 15U Czerwinski, and very respectable wining records in all three years with the organization. Coach Gil is the head coach for the 15U Nationals summer team for Top Tier as well as working with infielders and hitters throughout the winter.

Blake Hickman
Blake attended Simeon High School in Chicago, graduating in 2012. In the 2012 draft he was selected by Chicago Cubs in the 20th round. He chose instead to attend the University of Iowa as a catcher. As a junior at Iowa he made the switch from catching to pitching where he earned Big 10 first team and Louisville Slugger third team all-american honors. He was chosen to play in both the Northwoods and Cape Cod Summer leagues. In 2015 he was drafted in the 7th round by the Chicago White Sox and is still currently within their organization. Blake works with pitchers on Sundays as well as with Top Tier's Velo Depot classes during the week.

Brandon WIlliams
Brandon is a Top Tier alum from the class of 2016. He grew up in Tinley Park, IL and attended Tinley Park HS. He is a RHP and has been a player or coach with Top Tier for the past 6 years. He attended Northern Illinois his freshman year, but transferred out to Polk State in Florida after an injury. At Polk State Willimas pitched well and earned a scholarship to Presbyterian College where he is currently a redshirt junior. He is a psychology major with minors in kinesiology and biology. He coached the 15U red team in 2019 and will be the head coach of the 16U Nationals in 2020.

Anthony Ray

Steve Libman

Anthony Gragnani
Anthony Gragnani played high school baseball at Niles West High School where he was named All-State by the Chicago Tribune. He went on to play collegiately as a middle infielder at Carthage University from 2004-2009. Gragnani began his coaching career at Evanston High School from 2009-2011. Gragnani went on to coach as the varsity assistant at Niles West High School from 2012-2015. During his time coaching at the High School level he managed and ran the 18U Lakeside Cardinals. He went on to coach with Top Tier at the high school level from 2013-2015. Gragnani now serves as a director for the Top Tier North program.

Dylan Forrestel

Mike Gaffigan
Mike enters his 3rd season coaching with Top Tier. He played his college ball at Triton CC, Western Carolina, and St. Xavier. He also spent time playing in the Northwoods Collegiate League with the Madison Mallards and also played professionally with the Joliet Slammers of the Frontier League.

Blaise Sylvestor

Josh Howard
Josh attended Stevenson High School where he was a 2 time letter winner in baseball. Named co-captain in 2009 senior season which saw the biggest turnaround in school history in wins from 15 to 31.

After graduating in 2009 he accepted a scholarship to Oakton Community College to play for head coach Bill Fratto. He was also part of the 2010 Oakton team that set a school record with 42 wins, and was named all-conference honorable mention in 2011 season as a sophomore relief pitcher. After leaving Oakton Josh accepted a scholarship to play for Mike Kashirsky at NAIA Robert Morris in Chicago. In his Junior season split between Robert Morris and the Dupage County Hounds of the Midwest Collegiate league Josh had 30 appearance with 32 innings pitched to a tune of a 1.13 era and 7 saves. He was named Robert Morris relief pitcher of the year, as well as all conference honorable mention for the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, as well as a Midwest Collegiate League All-Star. In his senior season at Robert Morris was voted a team captain by teammates and coaches and recently graduated in the winter of 2014.

Josh has served as a coach at the collegiate level at Oakton Community College and at the high school level at Glenbrook South HS. Josh also has coaching experience with the Evanston Feeder program and Diamond Instincts.

Rich Ruff
Rich went to Notre Dame High School where he played infield and catcher. He started his college career at Parkland College as a catcher where he helped his team win the NJCAA College World Series. From there he played Eastern Illinois University and then Quincy University.

Rich was drafted by the NY Mets in 2011 as a catcher, but later due to arm-strength was developed as a pitcher. He played in their system for 2 years, continuing to play pro ball for many years after that in the Cam-Am league, American Association, Frontier League, overseas in Japan, Pecos League, NCBL, and the Empire League.

Eric Lowe
Eric played for Top Tier from 2008-2012. Attended Rolling Meadows High school. Went on to be 4 year starter at SS for Villanova University. Named to the 2015 Brooks Wallace award watch list for shortstop of the year. Graduated in 2016 and have been coaching youth and high school baseball since, while doing private lessons with infielders and hitters.

Pat Conlin
Coach Conlin is in his 2nd year of coaching with Top Tier North at the high school level. He started at Lake Zurich High School as an assistant and sophomore coach and went on to coach at Stevenson High School at the varsity level for two seasons. Coach Conlin continued his coaching career at Dundee Crown as the varsity assistant and was promoted to head varsity coach in 2019. Coach Conlin played his high school baseball at Rolling Meadows and went on to pitch at Concordia University of Chicago for four years.

Justin Drexler
Coach Drexler has been teaching baseball to kids in the North Shore for 8+ years. He has previously coached at Glenbrook South HS and North Shore Country Day HS. His dedication and commitment to fundamentals and instruction is outstanding. Justin also has coached in the Evanston Feeder Program and serves as an instructor at the Strike Zone in Glenview, IL.