Nate Hemmerich has traveled 3,700 miles from home for adventure and baseball. A Kokomo, Ind., resident and pitcher at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., is exploring and playing this summer with the Alaska Baseball League’s Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks. The season for the league that also features the Anchorage Bucs, Anchorage Glacier Pilots, Matsu Miners and Peninsula Oilers began June 5. The ABL playoffs are to begin July 30. The independent Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks (who have been host to the Midnight Sun Game since 1906) are to visit Chugiak-Eagle River July 6. “It’s been amazing,” says Hemmerich of his first month Way Up North. “The competition is really, really good. Alaska is beautiful. You can’t go anywhere without seeing a moose, a bear or a mountain. “The hospitality that they’ve provided is amazing.” Hemmerich’s host family in the village of Eagle River — about 15 minutes from Anchorage — has taken he and his roommate to fish for sockeye salmon in the Russian River and go on long trail hikes. Animal lover and Biochemistry major Hemmerich plans to go to veterinary school after college. The Chinooks are a faith-based team affiliated with Athletes In Action Baseball. They meet each gameday for discipleship, essentially a Bible study of up to 90 minutes. Hemmerich played for the Richmond (Ind.) Jazz in 2019. The Xenia (Ohio) Scouts are an AIA team that plays in the same circuit (Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League). He saw what the Scouts were able and decided to apply for a chance to play in Alaska and was accepted. When the 2020 ABL season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic Hemmerich, 22, was invited to come this year. As it turns out the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder did not play last summer and instead had shoulder labrum surgery. Hemmerich got into six games as a freshman in 2019 and four as a sophomore in 2020. That spring he tore his labrum. “I didn’t realize I was hurt,” says Hemmerich. “There was pain initially when I would start throwing. Once I got going and got loose the pain would go away.” Then it got to the point where he could not lift his right shoulder above his head and there was a popping/clicking noise that caused him to have it checked out. “I was struggling mentally and with my shoulder,” says of the spring at Earlham, where he got into five games. So far in Alaska he has already made five mound appearances in the Chinooks’ first 19 games and is regaining his form and gaining confidence. “I’ve worked on my mechanics to eliminate some of the stress on the shoulder,” says Hemmerich. “I’m taking my recovery more seriously. I’m working to strengthen (the shoulder) back to before I got injured.” Throwing from a three-quarter overhand arm slot, Hemmerich uses both two- and four-seam fastballs, a modified “circle” change-up and a slider. “It’s more slurve-y,” says Hemmerich of the latter pitch. “There’s more left to right movement than up and down.” The Chinooks play their games in Chugiak on Lee Jordan Field. Jon Groth is the head coach. Chris Beck is the pitching coach, director of operations and general manager. Troy Hervey also helps with the pitching staff. Born in Indianapolis, Hemmerich moved to Kokomo at age 2. He began organized baseball as a T-baller at what is now known as UCT Youth Baseball. For his 13U and 14U summers, he played for the Mike Wade-coached Indiana Bulls. He was with Jay Lehr’s Aces Baseball Club teams at 15U and 16U. Eric Osborn and Eric Dill coached the Indiana Nitrro 17U team that included Hemmerich. The summer before he went to college (2018) Hemmerich played for Don Andrews-managed Kokomo American Legion Post 6. Sean Swan was the head coach at Kokomo High School when Hemmerich donned the Wildkats uniform. They still stay in-touch though Swann is now an assistant principal at Kettering (Ohio) Middle School. Hemmerich was drawn to Earlham by Quakers head coach Steve Sakosits. “He’s a high-energy guy,” says Hemmerich of Coach Sak. “He’s hard not to like. He’s got that personality. “He’s going to coach you hard. He’s going to be straight up with you about what your role is and what you need to get better.” Beau Smith is Earlham’s pitching coach. Hemmerich says he has at least two years of remaining eligibility at the NCAA Division III school. Nate is the son of Mike and Sarah Hemmerich and brother of Olivia Hemmerich. Mike Hemmerich works in the Kokomo High School bookstore and helps on Sports Information Director Terry Downham’s football and basketball stat crew. Sarah Hemmerich is a KHS teacher and girls tennis head coach. Olivia Hemmerich is heading into her senior year as a Wildkat.
In his current position, working for Urban Knights head coach Dan McDermott, Collins-Bride, 30, is in charge of pitchers, catchers and infielders.
“I’m a teacher,” says Collins-Bride, who joined the ArtU coaching staff in September 2019. “Baseball and strength and conditioning seems to be my best form of teaching.
“When you see people grow and see the light click on and they create really good habits, that’s the special part.”
Developing pitchers at the NCAA Division II PacWest Conference institution for Collins-Bride is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor.
“It’s individualistic once you have a base,” says Collins-Bride. “It depends on the players’ needs.”
Some pitchers possess good command and need to improve their stuff. Some have superior velocity but lack movement on their pitches. Others need concentration on the mental side of baseball.
“We’re picking and choosing what we focus on,” says Collins-Bride.
A strength and conditioning coach for several Indiana Tech teams, Collins-Bride has studied biomechanics as it relates to athletes. He has become OnBaseU-certified.
“You have to know how each player moves and how they’re supposed to move,” says Collins-Bride, who does a movement assessment on each ArtU pitcher. “That’s critical.
“You structure the off-season around filling those buckets.”
You’re not treating every car like a Toyota. You also have Dodges and Kias. You don’t spend all your time racing the Lamborghini, you also spend time working with it in the garage.
COVID-19 caused the Urban Knights’ 2020 season to halt after 20 games. McDermott and Collins-Bride helped the player see the quarantine as an opportunity for growth.
“It was a chance to check something on your bucket list,” says Collins-Bride. “If you don’t do it, shame on you.
“Many (players) came back (in the fall) in the biggest shape of their lives,” says Collins-Bride. “It was really cool to see what these guys did over 6-7 months after only hearing about it over the phone.”
Alameda resident Collins-Bride used the extra time to go on long bike rides, including a trek around Lake Tahoe.
ArtU practices at The Presidio and plays games at Laney College. During fall practice, players went through daily temperature and system checks.
Most of the time, workouts were conducted with just six to eight players.
“It was different,” says Collins-Bride. “But it was really good from a development standpoint.”
There was more one-on-one time with coaching while raw skills — running, throwing, fielding and swinging — were being refined mixed with intrasquad play.
“Ideally, that’s what a fall should be — create some raw skills and play a little bit,” says Collins-Bride. “Summer baseball is failing kids. They’re playing too much and not practicing enough or practicing too much and not playing enough.
“We had a really good balance (in the fall.).”
It’s about building proper motor patterns. That’s why weighted balls and bats are used to carve a new path for the brain.
“It’s a brand new road and they learn that quickly,” says Collins-Bride.
Born in San Francisco, the son of carpenter Bob Bride and professor/nurse practitioner Geraldine Collins-Bride grew up loving baseball.
Patrick’s father did not have much experience at the game, but he did come up with several tools to guide “FUN-damentals” for Little Leaguers. Bob devoured books and DVDs while researching training methods.
“He’d have us swing ax handles,” says Collins-Bride. “We’d hit wiffle balls with hoses to teach us to whip the bat. He turned a leaf blower into a wiffle ball pitching machine. To develop soft hands, we’d toss eggs or water balloons. We had stations all around my small house.”
Flood lights were installed over the garage so these sessions could go deep into the night.
Patrick went to the Boys & Girls Club and learned about pitching from major leaguers who hailed from Alameda. Pitcher Dontrelle Willis taught him how to play “strikeout.”
Middle schooler Collins-Bride learned about the proper way to field a grounder from shortstop Jimmy Rollins at an RBI camp held at Encinal.
Collins-Bride expresses gratitude of coaching with McDermott, who is heading into his 28th season as a college coach in 2021.
“It’s like coaching with your dad,” says Collins-Bride. “He really, really loves you and he’s not going to let you mess up.
“We get really great life lessons all the time. I’ve learned a lot from him.”
Collins-Bride coached for five seasons at Indiana Tech (2015-19), where Kip McWilliams is the Warriors head coach. “C.B.” worked with hitters, infielders, catchers and volunteered his strength and conditioning services while pursuing and after completing his Masters of Marketing and Management.
Indiana Tech typically carries a roster of 60 or more to help fund the program — with varsity and developmental teams.
“We had to carry a lot of players,” says Collins-Bride. “We decided if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it really well.
“Playoff time is when the Warriors showed up.”
Collins-Bride notes that almost all the players in the starting lineup in the 2015 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference championship game started out on the development team.
“That was so important,” says Collins-Bride of the large squad. “They all trained together. We created an efficient practice style. Everybody had a purpose.
“We competed. If you were recruited there, you worked hard. When you have that many guys with a passion for baseball, it makes for such a good atmosphere.
“To do it right, you make sure you treat each kid well. I think we accomplished that. The beautiful thing about baseball and life is what a kid can make out of himself in two or four years.”
Collins-Bride said the Tech culture was based on standards and not rules.
“There was an acceptable level of behavior for everyone in the program and accountability is a two-way street (standards applied equally to players and coaches),” says Collins-Bride. “Coaches didn’t just talk the talk, they walked the walked.”
Or — better yet — they hustled from station to station just like the players.
It was also an atmosphere of positivity.
“No BCE (Blaming, Complaining or Excuses) was allowed,” says Collins-Bride. “Because it’s not helping the situation.”
Dosson, a graduate of Heritage High School in Monroeville, Ind., was a highly-touted player in high school who wound up behind an All-American for a few seasons with the Warriors then got a chance to hit behind Tech standout and No. 3 hitter Glen McClain.
Barksdale, who went to Cass Tech High School in Detroit, spent a few seasons on the developmental team then got his chance to shine with the varsity in a game against Florida Memorial.
“He had been training really, really hard,” says Collins-Bride. “He hit a ground ball in the 6-hole and beat it out for a base hit. That was pretty special.”
Collins-Bride calls Biagini, hard-nosed player from San Francisco, the “most impactful kid I’ve ever been around.”
“He was the epitome of leadership,” says Collins-Bride of the national gold glove shortstop. “He’d say what coaches would have to say. He’d see things and fix them.
“They way he practiced, he raised the level of everyone around him.”
Collins-Bride had been with McWilliams when he observed a Spring Arbor University practice led by head coach Sam Riggleman. The SAU Cougars made workouts fast and as game-like a possible.
“Practice is the hardest thing we would do,” says Collins-Bride. “Games were slow. Everything (in practice) counted. Everything had detail.”
Collins-Bride noticed that long-time Lewis-Clark State College coach Ed Cheff and Folsom Lake College coach Rich Gregory (who played for future Indiana State University and University of Washington coach Lindsay Meggs on a NCAA Division II championship team at Cal State Chico) also took to that kind of preparation — skill under pressure.
It did no good to see 50 mph batting practice pitches when the game was going to bring 90 mph.
Collins-Bride went from Ave Maria, where he played two seasons (2011 and 2012) and coached two (2013 and 2014), after checking his options of serving as a graduate assistant to Scott Dulin at Fisher College in Boston.
On his first working day with Tech, he flew from San Francisco to Boston then drove 15 hours to Fort Wayne. He met McWilliams at 5 a.m. and they drove all the way to Vincennes (Ind.) for a junior college showcase.
“We talked baseball the whole way,” says Collins-Bride.
During Collins-Bride’s entire at Tech, Debbie Warren was the athletic director.
“She was an unbelievable leader of people,” says Collins-Bride. “She knew how to push you. She was very tough and phenomenal to work with.”
Warren helped get the weight room updated just about the time Collins-Bride was leaving to go back to California.
While he was there he planted a desk near the weights and managed 80 athletes in a two-hour window.
Shawn Summe, a graduate of Penn High School and Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., was the head coach at NAIA Ave Maria. He started the program. The Gyrenes’ first season was 2010.
“(Summe) is a very intense person and an emotional leader,” says Collins-Bride. “We practiced really hard. He was really awesome to play for.
“He deeply had your back and wanted you to succeed.”
Collins-Bride, who received a Politics degree from Ave Maria, sees his transition from player to coach as a smooth one.
“It was easy to step into a role of leadership and demand respect,” says Collins-Bride. “We had a special senior group in 2013.”
Lennon, who died in 2019 at 80, won three baseball letters at Notre Dame and later taught at the university and served as three decades for the Notre Dame Alumni Association.
Lennon’s zeal was on display even at early hours when Collins-Bride was getting a few more winks before greeting the day on an Ave Maria road trip.
“He’s say, ‘Wake up C.B., the world is waiting for us,” says Collins-Bride. “Talk about positivity. He was a beaming, shining light.”
After a semester at Cal State East Bay, Collins-Bride transferred to California Community College Athletic Association member Laney and played two seasons (2009 and 2010) for Eagles coach Francisco Zapata.
“Coach Z is a great human being,” says Collins-Bride. “He really knew his stuff and he knew how to push you.
“It was really hard to let him down. You know what he had to go through to play baseball. You’ve got nothing to complain about.”
Zapata grew up in Nicaragua and brought a work ethic to his coaching.
“There was an expectation level,” says Collins-Bride.
His prep career began on the Alameda High junior varsity for coach Joe Pearse and concluded at Encinal for Jim Saunders.
“(Pearse) was a hard-nosed guy,” says Collins-Bride. “We were working hard and there was a lot of competition.
“(Saunders, who coached Rollins) was an excellent manager of talent.”
During his time as a player and manager with the San Francisco Seals, Collins-Bride not only got a chance to enjoy the rivalry with the Arcata-based Humboldt Crabs but got the chance to play all over the place. During a two-year span, he traveled through 33 states and played in around 20.
Freedman, a newspaperman for 50 years living in Columbus, Ind., serving as sports editor of the Seymour (Ind.) Tribune, has authored or co-authored about 110 books in the past three decades — about 60 on sports with two-thirds of them being on baseball.
He lived the Phillies story as a Philadelphia Inquirer staffer in 1980 assigned to write the sidebar on World Series MVP and future Hall of Famer Schmidt. The journalist was able to draw from what he witnessed at the time plus research. Philadelphia topped the Kansas City Royals in six games as Schmidt hit .381 (8-of-21) with two home runs, seven runs batted in and six runs score.
The seed that grew into the Cy Young book was decades in the making.
“I had it in my head for years and years and years — almost 30 years,” says Freedman. “I was getting more and more interested in baseball history.”
Even though he was serving as sports editor at the Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News at the time, Freedman made a trip to the research library at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., and gathered information on the man with 511 career pitching victories — far more than anyone in big league annals and wrote a column about Denton True Young — first known as Cyclone for clobbering a wooden fence with his pitches and then Cy.
“Nobody will ever come close,” says Freedman of durable right-hander Young’s win total. “There have been some Cy Young books, but not a lot.
“This is the first time in 20 years there’s been a new look at Cy Young.”
“(Cy Young is an) old story, but he never gets old,” says Freedman. “I wanted to get Cy Young’s voice as much as possible and get into what kind of guy he was.
“He was not a controversial guy. He did not get into trouble. He didn’t keep late hours. He didn’t party.”
Except for his time on a baseball field, Young spent his time as a farmer in northeast Ohio.
Since Young’s 22-year-old career spans from 1890 to 1911, finding the pitcher’s voice was not easy.
“When Cy Young was playing sportswriters did not go to the locker room right after the game and get quotes,” says Freedman. The scribes were focused on getting play-by-play details into their stories and then meeting deadlines and often racing for the train station for the team’s next game. “Contemporaneous reports are missing.”
Luckily for Freedman and other baseball researchers, Young lived to be 88 and shared his thoughts freely for decades after the end of his career.
“His brains were picked about his highlights,” says Freedman. “That stuff was golden material for a guy like me.”
Young spent much of his Hall of Fame career with two primary catchers — Chief Zimmer and Lou Criger. The latter is an Elkhart, Ind., native who was with Young in Cleveland, St. Louis and Boston from 1896 to 1908.
The Cy Young Award was first presented to the top pitcher in Major League Baseball in 1956 in honor of a man who not only won 94 more games than the second man on the list (Hall of Famer Walter Johnson), but tossed an astounding 7,356 innings with 29,565 batters faced and 749 complete games. Both the American and National leagues have handed out the Cy Young Award since 1967.
“I love baseball history,” says Freedman. “I learn something all the time when I do the research.
“I was very happy when I held the Cy Young book in my hand.”
Freedman’s newspaper career started when he was in high school in the Boston suburb of Newton, Mass.
He was with the Inquirer when an Alaskan vacation turned into 17 years as a sports editor there. He later was on the staff at the Chicago Tribune and Florida Times-Union and was sports editor at The Republic in Columbus, Ind. He has won more than 250 journalism awards.
Along the way, Freedman kept researching and writing books. There are many related to Alaska, even one that ties baseball to the remote 49th state.
“As long as I can come up with a great topic in my mind and (a book publisher) also thinks it’s a good idea,” says Freedman.
When his books come out is not entirely up to Freedman. Done and awaiting editor’s approval is a something tentatively called “1930: When Everybody Was Babe Ruth.”
To Freedman, 1930 was the “Year of the Hitter” the way 1968 is referred to as the “Year of the Pitcher.”
“Hitting went crazy and pitching was atrocious,” says Freedman. “That year the seams were raised on the ball. Pitchers could not control it. (Hitters) had the years of their lives.
“After that, they changed the rules so it didn’t happen again.”
Lefty-swinging outfielder George “Showboat” Fisher played four major league seasons — hitting .261 in 1923, .220 in 1924 and .182 in 1931. His 1930 mark was .374 as a reserve for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Fisher lived to 95.
“He got to talk about (the 1930 season) for the rest of his life,” says Freedman, who notes that ’30 was the year of the National League’s last .400 hitter (Hall of Fame first baseman Bill Terry of the New York Giants at .401).
All eight position players in the St. Louis Cardinals regular starting lineup hit .300, including outfielder George Watkins at .373.
It was hoped that the Phillies book would come out as part of a 40th-year anniversary and a celebration was planned during spring training in Clearwater, Fla.
Then along came the COVID-19 pandemic and that changed everything about 2020.
On March 16, Freedman was on his way home from a western trip to cover rodeo (he once spent three months in Wyoming researching a book on rodeo). He literally had businesses shutting down behind him as he drove back toward southern Indiana.
One day he ate in a restaurant, the next day they were putting chairs on top of tables at a truck stop.
More recently, Freedman has been able to cover high school football for his paper and has been contemplating his next baseball book project.
First baseman Johnny Mize was a star for the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants and New York Yankees in the late 1930’s through early 1950’s.
“He’s been under-covered,” says Freedman of the Hall of Fame.
There’s a running debate in baseball coaching about the Old School vs. the New School.
The Old School represents the long-used methods.
The New School includes emerging technology and its application to the game.
“We’re always learning,” says Bobby Bell, a Lafayette, Ind., native, who has decades of experience as a professional hitting instructor — most recently working in affiliated baseball with the Milwaukee Brewers organization 2018 and 2019. “Technology is very important. That’s where we are today.
“We are not Old School or New School, We’re In School. If we don’t continue to be In School, we’re going to hurt these kids. Period.”
As Bell teaches lessons and clinics across the country as well as in Noblesville, Ind., at Jason Taulman’s Indy Sharks training facility and will soon in Lafayette at Jeff Isom’s new On Deck Training building, he looks to share he’s learned and shares it with his pupils.
“There’s all this information,” says Bell. “I’m not saying its detrimental. It’s confusing. (Technology) can be a great thing.”
Bell, 56, is adaptinhg to the new tools so he can understand and get players to understand.
“I’ve learned it my way instead of some guy telling me how I must learn it,” says Bell, who has worked with Blast Motion sensors and looks forward to using Rapsodo motion detection.
“Humans see in 2D,” says Bell. “Technology sees in 4D. It’s another set of eyes. It can be a great thing.
“You will see great strides in that kid’s progression if it’s utilized the right way.
“You can’t quantify the movement from the left to the right hemisphere You have to combine (technology) with what he’s thinking, how he’s thinking and why he’s thinking. I understand the importance of it all coming together. I really do.”
Knowing that each player is different, Bell does not expect everyone to have the same movement patterns and to reach them you’ve got to get to know them.
“The individual needs to be an individual,” says Bell. “We want them to be short and direct to the ball. We don’t worry about things we don’t control. We control the (strike) zone and get a good pitch to hit. It sounds like a cliche, but you’re only as good as the pitch you hit.
“We try to keep it as simple as possible. Pitching is too good. They throw so hard.”
Bell wants to relate to his hitters on a personal basis.
“I want to establish a relationship with that player,” says Bell. “That’s the key. This guy’s there for him whenever he needs them.”
Bell is a 1981 graduate of Lafayette Jefferson High School. His head baseball coach was Mark Strader, who had been a Bronchos standout for and assistant to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Paul “Spider” Fields.
“(Strader) was one of the best baseball players to come out of Tippecanoe County,” says Bell.
Concepts he associates with Strader are intensity, tenacity, competitiveness, work ethic and doing the little things right.
“He did a lot of things for me,” says Bell, who credits Harmon for getting his a place on Team USA in the 1982 World’s Fair Games in Knoxville, Tenn., and a place in college baseball. “He is a phenomenal man.”
Bell played two seasons at Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz., where his head coach was Rich Alday and Jim Fleming directed Aztecs hitters.
“(Fleming) was one of the best hitting teachers in the country,” says Bell, who would meet up with him again years later.
From Pima, Bell played two seasons at Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University) for head coach Byron Wiehe. Jamie Hamilton was an assistant coach for the Mavericks.
Bell signed as a minor league free agent with the California Angels and played three seasons in the Halos’ system 1986-88, primarily as a righty-swinging catcher with Palm Springs or Quad Cities.
Sometime after his playing career ended, Bell moved back to Lafayette. Isom asked him if he wanted to get back into baseball.
“Absolutely not” was Bell’s reply. But Isom asked again later and got Bell to be his hitting coach with the Joliet Jackhammers in the independent Northern League.
Bell went to be hitting coach in the Northern League with the Andy McCauley-managed Schaumburg Flyers in the independent Frontier League with the Jason Verdugo-managed Evansville Otters.
Then comes a call from John Mallee, then hitting coordinator for the Florida (now Miami) Marlins that leads to another call from then vice president of the Marlins Jim Fleming — the same man who was Bell’s hitting coach back in college.
“I actually hung up,” says Bell. “I didn’t think it was Coach Flem.”
Mallee called Bell back and set him straight and Bell was hired by the Marlins and was hitting coach for Greensboro Grasshoppers (2009), Jupiter Hammerheads (2010) and Gulf Coast League Marlins (2011-14).
He was out of organized baseball for a few years and still offering instruction including at Kiwanis International baseball camps for troubled teens in Alaska at the invitation of David Hall.
By this time Mallee was with the Phillies. He called to say that the Brewers were in dire need of a hitting coach. There was one week left in spring training.
But Bell took the gig and spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons with the Carolina Mudcats in Zebulon, N.C. Coincidently, the Mudcats vice president/general manager is Lafayette native Joe Kremer. Bell and Kremer had never met until Bell arrived with the club.
The past five years, Bell has been traveling up from Florida to share his knowledge with Taulman and the Indy Sharks.
“I love everything he does for all those kids,” says Bell. “They’ve progressed extremely.”
Bell has been spending more time in Indiana to be closer to daughter Bobbi, a junior at Purdue University. Bell also has four sons — Brandon and Keaton in Colorado, Zion in California and Kai in North Dakota.
Bobby Bell, a Lafayette, Ind., native, was a hitting coach in the Florida/Miami Marlins system for six years.
Bobby Bell, a 1981 graduate of Lafayette (Ind.) Jefferson High School, has been instructing baseball hitters for decades. In 2018 and 2019, he was a coach in the Milwaukee Brewers system. He works regularly with the Indy Sharks travel organization.
The 2018 and 2019 seasons saw him work as pitching coach/recruiting coordinator at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill. Before he shined at the university of Michigan and was drafted by the Houston Astros, outfielder Jordan Brewer played at Lincoln Trail.
Gaskill played for Dave Fireoved then two years for Tim Gaskill (with assistants Adam Swinford and Timon Pruitt) as a Wayne General.
“(Coach Gaskill) is one of my biggest influences,” says Glant. “His practices were individualized and focused on results. He was ahead of his time. He showed that each player is different. It was not a cookie cutter system.
“You also don’t have to do fire and brimstone to get results.”
As a Muskegon player, Glant spent two seasons with head coach Carl “Cap” Pohlman, who played in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
“Coach Pohlman taught me a ton about doing things the right way,” says Glant. “We would work work on mental side of things. You don’t worry about things you can’t control.”
Aurora coach Shaun Neitzel took a combination of players from differing background — junior college transfers and NCAA Division I kick-backs — and got them to jell.
“They would buy into the culture pretty quickly to have success,” says Glant. “It was knowing the recipe to cook things up.”
Glant learned the think outside the box in Montana.
“Weather changes tremendously,” says Glant. “You had to make sure guys were still doing something to get better. It was quality over quantity.”
He cites Marc Rardin at Iowa Western College for showing the way to success in a cold weather state.
“It’s more of a mindset and practice planning and having your guys doing something productive,” says Glant. “Midwest teams must have a little more of a chip on their shoulder and a blue collar work ethic.”
“It’s the toughest Division I JUCO conference in the Midwest,” says Glant, who sent Lincoln Trail against Wabash Valley, John A. Logan, Olney Central, Rend Lake, Kakaskia, Southwestern Illinois, Southeastern Illinois, Shawnee and Lake Land. “We would shake the trees and find the diamond in the rough.
“With the pitching staff, Coach Bowers let me sink or swim,” says Glant. “Fortunately, we had success. It set me up for where I am now, being a head coach.”
At Muskegon, Glant is a one-man band.
“We do not a big recruiting budget,” says Glant. “It’s good to have friends int he coaching industry and to bounce ideas off of them.
One resource for Nate is older brother Dustin Glant, who was pitching coach at Ball State University before taking a job in the New York Yankees organization after the 2019 season.
“Having Dustin as a brother is nice,” says Nate. “I can pick his brain and thoughts on things. He had a heck of a year at Ball State (the Cardinals went 38-19 and Drey Jameson was selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks).”
When recruiting, Glant prefers to see players in-person.
“I want that eye test,” says Glant. “I can see the intangibles and how they interact with teammates.
Most players come from Michigan and many hails from the Grand Rapids and Traverse City areas.
“To me, it’s all about a fit,” says Glant. “I don’t like people writing off divisions because of the perception.”
He likes to have recruits work out for him and learn what makes them tick.
“I like the JC level,” says Glant. “I like the developmental side of it.”
Going to a junior college allows a player to grow athletically and academically.
While the NCAA has to abide by care hours, junior college players can work on their craft throughout the school year. They can play 20 games in the fall and 56 in the spring.
“They get a lot of game experience right away, which I think is big,” says Glant. “They are facing some of the best 17, 18, 19 year olds in the country.”
All his outposts have led Glant to be the coach he is.
“I’ve kind of been all over the place,” says Glant. “Getting into the coaching game so late has shaped my perception of connecting with a person regardless of age and working at a common goal.
“There’s no hierarchy here.”
Glant currently has 14 pitchers on his roster and would like to have 16 or 17 since he will take his arms into MCCAA doubleheaders on Fridays and Saturdays and mid-week non-conference games.
He is focused on arm care and keeping his hurlers healthy so they can go on to pitch at four-year schools and, perhaps, beyond.
“We don’t burn them up here,” says Glant. “We now know how the human body functions. Some guys are flexible. Some guys are not.”
Glant says he wants his players to understand the “why.”
“We want to execute,” says Glant. “Do not give an at-bat away. Control the running game. You’re trying to win games and get better. Throwing strikes and getting guys out is the name of the game
“How you do that shouldn’t matter.”
But it’s not all about the game for Glant.
“I want to mold these kids to be a good husbands, fathers, people down the road,” says Glant. “I want them be respectful and say ‘yes sir’ and ‘no mam’ and be productive members of society.”
It’s like the late University of Louisana-Lafayette head baseball coach Tony Robichaux often said: “Baseball is what they do. It’s not who they are.”
Nate Glant began his college baseball career at Muskegon (Mich.) Community College and he is now heading into his first season as the Jayhawks head coach.