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Glant, Dykes Triple-A coaches for New York Yankees

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A pair of coaches at the beginning of their professional baseball coaching careers with Indiana ties are together in the New York Yankees organization.
Former Ball State University assistant Dustin Glant is the pitching coach and one-time Indiana University assistant Casey Dykes the hitting coach for the Scranton-Wilkes Barre (Pa.) Railriders of Triple-A East (formerly the International League).
Both were hired by the Yankees in the summer of 2019. After getting their bearings in the system, they went to instructional league that fall and their first big league spring training in 2020.
Glant and Dykes both reside in the Tampa, Fla., area near the organization’s training headquarters during the offseason — Glant with wife Ashley, daughter Evelyn (4) and son David (who turns 2 in December); Dykes with wife Chaney (a former Western Kentucky University basketball player), sons Jett (4) and Kash (2) and daughter Lainey (going on 3 months).
At Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Glant and Dykes serve on a staff that features manager Doug Davis, outfield/baserunning coach Raul Dominguez, infield coach Caonabo Cosme, athletic trainer Darren London and strength and conditioning coach Larry Adegoke.
With their busy daily schedules, Glant and Dykes don’t spend much time together during the day. They say hello in the morning and then wind down together after games.
Glant, 39 (he turns 40 July 20), guided pitchers at BSU from 2017-19 for Cardinals head coach Rich Maloney.
As a player, Glant pitched for Generals head coach Dave Fireoved at Fort Wayne (Ind.) Wayne High School and Boilermakers head coach Doug Schreiber at Purdue University and had pro stints in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization and independent ball.
Glant coached at Marathon (Fla.) and Mount Vernon (Fortville, Ind.) high schools, was a volunteer at Ball State then head coach at Lapel (Ind.) High School and Anderson (Ind.) University before returning to BSU late in 2016 as pitching coach.
Dykes, 31, was the hitting coach at Indiana under head coach Jeff Mercer. Dykes played at Western Kentucky for Hilltoppers head coach Chris Finwood and was a graduate assistant to head coach Matt Myers when Mercer was a WKU volunteer.
A 2008 Franklin (Tenn.) High School graduate, who played for Admirals head coach Brent Alumbaugh, Dykes spent four seasons at Western Kentucky (2009-12) and served two seasons as an assistant, becoming volunteer when Mercer left for Wright State University.
Before Indiana, Dykes was hitting coach and recruiting coordinator on Keydets head coach Jonathan Hadra’s staff at Virginia Military Institute (2015-18).
Glant says his gameday at the pro level is similar to what it was in college.
“I try to get as much one-on-one and small-group time as possible,” says Glant. “If I don’t I feel I miss things.”
The difference is that in college, Glant spent a lot of time in front of a computer reviewing video on how to attack hitters. The process is more streamlined at the pro level.
“It’s more development focused here,” says Glant, who might focus on a pitcher’s need to improve at holding runners or locating his fastball in a certain count. “We want to win, but we work on the big picture (getting players ready for the big leagues).”
Dykes says there more a sense of urgency in pro ball, especially at the Triple-A level where players have more experience.
“You don’t have the background with them (like college players who have been recruited and are usually around for years to build a relationship and go through a fall development season),” says Dykes. “In the pros, you’re playing so many games and you don’t have an offseason with them.
“Things are changing constantly.”
Glant’s gameday starts with preparing for the day and looking at video of the previous night’s game. In the afternoon, he reviews that with pitchers and finds the positives.
Then he oversees staggered bullpen sessions for starters and — just before batting practice — relievers, who might go through a full bullpen or just “touch and feel” to stay sharp.
BP is also the time he sits down with that night’s starter, both catchers and analyst Shea Wingate to map out a attack plan.
Glant says Wingate’s insight is helpful.
“He may find that a pitcher needs to throw more sliders,” says Glant. “We look for places where there are good spots to throw more sliders.”
Once the game starts, Glant is right by Davis to make pitching-related decisions. Dykes watches his hitters and offers suggestions if necessary.
At Triple-A, there are a mix of veteran players with MLB service time and younger ones trying to earn their first big league call-up.
“It’s almost all like assistant coaches,” says Glant of having vets around. “They educate guys in the bullpen. It happens naturally. Guys get together and they start start talking.
“They’re kind of mentors to the young guys. It’s been great.”
Dykes, who starts his gameday with a workout and video study followed by plenty of batting cage time, sees his job as providing the last piece of the puzzle for players trying to return and debut at the big league level.
“I want to help these guys maximize who they are as a player,” says Dykes. “It’s good to work with guys who have experienced it.
“This is what they do for a living. They’re all-in.”
Like the rest of the world, Glant and Dykes learned a different way of doing things thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic that caused cancellation of the 2020 minor league season and separated coaches and players from in-person interaction.
“It went from being the worst thing ever to — honestly — the best thing ever,” says Glant. “We learned how to train our guys remotely via Zoom and video-conferencing. We were good at it.
“We had a lot of people get better without being at the complex during that time.”
Led by director of pitching Sam Briend, manager of pitch development Desi Druschel and Director of Performance John Kremer (an Indianapolis native who pitched of the University of Evansville and in the Yankees system), the organization devised a plan and found a way to develop during COVID.
“It was mind-blowing,” says Glant. “We had pitchers buys in.”
When Glant got a call in the fall of 2020, he went back to training face-to-face with a few 40-man roster players in Tampa and that rolled into 2021 big league camp.
Being away from the clubhouse and the dugout, Dykes missed the relationships.
“It made me appreciate that even more,” says Dykes. “It also taught me that you didn’t have to be hands-on and in-person with a player to help them develop.
“It was a unique challenge, but made me a better coach. It got me after my comfort zone.”
Using technology and video tools became part of Dykes’ coaching world and that will continue.
“The world we knew has completely changed,” says Dykes. “It’s definitely more efficient. There’s no arguing that.”
Dykes expresses thanks to the men who helped him along his baseball, path including Alumbaugh, Finwood, Myers, Hadra and Mercer as well as former Western Kentucky assistant and current DePauw University head coach Blake Allen and current Indiana assistants Justin Parker and Dan Held.
“(Alumbaugh) had a ton of influence,” says Dykes.”He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. He saw the potential in me. But he wasn’t going to tell me. He was going to make me work for it.
“He had high expectations for me. He really challenged me during some important times in my life.”
Dykes, who was a catcher that turned into a third baseman, played three summers during college for Alumbaugh for the Texas Collegiate League’s Brazos Valley Bombers (College Station, Texas).
“(Myers, Finwood and Allen) taught me a lot about the work and mentality it takes to be successful,” says Dykes. “They knew that as soon as my playing days were over I wanted to coach.”
Dykes learned from Hadra about the importance of being detailed and fine-tuning the process to be able to communicate the message to players.
“He’s incredible at that,” says Dykes of Hadra. “He was still a fairly young head coach at that time, but you would never know it. He clings to that process.”
With Mercer, Parker and Held at Indiana, Dykes was part of a Hoosiers team that went 37-23 and won the Big Ten title in 2019. IU lost to Texas in the final round of the NCAA Austin Regional.

The 2021 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders field staff (from left): manager Doug Davis, pitching coach Dustin Glant, hitting coach Casey Dykes, outfield/baserunning coach Raul Dominguez, athletic trainer Darren London and strength and conditioning coach Larry Adegoke. Caonabo Cosme is the infield coach. (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders Photo)

Mercer makes relationships, mental skills priority for Wright State Baseball

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Embracing the importance of personal relationships and the process, Indiana native Jeff Mercer continues to enjoy baseball accomplishment in Ohio.

Mercer, a 2004 Franklin County High School graduate, is in his second season as head coach at NCAA Division I Wright State University in Dayton.

After leading WSU to a 38-21 mark in 2017, Mercer had the Raiders at 29-13 heading into a May 4-6 Horizon League series against the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Mercer served as an assistant to Rich Maloney at the University of Michigan (2011), Matt Myers at Western Kentucky University (2012-13) and Greg Lovelady at Wright State (2014-16) before taking over the reigns of the RaiderGang when Lovelady took the heading coaching job at the University of Central Florida.

As a power-hitting first baseman, Mercer played two seasons at the University of Dayton (2005, 2007) for head coach Tony Vittorio then two at Wright State (2008-09) for head coach Rob Cooper.

While playing for WSU, Mercer was a two-time all-Horizon League first-team selection at first base. In 2009, he was HL Player of the Year and a Collegiate Baseball Newspaper third-team All-American as he hit .357 with 26 doubles and 74 runs batted in.

As a Franklin Community Grizzly Cub, he learned from three coaches — Mark Pieper, father Jeff Mercer and Brian Luse.

Mercer, 32, credits Pieper for instilling an appreciation for relationships.

“That’s one thing I’ve tried to make a core value and staple of my coaching staff,” says Mercer, who counts Nate Metzger, Matt Talarico, Alex Sogard, mental skills development coordinator Diamyn Hall, director of operations Denton Sagerman and volunteer Jacob Burk among his Wright State assistants. “We have to have personal relationships with our players.

“If you want to bring out the best in them — physically, emotionally, academically and all those things — the core of that is the relationship where you can help them build and grow.”

Mercer, who earned an organizational leadership degree from Wright State in 2009, does not buy into the generation gap excuse.

“I am young — one of the younger (D-I) head coaches in the country,” says Mercer. “I take it a little bit personally when people talk about ‘kids these days.’ You take the time to develop a relationship, the generation of the kid you’re dealing with is no different.

“They need to know that you care. They need to know you’re invested.”

This trust allows Mercer and his staff to drive the Raiders.

“We’re hard on players,” says Mercer. “We push them. We have really high expectation levels.

“But if they knew you have their best interests at heart then they have no problem with that kind of tough love.”

The elder Jeff Mercer, who helped start the Indiana Bulls travel baseball organization and is now assistant superintendent of Franklin Community Schools, passed along his affinity for structure and discipline to his son.

“Everything was always very methodical,” says Mercer. “There was always an organizational plan. I took from that the confidence you have in preparation.

“We recruit a very confident kind of kid. First and foremost that comes from him. There’s only so much confidence we can give somebody. The confidence that comes from preparation can only be earned. It can’t be bought. You can’t pay for it.

“It just comes with time. It made me more confident as a player and as a coach knowing how much time and work we put into it.”

Mercer notes that Wright State has enjoyed much success against highly-ranked opponents and in hostile environments.

“Guys are confident because they know they are prepared to play at that level,” says Mercer, whose team earned two 2018 road wins against No. 20 Louisiana and one triumph against vote-getter Sam Houston State. The Raiders play at No. 29 Louisville Tuesday, May 8.

Mercer says Luse blend qualities from Pieper and his father.

“We played loose and free for him,” says Mercer. “But he also had a feel for the structure and discipline of it. Consequently, we had a lot of success. We were a very good team.

“You learn something from everybody you come in contact with and I certainly learned a lot during my high school time.”

Vittorio, who grew up in Indianapolis and graduated from Southport High School in 1984, brought toughness and discipline to his coaching.

“I knew that he cared,” says Mercer, who was a walk-on for the Flyers. “The relationship that I have with him now is really nice. He’s around a lot.”

While Mercer was at Dayton, another coach had a lasting impact on him.

“My relationship with hitting coach Cory Allen really shaped the way I view hitting from a mechanical aspect that I’ve carried forth to this day,” says Mercer. “It was the first time that anyone had discussed biomechanics, centrifugal force and different movements.

“It was an eye-opening experience and it drove me to be a much better player. I wasn’t a very talented player. Understanding a lot of those basics allowed me to have an advantage.”

After transferring to Wright State he formed a personal relationship with Cooper.

“At that point, there was nobody better in my career at making us all feel valued,” says Mercer. “I learned so much about that from him.

“He was the first person that introduced me to the mental game aspect.”

In the years since he played, Mercer has seen the field of mental skills training take off.

“It’s become an industry in and of itself,” says Mercer. “At the time, there was nobody talking about ‘don’t worry about the outcome, it’s the quality of the at-bat. It’s the process over the outcome.’ At the time it was very cutting edge and it was new information for me.

“I was a much better baseball player at Wright State than I was at Dayton

“It was directly attributed to the mental game and understanding that I couldn’t just play with reckless abandon when it came to my emotions. Physically, I could play very hard. But emotionally, there has to be some constraint.”

One of the keys is to know where place the emphasis.

“If I go through the process the right way and I work on things I’m supposed to work on and invest in things I’m supposed to invest in and I have the at-bat I’m supposed to have and putting a good swing on a good pitch, whatever happens from there is completely out of my hands,” says Mercer. “Once I did that I became a much better player.”

Mercer recruits plenty of football and wrestling athletes.

“Their mentality is I can work harder and harder,” says Mercer. “That’s not always effective in baseball.”

In his first season as head coach, he found the mental game to be a bit lacking and he thinks he knows the reason.

“When it comes from the head coach it can become a bit stale because I’m always talking and communicating with players,” says Mercer. “My voice is always heard.

“I like having a big coaching staff and having them deal with each player individually because it keeps things fresh. We need to have multi-faceted relationships.”

Then opportunity knocked.

Hall, who is from nearby Centerville, Ohio, had just ended his collegiate playing career and was looking to find his way in the mental skills field.

The decision was made to bring him on-board as the very first full-time mental skills coordinator in D-I baseball.

“We had a mutual need,” says Mercer of Hall. “He needed a place to begin his career. We needed someone who was a fresh face and had an ability to communicate with young people in an electric way, in an impassioned way. He has a magnetic personality.

“It’s been a beautiful union.”

Hall meets with players as a group and one-on-one, providing his knowledge and helping athletes reach their potential.

“We’re providing the players with the resources to be the best they can,” says Mercer. “It’s really about knowing yourself and what you need to be successful.”

Jeff and is one four boys born to Jeff and Pam Mercer. His mother teaches math at Whiteland Community High School.

Stephanie Mercer, Jeff’s wife, teaches sixth grade at Ankeney Middle School. The former Ohio Northern University athlete is also an assistant boys volleyball coach at Beavercreek (Ohio) High School.

Jeff and Stephanie are expecting their first child — a boy — in the fall.

12725 Matt Zircher, Baseball Portraits 11-26-13

Jeff Mercer, a 2004 Franklin Community High School graduate, is in his second season as head baseball coach at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. At 32, he is one of the youngest head coaches in NCAA Division I baseball. (Wright State Photo)