By STEVE KRAH
Getting a pitching staff prepared for an NCAA Division I baseball season takes time.
That’s why Ball State University pitching coach Dustin Glant was more comfortable starting with the Cardinals in the fall and having a full year to help his hurlers develop.
Glant, who had been a volunteer assistant at BSU in 2013, re-joined the staff mid-way through 2016-17 when Chris Fetter (now pitching coach at the University of Michigan) left to take a job with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.
It took Glant some time to gain the trust of his pitchers and to know their strengths and weaknesses.
Even with that late start, Glant saw his arms achieve that first season. They did even more in the second one.
The 2018 Cardinals set a program record for strikeouts (560) and ranked sixth in the national with 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings.
Two BSU pitchers were taken in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on Glant’s watch — right-hander/designated hitter Colin Brockhouse (Toronto Blue Jays and did not sign) in 2017 and right-hander Evan Marquardt (Cincinnati Reds) in 2018. Left-hander Kevin Marmon (Minnesota Twins) signed as a free agent in 2017.
Right-hander Drey Jameson was named Mid-American Conference Freshman Pitcher of the Year and was selected to Collegiate Baseball’s Freshman All-America team in 2018. Right-hander John Baker was on that honor squad in 2017 and is on watch lists for his junior year in 2019.
Glant, a Fort Wayne native, talked about his staff while attending the 2019 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Dallas.
“In my young coaching career, we’re having success developing velocity,” says Glant, 37. “But in a year and a half, we’re not doing a very good job of throwing strikes. We’ve put a lot of our time in the bucket of how do we get better at commanding the ball and being more attack-focused.”
Do you have to sacrifice speed for control?
“I don’t think we should have to,” says Glant. “We structured some things in the fall with our throwing progression. I’m hoping that translates into more strikes during the season.
“There were some adjustments made in how we play catch, how we throw and our focus level on certain things.”
Glant’s hurlers threw often during the eight-week fall development phase.
Ball State head coach Rich Maloney typically gave Glant and his pitchers 90 minutes on the front side of practice to do their work before joining the full team.
“Not everybody has that luxury,” says Glant. “It’s huge that I have that time from him.
“Then it’s just building volume. We throw a lot. I believe in that. We don’t save our bullets. We want to condition the arm to be able to handle a heavy workload during the season.”
As the fall begins and pitchers begin the “on-ramping” process, Glant takes into consideration how much they’ve thrown during the summer and whether they are a returning arm or a newcomer then he allows so many throws at a certain distance and builds upon that.
After the fall, weight and mobility training becomes a priority and pitchers don’t get on the mound as much.
It really depends on the needs of the athlete.
“We’re really individualized,” says Glant. “Their bodies don’t move the same way. There are different deficiencies that you have to attack a different way.
“You have to learn your guys and know how they work. Then you’re able to hone in on who needs to be doing what.”
As Glant gets his 16 pitchers ready to open the season Feb. 15 against Stanford in Tempe, Ariz., he has them throwing between 25 and 35 minutes before they go into their skill work of flat ground or bullpens.
Glant’s coaching resume also includes managing the 17U Pony Express travel team and acting as assistant pitching coach at Marathon High School in Florida as well as head coach at Mt. Vernon (Fortville) High School, Lapel (Ind.) High School and Anderson (Ind.) University.
From his high school stops, he knows what it’s like to have players who can perform at another position and be used on the mound. Troy Montgomery (who played in the Detroit Tigers system in 2018) was an outfielder who Glant tried as a pitcher at Mt. Vernon because of his athletic talent. He also did the same with Brady Cherry (who is now an infielder at Ohio State University) while at Lapel. He was one of the best prep pitchers in Indiana.
Even if they do not play another position in college, Glant wants them to have the mindset of an athlete.
“In high school, typically your best players can do everything and you need them to do more things,” says Glant. “You get guys in college and their brains are thinking ‘I’m only a pitcher.’ It feels like they lose some of that natural athleticism when they were in high school playing more than one sport, more than one position and moving around more.
“We want to turn it back. Let’s get back to being an athlete and get more athletic in our moves.”
Glant is also concerned with what’s happening between his pitchers’ ears.
“It’s huge,” says Glant of the mental game. “It’s my biggest weakness as a coach and our biggest weakness as a pitching staff.
“I devoted my entire summer to learning this thing, understanding it better and being able to help my guys better mentally. We did some good things in the fall and kept it going right through this training time. I hope it pays off.”
Glant says it’s important to develop routines inside of the game and slow down breathing and heart rate when things get out of control.
There’s also questions to be asked and answered.
“How is our self talk?,” says Glant. “Are we reviewing our outings? Are we reviewing our bullpens?”
Glant says he wish he knew more about the mental side when he was a player.
Dave and Sharon Glant are parents to three children — Jessica, Dustin and Nate. Jessica Glant is a physician assistant in Maine. Nate Glant is an assistant baseball coach at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill.
Dave Glant is a third-generation railroad worker.
Dustin looks back on his boyhood and marvels at how hard his father worked and still had something left in the tank to teach him about baseball.
“He worked manual labor,” says Dustin. “He’d come home from these 12-hour shifts and then he’d have the energy to practice with me for a couple hours.”
Dave Glant showed Dustin about being hard-nosed and disciplined and about body language.
“Your opponent should never know how you’re feeling and how things are going,” says Dustin. “My preference is to be stone-faced and the emotion is positive emotion for your team.
Don’t stare a hole through the shortstop when he makes an error behind you.
“We try to get guys to embrace those situations,” says Glant. “What more fun can than picking up your shortstop? He’s excited because you got him off the hook. You’re excited because you got out of the inning with the team.
“That just builds momentum with you to the dugout.”
His father broke down VHS videos for a 12-year-old Dustin to review and use to improve.
“He was way before his time,” says Dustin. “And he was never a college player. He was a dad that really had a passion for helping me get better.”
Glant played for coach Dave Fireoved at Fort Wayne Wayne High School, graduating in 2000.
“To me, he is a legend and like a second father figure,” says Glant of Fireoved. “He picked right up where dad left off with accountability, discipline, work ethic, how to be a good teammate and how to train.”
That intensity continued at Purdue University. The 6-foot-2 right-hander pitched for three seasons for the Boilermakers (2001-03) for head coach Doug Schreiber and assistant coaches Todd Murphy and Rob Smith (now head coach at Ohio University) and was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the seventh round of the 2003 MLB Draft. He competed six seasons in the Diamondbacks organization (2003-08), reaching Triple-A in his last season.
Glant was with the 2004 South Bend (Ind.) Silver Hawks of the Low Class-A Midwest League. The team was managed Tony Perezchica with Jeff Pico as pitching coach, Hector De La Cruz as hitting coach and future big leaguers Carlos Gonzalez, Miguel Montero and Emilio Bonifacio on the roster.
“It was a blast for me because I pitched in Fort Wayne at the old Wizards stadium,” says Glant. “That was a fun league.”
He then spent three seasons (2009-11) in independent pro baseball in the U.S. (Schaumburg, Ill., Flyers), Mexico (Mayos de Navjoa), Colombia (Potros de Medellin) and Canada (Winnipeg Goldeyes).
With Maloney, Glant is seeing a different side of coaching.
“I’ve never seen that side of it,” says Glant. “I’m learning how to love your players and how to build relationships.
“You’ve got to be a transformational coach and not a transactional coach. That’s what I’m learning from Rich Maloney.”
Dustin and Ashley Glant have a daughter — Evelyn (16 months). The baby is named for a grandmother on the mother’s side.
Dustin Glant, a Fort Wayne (Ind.) Wayne High School graduate who pitched at Purdue University and in the pro baseball, became the Ball State University pitching coach prior to the 2017 season. (Ball State University Photo)