Glass has chance to be Rowan’s next surprise
By Mike London
The radar gun flashed 94 mph.
The Cincinnati Reds scout who pointed the gun would turn out to be only the second most surprised person in the stadium.
The most surprised was the 6-foot-6, 225-pound youngster whose right arm had thrown the baseball for the Catawba Valley Stars in a collegiate summer league game.The tall guy’s name is Zach Glass. He graduated from Salisbury High in 2005. Now he’s winding up a surprisingly strong college career as Lenoir-Rhyne’s first baseman.
“It was just a lucky situation that a scout was there that day last summer because I don’t pitch much and I was sort of a late addition to that team,” he said. “When the scout told me, ‘Son, I got you at 94,’ I was kinda shocked.”
The percentage of the population that can propel baseballs 94 mph is tiny, but Glass isn’t holding autograph sessions yet. He understands he’s a longshot. He’s always been a longshot.
But he’s also familiar with the story of East Rowan graduate Bobby Parnell, who is now a New York Mets reliever. Did anyone who watched Parnell bat ninth and play first base for the Rowan County American Legion team in 2002 dream he’d be in a big-league uniform in 2009?
Maybe lightning can strike twice.
Glass was a pretty good player by his sophomore year at Salisbury. He led the 2003 Hornets in RBIs while batting .339.
Big things were predicted his junior year. He smacked three doubles in one early game, but a thumb injury put a damper on his season and limited him to 44 at-bats.
While the damaged thumb wouldn’t allow him to swing right-handed, the injury did give Glass a chance to demonstrate unusual athletic ability. He bunted for a few hits, and he even went to the plate left-handed several times and hit balls hard.
Salisbury coach Scott Maddox wanted Glass to make a contribution on the mound, but by his senior year the Hornets had Phillip Hilliard, Lee Dupre and Travis Johnson to handle pitching duties.
Glass pitched one inning as a high school senior. He walked five batters. After that, he concentrated on right field and was an all-star. He was fast for a big guy. His arm was lethal.
There was a memorable game at Central Davidson in which Glass gloved a line drive in deep right and fired a one-bounce laser to catcher Kevin Creason, who tagged a surprised runner at the plate for a double play.
Glass stayed healthy and finally made all-county as a senior. He also made the NCPreps.com All-State team. He batted .492, hit three homers and knocked in 28 runs.
He waited for college coaches to call. He heard silence. He started down a long, winding road.
“There really were no offers to speak of even though I’d had a fairly good career,” Glass said. “But I still wanted to play ball. I decided to go to Lenoir-Rhyne as a walk-on.”
He paid his dues at L-R.
He got 41 at-bats his first two years combined. He knocked in 10 runs and, to his credit, he didn’t get disgusted. He didn’t quit.
“Sure, at times it was frustrating,” Glass said. “But I was getting a couple of ABs here and there, and I was appreciating every chance I got to play.”
After his freshman season at L-R, he was eligible for American Legion baseball. He tore it up in the summer of 2006 for South Rowan.
Coach David Wright saw pitching potential in Glass, but he was 0-2 with one save in a three-inning stint at Mocksville.
With the bat, it was a different story. He put up one of the best seasons in South history, hitting. 431 with six homers and 32 RBIs.
At L-R, opportunity finally knocked Glass’ junior year. New coach Paul Knight installed him as the regular at first base. Glass responded with a terrific 2008 season, driving in 39 runs ó third on the team ó and posting a .462 on-base percentage. He didn’t clog the bases. He stole seven bags and legged out three triples.
“Last year and this year he’s been our everyday guy at first base,” Knight said. “Zach does a lot of good things for us offensively. He’s high average with some power. He’s really a great all-round player because he’s a deceptively good first baseman and a great target for our infielders.”
Glass visited Newman Park over the weekend when the Bears came to town.
A preseason All-SAC pick, he’s enjoying another solid season. He’s batting .331 with five homers and 38 RBIs. He’s walked more than he’s whiffed, and he made only his second error in the Catawba series.
“It was a homecoming for me,” Glass said. “Catawba has a lot of guys I grew up playing ball with ó Zeb Link, Brett Hatley, Kevin McMillan. It was great not only getting to see them but seeing their parents.”
The future is bright for Glass. A biology major, he’s on track to graduate in December, not bad considering the travel and practice time college ball requires.
He’s pitched to just two batters all season, but there’s at least a chance he’ll be drafted in June. After all, 94 is 94, and with Glass’ frame a team may to take a flier with a late-round pick. The raw material is there. Maybe some pitching guru can mold the mechanics.
“I hate to speculate on the draft because you really never know,” Knight said. “Obviously, he hasn’t pitched much, but Zach does have pro strength and a pro frame.”
On Lenoir-Rhyne’s official Scout Day, Glass stepped on the mound and threw 90s and 91s for men holding radar guns and clipboards. No 94s, but not bad for someone who hasn’t really worked at it.
“I don’t want baseball to end, but at the same time the draft is something I can’t control,” Glass said. “If something happens, that would be great.”
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