April 4, 2012
By Shawn Sell
Justin Glass has an impressive baseball resume. Starting with a stellar prep career in Indiana, words like All-American, Player of the Year and single-season record holder make up just part of Glass' credentials. In his first collegiate season, some of those same words popped up again; Freshman All-American, All-BIG EAST. So it is almost scary to think that UC's sophomore outfielder may not have even reached his full potential just yet.
To say Glass was thrust into the fire as a Bearcat is putting it mildly. For all 57 games of his freshman year, Glass was the starting designated hitter for his team. In 51 of those contests, UC head coach Brian Cleary penciled Glass' name in the No. 3 spot in the lineup, the position usually reserved for a team's best pure hitter. He responded by hitting .326 and tallying 46 RBI to earn a spot on the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America and All-BIG EAST second team squads. And the kicker? He did all that with a torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder.
"(Last year) was kind of a mentally hard year, more so than physically," Glass says. "My shoulder was hanging in there, but it was little things that people wouldn't think about like not lifting with my right arm at all, not playing outfield. If I struck out or had a bad at-bat, I had to sit on the bench and think about it, I couldn't go out in the outfield and try to make a good throw or catch. It made me mentally stronger and made me want to play harder when I came back. It was a good thing to go through, not something you want to, but it was good."
"Justin is a guy that with the exception of a few games over the past year and a half has hit in the three hole since the day he walked in the door and that is pretty tough to do," Cleary adds. "So he has had a target on his back from the minute he walked in. Coming off the year he had last year, I think clearly he is one of the guys in our lineup that other teams look at as guys they have to pitch (carefully) to. So he often times gets a little extra attention from the other side and he is getting better at handling that."
Just weeks following the conclusion of the 2011 season, Glass underwent surgery to repair his injured shoulder and appeared to be right on track before another speed bump hit late last fall. On Halloween night, Glass underwent an emergency appendectomy, which put all physical activity to the side for a six week period.
"I was coming back and starting to feel comfortable in the outfield (during the fall) and then I had to have my appendix taken out," he says. "I think everyone can tell little by little, I am starting to feel comfortable and it's getting there piece by piece. My arm feels a lot better only nine months out and I know its going to get better. The same thing with my swing, I have been kind of inconsistent right now going up and down. It's going to take time before it all comes back."
If Glass has been inconsistent this year, his numbers don't show it. Entering this weekend's BIG EAST series with USF, Glass paces the Bearcats with a .383 batting average and 44 hits and is among the squad's best in runs, doubles and RBI. The all-around success is part of an evolution that Glass seems to be undertaking during his college career.
"So far here, I've been more of an average, doubles, stolen bases guy, but I think of myself more as a power hitter; doubles in the gap, RBI guy," he admits. "That is going to come back; it's starting to come back now. I haven't played baseball consistently in awhile with my surgeries, but my power is coming back. I am getting stronger and my confidence is up."
Another element of Glass' game that has shown nice development this year is his aptitude on the base paths. After stealing nine bases as a freshman, Glass is currently at a team-high 10 with over half the schedule still to play. Not for a guy that isn't very high on his wheels.
"I stole a lot of bases in high school. I always thought of myself as fast even though I probably wasn't," he says with a laugh. "(My success) comes with doing it in practice and getting good reads. It's about getting the sign from Coach and having the confidence to get the right step and going."
While Cleary admits that Glass isn't the speediest runner on his roster, he says it's his instincts that make him such an effective stealer.
"He isn't the fastest guy, but he is an above average runner for a guy his size," UC's skipper says. "But better than his speed I think are his instincts on the bases. He does a good job of reading the pitcher. He is the type of guy that, if he can be on base a lot, will probably steal 20 or 30 bases every year."
For Justin Glass, now in the middle of his second year as a budding college baseball star, the sky is the limit and his ceiling is high. While his career has been impressive thus far, his head coach feels he still has room to grow.
"Justin is getting there, he isn't there yet," Cleary says. "He hasn't played outfield at this level and so defensively he is still a freshman. He is still learning to get better out there and he still has quite a bit of work defensively to be the type of player we think he is capable of being. But he is certainly showing improvement.
"At the plate, his numbers are good and all of that, but I don't think he is at where he is capable of yet. He has a chance to be a really, really unbelievable player."