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Troy Story In just his second full season Troy Glaus of the Angels is already showing signs of becoming a power-hitting third baseman in the mold of Mike Schmidt

June 12, 2000
June 12, 2000

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June 12, 2000

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Troy Story In just his second full season Troy Glaus of the Angels is already showing signs of becoming a power-hitting third baseman in the mold of Mike Schmidt

Troy Glaus, better known for playing third base for the Anaheim
Angels, is playing palm reader at the moment. It is his own
palm, his left, to which his attention is fixed. He sees the
deeply creased lines. He sees the ruddy, cracked and blistered
skin. He sees...the past.

This is an article from the June 12, 2000 issue Original Layout

"Middle of March," he says, laughing at the memory in the
Angels' clubhouse last Saturday, a few hours before Anaheim
resumed its tepid rivalry with its old-money neighbors, the Los
Angeles Dodgers. "The blisters are still here. I hit so much
that day I thought my hands would fall off, but everything
changed for me. I had to get back to a simple approach [at the
plate]. I found it. It's working so far."

Angels first-year batting coach Mickey Hatcher took a confused
Glaus to a back field at the Angels' spring training complex in
Tempe, Ariz., that day. Glaus had hit .240 in 1999, his first
full season in the big leagues, which was worse than every other
player in the American League with more than 400 at bats but
one, Brian L. Hunter of the Mariners (.232). Glaus never did
click with Rod Carew, the team's hitting coach last year. At the
plate his mind would race with thoughts about his hands, his
feet, his stride, his hips, his weight shift--the whole darn
syllabus of How to Hit a Baseball 101. "Everything," Glaus says,
"except the ball and the pitcher."

"Let's keep it simple," Hatcher told him. Glaus had batted .344
in three years at UCLA. He had broken Mark McGwire's Pac-10
single-season home run record, with 34 in 1997. Why not go back
to the batting style he had used in college? So Hatcher and
Glaus agreed that he would drop his hands in his stance--closer
to the plane of the hitting zone--and bring his feet closer
together. Forget everything else. See the ball. Let your hands
fly.

For 30 minutes Hatcher flipped balls to Glaus, who whacked them
into a net. For another 30 minutes Hatcher threw batting
practice. "Nobody else around," Glaus says. "Just Mickey, me and
a kid with a golf cart picking up balls in the outfield."

In a sense, Glaus hasn't stopped hitting since that one-hour
tutorial. At week's end his name was plastered all over the
American League leader board: second in walks (43), on-base
percentage (.450) and doubles (19); third in extra-base hits
(35) and in runs (44); fifth in total bases (133); sixth in
slugging (.668); seventh in batting average (.332); and ninth in
home runs (16). The 6'5" 230-pounder is a big man on campus
again.

Only 23, Glaus is showing why the Angels selected him with the
third overall pick of the 1997 draft and why he served a minor
league apprenticeship of only 109 games. Because of his reserved
nature--"He's so shy," his mother, Karen Jensen, says, "that
when he first started doing interviews over the telephone in
high school he would nod his answers"--not to mention the low
expectations for his team, Glaus is arriving at stardom like a
train pulling into an empty station.

Despite his recent foray into palm reading, Glaus is reluctant
to talk about his future in any detail. You might as well ask
him to stare into the sun, for although his future is just as
bright, focusing on it can do far more harm than good.
Glaus--pronounced gloss, though everything else about him lacks
any hint of it--modestly denies having any goals or milestones
in mind other than to help turn the Angels into winners. Others
in the Anaheim clubhouse are not nearly so restrained. "His
ceiling is so high I'm not sure anyone knows just how good he
can be," bench coach Joe Maddon says. "I do know that he's at
least capable of hitting .300 with 40 home runs and a ton of
walks and playing the best third base in the league, if not all
of baseball."

"The guy," says first baseman Mo Vaughn, "is going to be Mike
Schmidt. The guy has Hall of Fame potential written all over
him."

In his brief career Glaus already has done a fair imitation of
the Philadelphia Phillies' Hall of Famer. By the completion of
his breakout 1974 season Schmidt had 969 career at bats with 239
hits, 55 home runs, 171 RBIs and a .247 average; at week's end
Glaus had 915 career at bats with 234 hits, 46 homers, 140 RBIs
and a .256 average. And like Schmidt and Matt Williams of the
Arizona Diamondbacks, another power-hitting third baseman who
endured a difficult big league initiation (.198 through his
first three seasons), Glaus's ascension has been a trying one.
That he endured it with a blue-collar work ethic is testament to
one tough mother.

"Absolutely, she's where it all comes from," Glaus says of his
mom, who raised her only child by herself after divorcing her
husband, Tom Glaus, when Troy was two. Karen and Troy lived in
Los Angeles with three trucks parked in the driveway. Karen ran
an air freight delivery service that required her to work
irregular hours. Sometimes she'd let Troy ride along with her.
"As a little kid it was the coolest thing to have 20-foot trucks
in your driveway to play in all the time," Glaus says. "But it
was never anything I wanted to do when I grew up. For as long as
I can remember, the only thing I wanted to be was a baseball
player. That was it."

Karen eventually quit the trucking business and moved with
11-year-old Troy 90 miles south to Carlsbad, where she ran a
small accounting firm. In 1994 Troy, a shortstop graduating from
Carlsbad High, was drafted in the second round by the San Diego
Padres but declined to sign. "That's when they were going
through their fire sale," he says of the failed contract
negotiations, "and they just never got close."

That was around the time, Glaus says, that he last spoke with
his father, who, after Troy's Little League years, gradually
slipped out of his son's life. "I think he's in Colorado or
someplace now; I really don't know," Glaus says. "It doesn't
matter. My mother was the biggest influence on me, without
question." Karen, since remarried, lives in Philadelphia and
often catches up with Troy on the road, as she did last month in
Baltimore and Minnesota, or on trips to Anaheim.

When the Angels drafted Glaus in '97, he says, they made it
clear to him right away that his days as a shortstop were over.
Anaheim had Gary DiSarcina established at short and knew Glaus
would outgrow the position. ("They were right," Glaus says.
"That was 25 pounds ago.") But the team had long been troubled
at third base. Doug DeCinces, who also happened to be Glaus's
agent at the time, is the only third baseman in the club's
40-year history to make the All-Star team. Last year Glaus
became the seventh Opening Day third baseman for the Angels
since 1992.

After a .341 start in April 1999, he plunged to .222 the rest of
the way. Worse, the Angels lost 92 games with a fractured
clubhouse in a miserable season that claimed the jobs of general
manager Bill Bavasi, manager Terry Collins and his entire
coaching staff, with the exception of Maddon. "I struggled all
year long," Glaus says. "I was lost. But the only thing that
matters was 92 losses. It was no fun."

It is a reflection of this greatest extended period of slugging
in baseball history that Glaus, in what he considered to be a
flop of a season, still launched 29 home runs. That's more than
Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson ever hit in any of
his 23 seasons and a total that George Brett, another Hall of
Famer at the position, surpassed only once. "What really
impressed me was that no matter how much he struggled at the
plate, he never took it into the field," Maddon says. "That's
very unusual for a young player. Nobody plays the position
better in our league, and I thought the same thing last year.
People forget, because of his size, that he's still so
inexperienced. He's really just a baby in this game."

Glaus's first order of postseason business was to have both
knees arthroscopically cleaned out, a procedure that may have
been inevitable because he grew so fast as a child. Glaus
finished eighth grade at 5'6" and started his freshman year of
high school three months later at 6'2". After the minor
surgeries Glaus hired a former boxer to train him over the
winter. They concentrated on flexibility, sprinting and
weightlifting that wouldn't add bulk. "At my size I have to be
careful not to get too big," he says. "Think about it: A boxer
has to get the most strength out of his body while staying
within a certain weight class. I worked harder than I ever have
in my life. It was really the first time I set up that kind of
program. I have no doubt I'm seeing the results now."

At week's end Glaus led all major league third basemen in home
runs and was on track to become the first 40-home-run hitter in
franchise history--if Vaughn, who had 18 dingers, doesn't get
there first. Glaus also has a career-high eight stolen bases.

Despite his range and strong arm, however, Glaus has committed
13 errors (the most among third basemen in the majors, and tied
for the most by any player in the American League). He also has
whiffed 57 times, fourth most in the league. He rarely hits the
ball on the ground because of a slight uppercut in his swing
that pitchers can exploit. Glaus remains a work in progress. He
hits with raw power off his back foot in a kind of recoil manner
reminiscent of McGwire early in his career, before he learned
how to extend through the ball, which added even more remarkable
carry to his blasts. "McGwire has a quick stroke," Dodgers
hitting coach Rick Down says. "[Glaus] has a long stroke. If you
get him off the plate with fastballs and get him off balance
away by changing speeds, you can pitch to him."

Says Hatcher, "One of the things we're getting him to do is be
more aggressive, to go ahead and fire a little more, like on
3-and-0 counts every once in a while. His skills are so good and
he's such a good worker that he's going to continue to get
better."

With Glaus doing damage from the sixth spot in the lineup, the
Angels led the league at week's end in batting average and were
sixth in runs, a drastic turnaround from finishing last and
next-to-last, respectively, in those categories last season.
Still, they've been outscored by opponents largely because of an
injury-riddled pitching staff that has already pressed 19
pitchers into service. The net result has been an amazingly
consistent level of mediocrity.

Still, says Glaus, "It's like night and day from last year. The
two coaching staffs just do things differently. I don't need to
be told when I make a mistake. I don't need to be cursed at. I
know when I make a mistake, and I'm not trying to make a
mistake. These guys are just so positive. Obviously, winning
helps."

Let the Angels' 12-5 pasting of the Dodgers last Friday night
stand as a good example of how Glaus is sneaking up on stardom.
He slammed three hits (including two doubles), stole a base,
knocked in or scored a total of five runs and then repaired to
the clubhouse weight room for muscle maintenance. He stayed
there until all the reporters left without getting even the most
innocuous quote from the overlooked star of the game. How does
he do it? The answer, he found in March, is simple.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY V.J. LOVEROCOLOR PHOTO: DEBORA ROBINSON THE THIRD MAN Glaus, who's 6'5" and 230 pounds, played shortstop at UCLA, but the Angels, figuring he'd outgrow that position, moved him to the hot corner.
"HE CAN HIT .300 WITH 40 HOME RUNS," SAYS AN ANGELS COACH, "AND
PLAY THE BEST THIRD BASE IN THE LEAGUE."