Mié. Abr 17th, 2024


DODGERS PITCHER Tyler Glasnow, who stands 6-foot-8, 225 pounds, can do a standing backflip.

«It’s no big deal, really,» he said. (Yes, it is. There aren’t many people that big and tall who can do a backflip.)

«Oh, I’m sure there are a lot of people bigger than me that can,» he said. (No, there aren’t.)

Glasnow, 30, is a new member of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ rotation, acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in a trade in December and immediately signed to a five-year, $136 million extension. His stuff is as overpowering and violent as anyone’s in the game, in part because of his remarkable athleticism: a breathtaking combination of size, speed, strength, agility, mobility and balance, all of which has drawn comparisons to Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps — and a giraffe.

«He is the most physically gifted athlete I have ever seen in my life,» said Rays closer Pete Fairbanks, an ex-teammate. «He is more flexible than anyone I’ve ever seen. His movements are cleaner than anyone I’ve ever seen. He is unbelievable. I don’t think there is athletic activity that he can’t do.»

Besides a backflip, Glasnow can walk on his hands. He won a silver medal in the Junior Olympics in the high jump. He was an excellent basketball player («I’m tall,» he said). He loved roller hockey and was a wizard on a skateboard. He ran track, did the shot put and played football for one year in high school. He lifted a huge amount of weight, and says, «if I’m on the side of a squat rack, I can go parallel to the ground, but I don’t know if that is unusual.»

It is.

«We call that a flagpole,» said Dodgers pitcher J.P. Feyereisen. «He was doing that in the weight room today. I’m not sure how many guys could do that. He’s 6-8, and he can do it.»

Yet with this amazing array of skills and athleticism, Glasnow hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He has never completed a game in his major league career; he has never pitched enough innings in a season (162) to qualify for the ERA title. He had Tommy John surgery in 2021, an injury he said had affected him for even longer.

But he has averaged 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings and only 7.3 hits. His stuff is hellacious. His curveball is one of the best in the game; it’s unhittable when paired with his 98 mph fastball. Beginning Wednesday, when Glasnow takes the mound in Seoul, South Korea, for the Dodgers’ Opening Day game against the San Diego Padres, the Dodgers are hoping to harness that athletic ability and spectacular stuff.

«I feel amazing now,» he said. «I figured out the elbow thing. I’ve had that since 2019. Now that that’s ironed out. I feel the healthiest I’ve ever felt. Now after meeting all the coaches and the training staff [with the Dodgers], I’m really excited about the future. Everything is so buttoned-up here, I will be able to put my body in the best position to succeed.»

«When it comes to ability, no one is better than Tyler,» former teammate Brad Miller said. «I think his relationship with the Dodgers is a match made in heaven. That $130 million extension is going to be like pennies on the dollar for what he will do for the Dodgers.»

THE ART OF pitching has changed dramatically in the past 10 years, as athletic trainers and performance experts have found new ways to improve body function with all-new exercises — and yet it all feels familiar to Glasnow.

«I look at videos doing gymnastics when I was 5, and the fundamentals and warmups I was doing then are what baseball players are being taught today,» Glasnow said. «It’s crazy. Walking on your hands, the high jump, backbends. I already have a baseline for all this.»

«Whatever he did as a kid from ages 5 to 12, I need to write it down and have my son do it, because that’s how you build an athlete,» Fairbanks said. «He’s the perfect blend of genetics.»

Glasnow’s mom, Donna, is 5-9, a retired gymnast who now coaches gymnastics at Cal State Northridge; his dad, Greg, 6-2, is a swimmer and a water polo player.

«She chose to be a gymnast, but if she had chosen another sport, she probably would have been great at it,» Glasnow said of his mom. «She’s almost 70 years old. But she’s in insanely good shape. I remember growing up, she was always doing handstands and cartwheels around the house, all this crazy stuff. She put us [Glasnow and his brother, Ted] in gymnastics when we were little. She was always trying to get us to do as many athletic things as possible. I look at the gymnastics things we did as kids. It was insane. It was like, ‘Whoa, we were 5!'»

Ted was a decathlete at Notre Dame.

«He is 6-1, 6-2, he is ginormously strong,» Glasnow said. «He is the most shredded human in our family. When he was competing, it was insane how big he was. I got the height. He got the strength. I could lift a lot of weight, I was obsessed by it, but he was stronger.»

Said Yarbrough: «I asked Tyler once what he would have done if he hadn’t been a baseball player. He said nonchalantly, ‘Well, my brother does the decathlon. I guess I’d do that.'»

As a kid, Glasnow loved being on the trampoline, doing flips, which taught him the sensation of being in space while still maintaining control of his body. That led to his first backflip.

«I was 19 years old, I was at the ocean in Mexico,» he said. «I had never thought about doing a backflip in gymnastics. But I was there, on the sand, and I thought, ‘I think I can do this.’ So I did it in the sand. I just thought to myself, ‘Well, I guess I can do a backflip.'»

Dodgers pitcher Ryan Yarbrough has seen it.

«He just said to me, ‘Do you want to see it?'» Yarbrough said. «And he just did it on a dime.»

«I call him the Giraffe,» said Texas Rangers first baseman Nathaniel Lowe, a former teammate in Tampa. «Giraffes have long limbs, long levers, but can really move. People think giraffes are bumbling animals, but they can run. When I was with the Rays, Tyler used to beg to pinch run if we were in a long game. He’d say, ‘Please let me run. I promise I can score from first on a double. My sprint speed would measure really high on Statcast!'»

«Everyone talks about how [5-10 Dodgers pitcher Yoshinobu] Yamamoto can contort his body and bend his back all the way,» said Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers president of baseball operations. «But Tyler can do that even better.»

Glasnow knows his body well, what it can do.

«The biggest difference with the athleticism is [considering] my height, how I’m able to get down the mound differently than most,» Glasnow said. «And because I do a lot of the mobility stuff, I think I can stay stable in places where some people would find it harder to balance. I think I have good single-leg stability. I am pretty explosive. I can push off hard, and … I can get the ball out a lot harder than most people. It’s all about stability, where you are in space, finding yourself, kind of like eyes-closed balance. When pitching, I get so extended in my back, like the high jump. My mom would always have us doing handstand walks, single-arm stability stuff. Doing all that at such young age, it has helped my body and my brain on the mound.»

GLASNOW’S HEIGHT CAME from his mother’s side; she has a brother who is 6-9. In Glasnow’s case, it happened suddenly. He was 5-8 as a high school freshman in Santa Clarita, California.

«Then my junior year, over a winter break, in like five weeks, I grew like four inches,» he said. «When I got back to school at winter break, people were like, ‘What the hell happened to you?’ Crazy. I remember leaving and coming back and people were like ‘What!?'»

Glasnow graduated high school at 6-6, meaning he grew almost a foot in only four years. Normally, when someone grows that quickly, it is difficult for the body to catch up, to remain coordinated. Not Glasnow. The increased size only added to his pitching acumen.

«I’ve always been really athletic,» he said. «I was always comfortable picking up any new sport. As far as baseball specifics go, having athletic parents, growing up in the place that I grew up, it’s such a great baseball culture there. Santa Clarita was all about baseball. I played all year round, And I had some really good coaches. Baseball was always my best sport.»

His idol was Randy Johnson, who was 6-10, «and he had trouble throwing strikes, too,» said Glasnow, who struggled with his own command. «But I never really nerded out on baseball too much when I was a kid. I was such a rambunctious human, I couldn’t just sit and watch a baseball game.»

Even then, though, his stuff was elite. He was drafted in 2011 by the Pittsburgh Pirates and spent several years after his 2016 debut yo-yoing between the majors and Triple-A and the bullpen and the rotation. After being traded to the Rays midseason in 2018, he became a full-time starter until he had Tommy John surgery in August 2021.

«The first time I saw him throw in person [in 2018], he was in an empty stadium, in the bullpen just getting some work in, no one in the box, and he was casually throwing 97-98 mph, the ball was just exploding, and the look on his face was, ‘I can’t help it,'» said Adam Kolarek, an ex-teammate in Tampa. «It looked like Michael Jordan shrugging his shoulders [after making another 3-pointer] as if to say, ‘I don’t know how I do it.’ It’s not cocky. Tyler just can’t help it.»

«I faced him last spring in a simulated game,» said former Rays teammate Brandon Lowe. «I swung at a curveball that bounced before the plate. I thought it was a fastball. That has never happened to me before. It is almost impossible to mistake a fastball for a curveball.»

«He is a beast,» Miller said. «He is so long, but he is not lanky. [Jacob] deGrom has these amazing levers in his body. Tyler has the same ones, and he’s 40 pounds bigger. The dude just hands the ball to the catcher.»

So, is there anything Glasnow can’t do?

«I suck at golf,» he said. «Awful. Terrible. I chunk it. I have the all-or-nothing mentality. I hit it really far, but it slices farther than it goes straight. I’ll lose like 15 balls in a round. I suck.»

Finally, we found the one thing Tyler Glasnow can’t do.


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