Profile of Excellence: Macalester's Glasser a true 'Renaissance man'

Profile of Excellence: Macalester's Glasser a true 'Renaissance man'

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- When a stagnant athletic program turns the corner and rises to the upper reaches of its conference, there are many who rightfully share the credit for the success. Among these are the coaching staff, administrators and, most importantly, the players themselves. In the past few seasons, Macalester College baseball has completed such a turnaround and established itself as a program to be reckoned with in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC).  

Last spring, the Scots claimed their first MIAC title in 61 years and garnered their first berth in the MIAC Playoffs after two seasons of a postseason bid narrowly escaping their grasp. This year, they are in the thick of a mad scramble for the final two spots in the four-team tourney that determines the league’s automatic representative in the upcoming NCAA Division III playoffs.

While much of the credit for this accomplishment belongs to Head Coach Matt Parrington and his staff, Parrington is quick to deflect praise to his athletes. He particularly credits the 2012 senior class, and is quick to cite Mitch Glasser as a vital component of the team’s success. “Led by Mitch, this year’s seniors have turned the tide here at Macalester,” said Parrington.

“As one of the leaders of this team, Mitch is putting his stamp on our program,” Parrington continued. “Mitch leads by example. He knows how to read people and relates well with them. He is a talented player, and with his leadership, you can’t help but be excited about baseball with him on the team.”
The appreciation runs both ways. “[Coach Parrington] has really changed the mentality of our baseball program,” Glasser said. “We now believe we can win every game we play. Macalester might be known for its academics more than its athletics, but under 'Coach Parr' the Macalester baseball program tests the later part of that stereotype. The way he organizes our practices is impressive. One day I would like to coach, and I have been lucky to play under Coach Parr to learn his tricks. I have no doubt I will one day borrow from the 'Parrian' school of coaching.”
Glasser combines his talent with a determined work ethic, which has enabled him to etch his name in the Macalester record books. His 180 hits rank fourth in school history and he's currently boasting a .356 batting average. He has amassed 100 RBI, 33 doubles, 11 triples and has scored 109 runs. Glasser has been successful on 31-of-37 stolen base attempts.
He struck out just three times in the past three seasons - combined - in 241 at-bats. In 2011, Glasser's ability to make contact was among the best in the NCAA, as he was the toughest player to strike out in Division III, fanning just once in 120 at-bats.
His determination to help Macalester win has led him to play nearly every position in his four seasons. He has seen action at first, second and third base, shortstop and has even pitched in relief.
Glasser has garnered All-MIAC First Team honors as a sophomore and a junior, after being named All-MIAC Honorable Mention as a first year. Glasser received All-Midwest honors as a junior. He has also been named First Team All-American by the Jewish Sports Review the past two seasons.
As a freshman, Glasser saw action in 36 of the Scots’ 38 games. He was second on the team in stolen bases and at bats, third in hits and fourth in batting average, hitting at a .341 clip. He helped Macalester to a 10-10 MIAC record, tied for sixth, and 19-19 overall.
The Scots slipped a bit in Glasser’s sophomore campaign, posting an 8-12 conference record, finishing tied for eighth. Overall, they were 22-17-1. He started all 40 games, ranking second on the team in batting (.348) and stolen bases (eight). In MIAC play, Glasser hit at a .418 clip and led the league in triples. He hit safely in 17-of-20 MIAC games.
Last year, Glasser paced the MIAC in hitting with a blistering .462 batting average in league play, leading the Scots to a 16-4 MIAC record and a share of the conference crown with St. Thomas. They were the second seed in the MIAC Playoffs, where they lost to Hamline 4-3 and beat Saint John’s 3-1 before losing 11-7 to St. Thomas to close the season 26-14.
For the full season, Glasser led the Scots with a .408 batting average and 74 total bases. He belted four home runs, the second highest total on the team. He also recorded a key save against Hamline in regular-season play.
Before the start of his junior season, Glasser, like many in Minnesota that winter, reached a breaking point with the seemingly endless winter. “In February last year, I took an old softball bat and used it to bust down a big snow bank by my apartment,” he said. “It took about a week or two of hard swings to batter the bank down. All those hefty swings helped me quadruple my home run output.” He paused and added, deadpan: “to four.”
With the mild winter this year, Glasser’s power numbers took a dive, as he has yet to go yard. Nevertheless, he ranks among the MIAC leaders with a .350 batting average in league play and is hitting .336 overall. The Scots have been in the thick of the playoff hunt into the final week of the regular season, finishing 9-11 in league play and 19-20 overall.
When he was deciding where to attend college, one of the things that impressed Glasser about Macalester and Parrington was how the coach encouraged his players to get involved in their campus community and take advantage of all that Macalester has to offer. “Not many coaches encourage their players to study abroad and participate in extra-curricular activities,” Glasser said. “However, Coach Parr does this allowing his players to perform at the highest level on and off the field.”
During his junior year, Glasser spent the fall semester studying in Norway. He was part of a group, through HECUA’s Scandinavian Urban Studies Term, that spent the semester studying the Norwegian welfare system and drawing comparisons between it and the system in the U.S. “It was a combination of an Urban Studies and Political Science program,” he said. “We also did some sightseeing.”
As good as Glasser is on the baseball field, what impresses Parrington even more is his overall balance. “He understands the balance of academics, athletics and the rest of college life,” Parrington said. “He embraces this philosophy. His friends extend beyond teammates and athletes. He is a campus leader.”
Glasser has been active in the Improv Team on campus for four years, something he first got interested in as a high school senior. “There are about 10 of us on the team,” Glasser noted. “We typically put on four shows per semester, with our big production in April. One time, Ross Bronfenbrenner, who is also a baseball teammate, and I performed Abbott and Costello’s classic 'Who’s On First?' routine. The team has a strong following on campus.”
In addition, Glasser has been active in the Macalester Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). While not an actual member of SAAC, he helps with various activities the group puts on, including the Toys For Teens campaign over the holidays and food shelf drives.
Glasser is a Psychology major with a minor in Religious Studies. His post-graduation plans are open-ended. “Eventually, I may go to grad school and get an MBA in sports management,” he said. “But I don’t want to stop playing baseball just yet. I hope to catch on in the pro game at some level, either in the U.S. or overseas.”
It is not surprising that baseball is part of Glasser’s plans for the future. The game has been a part of his life since early childhood on Chicago’s North Side. “My dad is a big White Sox fan, and he raised me to be a Sox fan, too, which isn’t always easy on the North Side,” Glasser stated.
He started playing organized ball at the age of 5. “I played T-ball, Little League and, by the time I was 12, I was playing on a traveling team,” he recalled. “Over the next five years, I was on traveling teams that played all over Illinois, and in Indiana, Ohio, Georgia and even Florida. The [Under]-14 team I was on won the AAU national championship, which was in Florida. The team I was on had a lot of inner city kids on it. I was often the only Jewish or white kid on the team.”
Glasser was a four-year starter at shortstop for the Latin School. He also pitched regularly and was named to the All-Conference team each of his four seasons. As a senior, Glasser was named the Most Valuable Player in the conference. “All four years, we came close but never won our regional championship,” he noted. “After I graduated, Latin has won the Region three times in a row.”
Initially, Glasser did not plan to attend a small liberal arts college, but when he attended a Headfirst Honor Roll Camp held in Virginia, he became exposed to a number of top academic schools. The showcase featured schools like Harvard, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Emory and Macalester among other top-tier academic schools. The program that enables these schools to connect with prospective baseball players who might not otherwise consider an elite school.
One of the coaches Glasser met there was Parrington. “I liked him a lot right off the bat,” Glasser said. “He took interest in me.”
Glasser’s father was very impressed with Macalester’s academics and touted the school to his son. Glasser’s mother’s boyfriend had a brother who had attended St. Thomas and was familiar with Macalester, and he too spoke highly of the school. “It got me to realize that I can use my baseball skills to get a good education at a strong school,”
Ultimately, Glasser’s choice came down to Emory and Macalester. “It came down to the people I met at Mac,” said. “I revoked my early decision to Emory and committed to Macalester.”
Baseball provided Glasser with a rather unique opportunity before he arrived at Macalester. “Rob Novotny, who had coached me when I was younger, had moved to Australia in the 1990s and married the catcher of an Australian women’s baseball team,” said Glasser. “In the summer of 2008, Rob called and said he was bringing his Australian team to play in tournaments in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and South Bend, Indiana. I was their first base coach and we won both tourneys.”
Looking back, Glasser is struck by how fortunate he has been over the years. “I am so grateful to my parents and grandparents for the opportunities they gave me,” he said. ”They are the ones who took me to my several sport and chess tournaments. They were able to provide me with private baseball lessons and even chess lessons. This is something that I now realize was something many kids would and will never get the opportunity to do.”
Parrington is grateful for all that Glasser has done for the Macalester baseball program. “Mitch is one of the most enjoyable athletes we’ve had in our program. The impact he has had on the program is incredible. Mitch Glasser will be successful in anything he undertakes.”
As his senior season comes to an end, Glasser looks back fondly on his experiences at Macalester. “When I was deciding between applying early to either Emory or Macalester my dad told me this: 'You have the unique opportunity to choose the kind of people you will be surrounded by for four years.' When I visited Mac, it was clear that these were the guys, professors and coaches I wanted to be around. 
“Since being at Macalester, I have realized that the combination of academics, sports, and extra-curricular activities offered at Macalester was perfect for me. Because so many great people surrounded me, it drove me to want to succeed and live up to their standard.”

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