A Closer's Mentality
Feb. 17, 2011
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Chuck Ghysels has all of the tools to be a successful pitcher in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He is experienced, having spent his freshman season at the University of Dayton before transferring to Lincoln Trail College, where he was a National Junior College Athletic Association All-American.
He is skilled, racking up 117 strikeouts and posting a 1.36 ERA at Lincoln Trail and earning a spot on the NJCAA USA Baseball All-Star team that competed in the Netherlands. He has composure, as he allowed only 12 runs in 79 innings of work last season. But what sets Ghysels apart isn't his arm, it's his attitude.
When head coach Erik Bakich first saw Ghysels on campus, he knew immediately that there was something different about his pitcher.
"He showed up on our campus with a six-inch goatee hanging off of his chin, baggy jeans, and a bunch of necklaces that looked like a Mr. T starter kit," said Bakich. "I thought, `this guy has a mentality that fits that of a closer.'"
The goatee is now gone because of team policy, but that does not affect the pitcher's attitude.
"You have to have that edge about you," said Ghysels. "Some people may perceive it as me being extremely confident. I use that to play this game. Having that as an edge on your shoulder helps to come in and close the door."
Ghysels wants to apply the same mentality pitching in the ACC that led him to success at the junior-college level.
"The ACC is definitely a major step up," said Ghysels. "This is as good as it gets. Baseball is faster. Each level you go up it gets faster and faster. But if you can have the mind control to slow the game down and use your routines to take things one pitch at a time, it slows the game down a lot."
Coach Bakich and the rest of the staff have confidence that Gyhsels will be able to make a successful transition this season.
"I think he is a little bit of an anomaly from your typical junior-college kid because he has been at Division I before and he has competed at a very high level representing our country at the junior-college level," said Bakich. "That's what separates him in terms of experience, which is why his transition has been easier."
Ghysels has also been working with coaches to improve his command in preparation for the season. He came in with two strong pitches, a fastball and a slider-curveball, but the coaches are looking to add a changeup to his arsenal. They would also like to see Ghysels be more accurate with his pitch location.
"At the junior-college level I was `wildly effective,' but here I am looking to hit my spots and add more movement to my pitches," said Ghysels. "It's been coming along very well."
With the added work, the coaches will look to call on Ghysels in tough situations. Bakich noted that Ghysels will be one of two pitchers coming into games late to close.
"He is a hard worker and a real competitor," said Bakich. "He is going to be pitching in some tight jams and some big roles, but we expect a lot of big things out of Chuck this year."
Ghysels, who was a 36th-round selection by the Cincinnati Reds in last year's MLB Draft, is ready to get the season started with the Terps. He is excited to showcase his abilities on the mound, but also to prove doubters wrong about this year's team.
"The projections are that we aren't going to finish around the top," said Ghysels. "I don't believe that. There is no reason why we can't finish near the top. We have a lot of talent and dedication in this group. Literally, I've never been around a harder-working team in my life, in the weight room and on the field. We have a few clowns on the team, but you need that at times to lighten it up. When it comes down to it, I don't think this is a rebuilding year."
And when Ghysels heads to the mound for the first time in College Park, he'll have a song playing that matches his closer's mentality.
"I'm going to walk out to "Bad Company" by Five Finger Death Punch. My best friend is in the Special Forces and I saw him over Christmas break. I had liked the song before, but he told me that when he flies out on the chopper that's the song they play. I grew up with him, and he is really close to me. That's what I'll be walking out to."