Where can a guy learn how to throw a cut fastball these days?
Albuquerque Isotopes pitching coach Glenn Dishman did just that at a recent Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) meeting at Isotopes Park.
It’s not a pitch he used during his career, but as a pitching coach, it’s a grip he’s familiar with.
It’s safe to say, the game has a grip on him, too.
Dishman, 43, was born in Baltimore and raised there and then New York before his family headed west to California.
He was playing — sparingly — for the University of California-Berkeley baseball team when the first base coach suggested he look elsewhere to get more playing time. He wound up at Texas Christian, which gave him his first look at Albuquerque — pitching against the University of New Mexico at Lobo Field — and pitched well enough that he was signed as a non-free agent by the San Diego Padres in June 1993.
That wouldn’t be the first suggestion Dishman listened to that paid dividends: After his playing days ended, his wife, Paisley, told him he wouldn’t be happy putting his TCU degree in management to good use, that maybe he should think about staying in baseball as a coach.
After the Padres signed him, Dishman began a rapid rise through the minors, going 11-8 in just his second season, with Wichita in the Texas League, and even getting a cursory look by the Class AAA Las Vegas Stars before the 1994 Pacific Coast League season ended. A lot of teams like tall lefties, and Dishman had even registered a career highlight a mere five weeks after signing to go pro: He tossed a no-hitter for Spokane against Yakima on July 17, 1993, in the Northwest League.
He made 14 starts for the Stars in 1995, going 6-3, and got his first taste of the big leagues when the parent-club Padres promoted him in June 1995. He had been leading the PCL in ERA (2.55) at the time of his promotion.
Dishman made his MLB debut on June 22, 1995, when he started against Colorado and its “Blake Street Bombers” at Jack Murphy Stadium. There, Dishman scattered seven hits, including a home run to Ellis Burks, and surrendered three earned runs in what turned out to be a 3-2 loss for him and the Padres.
It was his first of 16 starts as the youngster joined the rotation; he finished with a 4-8 record and 5.01 earned-run average that rookie season.
He was back in Sin City for most of 1996, going 6-8 with three complete games in 26 starts, and 0-0 in three relief appearances with the big club.
The Philadelphia Phillies grabbed him via waivers on Sept. 12, 1996, and after using him in just four games, including a start, he was released; this time, the Detroit Tigers selected him off the waiver wire.
He played in seven games with the Tigers in 1997, making four starts and going 1-2; he was back in triple-A, with the Toledo Mud Hens, for the bulk of that season and went 7-6.
His last MLB appearance came on Sept. 7, 1997, at Tiger Stadium, where he worked the final three innings of a 5-4, 15-inning loss to the Anaheim Angels.
According to retrosheet.org, that game had an interesting finish: Tigers manager Buddy Bell was ejected by plate umpire Mike Everitt (a native of Aztec, N.M.) in the top of the 15th and third baseman Phil Nevin, then a teammate of Dishman and currently the manager of the Reno Aces, “was on deck at the end of the game (and) tossed his helmet after the last pitch; as the umpires entered the Tigers dugout walking to their dressing room, Nevin tossed a batting glove toward Everitt.” (Nevin and the Aces took two of three games from the host Isotopes the weekend of Dishman’s talk.)
All told, his MLB career left him with a 5-10 record and 5.25 ERA in 33 games (21 starts).
After a year out of the game, Dishman bounced around baseball the next four seasons: Independent Sonoma County (1999 and 2002), double-A Huntsville (2000) and triple-A Reynosa (2001, Mexican League).
Dishman is in his fourth full season with Albuquerque and fifth overall in the role (he joined the club midway through the 2010 season). He wears No. 33, the same number he wore in his debut with the Padres.
Under his guidance, eight pitchers were promoted to the L.A. Dodgers throughout the 2013 season. Aside from Albuquerque, Dishman served as pitching coach for six other teams. He said Charlie Hough was his best mentor during his early coaching days.
Just as he had done as a player, but much slower, Dishman’s climb with the Dodgers began at Class A Columbus in 2005 and through the organization to Vero Beach (2006), Great Lakes (2007, where he worked with then-19-year-old Clayton Kershaw), Jacksonville (2008), Chattanooga (2009) and the Arizona League Dodgers (2010).
He’s proud of the work he did with southpaw Kershaw, and told the SABR Rio Grande Chapter that a pitching coach needs to be part-psychologist, too.
Baseball is known for its head games and sometimes, the Dodgers’ plans for pitchers with the Isotopes change. Often, a series of bad outings spell “released” in the transactions agate, while sometimes struggling pitchers are demoted in the Dodgers’ chain.
The hardest part of being a pitching coach, Dishman said, comes when it’s time to tell a guy goodbye.
“(Dodgers pitching coach Rick) Honeycutt and I talk all the time,” he said.
Honeycutt, of course, gets to make almost all of the decisions facing the Dodgers’ staff; he also needs to make sure Dishman keeps his staff in its roles, as well as when a guy might not be available for an Isotopes’ game because he might be summoned to the Dodgers for a spot start.
Articulate and considerate, Dishman often displays his sense of humor, probably best exemplified when he predicted his staff’s earned-run average will be at least a point (a run) higher than it was in 2013. (The Isotopes’ ERA in 2013 was a respectable 4.05, fourth-best in the PCL; 29 pitchers were entailed in at least one game apiece.)
What will you do then, he was asked, to which he replied, “Drink a lot of beer.”
IsoTopics: Dishman, whose real first name is the palindrome “Glenelg,” got a kick out of an old Albuquerque Dukes’ game box score (provided by this reporter, the official scorer for that game) vs. The Stars on May 14, 1995, when Dishman started and went eight innings — his eighth consecutive start of at least seven innings — in a 5-4, 14-inning Dukes victory.
… Dishman has been named to the Triple-A All-Star Game field staff for the PCL, along with Bob Skube, hitting coach for the Nashville Sounds. Bob Mariano, who as at the helm of the Fresno Grizzlies, will serve as the manager for the PCL. The All-Star Game will be held at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, home of the International League’s Bulls, on Wednesday, July 16, at 5:07 p.m. on MLB Network as well as the Triple-A All-Star Game Radio Network.
… After wrapping up a series in El Paso on Thursday, the ‘Topes are home for eight games against Las Vegas (Friday through Sunday) and El Paso (Monday-Thursday). Saturday features a are day-night doubleheader, with contests at noon and 7 p.m.
… Due to the overwhelming demand for tickets to see the July 4th fireworks extravaganza, berm seating for Friday’s game between the Isotopes and Las Vegas is on sale. Berm tickets are $9 each and are available at the Isotopes Park Box Office and at Ticketmaster outlets, including Internet (abqisotopes.com), phone and retail locations. The box office is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
… Fireworks are also scheduled (weather permitting) after Saturday’s night game. Saturday’s games are seven-inning contests and separate tickets are required for each game. UNM will not charge for parking for the noon game.