When Dan Bertolini took a good look at his crystal ball back in February, he couldn’t contain his excitement regarding his favorite sophomore shortstop.
"Before the season started, I said I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the conference player of the year," said Dan Bertolini, who recently completed his fourth season as the head coach of the Youngstown State University baseball team.
So what did Bertolini see in his orbuculum?
It was an image of Phillip Glasser smacking line drives all over creation and digging up everything that came his way with relative ease.
However, much like a number of fortune-telling objects, this prophecy turned out to be a hoax.
Due to unprecedented circumstances that have rocked the world in unimaginable ways, the standout 2018 Tallmadge graduate’s potential breakthrough season was abruptly cut short.
Thanks to a deadly respiratory tract infection known as the coronavirus, the Penguins were forced to call it quits just 14 games into the season.
"It was heartbreaking," Glasser said. "Our team had a really good start to the season. We played very clean, hit and pitched the ball well. We won the first three out of four series against bigger schools which was a huge confidence booster."
Glasser found out that his playing days were in serious jeopardy one day before Youngstown State planned a trip to the Bluegrass State for a three-game series against one of its main rivals.
"We were planning on leaving to start conference play against Northern Kentucky," Glasser said. "However, before we left, Coach Bertolini informed us that the Horizon League postponed the season for two weeks.
"A couple hours later, the NCAA canceled the College World Series. A week after, the Horizon League officially canceled all games for the 2020 spring season."
Thus, Glasser, who helped the Blue Devils win their second Division II state title in school history three years ago, had no choice but to deal with this harsh reality.
There would be no accolades for his efforts on the diamond this spring. No chance to capture a Horizon League championship either.
"I felt pretty good about the season from a team and individual standpoint," Glasser said.
Did he ever.
The Penguins, who finished a modest 13-41 the previous season, compiled a 7-7 record before the world came to a halt.
"It was the best start we’ve had since 1997," Bertolini said. "We took two out of three against a top-25 team (Houston) and we beat Pitt (Pittsburgh). We had a very talented group of guys."
The most gifted young man from this group may have been Glasser, a finance major who was the team’s leadoff hitter after bouncing around the batting order for much of last year.
Glasser started all 14 games and batted .291 with 16 hits, seven runs scored and four RBIs. He also drew six walks that led to a very respectable .371 on-base percentage and committed just three errors in 51 chances.
Glasser started 48 games and batted .266 with 49 hits, eight doubles, 27 walks and 20 RBIs as a freshman.
"He took a big step forward from last year to this year," Bertolini said. "He had the best fall of anyone on our team. He took big strides in terms of being a leader of our defense."
Since the virus has victimized so many people throughout the globe, taking part in group activities has been downright impossible.
Baseball facilities, along with fitness centers, were closed due to the frightening pandemic. As for Glasser, keeping his bat and glove handy has been his top priority, regardless of the circumstances.
"I have been working out and practicing baseball as much as I can right now,’ Glasser said. "I want to stay as sharp as possible for when we are allowed to play again.
"Everything seems to change every 24 hours about the coronavirus, but that is out of my control. I just want to stay focused on what I can control."
That includes schoolwork, even though classrooms were forced to shut their doors for the rest of the spring as well. Fortunately for Glasser, technology has proven to be a beautiful thing.
"Our classes went online for the final eight weeks of our semester," he said. "I usually take one to two online classes a semester, so I was fine with it.
"A lot of my classes laid out the reading and assignments we had to learn for each week, so my professors did a good job transitioning to online classes."
Glasser has kept in touch with his former skipper too. Longtime Tallmadge head baseball coach Kenny Linn has been in Glasser’s inner circle for quite some time.
"Coach Linn and I still talk a lot," Glasser said. "He was a great coach and is a great person to have in your corner."
Bertolini has found a permanent place in Glasser’s corner as well. It didn’t take too much convincing. Glasser has been a model player and student ever since he made his way to Mahoning County.
"His work ethic is second to none," Bertolini said. "He understands what it takes. He’s a great student who has a commitment to excellence. He’s the type of person you want in your program."
Bertolini doesn’t need a crystal ball to come to that conclusion either. With Glasser, what you see is what you get. And whenever this virus disappears, Bertolini will stick to what he believes when it comes to his "supernatural" shortstop.
He’s a Horizon League Player of the Year in waiting, according to the veteran coach’s "Glasser" ball.
"It is really nice to know the confidence Coach Bertolini has in me to say that," Glasser said. "It would be an outstanding accolade to receive.
"However, my mindset is to stay focused on the present and what I can control. Going out there with my teammates every game to try to get a win is my No. 1 goal. I believe all the honors will take care of themselves."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Faceto_Gannett.