Glenn, Trojans look to tap in to potential

USC sophomore outfielder Alex Glenn knows all too well what it’s like to fly under the radar.

After all, during the first two years of his high school career at Henry County High School, Glenn patrolled the outfield with Jason Heyward, the No. 14 pick of the 2007 MLB draft and the current right fielder for the Atlanta Braves.

Needless to say, the two players have taken different paths since their high school days in McDonough, Ga.

For Heyward, the path was a rather smooth and painless one.

A first-round draft pick, the No. 1 ranked prospect in the Braves organization by Baseball America a year later and then within three years, starting on their opening day roster.

For Glenn, although the road to fulfilling his personal dreams was paved with good intentions, the trek is still just beginning.

“I look at Jason as a mentor, for what he has been able to do,” Glenn said. “Getting a chance to watch him on the field and off, to see how he carried himself, was very important for me.”

Glenn was also drafted, albeit in the 37th round of the 2009 draft by the Florida Marlins.

His draft status, however, was in no way indicative of the type of talent he put on display for four seasons at Henry County High School.

One look at No. 24 roaming the outfield, running down the baseline or taking a pitch with power the opposite way, it’s not difficult to see that he has all the tools.

So why did he plummet down the draft board in 2009?

After much deliberation with his family members upon graduation, Glenn decided that unless he was presented with an offer he couldn’t refuse, it was more practical to take the traditional route: testing his skills at the collegiate level while also getting an education.

So the big winner in the Alex Glenn sweepstakes was, of course, USC.

But after last year’s subpar freshman campaign in a limited role, you would have been hard-pressed to convince the outfielder or former USC coach Chad Kreuter that either had benefited from his measly 14 starts.

Although a .193 batting average with 11 hits, 12 RBIs and two stolen bases doesn’t even scratch the surface of Glenn’s potential, a summer of changes — in his own game and in the USC program — have the sophomore all smiles about the Trojans’ 2011 season, which begins Friday night against Missouri.

When Frank Cruz was hired on an interim basis to take over the coaching duties for Kreuter, Glenn admits a monkey was essentially lifted off his back.

“Last year I was just so worried about not getting cut and then working to get playing time, that at times I stopped being myself out there,” Glenn said. “This year coach Cruz has told me that he wants me to be more aggressive. And I like that, because the one thing I pride myself most on is my speed.”

And if there is one glaring issue that has plagued USC throughout its five-year run of futility, it is base running.

Last year, the Trojans not only finished last in the Pac-10 with 34 stolen bases, but their top base-stealer, junior first baseman Ricky Oropesa, only swiped seven bags.

As a result, Glenn, who has the speed needed to swipe bags on a consistent basis, is looking to help the Trojans improve their non-existent running game.

“It’s all about my work ethic and the mental side of the game,” Glenn said. “I need to just take things one game at a time in terms of handling the failure, and just having fun. I need to just enjoy the game.”

Although Glenn will add a level of flexibility to Cruz’s lineup card, a lot of the pressure will still fall on the broad shoulders of some of the team’s more seasoned players: Oropesa (.353, 20 HRs and 67 RBIs), junior outfielder Alex Sherrod (.315, six home runs and 28 RBIs) and senior infielder Joe De Pinto (.286, 72 hits and 23 RBIs).

All three should allow Glenn the opportunity to flourish in a supporting, under-the-radar-type role — an identity the 19-year-old plans to embrace with open arms.

“It’s going to be a lot like it was when I was playing in high school with guys that were going to be drafted or playing at big schools,” Glenn said. “ The other teams don’t know a lot about, so the pressure isn’t on me to be the guy, I just have to go out there and play hard on a nightly basis.”

And although the future isn’t as black and white for the USC outfielder as it was for his former high school teammate, something tells me flying under the radar might be just the thing that once again sparks a breakout year not only for Glenn, but for the Trojans as well.

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