Camp has MLB flair

After a combined 16 seasons in Major League Baseball you'd think Glendon Rusch and Matt Whisenant would just want to just relax and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

However, the two still hit the diamond on a day-to-day basis.

The only difference now is they're concerned about helping improve other athletes' games, not just their own.

The Full Count Baseball Academy was co-founded by Rusch and Whisenant. For the past year, Full Count has been hosting private lessons out of West Coast Sports Management in Pasadena, along with camps in the Foothills.

Whisenant is originally from La Cañada, graduating from La Cañada High. Rusch hails from Seattle and currently resides in La Cañada.

The two first met when Whisenant was traded from the Florida Marlins to the Kansas City Royals, where Rusch was carving out a name for himself as a rookie.

Rusch's Major League debut came April 6, 1997, after being drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 1993. Toward the end of his career he bounced between starting and relief duties on the mound. He was a bit of a journeyman, splitting 12 seasons playing for the Royals, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres before retiring after the 2009 season.

His best season came in 2000 with the Mets. He posted his season-best 4.01 earned-run average, 11 wins and 157 strikeouts in 1902/3 innings pitched.

Whisenant, originally drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1989, made his MLB debut on the July 4, 1997. He hung up his cleats after the 2000 season after spending four seasons of professional ball with the Kansas City Royals, San Diego Padres and Marlins.

He spent his career as a relief pitcher, recording nine wins, a career 4.96 ERA with 114 strikeouts and three saves in 158 innings.

Over their two-year span as teammates, Rusch and Whisenant became best friends. During that time, Whisenant's wife introduced Rusch to her sister. The two hit it off and got married, which promoted the pair from friends to family.

After Rusch retired in 2009, the brothers-in-law saw their vision of starting a youth baseball academy in the Foothills come to fruition.

Recently, they have begun hosting a few camps. In early July, they arranged a pitcher's development camp and hosted their first rookie camp at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge baseball fields from Aug. 2-4, which was sponsored by La Cañada Imports.

The three-day camp was geared for players ages 5-8 and taught basic fundamentals of fielding, throwing, hitting and base running.

"The main goal is to get these kids out learning the game at the youngest age possible," Rusch said. "We give them the basic fundamentals so as they get older they have the proper base, while learning about and enjoying the game."

Players practiced drills in throwing accuracy, fielding grounders, diving for balls and hitting. The main goal of the camp was to have fun, which was evident by the pizza party thrown at the camp's conclusion.

"The highlight so far has been just seeing how much the kids have enjoyed it," Rusch said. "They have really had a good time and I think that will build for future camps."

Rusch said Full Count chose La Cañada as the site of rookie camp because the organizers feel the town's baseball prowess has slipped a bit since Whisenant was a kid.

"It's just one of those places in need of some more instruction," Whisenant said. "Hopefully, we can help take youth baseball to where it should be here, which is better than most of the other areas around. There is plenty of talent in La Cañada."

A number of Major League Baseball players have roots in La Cañada, including Mark Loretta and Gregg Zaun. Whisenant and Rusch want to keep that success coming.

"We are working with kids anywhere from 5 years old to college-aged," Whisenant said. "We cover every age group and hopefully we give them something they can use at the next level."

Copyright © 2019, La Cañada Valley Sun
EDITION: California | U.S. & World