Leave it to the pros

Glendon Rusch and Matt Whisenant, co-founders of the Full Count Baseball Academy, are passing down their knowledge and experiences to young, professional hopefuls after they spent more than a decade combined playingMajor League Baseball.

No matter what issue a player, of any level, is dealing with, Rusch and Whisenant feel like the Full Count Baseball Academy, based in Pasadena, can help find a resolution. The pair has more than 13 seasons of combined experience as pitchers at the major league level.

"It's very rewarding for us to be able to do what we love to do and be able to share what we've experienced," said Whisenant, who grew up in La Cañada and graduated from La Cañada High in 1989. "We've been at every level and kind of know what they're headed for."

The Full Count Baseball Academy puts on baseball camps and offers individual or group/team lessons for players of all ages and skill levels. The academy is for more than just pitchers, too, even though Rusch and Whisenant both pitched.

Rusch works with the pitchers and Whisenant works with both pitchers and hitters. Angel Sanchez, a former minor leaguer, is also a hitting coach at Full Count. Through EM Speed and Power, a non-profit athletic training company with Pasadena ties, Full Count is able to offer speed and agility training and weight lifting specifically designed for baseball players.

"It's kind of an all-in-one type of service here," Whisenant said.

Brendon Shoemake, a 2011 La Cañada High graduate and All-Area and Rio Hondo League standout, spends Monday through Thursday, up to 10 hours a week, working out at the Full Count facilities.

"They have helped me out enormously in the past year," said Shoemake, who will be playing for UC Santa Barbara this year. "They are great mentors and they are just great guys."

Shoemake's been working on developing a new grip for his curveball at Full Count in order to improve it for the college level. He also takes batting practice and throws a bullpen session at the Full Count facilities two or three times a week. He said his velocity has also improved after working with them for about a year now.

"I feel like they have really helped me," Shoemake said. "I feel like I really am ready for college and without them I don't think I would be. Now I feel like I could just walk in there tomorrow."

That's music to Rusch's ears.

"It's fun working with those guys [who are headed to college]," said Rusch, a La Cañada resident. "You get to see those kids who are going to the next level, especially playing in college, and hopefully paying for part of their education by playing a game."

Jeff Bain has also benefited from pitching lessons with Rusch. Bain was selected to San Marino's varsity baseball squad as a freshman last year and proved to be one of the Titans' go-to pitchers. He threw 39 2/3 innings, the second most for the team, with a 1.94 earned-run average. He also posted a team-high 28 strikeouts.

"[Rusch] definitely did have a big part to play [in my success]," said Bain, who's worked with Rusch for about six months now. "He helped me figure out a lot of things on the mound.

"Other than the usual form and finding new pitches, he's given me a lot more confidence as a pitcher."

More and more high school pitchers have been turning to Full Count to develop their craft, but there are still plenty of beginners who come to the Academy to get their feet wet, too.

"We get both," Rusch said. "We get a lot of parents that want their kids to learn the basic fundamentals, especially at a younger age. They want them to have that base."

Whisenant was a relief pitcher for four major league teams in a three-year span. He recorded nine wins and a career 4.96 ERA with 114 strikeouts and three saves in 158 innings.

Rusch bounced between starting and relief pitching duties for six different teams in 12 seasons before he retired in 2009. His best season came in 2000 with theNew York Mets when he won 11 games with a 4.01 ERA and 157 strikeouts in 190 2/3 innings pitched.

"It's good to know you're learning from someone with that much experience," Bain said. "To know he has that longevity in his career, you can't take his advice for granted. He knows what he's doing."

Full Count has also joined forces with the San Gabriel Valley Cobras, a travel team and former client, to merge their two teams to create an elite program for players, ages 8-14. The plan is to work with a set of kids for six years in order to prepare them for high school baseball.

However, after Full Count comes into contact with players — from a camp to lessons to tryouts — Rusch and Whisenant hope they all walk away feeling like they had a good time and are better prepared for the next step in their baseball career.

"Hopefully, there's no surprises around the corner and you're prepared," Whisenant said. "That's our job. We are trying to prepare you so once you get to that next level you feel comfortable in that setting."

For more information on the Full Count Baseball Academy, from upcoming camps to prices or to schedule a lesson, visit the organization's website, http://www.fullcountbaseballacademy.com.

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