Kyle Glogoski didn't grow up a baseball fan. He didn't have posters of his favorite players on the walls of his bedroom, he doesn't have any memories of going to the ballpark to watch his favorite team, he never played Little League. Heck, he didn't even own his own glove until he was 12 years old.
As a kid in Auckland, New Zealand, Glogoski didn't really know anything about the sport. In fact, he wouldn't have ever picked up a ball if it weren't for a sign on the side of the road. But as a member of the Class A Lakewood pitching staff at the beginning of his second professional season in the Phillies organization, the 20-year-old right-hander has not only put himself on the fast track though the system, he's also become an ambassador of the game for his native country.
"I really owe it all to my mom and dad, who saw a sign on the street that said, 'Sign up for baseball now,' and told me to give it a go. So they took me down to the field the next day, and that's how I got into it," Glogoski said. "It just wasn't a popular sport in New Zealand. We only had about five or six teams that played during the summer."
Steve Mintz, manager of the Auckland Tuatara club in the Australian Baseball League, credits Glogoski with helping to change that.
"Baseball was not a huge thing there, but it continues to grow and develop, and Kyle has been a trailblazer for that movement," said Mintz, who's also the pitching coach for Class A Advanced Down East. "He's showing people what is possible, so in that aspect he has accomplished quite a bit to this point."
For the first two years that he played baseball, Glogoski took the field behind the plate as the catcher for his local club team. However, on one fateful day when he was 14, the squad ran out of pitchers. The team's coach handed him the ball and told him to take the mound.
"I was throwing really hard and the coach just kept putting me out there," Glogoski said, "and I grew a love for the position."
It was around this time that he began following the career of Scott Campbell, who was in the Toronto Blue Jays organization and also from Auckland.
"Scott gave me hope that I could become a professional baseball player, too, someday," he said.
Chasing a dream
In 2014, Glogoski pitched for New Zealand in the World Baseball Softball Confederation World Championship in Mexico as a 15-year-old.
"That was a really good experience for me. I got to play against teams like USA and see the level of competition across the world and see what I could compete against," he said. "It made me realize that in the game of baseball it doesn't matter if people are bigger or stronger than you. You've just got to go out there and compete and play your game and you will have success."
He continued to hone his craft and in 2016 became the youngest player to be part of the New Zealand Diamondblacks men's national team. He traveled with the squad that year to the World Baseball Classic Qualifiers in Sydney, Australia.
New Zealand did not qualify for the 2017 tournament, but the 17-year-old made an appearance out of the bullpen in a 17-7 blowout of the Philippines on Feb. 12. The right-hander tossed a perfect inning and notched a strikeout.
"I think he was a little nervous, maybe a little [intimidated] -- it was the first time he was on the big screen like that -- but he did well. He wasn't overmatched," said D.J. Carrasco who served as New Zealand's bullpen coach at the time and is currently a scout for the Dodgers. "They could have easily gone through without using him at all, but I thought it was the right time to bring him in. He had better stuff than a lot of the older guys. He was just a little ahead of his time, and he was ready to be on that stage.
"I had worked with him for some time, and I was pulling for him. He always had a lot of pitchability to him. He had four pitches that he threw, and to feature that kind of repertoire at that age was impressive. He was one of our most advanced guys in his peer group. Whenever we would do drills, we'd keep the younger kids together in a separate group, but we thought he was good enough to be part of the big club. … His arsenal, with his willingness to learn and listen, really separated him."
And learning and listening were Glogoski's priorities at the time.
"I really wasn't going there expecting to play," he said. "I went there to take notes and learn about the game. A lot of guys there had pro ball experience, and the coaching staff was just unbelievable.
"Even though the game was a blowout, I knew I was facing a team full of pro baseball players, so I was pretty nervous. But I was really happy about the experience, and it gave me hope for the future. I just told myself to keep working hard and good things will happen."
Making the dream a reality
And good things did happen. That performance catapulted Glogoski onto the radar of scouts around the ABL and Major League Baseball. At the start of 2017 he was invited to Florida, where he played for an MLB select World Team and faced Major League Baseball rookie teams in six games at different Spring Training facilities in the St. Petersburg area.
He continued to turn heads there, posting several shutout innings, and he began a dialogue with several Major League organizations before returning home.
"I think at that point, I realized it was just a matter of the right moment and making sure I was ready for it," he said.
Glogoski pitched for the Sydney Blue Sox of the ABL that winter, appearing in five games and whiffing 10 over 12 1/3 innings as talks with Major League teams continued to heat up. In January 2018 -- exactly two days after his 19th birthday -- Glogoski signed with the Phillies as the top-rated player in New Zealand.
"It was a long process for me, and I had offers from about five or six teams that it came down to," he said. "But the Phillies were definitely the team that I wanted to go with. They were the best fit for me."
Philadelphia certainly thought so.
"I was contacted by our scout who was working out of the Sydney-Melbourne area, and he was raving about Kyle," said Phillies director of international scouting Sal Agostinelli. "He sent me a few videos of him, and he had a really, really good arm for an 18-year-old kid. His velocity wasn't off the charts, but the ball came out of his hand clean and hitters had trouble seeing it. His fastball kind of got on guys quick, and he had a good feel for pitching. His breaking balls had a great spin rate. He had a strong, durable frame, too. So I said, 'OK, let's get this done.'"
Glogoski reported to Phillies Minor League Spring Training and, after getting acclimated to pro ball in extended spring camp, was assigned to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Phillies West.
"I was definitely overwhelmed. It was my first time in Spring Training, and I just heard stories about guys throwing 98, 99, 100 mph," he said. "But I had a great coach who told me to stay within myself and identify my strengths and use that to my advantage, and it led to me having early success."
Over the offseason, Kyle Glogoski pitched for his hometown's new team. (Auckland Tuatara)
The 6-foot-2, 183-pounder made 10 appearances (eight starts) in his first professional season and posted a 2.31 ERA and 1.05 WHIP while fanning 47 and walking 11 over 39 frames.
"The biggest thing I learned there was understanding what hitters are looking for and not throwing that," he said. "Keeping guys off-balance, throwing my off-speed in hitters' counts, commanding of all my pitches."
He made a strong impression on Matt Hockenberry, who worked with Glogoski in extended Spring Training, was the GCL Phillies West pitching coach last year and is Lakewood's pitching coach this year.
"Kyle is a fun guy to watch," Hockenberry said. "He's definitely a true competitor out on the mound. He's a guy who is going to use his strength against hitters' strengths and have a lot of success doing it."
A sweet homecoming
Last winter, Glogoski returned home to his native Auckland and was flabbergasted to find out that the city was approved for an expansion team in the ABL. It was the first New Zealand team in the history of the league, and after coming to an agreement with the Phillies on an innings limit, he was granted the opportunity to play for the Tuatara.
"I couldn't believe we were able to pull that off," he said. "Finally getting a pro team in New Zealand was a dream, and I couldn't wait to pitch on home soil and have my friends and family come down to support me."
The agreement between the club and the Phillies was to limit Glogoski to five starts of five innings or fewer, but he was shut down after four starts amounting to 14 2/3 innings. In that stretch, he posted a 1.37 ERA, 0.61 WHIP and amassed 18 punchouts and three walks while holding opponents to a .136 average.
"I just felt like he had done everything he needed to do and he got tired, so it wasn't worth another start for me," Mintz said. "So I told them he wasn't going to make that last start and he was happy with it, and the Phillies were very appreciative.
"But I'm glad he got the chance to do what he did. There's a lot of passion among people here about where they come from, and it's a pride thing to be able to do that for your country and for your city."
And despite the success he enjoyed on the mound, Glogoski said the most important experience he had during his time with the Tuatara was giving his parents the ball he warmed up with before his first home start.
"I owe all of this to them," he said. "I was super-proud to pitch in front of them."
He tossed five scoreless frames in that game, allowing one hit and whiffing six.
On the fast track
Glogoski reported to Minor League camp again this spring and was sent to the BlueClaws to open the season. Through four appearances out of the Lakewood bullpen, he has allowed two runs -- one earned run -- on five hits and five walks while whiffing 17 over 11 1/3 frames. The dominant outings make him 2-1 with an 0.79 ERA.
"He's got a really high intelligence for what he's doing out there on the mound," Hockenberry said. "He uses a really good changeup, mixes in a decent curveball and he's got really good life and ride on his fastball -- it doesn't slow down. It just kind of hops up in hitters' eyes. And his biggest growth is the continued success with competing in the zone against hitters."
Although he's worked exclusively out of the 'pen this year, that won't last long.
"We do a piggyback system here in Lakewood to teach guys to be efficient and get through innings on minimal pitches," Hockenberry said. "But right now, Kyle is getting stretched out and will eventually be starting.
"Kyle is just one of those guys -- you kind of fall in love with the way he throws the ball and his competitive nature. He's very self-aware, and he can use his own self-awareness and intelligence to be better than hitters. Right now, he's working on reading a swing and commanding different pitches to different zones and just trusting his stuff."
Glogoski hopes join his hometown team again this winter, but if Philadelphia says no, he will understand why. He's grateful for the opportunity he was afforded last year and remains focused on chasing down the ultimate dream -- toeing the rubber of a big league mound.
"He's got the stuff to make it, but I think the biggest obstacle for any young pitcher is health, first and foremost," said Mintz, who's in his 30th year in baseball. "Understanding what you need to do to prepare yourself every single day, learning your body -- understanding what you can and can't do. And, honestly, just believing you're good enough. A lot of the time what separates guys who eventually become Major Leaguers is actually believing you can do it. And I think he does believe it."
Rob Terranova is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RobTnova24.