The AquaSox’s Cash Gladfelter (left) looks for the call after tagging the Volcanoes’ Medrona Robinson out at third base during a game on July 15, 2018, at Everett Memorial Stadium. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The AquaSox’s Cash Gladfelter (left) looks for the call after tagging the Volcanoes’ Medrona Robinson out at third base during a game on July 15, 2018, at Everett Memorial Stadium. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

AquaSox’s Gladfelter cashing in after unusual path to minors

A growth spurt and a successful career at Shippensburg led Cash Gladfelter to pro baseball.

Take a glance at Cash Gladfelter, and you’ll observe the stereotypical corner outfielder/infielder profile: He’s 6-foot-4 with a slender, but filled out, frame with long strides on the basepaths, a strong arm to make all the necessary throws and some pop at the plate.

Around the ballpark, Gladfelter is cheerful and enjoys the long days professional baseball presents.

But just six years ago, those traits hardly applied to Gladfelter.

In fact, entering his junior year of high school at West York in York, Pennsylvania, Gladfelter says he checked in at 5-foot-6, 120 pounds, and at that time of his life, baseball was an afterthought. A three-sport athlete, Gladfelter’s first love was football, then basketball and then baseball.

There’s been some fortuitous occurrences that have catapulted the AquaSox utility player to the professional ranks.

First and foremost, there’s the growth spurt. Gladfelter said by his senior year he stretched out to just under 6-foot and by his freshman season at Shippensburg University, a Division-II school in Pennsylvania, he was 6-foot-3.

While his spike in height was colossal and sudden, falling in love with the sport of baseball was a gradual process.

Gladfelter’s original plan in high school was to attend the University of South Carolina and pursue medical school. While baseball wasn’t his favorite sport, it was easily his best. By his senior season in high school he was attracting some interest from schools for baseball and eventually committed to Misericordia University in Dallas, Pennsylvania, a Division-III program.

But to Gladfelter’s benefit, Shippensburg stumbled upon him at the last second.

Adam Sheibley, who is now the head coach at Elizabethtown College, but was the recruiting coordinator at Shippensburg from 2013-2015, was at one of Gladfelter’s final high school games to scout a player on the other team, but he quickly noticed Gladfelter.

“I was watching the game and I see this tall, smooth-fielding shortstop moving around the infield throwing BBs across the field,” Sheibley said.

So began the hunt to find out more about Gladfelter. There were current members of the Shippensburg team that played against Gladfelter in high school that identified him, then Sheibley googled him, searched him on Twitter and couldn’t find much.

Sheibley eventually found his contact information and persuaded Gladfelter into taking a campus visit. Shippensburg offered him a spot on the team and Gladfelter committed right away.

Gladfelter, now in his second season of professional baseball, is fond of that sequence in retrospect.

“I can’t thank (Shippensburg) enough, because there’s a very high chance I wouldn’t be where I am today without them,” he said.

Gladfelter slid in as the Raiders’ primary first baseman as a freshman before assuming a starting spot at shortstop as a sophomore and a junior. Over his three-year career at Shippensburg, Gladfelter hit .318 with 98 RBI, 40 doubles, seven triples and 10 home runs.

The most productive season was his sophomore campaign, the year Gladfelter said he grew a robust affinity for baseball. Gladfelter hit .370 with 40 RBI, 19 doubles, two triples and two homers.

It’s also the season that put Gladfelter on the radar of professional baseball teams. During the fall baseball season before his junior year, Gladfelter arrived to the field early about 15 times to accommodate pro scouts that wanted to watch him take batting practice.

The excitement and stress took a toll on him during the early part of the season. Gladfelter got off to a slow start, but still finished with a .323 average and 20 extra-base hits.

The slow start never halted the Mariners’ interest, as Gladfelter was taken in the 27th round by Seattle in the 2018 MLB draft.

Gladfelter didn’t have an agent during the draft and said he was fielding phone calls the entire morning in the gym and negotiating with clubs himself before the Mariners agreed to take him.

“It was the best day of my life, and the most stressful day of my life,” he said.

That stress bled into his first professional season.

Gladfelter was demoted from Everett to the Arizona Rookie League last year after hitting just .182 in 19 games with the AquaSox and he hit just .241 in 11 games in Peoria at the Mariners’ spring training complex.

“I didn’t have much confidence,” he said. “I had an athletic swing, I’d call it. It was a swing I could get away with at the Division-II level, but now that I’m here and facing guys 90-to-95 (mph), I worked with our hitting coaches on perfecting a swing. And I finally found a swing that I really enjoy.”

Gladfelter belted his first career home run in the AquaSox’s home opener on June 21, but was sidelined with a wrist injury after that. But his swing still packed a punch after he returned on July 3. Gladfelter was hitting .300 with a pair of doubles and a triple in his past seven games.

Staying true to himself has led to success.

“He’s a strong guy, he has a lot of power, but he tried to overpower the baseball and you can’t do that. You can’t overpower the pitcher, because the pitcher is the one that supplies the power,” Everett hitting coach Joe Thurston said. “We’re just trying to keep him to stay within himself.”

While Gladfelter was a shortstop in college, he’s been a Swiss army knife defensively in the Mariners’ organization, logging innings at all four infield positions and both corner outfield spots. He even pitched 1/3 of an inning, but that won’t likely continue — Gladfelter was ejected for plunking a batter in a July 6 blowout loss to Eugene.

As for his first name? No, he’s not named after country icon Johnny Cash. Rather, his mother, Louisa, picked it out of a baby name book.

The origin behind his unusual first name is ordinary, but Gladfelter’s path to professional baseball is far from that.

“It’s been a crazy ride,” Gladfelter said. “It’s hard to imagine that I would be at this point. But I love it.”

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