Our inaugural edition of C’s Where Are They Now on C’s Plus Baseball takes a look at the man who may have the best Twitter handle in baseball – @CloserMentality Chuck Ghysels – the closer of the 2013 Vancouver Canadians. There’s no question he showed a closer’s mentality, getting the job done more often that not when he came out of the bullpen. C’s fans will never forget his lively delivery or his animated celebration of finishing out ball games at Nat Bailey Stadium.
The 5-foot-11 righthander came to the Toronto Blue Jays as a non-drafted free agent on June 11, 2012. The native of Springboro, Ohio had a successful high school career in his hometown by winning league MVP honours in 2006 and earning first-team All-State honours in 2007 and 2008, culminating into a league championship in his senior year.
Ghysels remained in Ohio for the start of his collegiate career with Dayton in 2009. He split time as a starter and reliever, posting a record of 3-2 with a 5.63 ERA and K and BB rates of 9.4 and 7.0 respectively. One highlight was earning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week honours for earning two of his three victories during that seven-day span.
Ghysels transferred to Trail Lincoln College in Robinson, Illinois for his sophomore season in 2010. Used strictly out of the bullpen, he won nine of his 10 decisions with a 1.37 ERA, striking out 13.3 batters per nine innings while walking 4.1 per nine. Those numbers earned him an honourable mention JUCO All-American. Baseball America had this to say about his breakout campaign.
…the 5-foot-10, 200-pound righthander has a 90-92 mph fastball that touches 95. There’s effort in his delivery, though his arm strength should get him drafted in the middle rounds. He also has a good curveball but doesn’t always throw it for strikes. After spending his freshman season at Dayton, Ghysels dominated the Illinois juco ranks, finishing among the national leaders with 117 strikeouts in 79 innings. He threw a five-inning no-hitter against Southwestern Illinois in a sectional playoff game and fanned 13 in a nine-inning no-decision in regionals.
He was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 36th round in 2010 but opted to go to Maryland for his junior year instead in 2011. Despite struggling with a 3-4 record, a 5.47 earned run average and a walk rate of 8.1 per nine innings with the Terrapins, he did strike out 10.4 batters per nine in his junior season. His 59 strikeouts placed him second on the Terps. Ghysels split his time between the rotation and the bullpen with nine starts and eight relief appearances. He then played summer ball with the Hamilton Joes of the Great Lakes Collegiate League and posted a 1.98 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP while ringing up 62 batters in 50 innings.
Ghysels pitched off a professional mound for the first time with the Gulf Coast Blue Jays on June 20, 2012 and tossed two scoreless innings with two whiffs and a walk against the Yankees. He had a 1.59 ERA after his first 10 days as a pro but he struggled to a 5.23 mark in July. His first professional save came July 16 against the Tigers as he started to turn his season around. Ghysels strung together seven scoreless one-inning appearances in late July and early August and ended the year with six consecutive spotless games covering 6-1/3 frames. The last two of those outings came with the Dunedin Blue Jays in he which struck out six in two one-inning stints, including five in his season finale September 2. Overall, it was a solid beginning for Ghysels as he struck out 48 batters and walked just seven in 28-2/3 innings while saving seven games.
Ghysels began 2013 in the Midwest League and earned the save in his season debut in Lake County April 5 despite an unearned run on two hits and a walk in his one inning of work. He followed that up with a scoreless frame in Bowling Green three days later. He was unscored upon in eight of his 14 outings but his ERA took a beating as it went up to 5.09. Ghysels won two of three decisions, earning the wins in his last two appearances. He also picked up three saves and struck out 19 batters over 17-2/3 innings but he worked the count to ball four 14 times. The Jays decided to send Ghysels to work on his pitches in extended Spring Training in Dunedin. He contributed a shutout inning with the D-Jays on June 11 before reporting to Vancouver.
His Northwest League tenure did not get off to the best of starts as he was scored upon in his first three appearances but he did notch a save in Salem-Keizer June 21. He began to settle into his role as a key reliever in the C’s bullpen as he ran off four straight scoreless innings in late June and early July, earning two saves in the process. He followed that up with six scoreless outings in a seven-outing span later in July that saw him go three-for-three in save opportunites.
Ghysels’ first appearance in August did not go so well for him personally but everything did work out in the end. He was only scored upon one more time in the month as he put up zeros in 10 of his 12 appearances and made good on five of his six save opportunites, including his last four in a row. His K-BB total was an impressive 51-13 in 29-1/3 innings as he recorded an ERA of 2.15 to go along with 11 saves.
Ghysels continued to excel in the playoffs as he finished off the Everett AquaSox with a shutout ninth in Game 1 of the divisional final at the Nat. He was called upon in relief in Game 2 in the Northwest League final and managed to work his way out of a bases-loaded situation with two crucial outs in the eighth inning against the Boise Hawks.
Ghysels’ next appearance put an exclamation point on his and the Canadians season as he struck out the first two batters before inducing a 6-3 groundout in the ninth inning to set off a celebration of the C’s back-to-back-to-back championships.
That glorious night of September 8, 2013 would turn out to be Ghysels’ last action with the Blue Jays organization as he would be released by Toronto on March 28, 2014. He broke the news of his release on his Twitter account. Despite the disappointing news, he still looked back on his time with Vancouver fondly.
Ghysels continued to play ball at the independent level in 2014 with the Normal CornBelters of the Frontier League for a brief stint before catching on with the Traverse City Beach Bums. Despite 141 strikeouts over 97-1/3 innings and an ERA just above three over two seasons with Traverse City, it wasn’t enough to convince any of the 30 major league clubs to give him another shot in affiliated ball.
Nowadays, Ghysels is working as an instructor with Home Field Instruction in Franklin, Ohio where he helps run baseball camps and clinics. All the best to Chuck Ghysels in his future endeavors and thanks for the memories!