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Sports Then and Now

Cleveland Indians’ Jason Grilli Writes Next Chapter

Posted on March 17, 2010 by Todd Civin
Jason Grilli as he prepared to make the roster of the 2010 Indians

Jason Grilli as he prepared to make the roster of the 2010 Indians

Over the past several months, one of my wildest baseball dreams has been realized. Not blessed with an overabundance of skill on the baseball field, it is beyond my greatest expectations that I’d ever have the chance to rub elbows with one of the chosen ones who has been dually blessed with extraordinary baseball skills.

As surreal as it seems to me, Cleveland Indians pitcher, Jason Grilli, and I became buddies last November through our work with the award winning children’s baseball book, A Glove of Their Own, and have become good friends over the six or so months that have passed.

Nearly every morning, the phone rings at my house in rural Massachusetts, and the name “Jason Grilli” pops up on the Call ID. I scratch my head in amazement that a “real live baseball player” would be calling ‘lil ol’ me, answer the call and hear the voice of a bonafide major league pitcher the other end of the line.

“It’s time for Coffee with Grilli, man,” chuckles the big right-hander calling from either his home in Florida and his hotel in Arizona. “On my way to the field and figured I’d give Civ a call.”

I joke with Grilli, that the only thing we have in common is that he wears Number 49 on the back of his jersey and my

Italy v Canada - World Baseball Classic Tornoto Day 3

left handed fast ball tops out at a high of 49 miles per hour. In truth, however, we share a lot of the same beliefs and ideals about baseball, family, business and life and it has become a valuable friendship for both of us.

Grilli keeps my spirit high as I continue to try to solve my own personal unemployment crisis and I try to motivate him as he pitches towards his next big league roster spot with the Cleveland Indians. At the same time, we work together on his blog, Wild Pitch Marketing, where Grilli shares his keen business skills and I use my wordsmithing abilities. A win/win for both of us.

Grilli’s road to that roster spot, took an unexpected detour last week, however, when he injured his quad muscle while running a drill towards the end of a practice session at the Indians Spring Training facility in Goodyear, AZ.

His emotions have run the full gamut from disbelief to heartache, to a brief period of why me to acceptance and inspiration. His career has in many ways become a lesson in overcoming obstacles and his recent injury presents him with yet another chapter. As his Facebook status read last night on the eve of his anticipated surgery, “Ready for my wheel alignment tomorrow. Ready “Steady” for your healing hands.”

As he prepared for this morning’s surgery in Vail, Colorado, we enjoyed our morning ‘cup of joe’ and Grilli shared his thoughts on his off-season preparation, his injury and his continued commitment towards pitching next season in the Major Leagues.

Todd Civin: You seemed to work harder during this off-season than ever before. Why was this camp so important to you?

Jason Grilli: This season was a new beginning for me.  The past two years were hard off the field more from the standpoint of moving my family around the country.  We were ecstatic to be going close to home with a familiarity of a division I have spent a lot of time in.

I worked my butt off because I knew that I could help this team and mold my career to be one place for a long time.  I was so focused and still am. Just refocusing my energy into other things that I can control right now.  Getting healthy is priority one, but thankfully I have already started a backup plan with my company Perfect Pitch Marketing Group.

TC: How do you think you were progressing regarding gaining a roster spot?

JG: Even though I signed a minor league contract, I felt that my chances of breaking with the club were pretty solid.  The Indians were aware of what I was capable of.  For years they have seen me pitch against them.  The fact that they have seen plenty of me from the other dugout in years past, and filtering other opportunities during my off-season, I felt great about being apart of an organization that I held in high regard before signing there.

TC: Explain how the injury actually occurred.

JG: My day was almost complete.  We were on our last two sprints and when I decelerated and stopped, my leg didn’t.  I was on the ground and was praying that my season wouldn’t be lost after all my hard work.  All I could think of was my family too and how this would affect us all.

TC: Your first thought when you went down and did you realize the severity of it?

JG: My season flashed before my eyes. I was in some serious pain and my leg was cramping really bad.  I didn’t know the severity of it until the doctors revealed what had happened after my MRIs and X-Rays.  I am forever an optimist, but that was a big blow to take to see that yet another challenge lay ahead of me.

TC: You were one of two players that was injured that day, how did the training crew react? Was yours the first or second injury?

JG: I actually saw the trainers carrying Jordan Brown in as I was walking to the conditioning field.  I was the second man down that day.  The training staff was incredible and took great care of me.

TC: What is the actual diagnosis and plan for recovery?

JG: The diagnosis is an extensive quad injury and I am going to see the best specialist for knees in the world.  Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, Colorado.  He has worked on Joe Montana, Kobe Bryant, The U.S. Olympic ski teams to name a few.

He is world renowned and I am lucky to be seen and fixed by the best.  My recovery will begin after he does his part and the rest is on me.  I have been here before and know what work load is involved.  My goal is to pitch some winter ball before next season.

TC: Why you? How has your attitude changed as each day has passed since the injury?

JG: I don’t know why me.  I feel that God has a plan for everyone of us.  Some people scoff at that throwing out God references and all these cliches.  I am so fortunate and would take this injury over some of the daily struggles that so many other people are going through.  The sun comes up each day and I have to have a strong outlook.

Baseball is my passion, but there is so much more to life than just that.  I battle each day and go through the emotions, but know that this is fixable.  I just am looking forward to getting the surgery over so I can get to work on my recovery.  I will be in the Majors again next year!

First Round WBC: Italy v Dominican Republic

TC: What has been the response of your fans, family, teammates?

JG: Everyone has been so supportive.  They have shed tears and felt bad for me, but they know the strength that I have and are feeding from it too.  I have a great support team and collectively will get through it.

TC: Every cloud has a silver lining…have you found it yet?

JG: This is a time that I can be with my family while I rehab to perfect health.  I have my business to keep my mind off of missing an entire season.  I know that this time can be and will be put to good use.

TC: I know you are a spiritual person. How has your faith in God helped you make sense of this?

JG: It is easy to blame God and wrestle with being upset with God as to why stuff in life happens.  I don’t know the reason yet, but will find out down the road.  This is something that will draw me even closer to Him again.  Life moves so fast and we take things for granted and tend to forget really what is important. I just want to take a negative and create another positive from it again. There are people who are dying from wars, cancer, other serious diseases.  I feel blessed to know that this is a fixable thing.

TC: What will your season be like and how will you prepare for next season?

JG: The baseball season will be slow. I will follow how the Indians are doing and will surely root for them. There were so many great guys I was hoping to share the season with. I am focused on keeping my arm strong and get over the rehab portion so I can start where I left off. My mind is strong. I have already made the choice to deal with the cards that have been handed to me.

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report, Sports, Then and Now, and Seamheads. He also shares his top stories on his blog The ‘xoxo’ of Sports. He is a supporter of Team Hoyt, the father/son marathon and triathlon team of Dick and Rick Hoyt. He encourages you to support their movement of “Yes, I Can” by visiting their Web site at .

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