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A Bit More About Grissom

You can read today's piece on Nats first base coach Marquis Grissom here. The guy, clearly, believes in baseball's power as a teaching tool. He told me that 78 percent of the kids in his program, the MGBA, come from single-parent single-family homes. Each age group has a traveling team, and on road trips -- at least when Grissom was around in '07 and '08 -- Grissom ran a tight ship. The players are given books to read. They wear slacks and collared shirts. They eat together.

Last year, one of his 16-year-old teams won the AAU Junior Olympic Game national title.

This year, Grissom expects about 80 percent of the players from his top 18-year-old team to go to college.

A few more outtakes from the story...

Here's Grissom, explaining why he bought houses for all of his family members: "That's a no-brainer. That's how I was raised. If I have four apples I'll give three away and eat one of them. I don't see any other way. I get pissed off sometimes because they still ask [for money], but that's just -- that's them and that's me. When you're blessed, things happen for a reason. My mother and dad picked cotton for 50 cents a day. Before I was born. They talk about it all the time. So now to give them the opportunity to sit back and relax and enjoy the rest of their lives -- they're 86 years old. It don't take a rocket scientist. And my brothers and sisters, they never did anything bad to me, and even if they did I probably woulda done the same thing...

"The man upstairs said, 'This is what you're supposed to do.' And I didn't argue with it. The way I look at it, anybody else in my family would have done the same thing. And maybe they wouldn't but I don't know. It didn't happen to them. It happened to me. It happened to me for a reason. I did what I had to do; what I was told to do. I told a teammate of mine: The reason you don't play everybody day, you aren't doing what you're supposed to do. Not fulfilling his potential. On the field and off the field."

Here's Kasten's account of his first impression of Grissom, circa 1995: "The first day we traded for Marquis Grissom was in spring training --I think '95. And we trained with the Expos in West Palm Beach, so to make this trade Marquis just had to walk over from the other clubhouse to our clubhouse. So it was before games began, and everyone was out of there before noon. And I happened to be out there on the field and I looked out there, and it was an empty field except at first base there were two people. Marquis Grissom standing at first base next to a young Tony Graffanino, whom I'm guessing he had met about an hour before. And he was talking to this young player trying to make a major league team for the first time about how to take leads. And what you do. And he's going through these motions and showing this young kid -- and he had just joined the team an hour before."

By Chico Harlan  |  March 18, 2009; 6:38 AM ET
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I wonder how long it will be before someone comments that his MGBA is a distraction and is detrimental to the team? On this board I assume 80 - 90% of the comments will be negative. I'm convinced most of the posters are only looking for excuses to complain. Instead we should all be thankful that we have such a fine person associated with our franchise.

Posted by: grforbes | March 18, 2009 6:56 AM | Report abuse

That's just great, grforbes. You couldn't find anything to complain about in Chico's post, so you're complaining about complaints in the comments that haven't even happened yet. Way to fit your own stereotype. I for one have a complaint -- your post.

Posted by: wahoo2x | March 18, 2009 7:01 AM | Report abuse

... just a quick early morning tip of the cap, and big loud shout out to the USA (WBC) team. Great, great! Marvellous come back last night, well-deserved and well-met in this fan's home.

... good luck guys!

Go Nats!!

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 18, 2009 7:04 AM | Report abuse

Just a terrific story, Chico, and a real inspiration. Thanks very much. The only thing that could have improved it was a photo of T.J. Wilson. Bravo to Stan for bringing such a class act as Grissom to the Nationals.

Posted by: Section109 | March 18, 2009 7:17 AM | Report abuse

Grissom does appear to truly be a stand-up guy. I wonder if he is too old-guardish to break through some of Milledge's perceived shortcomings. I mean, judging by the stories I read yesterday, I don't know that Milledge would be out practicing how to take leads after everyone else has left the facility. Of course, I have no idea if that is true or not.

Everybody in the majors has talent, some more than others, of course. The things that separate the talented from the skilled are the minutae of the game--things like taking leads, or reading a pitcher's tells, or taking the proper first step (either on the base paths or in the field). It seems like Grissom is the kind of guy who can help Milledge master that minutae, if Milledge is willing to work on it.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | March 18, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

Chico--Do 70% of the kids come from "single family homes" or "single parent homes"? The former would make them pretty middle class while the latter would show them in likely need of male role models and mentoring.

Posted by: ramgut | March 18, 2009 7:47 AM | Report abuse

Great story Chico. Love to see these.

Great post wahoo, was thinking the exact same thing!

Posted by: Avar | March 18, 2009 8:28 AM | Report abuse


Read Ladson's interview with Grissom, Cardenal and Cedeno on the mlb site about Milledge's effort.

Posted by: jfromPG | March 18, 2009 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Ditto everything 109 said.

Great story, well written and so nice to have another positive person associated with this team.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 18, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

great story Chico. Specially nice as a counter weight to stories about those folks at AIG taking $millions for helping wreck the world economy, bankrupt the country of Iceland, etc. But that's what Spring Training is all about.

Posted by: advocate2 | March 18, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Great story, Chico, thanks.

The part about Grissom having to teach some Nats how to round third is pretty incredible though. That is little league stuff, perhaps high school. Ladson's Q&A with Grissom, Cedeno and Cardenal is pretty revealing about attention to fundamentals. Sounds like Marquis is the kind of guy to help get things back on the right track!

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | March 18, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Great story very well written about a couple of wonderful people.

Some people say that a single individual can not change the world.

I disagree. All meaningful changes start with one person. T.J. Wilson could have kept driving. Grissom could have squandered his opportunity. Each those young men that Grissom has touched could choose another road than higher education. A few have but most have not.

I'm inspired by the good that resides in us all.....again

Thank you.

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | March 18, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Last year, one of his 16-year-old teams won the AAU Junior Olympic Game national title.

I coached a local travel team that competed against what I now believe was one of Grissom's teams from the Atlanta area in an AAU tourney in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina 2 1/2 years ago---I just put 2 & 2 together on this as I didn't realize that was Grissom's team. That team was very good and didn't win that tournament, but could certainly see that they continued to get better. Our team didn't compete last year in AAU as we went North and played in an AABC tourney and now my son is 15 playing Varsity at the High School level. I will have to do some research on Grissom's team that would now be 15. That is very cool.

I said to my son in the different tourney's we played around the country and in Puerto Rico the past 5 years that many of these kids will become Major League prospects and most will get opportunities for College. If Chico wants to check out a youth program, the NYC Black Sox is mostly kids from Dominican and other Caribbean countries families and they are the best program in the Northeast.

Marquis Grissom is a breath of fresh air giving back. This quote "This year, Grissom expects about 80 percent of the players from his top 18-year-old team to go to college." Not all kids will play in the Majors but to get the opportunity to get most of your college paid for via baseball is great! 80%, wow, that says it all.

Congrats Marquis Grissom, you are a winner!!!

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | March 18, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

i think spring training is mostly about fundamentals. high schoolers probably have more days dedicated to practice than major leaguers just because of the schedule.

i always like round robin interviews. the interviewer takes a back seat to a conversation.

we get so much conflicting info on milledge. he seeks out extra work, he's a clock watcher, i'm confused. nats are certainly exposing him to the right people though.

great article on grissom. i was happy when we brought him in but i had no idea how happy i should have been.

Posted by: longterm | March 18, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Sports Bog has some more Tavares stuff. I haven't read it in full yet, but the caption on the picture is hilariously understated.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 18, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

longterm, there were times last season when it looked like Milledge was going to end up in the visitors' dugout rounding third. By the time big leaguers are big leaguers, some fundamentals should be just that--fundamental. So that they really don't need to be taught any more. Times change, I guess. And I'm not that old!--younger than Grissom, at least.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | March 18, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

GREAT piece, Chico. A lot of people say they're going to do good things, Grissom has, and is, doing them.

Tell Marquis that he needs to put a place on his web page for people like me to donate - PayPal or credit card.

Posted by: rgalen | March 18, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

cil, i agree that times are different, and i'm only(?) 33. i figure that these guys should never stop learning. too cool usually means dumb. so many of these athletic types get by on natural talent.

but there may be another side to him... if milledge wants to be so efficient with his schedule maybe he'll see the benefit of improving his baserunning! here's hoping. honestly i think he'll be alright.

Posted by: longterm | March 18, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Chico your running a close second with Svurluuuga for excellence in writing/reporting.

Good for the Nats, they finally get a coaching crew that "gets it". Grissom's story is a great read. Good for him and for all the kids he has and can help. For the life of me I can not understand the pull that the NFL/NBA has on minority kids, we need guys like Grissom and many other retired black players to get the word out that baseball gives one an opportunity to have a long career making great money and when its over your probably still going to be in one piece.

I'm all for RBI, MGBA, and any other AAU program that helps put a bat, ball and glove in the hands of kids who have never known the joy of green grass, brown dirt and a leather glove.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | March 18, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Wow. Everything that Grissom, Cardenal and Cedeno had to say about Milledge and his work ethic in that interview totally blows away everything all of you - in particular JayBee, the so-called man on the ground at ST - were saying about him the other day. Who to believe, the coaches or the bloggers?

Posted by: nunof1 | March 18, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Marquis Grissom = solid human being.

I wish I had that much generosity in me.

You have to reteach fundamentals every spring. In fact I'd argue that big leagues teams don't do enough of it. The next time the Nats blow a run down in August, realize that the last time they drilled it was probably March 1st. Look at the PFP (pitcher fielding practice) debacle for the Tigers a few post-season's ago. Again the last time they probably did PFP was in February. Baseball is a hard game that requires lots of practice.


Posted by: db423 | March 18, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

TippyC, agreed. It seems as though Barry left a little Svrluga in the water cooler over at NJ. There seem to be more posts, more in-depth stories, more perspective. Well done Mr. Harlan. Your delivery has smoothed to the point that I think you've earned your first opening day start.

Posted by: BobLHead | March 18, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

nunof, c'mon. those coaches are not going to point those things out to a reporter. And when they were talking about the really good guys, Milledge's name did not come up. They didn't talk about him until Ladsen asked first.

Frankly I was worried it was Milledge they were talking about when they said they get frustrated with in-one-ear-out-the-other guys.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 18, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Wow. Everything that Grissom, Cardenal and Cedeno had to say about Milledge and his work ethic in that interview totally blows away everything all of you - in particular JayBee, the so-called man on the ground at ST - were saying about him the other day. Who to believe, the coaches or the bloggers?

Posted by: nunof1 | March 18, 2009 9:46 AM


I read that last night too. JayBee can subjectively call out those that aren't here to defend themselves as he has obvious issues with Manny and Lastings. Both have their shortcomings but again, the season hasn't even begun so let's see what happens.

For me, the proof is in the numbers. Go Lastings!!!!

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | March 18, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Cheeks. Hey, Tracee.
It's nearly 10 in the morning, and no new posts. No morning reading. Barry would have had three posts and a scoop by now. What, the Panera's offering an all-you-can-eat breakfast now?

Posted by: jdschulz50 | March 18, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Wow. Very cool story there. You really can't help but smile when reading something like that.

Posted by: AlexL925 | March 18, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Wow, the Bog piece is hilarious, and the Ladson sit-down with the coaches is a must-read. Great story on Grissom. I heard the Lannan announcement on the radio this morning. And the Nats have an ad on the front of the dead tree sports section. Is it possible that coverage is no longer lacking and that the Nats have a PR department? I do not trust to hope.

Posted by: BobLHead | March 18, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

"nunof, c'mon. those coaches are not going to point those things out to a reporter. And when they were talking about the really good guys, Milledge's name did not come up. They didn't talk about him until Ladsen asked first."

I'm talking about the comments they made that specifically addressed Milledge by name. Extensive comments, and uniformly positive. You're talking about veiled negatively-slanted comments that had no specific individual associated with them, and presuming that all of them were referring to Milledge. Reading between the lines. You and JayBee would seem to have the same problem of only seeing what you want to see whenever you read something. Again I say, who to believe? The horse's mouth or the horse's other end?

Posted by: nunof1 | March 18, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Great story, Chico! Keep this up and there'll be no more talk of non-guaranteed, minor league beat writer contracts (and, FWIW, IMO Chico wrote some excellent pieces before the Blogfather's return, so I don't subscribe to the water cooler theory).

I agree with rgalen. Grissom's organization (link below) needs to add information on how to donate. Good for him for making a difference and helping others!

Also, nice piece on the WBC (wheeeee!!) by Amy Shipley.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 18, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

nunof, sheesh man, no need to get so freakin personal about it. It's all opinions here.

I'm not a Milledge hater but I do see something in the kid that makes me think he may not reach his potential. Something a little too satisfied in himself for someone so young. It's my opinion.

It was MILLEDGE'S OWN WORDS that said he refuses to show up early, HIS words that said he spends just 15 minutes in the batting cage, etc.

Because I have this impression of him, OF COURSE stuff like this stands out:

"Sometimes he is the type of kid you might have to go at him a little bit and also pat him on the back when he does well. We are trying to see what makes him go to that next level. He has it, but how bad does he want it? I'm telling him how good he can be."

I have high hopes that these coaches can get through to him. But yes, I do have this opinion of him. Sue me.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 18, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Time will tell on Milledge....Watch carefully today....I will be watchinging.....Maybe he has improved in CF.....Read Ladson and you surely got the message from Jose C that Milledge did not work last year and was a major problem in CF....I can tell you he has not improved much based on the the first hand game I saw.....lets just watch this will not take long to get the truth out...

Posted by: JayBeee | March 18, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

New post.

Also, saw a piece in the Examiner noting that Aaron Boone will be having heart valve replacement surgery?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 18, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

If so, I wish him well with the procedure and recovery.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 18, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Just in case some of you aren't aware, the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation has charitable endeavors for youth baseball in Washington DC.

The biggest fundraiser is the Dream Gala which will be on May 2nd. If anyone has premium auction items (from themselves or companies) or want to make a donation or come to the Gala, please email me at

Thanks for any help and support. PS - I don't work for the Nationals or the Foundation just a volunteer and yes the Washington Post donated an Obama print press plate!

Chico, email me if you want to do an "experience" as an auction item!!!


Posted by: GoingGoingGone | March 18, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

"It was MILLEDGE'S OWN WORDS that said he refuses to show up early, HIS words that said he spends just 15 minutes in the batting cage, etc"

If I recall, he was quoted as saying he wouldn't show up early just for the sake of showing up early, to sit around playing cards or whatever. I've never seen a quote from him saying he refuses to show up early if a coach requests that he show up early for extra work. And if you believe Cedeno, "He comes in and he asks you for extra work, and that impressed me." But hey, it's all opinions. Believe whatever you want.

Posted by: nunof1 | March 18, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Great piece by Chico on MG,as i related the other day i'd been involved with game in some capacity for 40 plus years what's missing with young black kids is a father to teach them the game my dad taught my twin brother and myself the game and i in turn taught my son's and nephews the game but the absence of black father's has impacted the game tremendously over the past twenty plus years thus the dwindling numbers as far as african-americans are concerned my grandsons ages 5 and 9 are my pupils right now its hard because their dads have them in basketball and football camps but i went out and bought them gloves, bats and i have them out in my backyard when they come to visit just having fun nothing forced mind you but they have a good time and so i have planted the seed!!! and hopefully it will grow. again great story Chico

Posted by: dargregmag | March 18, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

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