Former Brave starts youth league

Mon, 02/12/2007 - 9:31am
By: Ben Nelms

The legacy you leave is the legacy you live. And for recently retired Atlanta Brave Marquis Grissom that legacy may well reside as much with the development of young ball players as it did with his accomplishments in the major leagues.

In an agreement with Fulton County Parks & Recreation, Grissom will bring league play to county venues through the Marquis Grissom Baseball Association, established six month ago. And with the association’s headquarters at Wilkerson Mill Park in Palmetto it is a lot like coming home.

“I grew up in Red Oak and I played out here a long time ago, probably when I was nine or ten years old. I’m still a south Fulton resident in my heart and in my mind,” Grissom said during a chilly warm-up session Feb. 3 at the park. “This is going to be league play. I just wanted to come in and enhance all of Fulton County Parks & Recreation, not just Wilkerson Mill. But here at Wilkerson Mill there was no baseball program. They played a lot of softball here, so I wanted to come in here and form a baseball league through my association. So what I want to do is have the kids from 9-18 years come here for the baseball and girls fast pitch softball. I think this will be a little step above what we’ve been having.”

Grissom said he expects the league to initially begin with two or three teams and grow from there. Word of the league has already spread, with other organizations wanting to bring their teams to play at Wilkerson Mill.

Standing in the cold blowing wind that Saturday morning, Grissom spoke of his career, his love of baseball and the future.

“I’m a community guy. My first love was the major leagues. I wanted to play for five or six years, then I wanted to play for 10 years, then 15 years, then 20. I played 15 but I didn’t make it to 20,” Grissom said with a chuckle. “I finished playing baseball and wanted to go back and manage in the major leagues. That was a goal right before I retired. After I retired a got offers to manage AA or AAA ball and to manage at the major league level in different positions. It dawned on me after about a week and a half what I really wanted to do. I decided to make my ground in the community and help pave the way for another kid. This is Ground Zero, down to the bone. So you go down to the kids that don’t have a ride and try to find a way to get them to the ballpark, get sponsorships for those who can’t afford to pay. Some of these kids could never get a chance to play.”

“I’ve got two coaches who coached me in little league. They’ve been coaching for 40 years, doing the same thing,” Grissom continued. “So I decided to collaborate with those guys and come back and do the same thing they did for me. They used to come and pick me up, they paid for my uniform, they bought me gloves. So this association is more than the major leagues. This is the real thing, this is right here. And for me, this is what I love to do. I love baseball. And I love to see development and character. I know what baseball has done for me, to be able to be a big league ball player. Now I want to come back here and see a young ball player develop and turn into a fine young man. Whether he becomes a major league baseball player or works at UPS, it doesn’t matter. But he’s going to be productive and he’s going to come back and serve the community. And hopefully with this facility, I will be able to grab kids at age five or six years old and run them through this program until they get to be 18.”

No matter what course a life may take, it is the inspiration that comes along the path that sometimes makes all the difference. For some kid in south Fulton, that inspiration might just come from being associated with someone like Marquis Grissom, a man who succeeded on the field, a man who decided to forego coaching at the professional level, a man who decided to bring his talents back home to those just beginning their lives.

“I want to be here for the kids. You can go to any recreation park and see an old guy that’s been there 40 or 50 years. That’s what I had,” Grissom explained. “And I know what kids are feeling on the inside, what it takes to motivate him to do good in school and to do good in sports, to develop and have discipline and to do the things he’s supposed to do to be a fine young man. That’s all I really care about and that’s what this association is all about. It’s more than just baseball. I compare baseball to life. If you don’t get prepared, if you don’t stay focused, you’re going to be in trouble. So it’s all about development and growth. Coming through my program, these kids are going to be more than baseball players.”

Registration for Marquis Grissom Baseball Association is held each Saturday until Feb. 24 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Wilkerson Mill Park, located at 8095 Wilkerson Mill Road off Roosevelt Highway in Palmetto. Current league registration is for ages 9-18. Fees for baseball are $200 for ages 9-12, $250 for ages 13-15 and $300 for ages 16-18. Fees include professional instruction, two shirts, two hats, two pairs of pants, two pairs of socks, one belt, helmet, cleats and a trophy.

Fees for girls fast pitch softball are $125 and includes professional instruction, one shirt, one visor, one pair of shorts, two pairs of socks and a trophy.

Items required for registration include a registration form, birth certificate and physical. For more information call the office at (770) 745-1244 or the park at (770) 463-6300.

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