Washington Nationals Coach Marquis Grissom Changes Lives Through His Baseball Association

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 18, 2009

VIERA, Fla., March 17 -- Marquis Grissom was 8 years old -- or maybe 10. He can't entirely remember. He just knows that the moment changed his life.

What happened that day didn't just help him become a major leaguer, which in turn helped him become a coach with the Washington Nationals. It determined why he kept so little of the $52 million he earned; it explains why he knows how to lay concrete for foul poles at inner city fields; it set the context for why Grissom, if you let him, can't stop talking about the grand plan for his life. Best case, he saves the world. As a backup, he said, "I put a big dent in it."

"We were out in the street playing baseball," said Grissom, who grew up in Red Oak on the outskirts of Atlanta. "Just kids in the street, playing. This stranger comes cruising down the street in this big ol' Cadillac. Of course we gotta stop our game. And we're like: 'Would you pick your [butt] up and get off the field? We want to play!' So he's [ticking] everybody off, taking his time, rolling slow -- and everybody is like, yeah, we're gonna get your [butt] as soon as you get by. We'll chuck that car with these rocks and these baseballs -- watch!

"We're hollering at him, screaming at him -- 'Hurry up, we're trying to play ball!' So he drives on down the street, turns up this hill -- and of course I wait till he's as far away as he can get before I chuck this rock. So I'm thinking, 'I can't throw it this far.' [Expletive!] I chucked that rock, boom, hit the top of his car. All of a sudden he stops, turns around, and everybody else -- they take off running."

They didn't run fast enough.

The man got out of his car.

"Who threw that rock?" he said.

Grissom was surrounded by cousins. They all pointed at him.

Grissom continued: "And all of a sudden he flipped out that [expletive] police badge. He was a cop! So he pulls this badge out and of course, you know, I was an honest kid. Raised up my hand. And he was like, 'Well, come here.' I already know I'm going to jail, right. He pulled the handcuffs out -- and anyway, he talked to me. He said, 'You know that was wrong?' I said: 'I didn't think I could throw that rock that far. You shoulda kept going. If you kept going, that rock woulda never hit your car.' "

The two made a deal.

The police officer coached a baseball team. If Grissom joined, the police officer wouldn't tell his mother what happened.

The two walked into Grissom's house. The officer told Grissom's parents that their son now belonged to a team.

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