Dean South knew that his son, Grant, would be a baseball player when he just 2 years old.
With father and son both sporting wide grins, Dean told the tale of Grant’s foray into baseball: “When he was just able to sit up, I would roll him a basketball and a football and a baseball on the carpet, and he would bat the other ones away and roll back the baseball.”
Three years later, Grant began playing baseball for real.
Now age 14 and standing nearly 5-foot-11, Grant — a Bear Creek School freshman — has garnered some most valuable player awards with his local baseball squads. When he’s catching, he call the pitches. When he takes the mound himself, Grant’s pitches have been clocked at 84 mph from the 60-foot, 6-inch mark. And on the hitting front, he batted over .500 at the elite IMG Academy Wood Bat League camp in Bradenton, Fla., last summer.
Craig Bishop, head coach for the Kirkland Merchants 18U squad, is Grant’s hitting instructor and has known him for the last three years.
“He’s one of those kids who’s uniquely self-driven. He’s competitive and has the desire and love for baseball,” said Bishop, who coached Jon Lester, Travis Snyder and Andy Sisco before they broke into the big leagues.
“I just tried as hard as I could and was aggressive when I was hitting and catching,” Grant said modestly about his camp experience.
At the camp, the right-hander attracted the attention of one of the coaches, who also happens to be a professional scout. Because of the Woodinville resident’s stellar performance at the camp, he was selected to be a member of the United States’ Reds 16U team at the Goodwill Series from Dec. 19-31 in Adelaide and Perth, Australia. The Reds will play 12 games against the state teams of South Australia, Western Australia and Singapore.
The Goodwill Series is designed to help players prepare for a future career as a baseball player, either at the collegiate or professional levels.
“It feels great, because playing in the MLB (Major League Baseball) is my dream, so I think it’s one step closer,” said Grant, who added that he’s honored to represent the United States at the Goodwill Series.
Added Dean: “I’m very proud of him. I’m just the chauffeur — he does all the work, he’s the one who wants to take the lessons and who goes out and practices.”
Grant hones his skills every day, utilizing the batting cage at the South home, taking hitting and pitching lessons and working on his speed and agility. He’s also on a diet that helps keep him in shape to excel on the field.
The lone Washington state player won’t meet his Goodwill Series teammates until they board a plane in Dallas together. They’ll get to know each other on the lengthy flight to Australia and then it will be all work with their coaches to get the team ready for the series.
Bishop noted that for a young player, Grant has a great work ethic to go along with size, strength and athleticism. As a bonus, his parents keep him grounded and focused on school, the coach added.
“I think he has the ability to play in college and beyond if the cards work out with him,” Bishop said.
Grant, who will play for the combined Bear Creek/Overlake team (the Growls) in the spring and the Merchants’ 16U team when the high school season ends, said he never stops thinking about baseball — even when he’s at school.
For him, the best part about playing baseball is “leading a team and (having) a good influence on everybody to try as hard as they can.”