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Baseball History as American History: Lost Stories of Influential Ballplayers

Kiersten McMahon, Austin Hawkins, Gabe Foltz, Hannah Young, Tyler Storm, Miranda Nelson, Authors

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Intertwining Paths

Upon completing his four years in the Navy, Joe made his way back to Chicago. Continuing his career as a carpenter, he worked for several companies in the metro area. Near the end of his career he began working as a private contractor. This way he could make his own hours to accommodate for his declining health. 

Joe had been removed from baseball for 15 years before he came back to the game. Joe had 2 kids - and admittedly his relationships with them weren't the strongest. His second son showed an interest in the game, and he saw this as his chance to make amends. He started a new team in the East Side Little League in 1993 named the Expos; and he has been coaching ever since. He got involved in Legion baseball after his son moved up the ranks, and that's where he began coaching state championship teams and potential professional players.

He has coached several college and even a few major league players in his time. He coached Aaron Cowall and Julian Gomez who had successful community college careers. He coached twins Tony and Felipe Garcia, who played in college down South. He also coached major leaguers Cesar Carrilo of the Padres and Brian Bogusevic of the Chicago Cubs (currently with the Phillie's farm system).

In 1999 Joe and his wife Marcy bought land in Central WI, where they aspired to retire. By 2005 the house was built and they left Chicago. Joe stopped working in 1997 and Marcy was a carry-out manager for 22 years in Chicago; suddenly their working days were done.

He continued to coach. Through a series of conversations when he moved to Wisconsin, he got in touch with the Rosholt Hornets baseball program, and helped current minor leaguer Kyle McHugh retool his swing to become the monster that he is. The commute to Rosholt became tiresome, and he got hooked up with the Auburndale baseball program, and that's how our path's crossed.

Joe coached me from 6th grade until my senior year of high school. I focused on basketball in high school, which no doubt disappointed him, but he had the utmost faith in me nonetheless. Now he coaches my brother who is a sophomore and has the exact same confidence and faith in him.

What makes him an incredible coach is his quirky style and ability to give kids endless encouragement. He always sees the best in every player and person, and he does his best to get the most out of what they could potentially be. After my playing career was over, we talked about why he takes that approach to coaching. He responded, "Every kid has the potential to be the next Derek Jeter, as long as they don't know how good or how bad they really are. Tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear." It's worked on hundreds of kids before, and it'll work on at least a hundred more.

Joe Grigas is one of the many - the majority really - who might feel they owe everything to the game. However, the reality is the game owes them nothing in return.
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