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Showcase | Story | 12/28/2018

Grenkoski notches 4th Main

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Brad Grenkoski (Perfect Game)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – It’s almost inconceivable that a 17-year-old prospect from the high school class of 2020 could be performing at his fourth straight Perfect Game National Underclass Showcase-Main Event, but here he is, in the flesh.

It was December 2015 when the then 14-year-old Brad Grenkoski first made an appearance at the National Under-Main Event. At the time, he was classified as a 2019 and was a freshman at Farragut High School near Knoxville, Tenn.

Grenkoski came into the event pretty wide-eyed, to say the least. But with each passing year, he became more and more comfortable at a showcase that started to feel like slipping on a favorite pair of well-worn shoes, and he earned a spot on the Top Prospect List in each of his last two appearances here.

“I was definitely the youngest one here (in 2015), and I just kind of felt like I was out of my element; I was a little bit intimidated because everyone was bigger than me,” Grenkoski told PG Friday morning. “Now, it’s exactly the opposite … and my confidence is definitely a lot higher.”

Grenkoski was back at the jetBlue Park Player Development Complex on Friday, now reclassified as a 2020 and a junior at Kell High School in Marietta, Ga. He is but one peg in a throng of more than 900 players competing at the National Underclass-Main Event, 14u-Main Event and Uncommitted-Main Event showcases over the weekend; fields at jetBlue, Lee County Player Development 5-Plex and Terry Park are being used.

While this is, in fact, the fourth time Grenkoski has attended the Under-Main, he is far from a showcase veteran. A quick look at his PG Player Profile Page reveals that the Underclass-Main Event is the only PG showcase he has ever participated in.

A 6-foot-4, 200-pound, right-handed throwing and hitting outfielder, Grenkoski has attended more than 40 PG events with the vast majority being WWBA or BCS tournaments since joining Guerry Baldwin’s East Cobb Astros program in the spring of 2016. Baldwin encourages his players to attend the Under-Main and dozens of ECA players are here this weekend.

They’re rostered together, usually on one of the three or four “Orange” teams at the event. Grenkoski said that arrangement makes the event all the more enjoyable simply because the players can be themselves and perform in a much more relaxed manner.

Grenkoski has been pleased with the way his game has progressed to this point – he is ranked No. 192 nationally and No. 15 in Georgia in the 2020 class – but also feels like he should be performing at an even a higher level. When Grenkoski is on the field, he considers himself to be one of the most athletic guys out there but struggles at times – in his mind, anyway – with his consistency.

In fact, his progress can be documented just by looking at his past Under-Main performances and he’s shown consistent improvement. In 2015, he ran a 7.18-second 60-yard dash and threw 88 mph from the outfield (also a right-handed pitcher, his fastball was gunned at 82 mph).

A year later, in 2016, he ran a 7.02-second 60 and threw 89 mph from the outfield with an 83 mph fastball. Last year, his 60 was timed in 7.04 and his outfield throw gunned at 89. He didn’t pitch at the 2017 Under-Main but his fastball topped out at 91 mph at the 16u PG Super25 National Championship this past summer.

And then Friday arrived. After running a PG event personal-best 6.88-second 60, he threw 95 mph from the outfield, a best-in-show effort that tied an event record set by Caleb Kellogg in 2008.

Grenkoski was at the jetBlue Complex Friday morning with his mom, Carolyn Grenkoski, a registered nurse who attended the University of Kentucky and has a background in equestrian competitions. His dad is Mark Grenkoski, a physician who played college baseball at the University of Michigan.

When Carolyn was asked why she brought her son back to the Under-Main for a fourth straight year, she laughed and said she wished she could say it was the result of her own ingenuity. But, she admitted, the family has benefitted greatly from the guidance they’ve received from the people at East Cobb, where Brad first went as a 13-year-old.

“The one thing that Guerry (Baldwin) told us when he talked about coming here the first time was that every year you need to know that you’re improving and you’re going up in the scale,” Carolyn told PG Friday morning. “Part of the reason we keep coming is to keep reminding Brad that he has to work hard; it’s just a reminder.

“It’s always a great event; lots of talented kids here. And I think kids come home from this and realize kind of where they’re at. ‘What do I need to be better at? What do I need to work harder on?’”

But tournament play is definitely Grenkoski’s preferred stage; he has been named to eight PG all-tournament teams since 2016. He’s played on two East Cobb Astros teams that won WWBA national championships (2018 16u PG World Series, 2018 Underclass World) and two others that won 16u PG Super25 national championships in 2017 and ’18.

That is not to say, however, that a showcase environment like the one created at the National Underclass-Main Event isn’t a competitive one.

“We have competition between our (East Cobb) teams and that definitely makes it a lot easier,” Grenkoski said. “It’s good to get out here because most of us probably haven’t seen live pitching in about two months, so it’s a good way to get ready for the high school season and stuff like that.”

Becoming a part of the East Cobb Astros program was “the best thing I’ve ever done in my baseball career,” Grenkoski told PG on Friday, adding “I can’t imagine playing with anybody else.”

He is a 6-foot-4, 200-pound, 17½-year-old, and it would be easy to imagine him wearing the uniform of another sport. He did, in fact, play football and basketball for his high school team up until his sophomore year and continues to play rec league basketball. But baseball is his thing and it’s opened doors for him; he has committed to Georgia Tech.

“I don’t think a lot of people understand how hard it is,” Grenkoski said. “Especially when you get out here and you see guys like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper and you realize how good they are and all the hard work they had to put in to be that good … It’s pretty incredible (knowing) how hard the game is and how easy they can make it look at times.”

Grenkoski previously attended Farragut (Tenn.) High School before moving to Kennesaw, Ga., and enrolling at Kell HS in Marietta this school year. He was excited about the opportunity to get closer to his East Cobb teammates and to Georgia Tech, an ACC school located in Atlanta that he’s committed to.

“It felt like that home for me,” Grenkoski said of Tech. “I love the big city and I absolutely love the coaches more than anything. As soon as I (visited) there I felt like it was home.”

Carolyn offers caution, like only a mother can do: “It’s like we tell Brad: The commitment is the start of what you wanted and now you have to really perform once you get there,” she said. “I think it’s hard to teach kids how to work for a goal. … There has to be some reward along the way, and maybe the reward is coming down here.”

In the three-plus years that her son has been involved with the highest level of travel baseball at East Cobb, Carolyn admits that hers is now a “baseball family.” Their friends come from other baseball families that spend months together on the road in the summer and fall watching their sons pursue their field of dreams.

“With the schedule they play and the amount he does, if Brad didn’t love this – it’s hard for me to imagine making a kid do what he does if he didn’t love it,” she said. “And it’s interesting watching kids moving forward and go on to play in college … and it’s a lot of fun to watch these kids move forward.”

Brad Grenkoski and his 4-Orange teammates will play three more games at the National Underclass Showcase-Main Event over the next two days, and that will put the lid on Grenkoski’s four-year Under-Main career. He’s looking forward to his junior season at Kell HS and then, whatever lies ahead.

“I want to be better and just try to stay more confident,” he concluded. “I hope I can play good and get back into things heading into the spring; get back into the (baseball) mood, definitely.”

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