MASON – The sky was covered with clouds and the grass was wet from an early morning rain.
It was anything but a perfect day for baseball, but that wasn’t the case for Jay Granger
The Mason High School junior stood beyond the right field fence Saturday morning with his batting helmet on and bat in hand. He took a few practice swings as he awaited his turn for batting practice.
Playing time is rare, but Granger continues to work for that chance that this is the day he gets called in for an at-bat. And even if it doesn’t come, Granger is still realizing a dream by just being a member of a member of the Bulldogs’ varsity baseball team.
It’s a crowning achievement for Granger, who faces more obstacles than trying to hit a curve or mastering the art of pitching.
“I felt really accomplished,” said Granger, who is autistic. “It made me realize having autism doesn’t change who I am.”
And it hasn’t slowed Granger from realizing his dreams on the playing field at Mason. He was part of the varsity football team this fall and now is relishing being part of the baseball team. Granger was honored with the Autism Alliance of Michigan’s Courage Award last month for his special moment playing football when he scored a touchdown against DeWitt in September.
Granger says he doesn’t have football talent and has struggled some in baseball. He’s stuck with both sports with the help and encouragement of friends.
“I had a little trouble with baseball my freshman year,” Granger said. “I barely get in in football, but I feel like the team needed me and I like the sport so I kept doing it. If you work at something you can do it.”
That attitude has helped Granger be an inspiration for the Mason baseball team, which this week will make its first Diamond Classic appearance in a few years.
“Jay is a source of pride and motivation to our players, our coaches and I think to the whole school,” second-year Mason baseball coach Scott Berman said. “For me personally, it even chokes me up still a little.
“When I chose Jay for the varsity team he shed tears of joy and told me that it has been his lifelong dream to play varsity baseball. I think he makes every win and every success a little sweeter. I think he makes every obstacle and every challenge a little bit more easy to tolerate and positioned in the proper prospective.”
Teammates have admired the drive and passion Granger displays regularly during practices and games.
“His love for the game is just incredible,” Mason’s Chase Johnston said. “He loves being out here with us. Even though he doesn’t get to play every game that doesn’t mean anything to him. He just loves coming out and watching the game and being able to be part of the team.”
Berman said his players take great pride in having Granger as a teammate. Junior Tyler Porter called Granger the heart and soul of the Bulldogs and his enjoyed watching his athletic achievements. One of those came earlier this month when Granger collected his first career varsity hit.
“He was all excited when his walk-up song came on and then to see him go run down to first base — it gave me goosebumps,” senior captain Jake Scavarda said. “It was pretty neat to see.”
Granger enjoys baseball more than football and said the first hit was the favorite of his athletic achievements this school year. He has the ball as a keepsake displayed on a candle stand in his bedroom. Granger hopes that won’t be the last hit and would like to have more opportunities to add to his lifelong baseball dream.
“Anything is possible no matter how hard it is,” Granger said. “Even the toughest things. And even if you got cut from the baseball team.”
DeWitt vs. Lansing Catholic, 5:30 p.m.
Haslett vs. Portland St. Patrick, 7:30 p.m.
Mason vs. Portland, 5:30 p.m.
Fowlerville vs. East Lansing, 7:30 p.m.
Grand Ledge vs. DeWitt or Lansing Catholic, 5:30 p.m.
St. Johns vs. Haslett or Portland St. Patrick, 7:30 p.m.