Commentary

Griggs proves toughness on mound

Updated: June 15, 2009, 11:55 AM ET
By Jon Mahoney | ESPN RISE Magazine

Scott Griggs could've called it a season.

[+] EnlargeScott Griggs
Tony Avelar/ESPN RISEScott Griggs has signed to play with UCLA and was also taken by the Mariners in the MLB Draft.

After a start against Arroyo last March, the San Ramon Valley (Danville, Calif.) right-handed pitcher felt discomfort in his left hip and his throwing elbow. Though he wasn't in a tremendous amount of pain, he realized something wasn't quite right.

The hip he already knew about. He'd injured it at the USA Baseball Youth National Team Trials the previous August, and it had nagged him ever since. But when a high school pitcher with big league potential mentions elbow pain, things can get a little tense.

Griggs' doctor said it was elbow soreness caused by the young hurler altering his mechanics to compensate for the hip injury. Thankfully, he'd need only a couple months of rest to recover. But that also meant he'd miss most of San Ramon Valley's season.

Wolves head coach Chris deClercq suggested Griggs shut it down for the year and focus on prepping for the key summer showcases. But his star pitcher responded by asking, "What about the Monte Vista game?"

The game against the rival Mustangs was the last of the regular season. Griggs had nothing to gain by pitching, especially since the Wolves were out of playoff contention by the time the showdown rolled around.

Yet come game day, there was Griggs on the mound working one inning for the Wolves (on a pitch count of 30). While his stat line didn't jump off the page in San Ramon Valley's 8-4 win -- two strikeouts, two walks and an unearned run -- Griggs gained a lot of respect from his coaches and teammates for gutting it out.

"It was really hard to sit out," Griggs says. "It's the game I love. To not play because of injuries, it just kills you. I wanted to come back, even if it was for just one inning."

"It showed he cares about our team and what San Ramon Valley is all about," adds senior pitcher/infielder Chad McCormack.

It also showed the determination of a player who has signed with UCLA and is the nation's No. 11 prospect in the ESPNU player rankings. When you add Griggs' grit to his skills on the bump, it's easy to see why the 6-foot-3, 195-pound senior is a touted prospect and was taken in the 34th round by the Mariners in last week's draft.

"He's a competitor," UCLA baseball coach John Savage says. "His better days are definitely ahead of him."

Savage first saw Griggs play two summers ago. At that point, Griggs was fresh off a breakout sophomore season in which he went 2-3 with a 3.28 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 49 innings.

"The ball exploded out of his hands," Savage says. "He had a live fastball and a downward curve. He was a big guy with two potential knockout pitches. It was easy to see he was a guy with great potential."

Unfortunately, Griggs wasn't able to build on his sophomore success due to a strained hip flexor he suffered during a running drill at the USA Baseball tryouts.

"It was pretty painful," Griggs says. "I've broken a couple bones and none of them were as painful as this."

The injury lingered for months because Griggs came back too soon in order to participate in fall baseball. He played through the pain to start his junior season in the spring but lasted only 11.2 innings in four appearances before deciding to rest his elbow and hip.

Even though he wasn't playing, Griggs still made an impact for the Wolves. He charted pitches each game and helped the rest of San Ramon Valley's pitching staff learn opposing hitters' tendencies.

"The way he handled it was great," says deClercq, who's in his second year as head coach. "He brought so much to our team in terms of leadership and attitude. A lot of other kids would have packed it in, especially with the high expectations. It said a lot about the type of kid he is."

"I feel that with the talent I have, you need to be a leader," Griggs adds. "My friends and the younger kids look up to me and respect me, so I felt I owed them that respect in return."

Griggs also displays leadership outside of his high school team. Last year, he volunteered with the Challenger Division of Little League Baseball, a league for mentally and physically handicapped children. He enjoyed the experience, and it made him realize how fortunate he is.

"It was sort of life changing knowing you have a gift," Griggs says. "You need to do whatever you can to complete your mission. We set goals and we're lucky to be able to accomplish them."

Griggs' goal last year was to make it back for the Monte Vista game, which he did. The achievement, albeit a small step, gave him momentum heading into the summer as he attempted to re-establish himself as a bona fide MLB prospect. He shined at the Perfect Game National Showcase and pitched a scoreless inning at the Aflac All-American High School Baseball Game.

He returned to San Ramon Valley's dugout this spring pain free, a welcome sight for his teammates.

"It's a different feeling when Scott is on the mound," McCormack says. "It's fun to see him work. It's intimidating for the hitters to go up against him. As a defensive player, you kind of get relaxed because you know he's going to get outs."

And as he proved last year, he'll never quit.

Jon Mahoney covers high school sports for ESPN RISE Magazine.

Jon Mahoney is a football and baseball editor for ESPNHS. Email him at jon.mahoney@espn.com.