Go get the baseball.
“You cannot let the ball come get you,” Gridley said. “Because as soon as you start waiting for the ball—which every player has done--it will just eat you up.”
So, this Diamond Dog figures, go eat up that ball first. Make the defensive play. Support his pitching. It’s an attitude shared around the Mississippi State infield, by the way.
“We always talk about it with Stovie, Bragg, L.A., Cody Brown, whoever is there,” Gridley said. “We’re always saying we need to come get the ball. We need to make sure our feet are moving towards first base. Because the second you start waiting back it’s going to get you.”
On the whole this approach plays well with Gridley. There are mistakes and official errors, seven of them this season. Still a .967 fielding average at shortstop is something Gridley’s peers would be proud of too.
A .325 batting average. That, too, along with rest of his 2017 game.
“He’s having an all-SEC, all-American type of season for us,” said Coach Andy Cannizaro, who himself knows a bit about playing shortstop at the college level. The Major League level as well.
Such talk is a personal triumph by a Bulldog who generally shies from individual attention. “I think my faith doesn’t allow me to boast about myself,” Gridley said. “Because I’m so confident about what the Lord has provided for me.”
At the same time Gridley has taken the provided tools and put them into production. For that matter, those tools haven’t always been obvious to others. Gridley doesn’t wear any chip on his shoulder so to speak.
“When I was growing up a lot of people said hey, you’re too short, you can’t play shortstop. You’re not good enough, you don’t have a strong enough arm, you’re not fast enough. That always made me want to get better than everyone thought I could be.”
Well everyone did come around. Gridley was a repeat All-American prospect by Perfect Game and graded 9.5 on a 10.0 scale. He was All-Georgia and tabbed among the state’s top 17 prep players on a team sponsored by the Braves.
So how’s a kid like this to keep an under-Dog attitude into college. Gridley by the way picked State over Georgia, Georgia Tech, Clemson, etc. and so on.
“When I got here I think a lot of people said are you going to redshirt. I wanted to show them hey, I could play as freshman. I did that.” He did, becoming the first freshman All-SEC shortstop from Mississippi State since a Peach State predecessor name of Adam Frazier.
Last year it was Gridley’s quick feet and cool hand shortstopping State to the 2016 SEC Championship. Motivation this time?
“Hey, are you going to improve or have a better year. He’s kind of slow hands, weak bat. And going into this year I really want to increase again.”
That he has. The average is up almost fifty points as now as Gridley bats third in the MSU order. Last year it was typically seventh or eighth. And here’s the kicker: nobody is surprised by the promotion.
Least of all Cannizaro who saw a bit of Gridley’s bat when the Bulldogs were beating LSU last spring. “Once we got here and was able to spend some time with him I could see how flat his swing was, the plate discipline, the strike zone judgement,” Cannizaro said.
So here is a 5-8, 177-or-so-pounder ‘protecting’ Brent Rooker by hitting behind. Obviously it works. Though, Gridley said, nearly three seasons of scouting reports keep him on edge.
“I’m always trying to make an adjustment. I don’t ever want to be labeled oh, this guy can only do this; then they’ve got you. The second they start having to shift on you and you take it the other way and they go back, it’s great.”
Speaking of ‘scouting’… Yes, this Milton, Ga., native does know a few of the red-and-black Bulldogs whether from high school or summer ball including his Cape Cod League stint. Forget Georgia’s record or SEC standing, he warns.
“They’re going to get after it. And they’re going to be a good team. You can’t take anyone lightly no matter what their record is. They’re really hot right now. I think it’s going to be a struggle. But if we can find a way to get a couple of wins it would be really big for us.”
Naturally Bulldog fans are asking for more than a couple. Particularly so as Mississippi State begins the SEC closing stretch tied, with Florida, for the league overall lead. They don’t get to play this season so the temptation to watch scoreboards is inevitable.
Cannizaro has warned the club about following anything outside the Athens lines. Gridley is a little more relaxed on the idea. Besides, “We’re all aware of what’s going on,” he said.
“Because we want to take the SEC. That’s our overall goal. It’s kind of hard not to say we’re in first place, because we know we’re there. We just have to make sure we stay focused on the game than the scores, is what he’s trying to say. I don’t think it’s too bad to know where you’re at.”
If the Diamond Dogs come back from this weekend still on top, well, then Gridley and gang will attack the next challenge on their championship trail.
NOTE: Friday’s game has been moved up from the original 6:00ct start to noon for expected weather.