I’ve written about a lot of athletes since I’ve been the Sports Editor of this paper. However, the one I’ve never mentioned is the one that I’ve put on a pedestal since I was in pigtails — watching him crush home runs during weekend softball tournaments — and is the most talented athlete I’ve ever known.
Now, obviously, I’m biased, because the man I’m talking about is my Daddy — but this is an athlete who set the bar so high at Lockhart High School, in not one, but four sports, that in the history of the school, nobody has come close to breaking some of his records. Yeah, I know, Lockhart High was just a 1-A school that dropped to an independent schedule before it was closed, but how many tight ends do you know that play defense, let alone serve as field goal kicker with a game winning 50 plus yard boot on his resume? And if you know of such an outstanding football player, then surely he wasn’t also an amazing basketball player who became the first athlete to score 1,000 points or have a single 43 point game before three pointers were invented. And if there were such an athlete, then surely he didn’t record the most home runs in school history or go on to compete at the collegiate level and have MLB Hall of Famer Mookie Wilson refer to him as “the best long ball hitter he’s ever seen.” Only, somebody did. And it was my Daddy.
Now, he won’t tell you any of this, because that’s the kind of man he is — when you’re good, you don’t have to tell people you’re good — that’s what he taught my brothers and me. But, being that Father’s Day is right around the corner, I decided to pay homage to my hero, the man who’s passion for sports I inherited, along with some other admittedly less desirable traits for a female, like a sturdy build and a temper that would shock most of Union County, but that’s neither here nor there.
My Daddy is the sole reason I was a decent ball player and was offered the opportunity to play at the collegiate level. This is a man who taught himself how to windmill a softball in a matter of months so that he could help his daughter to face experienced pitchers and even develop my own skills from the mound.
His accomplishments are all the more impressive because he didn’t have a Wayne Grady setting the example for him. He did it all on his own and to this day is one of the most respected athletes in Union County.
Like father, like daughter, I also attended Spartanburg Methodist College on an athletic scholarship, only I wasn’t as accountable as he was and didn’t take full advantage of my talents. As far as talent goes, I could never hold a candle to my Daddy. His was a natural ability that enabled him to be good at whatever sport he played. If he was gonna do it, he was gonna be the best he could be at it. I live by the same creed, as do my brothers, only two of us had to work a lot harder for it than the other. I’ve often found myself wishing I could trade places with that particular sibling. He didn’t NEED to stay for an hour after practice was over to work on his hitting, it simply came without effort.
However envious I was of my brother’s God given abilities, I’ll never take for granted those extra hours with my Daddy on the ball field. See, he not only took time out of his schedule to coach my team, he also spent countless nights working one-on-one with me, sharpening my hitting and fielding skills. I needed that time to better myself as an athlete and as an individual.
Standing on the infield with tears of frustration in my eyes, fielding ground ball after sharp ground ball was character building, and as mad as I’d get at him for hitting the ball harder to me than he did to any of my teammates during practice, I’d come to appreciate it later when it paid off in a game. He expected more from me because I am his and he knew what I was capable of.
It was often difficult being Wayne Grady’s daughter, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
He’s my hero — the sun rises and sets because of him.
I know he wanted a boy, but he got me, and I hope every day that the man who I’ve disappointed time and time again, is somehow still as proud of me as I am of him.
Over the years I often wondered why he never gave up on me, but I think it’s because giving up is not an option for him. He doesn’t know how to quit.
I’m thankful that my daddy is the kind of man who supports his children no matter what and I’m proud to be the daughter of the most gifted athlete I’ve ever known.
Daddy — Every day I thank God for making me yours. Happy Father’s Day, I Love You!