The long and winding path taken by the Grilli family, father and son, through professional baseball, spanning two generations, has reached a new and surprising destination.
Jason Grilli, at 36 and enjoying a career season as the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates, has earned his first trip to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, set for next Tuesday night at Citi Field in Queens, home field of the New York Mets.
From the time he was drafted by the New York Yankees in 1994, Grilli has embodied the term journeyman, making his way through 10 different organizations before finally achieving success (and a nickname, Grilled Cheese) trying to end Pittsburgh’s long stretch of 20 consecutive losing seasons.
It’s ironic that Grilli, a Baker High School graduate, would get to the All-Star Game this year, when his alma mater won its first-ever state championship and in the same year where Cicero-North Syracuse graduate Patrick Corbin, 13 years his junior, earned an All-Star bid as the pitching ace of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Also, it caps a journey begun by Grilli’s father, Steve, also a pitcher, who spent parts of four seasons in the Major League in the late 1970s with the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays, appearing in just 70 games.
Steve Grilli retired at age 32, returning to Syracuse and running the Change of Pace Sports Bar on Grant Boulevard, not far from NBT Bank Stadium, and watching his son, who was born in Michigan while Steve was with the Tigers, take his own shot at the big time.
After starring at Baker, Grilli opted not to join the Yankees organization following the ’94 draft, instead going to Seton Hall University in New Jersey, where he starred for three years.
Back in the draft again in 1997, Grilli gained the fourth overall selection from the San Francisco Giants, but struggled in the minors over the next two seasons, reaching Triple A but not quite earning a promotion to the big club.