After 38 seasons as part of the Glendale Community College Gauchos athletic department, head baseball coach Dave Grant finally sees the light at the end of the tunnel in his career, as he prepares for his final game and heads into retirement.
“I think it is time to take a break and try some things and see what else is out there, while I am alive and upright,” Grant said. “I don’t want to wait too long to retire and I am still in fine health and can continue, but I just feel the time is right.”
Grant, 66, started teaching English at GCC in 1980 and knew entering this season it was going to be his last. He has remained committed to teaching and coaching, just as he since he began by creating the “best, most productive, most positive environment” he could to allow his athletes and students to perform at their best.
Grant recently joined the 1,000-win club when the Gauchos topped Paradise Valley 4-3. He was named to the NJCAA Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2007, and selected to the Arizona Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2002. He coached the USA Junior National Baseball team in 2001.
The USA Junior team, which won a silver medal, featured the likes of future major leaguers Scott Kazmir, Jeff Francoeur, and B.J. Upton.
“Based on feedback from players, 1,000 wins was important and I think I am happy that our program has had such a positive impact on players’ lives, careers and education,” Grant said. “The fact that a lot of players and students have become quality husbands, fathers and members of the community are more important than wins and losses.”
Grant said the success of his program, as well as community college athletics, has changed so much over the years.
“The challenge and competitiveness is what I will miss the most,” Grant said. “Our league has become so competitive that every game is challenging and I will miss the adrenaline of knowing that every game is a challenge.”
He said he is proudest of sending more than 400 student athletes to four-year universities over the years.
“We generally send 85 to 90 percent of our sophomores to four-year colleges,” Grant said. “That is very rewarding and is what my job is really about. Wins and losses come, but to know that I have had that affect on students continuing their education, that means more than any win or loss.”
After nearly 40 years, Grant has had immense success, including in 1991, GCC was third at the National Junior College World Series. The team featured former major leaguer Paul LoDuca. Grant also coached the 2003 GCC team, which finished seventh at the NJCAA Division II World Series in Millington, Tenn.
He has coached hundreds of players that have been drafted by Major League Baseball, including Mark Finney (Deer Valley High School), Eddie Bonine (Mountain Ridge) and LoDuca (Apollo) and points to LoDuca as one of his biggest success stories.
“Not just for our program, but for community college athletics, (LoDuca) was a guy who maybe wasn’t ready for a four-year playing career out of high school,” Grant said. “He came here and played himself to a four-year university before toiling in the minors for six to seven years before becoming a major league all-star. That shows how great community college athletics are for young kids.”
While he will miss coaching, he said he will not return to full-time coaching, but could see himself possibly volunteering in a different capacity.
“I may volunteer at local high schools, or something like that, but to coach takes 55 to 60 hours work and I just want my free time right now,” Grant said.
As he enters the final month of his career, Grant said while he is proud of the wins, he knows longevity has been a key component to his success.
“Without sounding egotistical, it takes hard work and consistency to get a lot of wins,” Grant said. “I tried to treat everyone with respect and I hope that in the end, I made a difference in peoples lives and gave them the respect (they) deserved.”
Grant and his wife, Lisa, have been married 38 years and have three children: Myles, 37, Jeanette, 34, and LeeAnne, 31.