Q&A: Math teacher coaches youth baseball


Mr. Sal Grano

Play Ball! Sal Grano and his son get ready to drive up to the ballpark.

Nick Lourie, Guest Writer

In an exclusive interview, The Paw Print’s Nick Lourie sat down with Mr. Sal Grano about his upcoming summer plans.  

Nick: So I heard you’ll be coaching your son’s baseball team this summer. Can you tell me when you started coaching him?

Grano: Yeah, so I started coaching my son’s team last year. It was his first year in the league and we didn’t know kind of what we were getting involved with. Luckily, I wasn’t the head coach last year and I’m just the assistant coach again this year. We all kind of started coaching his team last year and I was thankful that I was able to do it and that the baseball season was even able to happen because I know a lot of cities canceled [their youth baseball leagues].

Nick: I remember last year Mayfield Heights shut down everything like baseball, parade, and even the pool. So how many teams were there in Highland Heights and were they able to have enough teams to play during the pandemic?

Grano: Yeah, they had enough teams to play. I think that there were supposed to be more teams than what ended up happening. I think some people weren’t comfortable with it, and so what they ended up doing was they ended up taking the extra teams and distributing those players to other teams.

Nick: Now with more experience, how do you think coaching your son’s baseball team this year will differ from last year?

Grano: Well my son is one year older than last year and last year he was in a league called The Mighty Mites. It’s six, seven and eight-year-olds, and last year he was six and so I remember [being] worried about how he’s going to be playing with eight-year-olds.  [We worried] is he going to get hurt or they going to be throwing the ball too hard where he’s not going to catch it?

Nick: Yeah, when I was playing with Mayfield it was the same way because when I was 7 and my brother was 8 I was playing with his team and the players who played with him. So I was nervous because I was not as good as them. So it was kind of hard for me as well. But I think I still held my own because I used to always practice with him anyway. Going off of that, is it easier for you to practice with your son at home or with his teammates?

Grano: So I try to play with my son at home as much as we can. Whenever we get outside and it’s not snowing in the middle of April, we love to go practice and do some hitting and other stuff.  But he doesn’t have a brother at home to play with his two sisters, and so they both want to play with their sports ball causing some competition.

Nick: How long has he been playing baseball either in a league or just at home?

Grano: He started playing t-ball and there would be I think 30 minutes of practice and then after drills, they would try to hit the ball in a game. Every team gets up to that once and I want to say he was maybe four or five when he started.

Nick: Was there a reason behind you deciding to coach his team again this year?

Grano: Yeah, over the summer I like being close to the action and on the field with the team and the players and people to help them. I like to see the kids getting better and I like to help them get better. That’s always kind of a very gratifying thing for me to watch the kids get better.

Nick: The same thing goes for me because my father was the head coach when I was younger. So he was always there because we are in the same house. He can tell me everything there is unlike some of the other kids who probably don’t have that at home. Was there any person for you that led you to the reason to coach?

Grano: When I started coaching last year, my son’s friend, his dad was going to be head coaching and we wanted them to play together and the only way to guarantee that they would be together was for me to kind of help him out and say, ‘Yeah, I’ll help you coach,’ and so it’s been a pretty good arrangement.

Nick: So how excited are you and especially your son for playing baseball this summer?

Grano: I think we’re excited to play again this year. I think there’s gonna be fewer covid restrictions and because last year we were only allowed to have like three or four guys in the dugout at a time and everyone else had to be outside of the dog out like on the grass area. I think the team will be able to get a little bit closer and you’ll see maybe some friendships develop and the kids may be having a little bit more fun because they’ll be able to get you to know within reason a little bit closer to each other.

Nick: Over last summer how many games did you play and how many more games will you play this year. Will it be more than last year or is it the same?

Grano: I know that the season got started much later than what they typically would start the season last year so I think we’re playing more games this year and there’s also more practices this year.

Nick: And You’re still practicing during the season like in between games, right?

Grano: I think we did practice once or twice on a Saturday or Sunday morning. I don’t think that we are going to be practicing in between the games because those fields in Highland Heights get used a lot and it’s kind of hard to then have room to squeeze all of the teams up there to practice as well as get all the games off and everything.

Nick: Yeah, that’s probably it’s probably going to be hard or for that too. Because when I was playing we had practices I’m pretty sure every Tuesday and Thursday and then we would have games on Wednesday and Fridays. So we were with our team much more. So I feel like it benefited us because we get to know each other a lot and practice more of each other in that way. So I feel like it was that helped us grow as a baseball team. Speaking of games, do you know your schedule yet?

Grano: No and I’m not sure what it’s like. But yeah, I mean, we’re already practicing which is great.

Nick: What are the fun parts of coaching your son and especially other kids that you might not know.

Grano: You get to know the kids a lot better than if you were just kind of sitting off on the side and watching them play the game.  When you’re out there helping them and teaching them how to do things, you get to interact with them or you get to see that happiness that the kids have when they when they’re finally able to do something or they’re finally able to you know, throw someone out.

Nick: Yeah, I had that same feeling with my dad when I was when I first started a pitch and I struck someone out. It was a pretty good feeling. And do you have any goals or does your son have any goals for the season?

Grano: Nothing that we haven’t talked about and thinking this has to be our goal this year, I think. You know, I just want to see him get better this year. I want to see him turn into a more consistent hitter. And then as a team last year we made the playoffs and I think we were hoping to do a little bit better than what we did. We made it and then had one game and then we were done. We didn’t even get a victory in the playoffs.

Nick: Well I hope you and your son have a great 2021 baseball season.

Grano: Thank you.