Sam Grayston stepped into the batting cage at Coors Field on Saturday afternoon and took his hacks. The left-hander’s best swing nearly sent a ball over the right-field wall.
Wearing Rockies jersey No. 11, the 17-year-old talked hitting with Ryan McMahon, pow-wowed with manager Bud Black and, best of all, hung out with his pal and fielding partner, Nolan Arenado.
For one glorious day, Grayston became an honorary Rockie. Sometimes, wishes are granted and dreams really do come true.
“It’s absolutely magical,” said Grayston’s mom, Laurie. “He’s just been over the moon. Baseball is generally all he can ever think about or talk about — 24/7.”
Grayston was born with cystic fibrosis, a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Grayston was king for a day at Coors. An ESPN film crew was on hand to capture it all.
There is baseball kismet is at work here.
Grayston, who will be a senior this fall, is a first baseman and pitcher at Laguna Hills High School in Orange County, Calif. His coach is Drew Hillman, a teammate of Arenado’s at nearby Forest Lake High School. One day, when Grayston was a sophomore, Hillman told Grayston that he needed him to catch infield practice for someone. That someone turned out to be Arenado.
“The field over at Laguna Hills is all turf, so whenever it rains during the offseason, I go over there to take grounders,” Arenado said. “Drew would tell Sam to come catch for me. I field groundballs, and Sam catches for me at first base. He’s an awesome kid.”
So what’s it like to catch fastballs across the diamond from a six-time Gold Glove third baseman?
“It’s something you have to experience firsthand,” Grayston said while sitting in the Rockies dugout. “It’s somebody who can throw on the run, or one-footed or not even looking, and he still hits you in the chest. It’s tough to comprehend.”
When Grayston hooked up with Make-A-Wish, his request was to spend a day with Arenado and the Rockies. Initially, neither Arenado nor Jim Kellogg, the Rockies vice president of community operations, realized that the foundation was bringing Arenado and Grayston back together.
“Jim told me we were going to do something with Make-A-Wish, and I said, ‘Yes, that’s awesome, if someone wants me,’ ” Arenado recalled. “Then I found out it was Sam. My high school buddy, Drew, first texted me about it. I said, ‘Dude, that’s crazy!’ This is just so cool.’ ”
Grayston’s baseball roots run deep. His father, Joe, played college baseball at Azusa Pacific in the Los Angeles area and spent the 1984 and 1985 seasons in the Texas Rangers organization before shoulder woes ended his career.
CF, meanwhile, has not stopped Grayston. In fact, it is barely slowing him down.
“He’s wonderful,” his mom said. “He does his breathing treatments, as he’s supposed to, he takes his enzymes, his medications daily. It’s something we don’t think about or talk about or make a big deal about in our lifestyle. It’s just our normal. And he takes care of himself.
“I always keep a watchful eye over him, but I want him to be able to have roots at home and then have wings to fly.”
College, and hopefully college baseball, is in Grayston’s future. But Saturday, it was all about being Arenado’s honorary teammate.
“He’s just been speechless,” his mom said. “You can’t wipe that smile off his face. You know 17-year-old boys, they don’t want to be too overemotional, but he’s about to crack.”
Fans can learn more about Grayston’s Make-A-Wish journey in mid-July as part of the “My Wish” series on ESPN