Baseball Star’s Rise From the Pit
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READY, FIRE, AIM
Jason Grimsley grew up in Tarkington Prairie, a small town in Texas. Jason’s brother Joe was his best friend. They did everything together. Known for his “act first, think later” hyperactivity, Jason got into many accidents. Jason explains, “As a kid, I was a daredevil and always pushing the limits, which meant lots of exciting edge-of-my-seat moments and lots of pain.” He was accidentally shot twice while hunting, lost a toe in a motorbike accident, had a horse roll over him, and endured many broken bones and lots of stitches. Jason admits, “I’m a ready, fire, aim type of person.”
For 48 years Jason kept a secret that forever changed him. From ages five to seven, he was molested by an older boy. Not wanting to be known as a victim, or appear weak, Jason took on the persona of a “tough guy” that would hurt others before getting hurt. He explains, “For many years, that switch was an unhealthy coping mechanism to protect that lost little kid so he would never have to feel that way again. But I know now that way leads to an absolutely devastating loneliness.”
ADDICTED TO SPORTS
Jason loved playing sports which included football, basketball, and baseball which he started playing at 7. Pitching was where Jason shined. He dreamed of one day playing in the major leagues but figured it was a pipe dream. A more realistic plan was to be in the Air Force. After graduating at the top of his high school class, he accepted an academic scholarship to the Air Force Academy but failed due to his previous foot injury.
Jason’s dream was shattered. His baseball coach Rick Lynch had an idea. He asked Jason’s parents if he could borrow their son for a few days and he took Jason to the Philadelphia Phillies tryouts. Upon arrival, Coach Lynch asked the Phillies’ scout, Doug Gassaway, if Jason could throw the ball for him. Not impressed with the skinny kid from Texas who looked all of 14 (but was really 17) and still had braces, Gassaway said, “If you don’t mind him facing the guys we want to take a second look at, it’s fine with me.”
The next day, when it was Jason’s turn to throw the ball, nobody paid him much attention until he threw it and it registered at 93 miles per hour. By the end of the day, Coach Lloyd Simmons of Seminole Junior College (who won the Junior College World Series a few times) asked Jason to play for him. That was the beginning of his baseball career.
Jason went on to advance and play in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a pitcher from 1989 to 2006. Grimsley began his MLB career with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1989 and played for them until 1993. He then went on to play for several other teams throughout his career, including the Houston Astros (1994-1996), Detroit Tigers (1997), Kansas City Royals (1997-1999), and New York Yankees which led to World Series Championships in 1999 and 2000 (1999-2000, 2001-2003), Cleveland Indians (2000), Arizona Diamondbacks (2003-2004), and Baltimore Orioles (2005-2006). Known for his versatility and being able to pitch in different roles, including long relief, setup, and middle relief, he also had a fastball, curveball, and slider as his primary pitches.
In 2006, everything changed when Jason’s name was linked to performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). In June 2006, federal agents searched his house in connection with a steroid investigation. Grimsley later admitted to using PEDs, including human growth hormone (HGH) and amphetamines during his career. Even though most MLB players used steroids, Jason became the “fall guy.” To make matters worse, the FBI claimed that Jason snitched on his teammates. “But they (FBI) would make it seem as though I gave them names of other players who used PEDs on that day. I didn’t,” Jason responds. He was subsequently suspended by MLB for 50 games but ultimately his career was over.
FACING DEATH & FINDING FREEDOM
With his career ruined and his name associated with scandal, Jason was lost. Even though he had given his life to Christ when he was 10 years old, he hadn’t lived the life of a Christian. As he traveled and was traded from team to team, his wife got closer to God while Jason drank, partied, cheated, and used drugs. She knew Jason needed God more than ever and prayed for him daily. Jason agreed, “I knew I needed God. I had a front-row seat to my sins, and I’d always respected the church, but to need God was an admonition of weakness—something I wasn’t interested in.”
In 1999, when Jason was playing for the New York Yankees, he was open to God in ways he wasn’t in the past. He shares, “We’d been bouncing around for three years, we had two boys and Dana was pregnant with our girl, and I felt all the responsibilities that came with that… I wanted forgiveness, a clean slate. I wanted to do better. I accepted Jesus into my life and my heart expanded once again.”
But growing closer to God was a journey that didn’t happen overnight. While he felt closer to the Lord, he hadn’t fully surrendered yet and it wasn’t long until the pressures of life got the best of him and he went back to old habits to numb his pain. On August 21, 2015, Jason hit rock bottom. He explains, “I was desperate and alone at my cousin’s cabin in the woods. I’d consumed an ounce of cocaine, and not telling how many bottles of vodka. It wasn’t enough. After three days of failing to snort and drink myself to death. I made a decision.”
Jason wrote goodbye notes to those he loved and walked into the woods, put a gun up to his left eye and pulled the trigger. Miraculously the gun jammed and he survived!
When his family found out and Jason saw the impact his decision had on them, shame and condemnation came flooding in. He struggled with those feelings for the next year. He explains, “Then, one day, on my face, I had a meeting with God that changed everything. It was subtle, but it was true. It was simply profound. I cried out to God through tears, ‘I’m done fighting. I surrender.’” And Jason meant it.
His newfound relationship with God and his wife’s unconditional love and six words, 'This does not work without you,' changed everything.
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