Check out the full conversation with Grayson Greiner and hear what he had to say about his best moments in MLB and in the Garnet and Black on the Gamecock Talk Podcast.
Grayson Greiner had the chance to live out his childhood dream by not only playing for his hometown university, but also by playing Major League Baseball. He recently retired from baseball, but he’s still living out his dreams with his family while figuring out how to fill his days after having the everyday structure of pro baseball over the last ten years.
“I’m enjoying being a dad, getting to spend time with my kids and not being away from them for weeks and months at a time,” said Greiner. “I’m just trying to figure out what the next chapter holds. I’m finding out what the real world is like.
“It hit me hard on the drive home from Albuquerque with my wife (Madison) and kids (Hudson and Hayes). I’ve been playing since I was six years old, and it’s all I’ve ever known. It’s all I ever wanted to do; play here at Carolina and then go play in the big leagues. I was very fortunate to be able to live that dream for as long as I did. I felt like the timing was right (to retire). I had a good talk with my wife and my parents. It felt like it was a good time to come home and move on to the next chapter.”
Greiner grew up around Columbia and starred at Blythewood High School. With his grandfather playing football for South Carolina in the late 1940s and his father playing basketball for the Gamecocks in the 1970s, there wasn’t much doubt about his own college career.
“I grew up idolizing Coach (Ray) Tanner, Justin Smoak, Landon Powell, and Drew Meyer,” Greiner said. “I just knew that I always wanted to play here.”
He had even written a letter to his mom when he was a youngster that foretold his future about playing for South Carolina and in Major League Baseball.
“She still has it framed in her little TV den,” Greiner said. “She reminds me of it all the time. I think I had messed up or something around my mom’s birthday, and I wrote her a ‘sorry’ letter saying I would always be her son and would always respect her and one day I’ll make a lot of money and hopefully give it to you.”
“Getting to play in the national championship is tough to beat. I remember the flyover and packed house in Omaha. Beating Clemson was always fun. We did that a lot.”
Greiner started behind the plate most of his freshman year and helped the Gamecocks reach the National Championship series for the third straight year at the College World Series. Tanner would become the Athletics Director after that season, and playing under Coach Chan Holbrook the next two years, Greiner would help guide the Gamecocks to the postseason in each of those seasons as well.
“It was all a whirlwind,” Greiner said. “It happened so fast, and I was so young. I was just enjoying every moment. I talk to those teammates of mine to this day, all the time. Getting to play in the national championship is tough to beat. I remember the flyover and packed house in Omaha. Beating Clemson was always fun. We did that a lot. The day that we had to finish a rainout (against Tennessee in 2014), and Jordan Gore hit a walk-off home run in the first game, and then I hit a walk-off grand slam in the second game. That was a cool memory. Playing in front of these fans at this stadium was everything I thought it would be since I was a little kid.”
He was drafted in the third round of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft following his junior season in 2014 and spent nearly five years in the minors. In 2018, Greiner was called up to the big club in Detroit and spent five years in Major League Baseball with the Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks.
“It’s a very mental game,” Greiner said. “It’s a grind. You’re definitely not in great living conditions in the minor leagues. You’re not eating great food. When you know what your end goal is, it makes it a little easier.
“It’s been years and years of working and trying to keep going. That’s why I got really emotional on that day I decided to call it quits.”
Greiner is quick to point out how much he appreciated Madison’s support throughout all those years of being on the road. After being released by the Colorado Rockies this spring, Greiner decided it was time to move on to the next phase of his life and discover what comes after baseball, which still involves watching baseball.
“I watched my alma mater, Blythewood High School, play in the state championship” said Greiner, who still makes his home in Columbia. “It’s different watching outside of the netting. I still get the nerves a little bit when I’m watching.
“I always think I’m the biggest Gamecock fan there is. It’s nice being able to be a fan now and go through the highs and lows like the fans probably did when I played here. At the end of the day, I know those guys are giving it their all. If they win; great. If they lose, at the end of the day, it’s just a game. There are lots of bigger things in the world.”
Like being home with family.