It's been almost 20 years since Jason Grilli played for the Baldwinsville Bees, but some might argue he's in the prime of his career right now at the age of 35, both mentally and physically.
Grilli signed the biggest contract of his career earlier this week, a one-year, 1.1 million dollar deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"I'm elated by it", says Grilli, "I'm still going after the biggest accomplishment yet in my career. I want to finish off on top. This is a borrowed game, and at 35 I aim to pitch into my forties if my body still permits me, and I've kept my body in great shape."
Grilli has had to work harder than most major leaguers to keep his body in shape. He missed the entire 2010 season after a workout accident caused a torn quad tendon and ruptured knee ligaments. It was an injury that could have ended his major league career.
One of the top surgeons in the country told Grilli that he could help him surgically, but that the rest was up to him. According to Grilli, that's all he needed to hear.
"Never is a motivating word. I said do you want to make it back because never is not an option, and I said (to myself) I'm going to do everything in my power."
That motivation was also enhanced by Bree McMahon, a high school soccer star who lost one of her legs after a freak accident during her senior season. The early stages of her rehabilitation process took place right along side Grilli's, a wake up call for him, and something he still gets emotional about.
"She was really an inspiration to me, and I said if she has enough strength for what she's going through, then you certainly can too. And we worked together, we worked hard."
And it seems to have paid off for Grilli, who hopes to use his latest opportunity with the Pirates as a springboard to bigger and better things in the future.
"I'm probably being slotted again as the set up man, and may even close occasionally, so I want to make myself as attractive as possible, especially going into my free agent year. I just want to have a good focused year. I want to get back to the playoffs and the world series, I have a taste of that. I'm really thankful that this organization has given me a shot."
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