Where are they now? Ben Grieve
Former A's top prospect now enjoying time with his kids
In his Major League debut against the cross-bay rival Giants 11 years ago, Ben Grieve turned heads, cracked bats and woke up a dismal A's crowd while tallying three doubles and five RBIs. The youngster's September callup provided a glimpse of hope for a rebuilding Oakland team in the midst of a slow but sure journey toward a 97-loss season.
At the time, the 21-year-old ballplayer with the long, easy left-handed stroke who reminded many of Ted Williams was just a kid -- well, more like Billy Beane's golden boy to be exact.
American League Rookie of the Year days followed. Yet so did some not-so-great days. In fact, said days turned into years for the once-promising outfielder, who called it quits after being released in Spring Training by the White Sox in 2005. Now 32, Grieve is three years removed from the big league scene but is keeping busy with a couple golden children of his own.
"The best way to describe my life would be the life of a nanny," said Grieve, who recently spoke about his hectic yet happy domestic life from his home in Dallas, Texas.
Grieve can thank 5-year-old Bode and 3-year-old Kaia for "keeping me pretty busy," he proudly said of his kids with a tired laugh after yet another long day of daddy duties.
His children were not around to watch him post a .312 average during his first month as a Major Leaguer. Nor were they alive to see their father earn a trip to the 1998 All-Star Game in the middle of the same season that earned him AL rookie honors. That just means all the more bedtime stories for Grieve to tell, though.
"I have DVDs that I've kept around just to prove to Bode I actually played," he said. "I finished up playing for the Cubs and he went to a couple games, but I don't think he really remembers.
"I think he understands that I played baseball. I just don't think he realizes that most dads aren't there every day like I am. He has it lucky, I guess."
The 5-year-old's not the only lucky one, though.
"I was fortunate enough to make enough money to where I don't need to work for the money," Grieve said. "So I have the luxury to just sit back and wait a while until something exciting comes up."
ARI: Travis Lee | ATL: Mark Lemke
BAL: Chris Hoiles | BOS: Bill Lee
CHC: Randy Hundley | CIN: Eric Davis
CWS: Dan Pasqua | CLE: Dave Burba
COL: Curtis Leskanic | DET: Steve Sparks
FLA: Charlie Hough | HOU: Doug Drabek
KC: Mike Macfarlane | LAA: Rick Reichardt
LAD: Jim Gott | MIL: Don Sutton
MIN: Kevin Tapani | NYM: Ed Kranepool
NYY: Jim Abbott | OAK: Ben Grieve
PHI: Tommy Greene | PIT: Barry Jones
STL: B. Tewksbury | SD: C. Hernandez
SF: Brian Johnson | SEA: Henry Cotto
TB: Doug Creek | TEX: Dave Hostetler
TOR: Alex Gonzalez | WAS: W. Fryman
Besides making smiley-face pancakes and changing diapers, Grieve spent this year helping a friend coach a baseball team at a local private school in Dallas. Because he chose to sign a Major League contract on the day of his high school graduation rather than continue his education, Grieve knows his job choices are limited without a college degree. Yet at the same time, he's very much content with the possibility of getting a full-time gig coaching baseball or possibly basketball in the near future.
Then again, he could wait a couple more years to coach his kids.
"Exactly," he said. "I could coach Little League ball. When my son was 3, he got really into baseball and would know all the guys' names and numbers, so it's kinda how he learned to associate letters and numbers just from the back of people's jerseys.
"He still likes baseball and he'll watch it, but now his friends are into other stuff, so right now he's all into Star Wars and Transformers."
As for Grieve, he had to endure watching his own real-life version of Transformers when his potential Hall of Famer status turned into big league bust -- not exactly the type of scenes worthy of an Oscar.
"When I went to Minor League camp in 2005 and got released, I wouldn't say it was as much frustrating as it was embarrassing," he said. "I think it was the first round of cuts that I got sent down, so that was definitely embarrassing. You know, that's usually when they send the old guys down, so I thought, 'Great, these guys don't know how to treat a veteran.'
"I just thought, 'Why didn't I quit before I even got here?'"
That thought came just eight years after lofty expectations had been placed on his every move in Oakland, where he compiled a .277 average following his first three full big league seasons. Modest performances followed in Tampa Bay, Milwaukee and Chicago.
"When I think of when I had the most success, it's with Oakland," he said. "I wouldn't say I was bitter when I got traded, but when I got traded, I kinda became an anti-A's fan just because they traded me.
"But I got over that. I realized everyone goes their separate ways in baseball. But if I had to associate myself with one team, it would be the A's."
Grieve is quick to mention that Oakland at least got "some good people for me" in the 2001 trade that sent him to Tampa Bay. In fact, the A's nabbed Johnny Damon in the three-team multiplayer deal that also involved Cory Lidle. Oh, and they received a Minor League infielder named Mark Ellis in the mix.
"I had three good years with Oakland and the last four or five weren't so great, but I try not to dwell too much on the fact that I didn't continue my success I had with Oakland when I left," he said. "The thing that helped out was, when I finished out with Milwaukee and Chicago, I had a lot of fun. In Chicago, I was a pinch hitter for Dusty Baker, and he had a lot of confidence in me coming in the game late, so I ended on a positive note."
Grieve also came out of the business with a wife, Kathy, who worked for the A's at the time he began his career.
"Yeah, that's probably a pretty important memory from Oakland," he said with a laugh. "I met her when she was working at some fan event, and we kind of hit it off."
When in need of grown-up time, Ben and Kathy have the privilege of turning to Grandpa Tom for a babysitter. Tom Grieve, longtime Rangers broadcaster, lives in nearby Arlington and sometimes brings Bode into the Texas clubhouse before sending him and family off to an air-conditioned suite to watch a Rangers game.
That's about as much baseball as Grieve takes in, though. The former outfielder, who admits to not being a "baseball junkie like most players," would much rather spend his time playing pickup basketball at the gym or participating in Bikram Yoga sessions than be at the baseball field for hours upon hours.
No, really. Just ask him.
"I know, right?" he said, laughing. "I'm kind of a yogi now.
"What I enjoy most about all this time is, I don't really have a schedule. If I wanna play golf tomorrow, I don't have any obligations."
Nor does Grieve have any pressure or expectations following him -- just two little kids who simply know him as Daddy. Not as the One Year Wonder. Or as the Golden Boy Who Once Was.
"You know, I just look at my short career in a positive aspect," he said. "I got to do something not many do, which is play Major League baseball."
Jane Lee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.