"I always thought I'd wind up playing football," Grissom says. "I was a running back. I started baseball when I was six, football when I was seven. Antonio and I would play baseball all the time at the side of the house, pitching to each other. He's in Albany, Georgia, now, in A ball. He's second in the league in stolen bases."
"How long did you play football?"
"I played in high school. My mother didn't want me to play, said I'd get hurt. But I loved the game. I had offers to go to college. In my senior year, though, I was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds. They offered me $17,000 to sign—as a pitcher. I wanted to sign. I wanted the money. We talked about it, though, my mother and father and my high school coach and me. We put it to a vote. I voted for the money. Everyone else voted for me to go to college. I was outvoted, so I went to Florida A&M. That was the one school that would give me a scholarship just to play baseball, though they wanted me to play football, too. The coaches came right to my room in the dormitory, trying to get me to play. I just wouldn't do it."
"You did O.K. in baseball?"
"I hit .448. I had 12 home runs. I led the nation in triples. I played two years at A&M, and they were the funnest years in my life. I pitched, too; I won something like 12 or 13 games. The vote was right—college was good for me. I matured a lot. By the time I was drafted again, after my sophomore season, it was time for me to go. The Expos offered $48,000. I had to take that. What else was I going to do in college? Hit .500? I was 21. It was time to get started, to see what I could do. There wasn't even a vote this time. Everyone thought I should lake the money. I took it. I was drafted as a pitcher, but I never pitched. From the first day, I was in the outfield. No one even asked me to pitch."
(He still is raw. Half the Montreal team is raw. More than half. The team hasn't been able to sign free agents since the departure of deep-pocketed owner Charles Bronfman in 1991, and this has provided opportunities for rapid advancement. Join the Expos and learn baseball in the big leagues. Come to the big time in no time. Dan Duquette, the 34-year-old Montreal general manager, who has made a load of changes in one year on the job, says this is not an entirely precarious method. The players who have shot through the system have arrived in Montreal with their minds attuned to the idea of playing for the Expos. Unlike hired-gun free agents, these players feel that this is where they want to be, and they're happy to have reached a goal. Grissom arrived after only 201 minor league games.)
"I was going to quit after the first month in rookie league," he says. "I was in Jamestown, New York. I couldn't get a hit. I think I started my career by going oh for 63. Actually it was 1 for 18. It felt like oh for 63.1 don't even know why they kept me in the lineup. I was totally confused. The pitchers just owned me. I was watching strikes, swinging at balls, doing whatever the pitchers wanted. I remember one day, I was packed and I was ready to go. I never had been so frustrated. I called my girlfriend; I told her I was taking one more road trip and if I didn't start hitting, I'd be home. I'd be back in college."
"The day after I said that, I went 4 for 5. Everything changed. I think the next month it seemed like there wasn't one game where I didn't get at least two hits. I wound up hitting .323 for the season, eight home runs. I guess I just concentrated more. I don't know exactly. I'd been using all kinds of excuses, talking about the change from the aluminum bat to the wooden bat, things like that. I had to stop blaming everything else and look at myself. That was the final answer. I did that, and I was fine."
"And you were in Montreal by the end of the next season."