Shapiro, at the
time of the trade, compared Sizemore to Trot Nixon and Brad Wilkerson, decent
lefthanded hitting outfielders but never considered star players. Two years
later, at 21, Sizemore was in the big leagues to stay, developing power and
raising expectations. (His spike in power, Shapiro says, was a natural
development for a player who, despite the low home run totals, was already a
good gap hitter.) Before last season Shapiro signed Sizemore to a contract
that, with a club option, is worth $31.45 million over seven years, buying up
his arbitration-eligible years as well as two years of free-agent
When asked then
about surrendering such leverage, Sizemore expressed his happiness with the
team's faith in him and the financial security. He also sat down his parents
and told them, "You don't have to work anymore." Big Grady and Donna
have since retired and last week moved to Arizona. Little Grady? With the
windfall he splurged only on the '66 Lincoln and a house in Arizona he shares
with Corey, a house he admits he cleans with obsessive zeal.
"I wash my
hands a lot, too," says the baseball dirtbag. "I've got this thing
about cleaning, I guess."
Sizemore, despite flying headlong around outfield walls and bases, hasn't sat
out a game in more than two years and typically shows up for work five hours or
more before game time. His enthusiasm hasn't changed much from his days as a
kid, when he would interrupt Big Grady's television viewing by announcing,
"Let's go hit!"
Grady," his dad would say, "it's freezing outside."
two would soon be hitting plastic balls in the backyard or baseballs on an
empty field--never a cage, because they wanted to see the flight of the ball
off the bat. Big Grady would throw a bucket of 40 or 50 baseballs to Little
Grady, who'd spray them all over the field, then they'd round up the balls and
do it all over again.
suggested it; I never had to come to him," Big Grady says. "It's what
he did for fun."
"Grady wants to be great, not just good. And what you're starting to see
now is maybe that once-a-decade convergence of effort, energy, talent,
athleticism and baseball ability. It's all coming together."
the Indians owned the second-best record in the AL, at 18--10, and Sizemore had
reached base 52 times while scoring 24 runs. (In only one game had he failed to
get on at least once.) He had worked the count full in 23.1% of his plate
appearances, up from 16.6% last year, including an eighth-inning at bat against
Toronto righthander Jason Frasor in a tie game last Thursday night. True to
LaCava's early reports, on the 20th pitch he faced that night, Sizemore belted
a game-winning ground-rule double.
raising his voice above a whisper and with his head bowed, Sizemore actually
spoke about himself and his growth as a hitter. "I feel comfortable in the
batter's box," he says. "I feel like I can be the same hitter at 0 and
2 as I am at 2 and 0, not worrying about the outcome as much as just working on
putting a good at bat together."