Two years after that, at 21, Sizemore was in the big leagues to stay. Before the '06 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 eligibility.
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 moved to Arizona in May. Little Grady? With the windfall he splurged only on the '66 Lincoln and a house in Arizona he shares with his brother Corey.
Ever thorough, Sizemore, despite flying headlong toward outfield walls and around 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!"
"But Grady," his dad would say, "it's freezing outside."
Nevertheless, the two would soon be hitting plastic balls in the backyard or baseballs on an empty field. Says Shapiro, "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."
This season Sizemore had worked the count full in 17.9% 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 on May 3. On the 20th pitch he faced that night, Sizemore belted a game-winning ground rule double.
Afterward, hardly 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."
With that, culminating what for him was a Churchillian address to a few reporters, Little Grady slipped out of sight behind the thick pillar that hides his locker, content with the reward of victory and the promise of tomorrow, another day to wear the baseball uniform and, better still, get it dirty.
From SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, May 14, 2007