PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Entering last season, many Pittsburgh Pirates fans worried about whether Jason Grilli would be able to transition from setup guy to the closer’s spot.
Grilli silenced those critics by earning a spot on the National League All-Star team and turning into one of the top closers in Major League Baseball.
The 37-year-old finished the 2013 season converting 33 of 37 save opportunities.
While being a closer is a glamour position in baseball that puts a player on the spotlight, it wasn’t always like that for Grilli.
On Grilli’s Twitter account, his bio says, “Took a gravel road to hit smooth pavement.”
Does that describe the Pirates’ closer?
“I would say, yeah. To be at my age and to do what I’ve done over the last two years, I’ve been waiting for this opportunity along time,” Grilli said.
Likewise, the City of Pittsburgh has been waiting for a long time to see a baseball playoff team. Last year was a magical one. Grilli says, nothing in his long career can rival the atmosphere at PNC Park on Oct. 1 in that playoff game with the Reds.
“I really don’t recall being part of an event as a spectator or even as a player that was that electric. That night, it was like all of Pittsburgh was shaking the place. I could tell right from the National Anthem, McCutchen’s mom was singing, was like this title wave. If I was wearing a Reds uniform, I’d be kind of like sinking into my uniform, going, ‘Oh God, here we go.’ Because they were playing the whole City of
Pittsburgh that night, they weren’t just playing us,” Grilli said.
The Pirates won that game and almost beat St. Louis in the next round. They had become the talk of the town and it afforded Grilli an opportunity to get an invite to go on stage with his favorite bad, Pearl Jam, at Consol Energy Center.
“Just an epic night. The best way to describe it is athletes want to be a rock star and rock stars want to be an athlete and I got to feel what it was like to do that. I was pumped up and spoke from the heart really. I think anybody that was in the audience would probably have done the same thing. Like I said, give me that microphone, you never know what people are going to say in a moment that is so filled with emotion and passion and that’s what came out,” Grilli said.
It’s that passion that makes Grilli succeed in his role and he believes passionately that this 2014 Pirates team can do even better despite some key losses in the offseason.
“We just want to go in and win again. You get a taste of that, you get a little big closer. If you don’t walk away with a World Series ring, I know it’s hard to watch on TV,” Grilli said. “We look at the Cardinals and think, we played them good all year long and they were in the World Series so, could we have been there? Yeah!”