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SOFTBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR: BAILEY GROSSENBACHER

Lemon Bay's Grossenbacher not your average athlete

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SUN PHOTO BY TIM KERN

Lemon Bay outfielder Bailey Grossenbacher hit .548 with 21 RBIs and 41 runs to earn her second Sun Player of the Year award.

ENGLEWOOD — The season was over. Her teammates were off enjoying summer break or getting ready for their own travel ball seasons.

With most players yearning for a reprieve from softball, Lemon Bay junior Bailey Grossenbacher was out in her sanctuary, hitting balls to the fence at the school’s softball field.

Her father Mark was set up 10 feet in front of the plate, slightly to Grossenbacher’s outside — where she sees most of her pitches. Working on directional hitting, she would pick a spot on the field and drive the ball into the outfield.

Every few minutes, Mark asked if she needed a break. Each time she shook her head and asked for more pitches.

Most players have a relaxing summer break, but Grossenbacher isn’t your average player. She fills her free time with softball.

“After the season, I’m usually out here three times a week,” Grossenbacher said. “But during season I stay after every practice and hit for another hour or two. Knowing myself, if I don’t work hard, then I just won’t play as well. That’s my thing, I always work hard to be good.

“I enjoy being out here. Sometimes I get frustrated, but most of the time I’m just out here having fun and making sure I’m ready.”

That’s not to say she doesn’t enjoy other activities, but softball is what puts her mind at ease — most times.

During the school year, Grossenbacher is the spark that spurs a potent Lemon Bay offense. Batting leadoff, Grossenbacher hit .548 with 21 RBIs and 41 runs scored while striking out three times in 73 at bats. With the help of the now two-time Sun Player of the Year at the plate, the Lady Mantas went 15-10 and hosted the Regional Final for the first time in school history.

“I’ve had kids before that have worked hard, but she just takes it to a whole new level,” Lemon Bay coach Kim Pinkham said. “She’s not happy with just contributing. She’s only content when she makes an impact. She just continues to work. There are days that we tell her to take a day off and she’ll go, ‘Oh ok,’ and she’ll go hit on her own.

“She does it because she truly loves it. She does it because she’s not content being average. It’s a pretty cool thing to watch. And for someone who contributes as much as she does and receives the recognition that she does ... she does it for the right reasons. She’s not doing it for herself ever, she’s doing it for her team.”

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The Lady Mantas celebrate as Bailey Grossenbacher comes home after her solo home run to lead off the bottom of the first.

Grossenbacher was as consistent as they get at the plate and a rangy athlete in the field — also pitching when needed. Before Lemon Bay met its match in the Regional Final this year, Grossenbacher reached base in each game for two years straight, dating to the final game her freshman year.

In the offseason, Grossenbacher plays for the East Cobb Bullets travel team and competes against some of the top talent in the country. She fends off pitches from SEC, ACC and PAC-12 commits and holds her own on the bright travel ball stage.

“Something clicks in my head when I go up to bat,” Grossenbacher said. “My mindset changes. In high school I’m there to have fun and help the team out and win the game. But (in travel ball), I’m not focused on hitting home runs, I’m more focused on getting base hits and making hard contact. I know I can adjust after each pitch and each at-bat.”

But it’s not like Grossenbacher is just a naturally gifted athlete. She is, but that’s far from why she has reached such an elite status in the sport at a young age.

She has put in above-average time and effort to get where she is.

“It’s certainly something that makes us proud as parents,” Mark said. “If she’s feeling that things aren’t going well, she’s going to be home or somewhere else getting extra reps in. It was probably sixth grade when it kicked in that she wanted to play Division-I softball, and at that time, the mindset was: If you do what everyone else does, you’ll be like everyone else. So you’ve gotta do something a little more each and every day to separate yourself.”

Sometimes it’s hard to pry her from the field. During one October workout after a hefty rain storm blew in, rather than call it quits for the day, Grossenbacher simply moved her workout to the dugout.

In the narrow cover, she worked on her swings and did some individual workouts. By the end, Mark said, she was doing squats against the cement wall while standing in a few inches of water.

Her work carries over to her home life as well, with cross-fit style equipment to help her with strength and conditioning.

“If we were at home you’d see a tire with a chain and vest on it that she’s had since sixth grade. It’s got some wear on it,” Mark said. “It’s measured out to 60 — home to first — and she’ll do sets of sprints until she feels like she’s ready to go. The jump box is back there at well. We just have those tools out there for when she needs them.

“Every so often I think, ‘These are things I never would’ve done as an athlete,’ and I was a football coach for eight years and played four years of football in college.”

Grossenbacher simply loves the grind. She doesn’t have to be forced to go to workouts or get in cuts at the school, it’s a state of comfort.

Mantas

Bailey Grossenbacher collects another base hit for her Lady Mantas. Sun Photo TIM KERN

And with hard work comes ample payoff. Not only has Grossenbacher been offered opportunities to play with some of the top teams in the country, she has also garnered college looks and has verbally committed to further her career at Florida International University.

After getting the offer from the Panthers, it didn’t take long for her to determine that Miami was the place for her.

“I like the coaches there and I love the campus,” Grossenbacher said. “The Miami environment is very fun to be around. And the softball program is pretty good this year. I love the campus and the school. They also have an entire facility just for athletes where they can go to get extra help and tutoring.”

For Grossenbacher, the ascent continues despite her acclaim. Heading into her final year at Lemon Bay, she looks to avoid any sort of plateau and wants to continue doing whatever she can to help her team make even more history.

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Lemon Bay’s Bailey Grossenbacher high-fives coach Kim Pinkham after hitting a two-run home run during Friday night’s District Championship win at Lake Placid High School.

Email Jacob Hoag at jacob.hoag@yoursun.com and follow him on Twitter @ByJacobHoag.

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