Baseball America is profiling the four finalists for the New Balance Game Changer Award, recognizing high school athletes who excel on the field and off, with an emphasis on community service. Eligible players entered an essay contest in which they outlined their achievements in baseball, in school and in their communities. Four finalists were selected, and the winner will be chosen by voting on Facebook, which begins on July 25. Finalists also made short videos about themselves, which you can view on the New Balance Baseball Facebook contest page. The winner will be announced at the Area Code Games on Aug. 7.
Cadyn Grenier has a couple of inches on the Red Sox' 5-foot-8 Dustin Pedroia. He's also a shortstop by trade, not a second baseman. But Grenier's Bishop Gorman High (Las Vegas) teammates—and even a few college coaches—still compare him to the Red Sox veteran for his grittiness and tenacity on the field.
"I'll go out and I'll play 110 percent," Grenier said. "I really take that to heart—you go out, you dive, you slide, you do whatever you can . . . Whenever you have the chance to get dirty, you do it."
Grenier himself looks to the Angels' Mike Trout for inspiration.
"I'll watch him play, and he's got a lot of speed, and that's kind of how I play," said Grenier, who batted .579 with five home runs and 10 stolen bases this spring out of the leadoff spot. "I've seen him turn routine singles into doubles, and I want to be that guy."
For Greiner, that kind of hustle extends well beyond the baseball field. The 16-year-old is one of four finalists for New Balance's Game Changer Award, which includes a $10,000 college scholarship and New Balance products donated to a charity of the recipient's choice. The award is designed to recognize players who excel on the field and in their communities.
Grenier has been involved with both baseball and community service from a young age. He said he was inspired in part by his father Mark, who briefly played baseball in college and has chaired a 5K run for the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada for more than 20 years.
"I've been out there pretty much every year since the time I was born," Cadyn said. "That's kind of the first charity I was involved with, and now I'm involved in four, five, six—I can't even keep count."
Grenier volunteers with Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, where he helps serve meals to the homeless. And he works with his mother, Julie, to organize team outings with the Miracle League of Las Vegas—an organization that melds his interests in baseball and community service. The Miracle League allows children with physical or cognitive challenges to play baseball with the assistance of a "buddy," who helps them around the bases, at the plate or wherever needed.
"Cadyn is one of our very best buddies," said Roxanne Loyed, co-executive director of the Las Vegas Miracle League. "Enthusiasm is a huge thing. He's very engaged and interactive with the player that he buddies with. It's not just going through the motions. This is a kid that's passionate about helping others and making this the best possible time that they can have."
Leslie Carmine of Catholic Charities, where Grenier volunteers a couple of times a month, agreed with that assessment.
"It's actually a little bit rare that we get high schoolers coming in on their own," Carmine said. "He does everything we ask of him, and he goes a little bit above and beyond in taking care of the clients. We don't have to worry, really. We tell him once what we need, and he takes the bull by the horns."
It might seem like a hefty workload, but Grenier said it isn't too difficult to balance baseball with community service and school work. If his homework becomes too demanding, he'll reschedule his charity work. "But I'll never miss," he said.
In his essay applying for the Game Changer award, Grenier wrote that he felt lucky he had the opportunity to live a healthy life and play baseball, and because of that, he has made community service a priority.
A rising junior, Grenier said he hasn't settled on his college plans just yet—though he's looking at Oregon State as a possibility. He said a scholarship would be a huge help, and he certainly has supporters in his corner.
"We wish him the best with this," Loyed said. "It's a really cool thing with New Balance. I think it's neat . . . Obviously, he has the initiative and the drive to want to participate in something like this.
"You can kind of tell the kids that have qualities that will take them further in life."