North Carolina American Legion baseball Hall of Famer Grady Griffin speaks with Coleman-Pitt Post 58 coach Hank Jones before Thursday night's game at American Legion Field.
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Telegram photo / David Hahula

North Carolina American Legion baseball Hall of Famer Grady Griffin speaks with Coleman-Pitt Post 58 coach Hank Jones before Thursday night's game at American Legion Field.

Post 58 honors Legion baseball Hall of Famer Griffin

By Jeremy Johnson

Telegram Correspondent

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Grady Griffin grew up playing baseball as a child and has been around the sport his whole life.

His dedication to the sport earned him a spot in the North Carolina American Legion Hall of Fame in March.

He turned 86 years old on Wednesday, the same day he spent 12 hours working outside.

The celebration didn’t stop there.

On Thursday, before Coleman-Pitt Post 58 took the field against Ahoskie Post 102, he was presented with the American Legion Baseball Citation for Meritorious Service.

“It's a great honor to me,” Griffin said. “I’ve had a 75 year love affair with baseball.”

From little league all the way to traveling home on the weekends from graduate school at the University of North Carolina just to play baseball with his brothers, Griffin’s love for baseball is evident.

His hard work has earned him awards and also has helped put together a legion program that almost was discontinued.

“The local team almost folded in 2004. American Legion leadership was old, lost interest in it and had no money, so they said ‘Let’s drop it,’” he said.

That’s where Griffin came in and said, ‘Nope, can’t do that.’”

In 2004, he invested $1,200 of his own money. The next year he donated $2,400 to keep it going. Then at age 80, with his wife disabled, he had to give it up.

That’s where Joe Bell, the current Athelic Officer for Post 58, stepped in.

“Spenser, my oldest son, was coming through then, and I called Grady up and he said they were probably going to shut it down,” Bell said.

Bell told Griffin that he was willing to help him with the Athletic Officer postion if they would keep the program going.

“Joe Bell was the answer to a prayer,” Griffin said. “He came along and took it over and it has been revived, and we have a great management team now with Bell and Hank Jones working with him. They are doing a great job.”

Grady’s recognition by the Hall of Fame was special. He is one of only three people to be inducted into the American Legion Hall of Fame from the area. With Bell knowing that not many people knew about Griffin’s recognition, he decided to do something special before Thursday night’s game.

“It’s a big deal,” Bell said. “Not a lot of people are in the Hall of Fame, so that’s what (Thursday) was about ... to locally recognize his accomplishments.”

Even though he had to give up the legion business some time ago, Griffin always finds a way to stay around the ballpark.

“I love working with young people and seeing them play,” Griffin said. “I relive it through them.”

From playing centerfield for Wilson Post 13 on the same field that he was recognized, people see Griffin as the true definition of a hall of famer.

“He’s a great guy that loves baseball,” Bell said. “He loves these boys. Legion baseball is the largest outreach program that the American Legion has ... without Grady it would have been gone long before I ever got involved.”

Being recognized for the hard work and dedication that he put into the program is great, but for Griffin, coming out to the ballpark is much more rewarding that an award.

“I know that you learn a lot of life lessons in baseball,” he said. “Still being able to come out here and to know the program goes on and to know that young men are still able to play baseball is great.”