Grilled Cheese Grilli tries to stay cool

Jason Grilli at work. Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images North America.  

Jason Grilli at work. Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images North America.
 

 

April 14, 2017
Keeping it cool with Jason Grilli


By Jessica Ng
Canadian Baseball Network

There’s a noticeable hush when your team is off to the worst season-start in club history, and you’re at the bottom of the league.

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Jason Grilli doesn’t let it get to his head, though.

Postgame, he reflects amidst the calmness of an almost-empty clubhouse.

“You have to come down from that,” he said, sitting at his locker. “You leave it here – can’t take it with you.

“The older you get, too, more you hang onto every game.”

The Royal Oak, Mich., native has seen his fair share of games – 554, to be exact - and has pitched 649 1/3 innings in the majors.

Drafted by the New York Yankees in 1994 right out of high school, Grilli deferred his big league start to study Business Marketing and play college ball at Seton Hall University.

In 1997, he was selected as a first-round pick, fourth overall, by the San Francisco Giants. After playing double-A and triple-A in the organization for a few years, he was traded to the Florida Marlins.

On May 11, 2000, the then 23-year-old made his Major-League debut with the Marlins. Pitching 6 2/3 innings, he recorded a win against the Atlanta Braves in his only game that season before succumbing to Tommy John.

Now 40 years old, Grilli has toured both the American and National League over his career. 

In addition to San Fran and Florida, his talent has graced nine other teams: Chicago White Sox (2004), Detroit Tigers (2005-2008), Colorado Rockies (2008-2009), Texas Rangers (2009), Philadelphia Phillies (2011) Pittsburgh Pirates (2011-2014), Anaheim Angels (2014), Atlanta Braves (2015-2016), and now, the Blue Jays.

After last year’s mid-season trade from the Braves, he boasted a 3.64 ERA and .600 winning percentage in 46 appearances with Toronto.

It is serendipitous that he plays for the same team for which his father, Steve Grilli, pitched his last Major-League game in 1979 at Exhibition Stadium.

“Oh yeah,” Jason Grilli said, “This is a great city.”

Coming off the tails of a whirlwind promotion for National Grilled Cheese Day and Month, the 2013 All-Star has been using his celebrity status for good.

“The nickname’s taken a life of its own, naturally,” he said of his snack-inspired alias. “It’s easy to use the platform for good.”

He has partnered with Jays Care Foundation for “Fire up the Grilli” campaign, where charitable proceeds from a Grilli-designed, three-cheese sandwich will benefit malnourished youth.

“I’ve had offers even to profit for myself. I said, ‘I don’t want to do that – I just want to feed kids that need to be fed.’

“Simple.”

His educational background and business savvy have led to the creation of Perfect Pitch Marketing Group, a consultancy firm based in Florida, where his family resides.

In his 15 years in the MLB, the reliever is focused and knows what it takes to get through a season.

When asked about the Jays’ projected performance, it’s clear that he is not worried. 

“It’s alright, we’ll get there,” Grilli said. “Everybody just needs to relax a little – we’ll get it going.”