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Thursday, September 21, 2023


Former baseball player is an athlete turned author

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Robert Grilli looks for a hit against Baylor Univesity. | Courtesy of Paula Gambrell Maxwell

Robert Grilli has been swinging for success since adolescence.

At 4 years old, he discovered his love for baseball. What he didn’t know then was the places the game would take him.

“Growing up in Canada, I played a number of sports from volleyball, basketball, baseball to hockey,” Grilli said. “My dad put a ball, glove and bat in my hand at the age of four. I have been running around ball diamonds and coming home with dirty uniforms ever since.”

Grilli attended high school at St. Michael’s College School, which has more than 203 alumni who have played in the National Hockey League and 14 inductees in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

From rink to field

Although he excelled in Canada’s popular sport, Grilli was glad he made the switch to baseball.

“I knew my opportunity and future was on the diamond,” Grilli said. “Looking back on my journey, I’m grateful for all the opportunities and experiences the game of baseball has provided.”

Grilli helped his team win the national championship title in 2009 and a silver medal from the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Association in his senior year. Although he lettered on varsity baseball for four years, no colleges were seeking him.

“Coming out of high school, I only had one offer to play baseball at the collegiate level,” Grilli said. “I am what most scouts and talent evaluators would deem ‘undersized,’ but what about 99.9 percent of people can’t quantify is my heart and determination.”

Grilli didn’t let the rejection strike him out.

“I knew that if I wanted to play in a Top 25 Division I program, get a Tier One education and play in a warm-weather state, I would have to take the road less traveled,” Grilli said.

That road led him 1,903 miles from home to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he spent his freshman and sophomore seasons playing junior college baseball. In his two years at Salt Lake Community College, Grilli batted .290 with 40 stolen bases and 54 RBIs.

His performance on the field and in the classroom earned him a two-year scholarship from the University of Houston, where he spent two seasons with the Cougars. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound utility player had reached the goals a few years ago.

Devising ‘The Playbook’

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Grilli utilized time on team flights and before class to complete “The Playbook.” | Courtesy of Robert Grilli

It was in class that Grilli found the motivation and vision to author a book.

“A professor had asked me to do a video for class regarding what lessons, tools and tips enabled me to achieve success in this class given my rigorous student-athlete schedule,” Grilli said. “I received great feedback from many students, not just student-athletes.”

Also helping to get the book realized was when Grilli’s younger brother, Thomas, went searching for which college or university to enroll in.

“I started jotting down notes in my iPhone on lessons, tips and experiences he would benefit from hearing,” Grilli said. “After going through the process of figuring out how I can get my knowledge out, I felt that a book would be the best way to do so.”

Grilli admitted he was initially overwhelmed with finding a publisher, formatting the book and building a brand. He pushed on, despite that the peak of his writing experience was in college essays and clever tweets.

“I utilized our time travelling on airplanes to write,” Grilli said, referring to the writing process that occurred within the baseball season. “I had to make sure my teammates who were sitting beside me were asleep, or my laptop brightness was really low to make sure no one knew.”

The secrecy extended to his family members as well.

“I didn’t want anyone to know, because there were times throughout the semester that I didn’t even know if I would complete it,” Grilli said. “Balancing school, baseball and now writing a book, I didn’t want anyone constantly asking about it as I didn’t even know if this was something I wanted to do.”

Utilizing UH faculty for guidance throughout the entire process, Grilli cited a meeting with the head coach of football, Tom Herman, as a driving force in helping him to build his brand.

In the spring semester, Grilli completed”The Playbook: A Student Athlete’s Guide to Success.”On June 1, the book was published on Amazon and peaked at No. 4 in Amazon’s “hot new releases.”

Future strategy

The recent economics graduate believes that everyone, student-athletes and otherwise, has something to gain from reading the 80-page guide.

Now back in his home country, Grilli is hunting for a job in wealth management or sales to put his degree to good use. Returning to baseball isn’t off the list, however — he might become a coach, a scout or pen a follow-up to “The Playbook.”

“The feedback that I have received so far has been very gratifying,” Grilli said. “When others share the same passion and excitement that I do about this book, it’s quite a fulfilling feeling. There is no better feeling in this world than helping others, and I can do so through this book.”

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