Mark Grant a dad first to autistic son, then a Padres broadcaster

June 16th, 2024

SAN DIEGO -- Fatherhood, like a baseball season, is a long haul. Those best suited for either bring consistency through good days and bad.

In that regard, Mark Grant is an All-Star dad.

Grant, a big league pitcher at age 20, never quite achieved All-Star status in his eight seasons as a player. He’s best known now for his work behind the microphone as the Padres’ good-humored TV analyst, sharing his love of the game through quips, anecdotes and barbs with play-by-play voice Don Orsillo.

Mark Grant pitched for four seasons with the Padres, going 17-18 with a 3.98 ERA in 126 games (28 starts).

There are three young adults in the mountain enclave of Alpine, Calif., nearly 30 miles east of Petco Park, who know Grant best as “Dad.” Son Andrew, 29, and daughter Alexis, 24, are establishing themselves on their career paths. Middle child Aidan, 26, was born with Down syndrome and autism. He will live at home as long as Grant and his wife, Mary, are able to care for him.

Just as he does with baseball behind the mic, Grant finds joy in fatherhood and the continued daily care he and Mary provide to Aidan.

“The joy, I think, is how he just appreciates the simple things that make him happy,” Grant said. “He doesn’t care what kind of car you drive or what kind of clothes you wear or what house you live in. He’s just happy. He loves being around the people he knows and who are a part of his life.”

While discussing his family, Grant wanted to make one point abundantly clear: Mary is a “mama bear” devoted to their children and tireless in her efforts to ensure Aidan is thriving and content. Mark’s work takes him on the road for half the baseball season, and he’s usually at the ballpark at night. Mary is a licensed attorney who put her career on hold to meet her family’s needs.

“She’s so selfless,” Mark said. “There’s not one selfish bone in her body. Everything’s about making it right for our family.”

Grant will be on the road this Father’s Day. The Padres face the Mets at Citi Field on Sunday. But when the Padres begin their next homestand, Grant will start his day as he always does when he’s at home -- up early, making breakfast for Aidan. His autism has left Aidan largely non-verbal, and he finds comfort in having a regular routine.

“He either has pancakes or Cheerios in the morning. That’s it,” Grant said, laughing. “There’s no deviation. … Big pancakes, got to split them up in a certain way. Then you put a thumbnail-sized piece on his plate, with a certain amount of syrup.”

Grant takes the morning routine to give Mary some time to herself -- often for a workout. After breakfast, Aidan gets dressed and ready for a drive down the mountains to his day program. Aidan spends time at St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center, which has a mission statement to “educate and empower individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to realize their full potential.”

The 20-minute drive from home to the center in El Cajon, Calif., is cherished alone time for Aidan and Grant. And 20 minutes is plenty long enough to ensure Grant’s humor breaks through.

Though Aidan doesn’t communicate in sentences nor enunciate words fully, the Grant family understands him. So the commute has its own routine.

“He’ll ask me questions,” Grant said, “and I’ve got to repeat the right answers. We pass landmarks, and he’ll call them out. Go past McDonald’s, and he goes, ‘Donald’s!’”

This is when Grant the baseball prankster kicks in.

“I say, ‘McDonald’s stinks!’” Grant said. “He’ll start laughing, so I get a kick out of that.”

The fact Grant can find levity in all situations is no surprise to those who know him. Among those is radio broadcaster Jesse Agler, who sometimes shares a booth with Grant when crossing over from radio to TV.

“I don’t know that I’ve met many more lovable and loving people,” Agler said. “I’ve described him before as the golden retriever of human beings. It might sound like I’m taking a shot, but I mean that as the ultimate compliment.

“He cares so deeply, it seems, for everybody he comes in contact with. He never complains, has a positive outlook. … A big part of what makes him what he is with the fans here is that they feel that through the television.”

Aidan’s day program around others with intellectual or developmental disabilities has allowed him to grow socially and learn certain skills. Just as Grant supports Andrew and Alexis in achieving their life goals, he’s in Aidan’s corner with every step.

And by being there, Grant has learned a few things himself.

“Tolerance, patience,” he said, “Realizing that I can change, but he probably can’t. Adjusting. We have the ability, my wife and I, to adjust and make changes, but he kind of doesn’t.

“But he’s made progress in some things over the years. … There are no guarantees all your kids are healthy, are going to get great jobs and all of that. Our situation isn’t like that. You adjust. You do what’s right for your kids.”

For information on how to support St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center, click here.