Three blasts in three days defined Grotewold's career
Jeff Grotewold didn't spend a lot of time in the big leagues.
"I had short career," Grotewold pointed out.
He played 72 games for the Phillies, almost exclusively as a pinch-hitter, in 1992. Grotewold resurfaced three years later to play briefly for the Royals, then retired in '96. He hit a total of four home runs.
But three of them came 20 years ago, in three magical games in three days and nights at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. That tied a club record for pinch-homers by a rookie -- also held by Len Matuszek and Dave Hollins -- but they did it over the course of an entire season.
"It was a fun run, I've got to tell you," Grotewold said. "Besides being called up and telling my family that we'd made it to the big leagues, that was the highlight, absolutely."
Now 46, he lives and works in his hometown of Lake Arrowhead, Calif. He has a small chain of design centers called Carpet Station, and a construction business that builds and remodels homes. His wife, Teresa, started her own business after she graduated from the University of San Diego in 1986, which specializes in ice cream and chocolates. They're doing well, although like so many families, they've been impacted by the downturn in the economy.
They have two sons, Reid and Hans, and a daughter, Eastin.
"We've been very blessed," Grotewold said. "We've worked very hard, and I've been able to stay home and make a living. It's been a very nice life."
Grotewold was an undrafted free agent who went on to be an All-Star in the South Atlantic League in 1987, the Florida State League in '89 and the Eastern League in '90. That year, he received the Paul Owens Award as the best player in the Minor League system.
And he has vivid memories of the series during which he was one of baseball's hottest hitters.
On July 6, pinch-hitting for starting pitcher Kyle Abbott in the top of the seventh with two outs and nobody on, he homered deep to right off Bud Black. To this day, he remains grateful that manager Jim Fregosi gave him an opportunity to bat against the left-handed Black, even though Grotewold was a left-handed hitter.
"It was cold and windy like it always was," Grotewold recalled. "I think we were shorthanded at the time. [Fregosi] had enough faith in me to throw me up against Black, and I love him for it. I don't see too many managers putting left-handed hitters up against left-handed pitchers. It was a very unique situation, but I was fortunate enough to hit my first home run off him."
No. 2 soon followed. After grounding out in the first game of a doubleheader the following day, he came up again in the seventh inning of the nightcap. Pinch-hitting for pitcher Don Robinson, he homered to right-center off Mike Jackson.
"He was a hard thrower," Grotewold said. "It was cold again that night and I think subconsciously, you want to get the head of the bat out, and I was fortunate enough to catch up with one of his fastballs."
He completed the trifecta the next afternoon. This time, it was a two-run shot off of John Burkett after batting for Curt Schilling. "I didn't know it was a record, but it was rewarding because Burkett was having a real good year that year."
The experience was even more special because it was a Phillies wives' trip, so Teresa was in the stands. And, since he was born about an hour away in Madera, Calif., his parents and friends were also in attendance.
Now, some of his contemporaries are starting to make it big. The batters who made outs before his first homer were Dale Sveum and Ruben Amaro Jr. Sveum is now the Cubs' manager, and Amaro, of course, is general manager of the Phillies.
Over the years, Grotewold had opportunities to get back into baseball. He doesn't regret not pursuing them, but admitted he still has occasional pangs.
"I get very sad around February," Grotewold said. "I go through an emotional lull because I'm stuck here. It's a slow time in my industry, and besides being slow, it was always a time that I was ready to go to Spring Training. Those are the things that I miss. Gosh darn, I do miss that clubhouse. There's not a better camaraderie than that group of men in there."
Besides, he'll always have San Francisco.
(This feature appeared in the Phillies Magazine during the season. Other Alumni features in the Magazine included Rheal Cormier, Mark Whiten, Lance Parrish, Lee Thomas and coming in the September issue, Red Hudler).