Trennis Grant asked God to bless him with the opportunity to become a head baseball coach at the age of 35. Our Heavenly Father put a native of Canton, Mississippi, on the fast track and granted His wish two years earlier at the age of 33.
Call it a blessing of “historic proportions.”
When Dillard meets Louisiana Christian in a weekend series Jan. 27-28, Grant and the Bleu Devils baseball team will make history. For the first time in the Gentilly institution’s 87-year history, Dillard University will field a collegiate baseball team.
“I will never get this opportunity again. How many people can say that they have started a program from scratch and if it is successful as we know it will have a tremendous impact on our prospects and its impact on the city of New Orleans. We’re excited, looking forward to it and it’s going to be fun,” Grant said.
dr Kiki Baker-Barnes, now the standing commissioner of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference, hired Grant while she served as Dillard’s director of athletics. She is confident that she has hired the right man.
“He understands exactly what it means to create a program. He is young and experienced and he has energy. Building a program is difficult, but he understands the key elements such as recruitment and having the right people on the team. He came up with an impressive plan.”
Grant was an assistant coach at Southern, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Alabama A&M. He was also recruiting coordinator at A&M.
Ah yes. Recruitment.
Dillard has a roster of 38 players. How do you sell student-athletes in a program with no practice field, no home park, no uniforms, and no history?
“I sold them to myself. I sold her on an opportunity to play for a coach who has competed at three different Division I institutions, competed in multiple playoffs, and recently competed in a program (Southern) that won a SWAC title. I sold them to Dillard Academics because we all know Dillard is a respected institution.”
Manager Grant admits he experienced some anxious moments last spring when he realized he hadn’t signed a player and nobody was really paying attention to his pleas. That first recruit is always the most important, and in this case he paid dividends.
A junior college transferee from Greenville, Mississippi named Ty McCollough can forever say he was a trailblazer.
“I started recruiting in April last year and after that first signing, the floodgates opened,” said Grant.
“I think we just needed one recruit to say ‘yes’ and when I posted it on Instagram and Twitter the other guys went looking for him. That was in April. By June we had signed about 25 people.
Trennis Grant is the embodiment of enthusiasm and optimism. After all, a brand new program usually comes with a funding squeeze – a problem that could be magnified if you’re forced to play almost all of your games on the go.
The Bleu Devils managed to raise $36,000 in a short amount of time. That should help with the travel budget.
Coach Grant hopes Dillard’s entry into the baseball world will attract more African Americans to the game. He is well aware of the low interest in the game among African Americans.
The Arkansas Tech graduate understands that the game is expensive for many. However, he has an interesting suggestion for at least one way to alleviate the problem.
“We need to tell football coaches to stop telling kids to just play football. I understand you get full trips to college, but in my opinion if you play more than one sport you are a more sought after athlete. I was a dual sport (football/baseball) athlete in high school, but in baseball they came after me harder because they knew I had this toughness and character.
“We just have to keep knocking on doors because I think parents just don’t know what’s available. There are programs like the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner-Cities) program run by Major League Baseball right here at Wesley Barrow Stadium where kids can learn and play the game for free. The parents just don’t know and we have to tell them.”
Of course, Trennis Grant doesn’t care what color the players are. He looks ahead to the inaugural Gulf Coast Athletic Conference baseball tournament sponsored by Hope Credit Union April 28-30 at the Hank Aaron Sports Academy in Jackson, Mississippi.
The Bleu Devils are back in the game. According to the commissioner, baseball will have a far-reaching effect on Gentilly Boulevard.
“It gives the Dillard community a chance to mobilize behind the varsity, Baker-Barnes says.” “In the spring, after basketball is over, we hear about baseball teams at UNO, Xavier, Loyola or Delgado. Now that spring is over, Dillard won’t be out of sight, nor out of mind. Dillard is not heard from anywhere during the Spring Sport cycle. Now you will. It keeps Dillard relevant.”