September Volunteer of the Month
Every baseball player dreams of playing in the World Series. Greg Gross was able to do it twice. Years after his playing career ended, Greg has other dreams, and that includes helping to put an end to ALS.
Greg was drafted by the Houston Astros in 1970 and called up to the major league in 1973. He played with the Astros until 1976, spent a short time with the Chicago Cubs, and then joined the Philadelphia Phillies in 1979, where he would play through the 1988 season.
During his time with the Phillies, Greg accomplished more than most players ever hope. He was a part of the Phillies 1980 World Series Championship team, became the Phillies career record holder for pinch hits, and first became connected to the Phillies work to Strike Out ALS.
The Philadelphia Phillies first took on the ALS cause in 1984 when Nancy Giles proclaimed that ALS belonged in baseball. In the early years of the relationship between the Phillies and The ALS Association, the players’ wives held successful events to raise money and awareness for the ALS cause and players and team management greatly increased the profile of ALS in the Philadelphia area, leading to thousands of people with ALS in the region receiving quality care over the past three decades.
Greg Gross left the Phillies after the 1988 season to go play for the Houston Astros once again. That is where his playing career would end, but his compassion for people with ALS was just beginning.
Even though he was no longer playing, Greg remained a fixture in professional baseball. He became a coach and, in 2001 rejoined the Phillies organization to become the team’s hitting instructor. He was once again a part of the team and once again linked to the ALS cause.
From 2001 through 2012, Greg was involved with the Phillies and their minor league teams, making his biggest impact as the Phillies hitting coach.
It was during this time that Greg met and married Konnie Crawford. While Greg was always a supporter of the ALS cause because of his career with the Phillies, Konnie encouraged him to take that support to another level. As a part of the Reading Phillies coaching staff, Greg and Konnie headed ALS auctions to raise money locally for the Greater Philadelphia Chapter.
When Greg became the Phillies hitting coach in 2010, he and Konnie saw it not just as a professional opportunity, but as an opportunity to use his position to help others. He joined with the Greater Philadelphia Chapter to promote an annual golf outing, which has since raised tens of thousands of dollars for ALS care and research.
Greg Gross did not just put his name on the golf outing invitation and say that is enough. He helped recruit friends from baseball, sponsors and other golfers to make the event a success. If his name was going to be on the golf outing, then Greg wanted to make sure that it was great event. When organizers at the Chapter asked Greg for help, he always said yes, and so did Konnie. He has golfed at the event, greeted players, and used his notoriety as a Phillies World Series champion to become a champion for ALS families.
After 2012, Greg was no longer part of the Philadelphia Phillies, but he still lived in the area. He could have stopped or even paused his ALS involvement. Fans and friends would have understood. However, Greg never wavered in his support for people with ALS. His golf outing and auctions were never about self-promotion or feeling good about himself. Greg Gross has been a leader for the ALS cause because he believes in it and he sincerely wants to make a difference for care and research.
There is no greater example of Greg’s humble support for people with ALS than the recent involvement of the Kirk family. Roger Kirk had been the President of Old York Road Country Club and was diagnosed with ALS in early 2013. He sadly passed away just two years later. As President of the golf club and as a prominent member of his community, Roger was well known and well loved. The annual golf outing has become a tribute to him and is now known as the Roger Kirk Golf Outing Hosted by Greg Gross.
Greg and Roger only met a few times, but they got along extremely well. Considering how down to earth and likeable both men are, that is no surprise. Over the many years, Greg has shown his true colors when it comes to helping people with ALS, but the fact that this World Series champion and local baseball hero who is still the all team Phillies leader in pinch hits put his name second because he wanted to honor the ALS cause as much as possible speaks volumes for who Greg is as a person.
Coaches help players get better. That’s their job. Greg has another job, and that is to help people with ALS get better. He may not be doing that in the lab, but he’s been doing it for years in every way he knows how and he continues to lead and coach others to make a difference. Thank you GG for all that you’ve done.
Join Greg, Konnie, and supporters from across the region at the 2016 Roger Kirk Golf Outing Hosted by Greg Gross on Monday, October 10 at Old York Road Country Club. Register at www.alsphiladelphia.org/golf When you come, take time to say hi to Greg. He’ll be happy to see you there.