By Alex Brown, Editor-in-Chief
Bulldog head coach Brent Fronabarger loves to mix and match his lineups, but for the past four years he has had one constant. Penciled in somewhere in the batting order — sometimes batting leadoff, sometimes hitting ninth — will be “No. 4 — Grimm — 6.”
With 190 games played in a Bulldog uniform, it is safe to say Danny Grimm, political science major, feels at home on the patch of infield dirt between third base and second base at Fesmire Field. The surehanded shortstop has made a habit of coming home as well, tallying 137 runs during his Union career.
While he doesn’t fit the prototype of the tall, rangy shortstop or sturdy slugger, the 5-foot-9 senior will leave a huge hole in the Bulldogs’ roster when he graduates this spring.
Grimm has been an offensive catalyst and defensive anchor, and Fronabarger said he will not be easy to replace.
“He’s by far the best defensive shortstop in our conference,” Fronabarger said. “There’s a luxury in putting a guy out there who you know is going to make every routine play and make some above-average plays.”
Grimm holds the Union record for assists, gunning down 504 baserunners over his Union career. The two-time TranSouth Conference Gold Glove winner said his play in the field has improved as he has grown more accustomed to the daily pressures of playing a premium defensive position.
“My freshman year, I made more errors,” Grimm said. “I was a little nervous out there. Now I don’t really get nervous at all, especially out in the field.”
He said he has found chatter with fellow infielders and opposing baserunners helps keep him loose. He has become more vocal in other areas as well, emerging as a team leader.
He sets the example with his intensity in workouts and helps lead weekly Bible studies, an outlet Grimm says gives teammates a chance to be accountable without feeling judged.
“I care a lot more about that than I do anything that happens on the field,” Grimm said. “Baseball is what I do; it’s not who I am.”
While Grimm has progressed as a player, he says his time at Union has been about far more than baseball. He said the sport was his No. 1 priority as a freshman, but as he has gained perspective and grown in his faith, Grimm has realized baseball is not what is most important.
Of course, Grimm’s life has another aspect — one that might have a lot to do with his renewed mindset and redefined priorities: his wife Lauren, whom he married this summer.
“She’s awesome,” Grimm said. “(She) gives me a new perspective on what is important in my life.”
Grimm received offers to play at several Division 1 schools, but he said his wife is a constant reminder that he made the right choice. While he had no idea he would meet his future wife when he chose to attend Union, he said he knew he had made the right decision.
He played his high school ball at University School of Jackson, moving to town from Jupiter, Fla., during freshman year. His father, Rich Grimm, was hired by Union in 2004 and became senior vice president for enrollment services in 2005. While Danny Grimm attended games and cheered on the Bulldogs, he did not know definitively if he wanted to play for Union.
Fronabarger started scouting Grimm during his junior year of high school as the Bulldogs focused on improving defensively.
“Your team is built around defense up the middle,” Fronabarger said. “(Grimm) is by far the best defensive shortstop we’ve had since I’ve been head coach.”
Other schools — including Murray State University and Lipscomb University — tried to lure Grimm, but he eventually decided on Union.
“My dad and I made a pros and cons list — academics, spiritual life, campus, baseball; Union was winning on every one,” Grimm said.
It’s a decision he does not regret.
“I love Union so much,” Grimm said. “I love what it stands for. I wouldn’t go back for anything.”
From his first game in a Bulldog uniform, Grimm proved to be an impact player, lacing three hits in a win over Clarke College en route to a .311 average in his freshman campaign.
He committed 20 errors that season but reduced that number to nine in a breakout sophomore season, hitting .363 while tallying a .963 fielding percentage. He maintained his steady glove work junior year but slipped to a .214 average, a drop he attributes to a loss of focus and a mandated switch to less powerful bats.
Grimm has changed his approach, and so far the results are encouraging. Twenty-seven games in, Grimm’s average stands at .337, and he is among the team leaders with 15 runs scored and a .451 slugging percentage.
“It comes down to pitch selection,” Fronabarger said. “When he struggled last year, he chased bad pitches.”
Midway through his senior season, it appears Grimm has returned to form. He said he relishes his role as a sparkplug for the offense, jump-starting rallies with hustle plays.
“I love setting up other people,” Grimm said. “I like being the person who lays a drag bunt down and steals second, then something big happens.”
Fronabarger said Grimm’s aggressive approach, speed and bunting ability put pressure on defenses, and regardless of where he bats in the order, he expects Grimm to get on base. With a career on-base percentage of .400, Grimm has done just that.
He has brought his career average back up to .308, and as Union closes out its last season of NAIA play, Grimm is looking to finish strong. He says the Bulldogs aim this year for a TranSouth conference championship and fourth consecutive national tournament appearance.
While he plays out his last string of games, Grimm is looking forward to post-college life as well. He said he would like to work at Union, with the goal of attending law school in a few years, but he and his wife also have applied to the Journeyman program, a two-year assignment with the International Mission Board.
For now, Grimm is enjoying what remains of his baseball career, continuing to make memories with the teammates he has grown to love.
In a Feb. 25 game against Taylor University, Grimm hammered a game-winning double down the left-field line, the first walk-off hit of his career.
The team rushed out of the dugout to mob him as he rounded second base, and Grimm celebrated in that most familiar of places — the patch of infield dirt between second and third base.