Dan Grybash is at an age where a lot of people would think he's nuts to be winging it again in professional baseball.
So, Grybash understands that some of those who know him found it fitting he'll be pitching for a team called the Wichita Wingnuts.
"I would assume that with my history," Grybash said with a laugh a few days ago.
It appeared a pro career was a part of the Fremd graduate's history after seven seasons and a right shoulder surgery that required more cleanup than expected. The youthful dreams for someone who will turn 31 the day after Christmas seemed to be giving way to reality.
Grybash spent last spring as a pitching coach for his brother Jeff, who is Buffalo Grove's head coach. He was also giving lessons at a training facility in Wheeling and went back to Carthage College to complete his degree.
Then his phone started ringing. Four teams called Grybash in search of pitching help.
"I never reached out to anybody, they all called me," said Grybash, who was drafted in the 34th round by the Brewers in 2003 and spent three years in their organization. "I started talking to all my friends who were still playing … and I felt like I had to give myself one more chance.
"Things were going pretty good before I got hurt and I wanted to see if I could get back to where I was."
Grybash decided to see if he needed a reality check when he ran the possibility past his brother, mother, father and stepfather about getting back in the game.
"They supported me and if I got the support I figured there was no reason not to try," Grybash said. "You can always get a job but you don't know when you'll get to lace them up again under the lights."
Which Grybash will be doing again in Independent ball after he signed a contract with Wichita in the American Association. The team is managed by Kevin Hooper, who got 8 at-bats and played in 14 games with the Tigers in 2005-06.
"Dan is a guy we're real excited to have signed and added to our rotation," Hooper said in a release from the team. "He is a quality starter with proven success in our league. He is a bulldog type and will be a great leader for us."
Grybash has a 41-25 pro record with an average of 7.1 strikeouts per 9 innings. He made it to the high Class A level in affiliated ball with the Brewers and then pitched three years with Fort Worth and one with the Schaumburg Flyers.
He was 9-5 with a 3.39 ERA in 21 starts with the Flyers in 2007. In 2008, he pitched in the American Assocation All-Star Game, where his velocity topped out at 99 mph.
After the 2009 season, he went in for what he figured was some cleanup work on his shoulder since an MRI showed only some minor frays. But there were holes in his labrum and capsule that needed to be repaired.
That meant a more extensive rehab that kept him off the mound last year. He said the chance to coach with his brother gave him some patience he didn't have previously.
He was also patient with his rehab and believes he can get back to where he was throwing in the mid-90s before surgery. He heads to spring training with the Wingnuts in about a week and their season starts May 12.
"Once I started playing catch again I felt really good," Grybash said. "I felt stronger than I did two or three years before the surgery.
"I have no real expectations and I'm not putting any pressure on myself to do something. I'm looking to just compete and have fun and see what the year brings."
One thing Grybash sees is Bobby Cramer, a former roommate in Puerto Rico, having made an improbable journey into the Oakland Athletics bullpen. The 31-year-old Cramer was out of baseball entirely for two years but worked his way back to pitch 4 games in the big leagues last year and three so far this year.
"If he can do it, I can do it," Grybash said.
Grybash knows the odds of a similar story are long. But if this is where the dream ends that's fine with him.
"One way or another I get to end on my own terms and that was the biggest thing," Grybash said. "At first I thought it would be easier when I got injured and it would be an easy way to hang them up. Now I want to finish the way I want to finish."