Huddled in front of the screen in a Nashville hotel room, Virginia Intermont Assistant Baseball Coach Jimmy Nave watched intently as his longtime pitching student Justin Grimm toed the rubber in his Major League Baseball debut Saturday. Despite the evening match-up between the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros not being televised, Nave followed the online broadcast and hung on every pitch that the 23-year-old Ranger prodigy threw.
“He was mine out there,” said Nave. “I felt like he was a part of me, because I had a hand in helping him get there.”
Bristol native Justin Grimm has been blowing up local and national headlines starting with his call to the big leagues last week and then his stellar performance in the home start for the Rangers. Nave couldn’t have been prouder of Grimm’s performance – seven strikeouts, no walks, and three runs on six hits in six innings of work. Grimm notched his first win with the 8-3 victory and became the first Rangers pitcher to strike out five straight batters during his big league debut.
Despite the media frenzy and locker room excitement following the game, Nave received a coveted phone call from the rookie. Nave chuckled about another call his wife Becky received years ago – while in labor – from Grimm’s mother, Tamara, who wanted pitching lessons for her young, talented son. And talent he proved to be.
Grimm would go on to play baseball at Virginia High School (VHS) under Coach Nave in 2003, before attending the University of Georgia. A graduate of VHS as well, Nave enjoyed a successful stint as the Bearcats pitching coach from 1994 to 2010. During that span, Nave helped coach 15 District Player of the Year winners, eight Regional Player of the Year recipients, 23 All-State players, and five MLB draft selections.
Nave knew that Grimm was something special when the high school freshman held his composure in a high-pressure regional game and hurled a 90 MPH pitch with a cold arm.
“Braves scout Billy Best came up to me after that game and asked about Justin,” said Nave. “I told him he was just 15, but to remember the name, Justin Grimm.”
Nave spent countless hours with Grimm in the bullpen throughout the years, honing his form and teaching him how to stay under control. Nave knew that once Grimm figured out how to utilize his breaking pitches and change of speed, he would be something special.
“He has always had a big-time arm that could hit 96 MPH, but the light bulb turned on, and he’s become a pitcher instead of a thrower,” said Nave.
Since Nave’s arrival at Virginia Intermont in 2012, he has maintained close ties with Grimm, who has thrown batting practice to the VI team. The Grimm name is known around campus for other reasons as well. Grimm’s brother, Matt, graduated from VI in 2008 and played first base for the Cobras. Younger sister, Ashley, was a four-year basketball standout and the 2012 Appalachian Athletic Conference Champion of Character.