By Grant Lucas

The Bulletin

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The Elks play a three-game series at Klamath Falls beginning today, then return home Friday for three games against South Division rivals Medford.

When: 6:35 p.m. (1:05 p.m. Sunday)

This is a level of celebrity that Cadyn Grenier has never before experienced.

Of course, he was popular in Las Vegas, a high school standout who frequently was featured on the sports pages of the local newspapers. It was such a common occurrence that, eventually, his neighbors began razzing him about it. “Oh,” the Bend Elks shortstop recites in a playfully sarcastic tone, “Cadyn’s in the newspaper again … ”

“Everybody (back home in Vegas) just kind of knows who I am,” says Grenier. “And I’m friends with just about everybody because of that.”

But here in Oregon, it is not just that he is well-known. In some ways, Grenier, just a few weeks removed from high school, is idolized. He does interviews with radio personalities — even those who cover Bend opponents, like when Grenier went on the air with Corvallis Knights play-by-play man Mike Parker before a recent matchup between the West Coast League foes at Oregon State’s Goss Stadium. And back at Vince Genna Stadium, in the on-deck circle, Grenier has been greeted by Elks fans — and thanked for choosing to play at Oregon State, exciting Beavers fans throughout Central Oregon.

Such is the life of this high-profile baseball recruit, considered by some to be one of the top players ever to enroll at Oregon State. Such is the celebrity stature of a player who was regarded by many as the best high school shortstop in the country this past spring, a player who turned down the opportunity to be selected in the first round of the MLB draft earlier this month.

“Unbelievable,” Grenier says of his experience thus far in the summer collegiate league. “It really solidified, ‘Hey, this is a great place. You’re going to have a ton of fun here.’”

———

There was a time last fall when Casey Powell never thought Grenier would even slip on an Elks uniform.

Initially, the Bend Elks’ general manager set his sights on Oregon State freshman Christian Donahue, a switch-hitting shortstop who would go on to hit .287 for the Beavers in the spring.

Soon after speaking with a Beavers assistant about Donahue, Powell, then in his first week on the job, got a call back. Donahue had already been placed by the Beavers’ coaching staff with the Corvallis Knights.

“I was bummed at first,” Powell recalls. “A switch-hitting middle infielder is always nice to get, especially from a program like Oregon State.”

Powell was informed about one of Oregon State’s top recruits from Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High who could use some at-bats against collegiate pitching before arriving in Corvallis. Powell agreed to save a roster spot for him, not knowing much about the player. That is, until a baseball camp that winter.

Powell was entertaining several scouts in his office above the Bend Fieldhouse at Genna Stadium when one of them approached a white board that mapped out the Elks’ depth at each position. The pro scout pointed to Grenier’s name: “‘We just had a conversation about that guy amongst the organization,’” Powell recounts the scout saying. “It’s like, ‘This guy must be pretty special.’”

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Grenier was named the Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year for Nevada this past spring, batting .472 with six home runs, 35 RBIs and 66 runs scored. He belted the game-winning homer in the ninth inning of the Division I state championship, capping Bishop Gorman’s 32-3 season. He was a first-team USA Today All-American and was ranked by Baseball America among the top 200 prospects for the MLB draft.

Even so, what transpired on the first day of the draft June 8 left Grenier in, as he puts it, “absolute shock.”

Grenier and his baseball adviser, former Elks player Scott Lonergan, planned for different draft scenarios, the earliest expected call coming from the St. Louis Cardinals at No. 39 overall. What they would soon discover is that the Cards were not willing to wait that long.

Before making their selection with the 23rd pick, St. Louis brass called Grenier. Although stunned by how early in the draft they heard from the National League franchise, Grenier and Lonergan had an asking price. The Cardinals, however, were not willing to match that offer. “The financial part just ended up not working out,” Grenier says. Calls from other teams began to pour in after that, some clubs, according to Grenier, “scraping together as much money as they could” to try to get close to his asking price.

Yet Grenier did not waver from his number. The first day of the draft passed. Grenier’s name was not called. Following the plan he and his adviser laid out several days earlier — a first-round-or-college approach — Grenier was now set on going to Oregon State and, this summer, for the Elks.

“Looking back at it, I’m sitting here going, ‘Wow, they wanted me at 23, (within) the first 25 picks in the draft,’” Grenier says. “That’s unbelievable, especially for me. I wasn’t expecting to go even close to that high.”

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Powell is convinced Grenier could “hear” him smiling during their conversation on the phone. Yes, the shortstop confirms, indeed he could.

“It was funny because as soon as I told him I was coming (to Bend), I feel like he almost got choked up,” Grenier says. “He got so excited that I could just tell on the phone the change in his voice went from, ‘Oh, God, what’s he calling me for?’ to ‘Oh, yeah, I can’t wait!’ Just hearing the excitement in his voice during that phone call, that made it help a little bit just in the immediate aftermath (of the draft), kind of like, ‘All right, it’s OK. You’re going to go to a great place.’ Just hearing the excitement from him that I was coming was awesome.”

“Anybody would be that excited to have this kid coming on their roster and playing for you,” Powell adds.

Grenier concedes that there were a few nerves when he first dressed down for the Elks. The reputation of a first-round draft pick and the top OSU recruit will have that effect.

“Somebody wanted me 23rd overall,” he says. “Now I’ve got to play like it.”

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Grenier joined the Elks in time for the team’s seventh game of the season, a matchup against the Victoria HarbourCats at Vince Genna Stadium, and, he says, for the first time in his playing career, he was a bit uneasy. He got two hits in his first three at-bats, but Grenier noticed his legs were shaking with anxiousness while he was at first base.

He quickly realized that the pressure weighing on him was placed there by himself. And soon after, as he settled in with the Elks, that strain of being a high-profile prospect was alleviated.

“These guys in this dugout, right now, they just see me as one of them,” Grenier says of his Elks teammates. “They’re not pressuring me to play like I’m anything above them or anything like that. That’s been awesome because I’ve been able to come out here and enjoy my time and have fun out here instead of having to press to show these guys, ‘This is why I was chosen here.’ That’s helped me a lot. It’s allowed me to relax and just play my game instead of pressing. … I just said, ‘I’m going to play how I play.’”

Grenier hit a respectable .333 over his first four games with the Elks before erupting for three hits, including a double and a home run, the next time out. Bend ripped off 10 straight wins, beginning with Grenier’s three-hit game. He had a hit in nine of those contests, including six games in which he finished with three hits. Since that pivotal fifth game, he has raised his average by 148 points to a league-leading .481. Grenier already ranks fourth in the WCL in runs (18) and doubles (five). During one stretch, he was 13-for-23 with three doubles, a home run, 10 runs and six RBIs — earning him the WCL player of the week honors for June 15-21.

“Now I’m just enjoying it, knowing that I can play with these college guys,” he says. “That’s not saying that I wouldn’t have gotten better in pro ball, because you get really good coaching there. But you really don’t get to experience this kind of atmosphere. It’s been great. It really has.”

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Naturally, Elks players will ask Grenier about the draft, about why he turned down the chance to be a first-round pick, and Grenier is willing to talk about his experience. But he insists that he has no regrets.

On a recent road trip, he told an Elks teammate that he was “100 percent sure” he had made the right decision.

Grenier is here to improve, to prepare himself for the Pac-12, perhaps even to improve his stock when he becomes eligible for the MLB draft following his third season at Oregon State. As Trey Watt will tell you, Grenier is off to a great start.

“There’s moments when he shows his youth,” the Elks coach says. “But as far as his intangibles and the skills — no, he’s not a high school kid. If he learns the small, fine details and aspects of the game and learns how to master those, he’ll definitely meet his potential. … I still think he has so much more to grow and so much more room. And that’s the exciting part about Cadyn is the ceiling is so high for him. I can’t wait to see, when we talk again a month from now, what he’s done and what we’ve seen out of him.”

Grenier asks questions, Watt observes, and has shown a willingness to learn. He listens to players who are seasoned at the collegiate level and has responded with collegiate-level plays, like on Thursday night at Genna Stadium, when Grenier fielded an errant throw from catcher to third base and back-picked a Corvallis runner who ventured too far off the bag.

“This dugout is awesome,” Grenier gushes. “The dugout and clubhouse are just full of really good guys. It’s nice to play with a bunch of studs that are also really great to you being one of the youngest on the team. They treat us like one of them.”

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One of the most coveted prospects in the country passed up on the chance to be a first-round draft pick. He chose to play at Oregon State. He opted to lace up his cleats for the Bend Elks. As Grenier leans his sinewy 5-foot, 10-inch, 180-pound frame against the hip-high brick wall that anchors the backstop at Genna Stadium, he seems comfortable and at peace. He assures that he is.

Grenier is enjoying the summer as he prepares for the next stage of his career. And Powell is certain it will pay off.

“It’s a big jump, even for high school to college,” the Elks’ general manager says. “Not just physically — he’s got the tools; he’s going to be fine — but just the maturity level of things. Handling himself with guys who’ve been in college for three years. This will be a great experience for him.”

Grenier reflects on a 10-1 victory over the visiting Knights during the first $2 Tuesday of the season at Genna Stadium. During that contest, he and Bend third baseman J.D. Larimer gazed at the grandstands — not an empty spot available and still fans were asked to slide closer together to create as much space as possible. The announced attendance was 2,591.

Grenier and Larimer agreed: There’s way more than 2,500 people here. That just added to the confirmation Grenier had already arrived at, that passing on the Cardinals, choosing Oregon State and the Bend Elks was the right decision.

“It was just perfect,” he says. “I couldn’t be happier with it.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0307, glucas@bendbulletin.com .

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