EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. —
Air Force Capt. Joshua Gradaille said he enjoys “having a personal connection and bonding with the kids” as part of his volunteer service as a children’s baseball coach here.
Gradaille, the 33rd Fighter Wing’s executive officer, said he also appreciates “being able to connect and see them have those ‘aha’ moments while they are progressing.”
“That’s why I keep doing it,” he said.
Gradaille said he started coaching children’s baseball here a little over two years ago.
He recalled sitting on the bench of his son’s games thinking to himself: ‘There is more that can be done. Maybe they should do this or that.’”
Love of Baseball
He has a lifelong connection to the game. Growing up in Miami Beach, Fla., Gradaille played many sports, but baseball was always set apart from the rest.
“Baseball was the sport I like to say I was good at,” he said. “I played all sports but it was the one I truly enjoyed.”
He enrolled his son in the sport when he was five, hoping he would learn many of the lessons he learned as a child while filling a gap that existed in his own baseball experience.
“I grew up without my father in the picture. My mother raised me on her own,” Gradaille said. “I always thought how cool it would be to have your dad involved with you playing sports and cheering you on. I want to give him things that I didn’t have growing up, to include that support and involvement of parents playing sports.”
Since getting involved in coaching, Gradaille’s purpose has stretched beyond his own son to the other children on the team.
“I’m not only doing it for my child … I’m doing it for these other kids, too,” he said.
During one of the final games of the season, a father approached Gradaille about his son who changed over the course of the season.
“He thanked me and said that I made an impression on his son’s life,” said Gradaille, coach of the Rangers. “I don’t get to see how the things I teach these children translates outside of the time I am coaching them. They go home and go about their day. So, it reminded me and reinforced why I am here and why I do what I do.”
Validating the efforts of Josh and his players, the Rangers finished their season as the only undefeated team in their age group.