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Ex-Olympian Granger pitches in at Sierra College

By: Cecil Conley, Placer Herald Sports Editor
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Playing a game of “do you know who I am” is not Michele Granger’s style. She may have won an Olympic gold medal in 1996, but the former softball pitcher does not like using it to pull rank. There was this one time, however, when Granger was coaching her daughter’s team and a father of an opposing player questioned her knowledge. He even insinuated that she had never played. Granger responded by recommending the fellow do a little research on his computer once he got home. “I’m Michele Granger,” she told the father. “Google me.” A Google search these days will reveal that Granger, 41, volunteers as a pitching coach at Sierra College. She is also beginning her first season as Granite Bay High School’s varsity softball coach. Granger also coaches a 14-and-under softball team (silverstreakteam.com) when she is not serving as a chauffeur for one of her four children - Kady, 13; John, 12; Lindsay, 10; and Nicholas, 8. Her name has been synonymous with softball since her days as a four-time All-American at Cal to her induction five years ago in the Amateur Softball Association National Softball Hall of Fame. Granger married John Poulos during her sophomore year at Cal. She was pregnant with Kady when she pitched in the Olympic gold-medal game for the U.S. softball team 15 years ago in Atlanta. Her husband suggested Athena as a name for the baby. Granger’s mother countered with Olympia. “I didn’t want to make that connection with her name,” Granger joked. “It’s not like it was her fault.” Life has always moved quickly for Granger, and she would not want it any other way. She has had to be on her toes since the first time she grabbed a softball and realized she found her calling. She never imagined being married so young, but “it was the right decision for us to make at the time.” Granger’s gold medal is one of many she won at national and international competitions. When that father ruffled her feathers, she thought of wearing all her medals the next time the teams met. “That would have been ridiculous,” Granger said, “but I really did think about doing it.” Her softball résumé speaks for itself, so Granger does not flaunt it. She is not concerned these days with proving what she can do. She lived her dream. Now it is someone else’s turn to do so. “When you’re really good at something, it can be hard to leave it behind,” she said. “But I was ready to move on. I did my thing. I accomplished everything I wanted. I was ready to do something else.” Her four children manage to keep Granger jumping. Kady and Lindsay play softball, and both just happen to be pitchers. Imagine that. John and Nicholas play football, basketball and baseball. With Kady’s team in need of a field, Granger contacted Sierra College softball coach Darci Brownell and pitched a proposition. She would volunteer as a pitching coach in exchange for using Sierra’s field. “I couldn’t ask for a better facility,” said Granger, who especially appreciates the massive bullpen. There is room for four pitchers to work out at once, so Granger can keep an eye on all of them. This is Granger’s third year of lending her expertise to the Wolverines. Sierra will open its season Friday afternoon by hosting Lassen in a doubleheader. The first game will begin at 12:30 p.m. Most of Granger’s work with Sierra’s pitchers occurred during the fall. She is “fine-tuning” their mechanics at this point and pushing them – literally – to reach 60 mph when they turn the ball loose. As Granger watches a pitcher throw, she will occasionally shove her in the back to get the pitcher to transfer her weight. That transfer is essential, she pointed out, for a pitcher to increase her velocity. “Anybody can get to 60, and they’re not all there yet,” Granger said. “When you watch a baseball pitcher, their weight is on the back foot and then it all comes forward. They make that shift.” Granger can speak from experience. In her prime, the left-hander could reach 72 mph. But that was then. For now, she has nothing to prove. Google does all of that for her.