Mark Grunberg: From North Hagerstown to Towson University

Not every high school baseball player graduating to play in college is able to say to his new teammates that he has already been featured on ESPN’s top 10 plays of the day. Mark Grunberg of North Hagerstown High School would be able to say that to the other guys in the dugout at Towson University.

Grunberg has played on the big stage – in Williamsport, PA on his Little League team that won the 2008 Maryland State and Mid-Atlantic tournaments to qualify. It really is a big stage for a 12-year-old, witnessed this year by the interest and stories surrounding Mo’ne Davis – the girl pitcher with an amazing arm and talent.

Playing center field in the LL World Series, Grunberg made a diving catch in right-center field, and it was featured all over the country the next day.

Being featured in the local Western Maryland media has been a regular experience for Mark Grunberg over the years since the Little League World Series. Often it has been for baseball, though just as frequently for football, and occasionally for soccer. That’s an unusual three-sport combination!

Though baseball has been Grunberg’s first love all along, his speed on the soccer field was enjoyed by his head coach, who just happened to be his father Peter Grunberg.

And Mark’s kicking skills put him on the football field at North Hagerstown High School, where he set the school record for touchbacks, extra points, and field goals.

A number of colleges and universities checked him out for kicking, including Maryland, “But I really wanted to play baseball in D-1, not kick D-1,” Grunberg said.

There was some possibility of doing both, such as at Division II Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, WV. “Towson wanted me to kick, but the baseball coach didn’t want it because I would miss fall baseball,” he said.

Over his high school years, baseball became a near year-round endeavor for Grunberg. Though he throws left-handed, he grew up batting from the right side. But a strategic move was made in ninth grade to add the left side and become a switch-hitter. It has worked out well, as he hits equally from either side. “I got a lot going on left and right,” he laughed. “I write with my right hand and throw with the left.”

Grunberg played not only for the Hubs of North Hagerstown where he has patrolled center field for the past several years, he has also been busy with American Legion ball and with the Mid-Atlantic Red Sox – a showcase team that travelled regionally, often playing on college fields and before the eyes of college coaches.

At 5’8” and 165 pounds, Grunberg is not a prototypical big outfielder, but there is a lot inside the package. Speed and defense are his best strengths, as he possesses an innate ability to get an immediate read on the ball off the bat and reflexively move to the spot where it will land. He has a plus arm and did some occasional pitching; and he makes good contact and hits for an average to all fields.

Grunberg fills the role of the classic leadoff hitter with a high on-base percentage and speed on the base paths. He set the all-time steals record at North Hagerstown with 24. Grunberg would remind long-time and older Orioles fans of the style of play of Don Buford.

“I like playing smaller and being an underdog; God made me this way,” he said. “And players like Jose Aluve and Dustin Pedroia motivate me to play my best. Also, I HATE losing!”

Grunberg will hope to have some early chances to get on the field for the Towson Tigers, who graduated three outfielders this past year. Towson is coming off a 2014 season with a 22-25 record, a year after going 30-30 while winning the CAA tournament (after placing 4th in the regular season) and playing in the NCAA national tourney.

So, if it doesn’t work out to be a big-league baseball player (there have been two who have made it out of Towson), Grunberg might be able about that time to take over for Justin Tucker for the Ravens! Too much of a stretch? Remember, Tucker was a college music major!

<Editor’s note – This article is one in what is hoped to be a long series of features on top MD high school athletes who go on to significant college sports programs and beyond. We welcome biographical and contact information for others.>

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