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Coaches’ Corner: Hanover’s Grainger a Baseball Guy to the Core

  • Hanover High baseball coach John Grainger throws batting practice for the team in Norwich, Vt., on March 30, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • John Grainger, Hanover High's new baseball coach, demonstrates a hitting drill he wants his team to do on their second day of practice outside at the Dresden Athletic Fields in Norwich, Vt., on March 30, 2016. Grainger replaces Mike Jackson, who coached the team for 25 years. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/12/2016 12:05:24 AM
Modified: 7/18/2016 4:01:44 PM

Each week through August, the Valley News will profile a local high school coach. It’s a chance to better know some of the people guiding the area’s student-athletes. Today, we meet Hanover High baseball coach John Grainger, a former Colby-Sawyer College assistant and Lebanon Post 22 junior American Legion bench boss who’s been known to tickle the ivory when not teaching bunt defense.

Family: Parents John and Gail are retired school librarians now living in the New London area. Fiancee Katherine MacPherson is the Upper Valley Aquatic Center’s wellness director and a former Hartford High girls lacrosse coach. Son Jack is 4, and daughter Mya is 2½.

Work Life: Grainger, who recently completed his first season at Hanover, is the UVAC’s fitness director. “It’s a different kind of fulfillment from working with high-level athletes,” he said. “In some sense, it’s better because you know them on a more personal level and you help them get healthy and achieve life goals. I had one woman who had never run more than 200 feet, and she later ran a marathon.”

Start in Sports: “My dad and I used to watch Red Sox games every night, and that’s what got me into baseball. He would get home from work and take me right outside and hit me ground balls, and I’d pitch to him. He’d take me to a batting cage, and I don’t know how many hundreds of dollars he spent at 12 balls for a quarter.”

Pedal Power: “I grew up in the middle of nowhere, and I’d ride my bike three or four miles with my bat bag on my back and a bag of balls on the handlebars. My friends and I would play home run derby. We won state titles at 12, 13, 14 and 16 years old. We played in the state championship as seniors at Keene High but didn’t win.”

Owls Backstop: “I said I’d never go to Keene State, but when it cost $4,000 a year compared to $30,000 at the school I wanted to go to in Virginia, I changed my mind. I was one of eight freshmen catchers who came out for fall practice my freshman year, but I played in 20 games or so that spring. By my senior year, I was catching all nine innings in four weekend games.”

Musically Inclined: “I took piano lessons for about three years and played the saxophone and baritone horn in middle school and my freshman year of high school. I played in the jazz band at Keene State for a semester, and I played rhythm guitar and piano in a band out of Keene for about five years with one of my former coaches. I have an electronic keyboard, but it’s leaning against a wall right now.”

Field General: “The aspect of the game I enjoyed the most was having a pitcher’s mentality as a catcher. You see where a batter’s hands are or how he’s leaning, and you set him up based on those little signs. It’s definitely a lost art. You also have to know where everybody goes on every bunt and infield play, and I would hold my teammates accountable to that. If they weren’t paying attention or not backing up a play, I would yell at them and call them out.”

Powder Hound: Grainger earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at Keene State and a master’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. An avid skier, he looked at schools in Washington, Montana and Colorado. “I lived in the city, but I was 30 minutes away from some of the best skiing in the world,” he said. “I skied 75 times a year both years I was there.”

Tough Gig: “I thought I wanted to work as a college strength and conditioning coach, but it’s a brutal business to get into and the pay really stinks. When the head football coach gets fired, the strength and conditioning coach usually does, too, so I’m glad I didn’t end up doing that. I knew a guy who worked 60 hours a week in that field and made $43,000 a year. He had a hard time getting four days off in a row.”

Onward Marauders: “I wasn’t expecting all the administrative work you have to do as a high school coach. I also wasn’t prepared for 30 kids in a gym with balls flying around during preseason practice. It was nearly impossible to get anything done. We were 3-14, but only two of our losses were (lopsided) and we narrowly missed the playoffs. I’m excited to see what’s in store.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at or 603-727-3227.

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