For the past few weeks, Ken Grams has been trying hard to distract himself from what was coming. However, there was a problem: everyone wanted to talk about it.
“People have been very nice to me, asking me, ‘How many more do you have left?’ Which is wonderful,” said Grams, the head softball coach at Elk Grove High School in Elk Grove Village. “But just the same, I’d rather be asked, ‘What did you have for breakfast today?'”
By last Saturday, with Grams at 999 wins, the Elk Grove softball players could feel their anxiety.
“I was walking around the dugout,” said Ava Engwall, a senior outfielder. “She was talking quietly. It was a lot that day.”
But that afternoon, more than 41 years after directing his first game in the spring of 1981, it happened. Elk Grove beat the Adlai Stevenson High School softball team to give the perennial coach his 1,000th win.
“We all said, ‘1K, 1K,’ we were cheering. Then we ran over to him and gave him a big group hug,” Engwall said.
“What I will remember is how everyone ran towards me, that’s a magical thing,” Grams added.
Grams is only the second coach in state history to win 1,000 softball games. The other is retired and won 1,044 games. So if he stays on the bench for a couple more seasons, Grams could set the record.
But it will?
“To answer your question, in all honesty, I really don’t know,” Grams said. “If you asked me on a Tuesday, I might give you a different answer on a Wednesday.”
Grams was impressed by all the people who came up to congratulate him, including many of his former players. His wish is that all of them remember their days on the diamond the same way he did, with a big smile.
“They always say that the destination is not as much fun as the journey,” he said. “Well, that’s what I hope you think about it.”