Grayson Atwood just might have one of the greatest entrances in the history of high school baseball.
Making the Mount Pleasant varsity team as a freshman was remarkable enough, but the young upstart also hit a home run in his first career at-bat.
That first game was no fluke. Atwood developed into such a multi-dimensional threat that he will be playing baseball in college, signing a national letter of intent to attend UNC Chapel Hill in November.
Now a Tigers' senior, the heavy-swinging, hard-throwing player will try to help Mount Pleasant defend the South Piedmont Conference championship it shared with Northwest Cabarrus last year.
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Atwood, who plays everything from first and third base to left-field while also pitching, didn't always grace Cabarrus County's baseball fields. He started playing at age 4 when his family lived in Asheville.
By the time he moved to Mount Pleasant in fifth grade, Atwood had already played AAU ball for several years. Playing at an advanced level is what helped Atwood get recruited many years later, and some of his teams enjoyed their own success.
Playing in the 13-under division, Atwood earned all-tournament honors as his Carolina Angels team won an AAU national tournament at Myrtle Beach. Playing for the 16-under Carolina Canes showcase team a couple years later, Atwood helped his team win the Perfect Game World Wood Bat championships in Atlanta.
When he reached Mount Pleasant High, baseball coach Bryan Tyson had already heard about the "tall, lanky freshman" coming in. At fall workouts, the leverage Atwood had with his swing and his baseball instincts were what impressed Tyson most.
After that season-opening dinger at home against Jay M. Robinson, Atwood continued to enjoy a fine year. Playing mostly in left field and a little first base, he hit four more homers and was named All-Rocky River 2A Conference.
He suffered a bit of a sophomore jinx when he tore a tendon in his left wrist. Atwood missed most of the year but returned in time for Mount Pleasant's 2A state semifinals series with Patton, which the Tigers lost.
Fully recovered, Atwood had another all-conference season as a junior. Mostly playing first base, Atwood belted eight homers and posted a .405 average.
His biggest breakthrough last year came on the mound. Tyson was interested in developing Atwood as a pitcher, but the lanky righty resisted because of some slight pain he felt when he pitched in the past.
Atwood discovered the pain was due to his poor mechanics. Several relief appearances throughout the season helped him break old habits and got him ready for his first start. It happened to come in the third round of the state playoffs, against eventual 3A state champion East Rowan.
Throwing his repertoire of fastballs, curveballs and change-ups for strikes, Atwood no-hit the Mustangs for four innings. He pitched into the sixth inning but was pulled by Tyson. The Tigers eventually lost the game 4-2.
Before his junior season began, colleges were on his trail. In the fall of 2009, Atwood says South Carolina offered him a scholarship, but North Carolina surprised him at a summer tournament in Lakeland, Fla.
"It was kind of out of nowhere," he said. "We didn't know how interested they were. They offered at the tournament. A couple weeks after, I accepted."
With his college choice behind him, Atwood has been able to focus on this season. That includes an increase in weight-training which has allowed his 6-foot-4 frame to bulk up to 205 pounds.
Tyson says he notices Atwood is more relaxed this year and believes that will translate into even greater production.
"To his credit, I have seen a totally different kid with the pressure off of him," said Tyson. "You can tell he is enjoying the game more."