Bryant overcomes plethora of setbacks to reach milestone

Published 9:40 pm Saturday, March 30, 2024

St. Joseph Flyers head baseball coach won his 300th career game on Saturday in a 10-0 win over the Chesapeake Panthers.


St. Joseph Flyers’ head baseball coach Greg Bryant is surrounded by his assistant coaches Pat Holmes, Jimmy Rowe and John Holtzapfel during Saturday’s game against the Chesapeake Panthers. (Tim Gearhart Sports Photos/For The Ironton Tribune)


Greg Bryant pitches in his final game for the St. Joseph Flyers on May 22, 1989. Bryant had a career-high 8 strikeouts with just 2 walks as the Flyers beat Portsmouth Clay 7-4. Bryant also went 3-for-3 at the plate. (Tribune File Photo)


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In the Bible, Job is a good and prosperous family man who is suddenly beset with horrendous disasters. But he maintains his faith and is restored to an even better condition than his former wealthy state.

It’s now 2024 and there is a new Job, although that is an alias. His real name is Greg Bryant, head baseball coach and athletic director for the St. Joseph Flyers.

Despite a high school with less than 50 total students including just 24 boys, Bryant has been coaching for 23 seasons and won his milestone 300th game on Saturday with a 10-0 five inning run-rule win over the Chesapeake Panthers.

It was also announced this spring that Bryant would be inducted into the Southeast District Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame.

Bryant said if not for assistant coaches Jimmy Rowe, Nick Medinger, Tate Matney, Pat Holmes and Johnny Holtzapfel, the milestone might not have happened.

“Earlier this year I could have just given up. It was at that point, Health-wise, I didn’t feel I could continue. Having the coaches that I do made it all possible,” said Bryant who is 300-231 overall.

While his coaching career began in 1991, the St. Joseph alumnus began battling health issues on July 3, 1996.

On Etna Street, Bryant was playing a pickup game of basketball and while chasing another player down the court he planted his leg and the knee went out the back and tore all the ligaments and the nerve.

The end result caused Bryant to have a condition called drop foot which causes a person to drag their toes when they walk due to weakness or paralysis of certain muscles in the foot.

The reason Bryant remembers the date so well was because it was the same day of the fireworks fire tragedy in Scottown.

“I remember them bringing people into Lawrence County (General Hospital). I’m in there complaining about a knee and they’re bringing in burn victims,” said Bryant. “I realized what was going on and stopped complaining.”

Bryant’s next health issue was June 14, 2008, when he found out he had leukemia.

“The Red Sox were playing the Reds and the kids bought me tickets for Father’s Day for that game. I had to give the tickets to Nick Gagai,” said Bryant.

Giving tickets away to sporting events is nothing new for Bryant. One year he had tickets to the Ohio State-Michigan game. But another health issue arose and he found himself back in the hospital.

As for his leukemia, his friend Mike “Moose” Mahlmeister visited Bryant and they talked about how Bryant had dodged a bullet.

“Two out of three people that are septic (with leukemia) die,” said Bryant, who survived despite only a 20 percent chance when he was diagnosed.

Bryant was sick back in the winter of 2007 and trying to figure it out. When he was finally diagnosed with leukemia, he underwent chemotherapy through the end of the year.

“It’s not cured, it’s in remission,” said Bryant. “But they said once you get past a certain point, the chances of it coming back are slim. It’s like after five years. We’re past that time span.”

He then quipped, “I still might get some other kind of cancer. But there’s not been anything as of now.”

A diabetic, the next problem for Bryant was a wound on his foot that began on New Year’s Eve of 2019 and has been ongoing ever since.

“I ended up getting a wound on my foot and had five different surgeries. They ended up amputating a couple of toes and doing some other things and the infection just kept coming back,” said Bryant.

About a year ago, Bryant got sick and thought he had pneumonia. But tests showed he had a bad kidney that was functioning at just seven percent.

He now undergoes dialysis three times a week and is on a waiting list for a kidney transplant.

But his love of sports — especially baseball — has never waned and he continues coaching the Flyers’ baseball team and working as the school’s athletic director along with his full-time job of selling insurance.

“Coaching baseball is something I love. It gives me something to look forward to doing. You show up, do your treatment, go to your game, get worn out and start all again the next day,” said Bryant.

“I retired in 2012 because of work and I didn’t plan on coming back. Moose’s son was in seventh grade and they didn’t have anybody to coach the junior high team so that’s how I got back in the door again,” said Bryant.

“It’s hard to get that out of your blood once it’s in there.”

Baseball isn’t the only sport Bryant likes. He also likes football. Well, Ohio State football to be exact.

“I tell people a couple of years ago when Ohio State went to Michigan, I’m sitting here ready to watch the game and (his daughter) Chelsea shows up with my grandson Kenson and he says, ‘let’s watch the Grinch.’ I said ‘no’ and he said ‘let’s watch Paw Patrol.’ I said ’no’ and he said ‘let’s watch Blaze.’ I said we’ve got a major power struggle here. We’re going to watch the Buckeyes for the next three hours. He was sitting there looking like he couldn’t hear the word ’no.’ I’m sure he doesn’t hear the word ‘no’ very much, especially from me.”

Besides Kenson, Bryant’s son Caleb has a son, Luca. Bryant said his goal is to be around long enough to coach both grandsons.

“My goal now is to be around another 16 years or so when Caleb’s little boy graduates. He just turned two in October. Kenson just turned six. The other three (grandchildren) are girls. I don’t know what we’re going to do with them,” he said jokingly.

Bryant said people asked him why he didn’t quit coaching after his bout with cancer. He said it was simple. He had to put his money where his mouth was.

“I tell kids to fight through adversity. When things get tough, you have to face it and fight through it. If I didn’t come back, I would be going against what I told them to do,” said Bryant.

“I do this for the kids. I like seeing them have success and to make them better, not just as players but as young men. That’s the thing that makes it worth it to me.”

The person who knows Bryant the best and cares for him the most is his wife, Lora. She ignores the people who think her husband should put his lineup cards in a desk drawer.

“I want him to coach. I’ve never wanted him to quit coaching. He loves it and he needs it,” said Lora.

Bryant said that coaching at St. Joseph is unique in many ways. He knows there is support for programs at other schools, but St. Joseph is a church community school and the people are like family.

“At St. Joe you’ve got all these parents and families and they’ll do whatever you ask. They just want you to be fair to their kids. It’s been a good ride. I never dreamed back in (1991) when it all started we’d still be talking about all this stuff today.”

And as long as Greg Bryant continues to beat the odds, he’ll keep on trying to beat his opponents.