Over the past few weeks, Ken Grams tried hard to distract himself from what was coming. However, there was a problem: everyone wanted to talk about it.
"People have been so nice to me, and they would ask me, ‘How many more you got to go?’ Which is wonderful," said Grams, the head softball coach at Elk Grove High School in Elk Grove Village. "But by the same token, I’d have rather they ask me 'What’d you have for breakfast today?’"
By this past Saturday, with Grams sitting on 999 wins, the Elk Grove softball players could feel his anxiety.
"He was pacing around the dugout," stated Ava Engwall, senior outfielder. "He was talking under his breath. It was a lot that day."
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But that afternoon, more than 41 years after coaching his first game in the spring of 1981, it happened. Elk Grove beat Adlai Stevenson High School's softball team to give the ageless coach his 1,000th victory.
"We all were like, ‘1K, 1K’ – we were cheering. Then we ran up to him and gave him a big group hug," Engwall said.
"What I’ll remember is how everyone rushed toward me – that’s kind of a magic 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 sticks around in the dugout for another couple seasons, Grams could set the record.
But will he?
"To answer your question, in all honesty, I really don’t know," Grams stated. "If you were to ask me on a Tuesday, I might give you a different answer on a Wednesday."
Grams has been blown away by all the people who’ve reached out to congratulate him, including so many of his former players. His wish is that all of them look back at their days on the diamond the same way he does, with a big smile.
"They always say the destination isn’t as much fun as the trip," he said. "Well, that’s what I hope they think about it."