Face of Defense: Youth Baseball Coach Makes a Difference


Air Force Capt. Joshua Gradaille said he enjoys “having a personal connection and bonding with the kids” as part of his volunteer service as a children’s baseball coach here.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Joshua Gradaille, 33rd Fighter Wing executive officer, shows a practice ball to one of his players before putting it in a pitching machine May 10, 2018, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Gradaille enrolled his son in baseball when he was five years old to instill the many life lessons he feels team sports offer a child. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)
Air Force Capt. Joshua Gradaille shows a practice ball to one of his players before putting it in a pitching machine at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., May 10, 2018. Gradaille, the executive officer of the base’s 33rd Fighter Wing, enrolled his son in baseball when he was five years old to instill the many life lessons he feels team sports offer a child. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson
U.S. Air Force Capt. Joshua Gradaille, 33rd Fighter Wing executive officer, shows a practice ball to one of his players before putting it in a pitching machine May 10, 2018, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Gradaille enrolled his son in baseball when he was five years old to instill the many life lessons he feels team sports offer a child. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)
Beyond the diamond
Air Force Capt. Joshua Gradaille shows a practice ball to one of his players before putting it in a pitching machine at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., May 10, 2018. Gradaille, the executive officer of the base’s 33rd Fighter Wing, enrolled his son in baseball when he was five years old to instill the many life lessons he feels team sports offer a child. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson

Gradaille, the 33rd Fighter Wing’s executive officer, said he also appreciates “being able to connect and see them have those ‘aha’ moments while they are progressing.”

“That’s why I keep doing it,” he said.

Gradaille said he started coaching children’s baseball here a little over two years ago.

He recalled sitting on the bench of his son’s games thinking to himself: ‘There is more that can be done. Maybe they should do this or that.’”

Love of Baseball

He has a lifelong connection to the game. Growing up in Miami Beach, Fla., Gradaille played many sports, but baseball was always set apart from the rest.

“Baseball was the sport I like to say I was good at,” he said. “I played all sports but it was the one I truly enjoyed.”

He enrolled his son in the sport when he was five, hoping he would learn many of the lessons he learned as a child while filling a gap that existed in his own baseball experience.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Joshua Gradaille, 33rd Fighter Wing executive officer, and the rest of the Ranger's coaching staff and team, huddle before a practive May 10, 2018, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Gradaille began coaching with hopes of the lifelong lessons that children can learn from baseball. Eventually, Gradaille learned that his impact goes beyond the diamond and into their daily lives. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)
Air Force Capt. Joshua Gradaille, 33rd Fighter Wing executive officer, and the rest of the Ranger's youth baseball team’s coaching staff and team, huddle before a practice at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., May 10, 2018. Gradaille began coaching with hopes of the lifelong lessons that children can learn from baseball. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson
U.S. Air Force Capt. Joshua Gradaille, 33rd Fighter Wing executive officer, and the rest of the Ranger's coaching staff and team, huddle before a practive May 10, 2018, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Gradaille began coaching with hopes of the lifelong lessons that children can learn from baseball. Eventually, Gradaille learned that his impact goes beyond the diamond and into their daily lives. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)
Beyond the diamond
Air Force Capt. Joshua Gradaille, 33rd Fighter Wing executive officer, and the rest of the Ranger's youth baseball team’s coaching staff and team, huddle before a practice at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., May 10, 2018. Gradaille began coaching with hopes of the lifelong lessons that children can learn from baseball. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson

“I grew up without my father in the picture. My mother raised me on her own,” Gradaille said. “I always thought how cool it would be to have your dad involved with you playing sports and cheering you on. I want to give him things that I didn’t have growing up, to include that support and involvement of parents playing sports.”

Since getting involved in coaching, Gradaille’s purpose has stretched beyond his own son to the other children on the team.

“I’m not only doing it for my child … I’m doing it for these other kids, too,” he said.

During one of the final games of the season, a father approached Gradaille about his son who changed over the course of the season.

“He thanked me and said that I made an impression on his son’s life,” said Gradaille, coach of the Rangers. “I don’t get to see how the things I teach these children translates outside of the time I am coaching them. They go home and go about their day. So, it reminded me and reinforced why I am here and why I do what I do.”

Validating the efforts of Josh and his players, the Rangers finished their season as the only undefeated team in their age group.