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Reliever Grebe No Longer Just a Hometown Act

Thanks to the Angels, Brett Grebe will be going on the road this season after all.

He had spent his summer working full-time and playing baseball part-time for the Vigilantes. But all that changed Tuesday when the Angels bought his contract and assigned him to their double-A team in Midland, Texas.

Grebe, a hard-throwing right-hander, reports Thursday.

But if Grebe hadn’t been so interested in seeing his former teammates from the Western League’s Tri-City Posse, he might not be pitching at all.

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It has been quite a turnaround for the Westminster High graduate, who began the season playing on Sundays for the Dukes of the National Adult Baseball Assn. at area high schools.

“I came to say ‘Hi’ to [Vigilantes Manager Buck Rodgers] and everyone from Tri-City, and I was in the clubhouse and Buck said, ‘Hey, I need a closer,’ ” said Grebe, who lives in Huntington Beach.

“I told him, ‘I have some friends.’ ”

But Rodgers wasn’t interested in Grebe’s friends, and the Vigilantes eventually worked a trade June 26 for Grebe, the property of Tri-City, in exchange for Kurt Kishita.

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Grebe did not return to Tri-City, which is located in southeast Washington, this season because he couldn’t afford to. He has a job installing cable for network and phone systems for a company in Costa Mesa. To play baseball instead would have cost him nearly $3,000 a month during the season--not the best strategy, he said, while paying child support for his 8-year-old son, Keegan, and paying off his divorce from four years ago.

So Grebe, instead, played for the Vigilantes for home games and the occasional weekend road game against the Pacific Suns in Oxnard.

He had a team-high five saves in 12 games, a 3.55 earned-run average and 14 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings.

Grebe, 28, was among the league’s top closers last season. He had a 2.89 ERA and 13 saves, the league’s third-best total. He struck out 50 in 43 2/3 innings and opponents batted .220 against him.

“I’ve got a boss who’s four years younger than me and he thinks, ‘If you get an opportunity to go play pro ball, go do it’ and the job will be there when I get back,” Grebe said before signing with the Angels.

“I’m up at 5 a.m. and at work at 6. I come [to the ballpark] at 3, get home at 11:30 or 12 and get up the next morning and do it again. I’m dedicated to the sport, as you can tell. I get five hours sleep a night to come out and play baseball.”

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Only 12 of the 23 players listed on the Vigilantes’ opening-day roster are still with the team, but that kind of turnover could have been predicted by Rodgers.

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“You start off with what’s available and put together the best club you can,” Rodgers said. “It’s a vicious cycle. You move from what you have, then you get [to choose] those released from spring training. Then you have those released after the June draft.”

Rodgers said most of the anxious moments for current players should be over.

“This team won’t change drastically like it did the first half,” he said.

Among those who recently left were infielder Brian Grebeck and left-handed pitcher Wally Ritchie. Each signed to play in Taiwan.

“You like to see a guy make a buck,” Rodgers said.

Grebeck was part of “the league’s best double-play combination,” Rodgers said, “and you miss that.”

For the players, there is certainly a bright side to the business, Rodgers said, “Now you’ve got some minor league people looking at this league [for help].”

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Rodgers became a grandfather for the 11th time on Wednesday. His daughter, Jan Dahlson, had her third son, Drew Christian, younger brother of Brett, 6, and Shane, 4.

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