Chase Your Dreams #001 - Tony Lewis and the GRBL

Nathan Rueckert

Posted on September 14 2022

Picture:  Tony Lewis (left) with author and fellow GRBL baseball player, Ethan D. Bryan.

CHASE YOUR DREAMS #001 - TONY LEWIS and The Grip 'N' Rip Baseball League

Every time Tony Lewis sees a baseball field, he gets excited. 

“It doesn’t matter if I’m just driving by or see one looking out the window of an airplane, seeing a baseball field brings back great memories,” Tony said.

Tony was a stand-out ballplayer in high school and continued his career collegiately at Missouri State University and Drury University. After college, Tony got the opportunity to keep putting on his cleats and taking swings, playing overseas in Paris, France for the Bois-Guillaume Woodchucks.

“In my very first game in Paris, playing against another Paris team, I wanted to impress them so bad. It was my first at bat and let’s just say that the umpires weren’t consistent. I struck out looking, but, in order for the catcher just to catch the ball, he had to stand up and extend his arm. It was awful.”

The following year, Tony played in Canada for the Quebec Capitales. Two former MLB players were teammates on the Capitales, Eric Gagne and Pete LaForest.

With a couple of other teammates on the injured list, Tony had plenty of opportunities to start, and he took advantage of those opportunities, getting 25 hits in his first 47 at bats. But when his teammates returned, Tony was phased out of the line-up. 

“One day, before the game, I practically ran myself to death out of sheer frustration. Pete LaForest offered this unforgettable advice, ‘You cannot ride your highs and you cannot ride your lows. You have to learn to stay in the middle at all times.’” 

That season, the Quebec Capitales were champions of the Can-Am League.

“I played baseball, got paid to do it, and saw the world,” Tony said. “I always thought the ultimate goal was to make it to the major leagues. But, I was chasing a phantom, chasing something I couldn’t see. What I really loved doing was just playing ball.”

Tony retired from professional baseball, but still had dreams he wanted to chase.

“What is someone supposed to do when they’ve played baseball, practiced baseball, pursued baseball their entire life, and suddenly the only option is slow-pitch softball?”

He sent out a survey to friends throughout southwest Missouri with just one question — If I started a baseball league, would you be interested?

“If half of them replied in the positive, I’d be encouraged. But out of the eighty or so messages I sent, more than seventy were all in.”

In 2016, Tony created The Grip’N’Rip Baseball League (GRBL). The first season was composed of four teams, known simply by the color of their uniforms. 

“The GRBL strives to provide the ultimate baseball experience for players still young at heart.

We make every player feel like they are a professional. We create a family-oriented environment, where wives and sons and daughters and parents and grandparents can see their loved ones play the game they love again,” Tony said.

Photo source: Mike Hudges Photography

Now with six teams named for cities in southwest Missouri, the GRBL echoes back to the era of town ball. “My bucket list dream is to make this league a staple for all of southwest Missouri. I want the constituents of the six towns to have pride in and support their teams. For those that come to the ballpark, I want to wow and surprise and shock the fans with the show that we put on.” 

The GRBL is more than just an adult baseball league; it also gives back to the community. A portion of every admissions ticket purchased is donated to area non-profit organizations. Thousands of dollars are reinvested in those helping others throughout southwest Missouri. 

Baseball is a game of failure, but it is also a game for dreamers. For those who play in The GRBL, dreams are re-born every Sunday in the fall.

“I love feeling the love from the ballplayers who thought the game had been taken away from them. Coming to the field on Sundays reminds me of when I played pro ball in the sense that I was coming to my office to do work. And it’s the greatest office on the earth.”


This post was written by Ethan D. Bryan, fellow dream chaser and author of the best-selling book “A Year of Playing Catch: What a Simple Daily Experiment Taught Me About Life.”  Ethan lives in Springfield, Missouri, with his wife, Jamie, and daughters, Kaylea and Sophie. He still dreams of playing baseball for his beloved Kansas City Royals.  His writing can be found at or on Twitter at @Ethan_Bryan.  

Looking to encourage a Dream Chaser?  We've curated a collection of meaningful gift ideas found at this link

More Posts


Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing

Search our store