During one of the darkest weeks of his coaching career, Brad Myers still found some light.
The Grace Christian Academy baseball coach is trying to help his team cope with the death of rising senior Grant Solomon, who died in a single auto accident Monday.
“It’s just a terrible thing that you never want to go through as a community, as a school and we’re just heartbroken,” Myers said. “But I think it’s a lot about perspective. If you have a worldly perspective on things, it’s going to be he’s gone, he’s not here anymore.
“But if you have an eternal perspective, hey, he’s looking down on us, we’re going to see him someday, he’s more alive now than he’s ever been.”
Solomon, who recently turned 18, pitched and played second base for the Lions.
Sadly, it’s the third time Myers has lost a player at a young age, including two in his previous job at Battle Ground Academy.
Former BGA third baseman Jackson Berry died after an auto accident in 2000 and outfielder Clay Beathard was fatally stabbed outside of a Nashville bar last year.
“Clay wasn’t a current player, but they’re all like your sons,” Myers said. “Too many, I can tell you that.”
Myers said Solomon’s passing teaches us that “our days are numbered and we can’t live in fear, but what we can do is get every bit of good we can out of every single day we live. I think if there’s any lesson to be learned, it’s live every day like it’s your last because you just never know.”
Myers described Solomon as a competitor and an encourager.
“He was a teammate — there are very few that make everyone around them better and whether it be calling them out or just being their biggest cheerleader, an encourager,” Myers said. “That’s what Grant was.”
Solomon’s most memorable outing came during an elimination game against heavily favored Loretto in GCA’s first appearance in the state tournament when he pitched the Lions into the 2019 Class A semifinals.
“That was his first start of the season because he had a shoulder injury,” Myers said. “I asked him if he wanted to throw and he said, ‘Coach, gimme the ball.’ I think at the time Loretto was probably the No. 1 team in the state.”
Solomon proceeded to throw a complete-game victory for underdog GCA, scattering six hits in a 7-2 win.
Myers believes Solomon would have earned a college scholarship.
“I had talked to Lipscomb about him, I had talked to Belmont about him, Trevecca and a lot of the local schools were interested,” Myers said. “It was just a matter of time before schools from out of state (started recruiting in him).”
Known to his teammates as G, Solomon probably would have played a big role for the Lions in 2021. He made a quick impact, earning a lot of playing time as an eighth-grader in 2017.
Solomon was going to a baseball velocity training session when the accident occurred in Gallatin.
“He was trying to get better,” Myers said.
His father, Aaron Solomon, was a longtime sports anchor at WSMV-Channel 4 in Nashville. He also worked briefly in sports radio and was the public address announcer at GCA’s home games.
“A parent should not have to do this,” Aaron tweeted with a link to his son’s obituary Thursday. “Thank you all for your prayers.”
The tweet had 2,536 heart likes early Friday morning as community support poured in for the family.
His mom, Angie, and sister, Gracie, were regulars in the stands at his baseball games.
Grant’s pitching line from the Loretto win and an action photo of her son are featured at the top of Angie’s Twitter account.
On Monday night GCA held a vigil for Solomon, who also played center for the Lions in basketball.
“The baseball and basketball guys got together with some of the other folks here at school,” Myers said. “We told stories, just laughed, cried and it was really good.”
Solomon helped GCA get off to a 4-1 start before the coronavirus pandemic ended his junior season in March.
GCA rising senior Luke Gill, a pitcher and center fielder, shadowed Solomon on his first day at school after transferring from Fairview midway through his freshman year in 2018.
“Ever since then he was in almost every single one of my classes and we played baseball and hung out outside of school,” Gill said. “We were pretty close.”
Gill called Solomon “a selfless guy” who celebrated his teammates’ support more than his impressive pitching performance in the upset of Loretto.
Gill, Solomon and some friends ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Franklin the day before he died.
“Before that, with him playing travel ball and me playing travel ball and busy schedules, I probably hadn’t seen him in a week or two,” Gill said. “I just felt like that opportunity for all of us to be with him one last time and laugh with him and joke with him and I got to tell him I loved him one last time – I felt like that was a blessing.”
Above by Chip Cirillo
GCA athletic director and head basketball coach Len McKnatt was quick to pick out a memory of his that stood out for Grant Solomon, one of his players on the Lions basketball team.
It came during a road district contest against Santa Fe.
"The [memory] that I always tell the kids, that most the kids know, and a lot of them were there...two years ago, we were playing at Santa Fe. We weren't playing very well. The team wasn't playing very well."
McKnatt remembers, late in the contest, Solomon hurt his shoulder and had to come out. He decided to sit Solomon for the rest of the game, primarily because of his shoulder injury, and the difficult game was waning down to the end.
But then something happened.
"Probably, with just a couple minutes left, we're probably down eight or 10...I looked up and he was checking in the game," McKnatt said.
This substitution was not in the coach's game plan.
"I was at the opposite of our assistant coaches at the end of the bench near the baseline, and I asked them, 'who put him in the game?' And they said, 'Coach, we thought you put him in the game,'" McKnatt recalls.
It turns out the decision came from none other than Solomon himself.
"He had decided he was going to check himself into the game because he was not going to lose himself, sitting over there on the sideline," McKnatt said with a laugh. "So we used our last time out to keep Grant from checking himself into the game.
"That's just the kind of kid he was, you know what I mean? He wanted to do everything he could to help his team, to help his teammates, even if it wasn't the smartest decision at the time. If his team was going to go down, he wanted to be right in the middle of it."
McKnatt had been Solomon's coach ever since he joined the Lions' varsity basketball team. McKnatt's son, Mason, was a teammate of his.
The coach echoed many of Myers' sentiments about who Solomon was on and off the court.
"First thing when you think about Grant is how much of a competitor he is," McKnatt said. "He hated to lose...very talented. Huge supporter of his teammates...he endured several injuries through the course of his baseball and basketball time here, and when he could not suit up and play, he was the first one cheering for his teammates and doing what he was supposed to do.
"You wanted him on your team...he had everybody's back. Just a tough, hard-nosed competitor on the field and on the court. But, man, as soon as the game was over, one of the kindest, warmest, well-mannered kids you could ever meet.
"Grant was very passionate about everything he did...you knew Grant was going to give you everything he had."
McKnatt said he felt a special connection to Solomon and saw himself in Solomon on the court.
"A lot of the circumstances of the way I grew up were very similar to some of the things that he's been through, so he has always held a special place in my heart," McKnatt said. "He's one of my son's favorite teammates...[he's] always smiling, always encouraging, always polite, and it's just hard to believe that he has moved onto somewhere bigger and better.
"We're going to miss him like crazy."
The GCA coach said roughly 300 people attended Monday night's vigil at the school in Leiper's Fork, a further testament to the bond the small community has built since its inception.
"The accident had just happened Monday morning," McKnatt said, "and there were about 300 families, students, that gathered at GCA on Monday night, that stood out right in the middle of a rain storm, just to honor Grant, to be there for his family.
"Just knowing and seeing how many people that he affected and made an impact on...you can see it in all the kids' faces, the families' faces, the teachers, the coaches...the good part is knowing the impact he made and the time we had with him, although it wasn't as long as we'd like.
"I know someone said the most important part is that dash between when you were born and when you pass away. And he lived that dash out great."
McKnatt says he's been touched by the community response to Solomon's death.
"It's just been refreshing, how many teams, schools, athletic directors, coaches, parents, you know, have reached out," McKnatt said. "Makes you realize there are still a lot of good people in this world."
After the storms had passed Monday, a double rainbow showed down on the vigil for Solomon and all in attendance.
"It was just obvious that God was present and there," McKnatt said.
McKnatt says faith plays a huge part of what Grace Christian Academy is, and the coach said its that backbone that is helping the community cope with such a loss.
"I can't imagine going through something like this without having that camaraderie, and leaning on God," McKnatt said.
He also mentioned the photos going around of Solomon wearing eye black during baseball that resembled crosses under his eyes. He feels that those speak for themselves in the type of faith that Solomon had.
"That's the only comforting part is knowing that Grant knew God, he knew Christ, and he's in a better place," he said.
He says GCA will be fueled by honoring Solomon's life and memory.
"We obviously don't always understand why things happen, but we trust that good is going to come out of this," McKnatt said. "We're just going to do our best to make Grant and his family proud of each and every thing that we do and honor him in that way by being passionate and doing everything to the best of our ability."
Above by Cory Woodroof
A Celebration of Life Service for Grant Solomon will be conducted 11 a.m. Saturday, July 25, 2020 and visitation will be 4-7 p.m. Friday evening at Grace Chapel Church, 3279 Southall Road, Franklin, TN 37064. Steve Berger and Mark Bright will officiate.
In lieu of flowers, friends have set up the Grant Solomon Memorial Fund, for the benefit of Gracie Solomon — honoring Grant’s deep love and devotion to his little sister.
Contributions can be made by visiting any First Bank location, calling 615-435-2460, or by mailing checks to: 510 Columbia Avenue Suite 106, Franklin, TN 37064.