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Former Virginia High pitcher Justin Grimm pitched in 15 games this season for the Oakland Athletics.
If you’ve spent any time at all on social media, you’ve seen the frequently used meme referred to as “Pointing Leonardo DiCaprio.”
It’s an image captured from the 2019 movie “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” as the character known as Rick Dalton (portrayed by Leo) delightfully points at a television screen with his left arm extended.
The experts at explain it is “used to express feelings of excited recognition.”
Some folks around these parts have probably struck the Rick Dalton pose recently.
Over the span of the last five months, dudes from far Southwest Virginia have appeared in National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and National Football League games.
Mac McClung (Gate City) scored six points for the Los Angeles Lakers on April 10 in their season-ending win over the Denver Nuggets and he fittingly capped the performance with a highlight-reel slam dunk. That came after a one-game cameo with the Chicago Bulls in December and the 6-foot-2 dynamo is headed to training camp soon with the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
Justin Grimm (Virginia High) pitched in 15 games for the Oakland Athletics before being let go by the organization in May. It marked his ninth season in the majors and the right-hander owns a World Series ring for his part in helping the Chicago Cubs win it all in 2016.
Jordan Stout (Honaker) was stellar in his NFL debut as the starting punter and holder for the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday afternoon. He averaged 48.5 yards on six punts and boomed a long of 64 yards in showing no rookie jitters in a win over the New York Jets.
James Mitchell (Union) was inactive for the Detroit Lions in their season-opening loss to Philadelphia on Sunday, but the rookie tight end will make his NFL debut soon enough.
That’s impressive for guys who rose to prominence while playing in the Virginia High School League’s two smallest classifications.
Some have made the climb from the Mountain 7 District to the game’s highest level, while Stout is a true gem from the Black Diamond District.
How big of a deal is far Southwest Virginia’s NBA, MLB, NFL triple play?
Well, it hadn’t happened in a calendar year since 1961.
Keokee, Virginia’s own Jim Palmer finished off a three-season NBA career with the New York Knicks; Boston’s Tracy Stallard (Coeburn), Kansas City’s Jim Archer (Max Meadows) and Boston’s Dave Hillman (Dungannon) all pitched in the American League; and Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Carroll Dale from Wise was in his second NFL season.
Hank Williams Jr. once crooned that country boys can survive.
They can also thrive against the best of the best.
“I think it shows that even though we are from a small place, that doesn’t mean that we are destined for small things,” Stout said in an interview last week. “If you want to be great then you just have to work harder than everyone else. It doesn’t matter where you’re from. There was also a hard-nosed culture instilled in me at a young age through all of the amazing coaches I’ve had.”
Northeast Tennessee athletes have been top-notch too with Daniel Norris (Science Hill) of the Detroit Tigers and Brett Martin (Morristown East) of the Texas Rangers establishing themselves in the big leagues as left-handed pitchers. Hunter Stratton (Sullivan East) is knocking on the door of the majors as a hurler for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Triple-A farm team.
Outfielder Evan Carter (Elizabethton) is considered the Texas Rangers’ top prospect as he continues to climb the minor league ladder, while slugger Gavin Cross (Tennessee High) became the highest selection the area has ever seen in the regular phase of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft in July as the Kansas City Royals made him the ninth overall pick.
He’s mashed this summer in his first season in the minors.
“I personally think there are a lot of talented guys in our area in their respective sports,” Cross said. “It’s been great seeing guys from our area succeed in their respective sports. I try to keep up with the guys from around Bristol. That’s the great thing about sports is it doesn’t really matter where you are from or how you grow up. If you can play, you can play.”
This isn’t a new phenomenon of course.
People from the map dots of the Mountain Empire have left their mark at sport’s highest level for more than a century and have made some history.
Beattie Feathers (Virginia High) was the NFL’s first 1,000-yard rusher in 1934 with the Chicago Bears, Deacon Phillippe, born in Rural Retreat, won Game 1 of the inaugural World Series in 1903 for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the aforementioned Carroll Dale played for the triumphant Green Bay Packers in the first two Super Bowls.
Ahmad Bradshaw (Graham) and Heath Miller (Honaker) also own two Super Bowl rings apiece.
“Bullet” Bill Dudley from Bluefield is enshrined is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Elizabethton’s Jason Witten will likely join him there soon. Billy Wagner (Tazewell) is making a strong bid for baseball’s Hall of Fame as the former All-Star relief pitcher’s vote total keeps rising each year.
Steve Spurrier (Science Hill) was the Heisman Trophy recipient as the quarterback of the Florida Gators in 1966 and became a pretty darn good ol’ Head Ball Coach. Ollan Cassell (Appalachia) won a gold medal in track and field at the 1960 Olympics in Tokyo as he ran the opening leg on a triumphant 4×100 relay team.
Heck, Glenn Roberts from Pound is credited with being one of the inventors of basketball’s jumpshot.
That’s just scratching the surface.
The list of legendary locals goes on and on and on and on.
There’s now a new crop of talented players carrying on that tradition.
If like so many others you watched hours upon hours of college football on Saturday, you might have seen Purdue’s Cam Allen (Graham) returning an interception for a score against Indiana State, Virginia Tech’s Jaden Keller (Tennessee High) making five tackles against Boston College and Dayne Davis (Sullivan East) getting playing time for the University of Tennessee Volunteers in a win over Pittsburgh.
Some of y’all might have even done the Rick Dalton point.
Once upon a time they were small-town guys with big dreams.
Now, the nation is getting to see what we’ve known for a long time.
These local guys can play.

| Twitter:@Hayes_BHCSports | (276) 645-2570
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Former Virginia High pitcher Justin Grimm pitched in 15 games this season for the Oakland Athletics.
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