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Published: Wednesday, 8/15/2007

Bluffton coach makes return to Atlanta


ATLANTA - Returning to the city where he was critically injured in a bus crash, Bluffton University's baseball coach got a chance to heal a little more last night.

James Grandey watched from the owner's box as the Atlanta Braves faced Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants.

"It doesn't get any better than this," said Grandey, who chatted with Braves manager Bobby Cox and got an autograph from Atlanta slugger Mark Teixeira beforehand. "This is baseball, a game we all love."

Five of Grandey's players were killed when their bus plunged off a highway overpass in the early morning hours of March 2. The driver and his wife also were killed.

Grandey was critically injured with a dislocated ankle and numerous broken bones in his face. He spent two weeks in an Atlanta hospital before returning home.

"Each day we get a little stronger," Grandey said. "The support has been amazing. That's what kept us together."

Before coming to Turner Field, he visited the doctors and nurses who treated him at Piedmont Hospital.

"There were a lot of jokes from them, saying they'd never seen me standing up," said the coach, who attended the game with his wife, Jessica, and their 8-month-old daughter, Ayla.

Grandey said he may visit the site of the crash today.

"To be honest, it's a little uneasy, a little eerie," he said. "It would probably be good to go by [the bridge]. It may help close some things off."

While Bluffton carried on with its season after the tragic accident, Grandey said everyone is looking forward to the start of a new school year this fall.

"All the players are ready to start school," he said. "They are ready to get back in their routine, get back on the field and have a normal year."

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