When 172 youth baseball teams roll into Anne Arundel County for the 7th annual Annapolis Open this weekend, the players—some unknowingly—will be honoring the life and legacy of South River High graduate Grant Turner.
Turner died in July 2005 from an enlarged heart after running a memorial 5K to support a fallen Maryland Department of Transportation Authority (MDTA) police officer. After turning in his timecard, Turner collapsed and passed away the same day. He was 24.
The 1999 South River High graduate was five weeks away from graduating as a MDTA police officer and just two months away from marrying his fiancé in September. But despite his life’s tragic ending, Turner’s legacy has lived on through the annual baseball tournament; bringing people together and raising money for the Grant Turner Scholarship, Beau Brown said.
Brown, a childhood friend of Turner’s and the tournament’s director of baseball operations, said the “humongous” baseball event is a great way to remember Turner and help children who are like him.
“Grant was never the star athlete on the field, so he had to work for everything he had. That’s what the scholarship is geared towards,” Brown said. “It’s not necessarily for the big man on campus, it’s for the manager-type kids. They don’t have to be a star athlete to get the scholarship.”
Every year, the Grant Turner scholarship gives seven students across five high schools money to either head to college or to a technical school, said Grant Turner’s father, Phil Turner.
“We cut the checks directly to the schools. We know exactly where that money is going,” Turner said. “Every single dime goes towards the scholarship fund. No one gets paid for anything. Any funds that come in, it all goes towards the scholarship.”
Due to his “athletic asthma,” Grant Turner became an umpire at the age of 16 and got involved with the Maryland Diamond Umpires Association. His relationship with fellow umpires and his plans to become a MDTA police officer naturally fused the two groups to help sponsor the Annapolis Open baseball tournament following his death.
The two joined along with the General’s Highway Athletic Association, which is now instrumental in the weekend event’s execution.
This tournament is exactly the type of event Grant Turner would have worked as an umpire, said his father, and throughout his years as a “blue,” Grant made lots of friends. That’s why umpires from throughout the country are flying in on their own dime to volunteer at the tournament, Brown said.
Now in its seventh year, the tournament is one of the largest of its kind on the east coast.
“For a weekend tournament, nobody’s bigger than us,” Brown said. “We have teams coming from Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania.”
Using 40 fields at 14 facilities throughout the county including South River High, 172 teams will play 288 games in a round-robin tournament format. Players ranging in age from 9-14 will compete on various field sizes, with the oldest kids playing on a professional-sized diamond of 90-foot bases.
Phil and Nancy Turner, Grant’s parents, are active in the tournament as well.
“My job? I guess I’m the coordinator of everything,” Phil Turner said. “Everybody has a respective job, and I facilitate the whole thing. If a job needs to get done, I take care of it.”
After its “opening day” ceremony at General’s Highway Corridor park at 1 p.m., the tournament hosts a special fundraiser for the scholarship fund at the Annapolis Elks Club from 6-11 p.m. There, silent and live auctions will be held for business discounts and unique sports memorabilia.
As far as the tournament goes, the young athletes may be oblivious to its significance, but the Annapolis Open and its coordinators feel it’s an event that appropriately honors the man they lost in July 2005.
“As my wife always says, it takes a village to raise a child, and [the Annapolis Open] is our village. It’s just a bunch of people working together,” Phil Turner said. “It’s just unbelievable and Grant would be proud.”