CARY, N.C. – As he stomps back and forth in the stands, waving a towel enthusiastically over his head, this is Dennis Grant’s leather-lunged, go-to cheer.

WHO YA ROOTIN’ FOR?!?

His flock hangs on every word, and they respond with unbridled vigor.

DEL-TA STATE!

Grant then holds his palms downward. It’s a signal that the next answer should be a little bit quieter.

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Who ya rootin’ for?

The Statesmen fans do as they’re told.

Del-ta State!

Again, the palms go down.

Who ya rootin’ for?

This time, a couple hundred fans almost whisper.

Del-ta State …

It’s time to break the silence. Grant’s arms fly into the air and he bellows one more time, and this time, it could be heard to the heavens.

WHO YA ROOTIN’ FOR?!?

DEL-TA STATE!

To watch Grant, it doesn’t exactly comes as a surprise to learn that he is a preacher, the pastor of Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Brandon, Miss. If he can elicit this kind of response during the Division II Baseball Championship, there’s absolutely no doubt whatsoever that one of his sermons is truly something to behold.

Grant’s son, Morris, is a junior outfielder for Delta State. Whenever and wherever Morris has played, since he first picked up a bat, ball and glove, Grant has been right there. After two years at Hinds Community College in Raymond, Miss., this is Morris’ first year at Delta State.

That matters little to Grant. He seems to be as passionate about Delta State baseball as Dave “Boo” Ferriss, a former Boston Red Sox pitcher who has been a part of the school’s tradition for more than 50 years.

“I’ve always been one of encouragement in supporting young people,” Grant said. “The way they’ve played, you can’t help but get excited. The boys are the ones that get me pumped up.”

Grant rarely sat still during Delta State’s tough 1-0 loss to Minnesota State-Mankato on Thursday. He paced. He hollered. He danced. He cheered. When the final out was recorded, Grant’s uninhibited enthusiasm remained unbroken. Dennis Grant is the kind of baseball father every child should have.

Dennis Grant, left, and his son Morris
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Not once, they both say, has an embarrassed Morris ever asked Grant to tone it down. That, in and of itself, speaks volumes about their relationship.

“He loves it,” Grant said. “He knows how wild I get. As a matter of fact, when I’m out here cranking up the fans, he’s in the dugout cranking up the guys. He’ll be the one getting them fired up in the dugout.”

“It means the world to me,” Morris Grant added. “I’ve been playing ball since I was six, and if he can be there, he will be pumping up the crowd with everything he’s got. He’s behind my team, not just me. He’s behind my team 110 percent every game.”

On the contrary, Morris has actually come to listen for his father in the stands.

“He’s in my head,” Morris continued. “I’m thinking to myself, ‘Aww, man. I’m not having a good game.’ But I can still hear listen for the crowd. I can still hear him pumping me up. That kind of gives me that extra little urge to get out there and keep doing my best. No, I don’t want him to tone it down any. It helps keep us going. I thoroughly enjoy it.”

Morris is one of the lucky ones. How many millions of kids have given up baseball because their fathers have harshly criticized their every move on the field? That is not Grant, who loves his son, win, lose or draw.

“Baseball is a fun game,” Grant said. “Whether it’s my child or someone else’s child, our kids need encouragement. I want to promote a positive attitude, be a positive role model and let them know that no matter what the outcome of the game is, there’s a greater game to live – the game of life. If they can play excited on the field, I want to encourage them to play just that hard in the game of life.”

Here’s the cool thing about Grant. If the “other” team makes a good play, he’ll cheer for them, too. Play hard and fair. That’s all he wants, and expects.

“The Lord gives us life to live,” Grant said. “There’s something greater than baseball, and that’s living for the Lord. I just believe in encouragement. That’s the name of my game. I’m a dad first and a cheerer later, a baseball fan second.”