One of the most valuable members of the Grove City High School baseball program doesn't swing a bat, throw a pitch, run the bases or play in the field.

Still, there's no questioning what Jimmy French means to the Greyhounds and what the team means to him. He's enriching the lives of the coaches and players, and they're doing the same for him.

French, 26, was first diagnosed as a special-needs student while in kindergarten at Buckeye Woods Elementary School. He became a baseball team manager in 2003 and has remained in the role since then.

The 2009 Grove City graduate is especially close with Ryan Alexander, a special education teacher at the school who is in his ninth season as head baseball coach and 14th with the program.

Alexander and French first met when French attended Jackson Middle School.

"I knew right away (French) was going to be with me," Alexander said. "It's been a great run. He's always on something. We have him doing something all the time. ... He's at my house all the time. My wife (Melissa) and children love 'Frenchy.' "

French's parents, Jim and Tammy, love how their son is devoted to the baseball program. On game days, he gives pregame and postgame speeches, replenishes baseballs during batting practice and supplies sunflower seeds and other snacks.

Tammy French said her son is considered a high-functioning adult.

"As far as his disabilities, there are people that talk to Jimmy that can never tell as long as you don't get in-depth with anything," she said. "Everybody knows Jimmy."

She said her son has difficulty reading and writing, along with counting money. To assist his skills and also gain further independence, French works two days a week for the Franklin Equipment rental agency in Groveport and visits the bank each week to deposit part of his paycheck.

The services are offered in conjunction with the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities, which provides French with transportation to work.

His loyalty to the Grove City baseball program and Alexander has provided more opportunities to grow.

French helps babysit Alexander's three young children and accompanies the family on baseball trips during spring break. French's family even moved closer to the Alexanders to make it easier for him to get to the coach's home and the school.

"I love coach Alexander to death," French said. "I would do anything for him. I'll take a bullet for him. If he needs anything he just has to call me. ... He's like a brother to me."

French, who has received permission to visit the school each day at 1 p.m., "lives and dies Grove City," Alexander said.

Alexander has developed a close relationship with several special-needs students over the years and estimates around 12 have served as team manager, but French remains his closest friend through baseball.

French never had Alexander as a teacher, but he and his family attended Alexander's wedding in 2009.

French's parents have shown their appreciation for the support their son has received by purchasing a new scoreboard for the baseball program, which cost about $15,000. Also, each year since French graduated, the family has provided a $1,000 scholarship for a Grove City student who plans to pursue a career in special education.

"That's still not enough for what they have done for us because they have given us a life," Tammy French said. "It gave us a life and it continues to give us a life. It's given us a purpose. It hasn't stopped. He's never let go of 'Coach A.' "

Not only has French developed a bond with Alexander, he's also close with several baseball players.

Blake Griffith, a 2016 graduate who has been redshirted for his freshman season at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, was named recipient of French's scholarship last year.

"Jimmy and I have a great friendship," Griffith said. "We have the same sense of humor. We tell jokes. I'm a big joke guy. I talk to him a couple days a week (and) we text all the time. ... He's kind-hearted. He's just awesome."

French's favorite Grove City teams are the squads that played in the Division I state tournament in 2011 and 2012.

"It's great for our guys to see kids of all different types and styles, the way they learn and the way they think," Alexander said. "We've had autistic kids be our video guy. We've had guys be our scorekeepers. Guys have done everything for us."

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank