Hunter Greene Embraces SpotlightFeatures
• MOCK DRAFT: Version 1
LOS ANGELES — Hunter Greene is used to the expectations. He knows there are people filming every at-bat he takes, people snapping photos of whatever he does on the diamond.
It’s nothing new.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound high school baseball phenom from Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame has been on collegiate coaches’ and scouts’ radar for several years now. That happens when your fastball can reach triple digits and you are capable of slugging home runs out of even big league ball parks.
Greene has been featured in the Los Angeles Times and MLB.com and ESPN and every number of baseball publications and recently became just the 13th high school athlete to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated, most notably joining LeBron James and Bryce Harper. There was a signing party with a line that wrapped around the block for that one.
But through it all, Greene has kept a slight smile on his face and a singular aspiration for his senior season.
“My focus is just to come out and have fun and play hard with my brothers and go out there and compete. Just do as good as I did last year or better,” Greene said.
Some may wonder how he is able to concentrate with the media attention, the constant presence of scouts at every game and the responsibility to sign autographs after trying to produce a memorable performance each time out. After being invited to the Dodgers games and hanging out with Don Newcombe, seeing his face on every publication and being prognosticated to be the first high school right-handed pitcher to ever be selected No. 1 in the MLB draft, there is a supposition that he will succeed each and every time out. As others champion him as the great hope to help draw more African-American children back to the game, Greene remains unfazed.
“There’s no pressure for me,” he said. “I go out there and I just compete. I’ve been on the radar since I was 14 years old committing to UCLA. It hasn’t been a big deal. I go out there and play as hard as I can and put 110 percent into it and whatever happens, happens. I let God handle the rest of it. I just go out there and compete and have fun.”
He gets his strength from his family, in particular from his little sister Libriti, who’s bed he often slept beside in the hospital during her two-year stay while being treated for leukemia. She now has a clean bill of health and he has a bright future.
As he prepares for the upcoming draft, meeting with team personnel and brass of the top teams, Greene also is able to draw stability from his commitment to UCLA. Greene has the potential to be the third Bruins signee to be the No. 1 overall pick in the last four years. Head coach John Savage also produced the top selection in 2011 when Gerrit Cole was drafted after three years at the school.
While it is unlikely that Greene makes it onto a college campus, he is keeping that door open.
“UCLA, one, they’re great academically. There in a great location, a great area,” Greene said. “When I committed, they had just won the College World Series. Coach Savage is one of the best pitching coaches in the country. It was a good fit for me, good family up there.”
What would it take for him to toe the rubber and dig in at the plate in the baby blue and gold?
“Depends on what happens with the money and with the team, if they like the team and whatever happens in the draft on June 12.”
One thing UCLA would offer that professional organizations likely won’t is the opportunity to continue playing both ways. He has a dynamic four-pitch repertoire with the previously mentioned explosive fastball, but he’s also one of the top shortstop prospects in the country.
“I love doing both. Both of them come easy for me. I’m 17 years old, so I think it’s too soon to put a bat down right now. I just go out there and have fun and just go show my ability at shortstop and then go on the mound and compete and shove on the mound, so I love doing both.”
However, much to the dismay of scouts and fans alike, Greene has shut himself down for the rest of the year on the pitcher’s mound beginning last month with the Boras Classic. At the time, he said “instead of showing I’m just the best pitcher in the country, I want to show I’m the best shortstop in the country as well.”
On the mound, he went 3-0, 0.75 with 43 strikeouts in 28 innings before taking his reprieve from pitching. Offensively, he’s hitting .352 with six homers, six doubles and 28 RBI in 27 games, according to MaxPreps.
“I’ve been working on everything,” he said. “Pitching, getting ahead, having good pitch selection at the plate, keeping my range good at shortstop, coming through the baseball and just working on my power, my flexibility and my ability on the field and just putting it all together.”
Greene is used to people expecting him to the great, but he constantly is working to make himself better, constantly striving to be extraordinary.