If you’ve ever played baseball at any level, you’ve probably dreamed of playing in Major League Baseball. Some of us actually get to chase that dream a lot longer than others do. Hunter Greene is closer than most to realizing his dream and he says it’s his sole goal to reach the big leagues with the Cincinnati Reds in 2021.
“I want to be there this season,” said Greene. “That’s solely my goal, is to get there, that’s where my head’s been since I was drafted and especially this offseason I’ve worked extremely hard to put myself in the best position possible to succeed and conquer that goal. For me, that’s where my mind is and that’s solely just my focus and making sure I put myself in the best position possible for me to be able to do that. And not to just get there, but to stay there.”
On one hand, it would be a big jump for Hunter Greene to get to the big leagues this year. He has less than 100 career innings as a professional under his belt, and he last pitched in a game in July of 2018. But part of that is because there was no minor league season in 2020, and Greene spent July, August, and September at the Reds alternate training site. All of the work done there, in his first year back after having Tommy John surgery, doesn’t count in the record books and makes the gap seem much larger for Greene. But what happened at Prasco Park was beneficial for Greene, and others, even if the public didn’t get a chance to watch it.
“It was awesome (being at Prasco) because there were a lot of guys that were home who didn’t have the opportunity to go out and play and be around a high level of guys,” said Greene. “For me it was nice to go in and get my innings, but my biggest takeaway was kind of learning more of the big league life and just the day-to-day work and just kind of the expectations. For me it was just more of a learning process, and like I said getting the innings in was great, but that wasn’t kind of my focus going in, it was trying to soak up as much information as possible just like I’m doing here.”
During spring training this year, Hunter Greene is looking to take advantage of the time he has with the big league coaching staff, as well as being around the big leaguers as much as he can. 2-time Gold Glove winner Tucker Barnhart made sure he was the guy to catcher Greene’s first bullpen session of the spring.
“Yeah, it was great. I had just come from field one from long tossing and was coming over to the 6-pack to start my pen and he pointed me out and was like ‘Hunt, let’s go, you’re with me’ and I loved that,” Greene said. “I definitely wanted to throw to Tucker, but he beat me to the punch and he wanted me to pair up with him, which was great to get that feedback from him and to know that he wanted to, one, make that connection but also work together was pretty special. And knowing his history and the career he’s had so far was impressive.”
“To be able to throw to him and kind of debrief and kind of talk after the bullpen was awesome,” continued Greene. “Obviously he’s a veteran and he shows great leadership when it comes to that, and that’s what I want to do when I get to that position, and hopefully I’m able to do that and be in a position like Tucker and really help guys out that are coming up in the system, making them feel comfortable, but also making them feel like they need to reach their potential and to push to that. Coming from Tucker and seeing that connection and him wanting to work with me was awesome and I just want to make sure I take advantage of the time we have and be able to pick his brain as much as possible throughout this camp and throughout the year.”
Hunter Greene isn’t in big league camp, but is a part of “early minor league camp” along with 17 other players. Some of their activities will overlap with big league camp, but some days they will be on their own on the backfields. That makes the odds that he breaks camp with the big league club, while not impossible, incredibly unlikely. That doesn’t mean he can’t see time in the big leagues at some point, though.
“We have to do what’s best for Hunter Greene, and if what’s best for Hunter Greene is to challenge him at the Major League level at some point in 2021 we certainly won’t hold him back from that,” said manager David Bell. “Not only for him, but for our team. So we’ll just have to see. Hunter’s doing everything he can to put himself in position to arrive at the Major League level and once he arrives here to be able to stay, which is really the goal. I know that last year turned into a great experience for him. Being able to pitch at Prasco worked out really well because there was enough competition for him against Major League caliber hitters that it was a challenge. But it was also controlled enough to where he was still a little bit earlier recovering from his injury. He was also able to be around our staff, I know Hunter’s a student of the game. He’s very capable of taking information, he’s really interested in game planning, just really well rounded. He’s able to handle a lot. So I think that experience last year was excellent for him. I don’t think it was a step back, I think the Prasco experience might propel him forward, maybe even quicker. “