SBD/June 13, 2017/Leagues and Governing Bodies

High School Phenom Hunter Greene Goes No. 2 In MLB Draft, Eyed As Future Of Baseball

Greene (r) is a product of MLB’s Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif.
The Reds selected California high school phenom Hunter Greene with the second overall pick in the '17 MLB Draft, and he is immediately being eyed as a future face of the game. Greene was drafted as a pitcher thanks to his fastball topping out at 102 MPH, and he referred to himself as a “monster” at that position. But he also plays SS, and the Reds are leaving open the possibility of developing Greene as a two-way player. Greene is a product of MLB’s Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., and is the highest draft pick of any alumnus from that program. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said, “This is huge for our game. ... We hope these programs will continue to produce players like Hunter.” Greene has also participated in several events for the league’s ongoing Play Ball initiative, and said he is embracing a role of helping spur youth participation in baseball, particularly among African-Americans. Greene said, “It’s really important to help build a passion for the game” (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). USA TODAY's Mike Vorkunov writes Greene is the "most-hyped prospect in the field and one of the most intriguing players to hit the sports in a long time." He is the "first high school baseball player to get the cover of SI" since Nationals RF Bryce Harper. But while Greene may "embrace it and the sport may relish the publicity, it is still a large burden to bear." He "comes along at a time when baseball is transitioning from its Derek Jeter era to a generation of new young stars." He is already "leaning in as an ambassador to the African-American community, hoping to reinvigorate interest in the sport and stand as a symbol of its success." Greene joined MLB's Youth Academy at 7 and believes his time there "helped propel him." But Greene "isn’t trying to shortchange his ambition." He "wants to make baseball more prominent" without "limitations or demographic targeting." Vorkunov: "To take back the market share from the NBA and NFL" (USA TODAY, 6/13).

NEW WAVE: In N.Y., Seth Berkman notes only four prospects attended the Draft, but two of those players -- Greene and high school OF Jordon Adell -- "saw the platform as an important one, hoping that their presence might draw more African-Americans to the sport." Adell, who was drafted No. 10 by the Angels, said, "That’s always the motivation that, ‘Hey, look, these guys look like you, they did it.’” Astros Special Assistant to the GM Enos Cabell said Greene and Adell could be a "tremendous influence." Cabell: "You’ve got to have guys like this play and see them get drafted and then publicized" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/13). YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan notes the Twins drafted high school SS Royce Lewis with the first overall pick, making this year's Draft "only the fourth time" in MLB history that African-Americans were taken with the first two picks. It "reminds anyone skeptical of baseball’s ability to enthrall young blacks that despite its average demographic of Social Security-aged white male, the sport can be every bit as absorbing as its rivals that steal away young talent." Passan: "Maybe this works. Maybe Lewis and Greene become the rule instead of the exception." Maybe a kid sees them or Yankees RF Aaron Judge or Red Sox RF Mookie Betts or Astros RF George Springer or Marlins RF Giancarlo Stanton or Brewers 1B Eric Thames or A's LF Khris Davis or Pirates RF Andrew McCutchen or Rays P Chris Archer or Blue Jays P Marcus Stroman and "understands baseball can be a place for a black man" in '17. However, it also could be "just a blip." This "isn’t about shunting aside the prevailing narrative that baseball is inhospitable to blacks." It is "about believing there is hope," that Lewis and Greene "do represent something different, that baseball’s reputation in communities far and wide will be that of inclusivity" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/13).
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