Larry Greene, the Phillies' first pick and 39th overall in the compensatory round of Monday's first-year player draft, drew the attention of his high school coach when he was only seven years old, according to his local newspaper.
"He has always been a strong kid," Berrien (Ga.) High School coach Doug Nix told the Valdosta Daily Times earlier this year.
The story said that by eighth grade Greene was practiciing with the Berrien varsity team and by his freshman year he was playing with the team.
As a junior, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound outfielder slugged a school record 15 home runs, a mark he broke as a senior by hitting 18 home runs while also batting .562 in 30 games. He drew 37 walks and struck out only eight times.
Greene put up those huge numbers despite losing his mother Denise to diabetes right after Christmas.
"She was a bad diabetic," Greene said after celebrating his draft selection with his father Larry Sr. at the MLB Network studios in Seacacus, N.J. "It was pretty hard to go through. Me and my dad made it through and she's watching now, so it's OK."
Nix, Greene's high school coach, predicted stardom beyond high school for his center fielder.
“He’s pretty good at everything,” Nix said. “He has a lot of tools. His mental approach is great. He’s patient at the plate. He’s everything you want in a player. I really think he’ll be a big-time player in the major leagues."
The Phillies obviously think so, too, although they first must sign him. Greene, 18, has a scholarship to play at Chipola Junior College in Florida, but he told the Valdosta newspaper earlier this year that he was eager to sign with a major-league team after the draft.
"I'm thinking I'll be in Philly," Greene said during a conference call with Philadelphia reporters.
Chipola, however, does have special meaning to Greene because he picked out the school with his mother.
Nix raved about his best player's makeup earlier this season.
“He’s just one of the guys,” Nix said. “He just happens to have a lot of God-given ability. He’s a hard worker. We try to treat him like everybody else. He doesn’t expect anything special or different. But it helps when you have one that’s that talented. He’s a difference maker.
“I wish we had eight more like him. He’s fun to coach. He’s a good kid. He always has a big smile on his face and is easy going. He’s just a good kid who’s fun to be around.”
Greene also played football at Berrien and drew interest from the University of Alabama in that sport, which is a pretty good testament to his athletic ability. During his junior football season, however, Greene broke his ankle and he did not play football as a senior.
“It was a big blow to the football team, but everyone understood the opportunity he would have with baseball,” Nix said. “He’s a baseball player first that played football and basketball.”
Greene said the decision was easy.
“I just love the game (of baseball) more," he told the Valdosta paper. "To me, there’s more to it. It’s more interesting to me than football.”
Greene played in the same high school league as Kaleb Cowart, the first-round selection of the Los Angeles Angels in last year's draft. Cowart was the Gatorade National Player of the Year last year and his high school, Cook, was Berrien's biggest rival.
“We talk all the time,” Greene told the Valdosta newspaper. “He’s a good friend. He helps me out. He tells me not to worry about the draft too much, that it’ll come.”
It came and Greene went higher than he expected.
"I knew I was good, but I didn't think I was that good," he said.
In the coming years, we'll find out exactly how good Larry Greene will become.
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