Greeneville, Tenn., nestled in the Smoky Mountains, is a town of just more than 15,000.
But in the summer, that number swells by about 40, because the Cincinnati Reds’ rookie-league affiliate makes its home less than 20 miles from the North Carolina border. And among this year’s crop of major-league hopefuls: Penn Charter grad Mike Siani.
The 2018 Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year and Glenside native was selected in the fourth round of June’s MLB draft, and Siani knew when he got the call from Cincy that he would need to forgo the scholarship he had received from the University of Virginia. With a $2 million bonus on the table — well above the approximate $513,000 slot value — and a chance to begin his pro career, there was little question as to Siani’s next step.
“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” said Siani, who was expecting to get picked on the draft’s opening night but slipped to Day 2. “Then, the Reds came through with the money I was asking for. … It was all a last-second thing. I wasn’t expecting anything, but it all came together and worked out.”
Siani committed to Cincinnati on June 5, the day he was picked, but it wasn’t until nearly a month later that he put pen to paper and made things official. Alongside Florida third baseman and No. 5 overall selection Jonathan India, Siani signed his first pro contract on July 3 at Great American Ballpark before taking in the Reds’ game against the White Sox.
The Siani family, including parents Ralph and Kristen and brother Jake, got a taste of what could be Mike’s home within a few years.
For now, though, Siani and India will need to prove their worth in the Appalachian League, well south of the Queen City.
“It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere,” Siani said of Greeneville. “It’s a lot slower, and I’ve been here just a couple of days, but it’s definitely a different feel. … It makes me focus on what’s going on, getting to know everyone in the clubhouse and get to work. It’s a really good situation for me starting off in rookie ball.”
After the draft, Siani hung out at home with friends and family while squeezing in a few hitting sessions. He even found time to head down the Shore and relax on the beach for a few days before packing his bags.
Siani went more than a month without playing before his debut Saturday night in Burlington, N.C.
If there was rust, it didn’t show — the 18-year-old played his natural center-field position, batted second, and knocked a pair of singles.
Not that Siani has lofty expectations, even as he starts his quest for the big leagues.
“I don’t really pressure myself,” Siani said. “I just go out there and try to have fun with it.”