Pitching in hometown will be ‘beautiful experience’ for Reds’ Greene

Rookie will make his second start in Los Angeles

Hunter Greene remembers sitting in the stands down the third baseline at Dodger Stadium and watching Rafael Furcal play shortstop. Furcal played for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2006 to 2011, so Green would have been between the ages of 7 and 12 — just a face in the crowd.

That won’t be the case this weekend. The Cincinnati Reds rookie Green, now 22, will make the second start of his career Saturday in a game that will start at 10:10 p.m. in Ohio. He will pitch in his hometown for the first time in his professional career, starting against the Dodgers in the third game of a four-game series.

“It’s just a beautiful experience to be here,” Green told reporters on Thursday, “and to pitch on Saturday will be pretty special.”

Greene’s second start will come six days after his first. He allowed three runs on four hits in five innings Sunday in a 6-3 victory on the road against the Atlanta Braves. The Reds were 2-2 at that point but were swept in two games by the Cleveland Indians at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday and Wednesday and lost 9-3 to the Dodgers in the series opener Thursday.

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Greene was born in Los Angeles in 1999 and attended Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif., 15 miles from Dodger Stadium. He has given back to kids in the community by hosting baseball clinics over the year and plans to continue to do that now that he has a bigger platform in the big leagues.

“I did my last baseball camp in Cincinnati, and that was a huge success,” Greene said. “I look forward to continuing to do that and to be able to have kids come to the game. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of guys that will come out (Saturday). I just saw one of our Notre Dame players out there on the field. For them to see it up close, for kids to know that it’s obtainable and to actually see it ... the closer they are to the players, I think the more they’ll realize that they can actually do it.”

Greene’s road to the big leagues was a long one. The Reds selected him with the No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019. There was no minor league season in 2020 because of the pandemic, and Greene was limited to pitching at the Reds’ alternate training site in Mason. Last year, he hoped to pitch in the big leagues for the first time but settled for his first promotion to Triple-A.

Greene made the big-league roster this spring and prepared for the hype of his first start by shutting down his phone for two days before his appearance. He planned to do the same before this start so he can stay present and stay in the moment, knowing there will be even more distractions in his hometown.

“That’s like the most important thing for me here at home,” Greene said. “I want to take it all in. Yes, it’s an exciting time. But the most important thing is my game on Saturday and being able to get a win for my team and putting my team in the best position possible for that win. That’s where my mind’s at.

“I’ll enjoy my family time away from the game, but my immediate family knows where my head is at and what my focus is. They’ve always been very understanding of that, which is a blessing because I know a lot of players and just people in general, their families aren’t able to really keep that in perspective and to understand that. They get on the hype train, and they want to go out and party and do all these crazy things. They don’t understand the importance of what’s at hand and the present moment, the focus. My family has been been great about that and has kept me pretty locked in.”

Greene will pitch one day after Jackie Robinson Day. Every year, Major League Baseball celebrates Robinson’s big-league debut on April 15. Players wear No. 42 to honor Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947.

Asked about Robinson’s legacy means to him, Greene said, “What he endured as a player and as a man, it’s unbelievable to see the grace that he played with every day on the field, the amazing teammate he was. I always get emotional talking about Jackie. To be here at Dodger Stadium and to be here for the 75th anniversary is pretty special. I miss Jackie Robinson Day by one day on pitching, so kind of bummed about that, but I’m sure one of my starts will fall on Jackie Robinson Day down the line. To be out here as a black player and as a young man, to represent him and what he stood for is super important.”

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