Tournaments | Story | 11/27/2020

Numbers add up for dynamic Green

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Elijah Green (Perfect Game)

Baseball is a numbers game. Always has been it seems, always will be.

Old-schoolers still look fondly upon tried and true statistical figures like batting average, earned run average, runs batted in and runs scored. New-agers study their own set of more analytical numbers like WAR, VORP, OPS, WHIP and a wide assortment of other abbreviated sabermetrics.

So yes, baseball is a numbers game which would seem to lead to the belief that a top prospect who immerses himself in numbers just may have some inherent advantage in processing the game at its most basic level. Of course, being incredibly athletic while also being in possession of an off-the-charts skill-set never hurts, either.

And so it is with elite outfielder Elijah Green from Windermere, Fla., the No. 1 ranked overall prospect in the class of 2022 who just completed the first semester of his junior year at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Green, a Miami commit, also carries a 4.0 grade-point average with a keen interest in mathematics and problem-solving.

“Math is probably my favorite subject,” Green told PG during a recent telephone conversation while he and his dad, former NFL tight end Eric Green, were driving from Bradenton to Windermere so Elijah could be home for Thanksgiving.

“I don’t even know why it is, I just like to play with numbers,” he said. “It just came really easy to me ever since I was little.” Some have called his academic acumen his sixth tool.

Based on what Green has accomplished and the accolades he’s received during a 39-event Perfect Game career that began at the 14u level in the fall of 2017, it might be easy to assume that baseball came just as easily to Green, as well. But that would be a very misguided assumption to make.

The kid that likes to play with numbers is more physically gifted than anyone in his class and quite possibly any athlete currently enrolled in grades 9-12 in the country. In fact, PG VP of Player Personnel David Rawnsley, who has been involved in scouting for 35 years, wrote in an email that Elijah Green “seriously might be the best athlete I’ve ever scouted.”

But there’s more here than natural God-given talent. A lot more, in fact. Green has hitched his wagon with the prominent Kissimmee, Fla.-based FTB organization where he has thrived. Matt Cleveland, his coach at FTB for two of the last three years – including the 2020 season with the FTB/SF Giants Scout Team 2022 – told PG that Green checks every box in every way imaginable.

“When you’re talking about a kid that’s one of if not the best high school player in his class, you’ve got to have all of it,” Cleveland said during a pre-Thanksgiving telephone conversation with PG. “I’ve seen him kind of develop as just a ‘feel-for-the-game’ type of player and just watch him work relentlessly. His work ethic is second to none; the guy is always working.

“The kid is so level-headed. He wants to win but it’s in the right way. He’s always smiling and really he’s just a great kid; I think that’s what’s really helped him,” Cleveland continued. “There’s a lot of really great athletes … but a lot of those guys don’t have the makeup that he has.”

That sound makeup is a result of the upbringing he’s received from parents Eric and Leslie and a message constantly being driven home by his dad Eric Green, a first round pick of the Steelers in the 1990 NFL Draft out of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. Eric Green played 10 seasons in the NFL with the Steelers, Dolphins, Ravens and Jets and was a two-time Pro Bowl selection in 1993 and ’94 while with the Steelers.

“As I always explain to (Elijah), the work will take care of everything,” Eric told PG while he and his son had stopped for some eats on their recent drive home. “If you put in the time you’re going to get the results. You’re going to get every result that you deserve because you put in the time, but if you don’t put in the time you have no-shot; he bought into that at a very young age.”

As might be expected, Elijah Green was a standout football player as a youth before becoming a full-time baseball player at age 13, just over three years ago. An AAU team that his dad helped coach, the Apopca (Fla.) Raptors, is one of the top youth football programs in the country and Elijah was a part of that program, Eric said.

“Football was really kind of a pain because I didn’t really like getting hit,” Elijah, being brutally honest, told PG. “So I just thought baseball would be a great route for me.”

Truth be told, the younger Green is built like a football player. He’s a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder with sprinter’s speed who may not like to get hit but who can hit, throw and field a baseball at a skill-level unmatched amongst his peers.

Elijah Green put it all on display at the PG Junior National Showcase in Hoover, Ala., in June when he showcased his bat speed with a 100 mph exit velo, threw 93 mph from the outfield and set an event record by turning in a 6.20-second clocking in the 60-yard dash.

“The main thing is his work ethic,” Eric Green said at the risk of repeating himself. “His footwork, his speed and his agility, all that translates from football to baseball. When we went to Hoover (Jr. National), I don’t think even he knew he was going to run a 6.2 60 but he did it.”

Added Elijah: “Everything felt good that day. I honestly felt kind of slow but the time said something different. I did feel really loose that day and I beat the record.”

He has stood out on the PG showcase circuit, earning Top Prospect List recognition at the 14u National and 14u Florida showcases in 2018 and at the Jr. National. Green’s TPL performances at those two 14u showcases in the summer of 2018 led to him being invited to the PG 14u Select Baseball Festival in Fort Myers, Fla., over the Labor Day Weekend several weeks later.

Green was joined at that all-star event by five other elite class of 2022 prospects who are currently ranked in the top nine overall nationally: No. 2 righthander Dylan Lesko (Buford, Ga. hometown, Vanderbilt commit); No. 3 outfielder Andruw Jones (Suwanee, Ga., Vanderbilt); No. 4 shortstop Termarr Johnson (Atlanta, uncommitted); No. 8 shortstop Cole Young (Wexford, Pa., Duke) and No. 9 lefthander Tristan Smith (Chesnee, S.C., uncommitted).

“The 14u Select Festival was really fun; I think that was probably one of my best baseball experiences ever,” Elijah said. “It was just competing against the best of the best and I just loved it there. … Everyone has their own way of how they go about things, and I get to pick their brain about how I should go about it myself.”

Green, one month shy of his 17th birthday, has been an all-tournament selection at 18 PG WWBA, BCS and World Series events since 2017, most of them while playing with FTB. Four of those selections came this summer, including at the WWBA 16u National Championship, the BCS 16u National Championship and the WWBA Florida Qualifier.

He has been a part of seven tournament championship teams, including at the 2019 WWBA PG 15u Florida World Series while playing with FTB Tucci-Cleveland 2022.

“I’ve been with FTB for three years now and the coaches are phenomenal,” Elijah said. “The players that they bring in, that just lifts the weight off my shoulders (in terms of) what I have to produce.”

The aforementioned Termarr Johnson has been a teammate of Green’s with the FTB/SF Giants Scout Team 2022, as have catcher/corner-infielder Luke Heyman (No. 25, Florida), outfielder/first baseman Mason Neville (No. 52, Arizona) and middle-infielder JeanPierre Ortiz (No. 53, FIU).

Green also played with the FTB/SF Giants Scout Team 2021 at the WWBA World Championship in Fort Myers in October, a squad that featured 2020 PG All-Americans Mason Albright (No. 31, Virginia Tech), Jay Allen (No. 35, Florida), Edwin Arroyo (No. 30, Florida State) and Jayden Melendez (No. 92, FIU) from the class of 2021.

In other words, Green has been surrounded by impact players and top prospects at every turn during his time with FTB and has still managed to make an indelible impression.

“All of the coaches at FTB, we feel super-blessed to have him as a part of our organization as kind of the face of the organization right now,” Cleveland said. “He’s such a good kid and we want him to know that we’re thankful for that, too.”

How has Green done it? How has he managed to already make such a positive impression in a program that has produced too many top prospects to count for decades now, and promises to continue to do so in the years to come?

It’s really no secret and it comes back around to his amazing work ethic. He just keeps getting better in every aspect of his game and shows no signs of slowing down.

“He has improved a lot just in the last year-and-a-half, especially at the plate,” Cleveland said. “He’s always had the power. He’s just been so much more consistent with his at-bats and learning the game and learning what the pitchers are trying to do to him depending on where he hits in the lineup.”

Eric Green, who confided that as a youngster, baseball not football was his first love, has seen the same thing: “His timing at the plate has increased immensely,” he said. “Elijah at one point, I would say, was a very passive guy but now he’s gotten really aggressive in the batter’s box. I just see a lot more aggression in his game then what I saw previously.”

Elijah Green, as humble as the day is long, takes it one step further: “Since my freshman year, everything has improved – my arm strength, my physical strength, my mental (approach) at the plate.”

One area of his game that continues to draw rave reviews and glowing scouting reports is his play defensively. Centerfield is a place where Green can really put this athleticism on display and he takes tremendous pride in the way he’s developed into an elite outfield prospect.

“Defensively, I’ve never seen a ball fall; he’s never misplayed a ball,” Cleveland said. “I’ve seen him play in maybe 80 to 100 games and he’s never misplayed a ball, he’s never thrown a ball away, he’s always made good throws when we need a play; he makes it look really easy out there. … With him being that big and strong as he is, it definitely is a special player.”

Special in other ways, too, like in the classroom. The kid who loves to play with numbers with the same zeal he loves to play baseball has made academics a priority and he loves the way his excellent grades put a wide smile on the faces of his parents when they take a look at his report card.

“I’m going to be honest with you, he gets that clearly from his mother,” Eric said with a boisterous laugh, referring to Elijah’s mom, Leslie Green . “But we are extremely proud of him and the work he’s put in in the classroom. We’ve got a rule in our house that if you don’t make the grades you don’t play no ball.

“He’s taken that to heart, he understands that and baseball has been taken away from him when he gets lazy at some point. He understands what our outlook in the classroom is, so he gets that part.”

The Green family made the decision to enroll Elijah at IMG Academy this fall because, Eric told  PG, they felt the instruction and training he would receive there will fuel his growth as an elite baseball player. He’ll play with the Ascenders this spring, will be invited to the PG National Showcase in June and then set off for what promises to be an even more defining summer playing for the FTB program.

“Perfect Game, I just love them,” Elijah said. “I just love how (the events) are run, and I just want to show out and show that I can be a leader of my team and go out and win tournaments.”

The numbers are on his side, as are all five tools: hitting, hitting for power, running, fielding and throwing. And, perhaps even more importantly, an intangible sixth tool, as well.

“In this day and age we focus so much on tools,” FTB’s Cleveland said. “Certainly he is a five-tool type guy … but there are other five-tool guys. What makes him better is just his maturity and what’s going on between the ears; that’s like his sixth-tool. … For him to have all five tools and then have that, too, then it gets kind of scary.”

Yeah, as in scary good …

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