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Saturday, June 09, 2018

Greene back for more at Jr. Nat

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Alex Greene (Perfect Game)

EMERSON, Ga. – As a young prospect from Maryland, Alex Greene could have fallen through the cracks in Perfect Game’s talent-rich Mid-Atlantic Region. Thanks to hard work and an abundance of natural ability, Greene is, instead, a decorated, highly ranked national prospect who has learned to take advantage of every opportunity that comes his way.

A seasoned veteran? Not exactly, considering the 16½-year-old, just completed his sophomore year at athletic and academic powerhouse DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md. But he’s a determined young man who knows where he wants baseball to take him over the remainder of his high school career and beyond and is intent on enjoying every minute of the ride.

So here’s Alex Greene, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound right-handed hitting and strong-armed outfielder from Edgewater, Md., back at the PG Junior National Showcase for a second straight year. The event, being staged this year at PG Park-LakePoint, opened Saturday morning and will welcome 260 top prep prospects from the classes of 2020 and 2021 before completing its four-day run Tuesday afternoon.

PG ranks Greene, a U. of Virginia commit, No. 12 nationally in the 2020 class, and he told PG Saturday morning that he was thrilled to receive a second straight invitation to the Jr. National.

“Last year it was kind of new to me, everything with this whole showcase type of experience,” Greene said. “Now this year, I feel like it’s just another day at the ballfield out here. … It’s an honor to be here; it’s an honor to be invited and to say ‘No’ to that,” wasn’t an option.

His father, John Greene, has watched with pride as his son climbed the class of 2020 national prospect rankings and sees a lot of value in these showcase experiences. While high-profile tournament games might still offer the best glimpse of player-as-competitor, John also likes how a showcase environment allows each of the young players with an opportunity to see where they stand alongside their peers.

“He wanted to continue to measure himself and see how he’s progressed, and this is a good event to that progress and how’s he coming along with everything,” John said Saturday. “This gives (the players) a chance to show all their tools in a structured environment … and it’s neat just to see these guys and how they measure-up with each other.”

Greene attended three PG showcases before arriving here this weekend and was included on the Top Prospect List at all three: the 2016 PG Atlantic Coast Underclass, the 2017 PG Jr. National and the 2017 PG Underclass All-American Games.

He admitted to feeling quite a few nerves when he first started performing in front of the scouts at the national events last summer, and while Greene still felt some nerves when things got underway here Saturday morning, he mostly felt a noticeable sense of calm. In other words, he’s starting to get the hang of this whole showcase deal.

“I approach it like I’m just going to come out here and have fun,” Greene said. “I’m meeting new people and making new friends from all over the country, so I think it’s just a fun time; there’s not really a lot of pressure.”

Greene opened some eyes early Saturday morning when he threw 98 mph from the outfield, an effort that tied the event record set by Florida’s Joseph Charles last year. He seemed to be living up to a PG scouting report from last August’s PG Underclass All-American Games in San Diego, which read in part:

“(Greene has a) long athletic frame, very projectable physically. Outstanding outfield throwing arm, elite level tool, actions to the ball are smooth and athletic; ball flies out of his hand with outstanding on-line carry and accuracy.”

Greene credits his dad for sparking his interest in baseball – John Greene played at both the high school and juco levels – although Alex can’t even remember when he first started playing the game. It’s a pastime – better make that a passion – that he’s always found enjoyable and over the course of his still blossoming career he’s found out it’s a pursuit he’s also pretty good at.

“I always want to get better; I think that’s the goal, always to get better and to learn something every day,” Greene said. “I’m pleased with the way things have gone and how I’ve grown as a player. … I love competing and any of these guys could be (ranked) that high because they all have talent.”

DeMatha Catholic HS is a private all-male school with an enrollment of around 800 that is perhaps best known on the national sports scene for its powerhouse basketball, football, lacrosse and wrestling teams; dozens of alumni are former or current players in the NBA and the NFL.

The school’s sports teams play in the formidable Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC), a 12-team league that includes schools from Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia. While the league’s basketball, football and lacrosse teams grab the headlines, its baseball programs are also traditionally strong. DeMatha Catholic has won 24 WCAC titles dating to 1968, with the most recent coming in 2013.

“It’s competitive; it’s an awesome league,” Greene said. “I think it’s one of the best around just because everyone’s competing and it’s just a lot of fun. … I remember last year when I was a freshman up on varsity and were playing for the (WCAC) championship and that was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been – there were so many people there.

“It’s kind of prepared me for stuff like this, playing in front of people,” he added. “My nerves, they get calmed.”

Developing the ability to calm one’s self down and focus in on the job at hand are signs of maturity and Greene has two more summers of PG tournament and showcase play and two more springs of high school baseball to continue the maturation process. He and the other young Jr. National attendees will need all of it they can muster as they move their careers forward.

“This is a game of failure, and how you deal with that is going to help you not only in baseball but it’s going to help you in life,” John Greene pointed out. “You’ve got to keep your emotions in check and throw that last at-bat or that last pitch away and move on to the next one; that’s how you grow.”

Even before he became a part of the DeMatha Catholic baseball program Greene was playing for the Richmond Braves and program co-founder/head coach Tommy Mayers; he joined the organization as a 13-year-old.

Green has already played in 16 PG WWBA tournaments – all but one with the Braves – and has been named to the all-tournament team at seven of them. The Greene/Richmond Braves relationship has certainly been mutually beneficial.

“It’s a lot of kids from the Mid-Atlantic area; it’s awesome,” he said of the program. “It feels like a family – I call it my Braves family – and coach Tommy Mayers, he’s been awesome; he’s a class act.”

Greene went to a camp at the University of Virginia before his freshman year at DeMatha and committed to the program in December 2016. He had visited some other schools but quickly realized that Virginia was where he wanted to be, from both an academic and baseball standpoint.

“I committed early as a freshman and I wouldn’t have done it if there had been any doubt in my mind that I might want to go somewhere else,” Greene said, “but Virginia is where I want to be.”

That’s a few years off, of course. In the here and now, Greene is at the 2018 PG Jr. National Showcase, working to justify his high national ranking while watching the others around him do the exact same thing.

He knows all these guys can play and that’s why they’re here. It’s safe to say that just about all of them will be given the opportunity to play college baseball and some of them will move on to play professionally at some point down the road.

It’s not lost on these guys that current MLB standouts Bryce Harper, Nolan Arenado, Francisco Lindor, Lance McCullers, Addison Russell and Albert Almora are all alumni of the Jr. Nat, and that Jarred Kelenic, the No. 6 overall draft pick last Monday night, was here just two years ago.

“Ii just think that this is a great event because it gets your name out there,” Greene said. “The guys that are good, the scouts are going to find you. … “I think this turns me into a better competitor, and it keeps my head level. It shows me that there are other guys out there that are just as good as I am and are working just as hard.”

And then, he quickly added: “One of my goals is to play in the (PG) All-American Classic. And this, I think, is all part of the process.”

John Greene said that when his son leaves here in the next day or two that he has once again shown that he can compete at the highest level and excel right alongside the other standout prospects in his class. He is, after all, a kid that likes to compete and those competitive juices flow freely every time he takes the field.

“It’s been unbelievable from a parent standpoint,” John said. “I love it. There’s nowhere I’d rather be than sitting by a field watching him compete and seeing all these other guys play that he’s gotten to know. He’s made a lot of good friends and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

“It’s going to be very interesting to see how this plays out,” he concluded. “It’s been very interesting so far and we’re excited about the future.”

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