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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Willie Greene, His Game - PC2470

Originally published Aug. 12, 2011
Willie Greene's high school coach knew it would be hard for the 17-year-old Greene to turn down his first-round selection by the Pirates, the coach Cecil Patterson told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in June 1989.

He'd already turned down other opportunities, Patterson told The Post-Gazette, because baseball was his game.

"He's wanted to play pro baseball for as long as I can remember," Patterson told The Post-Gazette after Greene's selection. "He could have been one of the best basketball point guards in the state and a top wide receiver in football, but he didn't play other sports because he wanted to concentrate on baseball. He loves it that much."

The high schooler out of Jones County, Ga., did sign with the Pirates that year, starting in rookie league. And he continued playing through the minors, eventually getting to the bigs.

And, while it took him some time to become a regular, finally becoming one with the Reds in 1996, by the time his career was over in 2000, Greene had logged time in parts of nine major league seasons. In one season, he hit 26 home runs.

Greene's professional career came with the Pirates impressed with his run at Jones County. He hit .609 as a junior, The Pittsburgh Press wrote.

"I guess it's quick wrists," Greene explained to The Press after his selection. "I've been playing since I was little, 11 or 12. It took a lot of work. I just went out, took batting practice and fielded balls in my spare time. "

Then just 17 years old, Greene's career started slowly. He played rookie ball his first year, and single-A his second and third. Mid-way through his second season, he was among a group traded to the Expos.

It was after his third season that Greene arrived with the Reds, the team with which he would first make the majors, then spend the majority of his nine years playing with them.

Greene debuted with Cincinnati in September 1992, getting into 29 games, hitting .269. He did well enough to be talked about the next spring as the Reds' third baseman of the future.

But Reds GM Jim Bowden told The AP he believed Greene was a ways away, but he could be ready by the next year, 1994. Greene, though, didn't get regular major league playing time until 1996.

That year, Greene got into 115 games. He also hit .244, but hit 19 total home runs. He hit five of those home runs in a three-game stretch in September, three of them in one game.

In the midst of that home run streak, Greene explained to The AP that he believed he was no longer impatient as a hitter.

"I think that was the big problem," Greene told The AP. "I wasn't patient. I was swinging at bad pitches. Later on I told myself to take some pitches. That has helped me."

In 1997, Greene had perhaps his best year. He hit 26 home runs for the Reds, hitting .253 on the year. One of his home runs came in July, a rare shot into the upper deck at the Astrodome.

By August 1998, Greene arrived with the Orioles in a trade. Between the clubs, Greene hit .258, with 15 home runs. His season ended early Sept. 22 after he suffered a mild concussion running into the left field wall in Toronto. It was the third baseman's first start in left for Baltimore.

Greene got to see that left field wall a lot the next year, signing with the Blue Jays. He played in 81 games, his batting average sinking to .204, with 12 home runs. He finished out his career with 105 games in 2000, with the Cubs, hitting .201.

1990 CMC-Pro Cards Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:1,066
Made the Majors: 656 - 61.5%
Never Made Majors: 410-38.5%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 286
10+ Seasons in the Minors: 169

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