Give Hunter Greene a baseball and the Sherman Oaks Notre Dame senior can throw a 100 mph fastball with pinpoint control.
Give him a bat and he can hit for average or launch balls out of stadiums, as he did at San Diego’s Petco Park last summer.
Give him a glove, he shows off his range as a shortstop with soft hands and ability to cover ground as well as anybody in the country.
So what does Greene envision doing at the next level? Pitching or hitting as an infielder?
“I’m going to be the first guy to do both,” said Greene, without hesitation. “I love being able to hit and win games for the team or get on the mound and just shove it.”
It’s that mix of youthful confidence, personality and a rare skill set that could make the 17-year-old the No. 1 pick in the MLB Draft this June.
VIDEO: Watch Hunter Greene in his own words describe what lies ahead these few months, his family and hidden talent.
Yet even as the UCLA signee enters his fourth year starting at Notre Dame as one of the most coveted amateur prospects in years, an aura of calm and maturity surrounds him.
“Each game is just another day at the office,” said Greene, who won’t turn 18 until August.
A right-handed high school pitcher has never been selected No. 1 overall, but many feel that Greene, who stands 6-foot-3, could be the first.
MLB.com and Baseball America both have him ranked as their No. 1 draft prospect as analysts and scouts not only love his fastball, but his control, smooth delivery and ability to throw four pitches for strikes. Last season, he went 5-3 with a 1.63 earned run average and struck out 68 with only 10 walks.
“You see guys who can throw 100 but you don’t see a lot of guys that do it with movement and can still throw it for strikes,” Baseball America national writer Hudson Belinksy said. “There’s a lot of big leaguers who don’t have his mechanics.”
Belinsky added that if Greene was just a shortstop, he would still be among the best in the country. But his arm and athleticism put him among a rare category of talent.
“It’s mesmerizing watching him because he’s still so young,” Belinksy said. “You don’t see a lot of guys like him.”
Despite all that, Greene has yet to feel any pressure to over-perform or live up to any expectations.
Consider his season debut Saturday. He allowed two runs in the first inning to Rio Mesa but settled down and held Rio Mesa scoreless over the next four innings while allowing one hit.
His 79th and final pitch reached 97 mph on the radar gun as he struck out his seventh batter. He also hit a grand slam to give Notre Dame the lead in the second inning.
Each pitch attracted the radar guns of multiple scouts, yet their presence did nothing to affect or excite Greene, who treated it like business as usual.
“Nothing has changed because I’ve always been under the microscope since I was 13-14 years old committing to UCLA,” Greene said. “I just take it all in and just relax and trust my ability in what I do.”
It’s the same attitude that drove he and his father to make the commute from Stevenson Ranch to Compton to train at the Urban Youth Academy at 7 years old, where he learned from future MLB draft picks Aaron Hicks (Long Beach Wilson High) and Anthony Gose (Bellflower High), among others.
When he joined with the LA Rockstars travel ball team, he was mentored by Dominic Smith and Marcus Wilson, who led Gardena Serra to a CIF-SS Division 3 championship in 2013 before being drafted.
“It’s definitely surreal because I remember him running around as a kid and just teaching him to have fun,” said Smith, now one of the top prospects with the New York Mets. “Watching him grow into the man he is today, it’s amazing and I know I’ll be competing with him on the same field soon.”
Greene’s profile grew when he was the Mission League’s Most Valuable Player as a sophomore. That summer, he became the youngest-ever member of the USA under-18 national team at 15 years old.
So all the additional chatter? Just background noise, even if that noise is loud.
“Letting everything play out really keeps me calm,” Greene said.
Another thing that keeps Greene calm? Art.
In Greene’s home, there is a painting of a stage performance of “Hamlet” in the family den that he drew in seventh grade. He also takes AP Art at Notre Dame and loves drawing or recreating album covers.
“I think that’s important for everyone to have that stuff to do and really enjoy life outside of your profession,” said Greene, who used to play the violin in elementary school.
He carries a 3.5 grade point average and scored 31 out of 36 on the ACT. Besides school, he also has taken an active role in community service.
Last year, he took a role in an anti-bullying campaign and spoke to kids at several events. At an event where the LA Rockstars celebrated their 10th anniversary in January, Greene helped with several drills for some of the younger kids.
It not only reminded him of being mentored at that age but it reinforced why he values being a role model and why his parents encouraged it early. As much as his talent is beyond his years, so is his perspective.
“The baseball is the easy part because it takes care of itself,” Greene said, “Being able to share all the knowledge I have to inspire and motivate them to be in the same position as me is definitely the most important part.”
Being grounded is why the ride is easy to enjoy. As his star rises and as more start getting curious about seeing his talent, he handles it like a pitch, a swing or playing a ball.
Effortless, smooth and completely in the moment.
“I just want to take every single second, minute and game step by step and enjoy it as much as I can. It’s going to be great,” Greene said.
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