Riley Greene and his bat were in the midst of a challenging stretch. Something needed to change. So, they had a sleepover on Tuesday night.
A night after tallying three hits and five RBIs including the game winner, Greene belted two solo homers to the opposite field and walked twice to help lead Double-A Erie to its fourth straight win, 11-1 over Binghamton.
“I hadn’t been swinging it the way I want to swing it,” Greene said after Thursday’s victory. “I’m a very superstitious guy, so being me, I brought home my bat and slept with it for the night. I woke up the next morning, and I was literally like cuddling the bat. Like I woke up and I was like, ‘What has my life come to?’
“So that happened.”
It wasn’t just the slumber party that helped spark baseball’s No. 16 overall prospect this week.
“I got a text from a couple guys, a couple coaches, who were like, ‘It looks like you’re pressing, man. Just relax,’” he said. “[Wednesday] night I was just focusing on my breathing, trying to relax and slow down the heart rate a little bit.”
Thursday was more of the same. Out of the leadoff spot, Greene hammered a two-out blast to left-center in the sixth inning and added another to left-center in the eighth as part of Erie’s 15-hit outburst, one the 20-year-old was quick to credit to his teammates.
“Tonight, I only scored two runs,” he said. “Most of the runs were Jacob Robson, had [four] hits, scored a lot of runs. [Josh] Lester had four hits I think tonight, scored a lot of runs, too. It was a team effort all around tonight. It was a good night.”
Robson, Lester and Kerry Carpenter combined to score eight runs out of the 3-4-5 spots in Erie’s order. The SeaWolves are now 11-4, a half-game back in their division.
“This is my first actual season, so I’m just excited to get back out there,” said Greene, who was drafted fifth overall in 2019. “We have a really good group of guys, a lot of older guys on this team. I’ve been just picking brains left and right, trying to learn something new every day. I’ve made some very good friendships already, and we’re two and a half, three weeks into the season. I’m excited to see what happens the rest of the season.”
Greene was a .226/.311/.321 hitter after going 0-for-4 with a strikeout on Tuesday. His last two games have lifted that line to .279/.366/.459.
“You’re going to fail,” he said. “Baseball is a game of failure, and everyone knows that. Just being able to go through those things, it makes you mentally stronger as a person and as a player and just being able to go out there, have a good night, get a win for your team, there’s nothing better than that.”
Thursday was Greene’s first multi-homer game since his professional debut on June 24, 2019, with the GCL Tigers West. That one didn’t come after snoozing with his bat.
“This is my first time ever doing this,” he said with a laugh. “I was like, ‘I gotta figure something out, man.’ I had an 0-for-4 night with [a] punchout, sat in the locker room with my bat in my hand for I’d say probably 30 minutes and just stared at my bat like, ‘Come on. Please.’ I brought it home that night, slept with it, woke up literally hugging it and was like, ‘Oh boy, we’ll see what happens tonight.’”
Superstitions aside, something is clicking with Greene.
“Baseball is a mental game,” he said. “If you’re not mentally strong, you won’t really get far. Just being able to just mentally help yourself out, doing the weird things us baseball players do -- some people wear the same underwear or wear the same socks, whatever it is -- it just mentally makes you more confident, more positive. That’s huge with baseball because if your confidence is high, there’s a chance you’re going to have a really good night.”
The No. 2 Tigers prospect is feeling good about his surge but keeping things in perspective.
“Sometimes you can be feeling really good, and you can go 0-for-4 with four strikeouts,” he said. “That’s just how this game is. That’s what’s so beautiful about it. Just being mentally strong, mentally confident, it goes a long way. Most people don’t think that, but with baseball it goes a long way, let me tell you first-hand.”