Greene inspires youth with latest cleat giveaway

Reds phenom hosts event at complex where he played tournaments as a kid

November 26th, 2023

CHINO HILLS, Calif. -- can remember playing on the backfields of Big League Dreams when he was a youth player with aspirations of reaching the Major Leagues.

It was a formative experience that the Reds’ flamethrowing right-hander recalls fondly, a stepping stone to where he is today as an anchor of Cincinnati’s rotation and a key piece of the club’s talented core.

With hopes of inspiring youth to continue their own path in baseball, he hosted Pro Day with Hunter Greene on Saturday at BLD, distributing new Nike cleats to kids, posing for photos, signing autographs and generally facilitating an unforgettable afternoon.

“It’s special, man,” said Greene of the latest in a series of cleat giveaways that he and his family have hosted the past several years. “It gets better every time. We’ve been doing this a while now and it’s grown exponentially. It’s been a blessing to be able to be in this position.”

It was a family affair, too, as Greene’s parents, Russell and Senta, and his sister and brother, Libriti and Ethan, played roles in the day's proceedings.

“They’ve been a huge part of my life and any type of work I do off the field,” Greene said of his family’s involvement. “My brother and my sister got here at like 7 o’clock this morning, just to help them box up the cleats and take them out of storage. Not a lot of people would do that.”

Taking in the cleat giveaway, which saw Greene meet and greet players of all ages and skill levels -- each visibly excited about receiving Nike cleats, sure, but also about having a personal experience with a Major League pitcher. The vibe was precisely the sort that is crucial for players developing their love of the game.

Greene, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 Draft, was born and raised in Los Angeles. And though Big League Fields in Chino Hills is roughly an hour away from L.A. proper, hosting this event at BLD was a full-circle moment for the entire Greene family.

Walking the grounds, Senta was struck by a specific memory of being at Big League Dreams when Hunter was playing in games on some of the fields (which are designed to replicate legendary MLB ballparks like Wrigley Field and Tiger Stadium, among others).

“It’s incredibly powerful,” said Senta, who partnered with her son on the event via her Full Circle Consulting Systems, Inc., described on its website as “a full service consulting firm specializing in child development, human development and organizational development."

“It's exciting to be here to see all the youth coming out and reflecting back on Hunter's early experiences with travel ball and also being part of it, of this experience," she said.

Senta said her son’s passion for giving back began at an especially early age.

“When he was this age, 8 years old, that’s when he really started his philanthropic efforts," Senta said. "One of the things that we said to him was, ‘Even when you’re 8 years old, you’re standing on a platform. It may not be as big as a Major League Baseball player[‘s platform], but you have a platform,’ and to always go back and remember the power and the importance of making connections, caring for others and creating impact. And that’s exactly what he’s doing.”

When he was around 8 -- the same age as many of the kids who took part in Saturday’s cleat giveaway -- Hunter started a book drive for a cancer foundation, and that lit the spark that has powered his keen sense of charitable giving and helped him become the Reds' 2023 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award.

“It was such a good feeling, even at that age,” reflected Greene of the origins of his giving back. “You don’t really grasp the magnitude of the impact you’re having on other people, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve looked back … and I’m grateful that I was able to do that at a young age. It's kind of been instilled in me from Day 1.”

Greene emphasized the memories he has of playing on BLD’s fields.

“This was one of my favorite places to play," he said. "It’s the closest a lot of these kids are going to get until they get to the big leagues, being in stadiums like these, and the character of these stadiums … I’ve always loved it.”

For Kevin Flora, a former Major Leaguer who played parts of two seasons in the early 1990s with the Angels and Phillies and the current chief operating officer of Big League Dreams, the facility’s busy schedule of games each week is only benefited further by an event such as this.

“Every single weekend, there’s some type of big tournament -- regional, national, local, etc.,” said Flora. “But then to be able to combine it with a nice charity event like this cleat giveaway from Hunter, it's just a perfect world for us.

“To be able to give back, to me that's what it's all about as a player, to get to that point where you have a platform to be able to do so. It gives me chills talking about it,” added Flora.

With the specific layout of Big League Dreams, there are several games going on at the same time throughout the concourse (with on-site restaurants and snack bars for players and families to take a break from the action and unwind). Because of this, the movement of kids in the giveaway area ebbed and flowed throughout the event, the line sometimes growing exponentially larger as excited parents arranged photos of their young athletes with Greene.

Hunter Greene and his mother, Senta Greene

“Being able to put cleats on feet, that’s one of the things that we take a lot of pride in,” said Senta, who -- like her son -- spoke of the particular expense of baseball equipment that can be required in order to compete at a high level.

For Hunter -- who is preparing for his third Major League season at age 24 -- beginning bigger-scale charitable endeavors was his logical next step after starting to give back at a young age.

“You don’t have to wait to have a 20-year career,” said Senta of some of the advice she and Russell gave their young son. “The time is now. If you want to make an impact, you do it now. You start small and continue to grow with it.”

Hunter Greene and his father, Russell Greene

With another successful stateside cleat giveaway in the books, Hunter has his eyes on more. He has sponsored cleats for the Brewers’ Willy Adames and the Yankees’ No. 2 prospect, Jasson Domínguez, for an event in the Dominican Republic in January.

“Being on an international level, sending some out to Dubai, as well, that’s cool,” said Greene. “We did that two years ago.”

“It’s just really special to be able to connect with so many different people and backgrounds,” Greene said after the event wrapped. “It’s been awesome.”