For the past two years, Cincinnati Reds Minor League pitcher Hunter Greene has hosted a free baseball camp in his native city of Los Angeles. On Jan. 17-18, Greene brought his camp from Inglewood and Compton to the Queen City.
Last weekend, the 2017 second overall Draft selection by the Reds hosted the Hunter Greene Baseball Fest presented by First Star Logistics in Cincinnati for kids ages 7 to 14. The two-part camp began with a mandatory educational component on Friday night at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center followed by a Saturday session featuring baseball skills and training at the P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy.
The Baseball Fest’s two-hour kickoff at the Freedom Center on Friday included an introductory talk, immersive tour and dinner.
“There’s so much rich history there at the museum and to be able to take it in was special,” Greene said. “I’m definitely going to go back so I can get the full experience. I think the kids really enjoyed it; they were really focused and locked in, which was great. I told them I was proud of them because it takes a lot of patience and discipline to sit there because I know they want to be out here on the field, but education always comes first.”
Saturday’s focus shifted to baseball. Participants were divided into a morning and afternoon session with lunch and pictures in between. The two waves of campers were broken down into smaller groups, and they went from station to station learning fundamentals and techniques for catching, sliding, fielding, hitting and pitching.
“The camp day is very busy,” Greene said. “I think what I value the most is being able to step back and see the kids bond with the other kids and see them either continue friendships or make new friendships. I think that’s what I loved the most about playing, and still do, is making connections and meeting new people. When I’m able to see the kids out there having fun and just enjoying the game of baseball while meeting new friends, that’s really nice to see.”
One of the highlights was a set of prizes Greene had prepared to give away. The pitcher had five custom-made Steelo baseball gloves on hand for some lucky campers to win.
Two of the gloves were awarded to winners of a pitching accuracy competition. Two more gloves were given to the kids with the best pitching mechanics as judged by Marlon Styles, a Reds scout who was on hand to evaluate the youngsters. And the final glove was presented to Nile Fullman, who traveled the farthest to be a part of the weekend’s festivities, having made the trip with his family from Atlanta.
As an aspiring ballplayer who benefited from similar instruction as a youth, Greene has always had a passion to give back and provide kids the same type of experience he was given at the MLB Youth Academy in California.
“When I was at the Youth Academy, we had a lot of instructors come in and professionals work with us and it was very special. It was just a really good experience to have that, especially at a young age, because the other kids who weren’t at the academy weren’t fortunate enough to have that. They were playing travel ball or just at their local league. They weren’t getting special coaching, so for me to be able to do that with these kids and for them to be exposed to that is going to help them a lot.
“It’s about that foundation. Being able to see what this game expects form you at a young age, just so you know and are ahead of the curve compared to everyone else. The experience that you have and just knowing what to expect helps you a lot to navigate through there.”
It certainly helped Greene, who remains the top prospect in the Reds’ organization. The pitcher was sidelined for the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he is currently feeling good and happy with his rehab and throwing progression.
In the meantime, what Greene is doing off the field is impressive by any measure. And when you realize he’s just 20 years old, it truly puts everything into perspective. In addition to the rare talent he possesses on the field, his maturity and the professional manner by which he carries himself is a testament both to his upbringing and what a special young man the Reds have.
“I’m very proud of him, the family’s very proud of him,” his father Russell Greene said. “He started his community service when he was 7 years old. Introducing him to book drives, toy drives and things like that which he would do within his community league back in Stevenson Ranch. He has fun with it. And he incorporated his teams when he did it, so he’s always been with his friends. And he still does it that way today. Now he just does it on a national stage and that just makes it even more fun for him.
“And he’s an exciting player to watch. He’s very passionate, very competitive. If he can stay healthy, which I believe he will, the Reds will be in for a treat.”
Additional camp sponsors included Adidas, Skyline, LaRosa’s, Coca-Cola, the Reds Community Fund and Major League Baseball.