Larry Greene was backstage during last night's draft in Secaucus, N.J., when Mickey Morandini announced the Phillies had picked him. His father was right next to him. His mother was there in spirit.
It's been an emotional 6 months for Greene, an athletic outfielder from Berrien High School in Nashville, Ga., whom the Phillies grabbed with the 39th overall pick last night. Denise Greene, Larry's mother, suffered from diabetes and died the day after Christmas.
"She was a bad diabetic. It was pretty hard to go through," he said. "But me and my dad made it through and made it this far. She's watching now, so it's all fine."
Greene (6-1, 225) hit .562 in 30 games as a centerfielder for Berrien, though the level of competition wasn't always polished.
"The competition is better than people give it credit for," Phillies scouting director Marti Wolever said. "It's like any small town. You're going to have days when it's not very good."
Wolever mentioned that the league Greene played in produced Kaleb Cowart, an Angels first-round pick last year. He credited scout Aaron Jersild with traveling to some remote parts of Georgia to get a look at Greene.
"We saw him play a lot," Wolever said. "His father was at every game greeting all the scouts. He's a good kid, plays hard. And his dad's a wonderful person. It all added up and this is what we got."
Wolever projects Greene to play leftfield in the majors and said the youngster reminds him of Jonathan Singleton, an eighth-round pick in 2009 whom the organization regards highly. Greene, Wolever hopes, will become a power hitter able to take advantage of the dimensions of Citizens Bank Park.
"He's a man amongst young men," Wolever said. "He's really strong and powerful and just really a very good athlete . . . We think he's a corner outfielder with above-average power. He stays on the ball when he hits and has a chance to drive the ball to the left side, left-center. He's got above average power pole-to-pole."
Greene's selection came in the supplemental first round and was compensation for the Nationals signing free agent Jayson Werth. The Phillies did not have a true first-round pick, as a result of signing Cliff Lee from Texas. The Rangers took Kevin Matthews, a lefthander out of Richmond Hills (Ga.) High School, with the 33rd pick. Oddly enough, 33 is the uniform number worn by Lee, who pitched seven shutout innings in the Phils' 3-1 win over the Dodgers last night.
The draft continues today at noon with rounds 2-30. The Phillies have two picks in the second round (Nos. 66 and 90). The Phils' third-round pick is No. 120.
In the fourth round, they are selecting 151 and will draft every 30 picks thereafter. Day 3 of the draft is tomorrow (also a noon start) beginning with Round 31. It will last 50 rounds or when every team has passed on making a pick, whichever comes first.
Greene, a soft-spoken 18-year-old, wasn't sure whether he'd sign quickly with the Phillies or proceed to Chipola College, a junior college in Marianna, Fla. JUCO kids sometimes can be more difficult to sign than players with scholarship offers to 4-year colleges. But given the personal upheaval of the last year, Greene might just want to get his pro career going ASAP.
"It might be a little tougher," Wolever said. "Kids [at junior colleges] will come around next year. They know they've got another chance to go through the draft again right away."
Greene turned down an offer from Alabama to play football to concentrate on baseball. He's the first outfielder selected by the Phillies with their first pick since Zach Collier in 2008, and was surprised the Phillies selected him.
"I knew I was good," he said. "But I didn't think I was that good." *