October 19, 2019

Todd Greene: Catching Up with the Slugging Backstop

June 9, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Certain skill sets can get a baseball player noticed a lot more quickly than others. One of those is power, as that’s something that can’t be taught. One of the best slugging prospects in the last half-century was Todd Greene, who had the benefit of also being a catcher, which made his dangerous bat all the more coveted and helped him go on to an 11-year major league career.

The right-handed Greene was a prospect right out of high school, getting drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 27th round in 1989. He declined to sign and went on to Georgia Southern University instead. The St. Louis Cardinals rolled the dice and drafted him in the 14th round in 1992 after he had three very productive years, but he returned to school to finish his senior year.

He wound up hitting a whopping 88 home runs and driving in 257 runs in 240 games while a member of the Eagles. The California Angels, recognizing such production, picked him up in the 12th round in 1993.

Listed at 5’10” and 195 pounds, Greene didn’t necessarily look the part of a hulking slugger; he just let his bat do the talking when it came to that. After hitting 15 home runs in short season ball in 1993, he hit another 35 in 1994 and 40 in 1995.

With little left to prove in the minors, the Angels brought up Greene in the midst of the 1996 season. He hit a home run in his second big-league game, blasting a long two-run shot off Brian Williams of the Detroit Tigers.

With his bat much more of an asset than his glovework, Greene settled into a career as a backup catcher and pinch hitter. It was a role he was well suited for. Over the course of 11 seasons with the Angels, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants, he hit a combined .252 with 71 home runs and 217 RBIs in 536 games.

Years later, he continues to work in the game as a scout. Keep reading for his memories of his time in baseball.

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Dale Murphy. I was a Braves fan, so he was naturally my favorite player.

What did you do to celebrate after being drafted and signing?: No celebration. I worked my tail off to be the best player I could be.

How did you find out that you had first been called up the big leagues, and what was your reaction?: I was actually in Arizona getting ready for the Fall League when Ken Forsch called my home in Georgia. This is before cell phones. My sister got the message about 3:00 AM and I was in Anaheim about seven hours later.

What do you remember most about your major league debut (against the Detroit Tigers)?: Just being in the big leagues for the second time was awfully rewarding. I remember having my 1st at bat against CJ Nitkowski, who is now a good friend of mine.  I got my first hit versus Richie Lewis in my second at bat. I was called up in 1995 but did not get in a game.

In your opinion, who was the most underrated player you ever played with or against, and if you are feeling bold, is there anyone you can think of who was overrated?: Garret Anderson is the most underrated player I played with and against. There are several overrated players, but I’m not touching that one.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: Catching the first pitch from President George W. Bush before Game 3 of 2001 World Series.

Which of your teams was your favorite, and why was that?: The New York Yankees. Their fan base is great and made me feel like a part of the team immediately.

Who was your favorite coach or manager, and what made them your choice?:By far my favorite coach was Don Zimmer. Smartest baseball guy I’ve ever been around. Even though he was only my manager for a short time, Marcel Lacheman was my favorite manager.

What, if anything, would you have done differently in your baseball career?: I have no regrets, but would’ve trained differently to try and ensure I’d stay healthy.

What are you up to today?: Special assignment scout for the Arizona D-Backs.

Andrew Martin is the founder of “The Baseball Historian” blog where he posts his thoughts about baseball on a regular basis. You can also reach him on Twitter at @historianandrew or on Facebook.

He has also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) on baseball that are available on Amazon

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