Trailing the West by three runs in the eighth inning of the Cape Cod League all-star game, the East team is down to its final four outs. With two runners on, Grant Green is at the plate—and he’s in stitches.
Righthander Seth Blair is on the mound for the West and ready to deliver to one of the league’s most lethal hitters, but Green is preoccupied with a disturbance in the outfield. His eyes are focused 314 feet away on a trio of streakers who have hurdled the right-field fence and are sprinting toward the center field wall. Before Green can turn his attention back toward the pitcher, he’s left with the image of the three males making their getaway as they run over an outlying hill in their birthday suits.
“It was just weird,” Green recalled.
The unusual scene couldn’t rattle Green. He took the next pitch deep to center field for a three-run home run to knot the game at 6-6 before the East tacked on two more runs in the inning to cap an 8-6 comeback victory.
The 390-foot blast punctuated a memorable summer for Green, a rising junior shortstop for Southern California. Through 37 games for the Chatham A’s, Green was batting .370/.469/.568, ranking in the league’s top three in all three categories. He was also among the league leaders in runs and extra-base hits while primarily batting leadoff. Facing some of the nation’s top college arms in the most talent-laden summer league, Green’s advanced approach has produced his consistent output.
“He’s got an idea of what to do with a wooden bat,” Chatham head coach John Schiffner said. “He’s making sure he gets the ball up the middle and his hands inside the ball. He makes sure he gets in hitting counts—he’s got a clue. And he’s really that good. He’s a student of the game of hitting and that’s been proven this summer. I don’t know where we would be without him.”
Green has tasted success in this league before. Last season, he played for Yarmouth-Dennis and contributed two home runs in the first game of the championship series en route to the title. He batted .291 on the season and ranked as the league’s No. 18 prospect.
Having spent the last two months watching Green up close, Schiffner observes a disciplined hitter who feels he is good for a hit every time he steps inside the batter’s box. But when things aren’t going as smoothly for him, Green has been persistent in his effort to make adjustments. His most valuable resource this summer has been Chatham hitting coach Pat McGee, whom he will often approach after a hitless at-bat and ask what he did wrong.
This summer, though, Green’s pure swing has only been encumbered by hitches of the mental variety. A point of emphasis for the Chatham coaching staff has been slowing the game down to let Green’s brain catch up with his present hitting ability.
“Coach Schiffner is just working on my mindset in the game,” Green said. “He’s been working mostly with not putting too much pressure on myself and playing as relaxed as I can.”
The damage that Green has afflicted on Cape pitchers continues the season he had for the Trojans this spring in the tough Pacific-10 Conference. In 2008, he raised his batting average by 74 points from his freshman season, batting .390 with nine home runs, 56 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. Under the tutelage of new assistant coach Doyle Wilson, Green became the Pac-10’s third-leading hitter. His transition from overeager freshman who chased too many sliders in the dirt to third-team All-American was a natural progression after the correction of a mechanical flaw in his swing.
“He had a forward tilt in his shoulder, so he didn’t stay on his swing plane as long as he wanted to,” Wilson said. “We lowered his shoulder and now he can stay on his swing plane, and that’s led him to increasing his average. His power numbers have gone up as well. We’re very pleased with the progress he’s made with that.”
Such adjustments come easier for the 6-foot-3, 180-pound shortstop than they do for most. His wiry, strong frame and exceptional athleticism make all of his tools play up and allow him to make necessary changes more quickly.
“He’s very athletic, and he moves around very well for his size,” Wilson said. “He’s got a plus arm and he doesn’t show it off a lot, but he can when he wants to. And then, obviously, he has great hand-eye coordination. This past year he made some great adjustments in his swing. At times, you couldn’t get him out.”
Those words were never truer than during the period of June 19-27, when Green batted .531 with three doubles, one triple, and one home run over an eight-game Cape stretch. He also swiped four bases in that span, hinting at untapped basestealing potential that Wilson said the USC coaching staff will focus on developing next spring.
For now, Green is drawing praise—and comparisons to Evan Longoria—for the five-tool ability he has displayed regularly throughout the Cape regular season. Having seen Longoria play roughly 50 games, Schiffner said that Green is the closest player to the Tampa Bay all-star third baseman he has seen.
“He’s a natural baseball player. He’s a five-tool player without question,” Schiffner said. “He runs the bases very well and has great instincts. He goes to his left and goes to his right, and his throwing arm is very accurate. I truly think—and I’ve scouted for six years—he’s the best player in the league right now.”