Even though spring training has ended for big leaguers, it’s about to start for Santa Monica High School’s latest pro pitcher, Conner Greene.
Greene finished his senior year for the Samohi Vikings with a 1.63 ERA and 76 strikeouts. Scouts liked his fastball, which at the time clocked as high as 90 mph. They also say that Greene needs to both physically develop and improve on his splitter and breaking ball.
It’s an assessment that Greene took to heart. When the Toronto Blue Jays drafted him in the seventh round of the 2013 MLB Draft, he was 165 pounds. He’s added 20 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame and it has really helped his velocity.
“Hopefully this year I can hit 95 mph and stay up there consistently,” Greene said.
Living in Santa Monica has allowed Greene to work on strength and conditioning in unique ways. Anything that involves the beach is good for the young pitcher.
“I go to the [gymnastic] rings about every other day as my upper body workout,” Greene said. “It’s great for my shoulders. I do core exercises down there as well. Surfing is one of my biggest pastime workouts because paddling is good resistance, kind of like throwing.”
Greene comes into extended spring training getting his preseason work in preparing for the minor league’s short season levels. There’s the rookie level Gulf Coast League and Appalachian League as well as the short season single-A Northwest League. Ideally, Greene will be assigned to the Blue Jays’ Vancouver Canadians so he can play in a big city.
The path to the Blue Jays takes Greene to their minor league headquarters in Florida both in the GCL and advance-A Florida State League, as well as Buffalo for Triple-A, a city that supports an NFL team and an NHL team.
Greene comes into the 2014 season fully aware of how precise he needs to be with his pitches in the minor leagues. He went from a 1.63 ERA in high school to a 5.28 ERA in rookie ball, all in the same year.
“That’s really the difference between high school and pro ball,” Greene said. “If you leave the ball up, where you don’t want to, it’s going to be hit. In high school, they’ll probably still miss it because you’re throwing 90 mph and they can’t hit that.”
It’s only a matter of time until Greene breaks into the big leagues as either a starter or reliever. The Blue Jays have traded nearly all of their top pitching prospects either to get Jose Reyes or R.A. Dickey. So maybe Greene could end up making his MLB debut somewhere else.
As for off the field stardom, Greene has the connections and the outer tangibles needed to succeed in entertainment. He has been a model since his early childhood and continues to dabble in it.
“Modeling, for me, compared to when I was young, is now I can drive to castings and my jawline and body are becoming matured and more manly rather then childlike,” Greene said. “So as I’m growing older, it’s helping.”
That being said, Greene believes that it’s harder to make it in Major League Baseball than in modeling.
“Pro male models have a look that what the agency is trying to create,” Greene said. “They won’t choose you if you don’t have that look. You can get better at baseball.”
Greene also has a key friend in the acting business in Charlie Sheen, who also played baseball at Samohi.
“Charlie really loves baseball,” Greene said. “So he appreciates what we’re going through and trying to make it in the game.”
For Greene, Sheen is a great ally to have. He’s a diehard Cincinnati Reds fan since the days of the “Big Red Machine” in the 1970s and has stared in some of the biggest baseball movies such as “Eight Men Out” and “Major League.” He currently has a sitcom called “Anger Management,” which Greene will make an appearance in on May 1, 2014.
“You should see him take batting practice,” Greene said. “If he took batting practice at Dodger Stadium, he can hit it out.”
Greene says that even with the connections and avenues in entertainment, his top priority is to play professional baseball.
“Not only is Conner Greene a great talent, he’s also a good kid,” Sheen said. “There is no doubt in my mind that we will be seeing up on the mound in the MLB in the near future.”