When the Phillies drafted slugger Larry Greene with their first pick in yesterday’s draft, you no doubt read about Greene’s credentials on the field, and perhaps even heard comparisons between him and Ryan Howard. But going a bit deeper, the folks at Philly.com also found out that Greene
"As a junior, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound outfielder slugged a school record 15 home runs, a mark he broke as a senior by hitting 18 home runs while also batting .562 in 30 games. He drew 37 walks and struck out only eight times.
Greene put up those huge numbers despite losing his mother Denise to diabetes right after Christmas.
'She was a bad diabetic,' Greene said after celebrating his draft selection with his father Larry Sr. at the MLB Network studios in Secaucus, N.J. 'It was pretty hard to go through. Me and my dad made it through and she's watching now, so it's OK.'"
The piece is also littered with praise from Greene’s high school coach and everyone Greene has interacted with on his way to the Big Leagues. I can’t even imagine having to go through losing a parent at such an impressionable age, so for Greene to handle it with a measure of grace and to succeed despite it is quite a feat.
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I’ve always been of the mind that the elusive “character” trait that so many sportswriters cling to is nothing more than myth and that sports teams tend to succeed with players who aren’t necessarily great guys, but buys who are extremely dedicated to their craft. There’s a difference between that and a “good guy.” Lawrence Taylor was a lousy human being, but he LOVED football and that was part of what made him great. Greene, who gave up a promising football career because he adored playing baseball, also seems to have a similar passion.
Draft picks are as much of a crapshoot in baseball as they are in any other sport. But if Larry Greene fails as a major leaguer, I strongly doubt it will be because he lacks the will to succeed.