Tigers prospect Riley Greene on fishing, golf and her first spring training in the big leagues
LAKELAND, Fla .– Is there a golf switch-hitter?
Maybe we’ll find out if Detroit Tigers field prospect Riley Greene ever takes his new sport seriously.
The left-handed batter swings his driver to the right side, even though he is hitting from the left side. Why?
Greene explained this week, “My dad is a little crazy when it comes to my swing. My grandmother bought me a set of clubs and forgot I was left-handed. My dad said to me, ‘No, that’s perfect. He doesn’t have to be left-handed with a golf club. So I just tried right handed it works for me. I mean, I’m not good at all, but I go out and have fun.
Golf is unlikely to replace fishing as Greene’s favorite pastime, any more than it will replace baseball as his favorite sport.
But the anecdote offers a glimpse into the personality of the 20-year-old, one of the few hopes of Lakeland’s elite who could one day become the face of the franchise.
Greene has sprouted quickly since being drafted out of high school with the No.5 overall pick in 2018 thanks to a relentless training schedule. Although they have only played 57 pro games since their draft, the Tigers seem likely to pitch him to Double-A Erie in May. Of the? Well, it’s easy to dream of Greene competing for a spot on the list next spring.
For now, he’s in camp to soak up information and learn from veteran players and coaches, like bench coach George Lombard, who is in charge of the outfielder.
“Just being able to pick people’s brains and listen to their conversations is like ‘Wow, I didn’t know that,’” Greene said. “It’s pretty cool to be fair with all the older guys.”
Greene shook off the idea that 2020 was a completely lost year in terms of development. He spent the summer at the club’s alternative site in Toledo when the minor league season was called off, then went to Florida for a week of educational play.
“I was pretty nervous that there wouldn’t be a season and that I wasn’t going to be able to play baseball,” said Greene. “But when I got the call, I was very excited. To be honest, I feel like being on the alternate site was the best thing for me, just because I grew up as a person and as a player, physically and mentally.
“There was no feeling of losing anything. I mean, I’m going to be anxious to get back to the field, always. But what I learned, I thought it was a victory for me in my development.
He also made good friends, like Spencer Torkelson, the organization’s other leading prospect, and 26-year-old wide receiver Jake Rogers.
The trio share a rental home in Lakeland this spring.
“We have a lake in our backyard and the other day Tork and I were fishing,” Greene said. “Rogers comes out and grabs a chair, sits down and looks at us. He said to me, ‘I’m just looking after my kids.’ He’s a bit like the father of the house. It’s like a running joke.
How did they do with the rod and the reel?
“I’m pretty sure there were about two fish in this pond, and we caught them both,” Greene said. “So I guess it’s a win for us.”
Greene is keen on fishing and usually aims higher than a few stray fish. He bought a new boat with his signing bonus and jokes that he is providing “Riley Greene Fishing Charters” to friends.
But fishing comes before or after hard work. His body filled up faster than expected due to a rigorous strength and training program during the offseason. He even chose to lose weight this winter to slim down.
“I was actually 220 (pounds) when I went to summer camp and now I’m 205,” he said. “I felt a little heavy. So when I got home during the off season, I started to eat healthy and exercise a lot. I feel like 205 is a good weight for me. I feel fast. I feel athletic.
Most expect Greene to end up playing a corner role, but just like the first base / third base discussion involving Torkelson, there’s no harm in gaining experience in various places.
“I think I was asked about (Greene) 24 hours after I got the job,” Tigers first-year manager AJ Hinch said. “We know he’s important to our future, and we know he’s a really talented player.”