December 7, 2022

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'I teared up': LA native Greene obliterates record in hometown start

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Reds top prospect throws most 100-plus mph pitches in a game
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LOS ANGELES — Tommy Pham wanted a no-hitter for Hunter Greene. A perfect game. 

Before Saturday’s clash between the Dodgers and Reds, Pham reflected on his Triple-A days, playing a game in his hometown of Las Vegas with 100 of his friends and family visiting that day. He remembered that it meant the world. 

He could only imagine how that feeling could possibly translate on a big league stage under the brightest of Dodger Stadium lights for Greene, a Los Angeles native. So he hoped for perfection.

“That would be movie-like,” Pham said. 

Al Pacino and Robert De Niro weren’t in attendance for Saturday night’s 5-2 Reds loss, but if Greene’s night was a movie, it would probably be 1995’s “Heat.” When the dust settled, the 22-year-old top prospect had unleashed 39 100 mph fastballs – obliterating the record for the most triple-digit readings by a pitcher in a single game in the tracking era (since 2008). Jacob deGrom set the previous record with 33 on June 5, 2021.

“I wouldn’t even have known,” Greene said postgame.

Perhaps his four-seam had a little extra life to it on this night. Dodger Stadium, pinging with crickets as the rest of the Reds’ starting lineup was announced, suddenly came to life with cheers for the hometown kid as Greene’s name rang over the stadium speakers. Afterward, a crowd of friends and family swarmed Greene in foul territory of an empty field, offering well wishes.

“People have followed him, here at home,” mother Senta Greene said. “For them to come out and bear witness to that experience, and that he handled himself with such beauty and grace, is very powerful.”

Greene’s childhood, in between a prodigal rise to stardom that saw him hitting 102 before he legally became an adult, was tied to the Dodgers. He grew up attending games, tabbing shortstop Rafael Furcal as his favorite player. In high school, he was hosted for a game at Dodger Stadium by the legendary Don Newcombe.

Newcombe shared stories of playing with Jackie Robinson with Greene, who labels that as his fondest memory at Los Angeles’ stomping grounds.

“I wish he was still here, but I know he’s looking down and he’s super proud of me,” Greene said of Newcombe, who died in 2019.

On Saturday night, Greene skipped out of the dugout, hop-stepping over the first-base foul line. Home.

“I got to spend a little time with [Greene] and his dad out on the field yesterday, and I really feel like he’s enjoying the moment,” Reds manager David Bell said pregame.

The radar gun was enjoying the moment, too. It screamed in triple-digit excitement after Greene’s follow-through, time and time again. 100.6. 101.3. 102. Down went Chris Taylor. Trea Turner. Freddie Freeman.

“Freddie gave me some love — kinda gave me a tip of the cap, so that was cool,” Greene said.

Changeups and sliders were largely shelved as Greene dealt through the first few innings, sending some of the mightiest hitters in the game twirling their bats at nothing but air.

“It’s a special arm,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s a great young man.”

It wasn’t quite the perfection Pham had hoped for — Turner turned on a 99 mph offering from Greene in the sixth inning for a two-run homer and a bit of revenge. But when the dust settled from the gusts of wind of Greene’s offerings, he’d authored a quality start: 5 1/3 innings, six strikeouts, two earned runs.

“I teared up at the end, when I got pulled out, just to look out and see the stadium and all the lights,” Greene said.

A day before — Jackie Robinson Day — Greene posted a message on Twitter, calling for African-American baseball players to reply with pictures of themselves under his post.

Across the country, replies spread like wildfire. Twelve-year-old Quincy Fulton from Newton, Ill. Nine-year-old Ojore Berkeley, from Atlanta. Fourteen-year-old Naomi Ryan from Charlottesville, Va.

Naomi’s mother Cornelia, who posted the picture, said she’s been following Greene for much of his young career.

“The baseball community is very tight-knit, as well as the community of Black players,” Cornelia, who also has a son who plays for Longwood University, said via phone. “You either see them play, or you know they’re out there. Hunter has been very vocal in his way of encouraging baseball in the Black community.”

Quincy was behind him. Ojore was behind him. Naomi was behind him. Dodger Stadium, even though shimmering with blue, was behind Greene.

How could he not reach back?

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