The passion Hunter Greene has for philanthropy dates back as far as his love for the game he plays for a living -- a simple truth that raises an interesting question. Which is more impressive: his ability to spot a 100-mph fastball on the black or the cognizance he has
The passion Hunter Greene has for philanthropy dates back as far as his love for the game he plays for a living -- a simple truth that raises an interesting question. Which is more impressive: his ability to spot a 100-mph fastball on the black or the cognizance he has for his standing in life to help others and his commitment to do exactly that?
There isn't a wrong answer, which only affirms Greene's unique blend of physical talent, maturity and awareness. It's helped lead the No. 2 Reds prospect to where he is today: on the cusp of the Major Leagues while using his status as a professional athlete to establish the Hunter Greene Scholarship in partnership with his alma mater, Notre Dame High School, a private college preparatory school in the Sherman Oaks, California, area.
The 21-year-old sees the Hunter Greene '17 Endowed Scholarship Fund as a "vehicle to help close the financial gap for African-American young men and women who have limited resources, allowing them to be successful while at Notre Dame High School and beyond."
"I had a great time in high school. I realize not all kids share that experience, but for me, it was a terrific experience," Greene said. "I enjoyed a positive relationship with my teachers and other administrators at Notre Dame, many [of whom] I keep in touch with. I want other kids who are bright and motivated, but who may not have the financial means to attend, to experience what I did."
Such philanthropic endeavors were instilled at an age when most children concern themselves with what cartoon to watch or what toy to play with.
"I first understood the importance of community service and giving back when I was around 7 years old," MLB.com's No. 47 overall prospect said. "I took part in a book drive and it just stuck with me. My parents [father Russell and mother Senta] helped me understand that there are things a lot bigger than me."
Greene freely admits he grew up in a different environment than many other Black children. The hurler was raised in Stevenson Ranch, California, a community in the Santa Clarita Valley approximately 40 miles from downtown Los Angeles. Neither Greene nor his two siblings -- sister Libriti and brother Ethan -- wanted for anything, which is a far cry from many other Black families in the Los Angeles area.
Ironically, Greene's talent on the diamond and his indoctrination to the inequalities of life grew roots at the same time. The youngster trained at Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy in Compton, California, in 2008. Every weekend, Greene and his father made the two-hour roundtrip into the heart of Los Angeles, where he developed the skills that would make him into a professional ballplayer ... and someone who understood his position in life.
"At the time, I was the youngest (7 years old) to attend this specific Urban Youth Academy," Greene said. "When I got there, I looked around and said to myself, 'Wow, there are other Black kids around!' I wasn't used to that. I grew up in a predominantly white community. My friends were mostly white. The kids I played with and against in youth sports were mostly white. I didn't know any better. That's just where I grew up and how I lived. The [Urban Youth Academy] allowed me to see kids from different walks of life with a different economic status than myself.
"Even as a little boy, it was an eye-opening experience. Here I am with my top-of-the-line baseball equipment while most everyone else was playing with ripped cleats and beat-up bats and gloves. I realized I was one of the lucky ones."
The spark to help others grew into a fire as Greene's baseball talents flourished in high school. Knowing he might have a real opportunity to play professionally, he promised himself he would take advantage of whatever status he attained to help those less fortunate. The first step in that process came only weeks after his high school graduation when the Reds selected Greene with the second pick in the 2017 First-Year Player Draft.
With the help of the school, a little more than three years later, he's putting his words into action.
"My biggest focus [with the scholarship] is creating opportunities for kids to attend a great school, receive top-notch education and enjoy a terrific social experience. Attending Notre Dame [High School] allows students to be among their peers who have equally high goals. Whether that involves sports, academics or life in general. It brings out the best in them and that's what I want -- to help others experience and achieve."
Notre Dame High School director of advancement Richard Klee has been with the school since 1994. He's seen his share of special students during those 27 years. Greene ranks at the top of that list.
"We know Hunter and we know his family, so we're not surprised he came to us at all," Klee said. "He's a terrific person with a generous and mature nature who has been blessed in so many ways and wants to share that. It's very impressive to see what he's doing at such a young age."
Greene's vision goes far beyond providing an educational experience. He hopes it's just the start of something bigger.
"My hope is to build a mentorship program of sorts," he said. "I'd provide my contact information to recipients and let them reach out directly to me with any questions or concerns they might have. I think direct contact is very important in truly helping these kids. It's great to have the scholarship in place, but I want it to be so much more than that."
Greene's ascension as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball has drawn extra attention to the new scholarship. Klee believes the combination of his quasi-celebrity status and the values the school preaches will prove beneficial.
"Notre Dame High School was founded by the Brothers of the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1947," Klee said. "Our philosophy is to educate the heart and the mind. Hunter is a prime example of that. He's turning into a terrific young man, and we're very proud of what he's accomplished so far. It's the hope we have for every one of our students."
Greene gladly accepts the responsibility he feels should be a staple of anyone with the means to help.
"Being able to make a positive impact on other people's lives has become a focal part of my own. I've been involved in some sort of community service ever since I was a kid. This is my way of giving kids an opportunity that could be a life-changing experience for them. I feel I have a responsibility and I'm truly happy to do it."
Michael Avallone is a writer for MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB.