Justin Greene has played minor league baseball in Bristol, Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. He’s done Double-A tours in two Alabama cities, Birmingham and Mobile. The Goose Creek native and Stratford High School graduate hasn’t played in the majors but clawed his way up to Triple-A at Charlotte in 2011, and again in 2012.
A total of 919 professional games and 3,779 at-bats include recent efforts to revive big league dreams with stops in York, Pa., and all over Mexico.
Hermosillo, Mexicali, Saltillo, Obregon.
It’s not for the money. A 20th round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox out of Francis Marion University in 2008, Greene’s bank account includes a few dollars and a long love of the game.
So it’s easy to understand why a 30-year-old veteran is still beaming almost two weeks after leaving the Dominican Republic and the 2016 Caribbean Series, one of baseball’s most prestigious annual events. Greene helped Mexico’s Mazatlan Venados defeat Venezuela’s Aragua Tigers before a large crowd in Santo Domingo.
He walked twice and made a diving catch in center field during the championship game, a 5-4 victory. Greene also threw a runner out at the plate with the game tied, 4-4.
When teammate Jorge Vazquez hit a walk-off home run, Greene almost fainted with joy.
“It was such a great feeling to win that game,” he said Wednesday. “To know you are not just playing for a team but for a country that truly appreciates baseball was really special.”
While batting .360 for the series, Greene went 3-for-5 in a victory over Puerto Rico’s Cangrejeros de Santurce and 3-for-4 against the Venezuelan team in an earlier matchup.
But eight seasons of minor league ball makes a man realistic; Greene isn’t at all sure his dazzling Caribbean Series performance will draw calls from major league clubs looking to fill spring training holes. His age sticks out more than his athletic bloodline; Greene’s cousins include former first-overall NFL draft pick Courtney Brown and former Georgia Tech and NFL quarterback Joe Hamilton, both of Alvin, and former UConn and current WNBA player Kalana Greene (Timberland High School).
“Most major league teams are looking for guys 22 or younger,” he said. “They don’t necessarily want a 30-year-old outfielder. If they call, fine. If they don’t, that’s fine, too.”
Barring a sweet American offer, Greene will head to Mexican League spring training in a few weeks.
It might be a desperate tale if not for the safety net of a business administration degree Greene was smart enough to lock up before leaving Francis Marion. His post-baseball career plans include, not surprisingly, baseball. He would like to open a baseball instructional facility, is interested in becoming a sports agent and wants to do some scouting.
That’s where 919 games, 3,779 at-bats, a business administration degree and international work experience can come in handy.
“I love baseball,” Greene said. “I could play for 10 more years. The hard part is that it keeps me away from my family.”
Greene is enjoying some down time in Charleston with his parents, Rabb and Mary Greene, his 3-year-old daughter Gabrielle and his girlfriend of 13 years, Nisha Philyaw.
“Yeah, my girlfriend’s last name is Philyaw,” Greene said with a chuckle. “But not for long.”
Wait. We’re not blowing the surprise of a proposal here, are we?
“No, no” he said. “She knows it’s coming soon.”
With a veteran professional ballplayer, “when” is always a relative term.
Before spring training?
By the time Saltillo plays its first series of 2016 against the rival Diablos Rojos del Mexico?
Before the next throw to the plate in the Caribbean Series?
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff