Green call-up is happy - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Green call-up is happy

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Posted: Thursday, June 17, 2004 6:01 am | Updated: 4:39 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Jessie Green opened the door of her hotel room to check to see if the "Do Not Disturb" sign was hanging on the door.

It was 2:30 a.m. Wednesday and Jessie and her husband, Andy, wanted to sleep in.

Lying on the hallway carpet, though, was Wednesday’s edition of USA Today.

"We flipped all the lights back on," Jessie said. "We wanted to see his name in the box score."

There it was: Green 1 1 1 2

In English: Green’s first major league hit was a two-run homer Tuesday against the New York Yankees.

Diamondbacks veterans pushed Green out of the dugout for a curtain call —

"I was being obedient," Green said — and bullpen coach Mark Davis retrieved the ball from a fan in exchange for three new baseballs.

"It was one of the highlights of my life," Green said.

Before we go any further, an introduction: Green is the Diamondbacks’ latest and most anonymous call-up, a 26-year-old infielder who wasn’t even on Arizona’s 40-man roster in spring training.

He’s 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds — at least that’s what the Diamondbacks’ press guide claims — and he looks so young a security guard in Toronto refused to let him into the visitors’ clubhouse.

"A little rat," is how University of Kentucky teammate and Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon Webb describes Green. "He doesn’t hit a lot of home runs, but he’s a real scrappy guy," Webb added. "He’s one of those guys that gets on your nerves if you’re a pitcher. He’s also one of the nicest guys I ever played with."

What makes Green’s story worth telling is not the anticipation of a brilliant future but the unusual path he took to the big leagues.

It was Green’s grandmother, Weeso, who taught him how to play sports. She was a high school physical education teacher in Lexington, Ky., and she took the place of Green’s father, who was not a part of his life.

"I played every sport imaginable and she was always there," Green said.

Green went on to the University of Kentucky, where he played baseball and graduated with a degree in finance and a 3.89 GPA.

The Diamondbacks selected him in the 24th round of the 2000 June amateur draft, but Green had no interest in turning pro. His desire was to help open a Christian school in Georgetown, Ky. (just outside Lexington) and be the main fund-raiser for the school.

"I had something I could pour my heart and soul into," Green said. "I think that’s something a lot of people don’t have. It was something I believe in, something I wanted to do. When you have that, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, so I felt I could give baseball up."

Green’s would-be boss, however, urged him to give baseball a chance. So did Jessie.

Green took their advice and after three productive if quiet seasons in the Diamondbacks’ minor league system, received the call a week ago Thursday, when Carlos Baerga went on the disabled list with a left calf strain.

In his rearview mirror was Tucson, $20 per diem — major leaguers receive $72 per day when they’re on the road — and doubts about whether he had made the right decision.

"I’ve been looking at small checks for a long time," Green said. "I gave up a college degree to pursue a dream. It’s nice to see it finally pay off."

Green had more than 35 messages on his voice mail after Tuesday’s game, including one from his 32-year-old brother, Tommy. "He said, ‘That was the first time I’ve ever been jealous of you,’ " said Green, who struck out Wednesday in his only at-bat. Green made a few calls of his own, including one to Weeso, who’s now 84 years old. It was 1 a.m. in Lexington, but Weeso was wide awake.

"She was beyond happy," Green said. "But she was complaining that her eyes weren’t good enough to see SportsCenter." Diamondbacks fans haven’t had much to cheer about this series. The Yankees have won two straight, a sweep appears inevitable, and 2001 seems so long ago. But there’s plenty of time to harp on the obvious. A kid made good, and an old woman is smiling. Oh, and today is the Greens’ fourth wedding anniversary.

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