Riley Greene: From Hagerty High (Florida) to the MLB All-Star Game

Young Detroit Tigers’ star has overcome two serious injuries to become one of the game’s brightest young stars
Detroit Tigers all-star outfielder Riley Greene (31) reacts after hitting a solo home run in the seventh inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 5, 2024.
Detroit Tigers all-star outfielder Riley Greene (31) reacts after hitting a solo home run in the seventh inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 5, 2024. / Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

When Detroit Tigers star Riley Greene is introduced at the Major League All-Star Game, Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas, no one could blame the one time Florida high school sensation if he took a moment to reflect on just how much he has overcome to reach this shining moment.

The COVID-19 pandemic, as well a broken foot and Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow have all conspired to slow Greene’s progress, but he has persevered to overcome it all and become an all-star in just his third major league season.

Greene’s talent has never been in doubt. While a rising prospect at Hagerty High School in Oviedo, Florida scouts flocked to the Huskies’ games to drool over Greene and teammate Vaughn Grissom, who is now a shortstop with the Boston Red Sox after making his major league debut with the Atlanta Braves in 2022.

In 2019, Greene’s senior year at Hagerty he hit .422 with eight home runs and 27 RBI. He had already starred for Team USA at the U-18 Pan American Games the prior year and committed to play college baseball at the University of Florida. His destiny, however, was to be a first round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. The Tigers selected Greene with the fifth overall pick and signed him with a $6.18 million bonus.

He made his professional debut with the Gulf Coast League Tigers in June of 2019 and jumped two levels in the Tigers’ farm system to reach the Single A Midwest League with the West Michigan Whitecaps by August. In 57 games across the three levels that year, Greene, an outfielder, slashed .271/.347/.403 with five home runs and 28 RBI.

The future was extraordinarily bright, but adversity soon struck Greene’s young career.

For starters, he and most of baseball’s young players lost the entire 2020 season when minor league baseball was shutdown due the COVID-19 pandemic. It would have been Greene’s first full professional season, a key time in a young player’s development.

Undeterred, Greene came out swinging in 2021 with the Erie SeaWolves in the Double-A Northeast League and was selected to represent the Tigers in the All-Star Futures Game at midseason. In August, he earned a promotion to the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens and continued to mash, slashing .301/.387/.534 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 25 doubles, eight triples and 16 stolen bases over the two levels. He rose to No. 4 in Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list for 2022.

Greene was ticketed to make Detroit’s 2022 Opening Day roster but broke his right foot in spring training and went on the Injured List. By midseason he had returned to the field and the Tigers’ quickly purchased his contract and added him to their active roster and he made his major league debut on June 18, 2022.

Again he made a great first impression.

On July 2nd Greene hit his first major league home run, a walk-off blast against Joel Payamps of the Kansas City Royals. He became the first Tiger, since Lou Whitaker in 1978, to make his fist career home run a walk-off shot. He would go on to become the 2022 Detroit Tigers Rookie of the Year as selected by the Detroit Sports Media Association and the Detroit Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America named him Tiger of the Year.

The 2023 season brought more success and another setback.

In Detroit’s first 99 games, Greene hit .288 with 11 home runs and 37 RBI, as well as seven stolen bases. In September, however, he was forced back to the injured list with inflammation in his right elbow, his non-throwing arm. Later, it was revealed that he underwent Tommy John surgery forcing him to miss the remainder of the season.

Once again his response to the adversity has been outstanding. He was ready for the start of the season and has hit .258 with 17 home runs and 45 RBI. On Sunday he learned he was selected to his first all-star game, as his .863 OPS is fourth among all American League outfielders and he is third in the league, among left-fielders, with a Plus-8 Defensive Runs Saves rating.

Heading into 2024, Greene figured if he could just stay healthy, his talent would take care of the rest.

“My goal this year was to stay healthy and I know I am doing the things I need to do in the training room, making sure I am on top of everything with my body,” said Greene shortly after learning of his All-star Game selection. “I am just trying to go out there and help this team win every night. Not being able to go on the field every night is really hard for me. I’m just doing everything I can to stay on the field.”

His first call after learning of his selection during a team meeting was to his parents.

“I called my mom and told my dad,” said Greene. “They were super excited. They’re going to be there so its going to be awesome to see them too.”

The young Tiger was more than happy to change his all-star break plans.

“I was gonna surprise my parents,” he said. “I was going to show up at home on Sunday night, but now I have another surprise for them. They’re going to be excited. I know they’re going to be proud and that’s cool.”

Greene’s reaction to learning of his selection was humble.

“It’s awesome. I’m just showing up every day trying to help the team win and, you know, good things happen. To be honest, I didn’t pay attention to any of the voting. I was just playing baseball. I just think, being named (an All-Star) is something that shows you’re doing the right things, you’re helping the team win, you’re playing well and it’s an honor. It shows what you have been doing.”

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Gary Adornato