All The Tools
Green also uses speed as a weapon. He finished the first half of the season with 15 stolen bases, a team high, and was caught only three times. He has stolen 14 or more bases each of the past three seasons, including a career high 35 in 1998 with the Blue Jays.
After a standout prep career in which he tied the California Interscholastic Federation hit record with 147, Green received a baseball scholarship offer from Stanford University. But he opted to sign with Toronto instead after the Blue Jays selected him with their first-round pick (16th overall,) in the 1991 First-Year Player Draft.
Even when he was still in high school, professional scouts said Green had a swing like Ted Williams, a work ethic like Robin Yount and a personality like Paul Molitor. They maintained that he would become the best Jewish hitter since Hank Greenberg. Soon after the start of his professional career, Green showed he had potential to become one of the games best hitters, period.
He made his major league debut in just his second professional season, appearing in three games with the Blue Jays in 1993. Green was promoted to Triple-A Syracuse the following season, and became the talk of the international league after leading the circuit with a .344 average and earning MVP honors.
He reached the major leagues for good in 1995 when he batted .288 with 15 homers and 54 RBI in 121 games.
Dodger chairman and CEO Bob Daly marveled at Green's numbers when he approved the deal that sent Raul Mondesi and pitcher Pedro Borbon to Toronto for Green and minor league infielder Jorge Nuņez. But after a few conversations with Green, Daly got a complete picture of the man he signed to a six-year contract.
"We spent a lot of time together," Daly said.
"And I must say I was unbelievable impressed, not only by his statistics
but by what a fine young man he is."
"He reminds me of my youngest son, who I love dearly."
Green has become a hit with the Dodger fans, not only because of his style of play, but for his character. His teammates are taken aback when they see how Green conducts himself.
"He is very easy going, very, very polite and outgoing with the fans and people he doesn't even know," Colorado outfielder Todd Hollansworth said. " You just sit there and see how he conducts himself around people you say ' is this guy for real?' And there is no doubt in my mind that he is."
Green, always quick to offer a "please" and "thank you," says his parents, Ira and Judy, are responsible for shaping his character.
"I was raised in a good household by great parents," he says. "And I believe in treating people right because it's the right thing to do. There is no sense in spreading bad vibes around."
Father Ira says the gentleman in his son came from a lady.
"He has love and concern for people and that is his mom," Ira said of wife Judy. "She is the same kind of person. They have always been concerned about other people's feelings and being nice and polite to people."
Green not only is a nice guy, he is a generous one. He donated a portion of his signing bonus with the Blue Jays to the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority Breakfast Club, which provides needy children with meals on a daily basis throughout Toronto. He also bought tickets for every Saturday home game while with the Blue Jays and donated them to children. And shortly after signing a contract extension with the Dodgers, Green announced that he would donate $250,000 of his salary during each year of the deal (a total of $1.5 million over six years) to the Dodgers Dream Foundation.
"Shawn has always been generous, but it has always been quiet generous," mother Judy said. "He doesn't splash it around. His heart is definitely in the right place because he's always giving. And he has a passion for anything that has to do with kids. He loves to help the kids."
Said Green of his charitable ventures: "It is something I enjoy and feel fortunate to be able to do. A lot of times, when you are younger and coming up through the minor leagues, you are more focused on establishing yourself as a player. When you reach this level, you understand what is important and what you can do to help."
Green also likes to share his time. He makes regular visits to local hospitals and speaks to children's groups. And he announced recently that he has teamed up with the local Jewish Federation of Los Angles to help kids learn to read as the official spokesperson for the Koreh l.A. Literacy Program.
Green loves to share a laugh with a friend or teammate, but typically remains very low-key. And he never wears his emotions on his sleeve.
Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully said recently that Green reminds him of Joe DiMaggio in that sense because the former Yankee great rarely showed outwardly what churned inside his head. The famous exception for DiMaggio came in game 6 of the 1947 World Series when he kicked the infield dirt after his 415-foot blast in a crucial spot was caught by Dodger outfielder Al Gionfriddo.
Ira Green said his son always keeps quiet, though he did not always keep his emotions inside.
"Like most kids, he used to get upset when he did not do well," Ira Green said of his son's days as a Little Leaguer. "And he's always been really intense. There were times when he'd strike out and come back to the dugout and start crying." "So I'd go over to him and say, 'I don't want the pitcher to know that he made you feel bad.' Then I'd say, ' Every major leaguer wants to cry when he strikes out, but he doesn't ever do it because he doesn't want to give the pitcher the satisfaction of knowing.'
"Once he learned to control his emotions, it stuck with him."
Green has minor blow ups from time to time, but never in public.
"I guess I can say I have a long fuse," he say's with a smile. "If I do snap, it usually happens behind closed doors, not on the field."
In a game with so many peaks and valley, Green's even temperament has served him well.
"His demeanor is the same every day, whether he's going good or bad, and that's hard to teach guys when they are young," Sheffield said. "And that includes myself. When I was young, it was hard to be the same when I was struggling and when I was doing well."
"You want to feel like you are 'The Man" when you are doing well, but when you are struggling, you want to find a place to hide. After a while, you learn that it's best just to stay on an even keel. Otherwise, you are going to go crazy."
Although he is generally quiet, Green certainly isn't shy. His parents say he was always very popular as a youngster growing up in Southern California.
"The kids seemed to gravitate to him," Ira Green said. "We moved her when he was in sixth grade, and two years later, he was president of his class in junior high school. He's always had a way with people."
Green, who attended Stanford for several semesters has completed about half the coursework required for an undergraduate degree, can also be conversing in another language.
"Shawn took a lot of Spanish in high school and he got pretty good at it," his father said. "And in 1994, after his triple-A season at Syracuse, he went to play in Venezuela and did interviews in Spanish. The people there just loved him because they could understand him. He made the All-Star team and they didn't want him to leave. He became so popular there it was unbelievable."
Although he made the meteoric assent to the big leagues and has enjoyed success throughout his career, Green has experienced tough times.
He calls the 1997 season with Toronto as his most trying, though he still managed to post solid numbers (.287 average, 16 home runs, 53 RBI).
"At the beginning of the season I was told I'd play every day and I wasn't," Green said of his third full season in the big leagues. "I was platooning and I got off to a slow start and I had had high expectations going in, and things just weren't working out. I had a real tough time."
Through it all however, Green kept an even keel, remained polite to those around him, and used the sixth too to make it through.