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Not fade away

 

When a weekly baseball mag had disparaging remarks about Shawn Green, Toronto officials hit the roof. Shawn just hit. and hit Syracuse, N.Y. -

The guy who had the most reason to be angry was probably the least upset.When Baseball Weekly placed outfielder Shawn Green in the quote Prospects Are Fading category in it off-season look at the Toronto Blue Jays minor leaguers, several members of the Toronto organization hit the roof.

Green, Toronto's No. 1 selection in the June 1991 amateur draft, is hardly a has-been. He started this season with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs and will probably finish it with the Blue Jays- and he won' t turn 22 until November 10.
"That was unfair," says Gord Ash, Toronto's assistant general manager. "Quite frankly, they don't know what they're talking about."

The article also rankled Green's parents, Ira and Judy Green, who say they read and clip everything that's written about Shawn and have two bulging scrapbooks to prove it. But they say it didn't bother Shawn because he hasn't read anything written about him since high school.

Green says he was aware of the Baseball Weekly appraisal, but he ignored it because it's one person's opinion.

Some players would use it as motivation, but Green prefers to forget it."That's negative motivation, trying to prove people wrong, "Green says. "That's not what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to set positive goals. If you're trying to prove people wrong, you put too much pressure on yourself".

Through the first seven weeks of the season, Green let his bat answer his critics. He was among the International League leaders in batting average and hits, and he was among the Syracuse leaders in runs, doubles, RBIs and stolen bases.

A chat with outfielder Scott Pose, his teammate in the Arizona Fall League last fall, made Green determined to start fast this season. They were talking about the cold and rainy spring weather in Syracuse, and Pose told Green that he couldn't throw away the first two months of the season just because of the weather.

"I always heard people complain about how cold it is the first couple of months in Syracuse and the whole league, really," Green says. "Scott Pose told me that's the time you have to get those hits. Anyone can perform when its 85 degrees out and sunny. I really took that to heart"

Green and Chiefs infielder Eddie Zosky were the team's most consistent players early in the season. Green had at least one hit in 32 of his first 40 games, and he had hitting streaks of 13, nine and five (twice).

Green, a left-handed hitter with a swing that has been compared to John Olerud's, was at his best in day games, hitting .396 in the Chief's first 13 games under the sun.

"This is the best I've felt up there so far, "Green says. " In the past if I felt uncomfortable at the plate, it would last maybe a week or so. This year, maybe it lasts a day or two or three at the most."

It seems silly now, but the Baseball Weekly rap on Green was that he had no power. But in 783 professional at-bats before this season, Green had five home runs- not an encouraging number from a player who plays a power position (right field).

But of his first 55 hits this year, Green had 12 doubles, one triple and three home runs. Still not Griffey-like, but a sign of improvement." I tell myself that the home runs will start to come because after the doubles, the next thing is home runs," Green says. "If I can keep driving the ball, then the home runs will take care of themselves."

Like one of his idols, New York Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly, Green has the potential to develop from a gangly contact hitter into a power hitter. Mattingly hit a combined 12 home runs in his first two years as a professional, and he didn' t hit more than 10 home runs in a season until 1984, when he clubbed 23 for the Yankees in his sixth pro season.

"Shawn was never developed to be a home run hitter," Ira Green says. " He was developed to be a contact hitter. In high school if he hit a home run, it was a line drive."

To increase power, Green must do two things: Continue to fill out his 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame, and learn to attack the ball instead of just making contact. In spring training, Green worked with roving hitting instructor Bill Buckner on getting a slight lift in his swing.

"That's something I never had until this spring," Green says. " You can't hit home runs until you get the ball in the air."

Green, the 16th player selected overall in 1991, is one of Toronto's famous draft gambles. After starring at Tustin High School in Tustin, California (he tied the California Interscholastic Federation hit record with 147 in his senior year), Green received a scholarship to play at Stanford University.

" He was really excited about being a part of the Stanford program," Ira Green says. " He started working out with the team and attending orientation programs. Up until the last day he was going back and fourth."

Hours before he attended his first class, Green agreed to a contract worth $750,000, at that time the second largest signing bonus in baseball history. Had Green not signed before attending class, the Blue Jays would have lost his rights.

" When I look back, it doesn't seem to be as hard a decision as it was at the time," Green says.

Green signed with Toronto because the Blue Jays allowed him to continue his education at Stanford in the fall and winter from 1991-93 and has more than half his credits toward a psychology degree. Green"s parents were pleased with the agreement because it allowed him to concentrate on one thing at a time- school or baseball. And Green has promised his parents he'll finish his education." When he makes a commitment, he sticks to it," Judy Green says " That's one of his strongest points, he is strong mentally. He focuses on what he has to do and does it. That will help him in baseball and life."

From a baseball standpoint, Ira Green says if Shawn had played at Stanford, the competition would have remained the same. But by playing professionally, Green has climbed from Class-A to Triple-A in three years.

"This year if he came out of college, it's doubtful he could play in Triple-A,"says Ira Green, a former semi-professional baseball player in the Chicago area. "Now he's so far ahead experience-wise."

Many thanks to BRAD for sending me this article.