Toronto's Shawn Green is going to the All Star Game. It's the second time he's been there, but the first time, in 1984 in San Francisco, he was just a kid taking it in with his dad. This time, he'll be representing the Blue Jays.
"It's not on the same level as a World Series but, starting out, it's certainly one of the things you want to accomplish in your career," Green said. "I remember the hoopla. That's what I'm looking forward to now, the day before, watching Sosa and McGwire at Fenway. I'm looking forward to just hanging out, getting to know some of the guys I see on the highlights every night." Green, out of Tustin High, has contributed to the highlight reel himself this season. He's among the league leaders in batting average (.328), home runs (24), runs (68) and RBI (69), and leads the league in slugging percentage (.637) and extra base hits (48).
He still doesn't consider himself to be in the upper echelon of players, but he might be the only one.
"It probably changes, a little, the way fans and the media will look at me but, you know, it still feels like I'm just going to watch the All Star Game, not actually play in it," Green said. "I'm happy I've got a ticket."
Thanks to Jan and Dave Crocker for sending me this article.
Shawn green had no idea what to think of Jose canseco.
Green played for the Toronto Blue Jays with Paul Molitor and Roger Clemens, but Canseco was a different entity: the only thing bigger than his biceps was his reputation.
Hes kind of intimidating, Green said. But when you play with him, you realize hes a great guy. He was definitely the most influential person for me.
Canseco, who now plays for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, took Green under his enormously muscular wing in spring training last season, and Green responded. He was the one who told Green he could become the Blue Jays first 30/30 player.
Then Canseco constantly stayed on him, encouraging Green to do more than Green thought possible. Green ended up with 35 homers and 35 stolen bases last season. He had hit 42 and had 20 steals in his previous three full seasons combined.
I never thought I could hit 30 home runs, He said. He continuously reminded me. He told me not to worry about striking out. He saw in me what he was like when as a young player coming up..
Still, the two players could not be more different on the surface. Where Canseco is brash and larger-than-life, Green is humble and low key. He has an Internet web site where he keeps a journal and answers e-mails from fans - or sometimes people he grew up with whom he hasnt spoken to since leaving Tustin, where he grew up.
He does all the good things players should do, Blue Jays manager Jim Fregosi said. He likes the game. He studies the game. Hes level-headed. Hes what I think a big league player should be.
Green also was embraced by the Jewish community. Green doesnt consider himself to be particularly religious, but people have latched on to his faith.
He doesnt mind being associated with Judaism -- in fact,
hes proud. He knows there is a large population of Jewish
baseball fans, and has no problem being mentioned with players
such as Sandy Kofax and Hank Greenberg. Its just that he
doesnt have time to go to all the Passover seders and bar
mitzvahs to which hes invited.
Ive learned more about the religion in five years in the big leagues than in the 21 years before that, Green Said.
He has not had to make a decision as to whether he would play
on Yom Kippur, the most holy day of the Jewish holidays, because
the Blue Jays arent scheduled to play that day. He honestly
does not know what he would do: in the past, it wouldnt
have been a big deal. But now hes a roll model -just like
Canseco was to him.
Hes just like a big kid, Green said. Thats why I think hes gotten into trouble in the past. I was surprised you could make fun of him like the other guys. A lot of players of his status would get defensive.
Green might not date Madonna. and at 6-foot-4 and a lean 200 pounds, he would never be accused of taking steroids. But what he does take from Canseco is the encouragement, self confidence and willingness to help a teammate.
It feels good to have teammates ask you questions, Green said. Its just the nature of it. I hope to be that old player and that people make fun of me.
If Shawn Green didnt know how well his season was going, he realized it that night three weeks ago in Yankee Stadium. The night when the right field inhabitants of the Bronx Zoo, some of the nastiest, most sarcastic fans in all of baseball, suddenly started making complimentary remarks about him.
I couldnt believe it, said Torontos Green, the Tustin High alum who has graduated into the echelon of young players in the game. They werent even harassing me.
What Green didnt know is that the New Yorkers, also probably the shrewdest fans in any city, had an ulterior motive.
It was their subtle way of opening a campaign to bring the Kosher Kid, as the Bid Apple tabloids have started calling him, to their favorite franchise. I do get a lot of hype when Im in New York, Green said, and the Jewish factor is a big part of it.
The city with the largest Jewish population in America would love to bring Green, probably the finest Jewish player since Sandy Kofax, not only to the town that never sleep. But to the town that never stops eating lox and bagels and corned beef on rye.
Oy vay, would this nice, Jewish boy from Orange County be a hero in New York or what?
A lot of articles they were writing, Green said, were saying that in another year they would try and get me there.
No kidding. In another year everybody will be trying to get him.
At age 26, Green, a 6-foot-4, 200 pound- left handed hitter, is having an Alex Rodriguez kind of season. Before homering, doubling and singling against the Angels on Tuesday night, he was first in the American League in extra-base hits, with 71, second in total bases with 288.
Oh yeah, he was batting .316, and his 28 game hitting earlier in the season was the longest in the league this year.
I think its safe to say that Shawn has catapulted his way up to superstar status, said Jeff Moorad, who just happens to be his agent. And although agents tend to talk like that, this time Moorad was hardly stretching the truth.
Theres nothing this young man cant do, said Toronto manager Jim Fregosi, who rattled off five tools baseball men love to discuss. Shawn has all of them. Someone once asked me who Id compare him to. I said (Roberto) Clemente and Dave Parker. Now, thats not too bad, uh?
Not too bad at all.
Its also nice that Green is enjoying this kind of season in the final year of his current contract.
Shawn will be arbitration eligible after this season, Moorad said, and then a free agent the year after. And would the Yankees and maybe the Mets, as well, be interested?
Oh I would think so, absolutely, Moorad said.
One of the more cerebral players of the game, Green graduated third in his class at Tustin High, scored 1,250 on the SAT and had been accepted at Stanford before signing with the Blue Jays. So its not as if he has been oblivious to the numbers he has been putting up. He knows what they mean.
Its been a great year for me, he said, relaxing in the Toronto club house before the game. Last year was really my breakthrough year (35 home runs, 100 RBI, 35 steals). This year I have a little more confidence and Im learning how to be a better hitter.
Hes also learning how to be a more active representative of his faith. Typically though he does not see this as a burden. He sees it as a privilege.
I understand that being Jewish differentiates me from other players, said Green. But Im proud to be a Jewish athlete. The Jewish community has been great to me. Theyve made me feel welcome all around the country.
Green admits to not being particularly religious as a young man growing up in Tustin.
But it is a beautiful religion with a beautiful heritage, he said and I want to learn as much about it as I can.
Playing and adjusting to life in the big leagues has been another interesting experience for Green, who spends half the year in Toronto and the offseason at his new home in Newport Beach.
Toronto is a great city, real clean with terrific fans, he said. Its a nice place to be in the summertime.
Of course the Blue Jays dont win as often as, say, the Yankees. And if a young player still approaching his prime could pick any market in America, New York would probably be his first choice.
Right now, Im just enjoying things as they are, Green said. Im not ready to think that far ahead yet.
He might not be, but the good folks of New York sure are thinking about it. One high ranking Yankees official already has been quoted on the subject.
Hes be great here because hes Jewish, Yanks vice president Arthur Richman said.
You think Arthur?
Yeah, you can almost see it now. Green signs
megamillion, free-agent contract with the Yanks in a couple of
years, and on the night of the announcement, ethnically-conscious
club officials at Yankee Stadium come up with a perfect
Free rounds of Matzo Ball soup for everybody in the house.
By Steve Bisheff
The Orange County Register
DANA POINT Every day, his coach said. Every day he was growing up he had to swing the bat 200 times. Every day, without a miss.
The coach spoke, and the student listened. Not that the student had much choice.
The coach also happened to be his dad.
Talk about fathers who know best.
No one in this small beach town was happier Monday than Ira Green, 56-year-old father of the Dodgers' new $84 million man, Shawn Green. No one else's smile lit up the room more than that row of TV kleig lights. No one else kept hugging Lisa, Shawn's grinning older sister.
This was more than homecoming day for the Green family. More than just welcoming Shawn back from Toronto to Orange County.
This was the day all the work, all the hours father and son spent in the backyard batting cage, all the days they shared on hot, dusty ball fields, culminated in the kind of career goal only a precious few are lucky enough to reach.
"It was his dream," said Ira, who runs The Baseball Academy in Santa Ana and coached Shawn at every youth level. "My background is in teaching and coaching. He just loved baseball.
"You know what a gym rat is in basketball? Well, he was a field rat for baseball. Our goal was never for him to end up with one particular team or the other.
Our goal was just that we hoped someday he'd be at the top of the profession."
And here he is. One day away from his 27th birthday, at the very top.
"It's exciting," Ira said, after the official announcement of the trade that sent Raul Mondesi and relief pitcher Pedro Borbon to Toronto for Green and minor-leaguer Jorge Nunez.
If you want to call heists exciting. Because that's precisely what this was. Getting Green, basically straight-up, for Mondesi, without having to relinquish Ismael Valdes or some other quality starting pitcher, was your basic offseason steal.
Green and his .309 average, his 45 homers and his .588 slugging percentage for Mondesi and his .253 average, his 33 home runs and his .483 slugging percentage. Shawn, who plays like a heady 37-year-old vet, for Raul, who is 28 and still acts as if he's a spoiled 19-year-old kid.
Are you kidding me? Score a big one for Robert Daly and the new Dodgers regime. And maybe a bigger one for Jeff Moorad, the agent for both Green and Mondesi, who basically brokered this deal for the new millennium.
In Shawn, the Dodgers are getting, appropriately enough, not only the best Jewish ballplayer since Sandy Koufax, but a young man who reeks of Southern California. From his home in Newport Beach to those friendly, old haunts, at Dodger Stadium and the recently renamed Edison Field.
Shawn's favorite memory of Chavez Ravine?
"Trying to run back in (the ballpark) after (Kirk) Gibson hit that home run (in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series). Yeah," he said, "I hate to admit it. I left early."
Wait. His favorite memory of then-Anaheim Stadium is even better.
He was standing along the left-field railing, first in line to race onto the field, in the ninth inning in 1986, when the Angels were one strike from winning their first American League pennant and going to the World Series.
"You think I'm skinny now?" Shawn said. "I was like a twig then. But there were like a thousand people behind me. And a bunch of cops. I thought I was going to get trampled.
"Hendu (Dave Henderson, who hit the home run that put the Red Sox ahead) probably saved my life."
The Dodgers should be forever thankful.
"The thing is, I've just always loved the game," Shawn said. "I loved the players more than any one particular team."
His favorite player, not surprisingly, was Don Mattingly, the former Yankees first baseman. Green's smooth left-handed stroke, his ability to hit for both average and power, remind you of Mattingly.
So does his attitude.
"He was kind of raised with the rule that if the coach tells you to jump ... you say, 'How high?,' " Ira said.
Green figured to be a sharp student of the game. He was a sharp student. Period.
He graduated in the top 1 percent of his class at Tustin High, scored 1,250 on the SAT and had been accepted at Stanford before signing as the Blue Jays' No. 1 draft pick in 1991.
So when the son left Orange County to turn pro, the father was left to scramble to follow as many games as he could.
He purchased a satellite TV dish. And when Blue Jays games weren't available, he would get on his computer at his Irvine home and listen to the action on the Internet.
"Do you think you were tough on Shawn growing up?" Ira was asked.
"You were," daughter Lisa offered,
before her dad could reply. "You made him swing that bat
"I tried to be middle of the road," he said. "It got to the point where I didn't have to push him. He had the desire to do it himself."
Together, they obviously did something right. And on Monday they were rewarded. Shawn became one of the richest athletes in America, and Ira now can commute to see his ballgames in person.
"It's a dream come true for me," the son said.
The father, standing a few feet away, didn't have to say anything.
The proud look in his eyes said it all for him.
SANTA ANA The sound of bat meeting ball took a half-hour break at The Baseball Academy batting cage and instruction center Monday afternoon.
Somewhere a phone rang, interrupting the quiet, but no one moved to answer it.
"It'll go to voice mail. I think," Judy Green said. "Oh well, they'll call back."
What mattered for Green and the dozen or so friends surrounding her in the lounge of the facility she owns with her husband, Ira, was what was on the 35-inch television in front of her.
As her son Shawn was being announced as the newest member of the Dodgers, the tears began to roll.
"I cry easily," she said afterward. "I'm just so happy."
Until Monday, Green said her proudest moment was being able see Shawn, a Tustin High graduate, fulfill his dream of becoming a major-league player. Now that he has been traded to the Dodgers for Raul Mondesi and Pedro Borbon, she and her husband will be able to see him play more.
"Of course, I'm so excited," she said when asked if they would become Dodgers season-ticket holders. "I'm going to be Dodger blue from head to toe. I'll even wear Dodgers socks."
Judy said she will miss the trips to Toronto to see Shawn play. The Greens also took a mobile vacation last season to see him play in Kansas City, Chicago, Milwaukee, Colorado, Cleveland and Detroit.
"We've had a lot of wonderful memories of the people in Toronto," she said. "But it was hard. (Even though) we have a satellite dish, we didn't get to see a lot of his games."
Steve Cali of Santa Ana, whose son takes lessons at the center, also was excited to see a local hero return.
"My son just told me he wants to get season tickets this year," he said. "I think (the Dodgers) will gain better hitting and base stealing."
Sitting among the well-wishers in a room filled with Green memorabilia, including the 30th stolen base from Shawn's 30-30 season in 1998, Rick and Kim Sanchez of Garden Grove debated how many Dodgers games they would attend next season.
"I just never really liked the team," Rick said. "(But) we'll give it a shot and see what happens."
Kim said she was a Dodgers fan "until they brought in all the jerks.
"Now they have someone in Shawn who is finally a role model," she said. "He respects the game of baseball."
After the news conference, Judy began taking phone calls from family members and well-wishers.
"It's a lot of excitement because he's hometown," she said. "He's going to add a lot more to the Dodgers than just stats. He did a lot for charities in Canada, just like he's doing here. It's just great."