By Steve Serby
Rookie Yankees pitcher Shane Greene took a swing at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: Describe your mound temperament.
A: I don’t show a whole lot of emotion, for the most part — at least that’s what I’ve been told. When I’m pitching, people say I don’t smile and whatnot, but when people tell me that, I jokingly respond like, “Did Mike Tyson ever smile in the seventh round? Like, no.” When I’m out there, I’m competing, and I’ll smile when the game’s over and if we’re winning at the end of the ninth inning, then I’ll smile. I’m not out there to have fun, I’m out there to compete and win.
Q: Your major league debut was April 24 at Fenway. What was that like?
A: That was crazy. It felt like it was negative-30 degrees outside. I’m from Florida, so I get cold really easily anyway. I don’t remember what the temperature was, but I know I was freezing. I was sitting in the bullpen freezing, there was a heater out there. I’m huddled over the heater trying to stay warm. We’re scoring runs [on the way to a 14-5 win], so I know I’m getting closer to a chance to make my debut, and all the guys are getting excited for me and whatnot. They called down and tell me to start getting loose, I got the next inning [seventh]. Obviously, I was nervous. It was a packed house at Fenway. Then once I got on the field, it was like I couldn’t even feel my body — not only because it was cold, but with nerves and excitement and everything else. I can’t even describe the way I felt out there. To this day, it’s still kind of a blur, that first time. But it was an experience and a feeling that I’m sure I’ll never have again.
Q: You’re with the hated New York Yankees pitching in Fenway.
A: What else do you want, you know? I coulda never pitched in the big leagues again, and to have that experience woulda been … pretty neat.
Q: That relief appearance didn’t go very well — three runs, all unearned, and three walks with one strikeout in one-third of an inning.
A: It didn’t go very well. I kind of erased that one in my mind, but yeah, it definitely didn’t go very well.
Q: You have to have a short-term memory, right?
A: Yeah. Not even start-to-start, but hitter-to-hitter, inning-to-inning … pitch-to-pitch sometimes. If you think you threw a strike and an umpire called a ball, well you can’t dwell on it, you gotta move on to the next pitch. So it may help me, I try to keep it simple out there, but yeah, it could be a little bit of an advantage.
Q: Describe the first time you pitched at Yankee Stadium, a start vs. the Rangers on July 21.
A: My first time dressing in Yankee Stadium was my first callup, and I had six days, I sat in the bullpen. I never got a chance to pitch, but … everybody else sits inside out there, it was my first time here so I sat outside of the bullpen. I had never experienced this kind of atmosphere, so I made sure I sat outside, and I did my best to soak it all in while I could — try to get used to the atmosphere and the noise and all that. That was neat, but then I didn’t pitch here until here until like a month-and-half later, and I had already had two starts, so I got the jitters and nerves out of the way … but putting on the pinstripes is different from just putting on the grays.
Q: It’s different in what way?
A: When you think of New York Yankees, you think about pinstripes. You don’t think about the gray uniform, and you’re in a different stadium and you’re on the road. When you’re at Yankee Stadium wearing the pinstripes, it’s pretty cool.
Q: What did you think of the Bleacher Creatures?
A: It’s cool. I almost wish they would include the pitcher and catcher when they do the Roll Call.
Q: Do you feel like you belong now?
A: Yeah. … It’s a really good feeling. This is something I’ve dreamed about my whole life. I’m still at a baseball field every day, and I’m still in a clubhouse every day like I have been for the last five years. You don’t really think about it and realize it until you take a step back and kinda soak it all in, and I’ve done that more than once, and it’s definitely pretty cool.
Q: What’s it like being a New York Yankee?
A: It’s more than I ever imagined or expected. I get to come here every day, and this place is like a museum, it’s not even a baseball field. All the history that’s been transferred from the old stadium to here, it’s pretty incredible.
Q: Did you ever go to the old Stadium?
A: It was on my bucket list but I never got a chance.
Q: Do you remember the first time you saw this place?
A: Yeah, the first time I saw this place, it was my second year in pro ball, I was playing for the Staten Island Yankees, and we got to come over on one of our off days, and we stood on the field for BP. It was incredible. I didn’t know what to expect, I had seen pictures.
Q: What have you learned about Derek Jeter as a teammate?
A: He’s an unbelievable leader. And it’s not even so much with words, it’s just how he carries himself and goes about his business on a daily basis. He’s the same guy every day, he can go 4-for-4 or 0-for-4. I just kinda sit back — I’m a pretty, quiet, shy guy — and try to soak it all in. A lot of guys in this locker room have been playing this game for a long time, they’re obviously doing something right. I’m just trying to take notes, and learn.
Q: Biggest single reason why you’ve been effective?
A: 1) A lot of these guys have never seen me before. They have a short sample size of the video and scouting reports on me, so I’m sure that’s helping a lot. I’m doing my best to just attack guys and throw strikes. If I’m not giving them a free base and a free baserunner, and they have to earn everything. The game of baseball will tell you that the best guys in the league are gonna fail seven out of 10 times, so the odds are in my favor.
Q: Describe your stuff.
A: The sinker is huge, but my slider as well. If it’s not there, it’s gonna be a rough day. These guys are the best hitters in the world, it doesn’t matter how hard you throw it, if you’re throwing the same pitch every time, they’re gonna time you up and they’re gonna put good wood on it, so I just gotta mix speeds and go from there.
Q: A couple of coaches helped you a lot in the past: Gil Patterson and Greg Pavlick.
A: Two years ago I was really struggling in High-A, and extended spring training they brought me back over to the complex, and I worked with Pav for about a month-and-a-half one-on-one, and worked on a bunch of things, not only mechanical but he helped me a lot mentally as well. Then the next year is when Gil showed up, and he helped me not only mechanical too but also on the mental side. Basically what Gil did is he helped me to be myself and not try to do too much, and pitch to my strengths. At that time, I was throwing a lot of 4-seams still, and I was like, “I feel more comfortable just throwing 2-seams.” And he’s like, “It’s your career basically, do what you think is gonna help you be successful.” And to have someone give you that kinda confidence and basically give you the steering wheel, I think that helped a lot.
Q: What’s it like living in a hotel?
A: It’s different. I mean, I’ve been kinda doing it on the road and whatnot. Even in the minor leagues, you’re in and out of hotels on road trips. More than living in a hotel, this city … I mean, I’m from a pretty small town in Florida. This city is pretty overwhelming. There’s stuff going on all the time, there’s people everywhere. Never really rode a train before until I got here. Getting used to all that, by myself, was a transition, but I figured it out.
Q: How small is Clermont?
A: When I moved there, I was in sixth grade, and there was one grocery store, one high school and one McDonald’s. And now we have three of all those.
Q: Where did you live before that?
A: I was born in Orlando, and I lived in the Winter Garden area until I was in fourth grade and we moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, for my dad’s job.
Q: You must be the talk of Clermont.
A: I don’t know if I’m the talk of Clermont, but… I guess I’m the hometown kid or whatever, you know?
Q: You take the subway to the games?
A: Yeah, to and from every day.
Q: What are your favorite New York City things?
A: Well, I’m a big breakfast guy, so I’ve been searching for the best breakfast spot. I found a decent little spot by the hotel. I go there every day and get an omelet. But other than that, I don’t like do a whole lot because I’m by myself. … I’ve been to dinner a couple of times, I have no problem going out to eat by myself, but I haven’t really been out there and experienced everything that the city has to offer.
Q: As a kid, you had elbow tendonitis?
A: I was in like third or fourth grade, and I had to wear a sling for like four months, They said that the growth plate was pulling away from the bone, or something along those lines. And then, basically every year after that, I would get some kind of tendonitis or what have you every year. I was from Florida, so I played baseball year round, I never stopped. It was the only sport I ever really played growing up, so I never really had a break. And then in high school is when the elbow started getting really bad. I had a hairline fracture at one point or something. Then I had more tendonitis and then I went to college and it was still bad. And then I went to the Andrews Institute, and that’s when they found the bone spur, and they said, “Well we could go in there and get the bone spur out, but then you’re basically hanging on by a thread, so while we’re in there, you might as well go ahead and do the whole Tommy John,” so that’s what they did.
Q: Did you think your career might be over?
A: For sure. I hated school, so I started thinking about what I wanted to do. It was anything from being a firefighter, to going into the military. I was only good with numbers, so something to do with finance or something like that. But then once I learned who James Andrews was, I stopped thinking about that stuff as much, and I continued to do the things I needed to for baseball.
Q: You didn’t pitch for how long?
A: I didn’t face a hitter for probably like 13 months.
Q: What was that moment like?
A: It was crazy, because it was at the Yankees complex against extended spring training people. It was like at this point, I had no idea what was going on. I got invited to come down there and throw, faced three guys, got ’em all out … came off the field with a huge smile on my face, you know? And then they drafted me two weeks later.
Q: Fifteenth round.
A: It was surreal. Everything happened so fast. Three weeks before the draft, I was just trying to maybe get a school to give me some extra money to go there and play baseball there, and now I’m being drafted by the New York Yankees. It didn’t even really hit me until like a week later when I was at the complex every day putting on an “NY” hat.
Q: What role did Jeff Deardorf play?
A: He was a scout with the Yankees, He still is. When he was a player, he was playing in the minor leagues. He’s from the same area as me, and I was really young, like 8,9, 10. I was going to him for hitting lessons. And he became a pretty good family friend of ours, and we stayed in contact. And when I was coming back from Tommy John, I wasn’t on scholarship anymore anywhere, so I was going into that summer trying to get some attention from schools to try to get some sort of baseball scholarship, and my dad was contacting him because he had some connections at some local universities and whatnot to see if maybe he’d watch me throw a bullpen and then talk to some of those coaches so that they would come watch me pitch in the summer league I was in. And when he came to watch that bullpen, that’s when he was like, “Hey, come to Tampa, show these guys what I just saw.”
Q: This was after the University of West Florida took your scholarship away. How upset were you by that?
A: They told me that I could come back and earn it after surgery, so they wanted me to come back on my own for the next season rehabbing, and the next year I could earn my scholarship back. And basically I said, “I’m not gonna do that.” Me and the head coach didn’t really see eye-to-eye in a lot of ways. He told me that they were gonna take my scholarship away like two weeks before the season was over. And then, when the season was over, every player has what’s called an exit interview, one-on-one with the manager of the team, head coach of the team, and during my exit interview, that’s when I told him I wasn’t coming back. And I explained to him why, and the things that I disliked about the program and things like that, and he actually [offered] me a full ride. And I said, “No thanks.” My roommate [Matt Collins] actually had Tommy John surgery as well, and we were good friends since we were like 15 or so. And he’s the one who introduced me to the head coach at Daytona Beach [Junior College].
Q: Worst minor league bus ride?
A: I was in Charleston [S.C.]. We had an off day, but the off day was because we were traveling, it was a 10- or 12-hour trip. We had one bus, but it was a sleeper bus. Everybody’s on it, and we got no air conditioning. Everybody was basically (chuckle) down to their underwear or whatever.
Q: Did you ever consider you might be a career minor leaguer, or just giving up your baseball dream?
A: No. When I signed a professional contract, I told myself I was gonna play baseball for as long as I could. As long as somebody would give me an opportunity, I was gonna try to make the most of it. So I never really thought about that. Sure I struggled, and I was 24 years old repeating at the High-A level, but I worked my butt off in hopes to one day get an opportunity like I’m getting right now.
Q: Boyhood idol?
A: I was a huge Braves fan growing up and I really idolized Chipper Jones. But in an everyday type of thing, I would say both of my parents and one of my uncles [Thomas White].
Q: Do you remember watching the 1996 World Series, when the Yankees beats the Braves?
A: I’m sure I watched it. I have the worst memory of all time.
Q: What do you forget?
A: Everything. I’m terrible with names, faces, and like short-term memory. I’ll have a conversation with somebody or we’ll make plans — I’ll just completely forget that I even said that I was doing that or … it’s terrible.
A: I used to be really superstitious as far as routine-wise. And I try not to be anymore, because if I forgot to do something, I’d be so stressed out about what I forgot to do. So now, I just try to wing it. I’d say the biggest superstition, is on my start day, I usually go eat breakfast somewhere I’ve never ate breakfast before — unless it’s a spot that I really like in the city that I’ve had already. And that’s basically to get my day started, and then I wing it from there.
A: In the offseason, I do a lot of hunting and fishing on the weekends when I can. I travel a lot, I guess, in the offseasons.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: One of my uncles on my mom’s side who died in Vietnam, my dad’s dad, my mother’s mom.
Q: Favorite movies?
A: “Shooter,” “300.”
Q: Favorite actors?
A: Denzel [Washington], Will Smith, Mark Wahlberg.
Q: Favorite entertainer?
Q: Favorite meal?
A: My mom’s Mexican meat loaf.
Q: Could you elaborate?
A: It’s like a meat loaf with a bunch of peppers and cheese and like salsa and all kinds of stuff baked in it and on top of it.
Q: How do you feel about being part of a playoff race?
A: It’s pretty neat. For me on a personal level, I can only control what I can control, and that’s every fifth day I’m gonna give the team a chance to win when I’m out there on the mound, so if I can give the team the chance to win, then I’m doing my job to help contribute, and that’s all that I can do.
Q: Describe Yankees fans.
A: I’d say for the most part, they’re all diehards. They’re not like bandwagon jumpers. If you’re a Yankee fan, you’ve been a Yankee fan your whole life, and your dad was a Yankee fan, and your grandpa and your uncles and your moms … generation to generation, people are Yankee fans, because they’ve been on the top for so long and the tradition and whatnot. They’re all diehards — they’re just as into every game as we are. They’re not there just for the amusement.
Q: Wouldn’t it be a shame for this team not to make the playoffs with Jeter going out?
A: Yeah. It’s funny you say that ’cause I joke about it all the time. It’s like, it’s already written down somewhere that we’re fighting for a playoff spot and we make it and we fight all the way to the World Series and we win it in my mind. And now we just have to wait, and everybody else just has to wait and watch it happen. In my head, that’s how it’s supposed to happen. It’s Derek Jeter. He’s The Captain. It’s like everybody’s watching a movie unfold, and we just have to produce and make that movie happen.