As Hunter Greene was setting a professional baseball velocity record Wednesday night at AT&T Field, those with access to the facility's TrackMan device were reacting to every pitch either with excitement or bewilderment.
Out on the mound, however, setting the new standard was the furthest thing from Greene's mind.
"I didn't think about it," he said. "I was just out there trying to compete and trying to get a win for the team. To be honest, I never think about my velocity, and I don't really care to continue to throw harder. For me, it's always been about being able to control my secondary pitches and being able to throw those for strikes and get ahead.
"It's cool to see the velocity and to hit the record, but I want to have a 15- or 20-year career, and in order to do that, I need to be able to do more than just throw a fastball hard. My sights are elsewhere, but it is cool to bring that excitement to a place like Chattanooga."
Greene was the winning pitcher in the Chattanooga Lookouts' 6-1 downing of the Rocket City Trash Pandas, recording eight strikeouts in five innings while allowing three hits and a run. In his first outing since 2018 — a gap caused by Tommy John surgery that wiped out his 2019 season and last year's outbreak of the coronavirus — the 6-foot-5, 230-pounder from Los Angeles threw 71 pitches, with 51 of them strikes.
Those numbers can all be located in the box score at minor league baseball's website (milb.com), but the stat that created a national buzz was Greene's 37 fastballs in excess of 100 mph, setting a mark for a starting pitcher since StatCast was implemented in 2015. He had 14 triple-digit pitches in the first inning with a high of 102.6, and he was still touching 102.0 in the fifth.
"For me, the other night was more about the camaraderie and coming together and finally being under the lights as a team," said Greene, the No. 2 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds organization behind fellow Lookouts pitcher Nick Lodolo. "I threw in games last year at our alternate site that didn't matter winning-wise or record-wise, so I tried to treat it as just another game for me.
"Being able to share a win with the guys — our team chemistry is great — was what made it special."
A UNIQUE START
Given his size and given that his father played football at Humboldt State University, it's easy to assume Greene was a football-basketball-baseball kid growing up and that a difficult career decision had to be made deep into his days at Notre Dame High School in the Los Angeles suburb of Sherman Oaks.
That's not how Greene's story starts.
"My dad has dealt with back, hip and knee problems and didn't want me to go through the same thing, but baseball has always been my passion anyway," Greene said of his one-sport background. "I was traveling the country when I was 9 years old, and it just became the thing I fell in love with. Baseball is such a skilled sport, and it's tough to play multiple sports and be really, really good at baseball. Most guys who play a lot of sports are OK at baseball.
"Bo Jackson was a freak of nature and could do it, but the hand-and-eye coordination is hard, and it's hard to stay healthy. There are 162 games a year in this game, and that's crazy. It's hard to pick baseball up in high school or college and make it as a professional, so you have to start at a young age."
Greene's ability to reach triple digits in high school earned him a Sports Illustrated cover in April 2017, an obvious rare feat that puts him with the likes of LeBron James (2002) and Bryce Harper (2009). He committed to play at UCLA but jumped at a pro opportunity in June 2017, when the Reds selected him with the second overall pick and signed him for a whopping $7.23 million.
Such a sudden financial windfall has proven to be both a blessing and a curse for multiple athletes through the years, but Greene credits parents Russell and Senta for keeping him grounded on that front. His mother is the CEO of Full Circle Consulting Systems, which specializes in childhood development through emerging adulthood, while his father was a private investigator for the late Johnnie Cochran and now heads the Russell Greene Private Investigations firm in Beverly Hills.
"He represents the Kardashians and (Justin) Bieber and everyone, really," Greene said. "I like to say that he's the best investigator in the world and certainly the country, because he gets the best cases. He has to keep a lot of those things under wraps, but he'll share some stuff sometimes.
"Both he and and my mom have really prepared me on a lot of things out of baseball and how to carry myself, and I am very thankful for that."
NOW THE SEQUEL
Chattanooga fans will have to wait a while before Greene's second pitching performance at AT&T Field.
The team will make its first road trip next week, with Greene scheduled to start Tuesday night's opener at Montgomery. The second homestand for the Lookouts doesn't begin until May 25, when they host the Tennessee Smokies.
Wednesday's dazzling effort was just the fourth pro win for the 21-year-old, who went 3-7 with a 4.48 ERA in 18 starts with the 2018 Dayton (Ohio) Dragons in the Single-A Midwest League. His desire for a well-rounded arsenal was only magnified Friday night, when Reds pitcher Wade Miley threw a no-hitter at Cleveland's expense with only seven pitches that exceeded 90 mph.
In fact, the 34-year-old Miley had 11 pitches that didn't reach 80.
Greene certainly isn't seeking a drop in velocity, but he is focused more on creating uncomfortable at-bats for opponents, and he is approaching Tuesday's start as a different type of new opportunity.
"I would love to have another outing like I did the other night," he said. "I would like to get out of the outing healthy and get another win for the team. I haven't pitched on the road in a while, so we'll see how the body adjusts to being on the bus.
"This game is all about making the adjustments."