LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After the Cincinnati Reds drafted Hunter Greene second overall right out of high school in 2017, the pitcher didn't quite understand what his professional path would be like.
"I didn't know how the draft process worked or what the process was going to be, like getting to the big leagues," Greene said. "I don't think anybody really knows unless you're in it."
He got it during a grueling Rookie ride with the Billings Mustangs in Montana.
"Our first road trip was 16 hours and that was on a bus, not the sleeper buses, but a regular bus," Greene said. "That's when I realized, 'Okay, this is a lot different than high school, and I'm gonna have to step my game up.'"
That became even tougher when he had to undergo Tommy John surgery, causing him to miss the entire 2019 season.
But after a 16-month recovery and pandemic year, the starter went 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 41 innings over seven starts with Double-A Chattanooga this season before the Louisville Bats called him up to Triple-A. Greene is tied for the highest pick to play in Louisville.
With all of that in mind before his first home start at Louisville Slugger Field on Wednesday night, he's gained perspective through the grind.
"I think it makes it that much better once you get called up," Greene said.
It's now just one step away for the hard-throwing right-hander who routinely hits 100 MPH.
However, there's still work to do. In his Bats debut on June 17 at Omaha, Greene struck out eight batters in four innings but also gave up four home runs.
"More experienced hitters, they're able to pick up on some certain tendencies," Greene said of adjusting to Triple-A baseball. "So, it's just recognizing those things and being able to make the adjustments."
They're still going to have to catch up to the occasional 104 MPH fastball. That's the top speed he hit against Omaha, which is a velocity only five Major League Baseball pitchers have clocked since 2008.
"I don't tend to care about those things," Greene said of his velocity. "I'm just trying to focus on my secondary pitches."
He feels like his changeup and slider have gotten better. The Los Angeles native continues to work on his mental preparation to better attack hitters and not just rely on his gifted physical ability.
"Yes, it's hard to hit 100-plus MPH," Greene said. "But at this level, and at the big leagues, guys have figured out how to hit 100-plus MPH. So being able to mix in my secondaries and keep guys off-balance is going to help. It's going make that fastball that much harder to hit."
"I think I've looked at the radar gun once and was like, 'Man, that was great,'" Greene said. "I think that was the (MLB All-Star) Futures Game."
That was all the way back in 2018. The hype surrounding him has only built since then, ranking as the Reds' top prospect in 2020. How he deals with it comes off of the field, where he likes to paint and draw, find new places to eat or go out with his family - who doesn't talk much about baseball.
"They know that there's more to me than just being an athlete," Greene said.
And as he tries to paint enough corners to eventually be called up, the 21-year-old also attempts to keep the big picture in mind.
"I lose sight of that a lot," Greene said. "I'm extremely competitive. I want to do well, I want to represent my family, myself, and the team well. But I have to keep things in perspective."