Justin Greene was 13 in the fall of 1998.
Young and scrawny, he hadn't yet hit his growth spurt. And Greene, an outfielder who is enjoying a stellar stint as a leadoff man with the York Revolution, was still figuring out what sport suited him best while growing up in Goose Creek, S.C., a town roughly the same size as York.
On the weekends, Greene traveled with his family to Penn State or Georgia Tech, where they would watch Greene's older cousins dominate on the college gridiron.
Fans familiar with each school likely recognize the names. Courtney Brown was a massive defensive end for the Nittany Lions. The Cleveland Browns made him the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2000. Joe Hamilton, once recruited by Joe Paterno, is considered by most to be the greatest quarterback in Georgia Tech history. His 10,640 yards of total offense accumulated from 1996 to 1999 is still the program record at Tech, where Hamilton is now a recruiting assistant.
So, of course Greene would try to follow in his cousins' footsteps and give football a shot. Later on in high school, football coaches wanted Greene, hoping to use his lightning-quick speed at wide receiver so he could burn defenders on the sidelines.
"Football was too hard on my body. I might have been the fastest player on the field but eventually someone was gonna catch me and hit me," Greene said.
So Greene stuck with baseball, a sport he has played since he was little when he started out as an infielder. But it didn't come easy to him.
"I actually got cut twice from the high school baseball team. Eighth grade and ninth grade year," he said. "Made JV (junior varsity) my 10th-grade year. Got to varsity my 11th-grade year, didn't play at all. Played my senior year. And then that's kind of how I got overlooked."
No one recruited the 6-foot, right-handed hitting outfielder to play baseball out of high school. He went off to college two hours away from home at Francis Marion (S.C.) University to major in business administration. At student orientation in the fall of 2003, Greene approached Francis Marion baseball coach Art Inabinet.
"I walked up to him and introduced myself and he said, 'without any disrespect, Justin, I've never seen you play. I don't think you're good enough to play baseball for my school.' I said, 'fair enough.' I walked on. I went to the tryout and he said 'you know what? You might be able to help us with your speed. We're gonna redshirt you your first year and then we'll see what happens from there,'" Greene said. "I got redshirted, played my freshman year and never left the field."
Greene turned himself into a 20th-round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox in 2008, taken at age 22 following his senior season at Francis Marion, an NCAA Division II school.
Rated the fastest base runner in the White Sox system in 2008, Greene went on to play in 78 combined games at the triple-A level in 2011 and 2012, hitting .244, before the White Sox traded him to the Diamondbacks in exchange for cash considerations just before the start of the 2013 season. The D'Backs assigned Greene to their double-A affiliate and he responded by winning the Southern League batting title with a .308 average in 117 games last season.
Making the most of it: Arizona invited Greene to its big league spring training camp earlier this year, then put him back at double-A and cut him on Mother's Day in May. The 28-year-old outfielder arrived in York a couple weeks later to make his debut in the independent Atlantic League.
And through 46 games, all he's done is post a league-leading .383 batting average. He would have been an Atlantic League All-Star selection had he come to the league sooner, but was instead left out. However, if he sticks around long enough and continues crushing Atlantic League pitching, he'll be in line to break the league's single-season batting average record of .371. He may even be a longshot threat to hit .400.
Then again, if he stays on this pace, a major league organization should come calling soon.
"I feel like this is the best baseball I'm playing right now," he said. "It's unfortunate I got released but I feel like I have a lot to bring to the table."
The father of a 2-year-old daughter is still determined to make it to the majors.
"I've gotten offers from Mexico," Greene said. "But I feel like at this point in my career I don't want to go out of the country for a couple extra thousand dollars when I know I could get picked up and possibly be in the big leagues by the end of the year."
— Reach John Walk at email@example.com.