Greenwell working to overcome disappointment and setbacks
Bo Greenwell shuffles through the locker room with large packs of ice taped to his left knee and right ankle. The Mudcats have just lost a series opener to the Winston-Salem Dash, and the outfielder scored one of Carolina’s three runs in an eighth-inning offensive surge.
Greenwell, 24, has had two ACL surgeries on his left knee and a recent knee scope to go in and clean up the meniscus.
“It threw off the ideal pattern, and my path to move through the system,” he said.
Greenwell was having one of his best seasons in 2011 when a broken pinky finger took him out of play while at High-A at Kinston. After surgery to reconstruct the finger he later headed out to Arizona in the fall to catch up on at-bats. He slid into second base on a steal and tore his ACL—the same knee he injured in 2006 before his senior year of high school.
“It’s kind of unfortunate because so much can happen in one season,” Greenwell said. “I felt like I was on top of the world there for a while and a couple injuries later found myself almost down and out. I definitely feel like the organization just kind of pushed me off to the side, which is unfortunately just part of it.”
Greenwell was up in Double-A for less than a month shortly into the 2013 season but wasn’t getting enough playing time.
“They sent me down and that was tough, but I came back here so I can get more at-bats,” he said. “And now here I am, and doing what I can to help the team out.”
The Fort Myers, Florida native is batting in the middle of the line up, a location that manager David Wallace says suits his experience and skill. His average is .253 and he has three home runs, 34 RBIs and five stolen bases this season.
“He’s got a dangerous bat and he’s a threat to hit the ball out of the yard at any pitch,” Wallace said. “He’s a bat that we like in the middle of the order.”
It’s not ideal for a player to be at this level at age 24, but Wallace said injuries and setbacks are part of the challenge to advance in the minors.
“He’s handled it very professionally and he’s one of those guys who we look at to be a leader for this team,” Wallace added.
This is Greenwell’s seventh year playing. He was signed to the University of Miami before being drafted by the Indians in the sixth round in 2007. Greenwell says that choosing to enter the minors out of high school was a decision that he stands by 100 percent and a choice that he discussed with his father, former Red Sox outfielderMike Greenwell.
The elder Greenwell played for Boston from 1985-1996 in left field. Mike was also there to help his son battle through his recent injuries.
“My dad has let me be my own player to a certain point," Greenwell said. "He’s been someone to turn to if I have questions or if I’m struggling. He really knows the highs and lows. He’s taken his 1 for 34 and he’s felt what that’s like and he also knows what it’s like to be on top of the world. He’s someone who has been there on and off the field which is obviously huge for me, especially with all the stuff I’ve been going through.”
Greenwell is a free agent after this year. It’s tough to say where he’ll be five years from now—he could be three years in the big leagues or four years out of baseball. For now, his focus is on helping the Mudcats make it to the playoffs.
“I went from being one of the younger players to four years later being one of the older players, and it’s definitely not ideal,” Greenwell explained. “But as a veteran type of player, I can help the younger guys and guide them and share the experiences I have, and the knowledge I have, to help speed up their development.”
The 2013 Mudcats are, without contest, the coolest team Greenwell says he’s ever been part of. It’s tough to get a good group playing together for a long time because of the structure of the minors with players moving up and down.
The core group in Carolina is “really chill and fun,” Greenwell said. He’s been on teams where the organization had to come in and tell the players they needed to learn to get along.
“We spend so much time together—seven months out of the year—and fights are going to happen,” he said. “It’s a family here and we learn to get past it and move forward. This team has definitely got that figured out.”
Usually teams that are so close off the field have a knack for winning, but that wasn’t the case for the Mudcats in the first half. The second half brings an opportunity to turn around the season, Greenwell says, and make the final push toward playoffs.
“You learn so much about yourself and as a teammate in the playoffs, and you make yourself so much better,” Greenwell said. “It’s all about winning. The development gets put to the side and it’s all about coming out there doing what you can getting runs on the board, get outs and make pitches.
It is such a cool experience it doesn’t matter how old you are or what level you’re at. That’s what we all strive for, so that’s definitely a goal and we’ve had to come out here in the second half and do better and really show signs that we can make it happen.”