My Hope for Hunter Greene (343)

Hunter Greene was the second pick by our beloved Cincinnati Reds in this year’s Major League Baseball draft. He can pitch a baseball over 100 miles/hour. But he also can hit and play the field. Baseball scouts say he fields the shortstop position with the smooth grace of someone like Derek Jeter. At the plate, his power and hand-to-eye coordination remind people of the legendary Henry Aaron. He may someday be better than anyone who has ever played the game. And, by the way, Hunter Greene is only 17 years-old.

Once again, our sports culture is having their way with a young man, heaping hopes and expectations on him unfairly in a way that’s sure to disappoint. What happens if Hunter Greene turns out to be just a good Major League Baseball player? Let’s say he plays seven or eight years, has a decent won-loss record pitching, maybe in one of those years he even leads the league in wins and makes the All-Star team. Right there, that would be better than 99.9% of those who have ever played the game. But that wouldn’t be enough for our sports culture. The hype is too great. He can’t just have an average career in the future. Anything less than being one of the greatest will be deemed as him not living up to his potential. Articles will be written about “the disappointing career of Hunter Greene.” I remind you, Hunter Greene is just 17 years-old.

Can we not let him just be a high school senior where his own teachers are not asking him for his autograph (it’s happening)? Joon Lee, a staff writer for Bleacher Report, quoted Hunter Greene in a recent interview as saying: “I definitely feel like an adult 24/7. It’s hard to be in the moment because everything is happening so fast, and I’m so young. It’s hard to slow down because everything is moving so fast. I have something way bigger going on than all these other people,” referring to his high school classmates. His best friend (and high school catcher), nicknamed “Boogie,” says: “He knows he can’t make everyone happy,” Boogie says, “but he wants to feel like he at least tried.”

I hope he stops trying right now to make everyone happy or to prove all the hype is justified. The weight of expectations from scouts, the media, his teachers, his friends, his family, and yes, our beloved Reds, isn’t only unfair to the young man, it’s potentially a crushing diabolical force. The judgment of others never ends, especially in sports. No matter what he achieves on the baseball diamond, there will always be someone who says: “He didn’t live up to expectations. He was no Sandy Koufax. He was no Bob Gibson.” That’ll be the voice of the Evil One, Old Uncle Screwtape, who sows the seeds of failure and unworthiness in us all.

None of us lives up to expectation. We’ve all earned the right to fail and just be human. And God has provided for our human failure by his crucified atonement of the world. We need to redefine what success and failure means. My prayer for Hunter Greene is that he grows up learning to love and be loved; that he can learn to be compassionate and merciful to himself and to others, and that’ll be enough. It won’t be enough for the insatiable judgment of the world, but it’ll be enough for the God who created him and who more wonderfully redeemed him in Jesus Christ.


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