NORTH PORT, Fla. — Sometimes, you get by with a little help from your friends. And sometimes, those friends help one another’s dreams come true.
It’s a friendship that dates back to the sandlot and youth baseball. Grissom, a then-newcomer to town, remembers his first interaction with Greene while looking for his mother during youth season-opening festivities.
“He barely knew me and was like, ‘Hey, what are you doing?'” Grissom recalled. “I was like, ‘I’m looking for my mom.’ He’s like, ‘What’s her name?’ I’m like, ‘Elizabeth.'”
Next thing you know, Grissom said he could hear Greene yelling “Elizabeth!” all around the area.
Their first real interaction came in sixth-grade gym, with their lockers next to each other.
Grissom recalls Greene saying to him, “Hey man, I’ll cover you if you cover me.” Grissom quickly agreed, they shook hands, and a bond was created. It’s a bond that has extended beyond that locker room and far past the realm of sport, and it continues to grow as each embarks on a seemingly special path.
Greene said it’s surreal that two kids who grew up together belong to big league clubs.
“We always talked about it growing up, always dreamed about it, and our dream came true,” Greene said. “It’s pretty cool to see him on the other side of the diamond, playing and living out our dreams.”
Grissom, 22, said he has to pinch himself at times.
“It’s cool to see where we both have come and how things go, and how we can surprise ourselves,” Grissom said.
Greene, also 22, was a rookie last year and wasted little time making an impression. The fifth overall pick in the 2019 Draft by the Tigers, Greene hit .253 with 27 extra-base hits and 42 RBIs and posted a hard-hit rate of 77 percent. His glove was also eye-opening, as he made the American League Play of the Week three times, including back-to-back weeks in September.
Greene and Grissom — an 11th-round pick of the Braves in 2019 — have played against each other in travel ball, as well as together in high school.
“We’ve gotten pretty close,” Greene said. “We live probably two or three minutes from each other back home. We hit together during the offseason. It’s cool seeing us both out here living our dreams — we always talked about being in the big leagues together.”
Greene said it helps to have each other pushing the envelope.
“It’s like a friendly competition,” Greene said. “Even in BP in the offseason, we try to be better than each other. That just comes with being really good friends, and we know we can compete with each other. Vaughn loves to compete, I can tell you that. We’ll go play tennis or something else, but we’re still competing. It’s always fun, and we always try to be better than one another, and that’s what I feel like keeps us going.”
Grissom said Greene was the first guy he saw in Oviedo getting college looks. That brought lots of scouts to games — sometimes 60, Grissom said.
“It kind of sets a standard,” Grissom said. “It made me work harder subconsciously, and even consciously, I wanted to put in more hours. I would say it ignited friendly competition. We push each other whether it be the weight room, fielding ground balls, or whatever it is. In the offseason we just do everything together. It’s a competition to move the right way and do things constantly. And I think we do both pretty well.”
Grissom said Greene has always been humble, and that he leads by example. Whatever Greene did, teammates followed.
“He’s always carried himself really well,” Grissom said. “Especially with [so much attention on him] as a youth.”
Greene remembered how happy he was when his buddy got the call to The Show last year.
“It gave me goosebumps,” Greene said. “I know behind the scenes how hard he worked, and how much being able to be here means to him. There’s no one that deserves it more than Vaughn.”
In the offseason, Greene and Grissom hit with former high school coach Jered Goodwin (now with Perfect Game), along with fellow Oviedo native Ryan Mountcastle and Daniel Vogelbach.
“It was a huge benefit,” Greene said of the workouts. “Being able to do it at home, and Jered coming out and helping us pretty much every single day, it was awesome. Having him, with all the knowledge that he has, really helped us with our game and hitting and fielding, I feel that it was big for all of us.”
Both Greene and Grissom give Goodwin major kudos.
“Just the knowledge he has on the analytics side and the non-analytics side, it’s insane,” Greene said.
Grissom said Greene has always been determined to be successful and to win. With Detroit looking for a youthful infusion, Grissom is excited to see what this year brings for his friend.
“The guy is a winner,” Grissom said. “Riley wants to do nothing but win. There [was] a lot of pressure on him as a 21-year-old rookie. If there’s anyone that’s ready for that situation, it’s him. He seems excited about the group now. I’m excited to see what he has in store this year.”
Grissom was not in the Braves’ lineup for Saturday’s game, a 16-7 Tigers win at CoolToday Park. Greene started for Detroit and went 1-for-4 with a run.
The two shared the frustration of missing each other with video calls and texts pregame.
“He better not big-league me,” Greene joked.
Rest assured, the pair together will share a laugh, a hug and, someday, a Major League diamond.