By BRADEN LAYER
---- — NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Waking up Saturday morning, Louisville pitcher and Effingham alumnus Chad Green had a lot running through his mind. He was about to face the No. 2-ranked Commodores of Vanderbilt in an NCAA Super Regional on national TV, against a lineup that entered the game hitting over .300 from top-to-bottom. It was a daunting task on the road, to try and pull out a victory in Game 1 of a best-of-three duel. The winner would be headed to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
The last thing he was worried about—preparing to take the hill in enemy territory—was the final day of the MLB amateur draft.
“I wasn’t focused on the draft at all really,” Green said. “I was more focused on what Vanderbilt was going to do. My focus was on the game.”
The much-anticipated matchup didn’t begin until 4 p.m., which gave Green plenty of opportunities to scroll through the draftracker on his phone. When he saw his name had been selected in the 11th round—336th overall to the Detroit Tigers—it garnered hardly more than a passing glance. There were more pressing issues at hand.
“I was checking my phone every twenty minutes or so,” he said. “I just saw a text message, and I put it back in my bag.”
Green kept his team right in the thick of things with his performance, allowing two earned runs with six hits spread over five innings. He left the game in a 2-2 tie, but the Cardinals pulled away late with three runs to stun the Commodores 5-3.
“I threw more changeups than I normally do,” Green said of his outing. “I didn’t have the breaking ball, I basically used two pitches the whole time. With all the versatility on that team, I tried to get ahead with the fastball, then make them get themselves out.”
Green finished without recording a strikeout, but the win was all that mattered.
“It was pretty crazy in the ninth inning, when they had the bases loaded,” Green said. “One out away from knocking off the No. 2 team in the country, it’s definitely a day I’m going to remember.”
The Cardinals’ Nick Burdi retired the final Vanderbilt batter on a ground ball, and the celebration began. Amidst the handshakes and high fives, Green began to realize there was another reason the day won’t soon be forgotten. He could now shift his attention, at least momentarily, back toward the text he received a few short hours ago.
Green was drafted in the 37th round back in 2010 out of Effingham by Toronto, choosing to delay his professional career until he could reap the benefits of a college coaching staff. Under coach Dan McDonell’s staff at Louisville, Green leapfrogged 26 rounds to Saturday’s 11th-round selection.
“It was kind of like a weight off my shoulders,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about it anymore. I accredit a lot to the coaches here at Louisville, they prepare players to play professionaly.”
Green stated that his decision won’t be made about returning to the Cardinals for his senior campaign or joining the professional ranks until after the season comes to an end. There’s a solid chance he winds up moving on to the pros, having spent his due time in Division I learning the ropes and becoming more prepared to pitch on a regular basis.
“As of right now, I’m probably leaning toward signing,” he said. “I think I’m ready to play pro baseball, but you never know.”
After a magical weekend, he won’t have to make that decision any time soon. Louisville bested Vanderbilt 2-1 on Sunday in Game 2 to sweep the heavily-favored Commodores and advance to its second-ever College World Series. The Cardinals are now marching right through Music City and on toward Omaha, with dreams of a national championship on their minds. Professional baseball can wait.
Braden Layer can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at email@example.com