Eric Green hoped to finish his career with the Ravens. His son Elijah might start his with the Orioles. – The Mercury News
If former Ravens tight end Eric Green had his way, he would have retired with Baltimore. He might soon have a reason to make regular trips back to the city.
His son, Elijah Green, is one of the top prospects available in this weekend’s Major League Baseball draft, in which the Orioles have the first overall pick. An outfielder out of IMG Academy in Florida, Elijah is believed to be among the handful of players Baltimore is considering with its second No. 1 pick in four years.
“I dreamed of this, and he dreamed of this, and he worked hard for this,” Eric Green said. “I always told him, if you work hard enough, things will come your way, and things are coming his way.”
The elder Green played in Baltimore from 1996 to 1998 before closing his career with one season for the New York Jets. But he hoped to finish out his career as a Raven.
“They actually had to kick me out of Baltimore,” Eric said. “I did not want to leave Baltimore to go to New York. I tell you, I was on the phone with [then-general manager Ozzie Newsome] until the 11th hour when he was saying that they just couldn’t do it. And that’s when I signed with the Jets. But I would have retired in Baltimore, if it was up to me, because I love everything about the city, the people and the football team.”
The baseball team would certainly join that list if it picks Elijah, ranked a top-five prospect in the draft class by both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline. He’s built like a football player at 6 feet 3 and about 220 pounds, a frame that, when paired with his skill set, has led some evaluators to believe he has the most upside of any player in this draft class. Despite his size, he runs exceptionally well and has a strong enough arm to play a corner outfield spot if he’s moved out of center. His most impressive tool is his raw power, which he displayed for Team USA’s 18-and-younger group last summer, slugging .957 and homering four times in seven games — three of them played at the Orioles’ Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota, Florida.
Green’s home run and slugging tallies led a team that featured the other high school prospects the Orioles are believed to considering with the No. 1 pick. Green joins Georgia high school outfielder Druw Jones, Oklahoma high school shortstop Jackson Holliday, Georgia high school second baseman Termarr Johnson and Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee in what’s thought to be Baltimore’s targeted group of five.
Jones and Holliday are the sons of former MLB All-Stars Andruw Jones and Matt Holliday, but Green is well-positioned to be the first son of an NFL first-round pick to go in the MLB draft’s first round.
“Actually kind of feels surreal,” Elijah said. “It just has always been one of my dreams of mine, and it just doesn’t feel real at this point.”
As a senior at IMG Academy, he hit .462 with a 1.592 OPS. After striking more than twice as often as he walked as a junior, Elijah finished even in that ratio this spring, helping to minimize the swing-and-miss concerns that followed him into the campaign.
To his father, Elijah has always been at his best when trying to quiet those who doubt him.
“All he heard leading into the spring season was, ‘He’s swing and miss, swing and miss,’” Eric said. “He was befuddled because he said, ‘Dad, I just led Team USA in home runs, total bases, slugging percentage, in everything. But I’m just swing and miss.’ So he said, ‘Well, I’m gonna show them,’ and that’s when he went out and hit .462 and did what he did, and I can respect that. That’s Elijah.
“That’s what I’m most proud about. When people tell him he can’t do something, oh, my God, he goes through hell and Earth to show them that he can do it.”
It’s a mindset molded from his father’s. Before Elijah headed to IMG, Eric largely handled his training. It was goal-oriented and focused on the importance of discipline, with Eric knowing firsthand what was required to be a professional athlete. Drafted 21st overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1990, he followed five seasons there with one in Miami before joining the Ravens.
“Absolutely loved it,” Eric said. “I probably had more success in Pittsburgh as an individual. But as a football player, I think I had a better three years there than my five years in Pittsburgh because of who I was and what I brought to the team and the things we did off the field in the community. I love Baltimore.”
His affinity for seafood prompted him to frequent Jimmy’s Famous Seafood, and he makes sure to go there whenever he’s back in the area. He would love if Elijah and the Orioles gave him excuses to make the trip.
Elijah would appreciate that opportunity, too.
“It would mean everything to me,” Elijah said. “Just knowing that the hard work I put in all these years is finally paying off and the Orioles are recognizing that and taking a chance on me and just knowing that when I come in there, I’m gonna work so hard and just try to bring a World Series to that ballclub.”
Eric has seen that hard work up close. He coached Elijah in football, with their team winning four AAU national titles in six years with Elijah playing quarterback and middle linebacker. But early in his teen years, he went to his father and told him he wanted to focus on baseball.
“I had more love for baseball at that point,” Elijah said. “Football was always my first love, but the love kind of just ran out.”
“The only thing I could do at that point is respect it,” Eric said. “As a kid, to come to me and know how much time I put in with him in football and say that he loves baseball more, that was great for me to hear. Then, we started putting that energy that we had in football into baseball.
“I had to teach him about things that he [may not] do that other kids his age may partake in, the discipline part of his life and all that aspect. Just trying to show him how to get to his dream.”
The “sweat equity,” as Eric put it, they’ve shared in those efforts will pay off Sunday, when Elijah will hear his name called in the first round of the MLB draft. Whenever that day has come up in conversations between father and son, Eric has gotten emotional. Elijah expects that to be the case again this weekend.
“He’s played a big role, just him knowing what it takes to get to the next level in any sport,” Elijah said. “He’s implemented that into my game and always told me to work hard, you never know who’s watching.
“He just always wanted the best for me.”
MLB DRAFT DAY 1
Sunday, 7 p.m.