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When he was 2 years old, Jack Greene was diagnosed with leukemia.
Jack underwent three years of chemotherapy, then needed surgeries on both of his Achilles tendons – leaving the thought of ever playing sports in doubt.
Despite those odds, the Valwood baseball standout put pen to paper on his dream of playing college baseball as he signed with Covenant College Tuesday morning.
“Starting young, I knew I had to work harder than most kids. I knew I had to put in 100%,” Jack said. “My passion for baseball stayed, always, throughout the hard times and the good times. Just working through that – going to practice, staying late after, putting in that extra work.
“That’s always something I’ve felt that’s been important to me and that’s been able to get me through T-ball, to middle school, to high school ball. … Giving that 110% and working hard and trying to get to that next level, that’s what’s helped me, I believe.”
Valwood head coach Robert Shipman first met Jack as a seventh-grader attending one of his baseball camps.
Years before stepping onto Browning Field as a member of the Valwood varsity team, Jack impressed Shipman with his character and work ethic.
According to Shipman, Covenant College head baseball coach Doug Simons jokingly inquired about any clones of Jack Greene that Shipman possibly stashed away.
“When he was in middle school, he used to come to my baseball camps and he was always a hard worker,” Shipman said. “He always gave maximum effort. He comes from a great family and upbringing. I don’t know of anybody that works any harder than he does with the God-given ability that he has.
“It was evident when he signed with Covenant College. They e-mailed me and said, ‘Do you have any more Jack Greenes?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t have any more Jack Greenes, but whatever he does, he’s always going to give you his best effort.'”
A pitcher, first baseman and outfielder for the Valiants, Jack relishes the role of being counted on to provide whatever his team needs from game to game.
Jack and other players went up to Lookout Mountain for a camp at Covenant last October and were blown away by the campus and the facilities.
Shortly after the start of the new year, Jack got a call from Simons inviting him to come up for an official visit. After going on a tour of the campus in January and conversations with the coaching staff, Jack said, it was only a matter of time before he made his decision.
“I said it was a perfect opportunity and (Simons) said he’d love to have me up there,” Jack recalled. “He called me the next day and I committed the next day. He said he’d love me to be part of their program and that’s how it happened.
“I’m a utility player, so I can play wherever they need me. As a bat, I feel I’m more of a contact guy and I can be anywhere in the lineup one through nine, wherever they need me to play. Whatever gets me on the field, I’m happy and I’ll run with it.”
When Jack was in seventh grade, he began training at Edge Performance in Valdosta. After the surgeries to extend his Achilles tendons, Jack and his father, Kemp Greene, have seen the training sessions pay off.
Kemp spoke about his son’s signing and his journey to becoming a college athlete.
“This is a real special day, a culmination of years of hard work,” Kemp said of his son as his eyes welled up slightly. “Every bit that God gave him, he has gotten the most out of himself. When he was about 2, I had a doctor come in and tell me he may never play sports, he may have learning disabilities. He has not only overcome but excelled.”
Kemp continued: “He’s a 4.0 student and he’s getting to continue his education and his baseball career at a very good college. It’s just a special, special time. I’ll probably get emotional at some point because I just can’t believe this – where we came from. This time last year, he was about a 7.3 60-yard dash kid and really wasn’t fast enough to play college ball. This year, he’s worked hard. He’s a like a 6.9 60 guy – that’s almost a half a second (quicker) – and that’s just pure work. Hard work. I think he’s going to do really well at Covenant.”
Jack Greene and the Valiants are off to a 3-5 start in the young baseball season.
With at least 14 games remaining in his senior season before he graduates, Jack reflects on his time at Valwood and how he’s been shaped by being a Valiant.
“Being a Valwood Valiant means everything to me,” Jack said. “It means that you put hard work first. You also put your family first. You take others in and you become a family. I’ve been playing baseball since sixth grade here and all the experiences I’ve had and all the people I’ve met and the coaches, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’d do it again. It goes by fast and it’s coming to an end but I’ve enjoyed where the journey’s taken me.”
Shane Thomas is the sports editor at the Valdosta Daily Times.