By Emily Waldon
If you were to ever pull a starting member of your local varsity baseball team off to the side and inquire as to why they are so invested in the game, don’t be surprised if you are met with a scoff and an eye roll.
The vision of the up and coming generation of high school and collegiate baseball players is an unwritten, universally shared goal. To them, it’s obvious.
They play to get the call.
This call instantaneously sets your worth as a baseball player in stone. The call that publicly acknowledges all of the early morning and late night drills, the countless hours in the batting cage and putting in that last throwing session to perfect your slider before your coach shuts off the field lights.
When Blythewood High School graduate, Grayson Greiner made the decision to come onboard under the tutelage of University of South Carolina head baseball coach Chad Holbrook, this mentality was as alive as ever.
Standing at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, Greiner’s presence behind the plate is not easily ignored. Ranked as one of the Top 5 High School Prospects to watch, Greiner was quick to build a name for himself with the Gamecocks by hitting a respectable .222 at the plate, and allowing only 25 stolen bases in 43 attempts during his freshman season. Named to the SEC All-defensive team as a junior, Greiner compiled another set of impressive numbers including 50 RBI’s and eight home runs.
Unbeknownst to Greiner, his journey of chasing the dream of professional baseball would soon go hand in hand with his new teammate, another South Carolina local, Joey Pankake.
While Pankake holds many similarities to the collegiate production of Greiner, his journey was a bit different than most.
The Easley native popped on to the Major League draft radar very early on and was pursued by the Texas Rangers as their 42nd pick of the 2011 draft during his senior year. The interesting twist is that he was being sought after as a pitcher, known for hitting 94 miles per hour in short sets. The decision was made to continue on to the collegiate level and experienced a bit of a drop in the draft rankings, due to some difficulty in adjusting to the new roles he would play for the Gamecocks squad.
Pankake saw his share of transition during his collegiate career by switching to 3rd base after his first two seasons as a fulltime position player at shortstop. The 6-1 junior solidified himself as a force to be reckoned with by hitting an impressive .303 at the plate, combined with a team high 52 runs scored. He also became the 26th player in school history to reach 200 hits in his collegiate career.
On Friday, the futures of both young men would shift as Major League Baseball Commissioner, Bug Selig uttered those famous words, “The Detroit Tigers select…”.
The powerful duo who had developed an inseparable connection as teammates confirmed that not only was their dream coming to fruition, but they were moving forward together. With Greiner’s height matching the tallest for a Major League catcher, his unique agility has the Tigers excited about the potential he embodies. Meanwhile, Pankake has developed impressive bat speed and strength, but could end up transitioning to a middle infielder, depending on how he handles the corner at the Major League level.
Greiner and Pankake are just two faces of exceptional talent recognized during this year’s Major League Draft. Both individuals, combined with the additional draftees of the Tigers organization embody a skill set that promises a bright future for the franchise.
Emily Waldon was raised in Howard City and currently resides in Wyoming, Mich. A lifelong sports enthusiast, she also enjoys photography, traveling and bringing a fresh outlook to the world of athletics, both collegiate and professional. She can be reached at email@example.com