It was a cold March weekend in Oklahoma early this spring when Lawrence High baseball coach Brad Stoll and his players realized what Lions opponents would soon find out through punishment: LHS catcher Drew Green was a brute with a bat in his hands.
Green smashed his first home run of the season on a freezing Friday evening — “A terrible night to hit,” Stoll remarked — so hard that Edmond’s right fielder didn’t even take a step as the ball soared over his head. The next day, Green belted another home run as he set the table for what would become a dominant season.
By the time the spring ended, Green’s keen eye and barely observable bat speed helped him procure a .439 batting average, five doubles, six triples, four home runs and 27 RBIs in his junior campaign. And even though their season didn’t go as the Lions (14-8) planned, coaches who saw Green vouched for his monster spring against quality opponents and helped him earn Player of the Year honors from the Kansas Association of Baseball Coaches.
“It’s a great honor for him,” Stoll said, “because we got knocked out and didn’t make the state tournament.”
Green learned of the honor at the team’s postseason banquet. Like his teammates, the LHS catcher came to the front of the room as Stoll rattled off his honors. Green was one step back toward his seat when Stoll stopped him and announced Green had been voted the state’s top player.
“I didn’t want to believe it at first,” Green said. “I didn’t really know how to respond. I just had a big grin on my face.”
Shocked as he was, teammate Kieran Severa said the Lions had witnessed Green’s assaults on opponent’s pitching, and he never seemed to have a bad plate appearance. The Lions might not have guessed he would pick up the state’s top award, but they knew he deserved it, because his mental approach set him apart.
“There’s a lot of guys who are head cases, who are good, physical hitters, but they don’t know what they’re doing up at the plate. They don’t have a plan. Drew’s got a definite plate plan in his head,” Severa said. “In his mind, he knew he was better than the pitcher, and he was gonna beat him most of the time.”
That same scenario rarely played out in Green’s sophomore year. An injury slowed him early in the season, and though he showed flashes of potential, he finished with a .217 batting average, only five RBIs and just three extra-base hits.
Green felt far more locked in from the start of his junior year, and plenty of factors helped his confidence grow. He had Shane Willoughby hitting in front of him in the lineup and Michael Sinks behind him. Starting every game at catcher intensified his focus. He gained a lot of hip flexibility by stretching more than ever. And he grew steadfast in his weight-room dedication.
“Some of the balls I hit last year that were ground balls and everything else,” Green said, “they kind of squeezed through this year, so that helped the average a little bit.”
The KABC invited Green to its all-star game today in Manhattan to receive his award, though, because he isn’t a senior, he won’t be able to play in the game like LHS teammates CJ Stuever and Willoughby. Forgive the all-star pitchers if they celebrate that fact.
Said Stoll of his Class 6A all-state first-team catcher: “He’s dangerous. He’s a scary guy at the plate.”
As intense as Green is while competing, he is equally laid-back off the field. He’ll play for the Lawrence Raiders this summer and keep working on his hitting in hopes of landing a college scholarship offer. All the while, he’ll have personal expectations — not pressure — as the Sunflower State’s returning player of the year.
“That means I’ll have to come back next year and if not do better, do the same,” Green said. “Hopefully do better.”