The balloons, buffet line and DJ signaled a celebration, and Hunter Greene was the guest of honor.
Greene greeted seemingly everyone at his going-away party Friday night at the Paseo Club with a handshake, smile and eye contact.
He was engaged.
But the beneficiary of the largest signing bonus in the history of Major League Baseball’s current draft system can’t wait to move on from the pomp and circumstance and get to work.
“Oh, man, I can’t wait to just go out there and be able to swing a bat and throw and play shortstop and do my thing,” the Stevenson Ranch resident said Friday after agreeing to a $7.23 million bonus with the Cincinnati Reds. “That’s something I’ve been looking forward to the most. I can’t wait. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
While Greene’s agents worked to cut a deal with the Reds before Friday’s 2 p.m. deadline, Greene went for a different kind of cut.
The 17-year-old, his father, Russell, and his younger brother, Ethan, shuffled into Romero’s Barber Shop on Lyons Avenue around 1 and stayed until around 1:40.
The Greenes spent the final five minutes before 2 relaxing in their living room.
Then it happened.
According to Russell, the deal beat the deadline by all of eight seconds.
As far as history is concerned, the deal beat them all.
Greene, the No. 2 overall pick in last month’s MLB Draft, agreed to the largest bonus given to a player since the MLB instituted the bonus pool system in 2012.
The deal also includes four year’s tuition at UCLA, according to Russell, who said Greene would be leaving Sunday or Monday for Arizona, where the recent Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks grad will work out before joining the rookie-level Billings Mustangs in Montana.
“It was a really big hug, and we just smiled and laughed and enjoyed the whole process,” Hunter Greene said of his reaction to news of the deal. “We had a lot of fun with it. It was a lot of hugs and kisses and finally being able to accomplish something like that was really cool.”
Russell said he was confident all along that a deal would be struck.
“To be really honest with you, and not sound arrogant, I always knew that his number would be met,” Russell said. “I always knew we’d have an agreement with the team, only because he’s really worked really hard. And aside from working hard, he had his education lined up.”
Had no deal been made, the Greenes were comfortable with Hunter attending UCLA, community college or taking a year off to train.
“Look,” Russell said. “He’s 6-foot-4, 215 pounds. He’s throwing 102 and he’s hitting the ball 450 feet and he can play shortstop. And the MLB already said he can play shortstop.
“Not much of that is going to change by next year. Next year he’ll just be 18 years old. He’ll be a lot stronger and bigger and might even be worth a lot more money next year. It really never concerned us that he wasn’t going to get paid.”
As far as other high picks from the 2017 draft, No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis signed with the Minnesota Twins for $6,725,000.
No. 5 pick Kyle Wright signed with the Braves for $7 million, and No. 4 pick Brendan McKay signed with the Tampa Bay Rays for a little over $7 million.
None of the three, however, possessed the buzz of Greene, who was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in May and tabbed as “Baseball’s LeBron.”
But, unlike the NBA, the road to the MLB winds through a grueling minor league system – something Greene has mentally prepared himself for.
“After you get drafted, it’s really time to go to work,” Greene told The Signal in an interview before the draft. “All that press and social media stuff kind of goes away, and it’s just time to go work out and you’re in the middle of nowhere where there’s not a lot going on and you just have to start your career and stuff.”
Notre Dame shut down Greene as a pitcher after five outings this season, using him from then on only at shortstop.
After selecting Greene with the No. 2 overall pick, the Reds stated they were open to Greene playing the field in addition to pitching.
“He’ll get a little bit of field time. He’ll hit,” Russell said. “Pitching will be his primary, but the Reds have been kind enough to keep the door open for some infield work. That was always part of the deal prior to drafting him.”
What are the Reds getting in Greene?
“They’re getting someone who will work hard as much as possible and go out there and grind it out and give 110 percent,” Greene said, “I know Cincinnati fans care so much about effort. I know every ball club does, but I know Cincinnati looks forward to having a kid who’s going to go out there and produce for the ball club and have another franchise player who gets it done and gets them closer to wining a World Series.”