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HAMMOCK: Greene enjoyed knuckleball experience, brief return to baseball

The reality, and the oddness of his situation, set in for David Greene in mid-January.

He was on a pitcher's mound, in front of cameras and announcers, and the former star quarterback for South Gwinnett and Georgia stepped off the mound during a three-inning round of tossing strictly knuckleballs to junior college hitters.

Sounds like a crazy dream, right? Only this was real. Well, reality television at least.

Greene was one of the former college and NFL quarterbacks --his fellow competitors were Doug Flutie, Josh and John David Booty and Ryan Perrilloux --on "The Next Knuckler," MLB Network's first reality show that brought the quarterbacks together to learn the knuckleball from Tim Wakefield, among others.

"I had a moment there when I stepped off the mound," Greene said. "I'm married. I've got two kids. I live in Grayson. I'm in the commercial insurance business. And here I am in the final pitching a three-inning game against a local college team. I hear (my coach and legendary knuckleballer) Charlie Hough yelling, 'Come on, let's get them out.' You see the announcers.

"I started thinking, 'What am I doing? And how did I get into this position?"

Greene, 30, got a random call about the show in October and agreed to consider it, but within a month he found out "The Next Knuckler" was a go. Before long, he joined up with the other QBs for a week of knuckleball training and competition.

Josh Booty was the show's winner, but Greene advanced past the rest of the field and finished second in last week's season finale on the MLB Network.

"I did it more for fun than anything," said Greene, who played for four NFL teams from 2005 to 2008. "I was just going to compete. It wasn't like I was trying to restart my career. I just wanted to see if I could do it and be a kid for a few days. We all had fun. We had a good time filming the show."

For those of us who saw him in high school, it shouldn't be surprising to see Greene fare well on a baseball field. He was a good high school player at South, a strong left-handed bat for typically strong Comet teams in the late 1990s.

But he was a first baseman who loved to hit. As a pitcher, it didn't work out. He didn't pitch after his freshman season of high school and he had never thrown a knuckleball until the show.

"Coach (Roger) Parham tried me (at pitcher)," Greene said. "He thought this big guy, 6-foot-3, ought to be able to pitch, but it didn't work out."

That changed last month when Greene, for a week at least, was a pitcher. He didn't win the competition, but he was better than Flutie, Perrilloux and one Booty.

He came up short against Josh Booty, not surprising since the two-sport star was a top-five pick in the MLB Draft and played briefly in the majors. As his prize, Booty got a non-roster invitation to Arizona Diamondbacks spring training, with the guarantee that he could pitch at least one inning of a Cactus League game.

"(Booty's) a great athlete, the fifth pick in the draft and he has a World Series ring with the Marlins," Greene said. "Clearly, he had a leg up. He played in the pros and I didn't even pitch in high school at South Gwinnett."

While he didn't come home as the champion, Greene was OK with that. He enjoyed the experience and is back to his normal life in Gwinnett County.

"It was a great time," Greene said. "They filmed around Christmas at mom and dad's, so that was fun. ... (My son) Jordan's 5 years old now, so he was fired up to see himself on TV. I'm glad I did it."

Will Hammock can be reached via email at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.