Duluth High School graduate Nick Green’s eight-year Major League Baseball career was unpredictable when he was drafted in the 32nd round of the 1998 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Georgia Perimeter College, which has since merged with Georgia State. His ability to fit almost anywhere on the infield and his whimsical attitude toward the approach of baseball helped him rise through the minor leagues to debut with his hometown Atlanta Braves in 2004.
Green still holds several school records at Duluth, where he played with his twin brother, Kevin. He and his wife, Angie, are adapting to life with two children since the birth of their second daughter, Ivy, about one month ago. Their oldest daughter, Indy, is 3 years old.
Staff writer Taylor Denman asked Green about his leadership on one of Duluth’s historically best baseball teams, former coach Lou Llerandi’s impact and his readjustment to his new career in broadcasting.
TD: You went to Duluth High School, but your Baseball-Reference bio says you’re from Pensacola.
NG: That’s where my brother and I were born. We moved to Columbus (Ga.) when we were 2, maybe, and Duluth when we were, like, 4.
TD: So you’d consider Atlanta your hometown?
TD: I didn’t know you had a twin brother.
NG: Yeah, he played three years of minor league baseball and we played at Georgia Perimeter College together.
TD: You still hold a handful of records at Duluth — career batting, career hits, career homers, single-season hits. It seems like that 1995 team is still one of the best — it’s still the second most wins in school history (22). Can you tell me more about the 1995 season?
NG: A lot of it I forget about. I know we made it to the finals against Columbus and got beat 2-1. I was a sophomore, just enjoying my time playing. I never really put much thought into it. I thought we would always be good. So I think that was Lou Llerandi’s second year, maybe. He had a big impact on that program. When he came over, he let everybody know what he expected.
The work ethic he expected was great. Me and a couple other guys still talk to him today. He coaches a summer ball team and teaches at Norcross High School. He made a big impact on that team and me, as well.
TD: What kind of player were you? Were you that do-it-all guy, pitching and playing infield or mostly sticking to the infield?
NG: My arm always hurt, so I played second base my first and second year and shortstop the two years after that.
TD: Where was your brother playing?
NG: He played third base and pitched some. As a sophomore, he was better than I was, but he ended up getting hurt a couple times.
TD: It seems like you were statistically sound. Were you at all disappointed you didn’t get drafted out of high school?
NG: No, I didn’t think about it at all. I didn’t understand the draft or minor league baseball. Even after my freshman year of college, I didn’t understand it that well. All I wanted to do was continue to play something I love. I got the opportunity to play at Georgia Perimeter.
TD: What were those two years at Georgia Perimeter like?
NG: The first year, we had a really good team. We went to Grand Junction, Colo., and played in the (NJCAA) World Series. Again, I didn’t think about getting drafted. I had a pretty good year, and I ended up getting drafted in the 32nd round that year. I had no intention to play pro ball that year, and the Braves had no intention to sign me. That next year, I was interested a little bit more. All I knew is I was getting the opportunity to play pro baseball. I didn’t know about the money, how hard it would be. I just kind of was playing it year-to-year and that was probably the best thing for me.
TD: So you were drafted again after your sophomore year?
NG: The Braves had my rights for a full year, so if I didn’t sign, I would have gone back into the draft.
TD: Essentially you spent that year educating yourself about a year in minor league baseball?
NG: No (laughs). I was just playing. I was under control by the Braves, but I didn’t expect to be in the big leagues. When I was in the minor leagues, I didn’t really understand how far I was. All I was doing was playing year-to-year and wherever they put me, that’s where I wanted to be.
TD: It sounds like, with your approach to playing baseball, it’s hard to disappoint yourself. Is that fair to say?
NG: You know, I was disappointed just by my performance. I never really had expectations. I watched baseball a little bit on TV, collected baseball cards. I don’t think I was the guy that dreamed of winning Game 7 of the World Series. I just liked the competition. For me, the frustrating part was my own performance. I didn’t get mad that someone got moved up ahead of me. I just worried about what I was doing. I didn’t have an attitude as far as an angry kid, I just wanted to be perfect.
TD: The 2004 season, I think you started in Triple-A. Pretty good numbers there .377 (batting average) — .443 (on-base percentage), .455 (slugging). They called you up in the early summer.
NG: It was like the middle of May, I think. The way that worked out is, I was doing well and I was on the 40-man roster. Jesse Garcia, the utility at the time, went on bereavement. So I got a call for three days. The second day I was there, Marcus Giles and Andruw Jones collided and broke Giles’ collarbone. … Who knows what would have happened if the injury didn’t happen? I could have been up for three days and never had another shot. I got an opportunity after a freak thing happened, and I stayed in the big leagues for two straight years after that.
TD: It didn’t seem like you were overwhelmed, at least not right away.
NG: Not at all. I was confident. Baseball is a game of confidence. It doesn’t matter if you’re facing Randy Johnson in a perfect game — like I did in my second career start. My first career start was Ben Sheets’ 18-strikeout performance in Milwaukee. None of that stuff phased me. When you look back, it’s kind of a pretty cool thing. All competitors worry about what they control on the field. People ask me this all the time: Who was the toughest pitcher you faced? It depended on how I felt. If I wasn’t confident in myself, every pitcher was tough. If I was confident in myself, I can’t even tell you.
TD: You had a journeyman career. You stayed in the same division for a few years, but hardly in the same place year-after-year. What was that like?
NG: It was tough, but it was something I got used to. In 2005 I got traded from Atlanta to Tampa (Bay). That was tough because I had just bought a house in Atlanta.
I didn’t have time to move in. I got traded in spring training and didn’t come back to my house until the All-Star break. I got traded again in 2006. Once that happened it got easier and easier. I finished the year in the big leagues in 2006 and 2007, but I wasn’t that guy that was going to have a contract every year. My goal was to put myself in the best situation to get back to the big leagues each year. What I ended up doing, 2007 was the last time I actually rented an apartment. I just stayed in hotels after that. It was fine. I just got used to being around new teammates.
TD: Were you keeping track of guys like Brian McCann who are also coming up at Duluth at the time?
NG: I knew Brian and his brother, Brad. It was hard back then because we didn’t have the same access to the internet. Back then, we would wait until the monthly Baseball America came out to see what everyone was doing. We checked in on a monthly basis, instead of an hourly basis. That’s one reason I didn’t know much about the draft or minor league baseball. The information wasn’t out there.
TD: Was there ever a point when you thought about being a broadcaster while you were playing?
NG: I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I talked to Matt Diaz in 2013 and he had done some radio stuff for the postseason. When I got done playing, it was one of those things where my body felt bad, but I wanted to hold on to the dream. I started working with my dad over the summer and took a job as a car salesman in August 2014. I ended up talking to Tony Schiavone at Gwinnett (Braves).
I ended up doing four games, and it was probably the worst four games I’ve ever called in my life. And it should have been because I didn’t know anything about it. … I quit the car sales job at the beginning of the next season and decided to do it full time. I broadcast maybe 50 games that year, ended up running into this Fox Sports stuff.
To me, it’s like baseball. With broadcasting and baseball, I want to get better every day. I think that fulfills what I need as far as competitive things are concerned.
TD: What was the hardest part to adapt to, at first?
NG: One hard part for me, first, you don’t want to fail on TV. When you fail on TV, your face gets red like a tomato. You don’t know where you’re going, but you have to keep going because it’s live TV. You have to think outside the box a little bit, and the terminology I used in baseball is different from what you say on TV. Not clubhouse talk. And when I was playing, I was always focused on myself. That’s why I admire Freddie Freeman, every time he does an interview, he remembers what teammates did and how they contribute. When I was playing, I didn’t remember any of that stuff. It was a challenge to see the whole picture. The more you do it, the better you get.
TD: What would you say is the biggest change in Major League Baseball since you last played?
NG: Bunting basically doesn’t exist anymore. The speed game is starting to come back a bit.
I remember the Marlins teams of the early 2000s with Juan Pierre and Louis Castillo at the top of the lineup. I kind of see that a little with the Braves now, and I think that’s a valuable asset to have.
The pitching has changed so much. In my last year, I think I saw five guys throw 100 miles per hour as starters. Now, that’s the norm. When I first came up, lefties threw 88 to 91. They had a two-seam, changeup and breaking ball. Now guys throw 95-97 with a cutter and slider. Pitching has evolved and the fact they throw harder is amazing. The guys are going to learn how to hit it, too, which is amazing.
TD: What’s it like to cover the Braves right now? They seem way ahead of schedule.
NG: I don’t think anyone expected them to do as well as they are. I don’t think anyone expected the offense to be as good. (Manager) Brian Snitker has done a great job. (General manager) Alex Anthopoulos has done a great job since he came over.
To me, they’re playing relaxed baseball. You don’t see them go into prolonged slumps so far. I say, enjoy it, man. We haven’t seen this kind of baseball from the Braves in a long time.