The first reaction everyone had upon seeing Elijah Green on Friday was universal.
“Big kid,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said.
“Obviously, he’s a big dude,” first baseman Josh Bell added.
The Nationals’ first-round draft pick indeed is big, certainly for his age. How many 6-foot-3, 225-pound 18-year-olds do you know? And then how many of them can put on a clinic in batting practice, then chase down everything hit his way in center field?
“For me, it’s not just one tool. It’s everything he can do,” Martinez said. “I watched a lot of video of him before we drafted him. He can run, he can hit, he can hit for power. His defense, it looks like his first step was really good. For me, it’s exciting to have a kid that has that many tools.”
The fifth overall pick in this month’s draft, Green was formally introduced at Nationals Park before Friday’s game against the Cardinals. He took batting practice with the big leaguers, threw out the ceremonial first pitch (with his father, former NFL tight end Eric Green, catching), waved to the crowd and made the media rounds.
And you couldn’t help but come away from all of it impressed with the young man.
“He seems like he’s got all the right intentions about what to do, and how to go about it and approach everything,” Martinez said. “I’m looking forward to watching his growth over the years.”
Sitting on top of the bench in the home dugout – and being careful not to bump his head on the low roof above him – Green exuded confidence when discussing his skills, getting drafted by the Nationals and the path he now expects to take the big leagues.
Asked how long he figures it will be before he makes his major league debut, he didn’t hesitate to set the bar high for himself. He predicted 2-3 years.
“I just feel like that’s the quickest I can fully develop and mature throughout the process,” he said.
Green signed with the Nats for $6.5 million, right around the designated slot value for the No. 5 pick. He heads to West Palm Beach on Monday to begin his professional career as the highest-paid member of the rookie Florida Complex League Nationals, the lowest level of the minors. It will be hot and humid, the bus rides will be long and life as a minor leaguer will be all too real.
But the right-handed-hitting center fielder believes he’s ready for the challenge. In addition to his obvious physical gifts on the field, he intends to make a difference in the clubhouse as well.
“I feel like I can change the game with one swing,” he said. “I can do everything. A leader on the field, can change the game in every aspect of the game.”
It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks for Green since he was drafted out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. There have been plenty of phone calls. There were brief contract negotiations. Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor, who like Green is represented by agent David Meter, invited him to his house.
“He was like: ‘Come over, so I can say congratulations,’ ” Green recalled.
Green seems to take it all in stride. Growing up with a former Pro Bowler as his father certainly helped him get used to the idea of being around fellow athletes.
So when he walked into the Nationals clubhouse Friday and immediately was greeted by Juan Soto, Green didn’t look or feel out of place.
“He’s very mature for his age,” the 18-year-old said of the 23-year-old superstar. “So I feel like I’m starting to get there. Building up through the minor leagues, I feel like I’m definitely going to get there.”