In their inaugural season, the New Britain (CT) Bees have stumbled a little bit, sitting in fourth place in the Atlantic League Liberty Division. Even with the team’s recent struggles, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Their hope lies with a core group of players ready to step up for the Bees. Outfielder Greg Golson is one of those players.
Golson – originally from Austin, Texas – is in his first season with the Bees. He arrived in New Britain anxious to be a major contributor to the new team.
Golson began playing baseball much later than most, starting at the age of nine. “No one in my family really played baseball,” said Golson. Although he started at an older age, that didn’t stop him from finding a way to fall in love with the game. “We had a big back yard and my dad had some broken golf clubs, so I picked up some rocks and started hitting them with one of them.” Golson’s parents must have noticed something in the manner in which their son swung the thin clubs as well as the eye-hand coordination needed to hit with precision; they subsequently signed him up to play baseball.
Baseball was not Greg’s primary sport throughout his four years at John B. Connally High School. Golson concentrated on basketball and track, particularly basketball. He played year round and was on the varsity team as a freshman. As for football, he left that sport to his brother. “I didn’t play football; my brother did at the Naval Academy.” Despite his love for basketball, baseball kept creeping into the back of his mind. “(There was) something about baseball that I was hooked on as soon as I started playing.”
That ” hook” was the sound of the bat hitting the ball, “The first time I hit a ball well, I could see the ball going off in the distance.” Golson compared that feeling to the first time someone hits a golf ball. “It was like when you hit your first drive; it was that kind of feeling and it hooked me.”
Unlike other players on the Bees, this three sport athlete has played only two positions throughout his career in baseball. “I started playing shortstop while at Connelly High, but my arm motion was too long, so they moved me to the outfield.” That has been Golson’s position on the field ever since.
His move to the outfield was a beneficial one. Golson was selected in the 2004 MLB Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, twenty- first overall. He had achieved a goal he had set at a young age. “I was so motivated and my goal was to be a first round pick”, Golson said. “When I got drafted, it was like OK, that’s done, let’s go to the next step.”
Golson is a driven, goal- oriented player, who never wanted to stop and look for satisfaction. His mindset was to achieve everything on his list of goals. To be a first round pick was one of those goals. His next step was to experience being a high round pick in a major sport arena such as Philadelphia. Philly fans are devoted and supportive of all of their teams and Golson wanted to be a part of that. Golson shared that feeling with former first round pick of the 2008 MLB Draft, Anthony Hewitt.
“It was an experience, being able to adjust to the fans in Philly”, Golston stated. “Hewitt and I are roommates, and with him being a first rounder, both of us had the same kind of experience where we didn’t realize how much pressure we put on ourselves during that time, but it’s something I wouldn’t take back.”
Although this may not have been on Golson’s list, he can add playing for two playoff teams, one of which (Phillies) went on to win the 2008 World Series. Greg also played for the New York Yankees in 2010, when they lost to the eventual AL Champions Texas Rangers. While Golson didn’t get as much playing time during those periods, he did, however, have the privilege to play for two great managers: Charlie Manual (Phillies) and Joe Girardi (New York Yankees).
“Both were awesome managers that were easy to approach,” Golson said with enthusiasm. “Even though I wasn’t an everyday player, they (Manual and Girardi) made it a point to make me feel comfortable and welcome. I have nothing but praise for both managers.”
While playing with the Phillies, one memory in particular sticks out to Golson: Manual and his penchant for hitting. “You could tell he LOVED hitting, ” Golson said. “He would be behind the cage for the last hitter of the last group watching swings. You could just tell he really enjoyed hitting and talking baseball.”
Which leads us to the present and Golson’s performance with the Bees. While his stats might not jump off the page, you have to see him play in person to truly appreciate his game. When you look at Independent Baseball, the “Spring Training” is less than two weeks, meaning hitters only get an average of twenty at bats before the season. Pitchers, both starters (3-4 starts) and relievers ( a couple of appearances) have limited exposure as well. Subsequently, it takes about a month to really get comfortable as a player, no matter what position he plays. “I’ve yet to get a hundred at bat’s yet, so to look at statistics now wont’ show you anything,” Golson stated.
This enthusiastic outfielder is correct. Normal spring training in the pros is over a month and change, not counting pitchers and catchers reporting. Independent ball players have to adjust quickly, and the realization is baseball has and always will be a sport won by the tortoise, not the hare.
“I try to do something every day to help the team win”, Golson remarked, “whether that be stealing a base or seeing eight or more pitches; anything to help the team win, that’s what’s going to get you noticed.” All independent players share in Golson’s goal to return to or play in the major leagues, but it’s his devotion to the game and his team that enhances his level of play and makes him a standout on the field.
Golson has the right attitude to return to that ultimate level of baseball, having the confidence that led him to be a first round pick by the Phillies in 2004. “Knowing that I was there, that I played in the big leagues, gives me confidence that I can be back there, ” Golson said. “Looking back, early in my career, I wasn’t ready. Maybe when I was with the Yankees I was, but I’m a more mature player now than I was before, both in my approach, as well as my overall baseball IQ.”
Baseball has a funny way of policing the bad, awarding the humble and the deserving, and just to add to the show, make story book dreams come true. For Greg Golson, his dream that started by hitting rocks with a broken gold club, might one day again become true. If the fans weren’t rooting for him enough during the home games in New Britian, this reporter was cheering him on even more from the sidelines.
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