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September 20, 2013
Grayson Greiner refused to allow the grind of catching every day last season break him down physically or mentally.
The junior from Blythewood lifted his batting average by 76 points to .298 with four homers and 38 RBI after batting just .222 as a freshman in 2012, while still possessing the bazooka throwing arm that makes major league scouts drool.
Because of an injury suffered by backup catcher Dante Rosenberg, Greiner started 49 of 63 games behind the plate last season, with an additional seven starts as DH.
Greiner despises sitting on the bench, preferring to play every game rather than taking a day off every now and then.
"I want to catch unless I can't (physically)," Greiner said. "I want to be out there and help my teammates win. But we have a great group of catchers behind me, and they've been working hard and I've been working hard. We've been working together as a unit. We'll see what we're made of out here (with the start of fall practice)."
Greiner spent the summer with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team after earning second-team All-SEC honors, helping the CNT pull off a historic five-game sweep over Cuba en route to an overall 20-3 record.
He batted .255 (13-of-51) with one homer and eight RBI in 16 games for Team USA and threw out seven of 17 would-be base stealers.
"It was awesome. I got to play with 20 of the best players in the country," Greiner said. "It helped me elevate my game and my confidence because I know I can hang with those guys. It helped me bring a leadership role back to Columbia. I'm going to try and be more of a leader than I have these past couple of years. I'm one of the older guys now."
Greiner, who has a career batting average of .260 with 10 homers and 70 RBI in 119 games, said he worked on gaining consistency at the plate and spraying balls around the field during his time with Team USA.
"As a baseball player, you're always making adjustments," Greiner said. "The moment you get satisfied is when you start getting worse. I'm always making adjustments, always trying to get better and play my game."
Even though he had just 11 more at-bats last season as a sophomore than 2012, Greiner had 18 more hits, scored six more runs and drove in six more runs than as a freshman.
The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Greiner is virtually guaranteed to be on the Johnny Bench Award Watch List before the start of the season.
Commanding a young pitching staff in which multiple true freshmen are expected to play prominent roles, USC pitching coach Jerry Meyers appreciates the unwavering veteran leadership Greiner will bring to the table.
"No doubt about it, it's certainly a huge help with the experience, demeanor and knowledge he has," Meyers said. "He has off-the-charts makeup in terms of working with pitchers and communicating with me throughout games and throughout the week. The intangibles he brings sometimes you can't describe. Behind the plate, it's a big bonus having Grayson Greiner back there."
As one of the most experienced players on the team, Greiner recognizes he will be counted by the coaches on to provide peer leadership to the large group of first-year players expected to dominate the 2014 roster.
"Sometimes it's easier said than done, but after a bad at-bat or bad inning in the field you just have to put your arm around them," Greiner said. "Some guys you can get in their face, some guys you have to lay off. You just have to see what the personality is. I will try to take some of them under my wing and try to help them relax and have fun out here.
"I'm going to do whatever I can to help these guys and be a resource for them."
Greiner is confident the young USC pitching staff has the ability to get SEC hitters out, despite its relative inexperience.
"SEC pitchers are good (overall), but our pitchers are really good as well," Greiner said. "Catching those guys this summer (on Team USA) taught me a lot and helped me gain more respect for the game."
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