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Zack Greinke said ‘hitting’s not that hard’, then hit a home run at Bank One

(Photo by Dave Kaup/Getty Images)

Articles with memories of former Arizona Diamondback Zack Greinke often include his love of swinging the bat.

The Athletic published a piece about Greinke’s time with the Kansas City Royals in which members of the organization recalled fun stories about the pitcher who spent seven years there and won a Cy Young.

One of the stories involves him at the plate as a young player against the Diamondbacks.

There were lots of stories about him batting: Greinke wanted to be the designated hitter. Greinke told teammate Mitch Maier it was taking too long for the outfielder to hit a home run.

Greinke told manager Buddy Bell and general manager Allard Baird that “hitting’s not that hard.”

He got to prove it at the stadium then known as Bank One Ballpark.

In 2005, Greinke entered the office Baird and Bell were speaking in, Baird recalled to The Athletic.

He came in the office and said, “You know, hitting’s not that hard.” Buddy and I looked at each other and said, “Zack, elaborate.” He started giving all these little reasons, and on the surface they were all good reasons, but it takes more than that to be a good hitter. So he leaves the manager’s office and I turn to Buddy and say, “Let’s map it out. Is there a chance he’s going to hit in Arizona?

It was his second year in the majors. The D-backs have a hitter-friendly park, so it seems like the perfect time to accept Greinke’s challenge.

We go to Arizona, and either the night before he started or the night he started, Buddy and I are in the office. He was going by and I said, “Come in here, Zack. You’re going to get your chance to hit. You still feel it’s pretty easy to hit?” He goes, “I still feel very confident.” Buddy and I looked at each other and laughed.

In Greinke’s second at-bat, he drove a Russ Ortiz fastball to left-center field. Home run.

It was the fourth at-bat of his career.

“I’ll never forget it. Buddy stepped out of the dugout and looked at me behind home plate like, “What?” It was something.”

While it was a great day at the plate, it was Greinke’s worst pitching performance of the season. He gave up 11 runs in 4.1 innings and Arizona won 12-11.

But it’s the at-bat that really sticks with Royals management, and it’s not just the two who let him hit who remember it. Third baseman Mark Teahen recalled the game to The Athletic.

“I wouldn’t say he was happy with his day, but that homer made it a whole lot better,” Teahen said.

That wasn’t the only story involving Arizona.

Apparently, Greinke would scout players at Arizona State baseball games after Royals spring training days were over.

“At a young age, this guy had a feel for evaluating talent. He used to leave spring training and go to Arizona State and watch guys for the draft. He would come in my office the next day and say, “Hey, this kid, I really like him, projectable body, you’ve got to make sure you see this guy,” Baird recalled.

He did it for years. Art Stewart, senior advisor to the general manager, said even after Greinke left the Royals, the two sat behind the plate together during a game. The two became friends, Stewart said.

He said, “Someday I would like to do what you’re doing.” I said, “Zack, you’re going to make too much money to want to do that.”

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