EVANS, Ga. (WJBF) – Saturday, October 30th, 2021 will mark the 20th anniversary of one of the most memorable moments in World Series history. Evans native Todd Greene was in the middle of it.
Greene won back-to-back state baseball championships at Evans High School before graduating in 1989. He then played four years at Georgia Southern hitting 88 home runs, which remain the third-most in NCAA history. In 1993 he was taken in the 12th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the California Angels and, 12 years later, found himself playing for the New York Yankees on 9/11.
“I lived right on the river there in Edgewater, New Jersey,” he recalled. “So you could see the Twin Towers from our apartment at the time.”
For six days after 9/11, baseball, and the nation, paused. When play resumed on September 17th, Greene and the Yankees returned to a much different place than they had known.
“When we got back and you’re still seeing the missing persons signs everywhere, we realized that we were going to be a pretty big part of the healing process,” he said. “Not just for our city, but for the country at the time.”
Five weeks later the Yankees were American League champions, and on October 30th, 2001, while rescue and recovery efforts continued at Ground Zero, the World Series came to New York. President George W. Bush would throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Todd Greene would catch it.
Yankees starting catcher Jorge Posada was originally supposed to catch the pitch, but as the President made his way through the dugout toward the field, Posada was still in the bullpen warming up starting pitcher Roger Clemens. With no time to think about the magnitude of the moment, Greene grabbed his catcher’s mitt and went to work.
“I knew that I wasn’t going to let President Bush look bad,” he said. “I had to do whatever I had to do, catch it or block it, to make it a positive moment and, of course, President Bush took care of that.”
President Bush walked to the pitcher’s mound, atypical for throwing out a ceremonial first pitch. Most stand in front of the mound. He gave the crowd the now-iconic thumbs up and fired a strike into Greene’s mitt.
“As we all know he threw a great pitch,” Greene said. “I walked out and gave him the ball and shook his hand and patted him on the back and said, ‘I think you’re doing a great job with what’s going on with our country’, and we both kinda went on our way.”
In the 20 years since, it has become known as the most important first pitch in history: A President bringing confidence, and a sense of normalcy, to a shaken nation.
“The most important thing for me, the thing that I take pride in, that I was part of probably the biggest single event to spark the healing and uniting of Americans,” Greene recalled. “All I can say is that I hope it doesn’t take a tragedy like that to happen again for our country to somehow become united again.”
Todd Greene played 11 seasons in the major leagues for six different teams. He now lives in the Atlanta area and serves as a Special Assignment Scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks.