After finishing the 2018 season with the best batting average in the nation, Penfield-native Greg Cullen didn’t think he could have done much more to impress Major League Baseball teams.
“My adviser said there is a possibility you’ll go Top 10 but don’t get too down on yourself if you don’t get picked Top 10,” said Cullen. “Really all I need is the opportunity.”
Cullen finally saw dreams become reality on the third day of the 2018 MLB Draft, when the Atlanta Braves took him in the 15th round with the 442nd overall selection on Wednesday.
“The past 48 hours have probably been the craziest time of my life so far,” said Cullen at the Penfield Town Hall Fields on Thursday. “It was great getting that call.”
A graduate of McQuaid, Cullen took his game to new heights this past season for Niagara University, culminating with an NCAA-leading .458 batting average. He recalls the game really clicking for him during summer ball in Calgary, Alberta last year.
“Slowing the game down and not trying to get too sped up out there and trying to eliminate mental mistakes was really key for me this year,” said Cullen. “In year’s past, I think my problem was I’d swing early in the count and nearly get myself out. This year my walk totals increased, they almost doubled. I think that’s why my average was so high, I had better discipline.”
Cullen will get his first taste of pro baseball this summer when he soon goes to the Danville Braves, an advanced rookie-level team in the Appalachian League. He’ll return to Niagara this fall to finish classes and his senior season.
“It’s still sinking in,” Cullen said. “I still think of myself being a kid and playing the game that I love. Not many kids get the opportunity to play varsity baseball or D-I baseball and now the pros. I’m just going to keep working hard and hopefully keep this dream going.”
It’s not often that a 15th round pick lands in the spotlight, but Greg Cullen did make waves on social media after his girlfriend, Sara Thomas, posted a picture of a homework assignment he did as a 6-year old that listed his dream of playing for the Atlanta Braves or Toronto Blue Jays.
“Our family was moving into a different house. Through the moving and unpacking stuff, they found that worksheet and my mom was like ‘We have to hold on to this just in case,'” said Cullen. “Sara said after the draft ‘Didn’t you list the Atlanta Braves as one of your favorite teams?’ We saw that and were like ‘Oh my gosh, this could go viral.’ It was pretty neat.”
Before the draft, Cullen was looked at by the Dodgers, Pirates, Reds, and Phillies. He expected to be taken by one of those teams, before the Braves came into the picture. Cullen knows he still has a long road ahead of him before he gets the called up to the big leagues, but he’s thrilled to land with the Braves and their track record of producing young stars.
“It means the world. I was thinking after the draft that The Braves are one of the teams I would really like to go to,” said Cullen. “It’s a phenomenal, historic organization. I’m so excited to get started with the Braves and keep working hard.”