Greg Allen Finds Success After Learning from One of the Best
Laurel Wilder | On 02, Jul 2015
Greg Allen was four or five when he started playing baseball, beginning with tee-ball as so many young boys do. Allen, however, was also four or five when he got the idea that baseball could be more than just a hobby.
“[That’s when] my dad will tell you I knew baseball would be more than a hobby,” Allen said. “I was watching Major League Baseball on TV and acting out the movements from a young age.”
The passion that he had for the game as a child has followed Allen through to his big league career. At 22, Allen is embarking on his second season with the Indians organization. He was drafted last year in the sixth round of the draft out of San Diego State University, when he had to make the decision to join a professional organization, or return to school to finish his degree.
“It was definitely a decision that took some time,” Allen said. “You have to think a lot about your future and those kind of things going forward. Having the support of my family during it made the decision a lot easier. My parents were big on me going back to school and being able to finish my degree, so to have that assurance that I would be able to do that and further my baseball career at the same time was good. At the end of the day, it’s a difficult offer to pass up, the chance to play professional baseball.”
However, Allen’s life a year ago was not without its setbacks. Amidst the joy of being drafted, Allen had to deal with a tragedy that hit close to home – the passing of his college baseball coach and the face of the Padres organization, Tony Gwynn.
Nicknamed “Mr. Padre,” Gwynn played 20 seasons for the San Diego Padres. He was a 15 time All-Star and his number, 19, was retired by the Padres following his retirement. Gwynn was inducted into the Baseball of Hall of Fame in 2007 in his first year of eligibility. He recorded a career .338 batting average with 3,141 hits, 135 home runs, and 1,138 RBI. Gwynn won eight batting titles in his career, the second-most in MLB history. Gwynn attended San Diego State, originally choosing to focus on basketball during his first year. He joined the baseball team in 1979, and was drafted by the Padres in 1981. Tragically, Gwynn passed away from salivary gland cancer on June 16, 2014.
“It was impactful,” Allen said of having the opportunity to play for and know Gwynn throughout his time at San Diego State. “I’m glad I got to be part of it through those years, even with the passing of Coach Gwynn, and just to be with him prior to that – even to be with him during those last few days, and to soak up everything I could from him.”
“Obviously, [Coach Gwynn] was a wonderful player, but he was even better off the field,” Allen said. “His character and his morals really spoke for themselves. Just to be around him and the program on a daily basis was incredible.”
Allen clearly was shaped by his work with Gwynn, as can be seen in his performance this season. Allen boasts a .283 average with 75 hits, 15 doubles, and five home runs. He has knocked in 32 runs and is currently riding a seven game hitting streak, with six of those seven being multi-hit games.
Allen isn’t a flashy player, but one who does a lot of things well. He has three errors on the season, where he has spent the majority of his time in center field, where he appears to be a natural and unselfish in his play. That same team-player attitude comes out during conversations with Allen, where he praises the makeup of the Captains’ roster.
“We get guys who grind, guys who don’t quit, day in and day out,” Allen said of his teammates. “[When we snap a losing streak,] that’s big for us. Anybody will tell you we aren’t playing our best. To be able to bounce back and get a team win is definitely huge. We trust our ability and ourselves as players and teammates.”
And Allen certainly trusts himself as a teammate – with two outs and runners in scoring position, he is hitting .375 on the season.
“It all starts with the approach,” Allen says of his and his teammates’ dedication to working hard. “It starts with the staff and extends down to the players. [Our staff] instills values and ethics to stay focused and start competing.”
Along with his current coaching staff, Allen carries the values and lessons instilled in him by Gwynn with him every time he plays the game.
“The biggest lesson I learned from Coach Gwynn is to slow the game down,” Allen said. “I think so much of baseball is about what goes on in your head, your approach, your confidence. He taught me that it’s important just to be able to slow the game down in big spots, be able to relax and breathe, and put your best effort out there.”
“It’s incredible,” Allen said of his time in the professional ranks thus far. “You play baseball for so long and you think you know yourself and the game, and then you get to this level. There’s still so much more to learn and so much more growth that you have. That’s what it’s been about, trying to stay productive, trying to better myself just day in and day out.”
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer