South Carolina Gamecocks catcher Grayson Greiner waits for a throw during the Chapel Hill Super Regional of the NCAA Baseball Tournament at Boshamer Stadium. (Photo Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)
By Willie T. Smith, Greenville News
COLUMBIA - South Carolina baseball coach Chad Holbrook isn't shy when discussing catcher Grayson Greiner's role on the team.
He puts it out there for anyone who wants to hear.
"I said in the fall, he is as close to irreplaceable as any player we've got," Holbrook said. "That position is awfully important, and he is awfully talented. He is the heart and soul of our team in many ways."
Greiner, a junior, has been a starter since stepping on the USC campus. The son of Mark Greiner, who played basketball at USC for Frank McGuire, he enters the 2014 season as potentially the best collegecatcher in the country.
He played with the USA Baseball CollegiateNational Team during the summer and has been selected to the Baseball America and Perfect Game preseason All-American second teams. Baseball America ranks him the No. 24 prospect for the 2014 MLB draft.
"It is something I'm humbled and honored to receive and to be listed with some of those guys around the country," said Greiner. "After I see it, I kind of shake it off. That is more for my family and friends. They cherish that probably a bit more than I do.
"All I'm focused about are team accolades."
The Gamecocks must fill some key roles in order to return to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series after missing the trip in 2013, its first absence since 2009.
Greiner believes USC has what it takes to make that trip this year.
"There is a quiet confidence in the locker room," he said. "We all know what the goal is around here in Columbia for the baseball team.
"We're not in the locker room saying, 'Omaha, Omaha, Omaha' like Peyton Manning does. We're just trying to get better every day. If all the hard work pays off in the offseason, I think we're going to be up there at the end of the year."
Greiner will be called on to catch most of the Gamecocks' games. Dante Rosenberg, who handled the backup position for the past two seasons, has graduated. There is not another experienced catcher on the team.
"We need to keep Grayson Greiner healthy," Holbrook said, "and I'm going to try my best to help in that deal."
Greiner believes he's ready to catch as often as Holbrook will allow.
"My legs are fine," he said, "and I'm ready to go."
On the checklist before South Carolina opens its season Feb. 14 against Bucknell is to find a third weekend starter, a closer and other relievers.
"We lost some big guys out of the bullpen from last year in (Adam) Westmoreland and (Tyler) Webb," Greiner said. "The thing about this year's pitching staff is there are a lot of guys who can throw. We've got some guys who can pump it up there pretty hard, some power arms and we've got some guys who can get you off balance with their off-speed stuff.
"It is going to be interesting to see how the bullpen shapes up and how our rotation works out."
Whoever ends up on the mound will be throwing to one of the best catchers in the country.
"He knows this program inside and out," Holbrook said. "He handles our pitching staff; our pitching staff is extremely confident throwing the ball to him. They love throwing the ball to Grayson.
"I wouldn't," Holbrook said, "trade Grayson Greiner for anybody."