Greg Litton was a big shot baseball player as a preteen. Or, at least, that’s what he thought. He was living in paradise, the Panama Canal zone where he could go to school and then walk to the Atlantic and be snorkeling over a coral reef in the crystal blue waters in a matter of minutes. His father was a professional-baseball-player-turned coach, and Greg grew up knowing he wanted to follow in his footsteps.
Everything was going according to plan. He was one of the best players in his school—until President Jimmy Carter gave the Canal back to the Panamanians, and Greg’s father moved their family back to the States. It was a big change. After all, baseball is a much bigger deal in the United States than it is in Panama.
“I learned real quick that, wow, I’m not as big a stud as I thought,” Greg said.
The family moved to Pensacola, Florida, right in the heart of baseball country thanks to the sunny weather and elite sports schools. Even the professional teams head south to the Sunshine State for spring training.
That new, higher level of competition didn’t work out well for the boy from Panama. He didn’t even make the ninth grade junior varsity baseball team.
But here’s the kicker, the real important part of Greg’s story: He didn’t quit.
“A lot of people at that point would have quit and given up,” Greg said. “I just learned real early that I’m not the most talented guy, and if I’m going to make it, it’s going to take some work.”
From that moment, he started working harder, doing everything he could to reach his dream of playing professional baseball. He finally achieved that goal when the San Francisco Giants drafted him right out of college.
“I played with a lot of guys who were a lot better than me that didn’t make it,” Greg said. “They didn’t make it because they didn’t want it as bad, they didn’t work as hard, and they quit and gave up.”
Wouldn’t it be a nice little story tied up with a pretty bow if Greg’s story ended there? Or if he went on to play a few decades of baseball with an eight-figure contract?
But, like most things in life, his story didn’t work out perfectly.
See, Greg is what they call a utility player. He didn’t play every game. Instead he stepped in as a pinch hitter, outfielder or second basemen when they needed him.
“It’s hard enough to hit major league pitching when you play every day,” Greg said. “But when you play once or twice a week, it really becomes almost impossible.”
Greg spent five years playing in the Giants’ minor league affiliates before getting called up to the plate for the major league. When they did call him up to play, he was ready. One of his first games as a major-league baseball player was in the 1989 World Series where he hit a home run.
While that was the chance of a lifetime, it didn’t mean Greg was set for the rest of his career. He ended up going from the minor leagues to the major leagues a handful of times as they bounced him between teams.
“I got called up to the major leagues 10 times, but that means I got sent down nine,” Greg said. “To be playing major league baseball and then be called into an office to be told you’re going to the minor leagues … I promise you, it’s like getting your heart ripped out. But every time it made me stronger, and I just decided I was going to do whatever it took to get back up.”
Greg ended up making history in his career—he was the first player to play all nine positions in one game, earning him a spot in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Greg’s story—particularly the way he bounced back after getting knocked down over and over again—is why he was tapped to be the keynote speaker for the upcoming Community Celebration hosted by Trideum Foundation to benefit Cornerstone Initiative.
The event will be at Holmes Street United Methodist Church on August 12. Trideum and the Trideum Foundation has covered all of the expenses, ensuring that 100 percent of ticket sales go straight back to Cornerstone Initiative.
It’s dress-casual, so leave both the cocktail dresses and the jeans at home—think Sunday best for this event.
The celebration will bring businesses, churches and community groups together for a night of food, celebration and inspiration.
Greg’s message is a message that will inspire everyone.
“My whole career and process is about commitment, perseverance, teamwork, never giving up,” Greg said. “I’m stubborn. I’m hardheaded.”
“My message to these kids is … I don’t care what your background is. I don’t care what kind of trouble you’ve been in. I don’t care where you’ve been. I care where you’re going,” Greg said. “I’m basically going to show them that if I can do it, you can do it.”