Home / News / Greysen Carter's new perspective with Vanderbilt baseball after wildfire

Greysen Carter's new perspective with Vanderbilt baseball after wildfire

Aug 21, 2023Aug 21, 2023

Greysen Carter came home for his first winter break at Vanderbilt with two suitcases and a duffel bag.

He returned to Vanderbilt a few weeks later with just the duffel bag.

On the morning of Dec. 30, 2021, Carter was working out at his club facility like normal. But he was only there for 10 minutes before he heard word of a wildfire that had broken out nearby.

A Colorado native, Carter was used to hearing about wildfires, but most of them were in the mountains rather than near his hometown of Louisville, a suburb of Boulder. But this fire, which came to be known as the Marshall Fire, was different. Carter's mom was at Costco when she called her son with the news that they needed to evacuate.

The family got out safely, but their house, along with hundreds of others, burned down and took with it everything but the things they had packed when evacuating.

For Carter, the wildfire was only the start of a long, whirlwind year that included losing his spot on the team before getting an unexpected invite back and hitting 100 mph on a radar gun. Now, after finding new perspective and earning a second chance at Vanderbilt, Carter is a key arm for No. 6 seed Vanderbilt baseball heading into Friday's NCAA Tournament regional opener (7 p.m. CT, SEC Network) against Eastern Illinois at Hawkins Field.

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From a young age, Carter's competitiveness was on display — at the kitchen table.

His older sister, Peyton, remembers the rage she felt when Greysen cheated at Monopoly and Sorry so that he could win. As they got older, both became successful athletes — Peyton played basketball at Colorado and Elon — and sometimes played pickup games. Peyton is competitive, she said, but Greysen took that spirit to a new level.

"There was a time where I could beat him (at basketball) fair and square," Peyton told The Tennessean. "And then you got into like middle school in high school, and he became like, four inches taller than me. He was dunking on me, and then I'm like, ‘OK, now I’m the sore loser.’ "

Peyton went through the recruiting process first and lent her advice to Greysen as college programs began to show interest in him. Greysen said he first got noticed as an eighth grader who could already touch 90 mph with his fastball, which earned him a spot on a travel team based in California.

While there have been some successful pitchers from Colorado, top talents in the state often lack exposure due to both the relative unpopularity of high school baseball in the state and the way altitude affects pitches: breaking balls break less and batted balls fly farther.

"Obviously, (the altitude) did help them with their conditioning and their really good stamina,David Castillo, Carter's coach at Fairview High School, said. "But here in Colorado, again, it helps to have three pitches and obviously location."

Peyton acted as Greysen's consultant of sorts throughout the recruiting process, instructing him on how to sell himself to coaches. Eventually, Greysen committed to Vanderbilt because of the academics, history of success and the track record of the coaching staff. Peyton, three-and-a-half years older, remained close to her brother after beginning college in 2017.

The wildfire happened after Carter's first semester, before he had even pitched in a college game. Peyton, in her final year at Elon, wasn't even home at the time as her team prepared to start conference play.

Unlike his sister, Carter had a few weeks to process everything before going back to school. Baseball gave him a distraction through the spring, a rhythm he could get in every day. But the weight of what he’d been through was always there. He called Peyton frequently. She was the person who understood both the weight of the situation and sticking to a college athlete's schedule through it all.

"I just had to kind of figure out what I needed to focus on," Carter told The Tennessean. "I would always just keep in touch with my family and figure out what's really going on. But I guess those first couple of weeks coming back from it, it was still kind of a shock, and that's kind of how it was the whole year. I felt like it was like yesterday that it happened, but in reality it was like three months ago."

But the adversity wasn't just off the field for Carter. He threw 5⅓ innings his freshman year, walking 10 and striking out six. After the season, with Vanderbilt facing a roster crunch, he was cut from the team.

Carter played summer ball in the New England Collegiate Baseball League for a few weeks, but being cut served as a wake-up call that he needed to be doing more to get better if he wanted to make it at this level. He went to California for two days to work with a private coach, where they focused on adding more power to his delivery. Then, he headed back to Colorado to be with his family and try to find his next stop.

As an incoming sophomore with very little playing time, even at Vanderbilt, Carter saw little interest from major programs and planned to transfer to a junior college, where he could get innings and either get drafted or transfer to another Division I program. Then, shortly after the draft in mid-July, Carter got a call from Vanderbilt pitching coach Scott Brown.

Vanderbilt wanted him to come back.

"I was like, 'Hell yeah, let's do it,' " Carter said. "So it was, I mean that whole year was an up and down of a lot of emotions. So it was probably as crazy a year as I've ever had in my life."

While working out in California, something clicked for Carter. He slowed down and simplified his mechanics and utilized his lower half more to generate power.

A pescetarian his whole life, Carter has never had meat other than fish, and growing up he ate fish only once every few months. But as part of a plan to get stronger, Carter figured out how to add more protein to his diet. Part of that was eating more fish, and it paid off – Carter says he's gained 45 pounds since arriving on campus.

Carter knew the work he’d put in, but when he faced live hitters for the first time in the fall, he wasn't sure what to expect. Afterward, a few people told him he had been sitting 97-99 mph with his fastball when he had previously topped out around 96.

Then, starting in a scrimmage against Samford in October, Carter ripped off a fastball and snuck a glance at the scoreboard.

It read 101.

That, Carter said, was the first time he’d ever hit triple digits.

"I couldn't show it on the mound," Carter said, "but I was like, 'Oh, wow.' "

Now, as a sophomore, Carter has taken on a much larger role. He's served as the primary midweek starter for most of the season while also getting key outs in relief appearances in series wins over South Carolina and Arkansas. In 13 games (seven starts), he has a 4.08 ERA.

There are still areas of improvement – key among them being his 28 walks in 28⅔ innings. As much as Carter's competitiveness drives him to never be satisfied, Peyton is the one to remind him to take a step back and remember what he's done to get to this point.

"For someone to respond how he did, it's just remarkable," Peyton said. "He was struggling last year. … To come back from getting cut from the team and performing the way he is now. I mean, he still is thinking he can do better. And I'm just like, Greysen, sometimes you have to take a step back and be like, look at what you have overcome. If you were looking at yourself a year ago today, realizing how far you've come, even though it might not be the standard that you have for yourself, it is something to be so proud of."

A year ago, Carter didn't make the travel roster for the Corvallis Regional. Now, as Vanderbilt prepares to host the Nashville Regional, Carter has gone from tragedy and the fringes of the roster to a pitcher who has earned his spot.

Carter has new perspective. Having to be there for his family from afar made Carter grow up fast, and he now feels more comfortable understanding what it takes to play baseball in the SEC, where he's fallen short in the past but is continuing to grow.