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Playing for big Joe

Not only is Joey Greenstein a star on the baseball and basketball teams at Franklin Towne Charter, he’s also the class president. MARIA YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO

Joey Greenstein is a key member of every team he’s on.

The Franklin Towne Charter High School senior was one of the best players on the Coyotes’ basketball team, and now he’s an important cog on Franklin Towne’s baseball team. And on top of being a great athlete, he’s a great teammate and leader.

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That’s probably because he’s been part of a great team his entire life, surrounded by perfect leaders.

His family.

Greenstein is the youngest member of a family that includes his dad, Joe, mom Sarah and sister Emily. The four were an inseparable group that enjoyed each other’s company, and loved nothing more than being goofy and joking around together.

No matter what is going on, they do everything together.

The Greensteins are the definition of family.

On Jan. 5, though, Joe Greenstein suffered a heart attack in the family’s Torresdale home. He died before making it to the hospital, but was surrounded by his family and loved ones when he took his last breath.

“They say that when you’re dying, you can still hear until the end and I hope that’s true because all of us were telling him how much we love him,” Sarah said.

Ever since, the family has been trying to pick up the pieces of the giant hole left in their lives.

Doing it isn’t easy, but as they’ve always done, they’re doing it together.

“There’s no way I could do this without my mom and sister,” Joey said. “My mom is so strong, she’s my Super Woman. She takes care of everything. She is my world. She does everything she can to make sure my sister and I have everything.

“Emily is great. Sometimes, I have bad days, sometimes she has bad days. We are there for each other and for mom. We know we have each other.”

They also have a dad who loved them more than anything.

Joe was a big guy who appeared to have a serious disposition, but his family knew him as one of the biggest comedians around. When “outsiders” would come around, Joe would often joke with them, but people would take him seriously. And while dad was the jokester, the other three would always get him back.

“He could fall asleep anywhere, anytime,” Sarah said. “So the kids would Snapchat pictures of him sleeping, they would take selfies with him sleeping in the background, they would always do things like that. He could just fall asleep out of nowhere.”

When he wasn’t sleeping, he was helping.

“He was the kind of guy who would do anything for anyone,” Joey said. “I know he would do anything for us, but he would do anything for anyone who needed help. That’s the kind of man he was. He’s the kind of guy who would help anyone or do anything for anyone.”

A little over a year ago, he became a true hero.

On St. Patrick’s Day, Sarah and Joe were sitting at home, and Joe’s quick thinking helped save Sarah’s life.

“We were sitting at home and he was falling asleep,” Sarah said. “I was sitting there, reading on my phone and even though he was falling asleep, he was saying, ‘Uh huh,’ at the parts he should have and being a good husband. And as I’m doing it, I started to feel numb.

“I still had my phone in my right hand, but I knew something was wrong. Joe starts to look over at me, and he thought I was playing around, because we do that kind of thing, especially when he’s sleeping, we take pictures and things like that. I dropped my phone, but I couldn’t talk. I thought I was having a seizure or a stroke, I knew something was wrong.”

Sarah was having a stroke. And Joe made sure she got immediate help.

“He told me to stick my tongue out and I couldn’t,” Sarah said. “He jumped up, threw me on his back, got me into the car. I was wearing Joey’s shoes but he got me right over to Nazareth Hospital, and they took care of me.”

Always smiling: The Greenstein family (from left) Emily, Sarah, Joey and Joe, pose for a picture before a dance. Whenever the family is together, there are a lot of laughs and smiles, according to Sarah. PHOTO: SARAH GREENSTEIN

While Sarah was recovering, she wasn’t alone.

Every night, her three sidekicks would rush to the hospital to spend time with her. When one Greenstein needs assistance, there are always three ready to help.

“They would come to the hospital, and they would help me,” Sarah said. “Of course they would make fun of me, as I was talking, they said I sounded like Forrest Gump. But they would ask me to say things like Rumpelstiltskin. I would say it, and they would laugh. It was funny, that’s how we act.”

Now, Sarah is feeling much better from the stroke, and she still has a great time hanging with her two children, whom she described as her world.

The feeling is more than mutual.

“Without my sister and my mom, I wouldn’t be doing so well,” Joey said. “They’re my life. Losing someone like my dad is hard, but it helps that I have people who are there for me.”

His family is his best support system, but it’s not his only pillar.

“The day we got home, the basketball team came over and they were just as upset as we were because he was like a father or a second father to a lot of the guys on the team,” Joey said. “They were great. When I needed someone, they were there. The baseball team, too. These guys have been real friends.”

It also helps to have the help of his coach.

Chris Lauber is Joey’s coach in both of his sports. He’s done a lot more than put him on the path to success on the court and on the diamond.

“(Coach Lauber) has been such a great person and mentor to Joey,” Sarah said. “He’s been way more than a coach. He’s a person I really hope Joey stays in contact with after he graduates, and I have a feeling they will because he’s been so important.

“Franklin Towne has been such a big part of his life. He really came into his own at high school. When he went there, it was him and another friend going there and he really didn’t know anyone else. Now, he plays basketball, baseball, and he’s been the president the past three years. He absolutely loves it there.”

Joey will move on from high school in June and he’ll follow in his sister’s footsteps.

Emily is going to Bucks County Community College, where she is studying nursing. Joey is unsure where he’ll go, but he hopes to play basketball while studying physical therapy.

“I don’t ever want to get out of sports, but I don’t think I can play forever,” said Joey, who missed most of his junior basketball season with a broken collarbone. “If you study physical therapy, you can stay involved.”

He’ll also stay very close with his family.

“We’ve always been so close, the four of us,” Sarah said. “It’s so hard. Joey has always been like me, and Emily was always a daddy’s girl, they had such a special bond. But Joey looks so much like Joe. He’s so much like him in that way, and Emily looks like me.”

Looks aren’t the only way Joey and Emily are like their parents.

Both youngsters have grown up to be very helpful and nice young adults. It’s safe to say they got that by following mom and dad’s example.

“My dad always wanted us to be better than he was, he wanted us to have the things he didn’t have and he wanted us to be better people, and someday a better father,” Joey said. “Everything we do, we want to make him proud, but honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever be a better father. I don’t think that’s possible.

“I’m sad because I miss him, but I really feel like we were lucky. Some people don’t have great fathers or some people don’t even know their father. I only had him for 18 years, but for 18 years, I had the best father in the world.” ••

Joe Mason can be reached at 215–354–3035 or jmason@bsmphilly.com

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