On Your Marc: 9/20

Growing up with the Reds

Jay Bruce: power hitter, nice guy

By Marc Katz

I was going to use this space for something else this week, but I can’t get Jay Bruce out of my mind.

Little more than a month after the struggling Reds traded their power-hitting outfielder to the Mets, Bruce visited Cincinnati with his new team, and the Reds decided to use the opportunity to honor him.

During a daytime pre-game ceremony just behind home plate, which included Bruce’s wife Hannah and newborn son Carter, the Reds ownership and management came out to shake Bruce’s hand and watch a scoreboard video of his career with the Reds. The team also presented him with a $5,000 check for his golf charity, which raises money for children with disabilities, of which Bruce’s sister is one.

This wasn’t a team honoring a longtime great as he made his last round about the league in the final month of the season; this was a team honoring a guy it just traded away for two prospects who may never play for the Reds.

I know all the reasons why the Reds had to let go of Bruce, but it was obvious they didn’t like trading away a guy you’d never read about under less than exemplary headlines.

Bruce did more for the Cincinnati community than just run his own charity. He wanted to stay, and while he didn’t knock New York, he didn’t call it his dream location, either. He certainly made it clear he understood why certain trades have to be made.

He could have used the post-game to berate the Reds for letting him go. Instead, he walked into the media room, shook hands with everybody—calling each journalist by name—and praised the Reds for what they did on that day, with the check, scoreboard montage, and all.

“It was special,” Bruce said, “but not surprising, the way the Reds have treated me since I’ve been here. It’s been kind of a blur. In one of those pictures [when he signed at 18-years-old in 2005], I still had braces on my teeth. I grew from a kid to a man here.”

His first full season as a pro, in 2006, Bruce played in Dayton. He was 19 and the only way you’d ever know he was a first-round draft choice was because it was on his written bio.

By my count, there have been 22 players who were drafted in the first round (or in that sandwich space between the first and second rounds) who have played for the Dragons, and Bruce was the most unaffected of all of them.

And the others were all accommodating. It’s just that Bruce was the way he is now right from the start.

You get someone like that and a journalist struggles a bit. Do you write about someone because that person is good enough to be written about, or is that person so friendly and interesting, the journalists overwrite him or her?

I think Bruce falls into both categories, the way Pete Rose did on a larger stage.

Rose hit enough to make the Hall of Fame as a player, but won’t make it because of his ban for gambling. He was (and is) in everybody’s Hall of Fame for talking. I’m not sure he ever turned down an interview while he was playing, and when he was in the midst of his 44-game hitting streak in 1978, he started holding pre-game media conferences so everyone would have a chance to ask him a question and wouldn’t have to do 20 different interviews on game days.

Jay Bruce isn’t going to come under that scrutiny, but he’s already in the top 300 of all those who have played in the majors for homers hit (more than 200) and he’s only 29-years-old. He also drives in a bunch of runs and plays an excellent right field.

He also does not draw attention to himself on purpose, as some ballplayers and presidential candidates do, and if he knows you, he knows you.

He’ll never get the interview requests of a Rose, but he’ll get plenty. Chances are, he won’t turn any of them down, even with a New York media that’s “quintuple the size” of the media in Cincinnati.

“They’re definitely looking for a story,” Bruce said. “Undeniable.”

They’re not going to get a negative one from Bruce.

I know a lot of you are going to make light of this, say Bruce isn’t a good enough player, say I’m writing this only because he has been nice to me.

Well, he is a good player (when his career ends, I think you’ll see some gaudy numbers you don’t expect) and he did make my life easier as a journalist.

We’ve had a narrow overlapping of daily life interactions. I think part of the job here is to tell you how the subject has acted away from the field, but still in the ballpark.

Jay Bruce has been an absolute gentleman in all those places.

The views and opinions expressed in On Your Marc are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytoncCityPaper.com.

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Marc Katz
Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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