Last week we were pretty frustrated with Jay Bruce’s season. Today, we pulled our head together and we’re taking a little more fundamental approach with our young phenom and his development in the league.
Today at the game, we had the chance to sit next to a guy at the game that was somewhat a baseball artifact. He was a man in his 65-70’s, and he did not give me his name. He asked me for a pinch of Skoal. I obliged and gave him one, and soon thereafter we were friends for about seven innings. I wish I’d gotten his phone number. He was from Lexington Kentucky, and he was filled with stories from yesteryear that amazed someone forty years younger like me. And I picked his brain as much as he would allow.
He was friends with Bobby Knight. He was best friends with Yankees GM Brian Cashman’s father. Pee Wee Reese (born in Lexington) had given him autographed bats. He’d played golf with Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra not too long ago. He’d seen all the great ones play. We talked about Ted Williams, Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale and the Big Red Machine. He’d regretfully never seen any of the Brooklyn Dodger greats (Campanella, Snider, etc.) he told me. He had lived in Chicago and had season tickets to Wrigley from the mid 70’s until 1986. He hated the Cubs, but as he said to me; he had season tickets while he was living in Chicago because he was a baseball addict. I loved it. Clearly, this man was a baseball history book and right up my alley. He’d seen enough baseball in his life that he knew his shit, and he knows a ballplayer when he sees one.
My friend who I attended the game with made a statement that he still thought Jay Bruce was going to be pretty good. The old baseball man corrected him, and said he’s going to be one of the best Reds of All-Time. You heard me.
The reality of it is, we’re in a pennant race. It’s easy to lose your head in times like this. Things get said that you don’t mean, almost like a crime of passion. Jay Bruce has been in the big leagues for almost three seasons now. He came up when he was 21, like many great ones do. Should be be penalized because he isn’t playing like a guy who is 28? Many who are at Bruce’s age are still kicking around in AAA or even AA. Bruce is trying to find his way against the best in the world–and he looks pretty impressive in doing so sometimes.
As Bruce fired a one hop strike from the wall in right field today that almost nailed Mike Stanton in the 9th inning at second base; we all remarked that Bruce already looks like those old-time throwback greats that we’d talked about before.
And all of the sudden I realized that Bruce is just fine. He’s going to be great, and we’re damn lucky to have a player and person of his caliber as part of the franchise.
I hope someday I’m the old baseball man in the seats by myself asking a young kid in front of me for a pinch of Skoal; telling him about the times of my youth in which I saw the great Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs play. Maybe I’ll even get to golf with Joey Votto.