Bruuuuuuuuuuce

Thanks, Jay Bruce

I grew up a die-hard Reds fan. Shocker, right? I was passed down the love of baseball and especially the Cincinnati Reds from my late grandfather, Charlie. My first big Reds memory was in 1995 when the Reds swept the Dodgers in the NLDS. I was only 8 years old at the time, but I can vividly remember Game 3 when the Reds destroyed the Dodgers 10-1 to secure the sweep. I also can then remember the painful sweep to the Braves, most vividly the final game of the series when the Reds got beat 6-0.

Baseball weekly

I lived and breathed Cincinnati Reds baseball for the remainder of my childhood. My grandmother got me a subscription to baseball weekly, and I would study the Reds statistics. I could tell you every player’s batting average (side note: funny enough, I would end up writing “Please stop using batting average” a few decades later for Redleg Nation). I had a baseball encyclopedia, and would look through old Reds player’s statistics. I remember begging my parents to let me stay up late to watch west coast games, because while only select Reds games were available on network television, nearly every west coast game was televised because it was outside of primetime (at least that is how ten-year old me remembers it).

The Reds unfortunately like many teams moved their entire television broadcast to cable in 1999. My family didn’t have cable, so I was out of luck (although as soon as I moved out for college they decided to get it….how rude). I tried my best through my early teenage years to follow the Reds on the radio, but my attention span couldn’t handle it. The combination of that, and the Reds being terrible in the 2000s made me end up losing track of my beloved Redlegs.

I kept a casual eye on the Reds, but in my teenage years I found other passions to keep me occupied. Sports weren’t as big of a deal to me then, but I did become a big college basketball fan, and jumped on the Bengals bandwagon. Just how bad was my falling out with the Reds? I believe the first game I saw at the Great American Ballpark was in 2006…2006! Yikes.

I went to college in Virginia starting in 2006. A couple of my closest friends in college, Will and Steve were huge baseball fans. They were also big Atlanta Braves fans, but my heart chose to forgive them for 1995. Will got me hooked on fantasy baseball, and Steve and I would go see the Lynchburg Hillcats, a minor league baseball team in the area. The two of them helped me start building a passion again for baseball over my first two years of college.

Freel shirt

Enter 2008. Everything was building up for me to become fully invested again in baseball. I remember talking to my older sister about the first thing that I wanted to do when I came back from college from the summer was to catch a baseball game. She got me all-you-can eat seats for one of the first days I was back in town, and we went down to the Great American Ballpark on dreary, rainy night to catch a game.

I wore my Ryan Freel shirtsey, mainly because I believe it was the only Reds apparel that I owned at the time. The parking attendant said something along the lines of “oh you guys are here to see that Bruce kid make his debut.” Bruce? Who is this Bruce guy they are talking about? I was still a long way from memorizing the Reds top 30 prospects list, and had no clue who the parking attendant was talking about. However, he was excited, so I was excited. There was a small crowd at the ballpark that night, but there was a special buzz.

The rest was history. Jay Bruce batted leadoff in his debut, and he quickly made a huge impression on not only me, but everyone in attendance. Bruce reached base in five of his plate appearances, stealing a base as well, and firing up the small crowd.

That was the night I fell in love with Cincinnati Reds again.

The rest of that summer, I was down at GABP as many times as I possibly could. I worked at Kings Island that summer, and remember seeing Bruce shirts and jerseys every day. I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one who caught Bruce mania. I remember his first home run, which was a walk-off against the Atlanta Braves on a Saturday afternoon. That was as good as it gets. Well, until Jay Bruce hit another big home run a couple of years later.

Each year I became more and more invested in the Reds. That growing passion culminated in 2010, when the Reds had the most memorable season of my lifetime. I was fortunate to be in attendance on September 28th, 2010, when Jay Bruce hit the home run heard around the tri-state.

Thanks, Jay Bruce.

The Reds never won a playoff series, and Bruce might not have lived up to the ridiculous hype that surrounded him with his call-up and his hot start. However, Jay Bruce was what helped me fall in love with the Cincinnati Reds again. Sure, I probably would have jumped on the Reds bandwagon again in 2010, but it was more special, at least to me, to have watched that team through their growing pains of 2008 and 2009.

I’m now following on a day-to-day basis the Cincinnati Reds, who are currently 21 games under .500. Maybe this is karma for not being around during mid-2000s. If so, I’m sorry Nation. This is my entire fault.

So as we bid farewell to our old friend Jay Bruce, I say thank you. I will of course always remember the big clinching home run in 2010, but it was the faithful debut in 2008 that made a lasting impact on me.

15 thoughts on “Thanks, Jay Bruce

  1. Anyone see Bailey’s comments yet?

    While he is actually wrong in the end (we do need to lose now), he has every right to question hurrying back to this team. He also has a guaranteed 100 million contract so there is that.

  2. While I am fine with some appreciation for Bruce, this love fest seems to be getting a little long in the tooth. Bruce was a decent player on decent teams but was also partially to blame for the lack of sustained success. I wonder what the reaction to this being a Votto trade would be. Votto is at least 4 times better than Jay but I bet most people would be celebrating getting rid of his contract (which is probably under-market right now anyway).

    • Bruce was a very good player on some really good teams. He was a big reason those teams were good. Blaming him for a lack of “sustained success” is silly. The 2014 season was almost certainly knee related and maybe some of 2015 too based on what happened with Votto’s similar knee injury. And a healthy, productive Bruce wouldn’t have made much of a difference in those years. Yes, Votto is much, much better. But if Votto is the standard, we wouldn’t celebrate anyone.

    • This is what happens when a likable player no longer plays for your teams.

      A lot of RLN readers like pieces like this far more than pieces on RE24 or WPA, so we try to come up with stuff like this when it makes sense.

      • I will be on board for the Reds HOF induction. I would hope that this team winning again will overshadow the loss of fan fave players.

  3. Bruce coming up in 2008 was what renewed my hope that perhaps the Reds could win again. I never gave up watching them or rooting for them but a lot of those years were like this year with the exception that our farm system still had not fully recovered from the Marge Schott period. And you are absolutely right Nick, Bruce cannot be blamed for a lack of sustained success. I would think it was more of extending Brandon Phillips and never filling that left field gap in the lineup. And some bad luck with injury. Johnny Cueto in NL Championship. Bruce and Votto with their knees. And a Front Office that has seemed to think for years that we could get by with a bench of cast offs. I rant sorry.

  4. Bruce was part of the core group that made us relevant.He was a good player on some very good teams and I wish him all the best.Class act and a true professional.

  5. My favorite Reds player of all time was Wally Post. Yes, I have been a huge Reds fan since the days of a true pennant race. Since the time of the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants and two leagues of eight teams. The years when pennant winners from the National and American leagues went straight to a World Series. I watched Williams and Spahn. Witnessed Jackie Robinson running the bases, Frank Robinson and Vada Pinson in their rookie years.
    Jay Bruce as a Cincinnati Red was one of those types of players. Even more he offered character and role model behavior for not only younger players, but fans both young and old. When the Reds traded Robinson to Baltimore, it was justified saying that he was aging, losing skills and at the peak of his value. Sounds somewhat similar to the Bruce situation. But, Jay Bruce is only 29 years old. We paid Votto and Bailey so why not Bruce. Jay Bruce would be productive in a Reds uniform for another 6-8 years. Why not build around he Votto and Bailey.
    If money is the issue, why are we paying two general managers salaries. Why Votto over 200 million and Bailey over 100. Jay Bruce is the type of young man needed in a Reds uniform, he loved it and was family. The Bruce trade was another historic mistake in the annals of Reds trades. What are you thinking, Frank Robinson!

    • My days as a Reds fan are almost as long as yours. Sooner or later, the Reds will regret trading Bruce and not paying him. The FO, like you said, did not try to fill the left field position with a quality player. There was some bad luck involved with injuries. But Bruce will someday be in the Reds HOF. I don’t understand these guys that say Bruce was only an average player. He was a very good player. Any player that hits 30 homers, drives in 100 runs, makes All-star teams, and wins Gold Gloves can play on my team. Those are the players that you build around. I know all the “reasons” given for trading Bruce by the FO and the fans, but I just disagree with them. The Reds should have kept Bruce. They will miss his bat in the lineup. Plus, he was a great person. He is one of my favorites all-time.

  6. I was 11 when the Reds traded Big Klu, and I cried. I will be 69 tomorrow so I won’t cry.But trading Jay still hurts a lot. Good Luck buddy and have a great rest of your career.

  7. Terrific piece. The “modern” baseball fan can be hyper-critical & statistic-driven. But to win you can’t live by stats alone – you must understand character, commitment and desire to build a championship team. In a small market (maybe even a large one also), you get a narrow window with which to capture that magic. Players peak, a manager pushes the right buttons, and gems rise out of nowhere to have memorable seasons.
    Jay Bruce was an integral part of the success and return of competitive baseball to Cincinnati. Jay deserves some of the credit for the rebirth. The author’s own baseball rebirth was right in line with Jay’s rise to the Major Leagues.
    Best of luck in NY Jay – we’ll be rooting for you!

  8. I won’t join the debate as to whether Bruce should have been re-signed or traded. Suffice to say that Jay was truly a class act and a very good player. I will miss him (and he just doesn’t look right in a Mets cap).

    Nick, thanks for sharing your story. Nicely done.

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