Batter up! Spring training’s here

Since Jan. 24, the average temperature at the Dayton International Airport has risen, the amount of daylight is increasing, the groundhog has made his prediction. All of these signs are telling us that spring is just around the corner. And perhaps there is no greater sign of the change of the seasons than those four little words most everyone knows this time of year, “Pitchers and Catchers Report.”

Yes, spring training is here. Players and teams are convening to the traditional hotspots of Florida and Arizona to pitch, hit, catch, run and do all those other things that baseball players do in preparation for another grueling 162-game schedule.

In the past few years, spring training around here has been met mostly with yawns and the occasional sarcastic side bet on how many games the hometown Reds were going to lose. And of course, the smart money was always on the over. Last year, the Reds broke camp in Arizona only to fire their manager early in the season and meander through a season that saw them lose 95 games; a fourth straight season of losing 90 or more games.

If past results are the best indicator of future returns, I have no objection to anyone not having any faith or confidence in the 2019 edition of the Cincinnati Reds. But maybe, just maybe, this year is different.

While the Reds haven’t done much on the field lately, they have certainly been busy off the field this past winter. While it seems the rest of the league had a pretty cool hot stove season, the Reds’ were on fire.

Since mid-November, the Reds pulled off four trades, a couple of them might even been given the term “blockbuster.” They signed a couple of free agents and more importantly, they let a few players ago. No longer will Reds fan have to roll their collective eyes the next time they hear Homer Bailey is once again on the disabled list. And since stealing first base isn’t allowed in baseball yet, it was probably a good move to let Billy Hamilton move on the Royals. The sake of the fans in Kansas City, I sure hope they don’t use Billy as their next designated hitter.

All in all, the 2019 Cincinnati Reds have very little in common with the 2018 version. Perhaps the most intriguing addition to this year’s team is new outfielder Yasiel Puig. Puig is a twenty eight year old outfielder that comes to the Reds from the Los Angeles Dodgers and while he is decent offensive player, he is probably known more for his boisterous behavior. In Los Angeles, there were few people that had no opinion of Puig, he was either revered or reviled. It will be interesting to see how the big personality he has developed in the West Coast city of Los Angeles will play here in the Midwest.

Another interesting player that the Reds picked up from the New York Yankees was pitcher Sonny Gray. Sonny is a 29-year-old, right-handed starting pitcher who can hurl five separate pitches. He broke into the league with the Oakland Athletics and was actually an All-Star in 2015. He was with the Yankees for the last season and a half and while he wasn’t bad with the Yankees, it was clear that he didn’t like pitching in Yankee Stadium. Perhaps Great American Ball Park will treat him better.

Leading this team is the new skipper David Bell. If you have followed the Reds for any significant amount of time, that name should sound familiar. His brother, Mike, actually played third base for the Reds during the 2000 season. His father, Buddy, was a longtime third baseman and manager, including a stop in Cincinnati from 1985-1988. And his grandfather, Gus, is a Reds legend. An outfielder from 1953-1961, Gus was an All-Star for four seasons and is a member of the Reds Hall of Fame.

So perhaps there is a justified sense of hope with our 2019 Cincinnati Reds. If not, at least we can take comfort that spring is not too far off and we can leave this winter behind.

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William “Bill” Lutz

Contributing columnist

William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at