By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — When Tyler Holt was with the Cleveland Indians he chased a ball into the left field corner, churning at top speed, then crashed into the wall and crumpled into a heap on the track.
Big deal? Happens all the time? Well, this was a meaningless spring training game, in the ninth inning when most of the fans were gone and the regular players were already in the shower.
That, though, is what Tyler Holt is all about — a high-kinetic, high-energy baseball players who not only knows his strong points, he knows and accepts his weak points.
And what he accepts with the Cincinnati Reds is a utility role, fill in where needed and try to do something, anything, to win a baseball game.
ON SATURDAY, FILLING IN for Billy Hamilton in center field, Holt made a diving catch of a fast-falling fly ball with the bases loaded, saving two runs. What did that mean? The Reds won, 2-1, so in essence he saved the game with his glove.
Manager Bryan Price talks about ‘The Jonny Gomes Effect,’ when he talks about Holt. Gomes, a role player wherever he goes (and that team nearly always competes), is a high-strung, vociferous, knock-you-down type of guy and a high-visibility guy in the clubhouse, loved by all.
“You need that,” said Price. “They talk about the Jonny Gomes effect and it is about having guys who accept their role and thrive in it. And when they are not playing they are providing some other element of positive influence on the team. That’s what Tyler does.”
PRICE LAUGHED WHEN he talked about what Holt does.
“He is energized and always jabbing the players and he doesn’t discriminate, be it a salty veteran or a rookie,” said Price. “He is poking the angry pig whenever he gets the chance. He is a lot of fun and he is always ready to play and will help us any way possible.”
Holt also laughed when his dugout demeanor was mentioned.
“It’s more of a joke,” he said. “I know my place and these guys take it as a joke. I call Zack Cozart a rookie sometimes but it is all in good fun. I’m a rookie so I play around with the veterans in an ironic way. They know I’m joking and if they didn’t take it as a joke I wouldn’t be doing it. They’ve let me become myself and enjoy the ride.”
Holt calls his humor targets, ‘The Core Four’ — Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart, “And they allow me to be who I am. It makes for a nice clubhouse when you have so many ups and downs over the course of the season.”
AND THE CORE FOUR appreciates what he does on the field when given the chance and his high-octane approach to the game can be infectious.
“I’ve always been a high-energy guy, ever since I was a kid and always had my parents on their toes,” he said. “You have to do something when you can’t put the ball out of the park on every swing. So you find any way you can to find a way to help the team win and you’ll stick around.
“I feel like that’s related to on and off the field success with the guys on the club,” he said. “They realize I work hard and I’ve realized what my role is, to step up and start when I need to when Billy Hamilton or Adam Duvall or Jay Bruce need a day off, or I’ll come in for late innings and play ‘D’ or run the bases or pinch-hit.”
There was a game in Milwaukee on the last trip when Holt was on third and Alfredo Simon was at the plate. The pitcher ignored Holt and he broke for home. And he had it stolen easily, stone cold. But Simon was hit by a pitch and Holt had to return to third base, his first theft of home in a major-league game thwarted.
“I know, that would have been awesome,” he said. “I think I did it once in college (Florida State), but other than that I haven’t had many opportunities.”
Of his catch Saturday, somebody said, “Great catch. A game-saver.” His answer? No explanation, no braggadocio. Just, “Thank you, yes sir, I appreciate it.” And when the inquisitor added, “It’s nice to be able to send somebody out to center field and not lose anything,” he said, “Yes, sir. I appreciate that.”
See? He is humble, too.