By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Ryan Gennett owns the perfect baseball nickname but its derivation has nothing to do with baseball.
He goes by the name ‘Scooter,’ refuses to answer to Ryan and it has been that way since he was about three.
Why? Because he was afraid of the Lebanon, Oh., police and the fright is the fault of his mother.
WHEN GENNETT WAS VERY young he loved The Muppets and ‘Scooter’ was his favorite character.
He graduated from a car seat to seat belts when he was three but he constantly unclicked the belt, forcing his mother to stop the car and re-click it.
“As soon as the car started, it was ‘click,’ as I unclicked it,” said Gennett, the Cincinnati Reds recently acquired infielder, plucked off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers. “So she drove to the Lebanon police station, an aggressive move. I actually remember a badge and being scared. The officer asked me, ‘Whats your name, ol’ buddy?’ And I said, ‘Scooter’ Gennett. And my mom was like, ‘What?’ She said to tell him your real name and I said, ‘Scooter Gennett.’ From that day on for a long time they had to call me Scooter because I wouldn’t answer to Ryan. I thought if I answered to Ryan I would get arrested. I made up Scooter and it stuck.”
SCOOTER WAS BORN IN CINCINNATI and lived in Lebanon for about 10 years before moving to Sarasota, Fla., and was a devout Reds fan, which makes his move from Milwaukee to Cincinnati a positive career move for him.
“Riverfront Stadium and Cinergy Field was a second home to me,” he said. “I had a Barry Larkin glove and I’d yell at him to give me a ball. I guess he always saw I had a Barry Larkin glove and he’d always throw me a ball.”
For the first few years of his career, Gennett was a regular second baseman for the Brewers and was a particular pain in the posterior to the Reds. But the Brewers decided to move Jonathan Villar from third base to second base this year. During spring training they played Gennett at second, third and left field.
Finally, they decided to put the 26-yeare-old on waivers and the Reds grabbed him. Manager Bryan Price says although he is young Gennett is a perfect guy to anchor the bench and spot start and is as good as Progressive Insurance if somebody gets hurt.
“I DON’T EXPECT TO BE THROWN into the starting lineup right away,” he said. “I’m here to do a job and whatever that is I’ll do it. Baseball is one of those things where if you get an opportunity and take advantage of it you’ll be in there. This doesn’t seem like the type of team that wouldn’t put the best nine out there and that’s refreshing.
“If you are hitting the ball and playing good defense, there is opportunity. I feel that is how it will be here and it us up to me,” he said, with a confident smile.
It was Gennett’s second Opening Day in Cincinnati, his first while wearing a Reds uniform. He attended one Opening Day when he was six or seven in 1996 or 1997. “I would like to have attended more, but it’s a pretty pricey day.”
And what does he remember about it? He laughed and said, “This is going to sound strange, but the thing that pops in my head the most is the cowboy playing the guitar with only his whitey-tighties on.” He was referring to the The Naked Cowboy, a Cincinnati native now plying his trade on Times Square in New York. “That’s kid of weird, I know, that I remember that. And I remember Marge Schott’s big dog (Schottzie 02, the St. Bernard).”
He will remember Monday’s Opening Day. He banged a two-run home run in the ninth inning to draw the Reds within a run of the Phillies that became a 4-3 loss.
Manager Bryan Price said Gennett told him he likes to hit in Great American Ball Park and he proved it Monday.
“What do I like about hitting here? That’s a good question,” he said. “I don’t know if its a comfort zone, I don’t really know what it is, other than I see the ball good. Obviously, if you see the ball good you have a much better chance of success. Lately I’ve been trying to tone things down a little bit – not try to do too much, stay as relaxed as possible.”
GENNETT LEFT ONE REBUILDING team to join another and said he quickly noted some differences between the Brewers and the Reds.
“It was very refreshing last week when I arrived in Goodyear to join the Reds,” he said. “It was refresing to see how all the guys care about winning and how everybody is connected. I don’t want to say that isn’t how it was in the past with the Brewers, but. . .”
And then he talked about the different environment.
“Being a new guy coming in it was very refreshing to see how the guys are connected,” he said. “There are no outcastes, no cliques, everybody is connected and cares and everybody has the same attitude about how to play the game to win.
“For me, just seeing this team for a week, the arms, a lot guys throwing 95-plus, obviously a lot of guys who can hit the ball with the best of them. There is a lot to look forward to here. You don’t want to have expectations too high, but you don’t want them too low. But with the team’s consistency and attitude, it is very refreshing.”
AS GENNETT TALKED, HE was wearing a flat, beat-up glove that looked as if it was worn by Pie Traynor in 1922, a gift from a fan. “I don’t think I’m ready to whip this out for a game. It is just a fun practice glove.”
It signified one thing for certain. Scooter Gennett is old-school baseball and to use his word, he is refreshing.