By Hal McCoy
CINCINNATI — When Dione Warwick sang about parking cars and pumping gas in her song, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” she wasn’t singing about Stuart Turner.
If she was, the lyrics would have been, “washing cars and pumping gas,” because that’s what Turner did when he was in high school in Eunice, La.
Not any more. Turner wears Cincinnati Reds uniform No. 32 and the 26-year-old catcher sat in the clubhouse early Thursday morning, preparing to make his major league debut in the afternoon, catching Rookie Davis.
TURNER’S UNCLE, KENNY TURNER, owns Turner’s Conoco, a family business in Eunice in which his father and aunt also work. Turner and his brothers spent work time around the business, too, mostly on weekends.
“We were forced to work there as kids, sort of to teach us a lesson,” said Turner. “It was to make sure we didn’t want to do that in the future. We had to wash down cars on Saturdays, sometimes during cold days like this. And it wasn’t too fun sticking your hands in those buckets to wash cars and to pump gas.”
TURNER, THOUGH, LEARNED his lesson well. No more washing cars and the only thing he sticks his hand into these days is a catcher’s mitt.
Turner is a Rule V acquisition. The Reds drafted him away from Minnesota when the Twins didn’t protect him on their 40-man roster. He cost $50,000. The only drawback is that the Reds must keep him all season on the 25-man roster or offer him back to Minnesota for $25,000.
And that is a possibility when catcher Devin Mesoraco completes a 20-day rehab assignment. Until then, if and when, the 26-year-old Louisianan is pumping adrenaline instead of gas.
It is rare that a rookie pitcher (Rookie Davis) and a rookie catcher (Turner) make their debuts as batterymates on the same day. It is a first in modern Reds history, but other teams have done it. The last time was 2008 when the Washington Nationals started rookie pitcher Shairon Martin and catcher Luke Montz.
“It is gonna be a fun day, regardless of the weather,” said Turner. “I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
TURNER SAID HE AND DAVIS talked Wednesday about their impending mutual debut and Turner said, “We wondered how often that has ever happened, a rookie pitcher and a rookie catcher both making their debuts on the same day.
“But Rookie (Davis) is somebody easy to work with and throws a lot of pitches in the zone,” said Turner. “It should be fun and he makes it easy on a guy like me.”
A guy like him? Baseball America rates Turner as the best defensive catcher in the Reds organization.
Turner has plenty of support for his debut — his wife, one of his brothers, his mother, his dad, his aunt all were in the stands. So, who is watching the gas station? “That’s always kind of self-running and dad doesn’t need to be there. My uncle and a couple of other guys have that under control.”
MANAGER BRYAN PRICE has no concerns about starting a rookie pitcher and a rookie catcher on the same day, both making their major league baseball debutante dance.
First of all, Thursday’s game was an early day game after a late night game, meaning regular catcher Tucker Barnhart needed the day off. And Turner is the only other catcher.
In addition, rookie pitcher Amir Garrett will make his major league debut Friday night in an extremely hostile environment, St. Louis, and Price wanted Barnhart guiding Garrett through that snakepit.
“I wanted Tucker with Amir on the road and have Stuart here at home with Rookie,” said Price. “Stuart is going to do just fine. I’m not concerned at all.
“Certainly the experience Tucker Barnhart provides is a benefit for all our young pitchers, but we have to get Stuart acclimated to this environment,” said Price. “If we are going to have any initial success this month as we wait for Devin it will be because Stuart can handle these types of situations.”
To Turner is it one and the same — washing cars, pumping gas, catching rookie pitchers, facing veteran pitcher’s while batting.
“This experience for me has been everything I could imagine,” said Turner. “Even spring training, coming over to the Reds. Nothing short of great. I’ve enjoyed it — this team, the players, the coaching staff. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future has for me.”
To make it to the Reds, Turner skipped Triple-A. He played last year at Double-A Chattanooga where he hit .239 in 97 games with 22 doubles and 41 RBI. Defense, though, is his thing. Maybe that’s what washing cars and pumping gas does for you.