By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — It was evident something different was happening Monday night in Great American Ball Park when several fans were spotted wearing Cincinnati Reds jerseys with ‘Frazier’ and ‘Bruce’ on the backs.
Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce, both former Reds, are back in town for the next three days, playing together for the New York Mets.
For Frazier, traded to the Chicago White Sox in December of 2016, it was his first trip back to GABP because the Reds didn’t play the White Sox, nor did they play the New York Yankees, for whom Frazier played last season.
For Bruce, traded last year to the Mets, it was his second visit. He returned to GABP shortly after the trade deadline deal when the Mets came to town.
“It feels great to be back here, a lot of great memories here,” said Frazier. “Me and Jay have talked the last couple of months a lot about coming back. This is where we both started and where we had a lot of fun. But it is a new adventure. I haven’t been here in a couple of years, so it will be exciting to come back and play in front of these fans again.”
“I remember the one year when we clinched the National League Central, I had my first walk-off home run at this stadium, just meeting all the people here and seeing everybody,” said Frazier.
Bruce said his second time in is different than his first time in last year.
“This is different for me because the first time in was such a whirlwind so soon after the trade,” he said. “I had my family with me last time with a very young baby. This time is more relaxed. I always feel this is part of me, a home with so many great memories. It’s fun to see how the city has grown and it is just fun to be back.”
The fans didn’t forget. When Bruce came to the plate in the top of the first, he heard the familiar cheer he heard when he played here: “Bruuuuuuuuce.” And former teammate Homer Bailey walked him on four pitches. Then in the third he pulled a two-run home run into the right field moon deck, familiar territory for him.
Frazier and Bruce met the media in the visitor’s dugout three hours before Monday night’s game and hugs and pats on the back abounded.
“Giving hugs to the reporters shows how big of a family, how good of a unit it was here,” said Frazier. “My family had a great time here as well.”
Bruce had the game-winning home run to clinch the National League Central for the 2010 Reds and that remains the biggest moment of his career.
“Man, it still ranks at the top,” he said. “Last year in Cleveland was special when I had the walk-off hit to give us 22 wins in a row. It was so different, though, because when I hit the home run in 2010 I was such a young kid and didn’t know any better. To feel that I’ll be a little part of history with the Reds with that home run is something I’ll never forget. So many awesome memories.”
Frazier and Bruce, both highly popular with the fan base, both were traded for prospects as part of the team’s rebuilding plan. Since leaving the Reds Frazier has played with the White Sox, Yankees and Mets. Bruce has played with the Mets, the Cleveland Indians and is now back with the Mets.
“I tell everybody this is one of the worst businesses in the world,” said Frazier. “You never know where you are going to be tomorrow. You just have to keep playing and focus on the task at hand. That’s what Jay and I have been doing our whole career, so we just have to keep moving on.”
Yes, there is little stability for major league players, but the bank account is usually more than stable. Frazier owns a two-year $17 million contract and the Mets will pay Bruce $39 million over the next three years.
Frazier and Bruce love their reunification and Frazier said, “It’s great. It’s weird because the lineup changes and either I’m batting in front of him or I’m batting behind him. I’m sure he hears me yelling at him on the on deck circle, cheering him on. It’s a comfort feel. We play well together.”
Said Bruce, “I feel in this game you don’t get to become close or get to know a ton of people very well. Even before he came up to the majors, in spring training we got to know each other and spend a lot of meaningful years together. He is the guy on the team I know best and that’as a comforting thing.”
Bruce looked out at the field, then glanced toward the home dugout occupied by the Reds and said, “It is still a little odd to be in this dugout. We came here to play well, play good baseball, and hopefully do that.”
The Mets started the season with a flurry of victories, winning 11 of their first 12. But they have not only cooled off, they’ve darn near frozen themselves. They came to Cincinnati hauling a six-game losing streak and losers in 10 of their last 12.
After the Mets signed Frazier in the off-season, Frazier remembers advice Bruce had given him early in his Cincinnati career.
“Bruce taught me to be myself. I’m emotional, I’m a loud guy, as he knows,” said Frazier. “And I haven’t changed. He told the Mets guys before the season, ‘Be ready for him because he is going to be bringing it.”