OBSERVATIONS: Dayton Dragons Get Off To ‘Hairy’ Start

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, wondering when we’ll see MLB games without the fans dressed as if they are on vacation in Antarctica.

‘Give me head with hair, long beautiful hair.
Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen.
Give me down to there hair, shoulder length or longer.’

Rhett Lowder looks as if he was part of the Broadway Show, ‘Hair,’ with his hair shoulder-length and waxen.

If it was back in the 1970s when Bob Howsam and Dick Wagner were Cincinnati Reds dictators Lowder’s best friend would be a barber.

Howsam and Wagner prohibited hair below the ears, prohibited sideburns, prohibited beards, even tiny, scraggly fuzzy ones. They might have prohibited breathing too much oxygen.

This, though, is 2024 and as long as you can pitch, the Reds say you can grow hair to the laces on your spikes. Besides, Lowder’s long hair might help keep him warm tonight.

Lowder, the Reds’ No. 1 draft pick out of Wake Forest last June, makes his professional debut for the Class A Dayton Dragons tonight in Day Air Ballpark.

Lowder hasn’t lost a game in two years after going 15-0 with a 1.87 ERA last year at Wake Forest. In 120 innings he walked only 24 and struck out 143.

“We’re going to find out,” said Lower when asked not about pitcing with long locks but pitching in frost-bite weather. “We should be good. Every year in college we start early and it’s pretty cold in North Carolina in the beginning.”

While he is beginning his career in ‘A,’ ball, Lowder was afforded the opportunity to mingle with the Real Reds in spring training, with a seat and a locker in the clubhouse.

And he picked a good companion. He hung out with Frankie Montas, who has started his season with the Reds at 2-0.

“I spent most of my time around the new guy,
Frankie Montas, because we went on the
Reds Caravan together,” said Lowder. “I got to spend a lot of time with him and picked his brain. He was a very good dude to talk to.

“It was a lot of fun (in spring training) and I learned a lot,” he said. “It was good to get thrown out there to face some big leaguers. It gave me a lot of confidence and showed me what I need to work on.”

The Reds drafted Lowder last June and sent him to Dayton, but because he had thrown 120 innings at Wake Forest they shut him down. No pitching. Just weight work.

“I had mixed emotions because I wanted to be out there,” he said. “But I was coming off a long year. It was probably best for me and we’ll pick it up from here. I definitely wish I’d been out there.”

He goes out there tonight to show that action speaks louder, or Lowder, than words.

—STEAL AWAY, JAY: Jay Allen II played only 28 games last season for the Dayton Dragons and stole 10 bases. Five came in one game.

Five thefts in one game is something not even Billy Hamilton did when he stole 103 in one season for the Dragons. He never even stole four in a game.

And who is Jay Allen II. He came as a compensation draft to the Cincinnati Reds from the Los Angeles Dodgers after they signed free agent Trevor Bauer.

Where is Bauer now? He was last seen wearing the uniform of the Diablos Rojos del Mexico, pretty much blackballed by MLB teams because his baggage is over the three-suitcase limit.

The Dragons also have a triple—digit pitcher, Luis Mey. During his last two appearances last season at Daytona Beach, he twice spun the speed gun numbers at 103 miles an hour.

If it does it at Day Air, he’ll set the park’s land speed record. Hunter Greene owns it now at 102 after he broke Aroldis Chapman’s 101.

—CUT THE MUSTARD: It is difficult to not like and admire Elly De La Cruz with his bright lights smile, his knock-you-out personality, his willingness to do interviews in his just-learned second language and his ocean-sized unyet tapped talent.

But. . .is he trying to be too flashy? Yes. He might have to temporarily change his first name to Nathan until they get the hot dog out of him.

Just make the plays, Elly. No nonchalant underhand flip-throws to firsrt base, no trying to flip the ball out of your glove instead of using you hand and arm.

And, I repeat and repeat and repeat, put him in center field where he could cover more ground than Lewis & Clark.

—WHIFF, WHIFF, WHIFF: While it is noteworthy that the Reds took two of three from the Phillies in Philadelphia, it has to be alarming, somewhere, that the Reds struck out 42 times in those games.

The leading culprit was Will Benson with seven, Elly De La Cruz whiffed six times and Christian Encarnacion-Strand struck out five times.

Benson, a left-handed hitter, is lobbying for more playing time against lefty pitchers. Manager David Bell afforded him that opportunity against Philadelphia southpaw Christopher Sanchez and Benson struck out three straight times.

—QUOTE: From Babe Ruth: “Don’t let the fear of strikiing out hold you back.” (Hey, if The Bambino says it. . .)

—OUT AT HOME: Al Lopez is one of 90 Tampa natives to make it to the major leagues. After a solid career as a catcher, Lopez retired and the city named a ball park after him, Al Lopez Field, for several years the spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds.

Lopez then became a major-league manager and during one spring training game Al Lopez was ejected, tossed out of a game. . .played at Al Lopez Field.

—IS IT LATE OR EARLY: Yes, I picked the New York Mets to win the National Leaague East. When I last peeked at the standings, there was a ‘1’ under the wins column for the Mets and a ‘5’ under the losses column.

Hey, I didn’t realize these were the second coming of the 1962 Miserable Mets. But it’s early, right? As Yogi Berra said about the west coast, “It gets late early out there.”

—ONE. . .THE LONELIEST: The Cincinnati Reds lost the 1972 World Series to the Oakland A’s, four games to two. Did you know the Reds lost all four games by one run — 3-2, 2-1, 3-2 and 3-2?

And one of Cincinnati’s wins was by one run, 1-0. The only game not decided by one run was the Reds’ 8-1 win in Game Five.

The five one-run games remains a World Series record.

—WAY, WAY BACK: Indulge me as I go back 72 years to 1952 and Hardesty Park in Akron, Ohio. I was the first baseman for the Akron National League All-Stars. We were playing the Canton All-Stars in the Little League tournament.

It was tied, 1-1, in the bottom of the last inning, two outs, nobody on. McCoy due up. Did I hit a walk-off homer? I did not.

A torrential rain hit and the field was flooded and unplayable. It was decided to resume the game the next day frrom where it was when the rain fell.

The next day we took batting practice and infield practice. When the game resumed, I hit the first pitch the opposite way and it one-hopped the left field fence. A double.

On the next pitch, our shortstop, Francis Rollins, lined a single to center. Game over. We win, 2-1. The kids from Canton drove the 25 miles to our park for two pitches.

OK, carry on.

—QUICKY QUOTES: What can I say, what can I tell you?

FROM former Reds pitcher Jim Maloney on his fastball: “I was throwing so much heat that Connie Mack Stadium (Philadelphia) caught on fire.”

FROM former outfielder Johnny Damon when the Red Sox were one win away from winning the World Series: “You know, a lot of people say they didn’t want to die until the Red Sox won the World Series. Well, there could be a lot of busy ambulances tomorrow.”

FROM Reds manager Sparky Anderson: “I only had a high school education and, believe me, I had to cheat to get that far.”

FROM former Pirates pitcher Bob Walk on his bad golf game: “I tell myself that Jack Nicklaus probably has a lousy curveball.”

FROM Deion Sanders after pitcher Sterling Hitchcock threw a pitch at his head: “I don’t even know who Sterling Hitchcock is. I thought he was Alfred Hitchcock’s son.”

—PLAYLIST NO. 37: Some songs on the fringes:

Baby Come Back (Player), Play Me (Neil Diamond), Don’t Know Much (Aaron Neville & Linda Ronstadt), Heart of Gold (Neil Young), Lovin’ Her Was Easy (Kris Kristofferson), Oh, Girl (Chi-Lites), Up Around The Bend (Credence Clearwater Revival).

Annie’s Song (John Denver), Sunday Morning Coming Down (Johnny Cash), Hey Jude (The Beatles). Jackson (June & Johnny Cash), Galveston (Glenn Campbell), In The Ghetto (Elvis Presley).

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