Joining a new team in September has to feel a whole lot like being the new kid at school, but center fielder Harrison Bader is taking it all in stride.
Bader, who grew up in the shadows of Yankee Stadium, was put on waivers by the Yankees on Aug. 29 and scooped up by the Reds two days later. He said he “loved every second of” the opportunity he had to play for his hometown team, but business is business, and Bader is now focused on being the boost Cincinnati thinks he can be in the stretch run.
Unexpected transition aside, let’s be honest: Battling for a postseason spot can take the sting away from a whole lot of things.
“To play meaningful baseball in September, regardless of the organization, is always the goal,” Bader said. “And to find myself, obviously, in different colors is a bit strange, but to go out there and compete every day allows me to just kind of quiet all the noise.”
Bader came to the Reds with a Gold Glove pedigree and has since regularly showcased his skills for Reds fans. He stole a hit from St. Louis’ Richie Palacios on Sept. 9 and added another robbery in Detroit in the seventh inning Tuesday that had a 71 percent hit probability.
Bader’s uncanny ability to read the ball off the bat and plan his routes accordingly is coming in extra handy this month. The Reds visit spacious outfields like Comerica Park (Tigers), Citi Field (Mets) and Busch Stadium (Cardinals) during a stretch in which every win counts.
“This is a great opportunity,” Bader said. “It happened out of nowhere, and very unexpectedly, but to play meaningful baseball in September is really important, and nothing makes me more motivated -- more determined -- to finish strong.”
His bat has started off slowly, but it’s also come through when it’s crucial, like in the form of a two-run double that broke a tie in the series opener in Detroit.
Cincinnati manager David Bell was a bench coach for the Cardinals when they drafted Bader in the third round of the 2015 MLB Draft and was in his final year of that role when Bader was a late-season callup in ’17. Bell has seen what Bader is capable of with the bat, and he’s eager to watch it unfold as Cincinnati makes its final push.
“Just his presence in the lineup and his presence in the outfield [have helped],” Bell said. “He's already really impacted us in a lot of games without swinging the bat his very best. … It's not always easy to fit in right in the middle of September. But it makes it easier when you go out and have to win a game together with your teammates; that kind of brings everyone together. So, he's here for the right reasons.”