Q&A: Gennett on Reds career, 4-homer game and more

May 28th, 2024

The Reds Hall of Fame presented by Dinsmore continues its Signature Series in 2024. At select home games throughout the season, former Reds players will meet fans and sign autographs in Williams Family Champions Gallery inside the Reds Hall of Fame and at the Hall of Fame Shop in the First Star Fan Zone.

On Wednesday, the Reds welcome back . Gennett played for the Reds from 2017-19, which included an All-Star season in ‘18. On June 6, 2017, the second baseman forever etched his name in Reds history by becoming the first player in franchise history to hit four home runs in a game. The 17th player in Major League history to accomplish the feat, Gennett also went 5-for-5 and tied a franchise record with 10 RBIs in the game.

Prior to his visit, Gennett spoke with the Reds about his playing days in Cincinnati, that magical four-homer night, his community efforts while playing for his hometown team, his current life in Florida and much more.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Aside from the four-home run game which we will get to, what do you recall most fondly about your time here in Cincinnati?

The first thought I have is when I found out that I was going to be a Cincinnati Red. I was born in Cincinnati, so growing up, I dreamed about playing for the Reds one day. Obviously, you have to make it to the big leagues first and be lucky enough to have an opportunity to play for any of the teams. But man, I still really can’t fathom that my childhood dreams came true. And the day that I found out, I really felt like I was dreaming.

Once I met the guys, that's when it started to feel real. And I think about how I started out with the Reds and how I ended up making it into the everyday lineup and becoming an impactful piece there for a few years. But it was a process, you know, and it wasn't easy, but I was up for the challenge. And what's really important to me is: one, finding out my dream came true that I'm playing for the Reds; and two, that this isn't going to be easy. And I persevered through that.

Those first few months, my goal was just to be the best teammate I could be, help the team win at whatever cost and whatever role that would be. And I think I did a good job of that. And then, you know, obviously the four-home run game happened. And, again, that was a little surreal. I had to pinch myself, make sure I wasn't dreaming again. But I think that was a result of all the hard work not only that year, but all that we put into playing this game. For that to happen for a player like me, I just think it’s amazing.

You arrived here just before Opening Day in 2017 after Milwaukee placed you on waivers. That transition had to be tough. What was going through your mind? And how were you able to handle switching to a new team right before the season's about to start?

My first goal was to introduce myself to everybody. The staff, players, everybody involved. It's important to do that because I didn’t have the offseason or all of Spring Training to do it. So, there are players that weren't expecting me to join, and I might have taken a spot on the last day from a guy that had busted his butt for two months. And that stinks. I definitely didn't come into that 2017 season like a normal player would. I had gotten away from being a platoon player and was used to playing almost every day at that point with the Brewers, and then it's like, boom, I'm back on the bench. But I had been through it already, and I think that's why the Minor Leagues are so important. You can go through struggles down there when no one’s watching or talking about it, and those times will prepare you for tough situations later in your career. I'm just thankful that I had gone through some ups and downs in my career.

When I got over here, I had to earn my starting spot. José Peraza was playing second at that point and had a great year the year before. He was deserving of the opportunity, and I completely understood. But "What can I do to help the team?" was my mindset, and that was getting to know the players and staff first and then during the game be there to do whatever. If someone forgot something in their locker, I'm going to run and get it, you know? Just what can I do? You're paying me to be here. I want to be here. I love this team. I love this city. This is where my heart is at.

So, what do you need from me? I'm more than willing to do it. And that's how I think I got through that weird situation. But it's just really distracting yourself with constructive ways to help. And that ended up working out great.

Scooter Gennett became the 17th player in Major League history to hit four homers in a game on June 6, 2017.

I think that mindset partially answers my next question. You played here only about two-and-a-half seasons, yet it seems like you endeared yourself to the fan base almost immediately. What do you think it was that kind of ingratiated you to the fans so quickly and so strongly?

I guess it's hard not to root for somebody born in the city and that loves the team before they ever played for them. You see guys get drafted by the Reds and then they start getting around the people and the city and realize like, "Wow, there's some really good people here." There's a lot of history and a very healthy tradition of successful baseball. And I grew up knowing that. And I think the real fans recognize that it's amazing this kid has the opportunity to play for the team he dreamed of playing for one day.

I also think just the way that I play and the way I was taught to play the game is a thing that people respect. Playing the game hard and having respect for all the players that have come before you. With the rich history of players that came before me with the Reds, it's an honor to put on that uniform. When they told me I was playing for the Reds, I was not in shock. I just kind of laughed, like, "Are you kidding me?" When you get drafted by a team, you don't want to tell them, "I wish it was the Reds," but it's something you keep close to your heart. And when they picked me up, I was finally able to tell everyone this is a dream come true for me. So, I think the fans knew it was real and it was something special.

How often does the four-home run game still come up in conversations when you bump into fans or meet people? Do you ever just sit back and think, "Man, that was pretty cool."

As time goes on, it becomes even more unbelievable for me, just because of how hard baseball is. It's hard to hit one home run in a game, and I think the most I had hit before that was two. To hit three and then four, it's just like, "Wow, something special's going on here." I'm very blessed, making it to the big leagues, and then my big dream as a young kid was to play for the Reds and that comes true. And then kind of battling and fighting through some tough times to get an everyday role on the team, and then to have that kind of game. It was incredible. I think everyone there witnessing it was in shock that one of the littlest guys on the team's doing something that's never happened in this organization and very rarely in baseball.

And I just go back to God is real, and for whatever reason, He was showing through me that day that anything's possible in life if you really care, you treat people right and treat yourself right. You can do some amazing things. I'm just very humbled that for whatever reason, my name got called that night.

Scooter Gennett went 5-for-5 and tied a franchise record with 10 RBIs on June 6, 2017.

You said after that game -- this is seven years later, so you can be honest -- that all you wanted to do was put a good swing on the ball in that last at-bat. Can you really tell me you weren't trying a little bit to hit a home run?

I'm not saying I've never lied before in my life, but that was the truth! I learned, and I wish I learned it was sooner, that as a player, less is more. The hardest thing to do in sports, or at least in baseball and hitting, is when you get that one swing opportunity to be in a relaxed state of mind and not press, not to get too tense and tight. Because tight and tense muscles don't perform as good as relaxed, loose and reactive muscles. And I learned that not too late, but I wish I had learned it earlier, because there were some years with the Brewers that I was pressing. You can see all my muscles in my arms flexing and I'm overswinging and missing balls.

And that night, I was 0-for-19 going into the game, and I reached a point where I told myself: "I'm going into this game relaxed and am not going to press. Just see the ball and hit the ball, clear my mind." My first at-bat, I got jammed, but I got a hit and an RBI. If the game ended there and I end up 1-for-4, that’s not a bad night. And then boom, a grand slam. It's looking good that we're going to get the win, so then it was easy for me to really keep relaxed. And I was just on that night. Again, it was just being relaxed, not trying to hit a home run. It’s just like golf. If you go up to the tee box and you try to smoke that thing and hit it as far as you can, it's probably not going to end up well. But in golf, the ball isn’t even moving, and in baseball, the pitcher is supplying all the power.

You participated in a lot of off-field events at the ballpark and in the community while you were here. Was that always important to you? What made you do so many of those things that a lot of guys don't necessarily want to do?

We could talk about this answer for about an hour, but to keep it short, it’s the way I was raised. When I was 10 and moved to Florida with my mom and my sister, we would go into retirement homes around the different holidays. We didn't have any family members there, and I remember thinking this is kind of odd, but my mom’s like, "You'll understand." And we would walk into random rooms with candy canes or whatever stuff and I saw these older people light up, and suddenly I knew that we were there for them, not us. Putting a smile on their face when they're going through tough times. And we did a lot of that kind of stuff growing up. My mom's got an amazing heart. I knew that at the end of the day, it's not all about me.

There are a lot of cool things you can do in life to help others, as simple as holding the door for somebody or saying hello when you're walking down the street. So, for me, there was no reason why I wouldn't be a part of that stuff. I do think that some players struggle with maybe seeing not so good things and then having to flick on that switch and go and play a game, so they wanted to keep their head clear. That’s the only excuse I would accept.

Michael Lorenzen was always a guy I looked up to. If I could do half of what he was doing, I would feel great. He was always there, it seemed like we were at the same stuff. There was no excuse for me because I knew I could handle it. And I understand with my faith that, if the unfortunate happens, this isn’t it. Life goes on and there’s a lot of great things to look forward to. And that's how I was able to get back to it and get my mind focused on the game. For me, that was a part of my job. And I enjoyed every minute of it. I enjoyed playing. I enjoyed meeting the fans, interacting with them and putting some smiles on faces.

What’s life like for you these days down in Florida?

I have a kid of my own now. And I got a little farm and I'm learning things I never thought I’d be doing. Life is fun man.

I played baseball my whole life. After my injury, I could’ve come back and played a few more years. But I also didn't really know much else other than baseball. So, I kind of got into what else is out there for me and could be of value to my family and future family. And that was learning other things. I got into the farming side, the ranching side. It’s small, nothing crazy. But I've learned a lot in the past few years. And I'm enjoying myself. There's a challenge with it. Baseball's hard, but there's a lot of other things are very hard. And I just have the utmost respect for people in all types of industries. Mechanics, plumbers, medical doctors, nurses. The stuff people are doing every day that we think is routine is very hard and takes a lot of work. I'm just appreciating things a lot more.

I also volunteer coach at Sarasota Babe Ruth Baseball League with 13-16-year-olds. They are a handful at times, but I'm looking at it as a way to understand what to expect with my own kid down the road.

What are you looking forward to most about coming back to Cincinnati?

It was kind of a whirlwind there when I came over from the Brewers. Cincinnati was going through a lot of great changes, investing a lot of money back in the city, getting new restaurants and things. So, I'm looking forward to seeing that economic growth and the changes while riding into the city. And of course, I have to go to Montgomery Inn.

But I'm looking forward to coming back. I haven't been back to see a big league game yet. I've been waiting for a good opportunity to do it. And I think that this is a perfect way to kind of get my feet wet again and get out on the field, meet some new people and the young guys, but also see some familiar faces like Jonathan India and David Bell. It'll be nice seeing some of the training staff. And Brent Suter is a guy that I want to go up and give a hug. He's a wonderful guy.