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06-04-2008, 10:16 PM
Bruce stirs up ratings, fans for Reds
Rookie phenom helps spike interest in Cincinnati
By Brandon Harris / MLB.com

CINCINNATI -- Be it the thunderous debut of rookie phenom Jay Bruce, Ken Griffey Jr.'s pursuit of history or even simply that they're winning at home -- the excitement around the Reds has skyrocketed recent weeks.

So has attention from the national media. So has hope that Cincinnati isn't down and out when it comes to the race in the National League Central. And so have television ratings.

FSN Ohio's broadcast of Tuesday's Reds-Phillies game received a 10.2 rating -- the highest of the season and fifth highest overall since 1992. Just one week prior on May 27, FSN Ohio's broadcast of the Reds-Pirates game received a 9.7 rating, which at the time set the record for the highest of the season.

"The last week has been the best week to be a Reds fan in 10 years, maybe even 18," said Stacy Brant, a Cincinnati landscaper and Reds fan grabbing a meal at a Skyline Chili restaurant in Oakley, Ohio. "People in this town just want some glimmer of hope to look at, something that speaks good of the future, and here recently it's been great."

And by most accounts, it's largely been because of Bruce, who just so happened to be making his Major League debut when FSN Ohio got its 9.7 rating last week.

Bruce stormed onto the scene, going 3-for-3 in his first game and scoring the game-winning run twice in a series against the Braves last weekend.

"The excitement is more than just because of them winning," said Robert Valerius, a forklift mechanic who sat down at Skyline in Oakley to watch the pregame show of Wednesday's Reds-Phillies game. "Mostly, it's been because of the kid [Bruce]. With Griffey, sometimes he's there and sometimes he's off. But this kid -- he may not cool off until he's in his late 30s."

Bruce has indeed stolen much of the limelight away from Griffey, who will become just the sixth player to hit 600 home runs the next time he goes deep.

While Griffey has drawn fans to their feet in anticipation since each at-bat after hitting No. 599, Bruce has them shouting "Bruuuuce!" before and after every at-bat. They even do when he makes routine defensive plays.

"Everyone is talking about Jay Bruce," said Doug Powers, a University of Dayton student and Cincinnati resident watching Wednesday's game at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Norwood, Ohio. "People are definitely more excited, and it's because in the past four or five years, we haven't had any prospects really amount to anything. Now we have one, and they're winning."

Though they've had their struggles on the road, the Reds have won 12 of their past 13 at home with sweeps over the Marlins, Indians and Braves and a series win over the Pirates. The wins have pulled Cincinnati within an arm's reach of the .500 mark and attracted the attention of a city that badly wants to to cheer on a winning team.

"People were a bit disenchanted by how they just dropped the first two months of the season," Brant said. "Be it winning or a great player, they just wanted something to look up to. The past week or so, they've had this kid who is almost too good to be true. The winning has come along with it, so there's definitely been more excitement all-around."

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