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Wed Mar 25, 2009 4:21 pm EDT
Answer Man: Jay Bruce talks Texas, his own song and Mr. Redlegs
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By David Brown
To say Reds slugger Jay Bruce made a good first impression in the major leagues isn’t putting it quite colorfully enough. Bruce started 15-for-26 with three home runs (including a game-ender), three doubles and six walks. He hadn’t even finished his first week in the majors when songwriter Ryan Parker composed the rag “Jay Bruce Almighty,” which might be the quickest anyone’s had a folk song written about oneself.
After a Mantle-sque debut, Bruce cooled off and even slumped, but he came through a whirlwind rookie season in strong shape, especially for a 21-year-old. Now, with pal Adam Dunn and icon Ken Griffey gone from Cincinnati, he is settling in as the focal point for the Reds, who believe Bruce is talented enough to become an icon on his own.
David Brown: You're part of a great coalition — guys who have two first names. What's your middle name?
Jay Bruce: Allen.
DB. Correction: three first names. Has that made you a friendlier, less formal person?
JB: I suspect that people sometimes think of the saying, "Never trust guys with two first names." I've really had to prove myself to some people.
DB: Do you get along well with Norris Hopper because he's got two last names?
JB: Norris and I get along really well. Sometimes we share first and last names whenever the other guy needs one.
DB: You've been on the spaceship-like MLB Network set. One of your interviewers was Harold Reynolds; Was there lots of hugging?
JB: I mean, we didn't hug, but he was a really, really nice guy. Very friendly. No hugging. There's always next time, maybe, you never know.
DB: Is "Bruce Almighty" sticking as a nickname?
JB: Not with me. Not for me. I would never call myself "Bruce Almighty."
DB: But nicknames aren't necessarily up to us, the nicknamed.
JB: Meh, I don't know. The only thing I've really heard, in Cincinnati the people go, "Bruuuuuuuuuuce."
DB: What about, "The Boss"?
JB: I think that was very short-lived. I think Baseball America had something to do with that, but I don't think it ever stuck.
DB: You came up May 27, tore it up, and somebody released a song about you June 1. Was the public a little too excited about your arrival?
JB: [Laughs]. I don't know — it really is kind of cool for people to be excited about your arrival but I had to take it all in stride. Somebody told me about the song. I wouldn't say I was seeking it out.
DB: What was your impression of the song?
JB: I did hear it; clever songwriting.
DB: Last year, you were the fifth-youngest player in the majors.
JB: That's it?
DB: Well, it depended on what time in the season we were talking about. Here's the list from Baseball-Reference.com:
1. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) ............ 03/19/1988 (20)
2. Justin Upton (D-backs) .................. 08/25/1988 (20)
3. Conor Gillaspie (Giants) ................. 07/18/1987 (20)
4. Cameron Maybin (Marlins) ............. 04/04/1987 (21)
5. Jay A. Bruce (Reds) .................... 04/03/1987 (21)
DB: How annoying was it to get carded before they'd let you take BP?
JB: [Laughs]. It's kind of a good thing to be getting carded and be in the major leagues at the same time. Those two things go together pretty well; it means you're in pretty good shape.
DB: What are the reviews on Edinson Volquez's appearance in the Maceo video?
JB: I heard about that, very briefly. Edinson's a great guy. He doesn't... he's not trying to cause any trouble. Awesome, awesome dude.
DB: Not so much the video preview with the gun which he got questioned about, but the actual music video where he dances, makes it rain a little.
JB: Oh, oh. Well, I don't speak too much Spanish. He probably talks about that all the time, though.
DB: Music is a universal language, Jay.
JB: Not when it's in Spanish!
DB: After the big upset in the World Baseball Classic, can we say that Joey Votto messed up by playing for Canada and not Italy?
JB: It's funny because he looks more Italian than he does Canadian [laughs]. He made a great run and represented his country well. I had a blast watching him. But, if you're looking for "moving on," he was with the wrong club.
DB: Is the key for Homer Bailey getting right changing his name to Ground Ball Bailey?
JB: Homer just needs to believe in his stuff.
DB: If you're not careful, will [pitcher] Micah Owings steal playing time from you in the OF?
JB: Oof, he might steal some playing time from someone.
DB: Have you gotten near Jonny Gomes?
JB: Yeah! He's awesome. Off-the-wall. Fiery.
DB: Have you seen him drink beer out of a jockstrap?
JB: Wow. I'll have to talk to him about that.
DB: Would you be willing to drink out of a cup if the Reds win the Central?
JB: Ask me when we win it.
DB: As we know, Texas could secede from the Union at any moment; can you name your all-Texas team that would, in that case, play in the WBC?
JB: Let's see. Josh Beckett starting pitcher. Josh Hamilton... he's not from Texas. I obviously have to be in right. Carl Crawford's in center. Who would be at first or left?
DB: [Lance] Berkman.
JB: Oh, Berkman would play first. Who's the catcher? I guess we'd have to go with either [Taylor] Teagarden or [Curtis] Thigpen. One of the younger guys. Shortstop...
DB: Spike Owen?
JB: Who's that?
DB: He played 20 years ago.
JB: Oh, OK. Um... Adam Dunn's gotta be out there. He could be in left. Who's playing at third? Jason LaRue might have to be the catcher. Sorry, Teagarden. Need a second baseman from Texas...
DB: Can you think of a relief pitcher? So if Beckett gets a blister...
JB: A relief pitcher from Texas? Bill Bray. He's not from Texas.
Neither was Conrad Hilton. Bruce stops catcher Ryan Hanigan to ask for help.
Ryan Hanigan: From the state of Texas?
JB: The World Baseball Classic — Team Texas.
RH: OK. I don't like Texas, so I don't know.
JB: I don't like New England. Get away!
Hanigan walks away. No help.
JB: Who's the shortstop? I'm going to take a wild card, I'm going to take Paul Janish as my shortstop. Who's the third baseman? Is Hank Blalock from Texas?
DB: No. He's from San Diego.
JB: OK. I'm trying to think, man.
DB: Josh Fields from White Sox. Isn't he from Oklahoma?
JB: It's close.
DB: If you'd just annex it.
JB: We can't do that.
DB: Well, if you can secede, you can annex.
JB: What if they don't want to join, though? ... I don't know. You got me. I got a few, though.
DB: You did better than I thought you would. Are you curious as to what it's like inside Mr. Redlegs' uniform?
JB: I have a friend that is.
DB: What do you mean?
JB: I have a friend that I know wants to be Mr. Redlegs.
DB: Is this "friend" actually you?
JB: No. I don't have any desire to see what it's like inside Redlegs. Although, you could do anything you wanted and not be made fun of because you are the mascot.
DB: He did lose his head last year. Did you see that?
JB: Yeah! They unmasked the identity of Redlegs. That was bad. That was an unfortunate day.
DB: So, you have a friend?
JB: A childhood friend that wants to be Mr. Redlegs, yes.
DB: You can make it happen.
JB: Uh, not yet.
DB: Do you need another half-season?
JB: I'm not tenured, if you will.
DB: I don't think you have to be playing for 10 years.
DB: I know. I was making a Rickey Henderson joke.
Statistics show that Great American was the best home run park in the NL and second-best in majors last year. Should we just thank Dunn and Votto and Phillips and you for that, or is there something in the riverfront atmosphere that makes the ball jump?
JB: I think you should just thank us. Still gotta hit ‘em, regardless. Count 'em. I feel like, most of the time you hit a home run, it's a home run anywhere. I'm sure there are a few that aren't but for the most part. In center field, you've got to hit it.
DB: Do the right field bleachers look really steep to you there?
JB: [Shakes head "no"]
DB: It's my imagination, then.
DB: How many can you hit into the Ohio in BP?
JB: I've hit zero. That's a long way.
DB: The question still stands. How far is it?
JB: I'd say it's a good 600 feet. It's probably 550, 600 feet.
DB: [Looked it up: 580 feet]. Can you get your hair to look like Pete Rose's?
JB: I'm trying.
DB: It's very combed forward. What do you have to do to get it more like Pete's?
JB: Gotta talk to Pete.
DB: When's the last time you did?
JB: Last year. Not about his hair, though.
DB: What's he like?
JB: Hit King.
DB: I never liked that nickname. He's Charlie Hustle.
JB: But he is the "The Hit King."
DB: Sure. As you might know, Chris Dickerson and Al Gore are responsible for recycling. They're trying to save us from ourselves. What are you trying to save?
JB: Money. Recession, you know. Hey, I do my part to save the Earth. One plastic bottle at a time. Just yesterday, I recycled a plastic bottle. Count it.
DB: How long did these guys (above) hold you hostage?
JB: Yeah. They said, like, "mean face" and they started smiling and giving a thumbs up while I'm giving my mean face. This was at RedsFest.
DB: Did you feel tricked?
JB: I felt like they were going to come up with more than that.
DB: Can you re-enact that pose right now?
JB: My mean face? Sure.
DB: You kind of have a Matthew McConaughey thing going on.
JB: Yeah, that's on purpose [laughs]. No, I've heard that before. Seriously, I know him through Roger Clemens' son, Koby, who has a friend the same age as a son of Matthew's.
DB: What is your true face?
JB: Smilin'. Happy guy. I'm a social butterfly.