Many A’s fans weren’t particularly happy this winter when two of their favorite players, All-Star reliever Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney, were sent packing to Boston in a deal for three players most A’s fans had never heard of – outfielder Josh Reddick, minor league infielder Miles Head, and minor league pitcher Raul Alcantara. While Head and Alcantara are still a long way from the major leagues, the good news is that outfielder Josh Reddick appears to be more than major league ready and could be set to lock down a spot in the A’s outfield battle royale.
Reports so far this spring have been good on the left-handed hitter, and it looks like the A’s may have acquired an outfield fixture who could provide a little of the pop that’s been lacking in A’s outfielders of late. He hit 21 home runs combined in less than 500 at bats between Triple-A Pawtucket and Boston last year. And the Georgia native is also known as a guy who gives it his all and who brings a sense of fun and excitement to the field everyday. A bit reminiscent of former A’s Nick Swisher and Eric Byrnes, he could be poised to become the next in a long line of long-haired outfield fan favorites in Oakland. But we started out talking with Reddick about his biggest non-baseball passion…
AF: So what’s your walk-up song going to be this year?
AF: So you’re a really big WWE fan then?
JR: Oh, of course. I go to every event that I can when I’m close. I just give him (Triple H) a shout, and he’ll leave me a ticket. Usually it’s behind like Jerry Lawler, and I usually go backstage after the show and talk to him.
AF: How did you get to know him?
JR: I went when I was in Boston and had my wrist surgery. They were in town that night. I was still getting tickets through the camera crew who I’d known before. And he’d heard a few months before that I used his song to walk up to, so he apparently told the guy that he wanted to meet me. So before the show, he comes up and says, “Hey man, Triple H wants to meet you backstage after the show.” So when I got back there, I talked to him for about an hour. He gives me his phone number and tells me if I ever need anything to just give him a call.
AF: So what’s the deal with that WWE belt above your locker?
JR: It’s something I bought in Double-A. So it’s something I’ve carried around with me whenever I go into ballparks. And I actually just got the real belt from Triple H last week. He sent me one of his real ones. He said if I was going to carry one around, it might as well be the real deal.
AF: Well I imagine there’s not too many guys in MLB walking around with one of those. So do you ever go out in public with it, maybe go to Walmart or something?
JR: Nah, I usually just keep it in my locker.
AF: Well it seems that people are always talking about you as a gritty sort of player who’s always hustling and giving it his all. Where do you think that comes from?
JR: I think it goes back to my parents. Once they realized I wanted to do this for a living, and this was going to be my dream growing up, they said, “Well you’re not going to half-ass it. You’re going to play not game the right way. If not, we’re going to take you off the field.” And that’s what they preached to me – to give it 110% between the lines, and never walk home having any regret. So that’s one thing that I pride myself on. I don’t want to go and look in the mirror and ask myself, “What if I’d have caught that ball, we would have won.” You never want to have that question of “what if” after a baseball game.
AF: You weren’t a particularly high draft pick when Boston selected you in 2006. So how’d everything start out for you once you were drafted and started playing in the Red Sox system?
JR: I started out pretty well at extended spring training for a month and a half, and then I went up to low-A for the rest of the season. And I think I hit .300 with almost 80 RBIs after missing the first month and a half of the season. And the next year I hit about .330. Then I think Double-A was the hardest jump for me. Double-A was a real big learning process for me. I just had to change my approach altogether.
AF: What was the main problem you had adjusting?
JR: It was like – I’m not getting four fastballs per at bat, more like one or two per at bat. So I had to learn how to earn the fastballs rather than expect them. So I had to learn how to hit more off-speed stuff.
AF: So when you finally got the call from the Red Sox to go the big leagues, what was that like for you?
JR: We had actually just got done with about an 8-hour bus ride overnight and we’d gotten into our hotel room in Harrisburg about 6:00 in the morning. We were all sleeping in, and my phone rings about 11:00 in the morning, which I’m not expecting. I had a mohawk at the time and a mustache – I was kind of in a slump and I was trying to get out of it – and my manager says, “Cut your hair, shave your face, pack you’re stuff. You’re leaving.” So I’m like, “Leaving? Where am I going?” “We don’t know yet.” Click. So I get up, shave my head, shave my face. I go get some lunch and my phone rings and he says, “You’re meeting with the team in Baltimore. We don’t know if you’re getting activated yet. But just in case, they need you there.” But I’m not flying – I’ve got a car service driving me three and a half hours to Baltimore. And it’s the longest car ride of my life! I’m on the phone calling everybody back home. But as soon as I get to the hotel room and open the door, my phone rings and it’s Theo Epstein: “Drop your stuff and get to the ballpark – you’re getting activated.” And they were really great with bringing me in. Big Papi came up and gave me a hug, and everybody came over and told me “congratulations.”
AF: So how was that first game for you?
JR: I didn’t play that first game. So I had to sit on the bench for eight innings, then go pinch hit and play defense. Then the next night was my first start.
AF: Do you remember your first hit?
JR: 2-1 changeup double off David Hernandez. I remember that first game very well. 2 for 3 with 2 doubles and a walk. And in the TV interview after the game, I got shaving creamed by David Ortiz.
AF: Do you remember your first game at Fenway?
JR: My first experience at Fenway I wasn’t actually in the game. Rick Porcello was pitching against us and we had a rookie on the mound. And the rookie hit two guys in the top of the first. So Porcello comes out and throws at Victor Martinez in the first inning. We’re all getting pissed, and everything’s getting heated. Next thing, our rookie hits a guy with a curveball and they start freaking out. The first hitter of the next inning is Kevin Youkilis, and Youkilis gets beaned in the shoulder and – bench-clearing! And I was the first one out of the dugout, and I was loving it!
AF: So were you ready to start using your WWE moves out there?
JR: Yeah, I love that stuff!
AF: Was there anything in particular you struggled with once you got to the majors?
JR: Not playing everyday was tough. At first, I was playing about once or twice a week, and that’s never easy. And once I started playing consistently, I think I showed them what I could really do. Consistent playing time is definitely huge. Other than that, it’s just learning to adapt as they adapt to you.
AF: As a left-handed hitter, it looks like so far in your major league career you really haven’t had much trouble hitting lefties.
JR: In my career, I’ve actually done better against lefties than I have against righties!
AF: Is there any particular reason for that?
JR: I think I’ve got it in my head that they’re going to try and freeze me with a curveball – and I like hitting that curveball!
AF: So you’re just ready and waiting for it.
AF: Looking you up online, I notice in every picture, you look completely different. You’ve got a completely different haircut, different hair color, different facial hair. So what’s the deal with the constantly changing look?
JR: I just get bored – or if I’m in a slump, I know it’ll bring me out of it!
AF: So have you noticed any particular differences between the Red Sox clubhouse and the A’s clubhouse?
JR: I kind of feel more comfortable here. I feel like I can joke around a lot more than I could there. Definitely not having the amount of media that they have is fun. You don’t have to keep looking over your shoulder every five seconds to see who’s listening.
AF: Did they put you through any kind of rookie hazing over there?
JR: Nothing outside of the normal hazing thing – the dress up on the last road trip thing. They got me a little bit, but it wasn’t like all day every day.
AF: Obviously the season ended on a bit of a bad note for that Boston team. So heading into the offseason, were you thinking about coming back with your Red Sox teammates and having a chance to redeem yourselves in Boston this year?
JR: I think the whole team was eager to come back and put that behind us and shut everyone up and show people we were still a good team.
AF: So when you got the call and heard you were being traded to the A’s, that had to be a bit of a surprise for you.
JR: I mean, I was shocked. I had some mixed feelings. But when I found out there was going to be a starting spot open for me, that was going to be a great opportunity. I mean, you couldn’t help but be happy. And I’ve been treated really well by the coaching staff and everyone.
AF: I’ve talked to lots of folks with the A’s who’ve had plenty of great things to say about you, so I know they really value you.
JR: Yeah, when I talked to them on the phone, they made me feel like I was a guy they had wanted for a very long time, and I was going to get an opportunity to play.
AF: So when was the first time you actually heard from general manager Billy Beane?
JR: About twenty minutes after the trade happened. Our general manager Ben Cherington called me. And then five minutes later, Billy called me. And then ten minutes after that, Bob Melvin called me.
AF: So now that you’re with the A’s, I have to ask you, have you seen Moneyball yet?
JR: Oh, yeah. It was a good movie. I think Brad Pitt did a really good job playing that role. He seemed like a guy that really belonged in the baseball world.
And from everything we can tell, Josh Reddick looks like a guy that really belongs in the baseball world too. Just a few hours after we spoke with him, he hit a home run in the A’s 8-6 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers and is currently hitting .400 with an OPS of 1.063 on the spring. And if he can even come close to replicating his spring performance during the regular season, he could become the undisputed heavyweight champ of the A’s 2012 lineup!