Cincinnati Reds utilityman Derek Dietrich should have enough time in Milwaukee to find a pair of bell-bottoms, purchase a psychedelic tie-dye shirt, and crash the Senior Stroll at Miller Park on Wednesday.
Then again, he could wait until the weekend, sneak into the Wrigley Field bleachers for their Chicago Cubs cap giveaway, unless he prefers a rooftop seat where he pop open a cold one, resurrecting memories of former Reds pitcher Tom Browning’s antics in 1993.
Dietrich appreciates the suggestions, but sorry, he’s more imaginative.
Besides, Dietrich says, the whole key in creativity is spontaneity.
You simply can’t plan these things, they’ve got to come to you.
Come on, it’s not as if he invited the swarm of bees to invade Great American Ballpark two weeks ago, prompting him to borrow rookie teammate Nick Senzel’s white, long-sleeved shirt, grab a pesticide cannister, and run to home plate wearing a makeshift beekeeper outfit that surely had the bees giggling to themselves.
“At first we’re saying, 'Who is that?’ " Reds reliever Jared Hughes said. “Then, we realized, this guy is way too jacked to be a beekeeper. No way that’s a beekeeper.
“Sure enough, it’s Derek.’’
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You really think a night later it’s his idea to turn off the left-field bank of lights at the Oakland Coliseum, leaving him time to rummage through the visiting clubhouse to find a homemade electrician’s belt, as if he’s going to shine light on the bleak situation?
“There was some grumbling that the lights were out, and someone needed to fix them,’’ Dietrich says. “So I needed to put together a tool-belt. Initially we looked to find an actual tool-belt with a hard hat, but we couldn’t find anything. We rummaged through stuff in the back of the clubhouse, put stuff together, and I came out onto the field.’’
The game was delayed by 98 minutes, and didn’t end until 3:10 a.m. ET.
“We never should have played that game,’’ Dietrich says. “And the next thing we know, we’re getting no-hit [by Athletics pitcher Mike Fiers], and everybody is blaming me.’’
Dietrich is in his first season with the Reds. (Photo: Joe Robbins, Getty Images)
Oh, and it wasn’t his fault earlier this month the Reds decided to wear 1911 throwback uniforms, with Dietrich trying to get into the act, and having teammate Jesse Winker draw a handlebar mustache on his face out of eye black.
He not only homered in his first at-bat wearing the mustache, but kept it on for the entire game.
“The beekeeper and electrician outfits were very funny,’’ Reds catcher Curt Casali says, “but when he bust out the eye-black mustache, he took it to a different level. That’s something I never thought I’d see in a major-league game.
“The guy has got zero fear. Now, we need another natural disaster or something of that nature to warrant something else from him.’’
Well, he could reach into his magical bag of contraptions and entertain folks by juggling everything from bowling pins to machetes to flaming torches.
Hey, he did it one evening with the Class AA Jacksonville Sun, before they became the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, so what’s the harm of doing it now?
“Well, back then I wasn’t a prospect,’’ says Dietrich.
“Now, I’ve actually got something to lose. You know like a finger or hand.’’
Could he actually do it now, even if he wanted, inquiring minds want to know?
That would be a negative.
'There’s no harm in having fun'
Then again, if Dietrich were playing in another era, with patriarch Gus Bell as his manager, or son Buddy Bell, instead of grandson David Bell, the beekeeper costume might have been the last uniform he ever wore.
“If he’s not hurting anybody, and guys are enjoying it and having fun, and it helps entertain,’’ David Bell says, “what’s the harm? Just because I wasn’t like that, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. There’s no harm in having fun. I think I’ve been guilty of that in the past, taking things too seriously.
“I don’t know how guys do that, but I’m impressed. He’s really brought this team together. He reminds me of [former All-Star outfielder] Brian Giles. He was so serious and intense when he played, but had fun when he wasn’t on the field. I think it’s a great balance.
“He sure makes it a lot more enjoyable around here.’’
Derek Beetrich. ? pic.twitter.com/SV3HcTtizl
Certainly, Dietrich has been entertaining, even by the critics who originally had no interest in front-row seats to see the show.
“When I used to face him,’’ Reds veteran starter Tanner Roark said, “I did not like him. I would always hit him. It was never on purpose, but I did hit him.’’
Seven times. In only 31 plate appearances.
He has been hit 99 times in his career, but no one else has hit him more than twice.
“Now that we’re on the same team,’’ Roark says, “I realize he’s a great dude. He’s definitely unique. He’s funny, keeps everybody loose and keeps everybody laughing.
“The baseball world is always finding something new for him to do, and he comes up with something clever.’’
Well, not quite everyone has bought into his humor. When Dietrich slammed a homer April 7 off Pittsburgh Pirates starter Chris Archer, not landing until it reached the Allegheny River, Dietrich dropped his bat, stood for more than five seconds, and admired it.
Archer let him know how he felt about it the next time Dietrich walked to the plate. He threw behind Dietrich’s back, trying to hit him, igniting a bench-clearing incident that left Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig trying to take on the entire Pirates team. It resulted in a five-game suspension for Archer and two games for Puig.
“That wasn’t planned, it just happened in the moment,’’ Dietrich insists. “I just looked at the ball. I didn’t bat flip. I don’t do that stuff. I just wanted to see how far it went.’’
Would he dare do it again, and admire it even longer if he ever hits another homer off Archer?
“Nothing is premeditated,’’ he said, “so I can’t tell you if I’m going to do it again or not.
“I guess we’ll have to wait until I hit the next one.’’
Please, don’t stop now, Dietrich’s peers plead.
This is a game in desperate need of personality, and while Dietrich can’t singlehandedly resolve baseball’s attendance woes he can at least diminish the boredom.
“I really appreciate the guys like him that aren’t scared to go outside the box,’’ says Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Archie Bradley, the king of self-deprecating humor (even if it means tattling on yourself for accidentally pooping your pants in a game). “Baseball is so mentally and physically grinding that sometimes you need to do something to break up the monotony. It puts a little focus on something fun, and something not so serious.’’
Says San Francisco Giants veteran pitcher Derek Holland, who puts on a sensational Harry Caray impersonation: “It’s not for everybody, but everybody has to be who you are. You got to have fun and keep things loose in this game.’’
'We play the best game in the world'
Life is too short, Dietrich says, not to have some hijinks now and then. C
ome on, it’s not his fault the Miami Marlins dumped him after hitting .265 with 16 homers and 45 RBI last season. Then again, he should feel honored, considering they didn’t keep 2018 MVP Christian Yelich, 2017 MVP Giancarlo Stanton or All-Stars Marcell Ozuna, J.T. Realmuto and Dee Gordon either.
He has no bitterness or resentment against the Marlins or anyone else, Dietrich insists, only a love for the game that he inherited from grandfather Steve Demeter.
A love he wants to preserve for the next generation.
“Everyone should just be yourself,’’ Dietrich says. “We play the best game in the world, we have the best job in the world, so why wouldn’t we have fun and enjoy every moment we can?
“It’s important we play the game to win, of course, but now with the coverage and the media access to players, it’s important to connect with people. They should see how real and genuine guys are.
“It should be ok to show the exuberance and enjoyment we have, bring the game personality. The game is evolving. If you want to have fun, and show your personality, that should be allowed, right?
Anyone have a problem with a beekeeper-fake mustache wearing-electrician who happens to admire his home runs?
“Look, people pimp homers all of the time now, it blows up on Twitter, and our own club will post it,’’ Casali says.
“That’s what people want. If the pitchers don’t appreciate it, they should start screaming at us when they strike us out.
“The only trouble now is that he’s set the bar pretty high for himself now. So he better not stop now. Really, I hope he’s just starting.’’
Well, Dietrich could resort to his time in the minors when he and Realmuto were in hitting slumps and decided to perform their own version of a slump-buster.
They took extra batting practice one afternoon.
Wearing nothing but their jock straps.
“I’m not sure I could pull that one off now,’’ Dietrich says, “and he’ll probably kill me for even telling that story.
“But if we’re both struggling at the same time, and the Phillies come to town, hey, you never know.’’
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