Jay Bruce finding enjoyment in mentoring young outfield prospect
MAR 08, 2014 11:07a ET
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jay Bruce is, obviously, a team player and a man confident enough in himself that he isn't afraid to help a young player in the organization who might some day try to take his job.
The Cincinnati Reds were taking batting practice one early morning this week when Bruce approached Ryan LaMarre, a top outfield prospect. LaMarre has gained notice with some long home run this spring in batting practice but a couple of injuries has limited his playing time.
Bruce approached LaMarre to talk about hands placement in his stance-- up high, mid-section, down low? Even though LaMarre, an outfielder, might some day challenge Bruce for his job, Bruce talked with LaMarre for 10 minutes, displaying hands placement. And when they finished, Bruce said, "If you want to go into the video room and watch some video together, just let me know."
At the time Bruce had reached base in his last two games five straight times -- three hits, two walks -- and Reds manager Bryan Price was asked how close Bruce is to being an MVP-type player.
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Price was asked how close Bruce is to becoming an MVP-type player and he said, "Really close and I wouldn't be surprised at anything Jay accomplishes because he has the commitment and the mentality and the desire to be great."
Then on Friday afternoon, Bruce hit a two-run home run to right field against the Chicago White Sox that nearly knocked down an F16 fighter coming in from landing at nearby Luke Air Force Base.
"Jay already is a special defender and a special run producer with power and extra base hits," said Price. "He is underappreciated as a runner because he can steal a few bases.
"In order to be that type of player you have to have some of the intangibles and Jay has those," said Price. "He has a sense of accountability to perform well and to show up ready to play every day He doesn't take games off or at-bats off and he is driven to be excellent. And he is a selfless player."
Selfless? Absolutely. Ask Ryan LaMarre.
Bruce said he and LaMarre have hit it off, become friends, and Bruce recognizes, "That he has a lot of offensive talent and he is going to play in the big leagues. We have a really good relationship, have become friends. I'd heard a lot about him and I've seen him play. He really is a talent and I've gotten to know him.
"I'm no hitting guru but I can offer my perspective and we bounce things off each other," Bruce said. "We just talk and it isn't a teacher-student type thing. We're a couple of guys talking baseball."
LaMarre begs to differ, though, and said, "What's crazy is that we are only a year apart (Bruce is 26 and LaMarre is 25), but he is like a father-figure to me. I came up for a few spring training games a couple of years ago and he took me under his wing, tried to show me the ropes, how are things supposed to go.
"Any time a guy like that offers you hitting advice you perk your ears up," said LaMarre. "Even though he is only 26 he has been doing it the right way for a long time. Whatever he has to say you stop what you are doing and listen. He noticed a few things in my swing, so we worked in the cage and batting practice."
And LaMarre took it to the field that day and had a single in his only at bat. Asked if Bruce has taken him out to dinner yet, LaMarre said, "Yes, a couple of times and we talked -- him telling me how it is and what he did to stay up here."
LaMarre knows he has to make it first, then think about staying there.