CINCINNATI — Chris Heisey is ‘The People’s Choice’ in Cincinnati, a guy who can’t push a grocery cart in a parking lot without somebody stopping him to say, "You should be playing every day."
He doesn’t play every day, but he plays a lot because he is the team’s fourth outfielder and he can play all three outfield positions with no drop in coverage or production at home plate.
And he is a supreme pinch-hitter, which he proved once again Tuesday night in Great American Ball Park when he pinch-hit in the seventh inning and drove home the go-ahead run in what turned into a 3-2 Reds victory over the Chicago Cubs.
"Maybe it is because they think I’m the underdog," said the 29-year-old 6-1, 210-pounder. "People like an underdog. I don’t view myself as an underdog. You here it all the time, ‘We think you should be starting,’ and there are plenty of guys who never have gotten a break to be the every day guy.
"I’ve had chances due to injuries for short periods of time but I’ve never made the club out of camp with somebody saying, ‘Hey, it’s your job to lose and even if you hit .200 the first two months we’re going to ride you out.’"
Heisey, though, admits he sometimes had to pinch himself to realize where he is and what he is doing.
"When I was playing ball at Messiah College as a freshman if you had told me I would have four years in the major leagues I would say, ‘You’re crazy," said.
Heisey was the Reds 17th round pick in 2006 out of Messiah, a 2,800-student school in Grantham, Pa., "Where a big crowd for our games was 560 people and most of them were friends and relatives," he said.
He knows his role on the team and both covets and relishes it as the team’s top pinch-hitter.
"I’ve said it for years that any role I’m put in I’ll give it my best," he said. "I’ve had success as pinch-hitter (4 for 10 this year with six RBI) but I’ll tell you who I’m not as good as — Evan Gattis (Atlanta) who is like 7 for 14 with four or five home runs pinch-hitting. I can’t keep up with that."
Heisey laughed and quickly added, "But I do have 104 pinch-hit at-bats and I was surprised at that. That’s a lot. I did have success doing it right away and maybe thaet’s why I’ve had success doing it."
Heisey recalls his first week in the big leagues in 2010 he had a pinch-hit home run off Atlanta’s Billy Wagner, a left-hander who threw 100 miles an hour, "So I thought at the time, ‘Hey, maybe I can do this.’"
Heisey doesn’t change his approach, does it the same way whether he starts and gets four at-bats or whether he pinch-hits and gets one at-bat.
"Zero changes," he said. "I’m aggressive, starting or pinch-hitting. It is how I’ve always been. I don’t work walks. I like getting fastballs and most of the time early in the count you get the best pitch you are going to get and I don’t like to miss it."
A lot of fourth outfielders are fourth outfielders because they can hit and pinch-hit, but their fielding is suspect. That isn’t the case with Heisey, an above average outfielder who makes diving catches with frequency.
"I’ve always considered myself a good defender," he said. "My teammates have always told me, especially the pitchers coming up through the minors and guys up here that they love when I’m out there. They like me diving all over the place trying to help them and help the team save runs."
Heisey pauses for a moment and says, "I’m slowly accruing a lot of major-league service time. Sure, I’d like to be an every day player, but so would every bench-player in the league. Everybody wants to be the guy, but who knows if I’ll ever get that chance. I’ll continue to do my best to show that I can do it and If I don’t it won’t be because I didn’t put the effort in."