The Cincinnati Reds are division champions for the first time in 15 years, far exceeding expectations in a Cinderella season that saw a young core of players make a name for themselves in the big leagues — including former Texas baseball star Drew Stubbs, who left Austin in 2006.
Stubbs exploded onto the major league radar this year in his first full season in the big show. He played 150 games in center field and hit 22 homers, drove in 77 runs and stole 30 bases for the National League Central champs.
The former Big 12 co-player of the year will look to extend Cincinnati’s improbable season as the Reds take on the Philadelphia Phillies in the first round of the MLB playoffs. While the Reds are strangers to post-season success and the team lost the series opener 4-0 on Wednesday, Stubbs knows what it’s like to take the field on the big stage.
“Playing at the university — it being one of the grandest scales in college baseball — helped me transition to pro ball because when you start playing in front of the bigger crowds some guys get mesmerized,” Stubbs said. “But my experiences in Omaha [for the College World Series] and in the postseason at Texas prepared me for this.”
Cincinnati traded for 17-year MLB veteran Jim Edmonds in August to school Stubbs on the nuances of playing center field in the pros.
“He’s a guy that I followed growing up and I appreciate the way he plays the game,” Stubbs said. “He’s been a great mentor for me.”
But Edmonds isn’t the only figure in Stubbs’ baseball career who has had a lasting impact on the way he plays the game.
“Playing for [head] coach [Augie] Garrido at Texas taught me a lot about the mental side of the game,” Stubbs said. “The thing I took away the most was how to mentally stay in the game and prepare.”
It’s that mental toughness that has kept Stubbs going this season. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the rookie was in danger of an early season demotion.
“It was fun seeing a guy like Drew Stubbs emerge to have a good year,” Jocketty said. “Early on, we had people screaming at us to send him back to Triple-A.”
Stubbs has found a home in center field for the Reds but still has a soft spot for Austin — his home for offseason workouts.
“I like Cincinnati just fine but it’s not Texas, it’s not home,” Stubbs said. “I hope we can ride out this playoff streak as long as possible but I’m also looking forward to getting back to Austin.”