Sticking with the theme of Mr. Choo, we look back on the top five most memorable moments Reds fans had while he patrolled the outfield.
5. July 3rd – The Reds and Giants are embroiled in a 2-2 tie heading into the bottom of the 11th inning before the Redlegs attempt to play small ball in order to get the winning run across. The plan seemed to backfire as Choo strode to the plate with men at first and second with two away with super tough left-hander Javier Lopez on the mound. Much was made around that time of Choo’s ineptitude against lefties that occurred through the early part of the season where his batting average managed to not sniff the Mendoza line. None of those factors stopped Mr. Choo from notching his second hit of the game, this one a walk-off single down the right-field line that brought in Todd Frazier, and gave the Reds a sweep over the San Francisco Giants.
4. May 27th – While Choo had originally came up in the Seattle Mariners organization, he made a name for himself while a member of the Cleveland Indians in northern Ohio. For the first time in his career, he was going to have to face them after making a profound impact on so many in the city. His first at-bat was against Ubaldo Jimenez and he promptly drilled a home run to left field. Joey Votto ultimately stole the limelight later in the game with his game-winning two-run home run in the bottom of the 8th, but it was Choo who set the tone in his first game against his former team.
3. April 8th – Upon acquiring Choo last off-season in a three-team deal involving the Diamondbacks and Indians, the main question was whether or not he could man centerfielder adequately. Drew Stubbs had lacked efficiency at getting on base, which ultimately doomed him in the Queen City, but his defensive prowess could not be denied. A corner outfielder for the majority of his career, many pundits said Choo would be unable to make the transition, and they must have been smiling when he made two errors in one game just seven games into the season. In his defense, the sun at Busch Stadium on that day was particularly heinous and unforgiving, certainly not aiding a player who was already unfamiliar with the grounds. Thanks to a furious comeback in the late innings, and specially the ninth where the Reds put up a nine spot, all was forgotten. Choo went on to play the position much better than most expected and proved that he could excel as a Major League centerfielder.
2. Choo breaks the Reds single-season record for HBP – Choo’s primary job upon becoming a member of the Reds was to simply get on base. Not many fans immediately jump to the idea of being hit by a pitch as a reliable way to do just that, but Choo certainly embraced his fearlessness. He led the league with 26 plunks, and broke Jason LaRue’s single-season record as a member of the Redlegs, who previously led the way with 24. Choo finished second in the National League in on-base percentage (to only Votto) partially due to his knack of avoiding the ball when it came his way.
1. May 7th – The Reds know all about having a dominant finisher in the back-end of the bullpen, so when they came face-to-face with Craig Kimbrel, they knew how difficult it would be just to scratch one run across. Things were even more bleak with the 7-8-9 part of the lineup due up. Jack Hannahan and Corky Miller bit the dust before Devin Mesoraco stepped in as a pinch-hitter. The Reds future behind the plate picked an appropriate time to drill his first home run of the year just passed the outstretched arm of B.J. Upton and tie the ballgame. Many in Cincinnati seemed content to play extras, even during the week, but thankfully Choo made that dilemma a moot point. For as hard as the ball came in, Choo rocketed it out to the Reds bullpen even harder as Mesoraco and Choo went back-to-back to win in the bottom of the ninth against one of the game’s elite arms.
The price tag that Choo signed for in Texas was way beyond the Reds limit, whether they had dealt Brandon Phillips or not. Like most good things in life, they can’t last forever and many fans have to face the grim reality of going on without one of the more talented players in Reds history. Thankfully, Billy Hamilton’s legs should cushion some of the blow. He may presumably be a Ranger for the rest of his career, but Mr. Choo will always hold a special place in Reds fans hearts.