Former Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jay Bruce announced on Sunday that after 14 seasons in the major leagues, the Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays would be last for the New York Yankees offseason acquisition. Bruce, after being traded from the Reds, bounced around the league but suffered a steep decline in production after reaching his 30’s.
The Reds selected Bruce with the 12th overall pick in the 2005 MLB Draft, and by 2008, he was the No. 1 overall prospect in all of baseball. Bruce might have been one of the most anticipated prospects in Reds history. He made his major league debut that same year and was a staple in the Reds lineup for nearly nine seasons.
During his time with the Reds, Jay Bruce was a three-time All-Star and won two Silver Slugger awards. Bruce also finished eighth all-time in Reds history with 233 home runs. No long ball was more important than one hit in the last week in September almost 11 years ago.
One of Jay Bruce’s fondest memories was in a Reds uniform.
Cincinnati was in the midst of a fifteen-year playoff drought. The Reds had endured years of miserable bad luck since opening Great American Ball Park. Cincinnati had the luxury of having some really talented players, but the wins just never came. That was until 2008 when Dusty Baker was hired to turn the ship around.
Success didn’t happen overnight, as 2008 and 2009 were both losing seasons, seeing Cincinnati finish near the bottom of the NL Central. The burden was finally lifted in 2010 with one swing of the bat by none other than Jay Bruce himself.
On September 28, 2010, Cincinnati saw themselves tied 2-2 going into the bottom of the ninth against the Houston Astros. Jay Bruce took the first pitch he saw from Astros reliever Tim Byrdak and sent it screaming over the centerfield wall, clinching the National League Central for the Cincinnati Reds, and along with it, the first playoff berth in 15 years. Bruce fondly remembered that night:
"“The weirdest part about that is that I was 23 at the time and I thought stuff like that happened all the time, that was just part of it. To know that the single moment that I’m going to remember the most in my career was 10 or 11 years ago now is pretty crazy. Looking back, it makes me appreciate everything else more.”"
That home run, that one swing of the bat, meant so much to the Reds faithful. Years of being a cellar dweller, being the laughing stock of baseball were all erased in just seconds. Bruce’s home run shook the city of Cincinnati all night long. Finally, Reds Country could sleep well knowing they had a winner again.
Cincinnati fans know how it all turned out. It may not have ended hoisting a World Series trophy, but it was worth it. Some of those Dusty Baker-led teams were no doubt, in my mind, talented enough to win a championship. It just didn’t quite shake out and that’s okay.
Bruce had a helluva career; a career that he should be proud of. It goes without question that he will be forever enshrined in the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame one day. Nothing would make me happier than to see Cincinnati do the right thing and sign Bruce to a one-day contract and let him retire as a Red where he belongs. Congratulations Jay, and thanks for the memories.