Before you know it, winter will give way to Spring Training with Cincinnati Reds pitchers and catches reporting to Goodyear, AZ, in just 22 days. While fans are skeptical about the 2015 team, the Reds’ front office and players are optimistic about their chances of competing this season. To draw on that optimism, we reach back to the last time the Reds won the World Series for Numbe 22 on our Countdown Team: outfielder Billy Hatcher.
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Hatcher was originally selected by the Chicago Cubs in the sixth round of the 1981 amateur draft and made it to the Big Leagues three years later. While he bootstrapped his way into “prospect” status, Hatcher was mostly a journeyman during his Major League career. A trade on the brink of the 1990 season, though, would change fortunes for both the Reds and Hatcher.
On April 3, the Reds sent infielder Jeff Richardson and pitcher Mike Roesler to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Hatcher, presumably to bolster their outfield depth. The move paid dividends immediately for the Reds, as Eric Davis remained fragile, and youngsters Rolando Roomes and Reggie Sanders weren’t ready for primetime. As a result, Hatcher started 119 games in left and center fields, providing just below-average production at the plate as the Reds went wire-to-wire to win the National League west. He also brought some speed to the team, swiping 30 bases.
In the playoffs, Cincinnati faced Hatcher’s old team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Billy made the Bucs pay for trading him, collecting five hits and two runs in 16 plate appearances as the Reds won the NLCS in six games.
The World Series was even better for Hatcher, who hit a cool .750 and scored six runs as the Reds romped to a four-game sweep of the heavily favored Oakland A’s.
Hatcher left Cincinnati partway through the 1992 season and ended up his career with the Texas Rangers in 1995. Overall, he hit .264 with 1146 hits, 54 home runs and 218 stolen bases.
These days, Hatcher is the Reds’ first-base coach and will be in camp along with the rest of the crew, hoping to get the team back to baseball’s promised land for the first time since that golden summer, 25 years ago.