Reds hit three Bombs, Lodolo strikes out nine
CINCINNATI – April 1, 2023 – (content by Mark Sheldon, Reds.com)
When a Reds batter hits a home run or delivers in a big moment during the 2023 season, the dugout celebration will bring echoes of a Viking quest.
A Reds player who clears the fences will be feted with a horned helmet and fur-lined cape, entering the dugout as a ballplayer but reaching the other end as a Norseman. During a 6-2 victory over the Pirates on Saturday at Great American Ball Park, the ritual was repeated three times when Jonathan India, Kevin Newman and Jake Fraley all homered.
“It’s a huge culture thing,” Fraley said. “It really gets the guys excited and brings guys together. It puts another dynamic to the team, and we didn’t have that last year.”
On Opening Day Thursday, after rookie third baseman Spencer Steer hit a fourth-inning solo home run during Cincinnati’s 5-4 loss to the Pirates, he received the inaugural Viking treatment. India was waiting for Steer at the dugout’s top step with the helmet and cape.
Spencer Steer’s first HR of 2023
“I think I heard rumblings of it; I was surprised when I saw it,” Steer recalled before Saturday’s game. “I totally kind of forgot we were going to do that. It was pretty cool to be the guy to be the first one to wear it.”
Against the Bucs on Saturday, Reds starter Nick Lodolo endured a 35-pitch inning in the top of the first following two quick outs and fell behind, 1-0. Leading off the bottom of the first, India provided a quick jolt by slugging a 2-1 pitch from Pirates lefty Rich Hill into the left-field seats.
“We needed it after an inning like that. I told myself before the [at-bat] to get on base any [way I possibly could]. Get them going,” India said. “That felt good.”
In the original design of the Viking system, India was in charge of awarding the helmet whenever it was merited. But since he hit the home run himself, TJ Friedl handed him the helmet, while Tyler Stephenson added the cape.
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Four batters later, India was back on helmet duty when Newman mashed another homer — a two-out, two-run drive to left field — with Friedl this time handling the cape.
Why a Viking helmet and cape? The idea came from Reds starting pitcher Luis Cessa, who purchased the items online during Spring Training.
“Last year late in the season, I wanted to do something for Fraley,” Cessa explained. “I told him, ‘You look like a Viking with the big beard and long blonde hair.’”
During camp, Cessa brought the idea to some of the hitters, including India.
“I thought we needed to do something for sure, something when somebody hits a homer. This was my idea for Fraley, but maybe we can do it for the whole team,” Cessa said. “Everybody liked it. Someone wanted to do it in Spring Training but we said, ‘No, we’re waiting for Opening Day so it’s a surprise for everybody.’”
Other clubs have their own dugout celebrations. For example, the Brewers ring a bell for their big moments, while the Padres place a giant gold necklace around a home run hitter.
Most of the coaching staff was not clued into the celebration plan, but the players did run it by manager David Bell.
“In the end, it’s the players’ game. I love when they come up with stuff,” Bell said. “I’m great with it.”
Nick Lodolo strikes out nine
With one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, Fraley pinch-hit against right-handed reliever Chase De Jong and put the game away. He hit a 3-1 slider into the right-field bullpen to make it a four-run contest.
When he got back to the dugout, of course, the helmet and cape adorned the team’s original Viking.
“He could be in Game of Thrones,” India said.
“That’s a funny story. I actually did the whole ‘ancestry dot com’ stuff,” Fraley said. “I got back the DNA stuff, and it actually came back and said my original ancestors were Vikings and Anglo-Saxons that traveled over the North Sea. So it fits perfect.”
Not entirely perfect. It turns out the plastic helmet isn’t a great fit.
“It’s uncomfortable, but I’d wear it any day,” Steer said. “They’re hitting you on the head with it, but it’s all part of it. It’s all worth it.”