Big things in store for diminutive Gennett
KANSAS CITY -- The story about how Ryan Gennett became Scooter Gennett is worth telling and retelling. And we're going to get to that right after the latest update on Scooter's extremely promising baseball career.
Gennett , 22, plays second base for the Milwaukee Brewers' Double-A Huntsville affiliate in the Southern League. He has a compact, line-drive, left-handed stroke, extra-base power and above-average speed. He was a 16th-round Draft choice in 2009, but he hit .300 or better in both of his two previous Minor League seasons, in low Class A and high Class A. He was named as a Southern League All-Star this season, and his talents were deemed significant enough that he was given a spot in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game played Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.
Gennett, the No. 5 prospect in the Brewers' organization, can play. But you're also going to hear about his size or relative lack of it. Gennett is listed at 5-feet-9 inches, 165 pounds, although he insists that he is 5-10. Either way, he plays bigger than that.
Gennett had a productive day at the Futures Game, with a walk, double to the base of the wall in right-center and two runs scored in four plate appearances. He contributed to the most one-sided result in Futures Game history -- with the United States team defeating the World, 17-5. One of his outs was a line drive to right. Another was a grounder to second, but at least he pulled the ball against Bruce Rondon, a Tigers Double-A pitcher who was throwing 102 mph.
It was a good day for Gennett, on more than one level, playing against some of the best competition the Minor Leagues have to offer.
"Any time you get to face guys like that and put the ball in play, and make something happen, you've got to be proud of yourself," Gennett said. "I'm pretty happy. It was a great experience. I've been able to meet some guys that I've heard a lot about, and they're all professionals. They go about their business the right way."
And now to "Scooter," which would seem to be an ideal name for a relatively small fellow. For instance, Hall of Fame Yankees shortstop Phil Rizzuto, a man of slight physical stature, was known as "The Scooter." But in fact, the nickname has nothing to do with size. And it has everything to do with a 5-year-old with a certain amount of, well, cunning.
Five years old, in Ohio at the time, Gennett would be riding in the car with his mother. She would put on his seat belt. He would click it open. He was obstinate about this, as children can sometimes be.
"We'd be in the car and my mother would put on my seat belt and I'd click it off," Gennett recalls. "I was real defiant as a child."
His mother told him that it was illegal for him not to have the seat belt on and that he could be arrested. When Gennett persisted in clicking off the seat belt, his mother, in fact, took him to a police station.
"She took me to the police station to scare me," Gennett says. "So a policeman says: 'No. 1, listen to what your mother says.' And you know, 'seat belt safety,' as well. But I thought I was going to get arrested. So I made up a fake name."
This is where Gennett's fondness for the Muppets came in handy. Drawing a first name from a character on that show, he told the policeman that his name was "Scooter Gennett."
"My mom knew that I watched the show, but she'd never heard the name before," Gennett said. "After we left [the police station], I didn't answer to 'Ryan' anymore, because I thought I would be arrested. I thought if I answered to Ryan, I would get in trouble."
A 5-year-old kid who thought he needed an alias. That is how Ryan became Scooter, for keeps. "I'm thinking about writing just a three-page book," Gennett said with a smile. "And then when anybody asks me about my name, I can say: 'Here, buy my book.'
Literary success or not, this is a baseball career that appears to be headed toward the Major Leagues. Gennett has succeeded at every level so far. Sunday, you could see the pop in his bat and his persistent ability to make contract.
When you see Gennett play, it is not a stretch to think Dustin Pedroia. And that turns out to be OK. These two play the same position and are of similar size. Pedroia is one American League Most Valuable Player award and one World Series championship with the Boston Red Sox ahead of Gennett. But that's all right, too. Pedroia has set an example for anybody who wants to prove that size is not a barrier to success at baseball's highest levels.
"Ever since he's made it to the big leagues, people spoke highly of him, his work ethic," Gennett said of Pedroia. "You know, being small, you have to do things that maybe guys who are bigger than you can do with less effort. You know, he's a hard worker, and he's good defensively, too. He's been a guy that I've looked up to. I like [Jose] Altuve [of the Houston Astros], too.
"Those guys are actually shorter than me," Gennett added with a smile, "but they're still good guys to look up to."
Pedroia is listed by the Red Sox as 5-9. Having stood next to both Pedroia and Gennett, I can say with complete assurance that Gennett is taller than Pedroia. Gennett would like to be listed as 5-10. But he is proving on the field that his size, no matter how it is listed, is not a detriment to a career that has been characterized by both ability and will.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.