by Alex Poletti
Just hearing that he had been shipped up the Ohio River to Cleveland, Reds right fielder Yasiel Puig and his teammates decided to participate in one last bench-clearing brawl for old times’ sake.
It started in the ninth inning, when manager David Bell went to the mound to relieve lefty hurler Amir Garrett. Rather than walk with Garrett back to the dugout, the two chatted, then the reliever gave the baseball to the coach and charged the Pirates’ dugout.
“He came to take me out of the game, and he mentioned that Yasiel was just traded,” the left-hander says. “I told him that just for Puig, I was going to run up to the Pittsburgh dugout and punch some bitches. He looked at me, paused and said, ‘Okay champ,’ and patted me on the back.”
Garrett then ran straight into three players and took a swing, taking all of the opposition down with him. At this point, both benches obligatorily cleared, with Puig getting excited about the prospect of one last fight.
“It was sweet of them to do this for me,” Puig says. “I mean, they know how big of a fan I am of fighting and sparking a riot for no good reason. It’s nice that I got one more chance to do it in a Reds uniform.”
The entire team got into it, with Bell going after opposing manager Clint Hurdle. Bell had earlier been ejected, but came back onto the field to get a few swings in. Before he could land anything more than a light push, he was taken down by Pirates hitting coach Rick Eckstein. Luckily, Reds pitcher Sonny Gray came to his manager’s rescue, prying the hitting coach off of him.
“After Amir and Puig started going at it, I started to get jazzed,” Bell says. “I was like, yeah let’s fuck some shit up. I went after Clint [Hurdle] because he seemed like a guy that I could reasonably take on.”
While Hurdle managed to stay out of the Fracas, Eckstein went all out, incurring some scratches and bruises. However, the hitting coach doesn’t regret a thing.
“I certainly haven’t been helping this team hit, so I thought I might as well do something for the guys,” Eckstein notes.
The Reds will not play the next three games of the season, as their entire team and managerial staff was suspended. The one man who evaded suspension was Puig, who caught his flight to Cleveland before the umpires regained control of the game.
“I’m truly touched. This was a sentimental moment for me,” Puig says as he dons a Cleveland cap. “I can’t wait to pursue a championship with Cleveland, but I’ll always remember throwing punches and giving out concussions with Cincinnati.”