CINCINNATI Reds star Donald Lutz, pictured with young fan Tobey Phillips, says Brisbane's tight-knit baseball community helped get him to the Majors.
CINCINNATI Reds star Donald Lutz, pictured with young fan Tobey Phillips, says Brisbane's tight-knit baseball community helped get him to the Majors.

Donald Lutz thanks Brisbane for getting him to The Big Show

CINCINNATI Reds star Donald Lutz owes a lot to the city of Brisbane, the Windsor Royals club and Bandits CEO Mark Ready.

Ready has had a long association with the Royals, and was there every step of the way for Lutz after the Reds signed him to play affiliated ball.

In 2013, Lutz became the first ever German-raised man to play in the Major League.

But it all started when he was 17, the Reds sending him to play off-season ball with the Royals, coming out to play for them for the next five years.

The Royals share Holloway Field with the Bandits, and Windsor was the first club Lutz played for outside his native Germany.

Holloway Field will always hold a special place in the 25-year-old's heart - so much so that he'd love to play for the Bandits in the near future during the MLB off-season, if Reds officials allow him to.

The 62-gamer and Reds bench man is back in Brisbane and staying with Ready, as he's done over the past eight years, along with his brother Sascha - who is also a German national-team player.

This is Lutz's story on his journey to the Big Show from some modest beginnings ...
 
What does the city of Brisbane mean to you?

"This was the first place I came before I even went to the States, and I played for the Royals.

"From then on I just felt like I was part of the family."

How much has Mark Ready helped you?

"He's supported me every way he can. Back in the day he'd pick me up and drive me out to practice.

"He made sure I had everything and that I could do all the proper work.

"Even when I made my (MLB) debut in the States, he was one of the first guys to come over and watch me play for a week.

"He's been awesome."

Did you have much individual and team success at the Royals?

"Unfortunately I didn't win a championship with them. We came close a couple of times.

"But it helped me so much just being able to come out here and play with the guys.

"Playing in the Australian Baseball League was awesome as well."

You played for the Canberra Cavalry in the ABL back in 2010 with (new Yankees signing and short short replacement for legend Derek Jeter) Didi Gregorius. What was that like and how much potential did he have back then?

"You could tell he had a lot of potential. I played nearly every level with him at the Reds.

"Defensively he was unbelievable - I think he won a Golden Glove award (in 2010/11 while playing for the Cavs). I remember hitting he struggled a little bit, but he was lights-out in defence."

Is there any chance you might come back and play for the Bandits one day?

"Yeah, definitely. This year it didn't work out. But we'll see in the future. It depends on how much playing time I get, and if they (Reds management) will allow me to do it.

"I'd definitely love to."

What were some of your highlights playing for Germany?

"Playing with my brother. One of the biggest highs was we went to the Olympic qualifiers in 2008 in Taiwan.

"That was awesome. At that time I only just started playing baseball a couple of years ago, and before I knew it I was out there in front of 20,000 people.

"It was awesome. I've been to so many countries with the national team.

"One of my highlights was in Panama for a World Cup and we played Australia, and a good mate of mine from Canberra I faced him and I hit a huge home run against him.

"We had a laugh but I don't want to say who it was."

What keeps you coming back to Brisbane - is it the close bonds you have with everyone here?

"Yeah definitely. We're like family. Every opportunity I get when I get some free time I want to come out here.

"I love this town; I love Brisbane."

You were a pretty late bloomer in taking up the sport?

"It all went pretty quick. I played ice hockey until I was 15 or 16, then I went out on the field one day and tried out baseball.

"Then I started booming the ball all over the field, and before I knew it I played on the national team the next year, then I was over in the States, then Australia, then back in the States."

How proud are you that you've represented Germany?

"That's massive. I remember when I got called up for the first time it took a while for it to sink in.

"I was the first German-developed player to make it to the big leagues. I heard from my friends and family all over Germany writing me congrats, I had to turn my phone off for a couple of days. It went off like crazy."

You played 28 games for the Reds last year - were you happy with how you went?

"Yeah. They mainly had me in there as a pinch hitter, so I wasn't out there every day in a daily routine.

"I was a little disappointed in my numbers, but it's kind of hard just to go out there and pinch hit.

"But just to go and watch the guys work, I learned a lot."

How hard is it to prepare for games as a pinch hitter?

"You're always on your toes around the fifth or sixth inning. You sit in there and watch video of the pitchers all day and read the scouting reports to try to get a little advantage.

"But then you just get loose, grab your helmet, head out there and try to perform."

What's it like playing for the Reds?

"It's one of the oldest clubs, and it's cool because there's a lot of German heritage, so it worked out perfect for me.

"They're pretty good baseball fans - they're always behind you.

"It doesn't matter which park you go to - as soon as those lights turn on and you see the triple decks in the stands it's amazing.

"It's hard to describe sometimes."

What was it like playing baseball in Germany?

"It's improved. It's only like two games a week and 30 games a year. It's hard because people have regular jobs and there isn't much money, but it's growing.

"More and more guys are signing professional contracts and a few have gone to college.

"People in the States are realising there's talent in Germany as well, even though there's not too much baseball being played."

Did you get picked up by US scouts over there?

"Yeah. We have a Major League Baseball Academy which runs for three weeks in Italy in August. There are scouts that go through all of Europe and Africa in try-out camps.

"The 60 best players are chosen to go to Italy and you play in front of the scouts for a few weeks, and then you have a chance to go to college or sign a professional contract."

How strong is the Germany flavour among Reds fans?

"Sometimes you'll see some German flags and even the food - there are a lot of authentic places which hooked me up.

"It's a pretty good situation."



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