McCoy: Reds manager finds comfort with baseball ‘family’ on Opening Day

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David Bell interview (April 1, 2021)

David Bell attended funeral services for his brother, Mike, on Wednesday.

In Cincinnati Reds Country, it is a celebratory day of exuberance, positivity and a sense of rebirth, a new baseball season.

Opening Day in Cincinnati is St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, Cinco de Mayo in Mexico and the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, all wrapped into one event.

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For Reds manager David Bell, it was all that and more Thursday morning when he walked into Great American Ball Park.

On Wednesday, he attended services for his 46-year-old brother, Mike, who died March 26 of kidney cancer.

For the Bell family, baseball is not only therapeutic, it is life, always has been from Gus Bell to son Buddy Bell to grandsons David and Mike Bell.

So it was like walking into his living room to be with his extended family when Bell arrived at GABP for the start of the 2021 season.

And it helped lift the weight off an overloaded heart.

“It does (help), because this is what we do,” he said. “This is what I love to do. It is what Mike loved to do. It doesn’t change that other than it makes you appreciate every moment we have to do what we love to do.”

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Mike’s major league player career was only 19 games long with the 2000 Reds, but baseball blood coursed through his veins, as it does for the entire Bell clan.

He stayed in baseball and was a coach with the Minnesota Twins when he passed.

“I’m with people that we love and, absolutely … as tough as it is, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else today,” said Bell.

“It’s great today just being around everybody, being around family, because that’s really what this team has become. I can’t wait to start another season with this team.”

When Mike Bell died last week, in deference to the family, both the Twins and Reds offered to cancel spring exhibition games. The Bell family would have none of it, insisting that the games go on. And they did, in honor of Mike Bell.

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“My family appreciated it a lot, even the thought of canceling games,” David Bell said. “People were willing to do anything to honor Mike and that meant a ton to us.

“It was a pretty easy decision because we knew Mike would want to continue us to go on (and play),” Bell added. “He didn’t like a lot of attention, that’s for sure. And I know he would appreciate all the attention, all the love, and he would be extremely grateful. But to continue on playing was exactly what he would want us to do.”

And it was not an easy assignment for so many of the players who knew Mike Bell, from the Reds and from the Twins. Playing baseball is tough enough with a whole heart, let alone with a punctured one.

“So many of the players who played in those games … how much Mike had meant in their lives and their careers,” said Bell. “And they had to go out and actually play that day. I think that was very tough. I know it was very tough for several guys that I talked to.

“They made it through it and they did it for the right reasons … for Mike,” Bell added.

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Reds manager David bell, right, talks to pitcher Sean Doolittle before Opening Day on Thursday, April 1, 2021, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Reds manager David bell, right, talks to pitcher Sean Doolittle before Opening Day on Thursday, April 1, 2021, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

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Reds manager David bell, right, talks to pitcher Sean Doolittle before Opening Day on Thursday, April 1, 2021, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Those who have been around David Bell the last few years and witnessed the clubhouse atmosphere know how the players love and respect their manager.

When Joey Votto arrived at the ballpark Thursday morning, his first stop was Bell’s clubhouse office.

“You know, collectively we support one another,” said Votto. “David has been a fantastic support for all players. I’ve always seen players and him have really good relationships.

“He has always sincerely had our backs,” added Votto. “I see that being reciprocated and we’re glad he’s back, very glad he’s back. He is a big part of our personality. And we feel his void when he’s gone.”

Bell, like his brother Mike and his father Buddy, is low-key and deals in a monotone with the media. Some interpret that as a manager with no fire in his stomach, no competitive juices, no kick-butt attitude.

That isn’t so and it certainly shows when he feels as though his team was wronged by an umpire.

“He does have a more of a subdued tone at times,” said Votto. “But when you are in the clubhouse you can real feel his focus, energy and passion. That was missed.”

While David Bell is ready to resume his focus and dedication to winning baseball games, for one day, at least, when he glances at third base, where Mike played, or when he glances at the first base coach’s box, where Mike coached, his thoughts might wander.

It’s called brotherly love.

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