Josh VanMeter started the 2020 season in an 0-for-16 slump, striking out in half of those at-bats. The Cincinnati Reds demoted him to the alternate training site Aug. 6 at Prasco Park while he was still hitless.
Before returning to the big-league roster Tuesday, VanMeter had a number of conversations about hitting with people he trusts. He decide to do a mental reset, to forget everything he had done this season and start with a fresh mind, as if he were 0-for-0.
Among the valuable conversations he had was one with his dad, Greg, who he talked to on the phone on the way to Great American Ball Park.
“He has coached me my whole life,” VanMeter said. “He taught me to hit from 3 years old. He loves the game even more than I do. Every good dad is there to help and try to guide you through those struggles. He didn’t play at this level, but he’s got good life experiences. Baseball is not life or death. We can get caught up in this game, thinking it’s everything. It’s really not.”
VanMeter also talked to manager David Bell before the game Wednesday about the importance of enjoying every day and not taking being in the big leagues for granted. The attitude paid off during the game when VanMeter ended his drought with a pinch-hit solo home run in the seventh in a 5-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals.
“It’s a monkey off your back,” said VanMeter, who was in the starting lineup at second base for the start of a four-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday at Great American Ball Park. “It’s a vote of confidence. You can just go and compete. I was just thinking way too much. You just stick to your preparation and can’t think too much about mechanics in the box. It’s going to spin you into a hole. Just go out there and execute a plan.”
VanMeter’s home run was one of three the Reds hit in the seventh inning as they chipped away at a 5-0 deficit. Jesse Winker and Freddy Galvis also homered. The comeback stalled when Christian Colon hit into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded in the ninth.
VanMeter hit .235 with eight home runs in 95 appearances last season. He said it was a humbling experience getting sent to the alternate site.
“Obviously, you never want it to happen, but it’s kind of a part of the situation I’m in, still having options,” he said. “I went down there and still got my work in and was able to get 15 at-bats in four days. It was really good to see live pitching on a consistent basis.”
NOTES: The Reds reinstated reliever Keone Kela from the injured list Thursday and designated pitcher Miguel Del Pozo for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.
Pirates at Reds, 7:10 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410