By Marc Normandin
If you didn't know that Oakland Athletics outfielder Josh Reddick is a wrestling fan, then you haven't been paying enough attention to him. Reddick, who in 2012 won a Gold Glove, earned some MVP votes, and has emerged as one of the faces of his club, comes to the plate to various wrestling theme music. He has been photographed for spring training with his replica WWE Championship belt slung over his shoulder, and if you follow him on Twitter, you'll even catch him interacting with the likes of WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross on occasion. Reddick loves his wrestling, specifically WWE, and has for quite some time.
"Every little kid gets into it at some point," says Reddick, who admits he stopped following the sports entertainment giant at some point between his youth and becoming a professional baseball player. When he moved in with a high school buddy of his, though, Reddick once again became a fan. "He was into it, and he paid for the cable, so every Monday night, I'd sit down and start watching it and got back into it. So he gets the credit for getting me back into the whole thing. Being in baseball, I've got to meet all these different guys, but he's always the one person who takes me to all these events when I've been home."
Monday night is when WWE shows their flagship program, "RAW," live on the USA Network. The show is currently in its 21st season, and celebrated its 1,000th episode just last year, at the same time that it was pushed to a standard three-hour format. It's tough for a professional baseball player to consistently block away that much time for late-night television, but Reddick puts in the effort, even if he's not huge on everything the WWE is pushing in its stories right now -- such as the latest anti-establishment stable, The Shield.
The Shield debuted at the Survivor Series pay-per-view last August, interrupting the title match between Ryback and then-champion CM Punk by triple powerbombing the former through a table. "It would have been fine if they came up with some new ways to do it, but every week it was lights go out, here come the three guys, beat the crap out of each other, triple powerbomb. Next week, same thing," says Reddick. "At least if you're going to do that, switch it up and let them do some different things."
Reddick knows a thing or two about how a stable of heel characters should be run, as his favorite wrestler of all-time, Triple-H, was one of the founders of WWE's greatest group in that vein: Degeneration-X. While DX moved on from being just heels to fan favorites, part of that rise came from the promos, wrestling, and envelope-pushing of Triple-H and another Reddick favorite, Shawn Michaels. The Shield is a long way from that kind of recognition, as Reddick notes, and part of it is because they just haven't been allowed to grow and breathe much just yet.
Reddick, however, was thrilled when Triple-H returned to the ring at the start of the final RAW of February, for the first time since late-August of 2012. "I was going nuts in my apartment. It worked out great because you know, the time difference here, and I don't stay up past 11 since I've been in spring training, so for him to come out right at the beginning of the show was awesome for me." Triple-H's current story line is as the company's Chief Operating Officer, which in actuality isn't a stretch: in real life, he's the Executive Vice President, Talent, and is the likely heir to the WWE universe when Vince McMahon finally hangs it up, given his high-standing in the organization and his marriage -- both on- and off-screen -- to McMahon's daughter, Stephanie.
These front office responsibilities, which aren't entirely new for Triple-H, haven't kept him from befriending his long time fan, though they did slow down the process. "I actually met a camera guy from WWE and got to know the whole camera crew for about three years. I went to a number of shows, went backstage, met wrestlers, but just never crossed paths with Triple-H since he was always so busy. I've always used a wrestling walk-up song while hitting, and he just heard through the grapevine that I had used his, and that he was my favorite. One night in Boston, I got to meet him, and talked to him for about an hour backstage. He gave me his number, and we stayed in contact. Anytime they're around us, I give him a shout, and he leaves me ringside tickets." Reddick, whose voice tells you he's aware of how lucky that makes him, finishes with, "I'm grateful for that."
He can also thank Triple-H for the championship belt Reddick carries with him, as that was a gift to the outfielder from the WWE executive himself. "Triple-H actually sent that to me last spring training. I had a plastic replica belt that I had bought a few years ago, and took to photo day last year. I guess he found the pictures, and Triple-H has always been my favorite wrestler -- he's always been my favorite, ever since I started watching. He sent that two days later and said, 'If you're going to have a belt you might as well have the real thing'."
Of course, the real thing is always changing: the belt that Reddick possesses is no longer the official WWE Championship belt, as The Rock unveiled his custom iteration at just about the worst possible time for Reddick. "It's funny because the day before, I had the photo shot with the old belt. Then the next night, the new one comes out on RAW. I've actually looked into buying it, but it's $500, and I don't want to put some money into it like that." Not every fan of the WWE feels the same way, given that the item is back-ordered on the official shop through mid-March, but you can understand even a super fan on a baseball player's salary turning down the chance to spend almost $500 when you've already got a belt with a far cooler backstory.
Triple-H is far from the only wrestler Reddick has interacted with, and one such occurrence led to his favorite moment with WWE-inspired at-bat music. "My favorite time was probably with Ric Flair in 2011 when I was with Boston. Flair came around the clubhouse and me and [Dustin] Pedroia went nuts, Pedroia is a huge wrestling guy, as well. We took pictures with Ric, and I think Pedroia walked out to 'To be the man, you got to beat the man' and I walked out to the standard 'Woo' call. That was pretty cool they were able to do that for us, and it's one of my favorite moments."
What would top the at-bat music and the clubhouse meetings, though, would be a chance for Reddick to get into the ring himself: "I have yet to go on a show, so we need to get that pushed along to where I can get on a show, that'd be awesome. The more people know that, the better." For any of you bookers out there reading, know that Reddick has already devised a gimmick, as well as many of the other necessaries for building a WWE character. "I'd be the Red Rocket, I think it works out well since I throw guys out on the baseball field. I'm not a very big guy, so my finisher would have to be a submission so I can get a guy to tap out. Maybe I'd go to the Ric Flair Figure-Four Leg Lock." Reddick has a tag-team partner picked out, whether it be from the ranks of the WWE or a fellow MLB player. "Stone Cold Steve Austin fits my criteria for where I'm from, being from the south, and we got the redneck chugging beer thing, and it'd be cool just to get in the ring, have a match and chug beers with him. For a teammate, I'd need to go with someone who knows the moves, the only person I know who knows the moves is Pedroia, so I'd have to go with Pedroia."
The hypothetical charisma of a Reddick/Pedroia tag-team would certainly fit into the WWE universe, but they would still need a star to put them over and make them believable to fans. If given the choice, Reddick would pick current WWE champion Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson for this task. "Rock would be into it, the fans would be into it, and it'd be fun just to have that sort of thing happen to me with someone like him."
The fans might not need that kind of convincing to buy into Reddick, though. He's a superb defensive player thanks to his general athleticism, and one with an arm so good that he and teammates have built a hypothetical wrestling gimmick out of it. He pied Coco Crisp in the face following a walk-off win last August... while wearing a Spider-Man costume:
That Spider-Man meme itself came out of a ridiculous catch Reddick made that saw him climb and hang off of a wall while the ball came to him, like something Willie Mays Hayes would have done in the fictional Major League universe. Reddick doesn't need to play a character like Hayes, though, as he already is one. It's no wonder he appreciates the spectacle of the sports entertainment business that is professional wrestling, as he's done his best to bring that kind of enjoyment to baseball fans.
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Marc Normandin writes and edits for Over the Monster, a Boston Red Sox blog, and also contributes to Baseball Nation. He's one of many behind the e-book "The Hall of Nearly Great," and has written for Baseball Prospectus, ESPN and others. You can follow him on Twitter @Marc_Normandin.