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Seen and heard: How Josh Reddick found a different world in Oakland

05.03.14 at 6:42 am ET
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Josh Reddick can let his hair down. Literally.

Three seasons after being traded from the Boston Red Sox, the right fielder has settled in comfortably on the Oakland Athletics. It’€™s a feeling he hoped to achieve on the Red Sox, his first major league team, but he was never able to do so given his age and inexperience.

“€œBeing over here has been such a great wakeup call,” Reddick said in the visitor’s clubhouse at Fenway Park on Friday. “€œThis team is a lot more laid back than it was when I was over there. I wasn’€™t just the young guy in the clubhouse who was surrounded by veterans who’€™d been in the league for 10 years. I’€™m more of an impact player here than I was in Boston. It’€™s a lot easier for me to blend in and they let personalities run wild. It wasn’€™t something I was used to. I was the guy sitting at his locker with his headphones on until I was approached. It’€™s definitely been a more exciting time just from being able to express myself as more than just a baseball player.”

Reddick played for the Red Sox from ages 22 to 24 during a time when the team was dominated by vets well into their careers. He didn’€™t want to ruffle any feathers with his naturally talkative personality. Instead he kept to himself and waited to be sought out by his teammates. Reddick felt that until he proved he belonged in the pros, it was better to have a low-key profile in the clubhouse.

“We had all these veterans, like (Josh) Beckett, (Tim) Wakefield and (Kevin) Youkilis,” he said. “All those guys, you never know who was going to take something the wrong way, so you just play it safe and just be the guy that waits until he’€™s approached. That’€™s just how I played it and that’€™s how I was told to play it out.

“Once I came over here, I was right in the mix and meshed really well with them. It’€™s just a different clubhouse. The veteran leadership they had over there was just follow stuff by the old book, the old way, keep your mouth shut, and let things come to you. Over here it just doesn’€™t seem to run that way.”

Reddick had decided that 2012 would be the season he’€™d let his personality come out of its shell. And that happened, only on a different club. A team trip to Japan helped Reddick get acclimated quickly with his new teammates. He found it easy to let his talkative side show, so much so that his teammates now ask if something’€™s wrong when he isn’€™t chatty.

During his first season with the A’€™s Reddick found his locker next to Jonny Gomes, who also liked to let his personality shine. A then 25-year-old Reddick gained a new perspective on baseball from his clubhouse neighbor. The two formed a relationship during outfield drills in spring training, and the bond lasted throughout the season.

They directed celebratory gestures toward each another in the dugout when either had a big hit. Reddick hadn’€™t been demonstrative in games, but Gomes showed him how to infuse some of himself into his style of play.

“He definitely intensified my game,” said Reddick. “When we started making our run that year he was like, ‘€˜You’€™re a three-hole hitter and you’€™re making all these big at-bats. You need to step up and show your cockiness a little bit. Show this league you’€™re here to be somebody.’ ”

Gomes encouraged Reddick to become a more emotional player. That meant redirecting some of his outlooks from earlier in his career.

“I’€™ve always been a bad emotional player because I’€™ve always been a frustrating guy who, if he doesn’€™t do the job, he comes in and shows it,” Reddick said. “I’€™ve actually calmed down a lot with that. I think it shows how much more I am intensified to the game as opposed to just being negative. I don’€™t know if it’€™s made me a better player, but it’€™s showed me that maybe I care a little bit more about the positive stuff than the negative stuff. Everybody cares about the positives, but maybe showing that more makes me more of a fan favorite.”

The long hair began in Boston, the beard followed in Oakland. Ironically Reddick has never been one for the spotlight, but it became unavoidable given his physical appearance. He explains being in the spotlight on the A’€™s is different than on the Red Sox; the expectations and level of pressure are not as heightened.

Now in his sixth season, it is easier to handle the attention he does receive because he has the experience and career behind it. Reddick is glad to have reached the point where pitchers don’€™t “€œbreathe a sigh of relief”€ when he’€™s at the plate, and runners are not as apt to run when he’€™s manning right field.

The days of being hesitant to express himself are long gone. As Reddick — who is hitting .241 with a .315 OBP and .337 slugging mark this year — sits at his locker with an unavoidable neon yellow t-shirt, he is no longer tentative about letting his personality show in the clubhouse and on the field.

“€œI just like to have fun,”€ he said. “I don’€™t see it as I’€™m doing this to be in the spotlight. The game should be fun. Not a lot of people get to do it. This game could be over for us tomorrow or in 10 years. You never know when it’€™s going to end, so you should enjoy it while you can.”

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