Kenny and Cheryl Reddick never knew what to expect when their five year old son, Josh, first mentioned he wanted to play Major League baseball. But they gave him every opportunity to succeed. They supported him in every way. They paid for all the traveling, hotel and food expenses, and allowed Josh to do whatever it took to fulfill his dream.
Now, unless you have been living under a rock for the past few years, most of Effingham County is familiar with the story of local baseball legend Josh Reddick, who made it to the major leagues. He played for the Boston Red Sox and was traded to the Oakland Athletics. What you might not know is how down to earth and “hometown” Josh Reddick remains, despite his fame.
Born in February 1987, Josh started out playing baseball in the recreation department league before moving on to high school baseball. He was coached by his dad in his younger years, and then by Coach Kirkland as a Mustang at South Effingham High School.
Josh played extremely well in high school and attracted the attention of the minor leagues. He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 17th round of the 2006 MLB Draft. In 2011, he was traded to the Oakland Athletics, where he played right field for his first full year in the majors.
Being traded to the Oakland A’s was a different experience. Reddick says “It was a different team, different dynamics, very different from Minor League or high school baseball.”
Even though it’s a “job,” it’s still a passion for him, allowing him to do what he loves. He plays ball daily during the season, somewhere around 30 games in five weeks. Off-season is the end of October to Mid-February. That’s when he returns home to Effingham County to regroup and prepare for the next season.
Josh recently became the first Oakland outfielder in 27 years to win a Golden Glove, capping a debut season in Oakland that surpassed the expectations of many. “Receiving the Golden Glove Award pretty much cements my position as a right fielder, but it’s always been a good fit” Reddick acknowledges.
He took advantage of some time off during the last off season for minor wrist surgery on his left wrist to repair a torn cartilage. He was able to play through the season with the injury. And, then use the time wisely to take care of it. Otherwise, Josh has enjoyed an injury-free career.
He operates at a very different level of competition now. When he was a younger player in high school and rec sports, he was able to stand out and be a star on the team. Then, as Reddick progressed to the minor leagues, he became one of several stars on the team. “Once you get to the majors, everyone on the team is a star and is operating at the top of their game”.
Josh’s attitude towards losing has even changed over the years. “You have to give it some time to sink in. The locker room is real quiet after a loss- you don’t go in on a high note. But once it’s over, it’s over. You move on. Don’t carry that loss with you”. This “leave it behind” philosophy is also important in life. It is just part of the game. There is always tomorrow.
Josh gained a profound understanding of loss the first year or two he was away. “The homesickness was awful,” he shares quietly. Just a young kid in his early 20’s, he came from a tight knit family and had long periods of time between visits home. Some of the older players in the AA and AAA leagues served as mentors and helped him understand how to handle the separation from his family.
Life has brought some changes to his family over the past five years since he made the Majors. His older brother, Bradford, is married now with a family – wife Crissy and daughter Cayden. His little sister isn’t so little anymore. The youngest of the Reddick trio, Danielle is already a tall girl at 5’10” and an accomplished softball player. Although he’s regrettably never been able to catch any of her games, Josh “hears she’s pretty good” and can really smack a softball, something he’s very proud of.
He still has family dinners two to three times a week with his grandparents, Arnold and Judy Reddick, when he’s home during the off-season. It can be anywhere from an intimate gathering of five or six to a large family gathering with all the aunts and uncles and cousins included. If he’s not eating at his grandmother’s table, you might find him at one of his favorite spots, eating crab legs at the Crab Shack on Tybee.
It is very important to him that he establishes a home base and puts down roots in his native Effingham County. It keeps him grounded and keeps him humble. One way of putting down those roots is to buy his own home. He says “it’s essential to have my own place, a place to put down roots and call my own.”
He stays busy rambling with his dogs, a three year old American Bulldog named Backster (“with a C.K., not an X”), and a brand new English Bulldog puppy named Murray.
He also likes to kick back and play video games. His favorite game is Assassin’s Creed – an open-world action adventure for the XBox 360, his gaming system of choice.
The nearby Ebenezer River provides him with a quiet spot to do a little fishing or just spend some time reconnecting with himself and finding his inner calm after baseball season. “It’s fall and winter mostly when I am home” he says, and it’s perfect for quiet contemplation and a little line-casting, but he admits to missing summer sports on the water. “I miss it alright, but I think that the sacrifice is worth it for doing what I love, playing baseball”.
When the players are traveling, they have to wear a collared shirt and no sneakers. So, Josh will often choose a western style shirt with pearl snap buttons. Couple that with his preference for country music, and it’s no wonder that in California he is regarded as a Southern redneck boy. He acknowledges with a sly smile that he plays up the “cowboy personality” with a carefully crafted look – your basic Wrangler jeans from Walmart, cowboy hat (he owns two) and boots.
Although he considered himself an average student in high school, he had begun to pursue his college education and was working towards a degree in sports medicine before joining the Major Leagues. His contract currently provides for his three remaining years of college, and he has up to two years after retirement to take advantage of the offer. He maintains an interest in Sports Medicine but has broadened his interests over the past few years and could end up pursuing something else entirely.
In the past year, he’s been ranked among the top ten in home runs. Perhaps his greatest achievement to date is being awarded the Rawlings Golden Glove award for being the best Right Fielder in the American League. Other players to receive this award in the past include Jeff Francouer (2007), Dwight Evans and Andre’ Dawson (both eight-time winners in the 70’s and 80’s). True to his generous nature, he treated his mother to “Rock of Ages” on Broadway earlier in November when she accompanied him to New York to accept the award.
He’s been able to meet a few baseball idols along the way. Derek Jeter came up on base during a game and congratulated him on making the majors and wished him success and he says “it is a huge honor to have played with David Ortiz.”
He’s always gotten strong parental support for his dream. Both parents were very driven to see that each of their children had every opportunity to explore their dreams and did what they could to help that along.
Despite a three year age difference between Josh and his older brother, he reminisces about being driven around by his brother from seventh grade until high school. “Having an older brother definitely made life easier, at least until I could drive,” said Josh.
Like most young men, he has a penchant for cars, and has purchased several new and used ones in the past few years. Six, to be exact. He currently drives a 2011 BMW M3 hardtop convertible or his 1992 Silverado, decked out Effingham County style with lifts and pipes.
His financial advisor helps him manage his finances, a very wise move for this level-headed athlete. “I like to take care of my family, I feel like it’s my responsibility and an opportunity to give back to them.” He occasionally treats his parents and family members with gifts, but generally is saving for his future and the purchase of his new home.
Josh remains active in community activities. He donates his time and expertise to mentoring young athletes during the South Effingham High School Hitting Camp each December during the Major League off-season “I’m a player, not a coach” he chuckles. “It takes a special person to be a coach and I have a high regard for the coaches in my life, particularly my dad and Coach Kirkland.”
South Effingham High School is finally retiring his old jersey, #24. It hasn’t been worn since he graduated. Retiring the jersey has been highly talked about for several years, but it “took a little media push from WSAV a little while back to make it happen,” Reddick shares in conspiratorial whisper.
Looking to the future, Reddick wants to create a charity for Effingham County as a way of giving back. “The caliber of competitiveness in rec department sports is not what it was when I was a young player and I would like to ignite the spark again.” He’s observed that kids in general don’t seem to have a strong sense of commitment to anything, and feels that they are missing out on great opportunities by not playing sports on some level. He thinks it is good for kids to make a strong commitment to something like sports and extracurricular activities.
At the heart of who he is, Josh Reddick is an ordinary guy with extraordinary talents. “I just want to be that friendly guy, that average guy.” He likes it when people stop him around town and say hello. “What is it they say?” he asks with a grin. “I put my pants on one leg at a time like everyone else.”
Just how important his hometown connection is to him is evident by the play of emotions across his face when he talks about a local country star who made it big. “I’ve always been a little disappointed in [him] not being a stronger presence his hometown community and giving back a little more” and Reddick is doggedly determined to never lose sight of where he came from.
Look for Josh around Effingham County just being that ordinary guy doing ordinary things, or follow his career on Twitter (@joshreddick16).