Friday, November 19, 1999

Why is Dante Bichette smiling?


New jersey, and 'it's not New York'

BY JOHN ERARDI
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[bichette]
Dante Bichette shares a laugh with Reds great Johnny Bench.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
        The newest Red eyed the mirror in the lobby of the Town & Country Soccer Complex in Wilder. He liked what he saw.

        “I've always wanted to wear one of these,” Dante Bichette said, raising his chin and puffing out his chest.

        Bichette, who was in town Thursday to address Reds sponsors, was referring to the style of the Reds jersey — sleeveless — that he was wearing over his dress shirt.

        But there was a time last season, when the Colorado Rockies were in the midst of yet another losing streak, that Bichette longed to wear a particular sleeveless jersey: The one with the wishbone “C” on the front.

        “This is really tremendous for me, because I came from a last-place team to a team that really has a chance to win,” he said. “There are great players like Barry (Larkin) and Sean (Casey) and great fans. This is more my kind of town. I love the fact that this is a baseball town, but it's not New York. I think it's a real good fit for me and my family.”

        The Reds train in Sarasota, Fla., not too far from Orlando, where the Bichette family makes its full-time home.

        Bichette said he will play any position the Reds want but that he's better in right field than in left: “Head and shoulders. Hopefully I can show it.”

        • On what he thinks distingusihes him: “With Colorado, I was successful hitting in tough spots late in the game. That's what I really pride myself on - tough at-bats. Hopefully that's what I can give the team.”

        • On hitting outside Coors Field: “It's something I'd really love to prove, that I'm a pretty legit player.”

        • On grass not going into Cinergy Field: “I really don't have anything to draw on. I've never played more than a series on turf. I haven't given it any thought that it would be a big deal. I can tell you more after the season. My legs are strong; my knees are completely healed.”

        • On the Reds going after Ken Griffey Jr.: “If that happens, I'd feel like a (batter) who goes up there to move a runner over and winds up hitting one out of the park. That'd be excellent.”

        • On why he likes the Reds: “I've heard about the great chemistry in that clubhouse. I know they're very professional. I enjoy that about baseball. These guys are baseball players. That's what wins games. You don't need big 50- and 60-home run guys.”

        • On his frustrations in Colorado: “They slowly dismantled a great club. The chemistry wasn't the same. The people they were letting go were the close-knit guys, the heart of the club — Joe Girardi, Walt Weiss, Eric Young, Andres Gallaraga ...” Bichette showed his knowledge of Reds history when somebody asked him if was going to wear a shirt with sleeves underneath his vested jersey — or go sleeveless like big Ted Kluszewski did in the 1950s.

        “I don't have the guns (biceps) he had,” Bichette said, laughing.

       



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