Monday, March 1, 2004

Reds: Graves is still just a big kid

From remote-control cars to motorcycles, pitcher is all about fun

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SARASOTA, Fla. - When the Rolls-Royce pulls up, people are probably expecting to see a uniformed chauffer get out.

Pitcher Danny Graves with a recent acquisition... a 2003 Rolls Royce Phantom.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
Instead, they see a tattooed relief pitcher wearing a camouflaged T-shirt, like the one Carl Spackler wore in Caddyshack, and flip-flops.

Welcome to Danny Graves' world.

Someone once said that show business is like high school with money. That's Graves. He's got the cars, toys, clothes, tattoos and piercings your Generation X son would have if he made $6 million a year, like Graves does.

"Danny is the coolest person I know," Adam Dunn said. "He's got a cool wife, cool kids, cool cars and a cool house. He's a guy who knows how to have fun."

Graves is not without responsibility. He and his wife, Andrea, have four children.

"I have my hobbies," he said. "I'll spend money, but I don't waste it. I've put plenty away. But I have fun with it. If money was meant to hold onto, it would have a handle."

Graves is also generous. He was the Reds' recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award - given to the player who combines on-the-field skills with community service - in 2001 and 2003.

"He does everything we ask him to do," said Rob Butcher, the Reds director of media relations. "He's one of the guys the community relations people go to first. He really likes to help children - so does his wife, for that matter. They've been very generous."

Graves ended up with the Rolls when he went shopping for a Bentley.

"I saw the Rolls sitting there and I had to have it," Graves said. "I love that grill. It's mean looking."

When he's not driving the Rolls, Graves commutes in a pickup truck painted in Harley-Davidson black and orange.

That's an offshoot of his motorcycle hobby. Graves is down to one motorcycle - a custom bike made by Bulldog on a Harley frame.

"Seems like I have a new hobby every year," he said. "Last year, it was motorcycles. This year, it's model cars."

Graves has three of the remote-control model cars. They are gas-powered and fast enough to get a speeding ticket in some localities. The other players have noticed.

"Peer pressure," Dunn said. "Everyone wants one now."

Graves also has two horses. At Cinergy Field, he turned the crawl space between lockers into a video-game booth. At Great American Ball Park, he has a desk console next to his locker to hold all his toys.

"Life is too short," he said. "I've got to have fun. I can't sit around."

Pitcher Danny Graves is a certified "tattoo freak" and recently added another.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
The only time Graves sits still is when he's getting a tattoo - and that's more often than you might think.

Ask him how many tattoos he has, and he starts counting.

He gets to his back and says, "Nine, 10. That's it. No, wait, I forgot the one on my chest. It's 11."

Graves added to his body work with a spectacular green tattoo on his arm last week. It replaced one of his old tats - a baby smoking a cigar. It took Cathy, the tattoo lady at Eternal Art here, 5 1/2 hours to finish it. "She gave me a discount - $500," he said. "I've brought her a lot of business."

Dunn, Austin Kearns and Jason LaRue also got tattoos. Peer pressure, again.

Graves started his body art collection as a freshman at the University of Miami. "First time away from home," he said. "I wanted to do something - I don't know if it was rebelling - but it was something I decided for myself."

It was a baseball with a lightning bolt through it. "That's when I was a strikeout pitcher," Graves said. "But tattoos are addictive. You get one, and you want more."

Graves does draw the line. "You can't see any of mine when I'm wearing clothes," he said. "And they're all tasteful. At least, to me they are."

Tom Hume, the Reds' bullpen coach, talks about Graves like the proud parent of a quirky son. "He definitely beats to a different drum," Hume said. "But he's a good kid. I consider him another son. He's been with me six years. I'm a little prejudiced, but I can be with him.

"He's so laid back. But he has that intensity inside. When he crosses the foul line, a switch flips and he's all business."



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