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West Virginia native and Cincy Reds third base coach House heading into MLB’s ‘grand experiment’

West Virginia native and Cincy Reds third base coach House heading into MLB’s ‘grand experiment’

West Virginia native J.R. House has had quite a 40-year ride.

At one time, he set national high school passing records (14,457 career yards; 10 TDs in a championship) for Nitro.

During those high school years, he controversially moved south for spring semesters and played baseball in Ormond Beach, Fla.

He was a fifth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1999 and made it to the bigs with the Bucs, Houston Astros and Baltimore Orioles.

Of course, he also played quarterback for WVU one season, 2005, completing 2-of-4 passes for 38 yards with then-coach Rich Rodriguez.

Oh, and if that’s not enough, House has worked his way up to a position as the third-base coach for the Cincinnati Reds.

Which is attempting to play a shortened 60-game season amidst a pandemic.

“We start practice on July 3,” House said from Cincy on Tuesday. “So we have to get the players in. They have to go through a bunch of protocol with testing and all that good stuff. Then hopefully everyone is cleared and we can get rolling.”

I called House knowing he’s in the middle of Major League Baseball’s grand experiment.

“I don’t think anyone ever thought this would ever happen,” he said. “It’s been a crazy time, that’s for sure.”

It’s certain to be different. Fans won’t initially be in the stands, although the league’s Operations Manuel left the door open. (“Clubs may permit fan attendance at games with the approval of MLB and relevant local authorities,” says the manual.)

Not the old days of, well, last season though.

“Opening day last year was phenomenal,” House said. “Cincinnati always gets the first game – normally anyway – and to experience that for the first time was really, really special. It was cool.”

This season?

“It’s just kind of scary with everything going on,” House said. “You’re kind of watching, seeing where everyone stands, what they feel as a team. Everyone has different opinions on different things. We just have to find the heartbeat of our team and service it through this time.”

By the way, yes, you read correctly in the lead paragraph. House, the Mountain State golden boy of the late 1990s and early 2000s, is heading toward his 41st birthday. He and wife Valerie have a daughter, Rilynn, 11, and a son, Camden, 8.

“A plus through this whole thing was being able to be home and experience so many holidays I’m usually not a part of,” House said.

House joined the Reds after getting a call from manager David Bell in the 2018 offseason. House had earned a name coaching in the minor leagues, including California League Manager of the Year in 2015, before serving as field coordinator of instruction for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Nothing, however, could have prepared him for the ongoing pandemic and working around it.

“Only certain personnel can see the team, be around the team,” House said. “Obviously, though, the team [members] can do their own thing and step outside the stadium. You can’t put shackles on anyone. You just have to be responsible and don’t put your teammates in jeopardy.

“That said, it won’t be perfect. Some people will probably end up getting sick. That’s life. That’s the way it goes. You’re going to have to adjust and handle it.

“We’re just going to try and keep everybody as healthy as possible.”

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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.

 

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