Getting His Irish Up Leftfielder Chris Stynes has become the Reds' red-hot spark plug

May 03, 1998

In spring training Reds leftfielder Chris Stynes was asked to
describe his style of play. "Pissed off," he said. Soft-spoken
and pleasant off the field, Stynes on the field does bring to
mind someone who has a chip on his shoulder--and that suits his
boss just fine. "He's a gamer," says manager Jack McKeon, who
usually finds a way to work the phrase "How about that
Stynesie?" into his postgame remarks. "He doesn't say much, just
goes out and does his job. Just a blue-collar worker."

Perhaps Stynes's rough-and-tumble proclivities can be attributed
to genetics. He has a cousin, Jim Stynes, who plays for
Melbourne of the Australian Rules Football League, and his
grandfather, Joe Stynes, played Irish Rules football. (Stynes,
25, shows his Irish with a tattoo of a pugilistic leprechaun on
his thigh.)

Whatever the reason, when he steps on the field, Stynes knows
only one speed--full. Against the Rockies at Coors Field on
April 11, he made one of the season's most spectacular catches,
chasing down a Todd Helton pop-up while falling into the lap of
a front-row patron. Also, in three games against Colorado that
week, Stynes went a combined 10 for 16, including game-opening
home runs off Rockies ace Darryl Kile and, two days later, Pedro
Astacio.

Originally drafted by the Blue Jays in 1991, Stynes was traded
to the Royals as part of an April '95 deal that brought David
Cone to Toronto. In '95 and '96 he was called up six times, with
his longest stretch being 30 games. "It was a bit frustrating,"
Stynes says. "The hardest part was having to live in a hotel
room, home and away."

Stynes finally found a real home last July, when McKeon
suggested to Reds general manager Jim Bowden that he ask the
Royals for Stynes as a throw-in on a trade that sent righthander
Hector Carrasco to Kansas City for outfielder Jon Nunnally.

After a brief stint in Triple A, Stynes was called up to
Cincinnati in August and went 7 for 7 in his first two games. He
started the last 49 games of the season--38 in left, eight at
second base and three at third--and the previously woeful Reds
went 28-21.

"The biggest plus for me was getting traded to the National
League," says Stynes. "I play several different positions, and
over in the American League [because of the DH], you don't need
as many guys who do that."

Stynes can also fill a variety of spots in the batting order.
During most of his minor league career he hit second. Injuries
last year forced McKeon to use Stynes, generously listed at
5'10", in the three hole. He hit .348 with six homers and 28
RBIs in less than a third of a season. This year McKeon needed
someone to take Deion Sanders's place at leadoff. At week's end
Stynes had stolen nine bases and scored 18 runs in 22 games. His
.343 average since last year's All-Star break is third in the
majors to Mike Piazza's .354 and Dante Bichette's .346.
"Stynesie was a big catalyst last year," says McKeon, "and he
hasn't stopped."

--Mark Bechtel

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON [Chris Stynes in game]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)