After playing in rehab games for the Louisville Bats last week, Stephenson was making the 100-mile drive up to Cincinnati on Saturday morning. He would re-join the Reds and start against the Tampa Bay Rays that afternoon. But on his way there, Stephenson realized he left something pretty important back in the Bats’ clubhouse.
“I was on the phone with my wife halfway. Then I realized – oh my God,” he recalled.
We have all been there, bud.
After playing his final rehab game in Louisville on Friday night, the clubhouse attendant said they would wash his equipment and Stephenson could pick it up the next morning. When Stephenson left town at 10 a.m., he was due to arrive at Great American Ball Park in 90 minutes. First pitch was scheduled for 4:10 p.m.
Stephenson was only 40 miles away from Cincinnati when he realized he forgot his gear, so he turned around. He felt bad asking for a Bats staff member to drive it up, because it was 100% his mistake.
“That’s on me,” he said.
It would have added just another two hours to the trip, but after getting back to Louisville and heading back north, there was a big accident on Interstate-71 that backed up traffic. He then called Reds manager David Bell and updated him on the situation, making a joke to lighten the mood.
“I told him I just need to stay in Louisville for a couple more weeks,” Stephenson said.
The catcher ultimately arrived in the Cincinnati clubhouse at 2:45 p.m., with just enough time to go through starting pitcher Hunter Greene’s warm-up routine.
Hurried Backstop Shines in Return, Reds Win
The phrase “better late than never” was made for this situation. In the game, Greene pitched six innings of one-run ball with nine strikeouts. Stephenson went 2-for-5 at the plate and helped the Reds win 5-4 over the Rays in extra innings.
“It’s a great feeling having him back,” Greene said. “He’s a franchise player and just an outstanding teammate and performer. When I saw him come into the clubhouse, it was a great feeling that he was going to be back there.”
Tyler Stephenson is undoubtedly one of the franchise’s bright young stars. The 25-year-old catcher is hitting .320 this season with six homeruns and a .865 OPS in 44 games. Despite missing a month of the 2022 campaign, he ranks sixth among National League backstops with a 1.6 WAR.