Bob Castellini said it twice during the press conference Monday introducing David Bell as the 63rd manager in Cincinnati Reds history: “You never go wrong with a Bell!”
Since Castellini bought the franchise in 2006, the Reds have changed managers five times. They fired Jerry Narron in 2007, replacing him with interim manager Pete Mackanin. Dusty Baker took the reins from 2008-13. Bryan Price replaced Baker in 2014 and managed until this April at which point Jim Riggleman took over as interim manager.
Bell, 46, signed a three-year contract with a club option for 2022. Although his last name is well known in Cincinnati — he follows grandpa Gus and dad Buddy into the Reds history book — he’s not a famous managing name as Baker was the last time the Reds went outside the organization to hire a manager or as Joe Girardi, one of more than 12 people to interview for this job, remains.
Here are five things to know about Bell:
1. He welcomes the challenge: Four of the Reds’ eight worst seasons in the last 50 years from a winning percentage standpoint have come in the last four years. They finished last four years in a row for the first time ever. That didn’t dissuade Bell from taking the job.
“Obviously, we want to get to the top, and when we do that, that’ll be a whole new challenge,” Bell said, “but to build it and to help be a part of that and contribute to the challenge and see it through and go through that whole cycle, it’s a challenge I prefer. It’s a great way to make people better.”
2. He can’t wait to talk to the players: Bell said he knows Votto, catcher Tucker Barnhart and center fielder Billy Hamilton from his days managing in the Reds’ minor-league system, though he met those players in spring training. None of the players he coached with Double-A Carolina (2009-11) — Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier being two examples — and Triple-A Louisville (2012) remain in the organization.
Bell can’t wait to manage Votto, who enters his 13th season with the Reds.
“It’s going to be the best,” Bell said. “I have so much respect for the way he goes about it. I think we’ll make each other better. I know he’s a great teammate. I know he’s a huge part of this team and the guys respect him. I can’t wait to talk to him (Monday).”
3. He was immersed in baseball from an early age: Bell was born in Cincinnati on Sept. 14, 1972, during his dad’s rookie year with the Cleveland Indians. Hall of Fame baseball writer Ritter Collett first mentioned the birth of Bell in the Sept. 19, 1972, edition of the Daily Herald in Dayton.
Buddy Bell played seven seasons with the Indians and then seven with the Texas Rangers before being traded to the Reds for Duane Walker and Jeff Russell on July, 19, 1985, when David was 11.
David remembers how different it was then for the sons of players compared to now.
“We used to be out on the field with them taking groundballs before the game, sitting in the dugout,” Bell said. “The way we grew up it was a great experience because my dad wanted us around. He included us in the whole process. We hung out with his teammates and learned so much from them. In my case, it was a huge advantage.”
4. He has always been a Reds fan: The Indians drafted Bell out of Moeller High School in the seventh round in 1990. He began his career that year with the Gulf Coast League Indians and also played with Burlington (Vt.) in the Appalachian League. He said he was playing in the instructional league in October in St. Petersburg, Fla., when the Reds won the 1990 World Series.
“We grew up fans of whatever team my dad played for,” Bell said, “but this is the one place that was different because my grandfather played here and we lived here, so it was always special.”
5. He’s glad he had to work his way up to a big-league managing job: Bell played the last game of his 12-year big-league career with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2006. The Reds hired him three years later to manage the Carolina Mudcats.
“After I was finished playing for a couple of years, I was trying to figure out what I was going to do,” Bell said. “When I was given a great opportunity by Walt (Jocketty) and the Reds to manage in Double-A, right away I fell in love with it. Of course, then I felt I could (manage in the big leagues). I’m glad I didn’t. I’ve learned so much.”