CINCINNATI, Ohio—The Reds and Marlins have had seventy players play for both teams during their major league careers. Among them, Miami’s veteran pitcher Johnny Cueto, who returned to Cincinnati this week and made what could be his final-ever start in his first-ever MLB home. There’s also the case of rookie manager Skip Schumaker, whose playing career ended as a Red in 2015. Fish On First caught up with them at Great American Ball Park along with their former teammate Joey Votto to reflect on how those experiences in Cincy shaped who they are today.
Schumaker had returned to Great American Ball Park previously in various management roles with both the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals, but this was the first time he was back as an MLB manager. What he appreciates most about his time in Cincinnati is the relationships.
“Freddie Benavides was my infield and bench coach. I have a good relationship with trainer Tomas Vera and I have a lot of good people here I still keep in contact with,” Schumaker said. “We had a fun team with Johnny Cueto, who I now manage. We had Brandon Philips and Joey Votto and just a really good team.”
One of Schumaker’s favorite teammates in his career is Votto, and Skip had nothing for praise for him.
“Votto is a Hall of Famer,” Schumaker stated. “I knew it when I played with him, I knew it when I played against him and I still think he’s putting up Hall of Fame numbers now. His preparation when I played with him was ahead of his time. That’s what always stood out to me is he was always trying to grow his game.”
Similarly in the opposing dugout, Votto was complimentary of Schumaker.
“Skip is one of the most professional people I’ve ever been around as far as game preparation, getting the most out of himself, and how hard he paid attention to detail,” Votto told me. “It doesn’t surprise me at all that he’s proving to be a successful manager. It’s early in his managerial career so I don’t want to say too much, but the team is playing well under him, so it doesn’t surprise me.”
Whenever Cueto returns, he’s always a popular man at the ballpark. His media scrum in the Marlins dugout on Tuesday was at least 10 people deep.
“A lot of milestones here, winning 19-20 games a season here. So those are great memories,” Cueto said via interpreter. “I feel very excited just to be here and pitch in this park again…With all of the fans and staff around here, I’m very excited to have the opportunity.”
Cueto caught up with Votto earlier in the week, and it was all love between the two. They were rookies together in 2008 and continued to share a clubhouse until 2015 when Cueto was traded to Kansas City.
“He told me I look strong. I told him he looked the same. I wish him luck for the rest of the season, I love that guy like a brother,” Cueto exclaimed.
Speaking on just how much Votto has changed personality-wise throughout his career, Cueto commented that “he’s enjoying the game more now. He was really shy in the beginning, so I think he’s opened up and shown his true self now.”
Votto holds Cueto in high regard as well:
“Johnny was one of the most talented players—pitcher specifically—that I’ve ever played with. His command is maybe the best I’ve ever seen and his ability to make up pitches on the spot seems like the sort of thing that the rare can do. He’s a problem-solver, he’s a-swing reader, and he’s a guy that can make the decisions it takes to get the win. It’s always an honor to face such a great player. He’s a great teammate, truly.”
Votto got the better of Cueto when they faced off on Wednesday, going 2-for-2 with a pair of singles. Cueto’s final line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K.
With Votto and Cueto nearing the end of their playing careers, those moments may prove to be their final shared memories as active players before riding off into the sunset in the near future.
Photo courtesy of Miami Marlins