Josh VanMeter earned the nickname “Homer” from his high school buddies in Indiana—but not for the prowess he showed on the field at Norwell High.
Instead, VanMeter’s nickname was inspired by a relative, Homer Van Meter, who was a member of John Dillinger’s bank-robbing gang in the 1930s. Homer Van Meter, the gangster, was killed by police in St. Paul, Minn., in 1934. He was portrayed by actor Stephen Dorf in the 2009 film “Public Enemies,” which only cemented Josh’s nickname.
Blood used to be the biggest reason to call VanMeter “Homer,” but that was before his power surge at Triple-A Louisville this season. He hit 13 home runs in 30 games to earn a May 5 callup to Cincinnati. He plays every infield position but shortstop.
“I wasn’t on the (40-man) roster. I wasn’t invited to big league camp. Yeah, it’s very much been like a tornado,” VanMeter said. “I felt like I really came out of camp with something to prove, because the way I ended the season last year . . . I was like, ‘You know what? I’m a big leaguer.’ “
Drafted by the Padres in the fifth round in 2013, VanMeter started adjusting his swing, looking to hit fly balls, in his last season in the Padres organization in 2016. That’s the year he began working with hitting coach Johnny Washington, who is now San Diego’s big league hitting coach.
“I’m trying to figure out the best position to put my body in in order to get my best swing off at all times,” VanMeter said.
The Reds brought in assistant hitting coach Donnie Ecker this offseason as well as Cody Atkinson, the organization’s hitting assessment and run-production coach. Once spring started, VanMeter joked that he followed them around like a puppy. He spent extra time in the cage and in the video room.
Ecker liked what he saw in the lefthanded-hitting VanMeter, too.
“There’s an efficiency to his move (from load to launch),” Ecker said. “The move is already efficient and now it’s about organizing it in a way where he can land on pitches, learning how to move on a fastball, move on a breaking ball.”
— Triple-A Louisville’s Brian O’Grady hit his 12th homer of the season on May 23, giving the Bats 50 on the season. The Bats hit their 50th homer of the 2018 season on June 23.
— Lefthander Reiver Sanmartin, who was part of the deal that brought Sonny Gray to Cincinnati, had a career high nine strikeouts on May 23. He has 48 strikeouts and just nine walks through 49.1 innings for high Class A Daytona.