NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The name Gary Redus may ring a bell to many baseball fans out there.
If not, here’s a little background: Redus holds the all-time American professional baseball batting average record (.462) and played for five different professional clubs. His longest Major League Baseball stops were with the Cincinnati Reds (1982-85) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (1988-92). On Aug. 25, 1989, Redus became one of an elite group of players when he hit for the cycle against his former team, the Reds.
One would think that his children, particularly his son, would inherit the baseball gene. But Gary Redus II opted for a different path.
“I played baseball one year and was awful at it,” said the younger Redus, now an assistant women’s basketball coach at Vanderbilt. “I didn’t get the genes at all, but I didn’t work at it either. My parents always say if I would have worked at it they think I would have been a little better, but it’s just so slow. And, you play outside – so it could be cold, or just finished raining and I didn’t like that. I didn’t like that at all.”
Even though he was never a fan of baseball, Redus did pick up the love of another sport from his father (and sister) and has continued to make Redus Sr. proud – on the hardwood, not the diamond.
“When I was younger I remember going to my sister’s middle school games, AAU games and then high school games, so that’s kind of what I wanted to do,” Redus said. “I used to keep the stats for her high school team and would get a credential and sit on the bench. I was the official scorekeeper, and I was really good at it.
“My first memories of basketball were her and Michael Jordan. They played on WGN. Those were the nights I got to stay up late. When the Bulls were on I used to get to stay up and watch Michael Jordan.”
Thus, the son of a baseball star and product of Decatur, Alabama never looked back.
“I always wanted to play basketball,” Redus stated. “I had a stretch where I didn’t know if I would be good enough to play in college. I felt like I was, but I didn’t know if I would have the opportunity. I wasn’t one of the best players on my team, or really one of the best couple on my high school team. I didn’t really know what I would do.”
Redus still found his way to the University of South Alabama, where he forged a college basketball career. His grit, drive and attention to detail – which he now attributes to his dad – paid off when he ultimately got to live his dream and play professional basketball.
“My dad is the most detailed person in the world and it was no different when it came to sports,” Redus stated. “He didn’t let me just go into games and not have a plan with what I wanted to do, not be competitive or have basic fundamentals. He preached fundamentals. I remember plenty of times, even when I was really short, having to practice post play. He was very detailed, so I had to be detailed. The details mattered.”
Redus’ pro career sent him around the world, including unique locations such as China, Venezuela, Iraq and Mexico.
“This is going to sound weird and people never believe me when I say it, but I liked Iraq the best,” Redus laughed. “I had a really good basketball experience there. I learned a lot about myself when I was in Iraq. Was it scary [when I found out [I was going to Iraq]? Yes. I didn’t tell anyone else that because I would have psyched myself out.Redus with his coach and
teammate in Iraq.
“Basketball was fun for me there. I really got to play like me and my teammates were nice, they empowered me. It was the first time I had had an English-speaking coach.”
Throughout Redus’ stops, he only remembers having a few teammates that spoke English – one in Venezuela, a couple in China, one in Iraq.
“It was weird, really weird, at first,” Redus reminisced. “But, it’s not any more weird than everything that’s going on. People look at you like, ‘Who is he? He must play basketball because he’s tall.’ People want to take pictures with you and get your autograph and they don’t even know you are. But, they know that you aren’t from there and do something. Also, basketball is a language in itself, so you didn’t really think about it.”
When asked about his favorite experience while he was abroad, Redus offers two unforgettable memories. “I walked on the Great Wall of China. I walked the entire Great Wall of China in flip-flops. It took hours.
“I also had a cab ride in Iraq. We were playing an away game and a friend told me to tell the driver to take me to hotel. It was like an hour and a half later when I realized he didn’t know what he was saying and thought, ‘Oh my goodness. I am lost in Baghdad, Iraq right now and don’t know what to do or say.’ So, we found a man on the side of the road, who luckily spoke English, and I told him to tell the driver to take me back to where he picked me up. When I got back there, my friend was waiting in the lobby with my team manager, my translator who went everywhere with me and the team owner.”
Even though Redus enjoyed his time on each of his stops, he learned while abroad to appreciate not only America, but also his family.
“When I was in these different places I was honestly struggling,” Redus said. “It’s hard to live there with no contact to other people sometimes. Like, if your internet doesn’t work you honestly have nothing, you are just there. There’s so much time in the day. It taught me to appreciate my family so much more. It gave me a different perspective of the world in general.”Redus on Great Wall of China.
Though Redus enjoyed playing basketball, injuries ultimately led him to discover a love for coaching.
“I hurt my knee when I was in Iraq, which was devastating because I was playing really well,” Redus explained. “I came home, had surgery, rehabbed and, it was a blessing in disguise. When I was rehabbing I started to train some kids and while I was doing that more and more wanting to come and train with me. It was just a couple of dollars to get me through. The older ones started to come and work out with me every day.
As injuries lingered, Redus began to consider a career in coaching. He lucked out when his sister offered him a spot as a graduate assistant at West Georgia. For Redus, that made it much easier to hang up his shoes for good.
“That’s the hardest thing about playing – it’s an itch you have to scratch,” Redus said. “You cannot stop playing before you’re ready. My old boss would always say, ‘The ball has to go flat, it has to stop bouncing.’ When I left Mexico, that was it. I had to go though, to see if I still wanted and needed to play. It was a need for so long.”
Redus was able to fill the void with a whistle in hand. Now he lives out his dream each day with the Commodores under head coach Stephanie White.
“Coaching was fulfilling in a different way than basketball was,” Redus stated. “Kind of in the same spectrum, but I felt like I could give back to not just the kids, but the game that I loved my entire life. I never played just to play. Being able to give back to the sport that always kind of loved me back was always so fulfilling.”