Baseball truly is a universal game, with fans and players coming from all over the world. Nobody represents that better than Donald Lutz, a Cincinnati Reds prospect who is a dual American and German citizen, but lives in Germany. His emergence as a baseball prospect is just another example of top baseball talent being cultivated across the globe.
Lutz is a big (6’4 and 230 pounds) slugging outfielder/first baseman. He was signed by the Reds as a non-drafted amateur free agent in 2007 because of his intriguing potential. He spent his first three professional seasons playing in short season ball, but finally burst on to the prospect scene with his 2011 season with class-A Dayton. In 123 games, he hit .301 with 20 home runs, 75 RBI, and 85 runs scored. More information on his career statistics is available here.
In addition to playing for the Reds, Lutz has also been part of the German National team, debuting with them in 2008. His older brother Sascha is also an accomplished player, who has been his teammate on the National team.
It will be interesting to see how Lutz progresses in the Reds system in 2012. A little room was recently cleared out with the franchise’s trade for Mat Latos, so it is possible for Lutz to make another significant jump this year. In addition to checking out this interview, you can find out more about Donald Lutz by following him on Twitter (@braunerhulk).
Donald Lutz Interview:
Who were your favorite team and player growing up and why?: It’s pretty funny because I didn’t get into baseball until I was 15, so I grew up without the sport. I played ice hockey and European handball for 8 years, so I didn’t have any favorite teams or players.
By the time I started I still hadn’t really seen any big leaguers because they don’t show baseball here in Germany on TV’s. All I did was go on mlb.com and watch the highlights every day. After a while I liked Big Papi because he was a big power hitting lefty and I liked his swing.
Do you consider first base or outfield to be your more natural position?: I would say first base, but by now I feel pretty comfortable in the outfield as well. A lot of people think I can’t play outfield because I’m too big, but I can actually move pretty good for my size!
Can you run through what your experience was like when signing with the Reds?: The first time I talked to a Reds scout was in 2006 at a junior European championship I think. I was really excited and I didn’t really know anything about pro baseball and the minor leagues, or that it would be possible for me to sign a pro contract.
The next year I got invited to the European MLB academy, which runs over three weeks in Italy, and the 60 top players from Europe compete against each other and try to get signed. This is where I signed my contract. I think I spent a lot of time online trying to google everything about the Reds and about the cities in the leagues and everything around baseball.
What has been your favorite highlight from your career so far?: I have had a bunch of great things happen to me. In 2011 I hit my first grand slam home run and also I had a game where we were down one in the 8th; so I tied it with a solo homer and then came up in the 10th and hit my first walk-off home run. But the biggest one was when I hit for the cycle in 2009 in the GCL and then did it again in Dayton in 2011 (but I did it in five innings and my first four at bats.) I went homer, triple, double, then single. That was awesome! We also had like 10,000 people watching so that was great!
Can you talk a little bit about your involvement with the German National Team?: In 2006 I joined the German Junior National Team and have played in two European Championships with them so far. In 2008 I got a call and went to the Olympic qualifier in Taiwan. I also played in Panama in the World Cup, which was just after the end of the past season. I always enjoy playing on the German team because I get to play with all my boys from back home, and my older brother Sascha is on the team as well, so it’s always a lot of fun!
What particular things do you feel you need to work on the most in order to keep progressing through professional baseball?: I really need to improve my defense at first base and in the outfield! At the plate I want to become more consistent and I want to be able to handle the lefties better. I don’t want to be known as a good hitter and an okay defender… I want to be a good hitter, but also a good defender!
Delino DeShields has been your manager each of the past two seasons. How is he as a skipper?: Delino is awesome; a great guy, great friend, and great manager. He will work with you every single day, and he really cares about every single guy on the team. He knows what he is talking about because he played 13 years in the Show. I think every guy likes to work with him. We always have a lot of fun with the whole team.
How difficult as it been to transition from living Germany to becoming a professional baseball player in the United States?: It’s really different. I always miss my family and all my friends, but after traveling a lot and spending so much time away from home, I got used to it really quick.
The food is really different in the States. It seems like its regular to-go and fast food if you are hungry. There are fast food restaurants everywhere. Here in Germany you don’t really see a lot of fast food places.
I also feel like if I don’t have a car in the U.S. it’s really hard to get around because everything is so spread out and so big. In Germany, our ground transportation is really good and you can just take the train or bus in every little town, and they run every 20 minutes. But I love all the American sports! Germany only really represents soccer.