A.J. Reed has always been proud to represent Terre Haute on the highest stages of baseball he reached. Now? Reed gets a chance to represent Terre Haute in the dugout at the dawn of his coaching career.
Reed — who starred at Terre Haute South, was the Golden Spikes Award winner at Kentucky in 2014, and who played 62 games in Major League Baseball — will be head coach of the Prospect League's Rex during the 2021 season when the Rex play their home season at Terre Haute's Bob Warn Field.
Reed, 27, retired from organized baseball in 2020, has settled back in Terre Haute and decided now was the time to decide whether he wanted to make a career out of coaching.
"Bruce [Rosselli, Rex owner and general manager] called me earlier this past week and asked if it was something I'd be interested in," Reed told the Tribune-Star. "I talked with my wife and we thought it was something we could do this summer. We're going to be in-town and I've always been on the fence about whether I'd want to go into coaching. This gives me a chance to see how I feel about it."
Reed never played for the Rex, but did have summer ball experience at the peak of the summer ball summit when he played in the Cape Cod League for two years. Back then, Reed was flashing his potential as a pitching prospect. What he learned from that was to make the experience an enjoyable one for the players.
He learned the same from the many coaches he played for, including Rosselli, who coached him in youth and summer ball.
"I've played for a bunch of different guys. I want to take the things I liked about those guys and implement it into how I want to coach. It's college summer ball. It's a different feel than college or pro ball. I want them to be comfortable, relaxed, and enjoy their time here. That's the best way to get the best performance out of them," Reed said.
Rosselli is pleased he will have Reed representing his club in a greatly-expanded Prospect League for the 2021 season.
“I’ve watched him grow as a baseball player through high school, college and onto the MLB. He was determined to be the best pitcher and hitter he could be and proved that a player from the Wabash Valley can make it to the Big Leagues. I feel A.J. can provide invaluable experience to our players in how to get to the next level," Rosselli said in a Rex press release.
For Reed? It's a chance to give back to a community that he feels gave him so much in his baseball journey.
"I'm really excited to coach with the Rex, being from Terre Haute. Me and Shelbie [Reed's wife] ended up moving back here because we love being in Terre Haute. To coach with them, and having a community around us, not just for the guys who are playing, but with everyone involved, will be great," Reed said.
Meanwhile, Reed has been paying close attention to another Terre Haute native and Kentucky standout — T.J. Collett — as Collett has had a similar career arc with the Wildcats and who has also broken Reed's team record for career home runs. Reed was there to see Collett tie the mark.
"I was down there when they played Alabama two weekends ago. Alabama's coach [Brad Bohannon] recruited me at UK, so that was a good weekend to go," Reed noted. "I hung out with T.J. a bit on that Friday. That same weekend, he tied me for home runs and passed me later that week. It was cool to talk with him. He's older now and figuring out where he wants to be in life. He's a good kid and has a really good idea of what he wants to do with his life."