GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Cincinnati Reds outfielder Donald Lutz may not be a big name yet in this country, but he did something over the winter that might never have been done by a major leaguer. He appeared on German national late-night TV.
That is because although Lutz was born in New York, he moved to Germany with his family when he was just a year old. Last summer, he became the first player who grew up in Germany to reach the major leagues. He also became the first German-raised player to hit a home run, and that historic shot was shown nationally when Lutz was a guest on a late-night show hosted by Stefan Raab.
Asked whether Raab was the German equivalent of Jimmy Kimmel, Lutz couldn't be sure because he hasn't watched enough American TV to know who our big stars are.
"Raab's probably our biggest TV guy over there. It was pretty exciting," Lutz said. "They had me in for a little sit-in and show my home run and talk baseball a little bit. I think it was the first time baseball was screened on national TV. That was pretty good to get it out to the people."
Despite his American background, Lutz didn't start playing baseball until he was 15, but he has had a worldwide career nonetheless. In addition to playing in Germany -- where he says some of the fields were better than at Class A Bakersfield -- he also played professionally in the Australian League. He also played briefly this winter in the Mexican Pacific League.
He says his making the major leagues was a plus for the development of baseball in Germany.
"It's been big. There is pay-TV for sports where they mostly show soccer, but when I was up last year, they actually streamed some baseball games," he said. "That was big. Guys back home were like, 'We turned on TV and saw you, that was awesome.' A lot of kids follow it and see they can actually get somewhere [in baseball]. I hope they start playing a little more and realize they have a chance to come over here and play professionally."
Lutz hit .241 in 58 at-bats last year with the Reds before returning to Double-A Pensacola. He doesn't have a great chance of making the team out of spring training because the Reds would like to see him get more at-bats than he would while coming off the bench in the majors.
"We definitely need to get him some more at-bats," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. "The big thing is to keep him healthy for a year and on the field. He missed a good part of last year [due to finger and wrist injuries]. We're not sure whether to start him at Double-A or Triple-A, but the thing is to get him off to a good start. He just needs to get more at-bats, more consistency and good health because he has the chance to be a very good player.
"He's a versatile player. He can play the outfield, left or right, and he can play first base. He hits with power and for a big guy [6-foot-3, 250 pounds], he runs well."
Cincinnati has a strong German heritage and though Lutz said the bratwursts there don't quite match up to the ones in his homeland, he did see German flags in the stands last summer and heard fans shouting to him in German. "It was pretty cool," he said.