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Heart and Hustle: Thy true name is Zack Cozart

CINCINNATI — In these times of negativity enveloping the Cincinnati Reds, while the team is stumbling, fumbling and bumbling its way down a difficult path, it is heartening to listen to somebody like Zack Cozart talk in appreciative tones.

By a vote of former major league players, Cozart is the winner of the Reds’ Heart & Hustle Award. All 30 teams elect one player and after the season there will be an overall winner.

They could do no better than to elect Cozart to that award, too. Nobody plays harder, nobody hustles more and without fanfare or expected glory than the Reds soft-handed shortstop.

AND YET WHEN HE heard Tuesday morning that he had won the award he was floored as if hit by a Mike Tyson left hook.

“Heart and Hustle? Honestly, when I heard that I thought of Pete Rose and the Cincinnati Reds. Charlie Hustle and my best buddy,” said Cozart. “My best buddy, Andy Simunic, and I were playing in a 9-year-old Little League tournament in Iowa and Andy won the Charlie Hustle Award. I remember that. And I remember that because it was pretty cool.”

That is typical Zack Cozart, aiming praise elsewhere while it is being heaped on him. He remains close friends with Andy — actually he remains his best friend.

“He is a State Trooper in Tennessee and he still has the plaque in his house, The Charlie Hustle Award, and he thinks it is the same as an MVP award and he always thought he was a better play than I was back then,” said Cozart. “He is my guy, always has been. Every time he is out on patrol, I tell him, ‘You better text me when its over with the way things are going now.’ That’s scary stuff.

“So that’s what I thought about when I got this award — Pete Rose, Charlie Hustle and my buddy,” he said.

WHEN MANAGER BRYAN Price was asked about Cozart and the award, he said, “Nobody is happier at the end of the day when we win a game than Zack Cozart. He may have been 0 for 4. He may have been 1 for 4 with an infield hit and an error or he may have been 4 for 4. Whatever it may be, at the end of the day he wants to finish that game with a victory. That says a lot about the character of that person because we are chasing wins and not just the statistical stuff and the accolades that go with them.”

Cozart smiled broadly and chuckled audibly when Price’s message was relayed to him and he said, “Yeah, that’s true. And that’s why this season has been so tough. I want to win. I got that taste the first two or three years in the big leagues when we won the division and the next year we went to the playoffs as the wild card.

“I want these young guys in the clubhouse to experience that, too,” he said. “We play this game to win. That’s all I care about. It’s better to go 4 for 4 and win, but if we win it makes that 0 for 4 a lot easier to take.”

The fact that it was former players who voted him the award makes it taste even sweeter and he said, “When you are recognized by guys who have been out there and played the game and they know what it takes to go through the daily grind, not only physically, but mentally, it makes it pretty special.”

THROUGH ALL THIS POSITIVE and upbeat stuff, there is some negativity lurking in Cozart’s future. There are now 18 scouts watching the Reds as the trade deadline creeps closer. Jay Bruce and Cozart are the objects of interest.

“I know that the way this season has gone for us that we would be more willing to be sellers,” he said. “My name and Jay’s name pop up quite a bit. Honestly, though, you can’t really think about it.

“It’s weird because all I know is the Reds,” he added. “I’ve been with them my entire career (No. 2 draft pick in 2007), minor leagues and everything. So, to see it and hear it is weird. We’ll see what happens. We (Cozart and Bruce) both love our time with the Reds and wouldn’t mind sticking around to help turn this thing around. We’ve had that taste of winning and we want these young kids, the rookies and second-year guys — we don’t want them to get used to what has gone on the last two years. We want to teach them how to win.”

MANAGER BRYAN PRICE WAS asked about Cody Reed giving up so many home runs in his first four starts, all defeats, and if it can get into a pitcher’s head, trying not to give them up.

“I’ll use myself as example,” said Price. “Absolutely it can. I gave up 14 home runs in 65 innings in Double-A in 1985 that helped me work my way back to Single-A. It gets to the point where you are not thinking about making pitches and you are thinking about what you don’t want to happen.”

THE PITCHING MISERIES just keep mounting for the Reds, be they on the mound or on the surgeon’s table.

Jon Moscot, on Louisville’s disabled list since July 5, had “Tommy John” surgery Tuesday to repair the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He also had loose bonyefragments removed.

 Reds medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek performed the surgery at Beacon Orthopaedics.

 Moscot wasd 0-and-3 with an 8.02 earned run average in five starts during two stints with the Reds. He was on the disabled list in early April with a strained left intercostal muscle suffered in spring training and was back on the DL for most of May with inflammation in his surgically-repaired, non-throwing left shoulder.

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