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Hannahan already endears himself to teammates

Well-liked infielder's spring locker neighbors former teammates from Cleveland

Hannahan already endears himself to teammates

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- As luck and numerology would have it, the three former Indians players acquired by Cincinnati over the winter locker side by side in the Reds' Spring Training clubhouse.

The Reds assign lockers by numerical order at camp, so third baseman Jack Hannahan (No. 9) is next to utility infielder Jason Donald (No. 16), who is next to outfielder Shin-Soo Choo (No. 17).

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"We've been getting a hard time from everybody else," Hannahan joked on Tuesday.

Hannahan already had a friend in Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick, a former Triple-A teammate from the Tigers' organization.

"This guy will be easy to deal with. He's a good guy," Ludwick said. "One of my favorite Minor League teammates."

Hannahan, a free-agent acquisition for Cincinnati this winter, also commanded respect from his ex-Cleveland teammates. Not only were they his friends, they gave him an incredible gift of generosity two seasons ago.

In August 2011, after the Indians completed a night game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, Hannahan learned that his wife, Jenny, went into labor and was about to deliver their first baby -- three months premature.

It was around 11 p.m. ET, and there were no more commercial flights to Cleveland until the next morning. That would have been too late for Hannahan be there for his wife and an excruciating wait to learn the fate of his newborn in distress.

The only solution for Hannahan was to charter a private plane home, but they aren't cheap. A one-way flight cost $35,000, and even though Hannahan was earning $500,000 that season, it was still too expensive. Hannahan made the Indians that year as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training and he was approaching another round of free agency after already spending time with four different organizations.

That had Hannahan resigned to staying overnight in Boston -- until his teammates stepped up. In a very high-priced form of "pass the hat," Indians teammates -- veterans and younger players alike -- collected enough money to foot the bill and get Hannahan on a private jet arranged by the team's traveling secretary.

"It was pretty hectic and crazy. I remember that it just happened so fast," Donald recalled. "I didn't know what was going on. But family definitely comes first before baseball. I think everybody there had an understanding that when something like that happens, you have to do whatever you can to be there. It's good to help a guy out, especially a teammate and such a good guy like Jack."

With only 15 minutes to spare, Hannahan was in the delivery room when John Joseph Hannahan V was born at 3:11 a.m. on Aug. 5, 2011. Nicknamed Johnny, he weighed in at only 2 pounds, 11 ounces.

"It's a gift I will never forget," Hannahan said. "My wife will never forget and my son will never forget. Being able to see your firstborn, it's an unbelievable gift. I've never been one who was good at receiving gifts. Usually I give the gifts. It was weird to actually receive a gift like that. You can sit back and look at it from a different perspective on how much it meant to me and my family. It was a good jump start to being a father."

Johnny spent two months in neonatal intensive care, but is now healthy, doing well and as his father called him, "just a normal baby."

"So far, so good," said Hannahan, a native and resident of St. Paul, Minn. "He's had some good checkups. He's been checking out like a normal 1-and-a-half-year-old. It's crazy to see his transition from when he was born until now. I can't believe how small he was."

Back at the ballpark, Hannahan is now grateful to be with his new team and a new set of teammates. In December, he signed a two-year, $4 million contract to be a left-handed bat off of the bench and a backup third baseman. The 33-year-old hit .244 with four home runs and 29 RBIs in 105 games last season.

"It's a team that's built to win," Hannahan said of the Reds. "They have all the tools a team needs to not only make it to the postseason, but get to a World Series. That was very attractive for me."

Hannahan can also play first base, second base, and even shortstop, if needed, and came recommended to Reds manager Dusty Baker from multiple sources.

"He has great hands, I know that," Baker said. "We got some word out of Cleveland that he was as sure-handed a guy as they've ever seen. They say he's a good team guy. I think he's going to enjoy our league. In the American League, if you're an extra guy, you don't play much because there are no double switches. Unless you start, you don't play."

"He's a grinder and a hard-nosed player," Donald said. "He shows up every day ready to get after it. That's one thing I really respect about Jack. No matter how things are going, he's the same guy every day."

Hannahan realizes he will be bouncing around the field because versatility is coveted in the National League.

"I've been taking groundballs all over the infield," he said. "Whatever my role is, it's fine with me. I've always played this game to win and compete."

Attributes that would earn Hannahan respect in his new clubhouse, with or without former teammates nearby.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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