‘Unmatched’ kindness: Former Reds teammates describe what Cubs can expect from catcher Tucker Barnhart

Barnhart faced his former club for the first time Monday and notched his first hit with the Cubs.

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Cubs catcher Tucker Barnhart singles in the second inning against Cincinnati Reds on Monday.

Cubs catcher Tucker Barnhart singles in the second inning against Cincinnati Reds on Monday.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

CINCINNATI — Catcher Tucker Barnhart made sure there was a bottle of wine waiting in Curt Casali’s locker when his former teammate returned to Cincinnati for the first time in 2021.

‘‘It’s the little things that he always does,’’ Casali said in a conversation Monday with the Sun-Times. ‘‘He thinks about the things that you would never think of, and the kindness in his heart is unmatched in my book.’’

On Monday, the roles were reversed.

In the Cubs’ 7-6 loss, Barnhart faced the Reds for the first time since his trade to the Tigers in November 2021. The Reds honored him with a video tribute before he took the field in the bottom of the first inning. Then Barnhart got his first hit with the Cubs, a single to right field, in the second.

Before the game, Barnhart’s former teammates offered an idea about what the Cubs can expect from their new catcher.

‘‘When I think of a pro,’’ Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson said, ‘‘who I think of is Tucker.’’

The Cubs signed Barnhart, a two-time Gold Glove winner, during the offseason as part of their efforts to strengthen their up-the-middle defense. He has a career .245 batting average but a strong reputation around the clubhouse and behind the plate.

Barnhart’s approach to being a teammate can be traced back to a conversation with now-Marlins manager Skip Schumaker in 2014. It was at the tail end of Schumaker’s playing career and the beginning of Barnhart’s time in the majors.

Schumaker’s message was: You’re most likely not going to have the type of Hall of Fame résumé that will overshadow the kind of guy you are.

‘‘The way I took that was, the type of person [and] the type of teammate you are will far outweigh what people think of you as a player when it’s all said and done,’’ Barnhart said.

Said Casali: ‘‘He’s hands down probably the most generous teammate that I’ve ever played with.’’

Barnhart, whom the Reds drafted in 2009, already had been in the majors for parts of four seasons when Casali landed with the Reds.

Barnhart gave the newcomer restaurant recommendations. He was always the one who brought wine on the plane and sat next to Casali during poker games. Barnhart and his wife, Sierra, threw Fourth of July parties at their house. And Barnhart punctuated notable moments in his teammates’ careers with gifts.

Reds right-hander Joel Kuhnel still has the bottle of Dom Perignon and the note Barnhart gave him for his major-league debut.

‘‘He was a great role model, a great veteran guy that I learned a lot from,’’ Kuhnel said.

In camp before Stephenson’s debut season in 2021, Barnhart pulled him aside.

‘‘I was like: ‘Look, man, I’m not naive to think that it’s not going to be your job one day,’ ’’ Barnhart recalled. ‘‘ ‘And so any question you have isn’t gonna hurt my feelings. Don’t you ever think you’re stepping on my toes.’ ’’

Even last year, when Barnhart was with the Tigers, Stephenson asked him to look at video of him catching and tell him if he had any thoughts on his receiving mechanics.

‘‘I feel like I can send him anything, and I know he’s gonna reply and be honest with me,’’ Stephenson said. ‘‘And even if we’re all on different teams, he’s a phone call away.’’

Barnhart has been with the Cubs for only four regular-season games, but he already has brought his gift-giving to them.

Expensive watches and champagne are customary mementos for no-hitters, but spring training no-hitters don’t count toward the record books.

So the day after the Cubs recorded a combined Cactus League no-hitter, their first in franchise history, Barnhart gave Spider-Man and Mario Bros.-themed watches, plus bottles of Martinelli’s sparkling cider, to the catchers and pitching coaches involved.

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