WNYer Jesse Winker, a Reds prospect, enjoys homecoming at Coca-Cola Field - The Buffalo News
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WNYer Jesse Winker, a Reds prospect, enjoys homecoming at Coca-Cola Field

First, let's get the origin story straight. Because Jesse Winker lists his birthplace as Buffalo and his residence as Orlando, Florida, but he's actually from Niagara Falls.

"I was actually born in the hospital in Buffalo but I'm from Niagara Falls," Winker said. "I just put Buffalo because it's way easier for people to understand. I lived there until I was turning 7 and then we moved down to Orlando. But we came back a lot for the holidays. I'm going to stay at my grandma's tonight, so I'm familiar with the area and I love the area."

He's back in the area he loves, starting in right field for the Louisville Bats as they visit the Buffalo Bisons at Coca-Cola Field for games Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Perfect timing for Winker since it coincides with the start of Buffalo Bills training camp. Winker is an unapologetic Buffalo Bills fan.

"Die-hard. It's where I'm from. I don't care what their record is, it's just fun for me to put on a Jim Kelly jersey every Sunday," Winker said.

"I saw, what was it USA Today said they're going to be 4-12 this year? I think that's a crock. I have a lot of high expectations for them. A buddy of mine in Orlando, Matt Milano, just got drafted by them out of Boston College. I'm looking forward to seeing his career play out and hopefully he can be a Bill for awhile because he's a hell of a football player. I'm excited for him to get his career going."

Winker, meanwhile, is getting his own baseball career going.

The 23-year-old outfielder made his Major League debut with the Cincinnati Reds on April 14. He's been recalled three times this season, his last call-up from July 7-18. Winker has played in nine games, batting .250 (4 for 16) with two doubles, four runs batted in and four walks drawn against two strikeouts.

Riding the Louisville-Cincinnati shuttle has been both a learning experience for Winker and an opportunity to show the Reds organization what he can do at the big-league level.

"When I'm up there I'm kind of just watching and learning and just trying to become a pro and learn how those guys go about their day," Winker said. "I did get a start last time and it was really cool but every time I'm up there I just want to showcase that I'm able to do this. That's how I look at it.  I take every opportunity kind of like it's a tryout."

His numbers in Triple-A have been impressive. Heading into Friday's scheduled games, he ranks second in the International League in batting (.308) and first in on-base percentage (.390). He leads Louisville in doubles (20) and walks (37) while hitting .329 with runners in scoring position.

The successful numbers for Winker are born from simplicity.

"I just have a lot of fun playing the game," Winker said. "I've always believed in my ability and I just try to be a good teammate and put together good at-bats and be a tough out and just not let the pitcher have an easy out when I go up to the plate. I literally try to keep it that simple."

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