CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Guardians are having plenty of fun this season with a roster full of young, talented players having standout seasons. No one, however, is having as much fun as first baseman Josh Naylor.
"It's very special when you see a walk-off from any of the teammates. It's more special when you see it from Nayls," said Guardians designated hitter Franmil Reyes. "He has a little bit more fun than anybody to that moment, and it's very special. We all enjoy it."
Reyes knows Naylor better than most, having played with him in 2016 when the two were on the Padres. Immediately, the pair connected and became great teammates and even better friends.
"Since then, he became my favorite teammate to play with," Reyes said. "[He's] always asking me about how I am, how's my family—and very important, how my kids are, always telling me to say hello to them—and that is something very special for me. There's not many words to describe how much love I feel for him. It's that brotherly love."
That love has only been amplified this season as Reyes has watched his friend shine. With a batting average of .274 with 13 home runs and 47 RBIs, Naylor has not only been solid for the Guardians this season—he's shown up clutch in major moments. From his game-tying grand slam against the White Sox in May to his first career walk-off home run against the Twins last month, Naylor has had every reason to celebrate.
And celebrate he has.
"He gets a little bit more excited than anybody," Reyes laughed. "It's great to see him like that. He shows the love that he has for this game."
After hitting the walk-off homer in June, Naylor flipped his bat, ran the bases, threw off his helmet, ran into his teammates at home plate and got doused with an ice bath as the team celebrated the win over the Twins. Naylor stayed fiery with excitement, ripping his jersey off, punching the air and pounding his chest and head before, and after, running up to manager Terry Francona and giving him a friendly headbutt (as Francona wore a helmet).
“That thing that he did to Tito, like, I was not expecting that. I don't think anyone was expecting that, but it was hilarious," Reyes said with a big smile.
Reyes said that the guys watched the videos of the celebration after the fact and when Naylor saw it, he didn't even remember how fired up he actually was.
“I showed him the video because I saw it on social media. I was like 'Nayls, check this out.' He was like, 'Oh my God, what, was that me? I don't remember doing that.' I was like, 'Oh, my God, that's a big problem right here,'" Franmil laughed.
Even though he might not remember his celebrations, they certainly leave a lasting impression on his teammates.
"The calm before the storm. He's feeling himself. He's kind of just jogging around the bases, he does something big, and then once he hits home plate or like once he's kind of jogging aloose, then he just erupts," said Guardians outfielder Steven Kwan. "Just kind of anticipating when it's going to blow up is always the most fun."
Kwan said that Naylor's clutch moments before his big celebrations have put the team on high alert when he's up to bat.
"He's been in these big moments already, and you kind of just think whenever he's up [to bat], something cool is going to happen," Kwan said. "And sure enough, he sends that ball over the fence and we're already hyped out. We're grabbing gum, we're grabbing seeds and everything."
Being involved in Naylor's rowdy reactions isn't for the faint of heart. His teammates made it very clear that one has to be ready for anything when the first baseman is in his zone.
"As far as the celebrations, definitely have to watch out in the dugout. Make sure you're in a safe spot," said Guardians outfielder Myles Straw. "If you can, get a helmet for the headbutts and all of the above."
Reyes jokingly gave the same advice.
"It's crazy. You don't want to be around him very closely when those moments happen," Reyes laughed.
How long does Naylor celebrate for? Well, Kwan says it depends, but they let him go until he's got nothing left.
"I think he's so fired up," Kwan joked. "I think he just tires himself out, honestly."
While Naylor might exhaust himself from running through his teammates, punching the air and having an all-around good time after big moments—his teammates are far from tired of seeing him like that.
"Love having him on our team, and I think anyone else would say the same thing," Straw said. "It's no secret he's one of the best teammates I've ever had. There's never a doubt with that guy—whether it's a clutch hit, a pick at first base—he's an amazing player, a great teammate and one of my really good friends."
With some very memorable celebrations in the books, Naylor will have a hard time topping some of his wild antics, but his teammates say that fans can, and should, expect even more out of him because the celebrations are a culmination of all of Naylor's hard work.
"That's going to be him every time. And you guys have got to keep enjoying that," Reyes said. “Something that you guys don't know is that Naylor's the first one to come here in the clubhouse. When I was hurt I used to ask him, 'Bro, it's 11 a.m., everybody got here around 2 p.m., what are you doing here so early?'
"He said, 'This is my job. This is my life. I have to be here giving that much time to this work—this is my work, I have to do this.' So that tells me about who [he is] as a player, inside, not just as a person. It's something I really admire from him. And wow, it's impressive, honestly."
Camryn Justice is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.
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