Even though he’s played nearly 500 games for the Cincinnati Reds, Ryan Hanigan is about to have a new experience at Great American Ball Park – the visitors’ clubhouse.

Hanigan was signed by the Reds in 2002 as an amateur free agent – which means he wasn’t drafted. After spending five years in the Reds’ minor league system, Hanigan was promoted to the big league club at the age of 27 in September, 2007.

He hit the first pitch he saw for a double.

This weekend, the now-33-year-old catcher returns to Cincinnati in a Tampa Bay Ray uniform. After being traded by the Reds this off-season, Hanigan signed a 3-year, $10.75 million contract with the Rays.

On behalf of the Reds, Homer Bailey will present Hanigan a watch commemorating the no-hitter they threw together last June.

The Reds reason for trading Hanigan was clear enough. They were ready to make Devin Mesoraco their everyday catcher and didn’t want to pay Hanigan what he was worth just to be a backup. The Reds signed Brayan Peña to back up Mesoraco at about half the price they’d have likely paid their veteran backstop.

For seven years, Hanigan played for the Reds. He didn’t have much power as a hitter (.262/.359/.343) but he had a knack for getting on base.

The catcher is looking forward to coming back. He holds no hard feelings toward the Reds, but is understandably determined to play well this weekend.

“I don’t want to be vindictive or anything like that, but, yeah, you want to go back and play well,” he said. “You always want to play well, but there’s a little more when you’re playing against a team you played for for a long time. So there’s a little bit of that going on. But at the end of the day, I just want to win the game, win the series and enjoy the experience.” (Marc Topkin, Tampa Bay Times)

Manager Bryan Price gives due credit to Hanigan for the recent successes of the Reds’ pitching staff.

“A lot of our success from a pitching perspective came from the job Ryan did with our pitching staff,” Price said this week. “Our guys liked to throw to him. … He could make adjustments, call the right pitch. There’s something special about that. He has a very good rapport with the pitching staff.” (Topkin)