‘Really, really cool.’ Ex-Cat, Kentucky Mr. Baseball expects happy homecoming with Reds.

Ron Schwane/AP

Luke Maile has spent years constructing a successful Major League Baseball career far from his roots.

This week, the former University of Kentucky star received a chance to expand on those accomplishments while enjoying a homecoming.

Kentucky’s 2009 Mr. Baseball from Covington Catholic High School signed a one-year, $1.175 million contract with the Cincinnati Reds on Monday.

“That was my team,” he told MLB.com on Tuesday. “That was my whole life, really, since the time I can remember. I started going to Reds games at Riverfront Stadium when I was really, really little. I stopped going pretty much when I graduated high school and left town to go to college.”

After earning All-Southeastern Conference honors at Kentucky in 2012, Maile was drafted in the eighth round of the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. He made his MLB debut in 2015 and played two seasons in Tampa before stops in Toronto, Milwaukee and Cleveland.

In Cincinnati, Maile, 31, is expected to back up starting catcher Tyler Stephenson.

A .207 career hitter with a .582 OPS, Maile batted .221 with a .632 OPS and three home runs in 78 games last season for the Cleveland Guardians.

“The last two years, as a backup, he’s been league-average offensively as a catcher,” Reds General Manager Nick Krall told MLB.com. “Catcher OPS has been around .660 OPS, and he’s been right there around the same. Being able to get a guy who works well with the staff that can be a solid backup is a really good thing for us.”

Maile said the Reds were one of the first teams to contact him after he became a free agent this month, “which was pretty cool for me.”

Maile, who said he was looking forward to working with the young Reds pitching staff, also mentioned that his family was “pretty ecstatic” upon learning of his homecoming.

“It’s been a really, really cool 24 hours here. It’s really difficult to put into words,” he told MLB.com. “I think, as you guys know, Cincinnati and that area is the type of city where it’s big enough to have its sports teams and it’s small enough where everyone kind of knows everybody. Kind of circling back and experiencing that has been really amazing.”