I sit here looking at digital picture frame that is going through a slide show of friends, family and of course times at the ball field last year. Is it me or can you already see kids picking dandelions out in the outfield of a little league field if you close your eyes and allow yourself to wonder just a bit.
Which of course brings me back to memories of the first full season back being a Reds fan. I remember Opening Day, the hype of Dusty Baker was in full effect. We had big hopes for this team. A good combination of new, young blood with Bruce and Votto. Along with the season veterans Dunn, Griffey, and Freel to make it all stick together. For once I was way up in the nosebleed seats (for opening day the only ones I could afford) but this turned out to be a good thing since that put me and the girlfriend under the overhang of the outer wall of Great American Ballpark. Why you ask? I’m glad you did. It’s because it rained, and rained, and rained some more. It gave me plenty of time to sit quietly and think about the season ahead and find out that I really do enjoy cracking open peanuts and leaving a real mess in my wake.
This was all followed up with many of what I would have called “as seen in the brochure” games where it was partly cloudy skies and 70 degrees. The weather you want, the game you wanted to see, and anything you could have asked for providing you had the money to pay for it. Which came to my next find….Did you know they sell hard alcohol to the regular public? Yep Margaritas, whiskey and more..Being not really a beer guy I really ignored alcohol at the game because well it’s beer. But there’s one guy, in one certain area off the first base line who sells what I like, and you don’t have to buy it in a bottle or in a cup that looks like a coconut or a monkey’s head!
These were times that we still had hope of a good season in Cincy, and it actually felt pretty good to be one of the few that was still happy to come to a game. Unfortunately those days were numbered. Pitching, injuries, losses to the team and games we had no business losing. My heart sank for what was the start of the end of our season was nearing.
It started with the Cubs coming to town. My team wouldn’t let me down as they knew I was coming to town (Walt and Dusty won’t return my phone calls, but they won’t dare take my wraith when I’m actually at the game, it’s win or die time!!) they would end up kicking some cubbie tail much to my liking. I wish that would have been enough to make me happy, but it wasn’t. You see the Cubs were taking our division by storm as you well know. Cincinnati and Chicago aren’t exactly on speaking terms when it comes to fans. The Cubs see have a hundred years of losing and so well…they are better at it. Cincy fans are a mixture of St Louis fans, Pittsburgh, what ever other team is popular (I’ll say the Sox or the Yankees) and Cincinnati fans. So when the Reds are expected to lose, as they were in this game, they didn’t show. Ever see a sold out game at your stadium and the sea of fans and the color of the seats be the wrong color I did. We’re Reds fans, and all you saw was blue. It just wasn’t right. I could honestly say you could have sat all the Reds fans in the most expensive section of the stadium (right behind home plate, about 30 to 60 seats) and then gave the rest of the stadium away to Chicago. It was amazing if you were a Cubs fan, it was sickening if you were a Reds fan.
We followed up this game with a need for more punishment or maybe my need to see the Reds actually win a few more games. So we decided to go to Chicago for the second leg of this series and see how they do baseball Wrigley style. My girlfriend is actually a converted Cub fan…shudder.. but rest assured folks I saved her from that and changed her into a Reds fan like me. Now she just goes around saying “I’m really a Wrigley fan..” I didn’t know what that meant until I made this trip. The girlfriend and I made it up early one Thursday morning so that she could show me around the field, we had friends that we were going to meet up there as we got closer to this mid afternoon game ( a game in the middle of the day..how do you sell tickets to a middle of the work week game, during working hours? I’d soon find out) Anycase, we made it up there still fairly early in the morning and to my surprise they actually call the part of town the ball park is in “Wrigleyville” and man was it hopping. You would have thought it was a holiday or something. The beers were flowing before noon, kids were being bused to the stadium to watch, I actually got to watch baseballs fly over the right field wall and into the street where kids chased after them as souvenirs from batting practice. This is the stuff baseball dreams are made of. Now I want to take a moment and say there is a difference between Cincinnati fans and Chicago fans.
A Chicago fan comes to Cincy, we ignore you, you’re a tourist and someone who is taking up space that really we could have used, but thanks for spending money in our town so that we can make it better for us when you leave. Chicago fans are completely different. Here I am in the middle of Chicago, beer and hot dog in hand in full Cincy gear (Reds hat, replica Pete Rose Jersey asking for trouble) walking through town like it’s a normal day and what happens? Not what I would have expected..I get heckled. In a kind way, if there is such a thing. I spend the next 3 hours going through the Cubbie bear, Harry Carry’s and all the other bars and souvenir shops around the stadium and I’m actually getting heckled! People care! Some are letting me know that were going to lose (which they didn’t know who I was, and that of course the Reds don’t lose while I’m present…but who else besides me and a few others do right?) Some beat up on Pete, some beat up on Dusty, it was great! They all took it in good fun, and were proud of me for sticking up for my team. When the game ended we went back a c
rossed the street, my Cubs friends sad that they lost of course…sorry it’s a curse I show, Reds win. That simple. So here I am sitting in the Cubbie Bear all decked out in Red expecting to get bashed some more and what happens?
People came by sat for a few minutes to tell me their favorite moments of today’s game, favorite Reds moments, patted me on the back and said
I would love to say this would happen in Cincy, but if it does I’ve never seen it. Quiet in, quiet out. This part of Chicago really breathes what baseball should be like, and it breeds the kind of fans that can last 100 years tried and true without winning. It was simply amazing.
I enjoyed watching games on tv for the rest of the season till it was time for the last home game of the regular season. We went to that and it just didn’t feel the same since we all knew there was no real skin in the game for us. It reminded me of the quote in For the Love of the Game where the catcher says “It’s a throw away game chapi, you don’t need to do this” and Kevin Costner’s character replies “It’s not to Red Sox” that was what that game was, it meant nothing to us, but everything a lot to the Brewers who where of course fighting to stay alive in the pennant race. We won that game too, which kicked a few people as you can imagine.
I then wrapped up my season with a fan favorite the mid day, mid week, make up game from earlier in the year. This was the bad news, the good news was it was against our now World Series Champs The Rays. So I got to see them right before the heat really started to catch up to them! At that game I also got to experience something else that I probably never will again. I walked into the park and one of the ushers said to me
“Sit where ever you like, and hamburgers, hot dogs, popcorn and cokes are free”
There were so little people there and so little going on I had entire rows to myself behind the visitors dugout. It was a fans dream came true, short of not actually making it to the world series.
So if you made it through this entire blog, congrats. Now you have most of my actual at the field stories of 2008 at your finger tips. I had a lot of fun living them, I hope some you got a few laughs out of reading about them.
I’ve read what they have written professionaly about him on the reds website, but who is Dusty Baker? I know he was a coach for the cubs, I know he was a coach for the Dodgers, and yes I know he’s known for liking veterans over rookies.
What do you think I should expect from him in 09?
He came with a lot of strong praise from the fans in the beginning of 08. I still have a ringing sensation in my ear hearing the cheers when he took the field at opening day this past year.
While we’re on this topic, what does a coach really bring to the team at the major league level? On a day to day basis what do you think the coach does? I mean really does, with hitting coaches, fielding coaches, pitching coaches, and a mess of other advisers is he really just a funnel for all of them and is the unified voice? That would just make him a figure head and not really a leader. If this is true why does it matter who we have there? Could I do the job just as well?
I was reading Mark Sheldon’s really well written article of the Red’s Year In Review and I was reflecting on what all happened. The good, the bad, and well the ugly. It made me think a lot about why I took baseball back up as a sport to be a fan of. To be honest while it was happening I was not sure why I’d become a baseball fan again, much less a Reds fan. Don’t get me wrong, I always followed how the Redlegs were doing. It was more of a every other week kind of thing and then catch up what happened in baseball as a whole about once a month. This was all very casual, and then around October I’d get excited about the race and the World Series to be surprised that I had no clue how or why the teams that got there, well …were there. I’d then listen to the sports announcers and get caught up about all the drama, the controversy and the trades that made it happen and that would help me decide who I was cheering for.
Well this year was year one of my rebirth, I dusted off my point of views, started reading everything I could about my team and what ever else was going on. I played fantasy baseball and found a new appreciation for it. The list goes on and on. But why? Why baseball? Why the Reds of all teams? Why now? Let’s review.
Baseball is a young man’s sport to play and a old man’s sport to watch. You play it when your young because it has a position for everyone. Your good at hitting, but not so a fielding take the outfield, your good at fielding but not so good at hitting take the infield. Your a fat kid, congrats your a catcher. The list goes on. It’s a game that allows anyone no matter their ability or phyical makeup to a be a hero if positioned correctly. Heck that’s what the movie The Bad News Bears was all about! You could play with a lot of friends or you could practice by yourself. The point being is when your young, learning your role can be confusing, but it’s an important piece of life as your generally lost without it. As you get older, and you start putting to use those team skills learned and march out into life you may get too busy for baseball. That’s what happened to me at least, but you come back. It’s the sport that you were raised on, it’s the one that you know will always be there. In Indianapolis where I live, baseball isn’t a big sport, we’ve went from being basketball fans to now a town full of football fans. It never was baseball, since we don’t actually have a major league team. We do have a decent minor league team in the Indianapolis Indians, and it draws it’s fair share of fans, but mostly because it’s a good family experience. This was where it came back to me though. Sitting on the grassy picnic area behind the outfield watching these guys play while my young son finds new friends to play with. This is where with a little quiet, a hot dog, and some grass between my fingers I get to remember why this sport means so much to me. Why I want to apart of this game again, why I want my son to be apart of it, and why I want to share it with him. Baseball is good. There’s a lot about it that isn’t, but baseball is good, and yes there really isn’t a lot of good out there anymore so you need to take it in when you have the chance.
Why The Reds?
Why the Reds!!! I don’t know…why not? Seriously, I was born in 76, and started hearing about and playing baseball 6 years later. That makes it the early 80’s and I had the choice of the Cubs or the Reds for a home town team. In the 80’s which one would you have picked? Come on! We had it, we had it with our great team, our nazi loving owner and her dog. Reguardless of it all we had it, and it was good. Then several years later when I was a teen and having dreams of what I’d be when I grew up we were back in the thick of it again in the 90’s.
Now I’m 32 years old, I have a 5 year old son, and a great girlfriend of almost 3 years that loves me more than anything else in the world. I’m finally to place in my life where it doesn’t suck all the time. I have a lot of hope for me, and my family. Yes I even have some hope left over for baseball and the Reds. We’re a game and a team that needs believers now more than ever, let the politicans of baseball do their thing, let the business people of baseball do their thing, it’s time for the fans to come back and do their thing and that’s bring the good back to baseball.