Tuesday, July 31, 2007

One Fine Day (so far)

I drank Charmucks coffee. Yuck. I only did it because I was stalking.

I used to think that hanging out after a game waiting for player autographs was like stalking, but not anymore, because I was sitting in a hotel waiting for the Reds to come down and go to the ballpark, and that felt more like stalking. I went on my lunch hour, which turned into hours, and I was drinking burnt coffee at the hotel lounge. It kind of went like this:

I thought I saw Jared Burton as he was heading out the door. Then I thought I saw Griffey's son Trey with his mom and a black pug. The guy who I thought was Jared Burton came back in the door and said "What's up?" to the kid I thought was Trey, and I pretty much knew I was in the right place.

At that point, I thought I was just no good at stalking. I gave Burton the "I know who you are" look and waited until he got to the elevators before getting up to go to him. I was too late, though, because the elevator doors closed. A few minutes later, I saw John Fay, who is much smaller than I could have imagined. I still had a notion that I was making it all up in my head. Belisle came in with coffee. My heart was beginning to race with excitement.

Two years ago when the Reds came to town, my family came to visit. One morning before one of the ballgames, we went to Arlington Cemetery. Being the fans we are, we were all decked out in Reds gear and a cemetery employee told us that Junior and a couple of other guys had visited that morning. I thought many of the players were out seeing the sites and was kind of surprised to see so many of the rookies.

When I saw Chris Welsh, it proved to me my "sightings" were actually sightings and not just a figment of my imagination brought on by wanting it to be true. When we see Chris, it's never in a uniform, so he was easy to recognize. That's when I really started having fun.

David Weathers passed me to go out the door. When he came back, I gave him the "look of recognition." I said, "Hi, Stormy!" He smiled and said hello, which was cool. More on Weathers in a minute...

Soon Norris Hopper came out. I don't know what time the Reds got into town, but a lot of them seemed to be just checking in. Norris was looking for his bag, and it seemed to be a problem. I finally got up the nerve to go ask for an autograph on the scorecard I had brought along (the one with Mike Gosling's autograph from a game in Cincinnati.) I was very shy in approaching him and ended up saying, "Excuse me sir, are you Norris Hopper?" Affirmation, ask for autograph on scorecard, rush back to my seat, embarrassed.

Red Reporter Brendanukkah came to meet me soon after that.

Alex Gonzalez comes in. Yay! It was great to see him there. I sure hope this means his kid is better! I approached him in the same tentative manner, said some jumbled words about great to see you, not wanting to broach the subject of his child's illness, and let the embarrassment set in again. There was also a feeling of guilt, as I was invading their privacy. I tend to be a considerate person, so it was tough for me to approach them, but I really felt like a kid and did it anyway. At that point I was on Cloud 9.

I was getting braver, too. Said hi to more players. Tried to identify trainers, media guys, etc. Then, the inside info came. A familiar looking face was at the checkout counter. Brendan and I couldn't figure out who he or another ballplayer-looking guy with a Padres bag were. We speculated about some dreadful trade of Dunn or Arroyo for some Padres guy - not seeing Dunn or Arroyo walking around was a source of stress and worry! Finally, I was like, is that the Lizard? Yes! He's been recalled? (Further study of the roster revealed the other ballplayer looking type as no ballplayer.) First time I've had firsthand info about Reds news. If only I had brought the laptop!

Fellow Reds fan I Miss Hal King (I think?) arrived for lunch around that time. He confirmed my suspicions that it was, indeed, the Lizard.

Then, Brandon Phillips came out. Brandon Phillips is ball worthy, so I brought my baseball over to him, again embarrassed. He was quite nice about signing, too. Hal King also went to get his ink, and then I asked Brendan to get Brandon's autograph on my scorecard, too. After all, Phillips' picture is on it!

David Weathers came out again (was he going out for smoke breaks?) and smiled and said hi again - he was extremely nice. Hal King asked for his autograph and spoke with him, so I went over and stuck my scorecard under his nose, too. He was so friendly, my opinion of him will forever be changed because of the encounter.

You know you're a fan when you recognize the rookies. Jon Coutlangus came out - he's a good looking guy! It was my last autograph before I was told that I was not allowed to do that by a hotel employee. To be fair, she was doing her job and even said I could go outside the doors to get autographs, which was nice of her, because she could tell how excited I was.

There weren't too many other players to come down after that. I saw Javy Valentin, Chad Moeller, and Bobby Livingston. The lowlight was when I ran to the restroom after I assumed we weren't going to see any more players. Guess who came down then? None other than Ken Griffey, Jr. Of course, the one guy I brought the authentic Major League Baseball for! Ok, there are other ballworthies, but I wanted to at least see Junior in person.

Hal King called George Grande over and expressed his sympathies in a way that was much better than I could have done. George was a really nice guy and talked to us for a minute. I said very little because I couldn't get over how much he sounded like he was talking on FSN Ohio!

C. Trent Rosecrans was nice enough to talk to us, too. And no, he doesn't look like the picture on his blog! It was about 1:30-1:45, and he said Arroyo and Dunn were still on the team, so it was a little bit of a relief, though there was still some time left before the trading deadline. Thankfully, they will be in uniform tonight. Thanks, Wayne!

As I was heading out the hotel door to go back to work, I had my "I carried a watermelon" moment. In comes three kids, a woman, and...Ken Griffey, Jr. What do I say? "Oh my god, it's Ken Griffey, Jr.!" He was on the phone, and I left, happy and excited and well, now it's time to go to the game!

Oh, one other thing. The couple who sat beside us eating lunch completely unrecognized until they stood up to leave? Manager Pete Mackanin and his wife. Didn't even realize it.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Nats-Reds Series Preview

Welcome to the series the nation cares nothing about - the Cincinnati Who? versus the Washington What?

Who are Norris Hopper, Jeff Keppinger, and Jared Burton? you Nats fans ask. What's a Chico or a Bacsik? you Reds fans wonder. Well, I'm going to attempt to answer these questions as a diehard Reds fan who holds a Nationals partial season ticket plan.

Reds fans will obviously be familiar with half the Nats roster, with Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez, Dmitri Young, and D'Angelo Jimenez having once played prominent roles in Cincinnati, as well as Mr. Leatherpants himself sitting snuggly up in the airconditioned front office. But former Nats, aside from Mike Stinkton, are conspicuously absent from the Reds roster. DAMAGED GOODS! (Grumble, grumble.)

Nats fans may wonder "Why do they have three catchers?" Reds fans wonder the same thing. Nats fans may also raise eyebrows when seeing the number of utility players on the Reds. This, too, is a source of wonder for Reds fans.

It's difficult to discuss rosters when you don't know what your rosters are going to look like come two hours before game time. For the Reds, the pitching rotation was supposed to be Kyle Lohse, Bronson Arroyo, and Aaron "Best damn pitcher in the National League" Harang. Lohse was just traded, Harang is missing his next start with a bad back, and well, Krivsky the Clown keeps trying to trade Arroyo, so who knows if he'll be on the roster tomorrow. DON'T DO IT WAYNE.

For the Nats, Matt Chico goes in Game 1, but I can't keep track of the Nats patchwork rotation. Couldn't tell you who is supposed to go in the other two games. Not Billy Traber - he pitched on Sunday, and not very well, going 3.2 innings. Not righthander Tim Redding, for he pitched in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Saturday. Not Joel Hanrahan, either, because he pitched in Game 2 and earned the distinction of being the 13th starter the Nats have thrown out there this season. So I'm guessing highly touted rookie John Lannan - you know, the guy who broke Chase Utley's hand? - goes on Wednesday against against pleasegod Bronson "DON'T TRADE HIM" Arroyo. I guess that leaves Mike Bacsik for Thursday's game against either Matt Belisle or pleasegodno Mike Gosling or pleasegodno Victor Santos or Phil Dumatrait or pleasegodyesbutitwonthappen Homer Bailey.

So yeah, that covers the pitching situation, at least the starting end of it. Forget it, Nats fans, I'm not even going to cover the Reds bullpen. Let it be known that David Weathers is our "closer." The effective relievers consist of Jon Coutlangus, a rookie, and Jared Burton, a Rule 5 rookie. Everyone else is hogwash. As for the Nats pen, dear Reds fans, let us pray that Chad Cordero and Jon Rauch are still sitting in it come game time. Fatass King is still on the team.

And how am I to talk about the Reds outfield when I don't know if the Donkey will still be there and Roy Hobbs is still on the DL, at least as of now? Sure, one of the greatest players to ever don a Major League uniform will be in right, but who knows who else will be in the outfield - supersub Ryan Freel? Slap hitter Norris Hopper? Highly touted prospect Joey Votto? DeWayne Wise pleasegodno? Hey Wayne, DON'T TRADE DUNN.

As for the Nats outfield, the only sure thing is the other half of the Dunnandkearns Show over in right. Ryan Church is pretty sure to be in left at least one game, but Ryan number 3 will probably spend some time there, he being Langerhans. I'm not sure what's going on in center with no hit Nook Logan, I mean why he is there aside from everyone who steps foot in the cavern out there seems to stink.

The infield? Well, at the moment I write this, the Reds have a first base platoon with Scott Hatteberg and Jeff Conine. One of these players will not be on the roster at game time, I'm sure. At second, budding star Brandon Phillips is anchored. Who knows if Reds shortstop Alex Gonzalez will be in uniform? He's on the restricted list because his kid is sick and hasn't played in at least two weeks. At third SHOULD BE Edwin Encarnacion, but Reds management doesn't like him and he often finds himself riding pine. You'll see Jeff Keppinger in one of the three positions, and maybe Ryan Freel.

Nats infield? Fatass All Star Young is at first. Ronnie Belliard and D'Angelo Jiminez can play second, as Felipe Lopez moved back to short in the place of injured Cristian Guzman. The only one on the infield that I would have on my fantasy team if I were into that is my favorite Nat, Ryan Zimmerman, who is suffering through a sort of sophomore slump. Oh well, he's the real deal, the next Brooks Robinson.

Nats have the advantage at catcher despite the infinite number of backstops on the Reds bench, because when you have Jesus on your team, you have to be better, right? Just watch it, Nats, because David Ross leads the world in runners caught stealing - it's the only thing he CAN do.

Ahh, what a couple of messed up teams I follow.

Whether you're a Reds fan or a Nats fan, please be sure to stop by the tailgate party Thursday, August 2 from 5-6:30 in front of RFK. I'll be grilling the most delicious burgers you ever did taste. There will be some beer there, but if you want quality beer, bring your own. I will post the exact location tomorrow, so check back.

Oh yeah, and GO REDS!

Dear Bob: A Journey to Cincinnati, Part VII - Two Barries and a Victory

Dear Bob,

As the sun sets on my series of posts to you - which I'm sure you haven't read in real life - I present you with my final few hours of Cincinnati baseball during my trip this month. It makes me a bit sad to think back upon the end of the journey, for I wish I were there now to do it all over again. I am very excited that the Reds are in my town this week. I'll be there all three games.

With the Reds' season grilled well-done, thanks in part to the hesitation to fire Jerry until it was too late, one of the few bright spots of the season is Junior. It's been a bittersweet Reds career for one of the best players in the long history of the game and weighs heavy on the hearts of many fans. Junior wants a World Series ring. Bob, fire Wayne and get him a ring! Junior is part of the core of this team, and it would be a shame for him to leave Cincinnati with nothing but losing to show for it.

Players these days are able to play longer than in the past. Junior's 37 - he has at least three good years left. Don't throw him away just to save some money. DON'T TRADE GRIFFEY!

And while I'm on the subject of trade deadline anxiety, let me say something about Adam Dunn - the man is 27, perhaps not even into the prime of his career, and he already has 224 career home runs. Just think of the possibilities over a career until 40, Bob, just think of having this guy hit 700 career home runs! This is not a guy to throw away, either. How the heck are you going to replace a 40 HR, 100 RBI, 100 R guy like this? He's a homegrown guy whom many of us have watched since day one. Dunner is part of the core of this team, the part that works well. DON'T TRADE DUNN!

Watching Reds batting practice is great fun. You guys who work in baseball probably think those of us who get there two hours before gametime and stand on the side of the field to watch have no lives. Some of us are pretty normal, though. For many of us, it's the only chance to get close to the field before we retreat to our own seats. If you want an example of weird, just look at this picture - why are Javy and Edwin eating their hands?

Speaking of weird, Farney is the king of it, at least on this team. This game was his first back from the concussion and probably his last first day back from a concussion. That guy's brain has to be mush!

I find it a little odd that Wayne traded for Jorge Cantu, if only because we already have several utility guys on the team. A whole team of utility guys does not win championships! Although Jeff Keppinger has been hitting well, you can't expect him to continue that forever. And what's up with the hatred for Edwin? Just let the guy play!

I like Freel a lot, but he's not an everyday player. The guy abuses his body and wears himself down, and I'm afraid one of these days, he'll suffer a career-ending injury. Or worse.

Two men I do not want to see wearing a Reds uniform on Tuesday are Kyle Lohse and Todd Coffey - Lohse more because he can bring something in a trade and Coffey because, well, he stinks. I'd also appreciate if you made Wayne get rid of Toothache and Castro and all the other waste of roster spots. Bring up the kids! The season's lost - give them some experience. Where's Dumatrait? Where's Votto?

I was surprised to see both Griffey and Bonds taking batting practice with the team. Seems to me like I never see Griffey in the cage, and I don't think I've seen the Giants take BP in a few years. I've mentioned several times on this blog that I spent two seasons watching the Giants while living in California, and I love that franchise. I always see them at least once a year and have seen them in both GABp and RFK each of the last two seasons. I love Bonds. I had a sign that said "This Reds fan loves Barry." When he hit number 751, I cheered as if the Reds had hit one out. I wasn't the only one cheering, either. We were sitting in the rightfield seats, but the ball landed a couple of sections over from us.

Dude, get rid of these guys. They're awful. I'm not even sure why they are necessary.

You know, last year I poked fun at George a lot, but aside from all of his annoying catch phrases, I don't think he's that bad. That's probably because I'm not sick of him yet since MLB.TV - where I watch all of my Reds games - shows the feeds for bigger market teams, and well, most markets are bigger than Cincinnati. But that's a whole other fish...

I really like Thom Brennaman. The usual suspects like to complain about every word he says, but I like him. And Brantley has grown on me, too. That first Spring Training game, man was he bad! You could hear Marty thinking "what have they done to me" through the radio!

Nothing beats Marty and Joe, though.

Here's Barry hitting 751. 751. Man, back when I was a kid, I never dreamed I'd see someone hit that. Twenty years from now, all of the scandal dust will settle and people will look back and think how great a player Bonds really was. Besides, there will probably be four or five others sitting above him on that hallowed list of sluggers.

This guy should have been on that list. Ken "What If?" Griffey, Jr. will probably never reach the 700 Club (the good 700 Club, not the crazy one), but back in February 2000 when the first flowers poked through the thawing Earth and the pop of new baseballs hitting leather sounded from the green fields of Florida, I dreamed of seeing The Kid hitting the coveted home run. Alas, life has different plans than our dreams, doesn't it? I sure would like to be in Cooperstown when Griffey's inducted. Vacation 2017?

There aren't many manmade creations more beautiful than a ballpark. I always wanted one of those shirts that said, "Baseball is life," because it is. Or at least it mirrors it. The game has so many imperfections - $$$, free agency, Scott Boras, the Designated Hitter, unequal wealth, Bud Selig, drunks in the stands, Jose Canseco... - but it is the most perfect game, a celebration, a toast to goodness! Just look at the beauty of the field!

It was a great game, just like I wanted - a Bonds homer and a Reds victory.

The sweetest words an ear could ever have the pleasure of meeting! The win completed a great four days of baseball!

After the game was the Fourth of July fireworks show (the game was a day game on the Fourth). Have you ever sat in a darkened baseball stadium filled with fans? Pretty cool.

The firework show was awesome. As a kid I remember seeing one Fourth fireworks show in Cincy, but it was a long time ago. I remember being awestruck by the spectrum of colors splashed across the warm night sky. The feeling this time was no different.

And so, Bob, I finish my lengthy letter to you and leave you with a few more photos, including a trio of Zito pics, one that I doctored a bit for effect. I like to do that on occasion. Anyway, it's just one fan's tale of Reds baseball. I can't wait to start the next one right here in DC!

Thanks, Mom!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Adam's Last Day?

I hope not.

I remember the green uniforms. I remember the Dunnandkearns show, the feeling that the Reds had the second coming of the Big Red Machine working its way through the minors, the excitement when the giant slugger was called up to the Big Leagues. I remember sitting at Fifth Third Field along the meandering Miami on the lawn in rightfield, the only place that was easy to get tickets. I remember being behind the Dragons dugout pre-game but feeling too embarrassed to ask for an autograph among all of the kids standing there. I was in college then - you didn't do that sort of thing in college. (You do it when you're 30 though!)

It seems like eons ago. It seems like eons ago that we lost half of the Dunnandkearns show, too. It's been a rough seven years, and the big guy has gotten too much of the blame. And now, during the last game before the trade deadline, I am watching what could be Adam's last game.

Baseball is a tough love affair. It is a spiritual game, more than any other sport, and it can bring pain and heartache as any human relationship can. It grows a kind of hero, a guy who can fill us with hopes and joy but who can also come to represent everything that goes wrong. Today's game and those Dunn ABs were more than just a meaningless contest between a team that will play baseball in October and a team that (barring a divine miracle) will not. No, today's game and that slugger who has spent his entire professional career in the Reds organization means something more. Today, when Adam Dunn went to back to the dugout after his 7th inning at bat, represented all of modern Selig baseball.

Why is that? Well, in the eighties, a guy who played with one team his entire career (or for most of it, like Ryne Sandberg, for example), was a dying breed, but it has been killed off under the Selig reign. While I do not solely blame Selig on the murder, for free agency and Scott Boras have much to do with it, the fact that the gap between large market and small market teams has grown into a chasm under Selig is undeniable. Who can afford to keep a player around forever aside from the Bankees and the anti-Bankees, among a select few other teams?

Adam Dunn makes a lot of money, and to the Cincinnati Reds Baseball Club, a storied franchise with more World Series Championships than everyone but the Bankees and the Deadbirds*, when salaries get to a certain point, it's goodbye to you sir, you'll look good in pinstripes.

We have some incredibly knowledgeable Reds fans around the blogosphere who took the time to talk to a Cincy Enquirer reporter to make a case for keeping Dunn. If you haven't read the article, read it. It requires some knowledge of stats rather than just relying on your impression left by Dunn's strikeouts. As much as I like to tease statheads about their calculators (as a result of their tendency to look down at those of us who appreciate the game without the excessive numbers), these guys made good use of the numbers to make the case. So if my waxing nostalgia doesn't make a difference in the Dunn hatred, perhaps their science can.

I know I'm somewhat blinded by my childhood impressions of players and by lifelong Red Barry Larkin, that players did indeed switch teams more often than I'd like to admit, but you always knew what cap a player would be wearing to the HOF. Why does it matter? you ask. Well, a lot of us kind of development attachments to certain players - it kind of comes with being a fan. Why was Barry Larkin the favorite of so many Reds fans? Yeah, he was a good player, but more importantly, he WAS Cincinnati baseball through the nineties, and though a minority of people wanted to see him go away, most Reds fans are very happy he never wore another cap.

I'd like to keep Dunner around through his productive years, and we all know he'd love to stay more than anything. So, Adam, if this truly was your last day, thanks for the thrills and good luck to you sir, but you'll look weird in pinstripes.


*And technically Boston, who has won six, but we all know they won five of them when most people were still riding in horse carriages.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I'm miffed

It's really humid out today and not very pleasant, so I'm working on some stuff indoors. I flip on Fox Saturday Baseball, except there's no Fox Saturday Baseball on. Now, I know there are two games - the Nats are playing in New York and the Sausages are playing the Deadbirds - but apparently they aren't the games of the week, and because Fox's monopoly says we can't watch those games because their TV games start at 3:30, we've been blacked out on MLB.TV and everywhere else.

That makes no sense at all.

I hate Fox.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I just don't get it

Not only do I not understand why on Earth old Leatherpants would sign Dmitri Young to a contact extension rather than trading him for a prospect to a contending team in need of another bat, but I also don't understand Nationals fans' jubilant reaction to the news. Is baseball still so new in Washington that people don't know a stupid move when it happens?

Dmitri Young was out of baseball. Old Leatherpants got lucky in signing him and getting the production he has, and the signing only happened because of Bowden's obsession with ex-Reds. Who's to say that this comeback isn't a fluke?

When Young left the Reds, he had the gall to complain about Ken Griffey, Jr. getting "special treatment." Reds fans and management alike were ecstatic that we had been able to sign Junior, but Young never got the special relationship between Griffey and Cincy, so he had to run his mouth. I've never liked him since. I don't know if the whole "alcohol was the source of my problems" explanation is the truth or an excuse, as I don't know enough about the story to pass judgment, but I find it difficult to believe that someone can change their whole personality in half a baseball season.

But - my personal feelings about Dmitri aside, this is simply a bad baseball decision. Is Young a bad player to have on a team? Probably not, but for a team as bad as the Nationals, with no end to the badness in sight, not trading one of the few pieces of your team that could actually bring a prospect in return is stupid, stupid, stupid. This is the second time in a week it's happened, too, with the Belliard extension. It just shows that "The Plan" is not a plan at all, but a series of tubes. Downward pointing tubes.

And $10 million?!!

The only good I see coming out of this is perhaps it will push Nick Johnson to come back. I can't imagine roly-poly playing leftfield next year and think that Leatherpants has completely lost his mind. (I don't understand fatties in baseball. They have access to the best weight and exercise equipment, they make enough money to have fresh fruits and vegetables around at all times, and they play a freaking sport, for chrissake!) There better be a weight stipulation in that contract for $10 million!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I found this on Craig's List

I was looking at the jobs section in Cincinnati (you have to keep your options open!) and found this ad. As a Reds fan, I'd like to help out any way I can.

We are looking for 12 personable, fun people to be a part of a street team at the Cincinnati Reds game on August 11th from 2:00pm- 10:00pm and August 12th from 11:00am-7:00pm

Street team members should be upbeat and energetic, and will be asked to pass out “gift bags” outside the baseball field, and at nearby bars.

Applicants must be 18 years of age or older, and MUST be available BOTH days above, and for the ENTIRE time alloted. Please email a resume with references and a headshot.

* Location: Cincinnati
* Compensation: $80 per day for 2 days
Email: job-381683802@craigslist.org

Dear Bob: A Journey to Cincinnati, Part VI - My last day, continued

Hi Bob, me again. Getting tired of me yet? It's been a month since the day I am describing. I wish I were there all over again. I get to see the Reds next week here in DC, but it just isn't the same as watching them at home. This year, though, I'm trying to make it a little more like home by inviting all of Cincinnati and displaced Reds fans to a tailgate party Thursday, August 2, 2007 from 5-6:30pm in front of RFK (location will be posted later). I'm grilling burgers (the best you'll ever have!) and making a pitcher of Homers. It's bring your own beer. Actually, I don't know if you're allowed to have beer at tailgate parties at RFK, but oh well. If you're in town, Bob, please come - everyone's invited, even Nats fans!

Speaking of dining, on our tour of the ballpark we went up to the Riverfront Club. I never could understand why someone would go to the ballpark for formal dining like this. Every time I go to a game, I see people sitting up in the restaurant instead of sitting out in the stands the way baseball was meant to be enjoyed. These little gimmicks mar the essence of the game, but it'd be a cool place to eat dinner on an off day!

I thought about making my own wine topper like this one using one of the Reds sundae helmets I picked up off the ground after a game, just like I used to do as a kid. I'm not a big ice cream eater these days, but I just love those helmets, and I didn't have any with the drop shadow wishbone C, so I scooped them right up (pun intended!)

Back in the Riverfront days, we used to hop around from aisle to aisle collecting left behind souvenir cups, sundae helmets, promotional giveaways, and whatever other Reds treasures we could find. I guess some things never change, even as they age.

Wine and baseball should never be combined. It's like wearing wool sweaters in ninety degree weather or putting sugar in your gas tank or rooting for the Yankees when you've grown up in Boston. They just don't go together. Now beer and baseball is a different story, like salt and pepper, Bono and the Edge, or Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean. (Yeah, I just referenced Olympic Ice Dancing.)

The tour also took us to Scout's Alley, which honors some great Reds scouts. I immediately noticed the names of Larry Barton, Jr. and Johnny Almaraz as those longtime scouts who quit because of Wayne Krivsky. Yet Wayne Krivsky still sits in his office, the seconds ticking down until the fateful trade deadline, inspiring worry and anxiety in Reds fans. HEY WAYNE, DON'T TRADE DUNN, GRIFFEY, PHILLIPS, OR ARROYO!

After the tour, we headed on down to Gameday to check it out. Neither of us had been there before - we've always just gone to Inn Between for pre-game beers. I can't decide which I like better, though I am a sucker for beer gardens and Gameday is lacking in that regard. There are few things in life better than sitting outside, drinking a beer, absorbing the warmth and glory of the sunshine, and doing it all right across from you team's home stadium before you're going to see a baseball game.

Of course, being at the game is better!

While waiting for the gates to open after visiting Gameday, we strolled the streets of Cincy. I was looking for a place to buy a black marker so I could write "This Reds fan loves Barry" on the flip side of my "FIRE NARRON" sign, over which I wrote "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED." (Yeah, think flight decks about that one.) The guy in this picture posing with my mom was a little old crazy dude who didn't quite get the concept of "countdown" but nonetheless was as excited as I was about Narron's firing.

And so, Bob, I must finish here. I have only one more part to go in my letter to you, that being the actual game on July 3 against the Giants and the post-game fireworks show. I'll leave you with a few more pics from the day, including one of the scoreboard operation room. Try to look at it with the awe of someone like me who has never had access to the behind-the-scenes stuff of putting on The Baseball Show, the best show on Earth.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I see what he did there

Ok, so baseball players cost money, right? And the Reds have a small budget, right? Well, I've now figured out why such superduds Pedro Lopez, Chad Moeller, and Norris Hopper are on the team. See, Wayne is in the process of assembling an entire team of unpaid robots!

That's right - Wayne's a genius. The robots are in the early stages of development, so they hit for contact rather than power. But just wait until the newer models come out!

Here's what Lopez, Moeller, and Hopper look like without their skin on:

First Baseball Hitting Robot - Watch more free videos

McCoy not coy about his opinions

I found this funny:

Q — Do you think the Reds would have interest in acquiring Joe Nathan from the Twins? At least one Web site is reporting that the Twins might be willing to deal him. — Dave, Springboro

A — Might is a very iffy word. I might go to work at the New York Times, but I doubt that they want a senior-citizen baseball writer who probably is down to his last bucket of adjectives. One Web site? Now there is credibility for you. If a player once wore a Minnesota Twins uniform, Reds General Manager Wayne Krivsky is interested. He knows those guys. Sure, he would be interested in Joe Nathan. Who wouldn't? Which team likes him the most? The Minnesota Twins. Better try a different Web site.

I love Hal McCoy, and this week's mailbag is chock full of goodies.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Dear Bob: A Journey to Cincinnati, Part V - A Perfect Day

Dear Bob,

So it's been awhile since I've written. I know it was three weeks ago when I saw the last of three games in Cincy, but I've been pretty busy, so I'm just getting around to this last post.

July 3 was a great day. We got to the ballpark eight hours before game time! We took a tour of the ballpark - a guy named Dave was our guide. I tell you what, Bob, it sure was great to get to go onto the field. That was about the most beautiful grass I've ever seen. I've only been on one other Major League Baseball field back in old Riverfront. I once won the Milk Duds Celebrity Batgirl contest and got to go on the field during Reds batting practice. Someday I'll get around to putting those pictures on a disk and publishing them here. I had my picture taken with Hal Morris and Chris Hammond, Version 1.0. But that's for another time.

It's a pretty good tour where you get to see not only the field, but also the press box, Club 4192, the restaurant, Scout's Alley, and the Diamond Club. I knew the answers to Dave's questions, so he joked that he was going to turn the guide job over to me, which was amusing. They were really pretty simple questions, like who is retired number 1? and things of that nature.

I'm not sure what it is about a baseball field that's so magical, but standing there staring out at the verdant sea (complete with boat!) was utter happiness. I could write a whole novel sitting on that grass, such is the inspiration it brings to the soul. The maintenance of such a perfect yard must be quite a process! I commend the groundskeeper and his crew for a magnificent job!

Wow, the Diamond Club seats are my dream. The tour took us down there, and it is my greatest wish to one day see a game from those seats. I don't care about the wait service or the fancy food or any of the perks that come with those tickets - I just want to be as close to the action as a spectator can be. I want to hear the umpire say "Strike!" when Harang pitches. I want to be able to tell whether it was a fastball or slider by watching the pitch come in. I want my heart to jump as a foul ball comes screaming towards my head, only to be protected by a safety net. Sound crazy? Well, that's part of the game, too!

Yes, one day I will sit in these seats with the rest of the rich folks and lucky bastards. I will go through the special doors, past the fancy restaurant with the bats sticking out of the woodwork (see photo below), and feel like I am part of that world from which I am now excluded on account of me being just a plain old member of the common folk. Yes, one day I will hear the ump scream "Strike!" with my common folk ear!

Boy, that view from the press box is really something, too. Makes me want to run out and get a journalism degree so I can sit there. No wonder the competition is fierce. I can't imagine getting paid to watch baseball - I think I'd be the happiest person on the planet in the whole history of the world, even if I had to meet deadlines and stay up extra late and fly (I hate flying) and all.

I liked how someone had gone and prepped the press box by putting a handout of stats at each place and the San Francisco media guides in the press box cubby holes. Probably some intern. Why didn't I think of interning for the Reds back in the day?

My mom sat in Hal McCoy's seat, judging from his cubby hole behind her. Growing up in the Dayton area pre-internet, Hal McCoy was the guy who told me about the Reds, plain and simple, explaining to me why Mr. Red was either smiling or frowning at me from the front page of the Dayton Daily News. I really miss newspapers. The days when you got your news from a paper instead of a glaring screen seem much simpler in hindsight. I hope DDN still prints the face of Mr. Red on the front page.

Well, Bob, I thought this was going to be my last post, but this has gotten quite long, so I'll have to continue it later. Right now, I have some work to do. Here are a few more photos.