San Diego Padres
L: A. Cashner
W: B. Arroyo
Great American Ballpark
They may have taken Opening Day away from Cincinnati, but they have not taken away their love for the game. The Queen City remains one of the best baseball cities in America. The area around the ballpark is beautiful and the people I met were fantastic. Much like my experiences in almost every other stadium this summer, there was not nearly enough time to take in all of what Great American Ballpark has to offer.
I woke up a little late this morning and had to rush to the park. I am beginning to feel the effects of living on the road more severely lately. By the time I drove into downtown Cincinnati I was immediately reinvigorated as the area around Great American Ballpark is amazing. There are several fun bars and restaurants lining the streets as well as a park in front of the stadium that has swings, a fountain and a beautiful view from the Riverwalk. As has become standard, the weather was once again perfect for a ballgame. I walked around the park and ran into a family of Reds fans sitting by the fountains. I struck up a conversation with a gentleman by the name of Virgil who had some fascinating stories about growing up a Reds fan and the Big Red Machine years. My chat with Virgil is included in the podcast which you can subscribe to in iTunes for free!
I was enjoying talking to Virgil so much that I completely lost track of time. Before I knew it the gates were about to open up. I said goodbye to Virgil and his family and hustled to enter the stadium as early as possible. This is one of the stadiums that inspired me to do this tour in the first place. After sharing Riverfront Stadium with the Bengals for decades while being forced to play on AstroTurf, the Reds finally got their own home in 2003. They moved from the old cookie-cutter setup to a magnificent baseball only stadium that I am sure will rank among the top when I finish this tour. I scheduled my visit to the Reds Hall of Fame for tomorrow because I have heard that it is an experience that could take up an entire day.
There is so much happening outside of the stadium that I do not quite know where to start. In addition to the serene environment the city of Cincinnati has created near the stadium, there is plenty of baseball history outside of the gates. One of the first things that I noticed was a saying written in giant red letters high atop the exterior of the stadium reading “Rounding third and heading for home”. I admit that my knowledge of Reds broadcasters is lacking, so I had to ask somebody about the quote. Reds Hall of Fame broadcaster Joe Nuxhall is the father of this quote and therefor the father of this very site's namesake. This is not the only honor bestowed upon Nuxhall as his pitching career is also represented via a statue standing near the main entrance to the stadium. He is joined by Ernie Lombardi, Ted Kluszewski and Frank Robinson in a game of statue baseball.
One can not talk about the Cincinnati Reds without bringing up Pete Rose. It is an absolute travesty that the Reds are forced to pretend that Rose simply never existed within the walls of Great American. Luckily, some creative designers found a clever way around this unfortunate situation. Behind the scoreboard is a giant mural of the bat and ball Pete used to collect his hit number 4,192. It has been over two decades that Pete Rose has been banned from baseball. This is not an argument as to whether or not he belongs in the Hall of Fame, but rather how much we should punish one man for a stupid decision. Pete should have a place in baseball even if it is as simple as being able to have a statue inside Great American Ballpark. We can not whitewash him from history as if he did not exist. His crimes may have been deplorable, but they were not unforgivable. You may not like the guy as a person, but his baseball ability and impact on the sport is undeniable. I am sure I am preaching to the choir at this point, but for those of you who disagree with me please email me at email@example.com. I would love to hear an intelligent argument as to why Pete can not even get a picture of himself inside the stadium. Inside the stadium there is even more history of the Reds plastered everywhere you look. This makes Rose's absence even more conspicuous.
But enough about Charlie Hustle and on to the food at Great American Ballpark. I was not in the mood for chilli so Skyline was not on my menu, but I was told to try Montgomery Inn barbecue sauce so I headed over to Mr. Red's Smokehouse to see what all of the fuss was about. I ordered a basic pulled pork sandwich to use as the canvas with the Montgomery Inn serving as the paint and proceeded to slather the sauce inside of the bun. I was not disappointed. If I had room in my car I would have bought a tub of this stuff to take with me. I am petrified to look at a scale these days because the food on this tour is getting better and unhealthier as the days go on.
I attempted to walk off some of the calories I had just packed on by exploring the rest of the stadium. The view from cheap seats is quite spectacular and includes sightings of the famed Cincinnati Riverboats chugging by in the water every so often. The Reds are also not short on mascots as I counted at least four running around the park. These included Mr. Redlegs, Rosie Red, Mr. Red and Gapper (all pictured in gallery above). I did a little research and found that Mr. Red predated Mr. Met, however Gapper is most certainly a “Philly Phanatic”-type mascot, which I have seen quite a few of at stadiums across the country.
With high kicking Bronson Arroyo on the mound for the home team the Padres did not have much a shot at winning this game. After jumping out to an early lead, the Reds kept piling on the runs before taking the game by a score of 7-2. It was a relatively uneventful game between a team at the top of their division (Reds) and a team at the bottom of theirs (Padres). These types of games are a welcome respite in a 162 game season. It is impossible to keep the energy up for 162 games in the stands without burning yourself out. I needed a game like this after the excitement and chaos of A-Rods return and all of the driving the past two weeks. Luckily the atmosphere inside Great American Ballpark is quite relaxing. There is a meditative quality to live baseball that I have not yet written about in any of my postings. This serene feeling was evidenced throughout the game today. When the home team is in control early on and the final outcome never really being in doubt, it allows for the fans to sit back and relax while enjoying the weather, entertainment in front of them, and each other's company.
Baseball truly is the only form of entertainment where you are encouraged to talk to those sitting around you. I am a huge stand up comedy nerd and living in New York has given me the opportunity to attend hundreds of shows at venues all over the city. I often will arrive to the clubs hours before the show starts much like I have been doing for the stadiums on this tour. There are always people at the bar, or in the lobby that theoretically have the same interests as me – stand-up comedy at the very least – yet I have never really had a substantive conversation with anybody at a comedy club. I have had brief encounters with comics and fans wherein we discuss the show we are going to see or have just seen, but nothing more than small talk and pleasantries are exchanged before everyone retreats into their phone, or their friends, or their own world and waits for the comic to come on stage. I have also been to hundreds of football games, basketball games, hockey games et. al. and have never had the type of bonding experience that I have had at the ballpark. The same can be said for watching a play, or going to a movie or a concert. There are always thousands of people in attendance, but nobody is interested in connecting with one another on a level deeper than “don't you like this thing in front us at this moment”.
So far this summer I have had conversations with my seatmates about transcendental meditation, religion, politics, race relations, health care, alcoholism, and a whole slew of other topics. I have met strangers that I have kept in touch with through email and texts and have heard stories that have inspired me and taught me new ways to look at the world. I experienced all of this while a game of baseball played in the background. I say this not to speak ill of the other forms of entertainment, but rather to highlight the uniqueness of the sport of baseball. The game is built for contemplation. The game is built for conversation. I will continue to go to comedy clubs, movies, plays, concerts, sporting events etc. and enjoy them for the unique experiences that they all allow for. Baseball is still the only place where I truly feel like I am a real part of a larger community.
After the Reds victory the fans were treated to a ridiculous fireworks show. I have been to several fireworks nights at ballparks across this great Nation over the past couple of months, but I may have found a winner. They put on a nice show down in Texas, but the finale in Cincinnati sounded like a war zone for about five straight minutes. It was loud, it was bright, it was gorgeous. My hands were actually shaking as I attempted to snap some photos with the explosions happening directly in front of me. The people in Cincinnati know how to put on a good show both on the field and off. If anybody from Major League Baseball is reading this right now, I am begging you to reconsider giving Opening Day back to this city. I appreciate the business side of rotating the first pitch of the season, but this is a game that should always be above the financials. This is a game that revels in its history. This is a game that will survive all of us and continue to make people money for generations to come. Cincinnati is a fantastic baseball city and deserves to throw out the official first pitch of the 2014 season and beyond. Thanks for a wonderful time Cincinnati, I will be back soon.
Next up: Progressive Field
Game Time Temp: 83
First Pitch Time: 7:10 PM
First Pitch: Larry Blackburn
National Anthem: Wright Brass
Seventh Inning Stretch: Cincinnati Ohio
Total Pitches Thrown: 287
Total Hits: 16
Total Singles: 10
Total Doubles: 2
Total Triples: 1
Total Home Runs: 3
Total Walks: 5
Total Strike Outs: 15
Total Errors: 2
Game Time: 2:42
Attendance: 30,288 (71.6% full)
Home Plate Umpire: Adam Hamari
Miles Traveled: 20 miles
Time in Car: 40 minutes
Sleep Time: 8 hours 30 minutes
Bottles of Water: 3
Food Eaten: Grapes
Ballpark Food: Pulled pork sandwich, ice cream sandwich
Scoreboard Cap Game: Under Chili #3
Money spent on parking: $12
Money spent on ticket: $59.15
Cost of Program: $4.69
Money spent on food: $19.75
Total money spent on Merchandise: $25.23
Total Money spent at stadium: $116.13
Total Money spent today $213.13