Opening Day is finally upon us, and you know what that means… alphabetically, the Reds are in 2nd place in the NL Central before even playing a game!
Sure, a wire-to-wire season is out of the question, but if second place isn’t progress, then I don’t know what is.
During the nine years that I was a full-time resident of Cincinnati I didn’t attend a single Opening Day game. It certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort or desire, but mostly because I had parents who felt that school was more important than baseball.
This is usually the part where I admit to winning the Perfect Attendance award my Junior and Senior years in high school.
So, here I am, approaching my 35th birthday and school is no longer a part of my life, but baseball is.
(Who’s the smart one now, Mom and Dad?!)
But I digress…
For years I was told how big of a deal Opening Day was to the city of Cincinnati, but it wasn’t until my first Opening Day game in 2003 that I truly understood what they meant.
Cincinnati is hardly a small town, but on Opening Day it certainly feels like one. Go downtown right before the parade starts and you’ll find thousands of people roaming the streets in their favorite Reds attire. Once the parade starts, business stops — workers put down their phones and try to catch a glimpse out of their office window, and some of them leave the office altogether and come down to watch the parade.
My first Opening Day was extra special because it was also the first game at Great American Ball Park. I went to the parade downtown, had a quick lunch at the Red Fox on 6th Street (highly recommended), then I made my way down to GABP with the rest of the Reds faithful.
The thing I remember most about walking into GABP for the first time was the giant Big Red Machine mural (and the cleverly “hidden” Pete Rose):
I sat in the bleachers, right underneath the massive left field scoreboard. The game itself was forgetable (getting spanked by the Pirates?!), but it was too late — I was hooked.
I went to my second Opening Day in 2004 — a loss to the stupid Cubbies on a freezing cold day.
And my third Opening Day in 2005 — the biggest crowd in Great American Ball Park history got to see Pedro Martinez’s Mets debut, and a come-from-behind, walk-off HR by Joe Randa (one of the best games I’ve ever been to).
Then the Reds changed the ticket policy so that you could only buy Opening Day tickets as part of a lottery, leaving this Chicago boy out in the cold.
I haven’t been back to GABP since (but I will make my triumphant return on July 17 for Chris Sabo’s Hall of Fame induction game).
I guess what I’m trying to say is: Monday is a good day in Cincinnati. If you live in Cincinnati, do what you can to take part in the day’s activities. If you’re lucky enough to go to the game, enjoy — I’m jealous.