Eyewitness Report: Clinchmas 2012

A few weeks ago, my brother decided he wanted to go to the Cincinnati Comic Expo on Saturday and try to hit up a game the same weekend (we live 4 hours away). When they changed the game to a 4pm start it worked out perfect – we could do both in one day and come home the same night. And maybe, just maybe, we thought…they would be close to clinching. It’s the only game either of us got a chance to attend this year, so chances were slim. But maybe…

It seemed other fans had the same idea, because when we tried to buy tickets they were nearly sold out. We had to settle for the upper deck (section 513) to get three seats together. We brought my oldest son, who is 7. We geeked out in the morning for a few hours: took pictures of stormtroopers, played the TMNT and X-Men arcade games, my son got some Star Wars toys and a Bone lunchbox, but he was anxious to get to the ballpark.

He was in his Jay Bruce shirsey and had his binoculars so he could check out the action. We saw a dominant Mat Latos, who looked like he barely broke a sweat, although we were cooking, seated directly in the sun, while everyone down in the shadows had on jackets. 4pm is a weird time for a ballgame when it comes to the sun/shadows. We were walking back to our seats from getting a hot dog when they announced Bruce to the plate. My son called it and said “I don’t want to miss it if he hits a home run!”…well, we heard the roar of the crowd and got to see the fireworks and Jay rounding the bases. I’ve been to a few walk off wins – (I remember an Austin Kearns walk-off dingo off Jose Mesa and another one from Aaron Boone) – but this was the best crowd I’ve been a part of. The feeling in the ninth inning was special. Even though it was inevitable that we would clinch, it was awesome to be a part of it.

We started the long drive home after sitting in traffic in downtown for 40 minutes. Apparently Oktoberfest going on as well? Why so many people? No cars were moving! And there were horses everywhere – police on horses, horse drawn carriages. Horses are the most frightening creatures and they were everywhere! And what is the practicality of police on horseback in a metropolitan area? They would only come in handy in the case of a riot or ape uprising. Got back to Southeast Ohio late, after dodging a few deer. Between being harassed by hooved ungulates I began to think about my son.

He had seen the replay of Bruce’s “The Clincher” in 2010 multiple times, and he got to see the celebration in person this time. I worried that maybe he would get used to this sort of thing – I was his age (7) when the Reds won it in 1990. That was the beginning of my baseball consciousness. I was sure every year would be this great forever! Unfortunately, the Jim Bowden. But this feels so different. This team is built to last with a commitment to player development and an owner willing to spend to keep the stars in town. I went from age 8 to 27 with one playoff appearance. ONE. I know that my son will not go through the same experience.

My other memories from the fall of 1990 aren’t as rosy. My dad passed away two weeks after the World Series. I didn’t get much of a chance to share my Reds fandom with him. Now that my son has hit this age, I’m in a little bit of uncharted territory. I can look back at 1990 and see it as the beginning of my Reds fandom, but realize how much I missed out on (way beyond baseball) with my own dad. Will my son remember going to this game as a similar watershed moment in his own baseball / life experience? Will he and his younger brother (4) grow up loving baseball and remember the times we spent together playing and watching it? Will there be an Alex P. Keaton situation where they grow up and decide they prefer the opposite of Reds baseball (MMA or the Cardinals)? Even so, this was a moment and an experience we will be able to share (with hopefully more to come this postseason). Even if it doesn’t turn into a lifelong Reds obsession for my boys like it did with me, this game could be an early step to something much more important. I grew up with the Reds and without a dad and I would make the trade to swap them in a second. I was thankful to get to experience this game with my brother and son and can’t wait for the next few decades where we can root for the Redlegs and figure out this whole father/son thing together. As long as one of those damned horses doesn’t get me.

Other observations from the game:

Phillips honked the hell out of that wanger.

Cozart in the 8-spot? That was a good lineup! #HARRSPARR.

From our vantage point in the upper deck, we had a view right into the bullpen mound and could see Chapman warming up starting in the 7th inning. We didn’t know if he was just getting work in or if he was set to return. But him stepping out of the bullpen in the 9th was a great moment.

The guy behind us was one of those guys who talks loud about baseball as if he knows what he’s talking about but really doesn’t. Although his wife asked “why don’t they do play by play so we know what’s going on?” – so to his audience he probably sounded like a genius. He referred to “this Chapman guy” as a “fireballer” about 9 times.

Go Reds! They're my favorite team!

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