In the immortal words of Ice Cube, Today Was A Good Day. I'm probably not going to do the events of today justice, but I'll give it a shot. What started as a cold dreary Opening Day in Cincinnati ended with me high fiving people I had never spoken to before. This is my Opening Day story.
I've been to eleven Opening Day games in my life, the last ten consecutively. I've been fortunate enough to take my son every year since he came into this world of ours just after Opening Day 2001. I thought it would be a cool thing we could do together around his birthday, something that was "ours". The last few years he's taken much more interest in baseball due to playing the game and understanding it more, which has been a ton of fun for me personally. I finally have someone that I can force to listen to me ramble on ad nauseum about the game I love. My biggest regret from the last nine Opening Days was leaving early in 2005 (when you have kids, shit happens...sometimes literally) and getting home just in time to see Joe Randa hit a game winning home run in the bottom of the 9th inning against the Mets. That miscue got a little easier to swallow today.
We started our day by having a pregame lunch at a local favorite of mine, Pasquale's in Bellevue. After filling our bellies we attempted to park in the garage at the Levee, but that was a no go so we ended up parking in the auxiliary Levee parking lot right across from the beloved Travelode Hotel. Thankfully I was not stabbed in the neck while walking by that fine establishment. The walk to the ballpark could be best described as chilly, if not downright cold. I was surprised to see the stadium so empty on our way over since it was already 12:45 or so but I suppose people were watching the Findlay Market parade or drinking it up before getting to the game. Here's what it looked like from the bridge:
Once we were inside the stadium it became obvious there were plenty of people already there:
A lot of people were looking to take shelter from the cold; the Machine Room was already a one-out/one-in affair when we got there.Today's giveaway was a Reds rally towel, it's almost like they knew something ahead of time:
We made our way to our seats and it felt so good to see this beautiful sight after a long absence:
The Brewers were finishing up batting practice, and shortly thereafter the pregame festivities began. There was a ceremony honoring Joey Votto for winning the 2010 National League MVP:
Next up was a tribute to Sparky Anderson, which was nice. They played a short video and unveiled a "Sparky" sign over the Reds bullpen, a fitting place if there ever was one. A shot of the video board during the tribute:
Now it was time to meet the teams. No one clicked this link to read about the Brewers so I didn't bother documenting any of that. If you want to know about the Brewers ask ol pete or head over to BCB (the good one) and educate yourself. The Reds, on the other hand, I care about. I've broken the video of their introductions into three managable pieces - Staff/Coaches, Reserves, and Starters:
Next up, the national anthem which was performed by Brian McKnight and his sons Brian Jr. and Niko. In addition to the flag on the field there were stars for each of the armed services, and the customary flyover by two F-18 Hornets, which you can see here:
Now that everyone had been introduced and people had sung and planes had flown it was time for the ceremonial first pitch. This year's lucky thrower was recently retired Cincinnati Chief of Police Tom Streicher, who was inexplicably brought onto the field by a gang of Clydesdale horses:
Where the hell do they think they are, St. Louis?
Mr. Streicher's partner in ceremonial crime was none other than Hall of Famer Little Joe Morgan, who got a MUCH larger round of applause than the man of honor. Sorry to disappoint you guys, but he was fully clothed. Morgan failed to flag down Wild Thing Streicher's pitch which was a little high but looked to be totally catchable.
It's finally time for baseball, yay! Here are your defending NL Central Champion Cincinnati Reds taking the field for the first time in 2011:
And here's your first pitch of the 2011 season, a called strike:
Everyone knows how the game went so I'll spare you the details other than these personal observations - Volquez was getting ROCKED in the first inning, a point the guys behind me made sure to point out incessantly. I thought Joey's sac fly was gone off the bat and had a perfect view of his HR later, which he crushed. I missed Stubbie's homer as I was busy waiting in line for someone else to pee. I thought Rolen's loud foul would stay fair. I accidentally called Prince Fielder Cecil which made me feel old.
Now for the fun part - The rest of this recap almost never came to be. I almost duplicated my previous mistake. After the 7th inning I asked everyone in our party whether they wanted to stay or leave. My daughter wanted to leave, my wife was indifferent but leaning toward leaving, and I wanted to stay. Things looked bleak and we were all pretty cold. The only person left to ask was my son, who responded, "Hahaha, you're testing me aren't you dad?". When I asked him again if he wanted to leave so he could warm up he said, "No way! They can come back, I know it!"
Yes Alex, they can come back. And they DID. I leave with the pictures I snapped of Clutch Man Monie rounding the bases as I was screaming my head off and waving the hell out of my rally towel and feeling ten years old again. God I love baseball, especially the Cincinnati Reds.
Other things I've added as I remember them:
- Cage The Elephant were really drunk, really high or really both when they "led" the crowd in Take Me Out To The Ballgame.
- At bat music I noticed: BP - "Forget You", Gomes - "Paradise City"
P.S. If anyone wants a bigger version of any of the pics let me know and I'll send them to you. Fair warning - Everything was done from my Blackberry since I forgot to charge the battery on the camera.