I arrived in Cincinnati with a great sense of energy and purpose! This April weekend was the first of the 2012 baseball season, and it seemed like it had been a long time coming. But, finally, it had arrived.
I was genuinely thrilled to be there, in a city that welcomed me with a sense of friendliness that so many cities lack. From the shuttle bus driver who gave me the “scenic” tour of the city since I was the only one on that run, and there was no meter running, to the bar maid at the hotel’s sports bar who was part Japanese and shared how much she missed her “second home.” (I raised my glass to that sentiment!)
The day was young and I had a few hours to kill before the walk to the Park, so I did some shopping and then headed off, ahead of the masses, to enjoy the Hall of Fame and Museum (http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/cin/hof/index.jsp), located adjacent to the park. What a great history to revel in…which is even more impressive when you see the amazing talent that represented the “Big Red Machine” during the 1970s and 80s.
(Note: Even though Pete Rose is ever-present in the Hall of Fame and Museum, the team’s store is not allowed to sell anything with his name or number on it. I can see why, but I found that interesting. At least there is no denying that he was an integral part of what made the team a power house, despite what he did later in life, off the field.)
With my souvenir bobblehead in tow, I headed to my seat, where I was greeted by Bob Beckert, the friendliest usher, who took me under his wing and gave me the lay of the land. Because I was in a specific section, I had access to a club that provided all-you-can-eat food, and he directed me to another man who would give me my bracelet. He also inquired about my trip, if it was my first, and how I was enjoying Cincinnati. When I gave him the brief recap, he responded by saying, “You need to meet Mr. Parks!”
He told me that he would make the introduction later, but in the meantime, took the spelling of my name, and promised a “treat” for later.
I head to the food court and despite the many options, I stuck with my usual…hot dog, chips and water (as my “fast” on soda was one day from being over). Despite the fact that it was all included, the hot dog was a bit of a disappointment as the cold bun (a total pet peeve) to dog ratio was a bit off as I found the “dog” to be rather scrawny! Ate half and opted for peanuts!
I returned to my seat to find Charlie and his friends sitting next to me! A principal of a local school, he was chatty and told me all about his family (his wife was a teacher, as was his daughter), and his travels! He was a hoot and further validated the fact that while I travel alone, I’m rarely, if ever, lonely!
Around the 5th inning, Bob, the usher, returned with a “My First Visit” certificate and an invitation to meet Mr. Parks, a local businessman with season tickets a few sections over, and the inventor of “The Major League Baseball Ballpark Pass-port.” (More on this in the next post). We had a lovely, memorable visit that only cemented the fact that the people of Cincinnati were indeed some of the kindest in the country, hands down!
I enjoyed that the field crew wore black suits for a very snazzy look, that popcorn was delivered to those in our section in the later innings, and that you could see the paddle boats out over center field, something that reminded me of Pac Bell Park – love an outfield with a view!
Despite the fact that Votto hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth, the Reds fell to the newly minted, Miami Marlins 8-3 (who were sporting their new “colorful” uniforms and logo…I’m going to have to ponder those colors a bit more), but the fireworks display immediately following sort of made the loss more bearable.
I headed back to the hotel and prepped for 5 a.m. shuttle pick up back to the airport. My snapshot of Cincinnati, while short, was as sweet as I could have ever imagined and hoped for!
Off to Cleveland!