I about dropped the phone when I heard the voice on the other end say “Yeah, she really did! She invited US to the stadium before the game on Monday night! You in?”
The term “Field Access” means different things to different people. Some may see it as an opportunity to rub elbows with the coaches and players. Some people may try to kick up enough warning track dirt onto their shoes that they can brush them off afterwards as a keepsake. For me, it meant that I would (legally) be on the space piece of Earth where my favorite baseball team goes to work.
I’ve been in hundreds of office spaces, but leaving the elevators at the Reds office with Lisa Braun and the other guys from Head First Slide was something different. Even the offices feel like you’re somewhere special. The walls are lined with framed art centered around the Reds and cubical shelving houses bobbleheads and statues of my favorite players. At 4:30, when we arrived, people were hard at work doing whatever it is they were tasked to do, and I was jealous. It must be strange having people be so excited to walk through your workplace like this. I’ll see what I can do about setting up a tour of the sporting goods store if anyone is THAT interested in seeing MY workplace.
Soon after meeting with Lisa and Ellen, we started downstairs to get our security passes. Our camera bags were checked and wristbands and passes were dished out. We were on the move down to the field.
In the dark hallways under the stands we saw the red door frame. The Clubhouse Door. It was so spectacular that we took pictures in front of it. The other guys may share those pictures, but because of my goofy smile, I won’t. You’ll have to trust me though – as a Reds fan, you’d want your picture taken, too.
We continued on our way around, past the visitors clubhouse and down the hallway towards the field. I think everyone knows that feeling when you’re getting close to something exciting. It’s like waking up on your birthday and knowing that whatever is happening that day is going to be special. I certainly felt it just getting to the field access door. Through the door, we ended up near the far end of the visitors dugout. The sun was shining down on the most perfect grass I have ever been within arms reach of. The dirt under my feet felt like no other dirt I’ve walked on. The air was pure and clean. *CRACK* White baseballs shot across the blue sky. People – what I am trying to say is – WE WERE ON THE FIELD!
Many thoughts ran through my head as we stood there watching Cingrani take swings. Those thoughts had nothing to do with the notebook in my backpocket that I INTENDED to write down things I noticed for the benefit of this post. Those thoughts were also not in the neighborhood of the dozen questions and topics I wanted to talk about with Reds employees, and that’s too bad because Rob Butcher came to welcome us behind the backstop. There are few things more embarrassing than standing there wide-eyed and open-mouthed as someone like Rob Butcher asks if you have any questions, but don’t worry – it gets worse for this blogger later on.
So there we stood, trying to pretend like we belonged. Head First Slide, as a blog, started in the 2012 season, but most of us hadn’t started writing for the website until Opening Day of this season. To be invited to an event like this after such a short period of time was both amazing and nerve-wracking. As my head started to clear and I began thinking about how I was going to present this experience to you through the blog, C. Trent Rosecrans came over to say hi (mostly to say hi to Lisa, I think, but I’ll take it as saying hello to us, too). Jamie Ramsey came over (again, probably to talk to Lisa, but we were with her, so I’m counting it). Mat Latos was underhanding balls to some Redsheads kids who were standing next to us by this point. Jay Bruce was balancing a bat on his fingers. A band that none of us had heard of walked behind us. Todd Frazier was “golfing” baseballs to fans behind the rope. Bronson was hitting balls to the left field wall and Shin-Soo Choo was launching them out of the park. Marty came out to talk to Dusty, but I think he really just wanted to show off his shirt to anyone who might see. Things were happening all around us and it was one of the coolest time of my fandom career.
Towards the end of our time on the field, Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart both came over to say hi. Admittedly, I am not around Todd 24/7, but I would be shocked if that guy ever has a bad attitude that lasts longer than 5 minutes. He had a smile on his face as he stepped over the rope, twisting a bat in his hand, and said “Hi, I’m Todd” as if he thought we had no idea who he was. He graciously waited while I clumsily changed lenses on my camera for a picture, then signed an autograph for a few fans and moved on. I have a feeling he genuinely enjoys talking to fans when he gets a chance and I think that’s something special.
When we left the field and retraced our steps back to the general population area, we noticed the clubhouse door was open and someone was standing there as if he was holding the door open for us. It was Joey Votto. We kept walking – all of us trying not to stare at Joey being just a few feet away. As we got closer, Joey looked up and smiled at us. I felt like I had to say something back to him – you know, just to be polite. I decided saying “Thanks for holding the door open, but we’re headed this way” and pointing down the tunnel would be an awesome line to drop in this situation. Remember before when I said it “gets worse” for this blogger?!? Yeah, it just did.
I’m not going to keep trying (and probably failing) to explain what it was like to be on the field, so here are a few more pictures of the day. Lisa and the Reds people couldn’t have been more accommodating and incredible throughout the afternoon. The players went about their business but gave little gestures to acknowledge the fans who came to see them. The staff at the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum was as friendly as you could expect. It’s easy to see why Great American Ballpark is a great place to take your family.
If you have any questions or comments, want to share your favorite ballpark experience, want to offer up some captions for any of the following photos or feel like making fun of me for my fantastic one-liner to Joey Votto, leave a message in the comment section or find me on Twitter at @GeoffreyHoman.