We are, who we are.

I apologize profusely that this blog has fallen so far from what it started out to be,
I take a good chunk of responsibility for the lack of updates, and a general departure
from online posts. I feel like we’ve put so much into the podcast last season and early
this year, that it just seems like we’d be subjecting ya’ll to the same information.

But take this first post for the 2014 season as a starting point. We’ll do better to
keep you all in touch with our series previews as the season goes along.
All of that out-of-the-way, the Reds instagram account has had a contest running for
the last month. Each day is a new Reds related post, that has your personal touches
(and unbelievable filters).

This past week, I added what was only my second contribution, when it was a culmination
of sorts for everyone else. What being a Reds fan, means to me, or how we got here.

So let’s do a little history lesson, a quick rundown of how I got here.
Baseball is in my blood. My grandfather had one hell of an arm, and in the early 50’s
was in fact invited to the St.Louis Cardinals spring training. Personal circumstance
brought him back before he ever really got a shot, and instead started a family
with my Grandmother. My dad and his brothers all played baseball, so I grew up around
an entire generation of baseball players, and I cannot overstate how those summers would influence me as not just a baseball fan, but as a person.

Yeah, I know, hiss and boo because I have family ties to the enemy.

My mom’s side also has strong Pittsburgh roots, so feel free to run me out-of-town any
day now. And it was her father, my Grandpa Traverse, that really brought me into the
game. We would go on these province wide road trips that usually involved camping
myself and my three sisters in a pop up camper with both grandparents. It wasn’t the
trips, the swimming, the bonfires, or the wilderness hikes that I remember with
absolute clarity. It’s the late nights after everyone had gone to sleep, laying in a
bunk with my Grandpa, listening to Tom Cheek call Toronto Blue Jays games on the radio.
Where most kids had a lullaby, or stories to safely send them off to Neverland, for me
it was Kelly Gruber, Jesse Barfield, Tony Fernandez, Dave Steib and Tom Henke. I was
raised to cheer for the boys in blue. The sounds of the crickets chirping, the wind
playing the creaks and groans of the camper like a terrible orchestra backdrop to the
boys of summer. That’s where I came from. A good Canadian kid, that couldn’t skate, but
learned to throw a curveball.

I would split my summers between both grandparents’ towns. My Pops on my Dads side,
would tell me how the only player worth following was Pete Rose. He never slowed, he
never gave anything less than 100%, and how he’d kill a guy to win, and almost had at
one time. He never explained just how influential the Ray Fosse play was in defining
Charlie Hustle, but it’s something I still point to as a character moment for Pete.
At the same time, my Dad is a lifetime Phillies fan, so the Pete Rose influence for me
started early. It’s just that he was wearing a different jersey than I associate with
him now. My dad wanted me to be a third baseman, desperately, he’d send me out during
my practices to take grounders at third. My bruised and beaten arms and chest left a
lot to be desired, this is also why I gravitated to the outfield, the ball seemed far
less of a sociopath when it was hurtling back to earth, and ultimately my glove.

My relationship with my Dad early on was exceptionally destructive, his lifetime of
having an angry father took its toll, and had direct impact on his own four kids in
return. Don’t get me wrong, I do not begrudge or blame my dad for how he’d physically
reprimand us early on, it was all he had known. But this is also the catalyst for the
relationship and bond we share now.Dad entered anger management, where we’d have family sessions and openly discuss our feelings. With three sisters, I often felt left out of
the loop on time with either of my parents, mostly my father.

In 1995 my dad and I took our very first, and certainly not last, trip to a live ball
game. I had been to a few others, but with my Moms folks, never my own dad. We would
drive the two hours to Toronto, and talk about everything. How to read a ball off the
bat, what school was like. We began to develop a relationship that my own father came
to realize, he had always wanted with his own. My grandpa died in the winter of 1995,
one of two moments I have ever witnessed my hardened Dad cry. And not like, one of
those solitary tears and it’s over type deals, a full on emotionally devastated cry.

We had finally begun to cultivate a relationship ourselves, and it made my Dad realize
just how much he had missed out on as a kid growing up. So our baseball trips became a
yearly event, often times outside of Canada just to visit different ball parks. Our
first big road trip was to Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Ohio. I was enamored with Jim
Thome, and so badly wanted to see my favorite ball player live. And after a four-hour
rain delay, and a nine-hour drive home, I would be stuck waiting for another few years
before that came to fruition.

Our second trip, was to see the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Needless to say, I was fully behind the boys in blue that day. I detested the
stadium. From the trough style urinals, to the belligerent ticket lady that refused to
give me the Budweiser giveaway, because I was under the age of 21. The entire
experience left me disappointed.But hey, deep dish makes everything better.

Our third big trip, was to Veterans Stadium in its final year of hosting the
Philadelphia Phillies. I wish I could explain how excited my Dad was. A Phils, Eagles,
and Flyers fan, walking down Broad Street. At that point, I realized just how important
our road trips were. It didn’t matter where, because it was taking us to these
historically significant stadiums, cities, and seeing the teams that hundreds of
thousands of fans shared a love with. I saw Jim Thome play that day. But it was the
first time I saw the Cincinnati Reds in person. Years previous, we had been part of a
Scout Troop that visited Wright Patterson in Dayton, and while there a marine handed me
this rolled up paper. Years later, I would find it again. Great American Ball Park
plans, art work, blue prints.

It’s weird how this works, huh?

Our next three trips were back to Chicago, to see Frank Thomas, and the White Sox. If
you know me, you know my heart is broken into three pieces for baseball. The pale hose,
Jays, and our beloved Redlegs. I saw the Sox receive their world series rings, my dad
and I waiting in line outside of USCF for four and a half hours to ensure we got our
replica rings as part of the first twenty thousand through the gates. They had brought
Aaron Rowand back for the ceremony, and I teared up. It happens, baseball is so deeply
rooted in our hearts, that tugging at the strings of the old ticker happens a little
more easily. They lost to the bastards from Cleveland that day, Freddy Garcia pitched
like garbage but I finally experienced a chance to see my team celebrate a World Series.

We went to Detroit a few times after that, some minor league ball parks in Michigan, and finally back to Chicago in 2010 to see the same White Sox retire Frank Thomas’ number. Crying in baseball #2. I love the Big Hurt, and always will.

We’ve been through 12 years of baseball road trips, and in 2011, my dad and I made a trip to Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds Museum and Hall, a weekend long series against the Barves, and a Jonny Gomes bobble head later, we had our most memorable trip to date.

Friends from Wisconsin, Toronto, Michigan, and all over made the trip that weekend. We had 10 of our closest friends all in one place. After the Friday night game, and I will never forget this, Dad and I stood out on the concourse in center field above the Reds bullpen, the stadium lights the only thing left in the stadium. Dad turned to me and said one of the few things that ever really caught me off guard.

“These trips, make losing my Dad a little bit easier. Thank you”

I never realized how important it was until that moment, and even two years after our first trip, when we made our third pilgrimage to Cincinnati, I cannot express how full my heart is, knowing that while these moments have meant the world to me as a fan, they mean more to my Dad as a father.

Baseball is my heart, I share it with my best friends, my family, and the love of my life. So while we get ready for another season, I urge everyone to reflect on the moments that defined them as a fan. How they came to be Reds Country.

What’s your story?

Cincin13 081 Cincy20112 086 Random Mobile 031Cincy20112 023

Advertisements

April 22nd, 2013…a date that will live in infamy

Monday, April 22nd, 2013… a date that will live in infamy…the Cincinnati Reds and all of Great American Ballpark was suddenly and deliberately visited by 4 of the Bloggers of http://headfirstslide.mlblogs.com/.

IMG_4173 (1024x683)

When I got the email from Richard on Saturday asking if I would be interested in going on a Tour of GABP and watch the game that night, it took less than a minute to quickly punch out a message back and say: Yes, of course! Please take me! I wanna go!

Then the planning began…as an avid autograph collector I had to bring SOMETHING with me in case we had a chance meeting with Joey Votto in a hallway (HAH!) or some other once in a lifetime chance! Pen. Check. Red Sharpie. Check. Blue Sharpie. Check. then it was time to decide wether to bring cards or a ball? Both have pros and cons too numerous to mention here, but I decided to go with cards because I could easily slide them in my pocket! Okay…All set. Oh man I still had the most part of 3 DAYS before the game! Can you say Longest Weekend Ever!??! HAH!

Finally Monday rolls around and We meet up at the ballpark and are greeted by the wonderful Lisa Braun (@lisabraun) who was our guide on a tour of GABP. After a quick stop in her office (loads of cool stuff in there!) we were on our way to get FIELD PASSES!! Whoa! Now, I have posted before about the joy I have getting autographs and even made fun of my wife when she got her first one. I have to say walking down the hallway that led to the very 1st Major League ball field I have ever stood on is a feeling that can not be easily put into words. It just caused me to grin like an idiot, say things like “Wow!”, “There’s Latos!”, “Cingrani!” and other goofy things that I just mumbled.  I was in complete awe of seeing the action so very close!

Once the clouds lifted and I came back to reality, I started trying to figure out how I might be able to obtain a couple of signatures to remember this day by. With cards and Sharpies in hand I stood there watching, waiting and hunting! (LOL!) All of the sudden, the clouds parted…the sun beamed down…and lo’ and behold Todd Frazier (@FlavaFraz21) was walking our way! I scrambled to find a card of “The Toddfather” and when he was in front of me I was able to mumble “Can you sign this?”. He replied “Sure!” Quickly signed my card, thanked us for coming out and moved on to the next person. I was stunned. Speechless. A little giddy…okay ALOT giddy.

DSC_0281

The Toddfather & I

Todd Frazier

Signed in Reds red!

 Then as batting practice was wrapping up my luck doubled! Who should we see coming our way but Zack Cozart! He stopped by to thank us for coming out. Asked if we were having a good time? (All of us were ecstatic of course) He then explained he had a meeting to attend right away but wanted to be sure to say Hi! I took a chance and asked him if he would mind signing a card for me as well? He said “No problem!” BAZINGA!

Zack Cozart

I was 2 for 2!! I was so ecstatic we could have left then and I would have been happy! But NO, there was more to see! We headed over to the Reds Hall Of Fame to see the exhibits there. On the way there it was mentioned that they had a new exhibit called “Signature Reds: A Century of Reds Autographs”. This was AMAZING!!! Worth the price of admission by itself! This is how the Reds explained it:

“In 2013, the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum examines the extraordinary history of autographs in “Signature Reds” presented by Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, a special exhibit that explores the autograph phenomenon through the prism of Reds baseball. Highlighted by the display of autographs from virtually every player to wear a Reds uniform since 1920, “Signature Reds” will immerse visitors in the world of autograph collecting while taking them on an unforgettable journey through the last eight decades of Reds history. From superstars to journeymen to players whose careers were measured in single games rather than seasons, “Signature Reds” will include them all. “Signature Reds” will present the largest assemblage of Reds autographs ever made available for public display.”

I went into an autograph coma…there were autographs from almost all of the past Reds and LOADS of other famous sports players, Celebrities, Star Wars actors, Astronauts and so much more. I was stunned once again, it was so cool the way that everything was displayed. I couldn’t think of a better way of organizing and displaying the collection shown there!

After we left that exhibit and moved on through the Hall of Fame I saw many cool things and loved every moment of it. By the time we were done with the Hall it was time to head into the game and enjoy the rest of the night. The rest of the night was so much fun hanging out with the guys from HFS, cheering the Reds, Booing the Cubs and don’t forget WOOING too! LOL! What an amazing day!

As I wrap up this post about a the day that I will not soon forget, I want to thank HFS Richard, HFS Greg, Geoff, Lisa Braun and the entire Reds organization without all of you I would not have had the chance at such a wonderful experience! 

God Bless you all.
– Joe –

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @garpike28

A Day Dreams Come True

4/22/2012

Greg and I had been talking quite extensively about what would become “Head First Slide”.  We had recorded our first episode, which was harder than I’d like to admit because well the Reds had not been good so far that season.   2012 started off bad.

We setup our account on Libsyn and made a post that night, the first ever.

4/22/2013

We had dreams come true.

Recently I received an email from Lisa Braun (The best person to ever walk the face of the planet).  She wanted to know if 4 of our bloggers could come down to the stadium on monday for a “Blogger Day” We’d watch BP, get a tour, have a good time.  It was around the time that she mentioned the thirst row that something clicked for me.

I remembered a blog post I had read last year from Red Reporter  (excellently written here )*.  They had watched Batting Practice from ON THE FIELD.

Not even a question even if it took moving the earth we were going to be there.

Thankfully it just took moving around some peoples work schedules.

Getting to 4:15 when we met Lisa at the stadium was one of the most anticipatory days I’ve ever had.  Right below my wedding day, but above Christmas.   When we finally met her she walked us around through the social media hub of the Reds and showed us around.  We then went and walked through the bowels of GABP.  Where we came out was right next to the home club house.

We did not walk through the home club house, but we did take a picture.

From there she lead us around the lower level and showed us where the visitors clubhouse is, and the umpires den.  We then walked out into the visitors dugout (which was surreal in itself) and out onto the field.

We were met with a site to behold.  A completely empty GABP.  All we had around us was baseball players, no fans in the place.  This would soon change.

we walked over to a roped off area directly behind home plate, and stood in just in time to watch the pitchers take batting practice (SOME OF THEM HAVE REAL POWER).  We watched as Latos, Bailey and Arroyo took some great shots and knocking the ball around and a few were even hit out.  The real holy crap moment came a little while in, when “Group 1” came up to hit.  This group includes Shin Soo Choo, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier.

They stepped in and began to hit homers and spray the ball all around the field.  One of the most interesting aspects for me was the command some of these hitters had with where the ball went.  You had guys in the outfield doing defensive drills and they’d hit it to left, then center, then right, then back to center, then left, etc.   They knew where the ball was going and how to put it exactly where they wanted it.

Todd Frazier came over and he was incredible.  He stopped by and took pictures, he said hello, he asked where we were from and was incredibly gracious to all of us AND to all of the kids who were sitting next to us.

This was another part of it that was awesome, watching the players interact with the kids.  Mat Latos proved he has a heart made of gold, he rolled 1 ball to every kid that was there  at batting practice, Frazier made sure no one went home without an autograph and when a ball didnt quite make it to a kid Miguel Cairo motioned for the kid to cross the barrier and get it, when the kid gave him the “whoa look I dont want to get kicked out” face, he motioned again to assure him it was ok.  Even Joey got into the act, croqueting  a ball to the group next to us (Joe Garchow almost tackled the lady to get it from her).

As we came to the realization that what we were watching was coming to an end and at some point we’d have to leave this amazing experience we were once again surprised.

Mr Cozart walked over.  Just like Frazier he was incredibly nice, he said hello, asked where we were from and shook hands with us.  I’m sure if we had asked for pics he would have taken them, but to be honest he looked busy as the rest of the team was heading in and I didn’t want to keep him from his job.

Like that, we moved on.

We walked through GABP once again, Lisa took us past the club house and one of the funnier moments of the day happened.  As we approached I saw Votto standing outside holding the door, it was apparent that I was the only one.   As we walked up toward him the others noticed as well.  Geoff out of nowhere says “Hey man thanks for holding the door, but we’re going this way”.

I didnt even know what to say, we just laughed and internally I thanked god I hadn’t been the one to speak because there is no way it would have been that intelligible.

We walked through the Hall of Fame a first for a couple of our members, and saw some incredible stuff.

I would bet that Joe will be making a post about the “signatures” collection as it was definitely his highlight of the HOF.

We then watched 13 blissful innings of baseball.  To be honest they didn’t have to win.  They could have lost 142-1 and I would have still had one of the most incredible days of my life.  They didn’t and for that matter with this team they never will.

I’d like to again thank everyone who brought us out.  Lisa Braun was incredible to us from beginning to end!  Jamie Ramsey was super nice, but he had changed out of his cat shirt.  Rob Butcher was incredibly cool although we couldn’t think of one question for him.  (If I had it to do over again I’d ask if he gets to pick out who the broadcasting pairs are for every game or if that is done at a different level)

Ellen, Lisa’s lovely helper was super nice and even though it was her first time on the field as well was way more calm and collected than we were.

If there are two takeaways from this

1) We absolutely proved we were a fan blog, we marked out like you would not believe every time you turned around.  It was ridiculous.  I’m pretty sure they had to vacuum the infield to clean up all of our drool.

2)All of this happened to kick off year 2 of Head First Slide, I’ll be making a post soon looking back on year 1 until then just know that we could not have done any of this without you all, listeners, readers, followers you’ve been great.

NOW PICTURES!

DSC_0230

“Hey everybody I’m about to put on hitting clinic”

 DSC_0243

The Hall Of Famer talks to Dusty.  (Thats a heckuva shirt)

DSC_0248

Walt meets with Dusty.  Presumably to talk about cheeses and fine wines and Martys shirt.

DSC_0256

Joey shows off his new endorsement pose from Captain Morgan

DSC_0258

I have nothing witty for this

DSC_0261

Now I wish I hadn’t done captions, this is getting hard!

DSC_0273

“What did you do at the office today?”

DSC_0275

The man in white arrives!

DSC_0276

“Hey look Fraziers really, really close”

DSC_0277

“Huh, now he’s closer”

DSC_0279

I swear I was smiling, is this what I always look like when I smile?  really?

DSC_0281

Off camera joes hand was shaking like a leaf

DSC_0291

CREEPER!

DSC_0296

BP looking as only he can

DSC_0298

A Pic of Bruce from our vantage point in the “Thirst Row”

DSC_0301

CHOO’re the best around!

*We are in no way affiliated with Red Reporter, they are a damn good blog though.