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?

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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/.

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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.

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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

In Defense of Pete Rose

Its funny, all you did was read the headline and you already have an opinion.  Admit it you do!  Its ok, often we are all a little guilty of judging a book by its title.  We are predisposed to run everything we see through our own personal knowledge center as soon as we see it.  That knowledge center will make you read a headline and have a positive or negative reaction almost immediately.  The degree of either reaction will determine whether you click or not.

In my opinion way too many people having just read the headline to this article are having the wrong reaction.

I am biased when it comes to Pete, it’s true.  There’s no way not to be especially being from Cincinnati.  If you are from Cincinnati and you grew up anytime from the 60’s on you know the legend of Pete Rose.  A local boy who despite often not being the most talented player on the field would always and I mean always be the hardest working player.

Pete Rose in many ways ruined sports icons for Cincinnati, he showed us how to play the game of baseball.  No matter what you knew that when Pete took the field he was giving it his all.  It spoiled us.  Cincinnati has always been a somewhat blue collar town from its roots in the 1800’s to even now.  Pete made us embrace the working man, the hard worker who would give it his all because he knew how lucky he was to be there.

Decades later this would spawn another love affair between the city and a player, Ryan Freel.  Ryan was like Pete in many ways. He gave it his all on absolutely every play of every game, he just did so without as much talent as Pete did.

However it all came crashing down in the late 80’s.  I won’t go into the details you already know, its public knowledge and does not need to be rehashed at this point.  What was done was wrong, and against the rules there is not much else to say.

I want to talk about Pete since then.  It seems to me that there is some type of generally accepted feeling in baseball that Pete has become a Pariah.  Someone who doesn’t love the game of baseball and has only ever loved money.

I’m here to tell you that is flat out wrong.  I want to be clear first, there seems to be many whom take issue with Pete working in Las Vegas, or doing the Cooperstown gig that he does every year during HOF week.  To them I say shame on you.  Pete worked in baseball at a time where ball players got paid well compared to the common man, but not nearly at the level that they do now.  He should be allowed to earn a living however he sees fit and if that means signing his name several times a day and there is a market for it he should be allowed to do it.

I have never met Pete in my life, I have however interacted with him in two very different ways.  When I was probably about 6 or 7 we went down to spring training in Florida.  Back then for us kids Spring training was a real treat, the seats were all very close to the field and there were always ball players hanging around signing autographs.  We hung out following the game watching all the players and trying to get autographs.  Pete was the manager at the time and was hanging out with 2 “Rosie Reds” as they were described for us.

My mom yelled at Pete that he should get away from those two women so we could get a picture of just him, he looked on and with his trademarked Pete Rose grin told her “Eat your heart out”.  That’s who Pete was, he was larger than life and twice as awesome.

Fast forward by 25 years and I was starting up Head First Slide with my friend (and hopefully someday contributor to this blog COUGH COUGH) Greg.  When we started the podcast we were looking for a name.  It was a tough decision for us as we really wanted something that would be uniquely associated with the Reds, but would work for all of baseball.  Immediately we started trying to rip off the Jamie Ramsey ideas and name it things that had the word “Red” in the place of dead stuff similar to “Red on Arrival” and “Red man walking”.   We came to the conclusion that would never work and we should go our own path anyway right?

We began to ponder the idea of using the name “Rounding third”.  Being a Hamilton native it would have been nice to give a nod to Mr. Nuxhall as he has always been such an inspiration to all of us here.  We went with that too for a time.  We were 99% sure that was going to be the title until Head First Slide hit me.

I was driving and out of nowhere it popped into my head and immediately I knew that had to be it.  I called Greg and he agreed without a moment of hesitation.  A title that worked for all of baseball, but was obviously associated with the Reds and in particular would pay homage to Pete Rose.

I told you that story to tell you this story.

If you’re on twitter you probably remember the Fake Pete Rose account from a couple of years back.  He fooled a lot of people including Aaron Boone.  So when a new Pete Rose account showed up I along with many others assumed it too was fake.  It made it easier because at the time he only had 27 followers on twitter of which I was one of them.  To add to it, he followed me back when we followed him!  No way this was Pete right?  Better safe than sorry I followed him, because if on the slight chance it was Pete I’d rather follow him and see what’s going on and what was the worst case scenario?

A few days later my questions were answered.  Pete revealed himself and began to post proof of who he was.  He posted pictures holding up his twitter handle and had his official website linked to his twitter profile (@PeteRose_14).  I was flabbergasted.  Not only was this PETE FRIGGIN ROSE, but he followed us on twitter!  I decided then and there that I had to say something to him, not that I expected to ever get a reply.

So I did.

I sent a little message that said something along the lines of “Hey just wanted to let you know we are big fans of yours here, we actually named our podcast in your honor”.  What happened next was purely ridiculous.

Pete tweeted back, he said thank you and that since we named it in his honor that he would have to give it a listen at some point.  I was thrilled, but at the same time figured that he was just being nice.  Which in itself was awesome, heck most celebs on twitter don’t even tweet back let alone say something encouraging and nice.

A few weeks go by and out of nowhere I got a DM on twitter.  Apparently Pete had one of his employees listen to the show (JD from PeteRose.com for those of you familiar with the show) and he seemed to really like it.  We had given Pete’s account as our twitter account to follow that week and apparently he told Pete about it.

Pete then made our head explode by offering to answer some questions for the show.  That night I had a little back and forth on twitter and Pete Not me Pete suggested that we should actually do it as a weekly segment for the show.  We would send him baseball questions on twitter and he would answer them and we would read them on the show.

What Would Pete Rose Do was born.  From June of last year until our last episode of the season almost every week we would ask between two and three questions of the hit king and he would be kind enough to answer them for us.

The questions would range from which World Series meant the most to you, to what’s your favorite restaurant in Vegas.

No matter what the question was though, he was ready to answer and would give us a snappy sometimes funny response.  When he hit the road at one point and knew it would be hard for him to respond did he say “hey little podcast I’ve helped you enough go ask Bench questions now you’re bothering me”?  Nope. He had us contact JD from PeteRose.com directly and JD would get a hold of him and transcribe back his answers in email.

He did all of this for us.  A little show who at the time that he contacted us was just starting out.  He never asked for any compensation, he never turned us down for a question, he was never anything but humble and gracious to us.

Does a man who’s only about the money do that?  Does a man who doesn’t love the game do that?

The answer to both questions is a resounding NO.

Pete Rose loves the game of baseball.  He shows it that love every day and in many ways it doesn’t show him the love back.  He’s constantly at Reds games when he is in town and constantly calls in to sports talk when he’s available whether he’s promoting something or not.

You can have your issues with what happened in the past, but I ask you not to dwell on that.  There can be no better ambassador for the game than Pete Rose and hopefully someday Baseball wakes up and realizes that.

-Richard

Follow me on twitter @HFSPodcast