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

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2013 Reds First Year Player Draft Review

The 1st couple rounds of the 2013 MLB First Year Player Draft was last night and as a card collector / autograph hound all I could think about was:

1) Who are the Reds picking?

2) Do they have any cards yet?

3) Wonder what their autographs look like?

So…I followed along on Twitter and waiting on the edge of my…well…desk chair to hear the names of the newest Reds! It seemed like it took forever to get all the way to pick number 27. Tick Tock. Come on people! Lets get to the REDS! Finally they got to the Reds and with the 27th pick they took… Samford junior outfielder Phillip Ervin! Woot! Then I make the mad dash to eBay…typed in Phillip Ervin…There is 2 autographed baseballs for sale. But most important, his signature looks pretty cool! He has some nice readable letters in there, you can see the “P”s in his first name. Would like to see the “E” in his last name a bit better but there is some cool loops in the rest of his name. Overall a nice signature. Would give it a B.

Phillip Ervin

Now we wait for the next pick….not too long though. 38th overall. Then I see the Tweet…With the 38th pick they took RHP Michael Lorenzen from Cal State-Fullerton! Once again I make the mad dash to eBay…typed in Michael Lorenzen…There is a LOAD of cards and stuff for sale, and his signature looks AWESOME!! He has ALOT of  readable letters in his auto you can see some of the letters in his first name and the important “L” and “Z” in his last. His signature has 4 very cool loops in his name. Overall an Excellent signature. Would give it an A.

MICHAEL LORENZEN

I thought we were done for the night, I am used to NFL drafts were teams might have 2 picks the first night. But then I see the Reds have the  67th overall. So I wait once again. Soon, I see the Tweet…With the 67th pick they took 3B Kevin Franklin from Gahr High School in California! Once again I make the mad dash to eBay…typed in Kevin Franklin…There is a LOAD of stuff for sale (his name is pretty common, DOH!). So after some tweeking and narrowing down I find 1 card of his and it is autographed! His signature looks…well….kinda simple. He has 2 letters in his auto. Yep…only 2. Just a simple KF. His signature leaves something to be desired but he is still a high school guy. He has lots of time to work on it and make it into a nicer autograph if he chooses to. Overall a simple signature. Would give it an C.

Kevin Franklin

Well there you have it my review of the 1st 2 rounds of the 2013 MLB First Year Player Draft. While I have not covered what sorts of talents these guys have (leaving that to the other bloggers who know more about that stuff) I have gotten right to the heart of the Autograph issue!! 🙂

I welcome any comments or questions either here on the blog or you can hit me up on Twitter @garpike28

Thanks and I hope you have a great day!

Autograph Joe

The Latos Experience

About a month ago while cruising through my Twitter feed I came across a tweet from Sports Gallery in West Chester (@ASportsGallery) stating that they were having Mat Latos in store for an autograph signing! This jumped out at me in two ways: 1. I love collecting autographs! (Duh!) and 2. Anyone who has been on twitter and follows the Reds and their fans knows that Mat’s wife Dallas (@DallasLatos) is a riot to follow and there was a good chance she would be there too. (WOO!)  So I began looking into the details of the event. Not only was Sports Gallery about 5 mins drive from my work,  it was only $30 for Mat to sign any item I wanted to bring! I was on this like a Spider Monkey all jacked up on Mountain Dew!

Then my dilemma began, what do I have him sign? Ball? Card? Bat? Photo? I settled on ordering an 8×10 photo which could be framed and hung in my office at work for all my co-workers to be envious of. LOL! So now I had my 8×10 in hand, perfect blue sharpie selected for the signature…and the event was over 3 weeks away! Ugh. So the waiting began.

This week finally rolled around… Monday… Tuesday… Wednesday… Finally Thursday! Latos Day as I had been calling it for a past few days was upon us! I was stoked! the hours I spent at work seemed to drag on and on! Finally it was time to go! Hopped in the car and headed over to Sports Gallery! this sign greeted me as I drove into the parking lot:

Latos1

My stomach actually began to flutter! I was about to meet not just one of the starting pitchers of the Cincinnati Reds but, the #1 starter in many fans hearts! Now I have met sports figures and various other celebrities in my years of collecting autographs but I was actually a bit more excited about this one! So I got out of the car and headed up to the store to pick up my line number, good gravy I was number 132! This was going to take forever! Oh…wait…they are already on 79…maybe not as long as I thought!

I passed the time waiting by talking with other fans and checking out what they were getting signed. Saw alot of people opting for the Official Major League baseball and jerseys. Still a few more had bats and various other Reds items that were covered in signatures! I was starting to doubt my 8×10 choice but stood strong and stuck with it! After a bit my number was called! I was ushered through a set of doors of a conference hall that had been set up for the event and there they were! Ryan Hanigan and Mat Latos were about 10 feet in front of me! Mat looked to be having a great time talking with the fans in the line in front of me signing there items, taking pictures with them and thanking them for coming! He seemed particularly excited about the person that placed a limited edition bottle of Liquor in front of him to sign of course!

Wanna Drink!? LOL!

Wanna Drink!? LOL!

Then it was my turn, I got a bit flustered handing off my camera to a lady who would take a pic of Mat and I,  but I managed to hand my photo to Mat and while he was signing it in bright blue sharpie I asked one request “Could you please add #TeamLatos under your signature?” to which he comically responded “Me and Twitter do not get along. I don’t want to have anything to do with Twitter, so I can’t do that for you, sorry”. While this kind of stumped me for a moment, I understood. I moved around the table and got a wonderful photo taken with Mat, He said thank you for coming out and I was on my way with my treasure in hand! I don’t think I stopped grinning all the way to the car! The event that I had been waiting for 3 weeks was complete and I had a great memory and photo to show for it!

Me & Mr Latos

Me & Mr Latos

My Precious!

My Precious!

I have no idea if the Latos family will read my little ol’ blog post but if they do I would just like to say Thank you so very much for doing the event tonight! It was so cool to be able to spend even just a moment with Mat on his day off, and I will hang my photo with pride in my office! May #TeamLatos long live in Cincinnati!!

Thanks and have a blessed day!

– Joe G –
Autograph Collector Extraordinaire

Questions? Comments? Love it? Hate It? Feel free to comment below or follow me on Twitter @garpike28

The Jay Bruce Saga

 

I very much enjoy Twitter. One of the reasons I enjoy Twitter is because of the (seemingly) unfiltered, straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth comments you get from athletes in 140-character snapshots.  Yes, some comments can roll over into two (or five) tweets, but what we used to need sports reporters for can now be found straight from the source. In addition to that, if you have a question for an athlete on Twitter, you can ask him.  You!  You don’t have to hope John Fay or Lance *spit* McAllister happens to ask what is on your mind – YOU have access to guys like Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce, and they just might answer your question for the world to see…

…and maybe that’s where the crux of the situation resides.  The whole world can see what you ask and how the target reacts.  I use the word “target” because the question asker so often is not asking as a fan, but asking to get a reaction from the rest of the Twitterverse.  I’ve seen twitterers question an athletes sexual orientation, tell him he stinks and even wish harm or death on the athlete and his family.  It doesn’t always stop with the athlete, either.  Players wives are common targets of hate-tweets.

So this takes us to Tuesday night and a “fan” of Jay Bruce.  In a tweet directed at Jay, the tweet pointed out that Jay had stuck out 40 times in April and was on pace to break Drew Stubbs’ MLB strikeout record for a single season. Jay’s response (which has since been taken down) was light-hearted and said something related to being on pace to smash the record and record 250 Ks in 2013.  Then Jay went on to post five tweets directed at the “haters” on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/JayABruce/status/329442658995032065

https://twitter.com/JayABruce/status/329442973135826944

https://twitter.com/JayABruce/status/329443176815403008

https://twitter.com/JayABruce/status/329443562255167488

https://twitter.com/JayABruce/status/329444318685298689

For whatever reason, Jay has caught some flack in the local media about these tweets.  700WLW has listed the tweets on Facebook for a larger audience to see and many have left comments, both in favor of Jay and to bash him.  My favorite cookie-cutter comment is when someone says “Jay should spend more time in the batting cage and less time on Twitter”. I’m not qualified to be a major league batting coach, but I highly doubt that checking your mentions at midnight changes your job performance and is the reason for his strikeout total.

An athlete on Twitter is going to get hate-tweets no matter where he plays and if he doesn’t hit a home run in his last at bat of the game.  As I see it, an athlete has three reactions to these types of tweets: Ignore them, respond with agreement and say he’ll do better, or respond with pity/anger for the hate and question the motives. Being a follower of Jay’s on Twitter, I can say that he has used all three styles of responses to the haters.

I like athletes being on Twitter. I like the Reds front office being on Twitter. I don’t understand why Reds “fans” would turn against people in their club’s organization for a cheap laugh.  Fans feel like they have “a right to voice their displeasure” but all they are really doing is driving away the athletes that give the Reds a chance to win on any given night.

I applaud the way Jay handled his critic on Tuesday night.  However, if I was an All-Star athlete like Jay, I’d have to question if it is worth it to be on Twitter at all.

If you have a comment or question about this or any other topic for Head First Slide, please leave a comment or find me on Twitter at @GeoffreyHoman.

Can I please get your autograph?!?

 

Autograph..Just the very word gets my blood pumping. Anyone who knows me knows that I have been a long time collector of autographs from all sorts of people far and wide. I have collected autographs from actors (James Earl Jones, Betty White) to political figures (George Bush, Newt Gingrich) to baseball players (Todd Frazier, Ernie Banks, Al Kaline) and many other sports figures.

The question about autographs that is hard to answer is “Why does the general public like to get an autograph from what we consider “famous” people?”

 

I have my thoughts on why we chase after those signatures. Maybe it is because for a brief moment we have that cool brush with fame and want something to remember it by. Could it be because we hope that one day the item we get signed might be worth millions (or at least 100s). Another reason might be the historical aspect of meeting a world known political person. Whatever the reason there is and always will be people out there willing to do or pay just about anything for something signed by the person that they look up to. There is a certain feeling connected with obtaining an autograph from a person you admire that is hard to describe.

 

For those who have never participated in one of these in store or public signings, you are missing out.

 

I have seen many people over the years experiencing this autograph joy for the 1st time. One of those moments was when I was with my wife at a Chris Daughtry concert. After the show he came out and signed autographs for a bit. It was so much fun for me to see my wife change from a 20 something woman to a 13-year-old girl before my eyes. I knew that feeling…I had felt that feeling many years before that night.

 

I have an incredible memory of the time way back in 1990 when I met Ken Griffey Jr. at a card show in my hometown of Grand Blanc, Michigan. Our local card shop was putting on a card show at the high school and was selling tickets to meet Mr Griffey for $5.00. (I know! Only $5.00! Whoa!) I was 13 years old at the time and I remember the feeling of excitement while waiting in the line getting closer and closer to Mr Griffey. My palms were sweating, my knees were weak…I was so nervous because this was my first brush with a celebrity. I remember walking up to the table when it was my turn, handed him my 1990 Fleer RC and stood there in awe as he signed his beautiful flowing signature in bright blue sharpie across my bright white and yellow card.  He asked; How I was doing?  Did I like baseball? Was I enjoying the show and collecting cards? All I think I could say was “Yeah…Thank you!” and I walked away from the table with my card in hand. I was hooked. Completely addicted to the autograph high. This sort of high is not something that I could explain too well, it has to be felt.

 

I hope that if there is anyone out there that you are a fan of, you just admire, or love their contribution to the world today that you get a chance to meet that person, shake their hand and maybe, just maybe, get an autograph to remember that moment by. Life has a lot of moments that we think are special but you will always remember your 1st autograph!

 

Feel free to leave a comment of your 1st autograph experience.

 

-Joe-

 

Follow me on Twitter: @garpike28