A 'holiday' celebration: Reds hold Opening Day bash
CINCINNATI -- It may have been the first Interleague Opening Day in history when the Reds and Angels met Monday at Great American Ball Park. That was the only thing that bucked the trend.
As the home of baseball's first professional team, Cincinnati is about Opening Day traditions and all were alive and well. This was the 137th Opening Day game and the 11th at Great American Ball Park.
"It's a holiday here," Reds right fielder Jay Bruce said. "It's something that is very, very special to the fans and to myself. It's something I look forward to every year. Regardless of who you're playing, it's still baseball and it's still Opening Day in Cincinnati. I think that's the most important thing."
No one does Opening Day quite like Cincinnati. After all, what other city has an Opening Day parade?
The 94th edition of the Findlay Market Parade moved through the streets of downtown before the game, with over 150 different entries. The grand marshal was Reds great George Foster, while current players Bronson Arroyo and Mat Latos rode on the back of one of the convertible cars among crowds eager to greet the 2012 National League Central winners.
"I did it about five years ago. It was better this year, for sure," Arroyo said. "The crowds were bigger. As we moved closer to downtown, it was a real nice and thick crowd over there. It used to be hot by Findlay Market and die down as you went. It stayed steady this year, which was nice."
Once the festivities moved inside the ballpark, Reds manager Dusty Baker was positioned near home plate for the annual fruit basket presentation from the Rosie Reds women's support club.
Syndicated national radio host Bob Kevoian from "The Bob and Tom Show" was the game's honorary captain, while Cincinnati firefighter John Winfrey sang the national anthem.
There were also some somber moments as the Reds joined all of Major League Baseball to honor all 26 victims of December's Sandy Hook Elementary shootings in Newtown, Conn. Both clubs wore a symbolic patch on their chests.
Members of the Reds family who died during the offseason were also remembered with a moment of silence. That included former Reds outfielder Ryan Freel, who committed suicide just before Christmas, and former pitcher Frank Pastore, who died in a motorcycle accident.
In an honor usually reserved for a politician or entertainer, the ceremonial first pitch was delivered by a baseball managerial icon. Former Yankees manager Joe Torre, who led Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, delivered a strike to Brandon Phillips, who played second base for Torre on that squad.
This time last year, Reds third baseman Todd Frazier just missed out on experiencing a Cincinnati Opening Day. He was taken north with the club out of Spring Training only to be cut the day before the opener when the Reds picked up reliever Alfredo Simon off waivers. Frazier was promoted from Triple-A Louisville about two weeks later and never left.
"It's special," Frazier said of the opener. "I talked to Zack [Cozart] about it the other day. It's like a mecca in the beginning here, you just want to play your best. I'm excited. I can't wait to go stretch and see the fans and a packed house again like we had in the playoffs. It's another thing off of the bucket list, you could say."
It was also the first big league opener for burgeoning superstar outfielder Mike Trout of the Angels.
"I wouldn't say nervous, I would just say it's anxious to get out there," Trout said. "All this down time you have in the clubhouse, you can hit all you want, the time that it's down time you want to be out there playing. Coming to the field today, seeing all the fans outside with the parade and everything, they have a great atmosphere here."
Then it was time to play ball -- against an American League club. Unlike the sure traditions of Opening Day in Cincinnati, that still required some getting used to.
"It's weird playing an Interleague game so quickly," Baker said. "It's a little different. We're not as familiar with them as we would be a team in our league. And they're probably not as familiar with us. It's a little different, but it still counts on the schedule."