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Opening Day tradition thrives in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI -- Fans in Cincinnati finally got to see first-hand on Monday that Reds closer Aroldis Chapman is doing well after being struck in the face by a line drive during Spring Training. Chapman, along with pitcher Mat Latos, were featured participants in the 95th Findlay Market Opening Day parade and rode in a car along the route through Over-the-Rhine and downtown Cincinnati.

"I feel really happy and proud. You can't ask for more," Chapman said of the reception he received from fans. "Today it was real loud when I was going through the streets. They were cheering for me and giving me good wishes. I feel really happy to hear those things."

Opening Day tradition remained strong in Cincinnati, the home of baseball's first professional team. Monday's meeting vs. the Cardinals marked the 138th Opening Day game and the 12th at Great American Ball Park.

"I've been fortunate enough to spend all of my Opening Days here," Reds right fielder Jay Bruce said. "It's very special, it really is. There's the parade -- which I've never seen or been a part of -- but I hear it's great. It's truly something Cincinnati really does first class. I'm humbled and honored to be a part of it."

Outside of the stadium, the Reds Community Fund's third annual block party packed Joe Nuxhall Way and began more than five hours before first pitch.

Inside the ballpark amid sunny skies, Reds shortstop great Dave Concepcion, who was the grand marshal of the parade, and Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin joined together to throw simultaneous ceremonial first pitches.

The honorary captain was new Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, while Hall of Famer Joe Morgan was charged with the delivery of the official first game ball. Recording artist Maggie Chapman sang the national anthem.

"I think every Opening Day is memorable," Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick said. "Obviously, you have the jet fly over, the fireworks, the parade -- it's a special day. It's a day we all look forward to, getting out of Spring Training and actually getting under the real lights and playing meaningful games. If you don't have a little bit of butterflies and a little bit of nerves and a lot of excitement, there's something wrong."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.
Read More: Cincinnati Reds, Ryan Ludwick, Aroldis Chapman, Jay Bruce, Mat Latos