CINCINNATI -- The Reds draw fans from places near and far outside of Cincinnati. As a way to show their appreciation each January, members of the club head out on the road to see their fans.This year's Caravan had its sendoff on Thursday from the AC Hotel across from Great
CINCINNATI -- The Reds draw fans from places near and far outside of Cincinnati. As a way to show their appreciation each January, members of the club head out on the road to see their fans.
This year's Caravan had its sendoff on Thursday from the AC Hotel across from Great American Ball Park, featuring players like Eugenio Suarez, Tucker Barnhart. Scooter Gennett, Tanner Roark, Taylor Trammell and Tyler Stephenson, manager David Bell, president of baseball operations Dick Williams and broadcasters Marty Brennaman and Jeff Brantley.
"It's a lot of fun," Barnhart said. "It's kind of like the season has started a little bit. You get to hang out with the guys you haven't seen in a while. You see the coaches. You see a lot of people you will be hanging out with all summer."
The Reds Caravan's four legs began a four-day, five-state journey that will cover a combined 3,800 miles across Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia and Tennessee. It will conclude Sunday at Florence Mall in Northern Kentucky when all four routes come together once more.
Barnhart is a veteran of numerous caravan trips, but this will be the first time for several -- including Cincinnati native Gennett, who is on the northern leg.
"I'm excited to see the fans," Gennett said. "I know I missed out on Redsfest this year. I know people might want to see me or get an autograph."
Besides the public stops each evening, there are 20 additional stops scheduled at various radio affiliates, schools, businesses and hospitals. Fans can get autographs and share what's on their mind during question-and-answer sessions with the participants.
Bell, who was hired as manager in October, will get a chance to share his vision for 2019 with the fans.
"I'm actually really looking forward to the next few days," Bell said. "I don't know what to expect ... it's exciting. There's a good energy already. It will be fun to be a part of that and meet a lot of people.
"We'll share what we know about our team and hopefully get people excited like we are here."
One added bit of nostalgia will be part of the southern leg that will have Brennaman on its bus. He announced on Wednesday that the '19 season -- his 46th with the Reds -- will be his final one before retiring.
"I get to be on Marty's last Caravan, at least while he's working," Barnhart said. "I don't know if he will do any more. I enjoy hearing the stories, the trash talk that happens on the bus."
Barnhart and Brennaman are among those who have self-proclaimed their leg of the caravan as the "Rock Star Tour." There were bittersweet feelings about the iconic Brennaman leaving the club.
"I think we have started a new name, the 'Rock Star Farewell Tour,'" Barnhart said. "Hopefully it continues to be another farewell tour and then another farewell tour, like a lot of rock bands."
For more details about Reds Caravan and the full itinerary, go to reds.com/caravan.
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.