CINCINNATI -- Traditionally, the Reds are the first, or one of the first, teams to take the field on Opening Day.Mother Nature had other plans this year, and instead of the Reds and Nationals facing off on Thursday, they were forced to wait out an extra 24 hours of rain
CINCINNATI -- Traditionally, the Reds are the first, or one of the first, teams to take the field on Opening Day.
Mother Nature had other plans this year, and instead of the Reds and Nationals facing off on Thursday, they were forced to wait out an extra 24 hours of rain before finally being able to ring in the new year.
It was fitting that the sun finally began peeking out just as the pregame ceremony on Friday was beginning. It gave the sellout crowd at Great American Ball Park a terrific photo to capture as the Reds, baseball's most traditional Opening Day hosts, got things rolling on a chilly March day in downtown Cincinnati.
The pregame ceremony began with more than 100 men and women from the Cincinnati Fire Fighters Union Local 48 marching onto the field and later unfurling a 150-foot by 300-foot flag, which engulfed most of the grass areas of the field from behind second base all the way through the outfield.
Following the formal introduction of players, coaches, managers and support staff, the Reds held a moment of remembrance for those they had lost in the past year, including longtime scout Gene Bennett; former first baseman/outfielder Lee May, a member of the Reds' 1970 World Series team; Tony Barton, the memorabilia manager for the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame; Ronnie Dale, the Reds' organist at old Crosley Field; Bob Bailey, a member of the Reds' 1976 world championship team; Kevin Towers, a former special assistant to the GM; and many former players.
Singing the national anthem was singer/songwriter Nicki Bluhm, whose performance concluded with a flyover by a pair of F-16 Fighting Falcons of the 112th Fighter Squadron "Stingers" from the 180th Fighter Wing Ohio Air National Guard Base in Toledo.
The game ball was delivered by fan favorite Eric Davis, a key member of the 1990 World Series champion Reds and a 2005 Reds Hall of Fame inductee. In a unique twist, Davis and the Reds' in-stadium host hopped into the stands and invited an unsuspecting youngster to escort Davis to the mound to deliver the ball. As a bonus, the young fan was gifted with a Davis No. 44 jersey, which he wore to and from the mound.
Davis' '90 teammate, former reliever Randy Myers, served as an honorary Opening Day captain.
The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Olympian freestyler Nick Goepper, the silver medal winner in the men's slopestyle competition at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. A native of nearby Lawrenceburg, Ind., Goepper rose to fame beginning in 2012 with the first of several X Games appearances that led to two silver medal wins and two gold medals. Goepper also won a bronze medal in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
The 24-year-old Goepper wore his silver medal from his most recent Olympics experience onto the field to throw his pitch to Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco, but then took it off to complete an acrobatic back flip as he exited the field.
The Reds' Opening Week festivities will continue Monday, with the 99th annual Findlay Market Parade, which begins at noon ET. The Opening Week of the season coincides with the Easter holidays, one of the market's busiest times of the year. To operate the parade, Findlay Market needs to be closed for the day. According to a statement by Findlay Market, the merchants voted to keep the parade on Monday, per the annual tradition.
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.