Redsfest shows bond between Reds and fans
CINCINNATI -- The Reds' annual winter festival is typically well-attended every year by all involved -- Reds fans, who pack the Duke Energy Convention Center for the two-day party, and the current and former Reds players who make Redsfest participation a priority every winter.
The 2015 edition of Redsfest began promptly at 3 p.m. ET on Friday in downtown Cincinnati. The doors opened to hundreds of fans, undoubtedly starving for a little baseball after a two-month offseason break.
For fans, this event does not disappoint, considering players from every relevant era of Reds baseball are represented this weekend. Almost every member of the current 40-man roster, plus the entire coaching staff and manager Bryan Price, is here. Plenty of past stars are as well, including members of the 1990 World Series champions and Lou Piniella, who managed the Reds from 1990-92.
Everyone was introduced, together, on the main stage that will be the site of most interactive activities taking place this weekend. Former players and the current coaching staff were introduced first, followed by the current Reds players, who paraded down through a sea of fans from the back of the room. Brandon Phillips, wearing sparkly gym shoes, added his own style and flair to the event, rolling down to the stage on a hover board while high-fiving fans along the way.
Once the entire group was assembled on the stage, Reds public address announcer Joe Zerhusen encouraged the fans to "get your cameras out to capture this special Redsfest moment."
The last official order of business came from Reds owner Bob Castellini, who addressed the crowd with brief introductory remarks.
"There's no better fanfest in baseball than Redsfest, because there's no better fans in baseball than Reds fans," Castellini said. "Your engagement in the All-Star Game and the Reds' 2015 season confirms once again that you, our fans, are the heart and soul of this franchise. We proudly host Redsfest as a thank you for your loyalty and support of the Reds."
In total, approximately 80 current and former players, coaches and broadcasters were scheduled to attend Redsfest, where more than 100 autograph and photo sessions will take place, free of charge, with a Redsfest general admission ticket. Plenty of kid-friendly activities are planned as well, in the 20,000 square foot space on the third floor of the convention center that features a bounce house, trampoline, kids story times, photos with Santa Claus and more.
Kids were a main theme on the main stage on Friday as well. Broadcasters Marty Brennaman and Jim Kelch hosted a Kids-Only Press Conference with pitcher Homer Bailey, shortstop Zack Cozart and catcher Tucker Barnhart. Kids were encouraged to ask questions of the players, who were revealing with their answers. Bailey, for example, was quick to point out that his favorite flower was the Bluebonnet (he is, after all, from Texas), and when asked what he does during rain delays, he blurted out, "I eat fried cookie dough."
To the question of their favorite Reds moments, Cozart pointed to three: both of Bailey's no-hitters and winning the NL Central in 2012.
A young fan asked Barnhart, "Does it hurt when [Aroldis] Chapman pitches to you?"
Barnhart, who caught the flame-throwing closer's first game back after the horrific facial injury Chapman suffered during Spring Training in 2014, gave an emphatic, "Yes."
Saturday's festivities get underway at 11 a.m. ET. The first scheduled activity is the Hot Stove Report with president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty and general manager Dick Williams at 11:30 a.m. Another Kids Only Press Conference will take place at 1:05 p.m. ET, followed by a Harlem Globetrotters presentation at 1:45 p.m. ET. Reds alumni will participate in a "Bull Session" at 4:20 p.m. ET.