Tag Archives: Joey Votto

Josh Willingham’s Sobering Sunday Swing

So much can change with one moment. An entire season’s emotion can be directed in just one week. With Josh Willingham’s soul-crushing bomb off Aroldis Chapman yesterday (a 4-3 loss), the Reds dropped five of six contests this past week. I think for the first time I’ve started to question my beliefs in the 2012 Reds, if only just a little bit.

Baseball really has a way of sobering you. This was supposed to be a series that really got the Reds back on track. I saw the club exploding for offense at home against the patchwork Twins pitching staff. A sweep could easily have been hoped for but at worst I saw the Reds taking two of three and heading into another home series against the Brewers beginning today.

The Baseball Gods had other ideas.

What seems to be both funny and ironic about Willingham destroying a Chapman pitch into the seats is there’s probably no other guy around baseball that should be wearing a Reds uniform than Willingham. The Reds bypassed him in the off-season, allowing him to sign with a non-contender in Minnesota. He and Jay Bruce share the same agent, Sosnick & Cobbe. Tell me right now that Josh Willingham couldn’t have fit in beautifully in this current Reds lineup playing the outfield.

Instead, he stepped to the plate on Sunday to play the part of Darth Vader in baseball cleats. No one should have been shocked. And perhaps my cocky and invincible feelings about this Reds team were based too much off high-running emotions when things were going well.

A Major League baseball season is so much like life. While there are both high and low moments it’s important to never feel too comfortable. You never want to feel like too much is guaranteed or certain until you’re sure you’ve reached the end. Right now, I’ll admit that I don’t know what is going to happen with these Reds and while all along I’ve promised anyone who will listen that the Reds are going to the postseason, the truth is right now I really don’t know.

Dusty Baker is making managerial moves like he would like to be terminated. I walked into my house Friday night just in time to see Scott Rolen held at third base rather than scoring. I quickly received a barrage of text messages from friends watching the game berating Dusty’s lack of forethought to pinch run for the aging Rolen. That move cost us that game.

Don’t be surprised if the Reds get back on track tonight with a big win. It’s the way things go. But if they don’t, more doubt starts to creep in. If the Reds don’t deliver this season, they’ll waste the finest season of Joey Votto’s career just as they wasted an incredibly clutch two-run home run that should have went down as the game winner yesterday.

We can’t make time speed up so we can know how each chapter end. We just have to patiently see how it all plays out, with the characters taking on a different role in the novel each week and each night. As we ride along with them, it’s important to never allow ourselves to get too high. We can’t control anything, despite what outcomes we wish for.

Weekend Recap

I didn’t spend a ton of time this weekend watching baseball. I played 36 holes of golf. I watched several ESPN 30 for 30’s–since my wife was nice enough to let me spend our Best Buy gift card on a set of them. Here’s some stuff I took from the weekend before Memorial Day, when the cement is officially declared ‘hardened’ and we know what we have seen in the instances of teams, players, and organizations is for the most part; what is for the given current season.

  • Pretty good weekend for Bryce Harper. Harper had a huge triple yesterday that opened up scoring and got the Nats going in route to their 9-3 win over the Orioles. He added two hits on Friday evening with an 0 for 5 sandwiched in there. I’m going to head to Washington to visit my old frat brother/roomate on August 18th to see them play the Mets. I just hope Harper is still up with the big club at that time. And I hope Strasburg is pitching that weekend.
  • Aroldis Chapman headlines as the Reds new closer. He closed out the ballgame in dramatic fashion (does it get any more pressure-packed that the concrete jungle that is Yankee Stadium?) yesterday to give the Reds the series win in the Bronx. It wasn’t a good weekend for Jay Bruce or the rest of the offense. A big three-run home run on Saturday afternoon by Joey Votto allowed Homer Bailey to pick up the victory while we were busy grilling out. All of this came on the heels of a disappointing Friday night shutout by Andy Pettite that sent the Reds back to .500 at 19-19.
  • Lance Berkman might have a torn ACL. With the Reds a half-game back in the NL Central, the Cardinals are reeling after being swept in L.A.
  • Baseball Show Podcast coming this week. The guest of the show will be Hardball Talk Editor Craig Calcaterra. Big thrill for me, I’ve been a fan of his posts since the Shysterball days.
  • Phillies/Nats series tonight, part Philly. Definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Alright, everybody have a good Monday. There’s a few more hours and then this day is behind us with a great night of baseball on tap.

When a Moment Can Change a Season

[Box Score]

[Cincinnati.com]

I knew trailing 6-5 in the 9th, that if the Reds could get Joey Votto to the plate that they would win the ballgame.

All that needed to happen was Chris Heisey reaching base. By the way I had seen Votto going earlier in the day, it didn’t matter how hard Henry Rodriguez was throwing. His fastball was simply too straight to sneak past Votto three times with the bases loaded and the game on the line. And it was a big ballgame. The Reds again salvage a miracle contest on getaway day to improve their record to 10-1 in such contests.

For as many friends that want to text message me and tell me that “the Reds had no business winning this game,” I say in rebuttal that the Reds show what is at their core in these types of contests. Teams continue to let them off the hook in the final frame, and the Reds continue to scrap out tough wins that good teams find a way to win.

Now, I had no idea that Votto would hit a dramatic walk-off grand slam into the center field green off Rodriguez, but when he did it I knew in my heart that this was still Joey Votto’s team; and we are still watching one of the game’s finest hitters at work.

They were calling him ‘The Natural’ after the ballgame. And the Reds had the type of victory that salvages not only a series from a sweep but perhaps an entire season.

This wasn’t Joey Votto’s first county fair. In fact, he’s hit another big game-winning blast on another Mother’s Day. And that homer was also a defining moment in a special season of Reds baseball. Flash back to 2010, a day that many of you have probably forgotten. The Reds beat the Cubs that day a few years ago and then rolled to the division title.

Will 2012 have the a similar fate? I was just about to stop believing in my lofty prediction of a Reds NLCS appearance. And then Joey Votto put the Reds on his shoulders and told me not so fast.

It’s going to be a hot summer in Cincinnati, and things are just getting started.

Highlights:

Bryce Harper loses Bruce’s RBI double in the lights

JOEY VOTTO WALK-OFF GRAND SLAM

Votto hit two other home runs in this game. Here they are.

Heisey home-plate assist

Potpourri:

  • I thought that this post by Joe Posnanski on the struggles of Albert Pujols really captured my feelings on him. I don’t feel Pujols is ‘close’. I don’t feel that he’s going to come out of this anytime soon. In fact, I think he’ll do what Adam Dunn did last season. When I saw Pujols’ messy swings last night on Sunday Night Baseball, I felt the same as Posnanski. Albert is a mess right now, and it’s a long way out of this woods.
  • Thank you, Giancarlo Stanton.

Game 28, 2012: Reds put it all together in 6-1 win over Brewers

[Box Score]

[Cincinnati.com] [Mark Sheldon] [Redleg Nation]

This was one of the most complete efforts on the year so far for the Reds. It probably starts with Bunny Arroyo’s fine outing on the mound. He somehow struck out nine Brewers, allowed only the mammoth home run to Ryan Braun and walked just one. He’s now 2-1 on the season with a 2.75 ERA. The Reds starters are getting it done, between Bunny’s fine effort and what Mat Latos did on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

The Reds pounded out another ten hits last night, with a lot of the damage coming in that big 4th inning. This is either the first time they’ve been a couple games over .500 this season, or it sure feels like it. It’s really no time to relax even though they’ve taken four of five and 11 of 16 games. This is the time to keep the foot on the gas and make a run.

How about Bruce’s monster home run last night? That was the longest home run I’ve ever seen him hit. He ran it with humility and didn’t show up Marco Estrada, but that thing traveled to Kenosha, WI. Couple of hits for Brandon Phillips, couple of hits for Ryan Hanigan, Zach Cozart homered; everyone really contributed.

Homer Bailey and Yovani Gallardo I’m a little worried about tonight.

Highlights:

Bruce hits a MONSTER 442-foot home run (9)

Bunny Arroyo was magnificent

Welcome back, Miguel Cairo

Zach Cozart solo bomb (3) ties the game

Joey Votto RBI Double gives the Reds the lead

Ryan Braun goes yard off Bronson Arroyo early, his 9th

Potpourri:

-Jay Bruce’s home run is worth checking out Hit Tracker for the first time this year if you haven’t.

-Behind Atlanta’s Michael Bourn, Bruce has the second longest active hitting streak in baseball now at 10 games. He’s gone 15 of 37, for a .405 average. He’s slugging 1.027 during the life of the streak. He’s got six homers, 12 RBI, and ten runs during it. Bruce had two 12-game hitting streaks as a rookie.

-Check out my buddy Dave here with Sal Fasano, on “What it takes to be a great catcher”. I remember when Jeff Pearlman told me that Fasano was one of the best pro-athletes he had ever met in terms of humility and just being a great human being. Great work on this Dave.

-Ended up owing my wife a trip to UDF for ice-cream when the Reds had that big inning. Where’s the Peach!?!?

Game 24, 2012: Cubs fail to play for 27 outs

[Box Score]

[Cincinnati.com] [Mark Sheldon]

Frustrate you as they may, and they were frustrating for eight long innings with Ryan Dempster on the hill; there’s one thing you can say about the Reds. This group will force you to play for 27 outs, and if you don’t they’ll send you home losers.

The Reds entered the ninth inning trailing by a score of 3-0. They had just three hits on the day until that point. And then Carlos Marmol gave them the air supply they desperately needed.

He walked Willie Harris to lead off the ninth, which was a bad idea since Harris hasn’t collected a base-hit all season thus far. Joey Votto followed with a walk of his own. Brandon Phillips hit a ground ball to Ian Stewart, and the usually sound defense of the Cubs imploded. Stewart booted the ball and Harris scored. Jay Bruce followed with a sharp single. Ryan Ludwick walked to make it 3-2. Devin Mesoraco hit into a double play but the game was tied at 3-3.

The Reds found a way to win it in the 10th on a sacrifice fly by Scott Rolen that scored Zach Cozart. What should have been a 4-4 homestand became a 5-3 homestand. The Reds were back to .500 and the Cardinals which gave them renewed life.

The Reds knack for the comeback just might be their best quality. They had absolutely nothing yesterday and they still found a way to beat the opposition.

Highlights:

Homer Bailey’s 4th quality start in five outings

Starlin Castro’s first dinger of the year

Zach Cozart’s great diving stop

Rolen’s sac-fly to win it

Potpourri:

  • This was the first time in MLB history that two starting pitchers shared a birthday on the day of the game started. Bailey is now 26, while Dempter is 35.
  • I’m now getting old enough that I can remember games a full decade ago. Ten years ago to the day the Reds lost a game 6-1 in San Francisco. Their lineup went Larkin, Juan Encarnacion, Sean Casey, Dunn, Aaron Boone, Todd Walker, Austin Kearns, Corky Miller, and Jose Rijo started on the mound.
  • A decade ago to the day, Adam Dunn had 25 career home runs. Dunn now has 372 as of last evening, including this monster home run last night off Cleveland’s Dan Wheeler.

Game 17, 2012: This is the Mat Latos We Were Searching For

[Box Score]

[Cincinnati.com] [Bay City Ball] [Mercury News] [The Splash]

Now this is the Mat Latos we traded for.

If the Reds get this Latos to show up more often than not this season, it’s pretty self-explanatory what’s going to happen. The Reds can be a monster.

I didn’t think the Reds had a chance in Hell last night when I saw Matt Cain was pitching.

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/#!/DiamondHoggers/status/194804991859499009"]

But I was wrong. I felt like the Reds had three key at-bats in the bottom of the first-inning that were game altering. Zach Cozart opened the game up with a 10-pitch showdown against Cain, and although he flew out to short; the Reds had opened up Cain for head shots with a few nice early body blows from their lead-off hitter. I’ll say it again, these are the type of at-bats that win you ballgames at the onset.

Drew Stubbs doubled, and after Joey Votto struck out Brandon Phillips had another battling type at-bat that resulted in a two-run home run. The Reds were off to the races and a bonus came later in the inning because Jay Bruce and Scott Rolen got Matt Cain to throw even more pitches.

It’s impossible to get these professional at-bats game in and game out. But picked a good pitcher to do this against. You don’t need these kind of at-bats to beat the Barry Zito’s of the world or the Randy Wells’. Matt Cain doesn’t make that first inning mistake to Phillips that landed in the Cincinnati bullpen unless you grind on him like the Reds did. Notice that he settled in and was basically unscathed for the rest of his outing.

The Reds great perseverance in their at-bats also still called for a couple of big pitches by Mat Latos. With the bases juiced, he lured the red-hot Nate Schierholtz to ground out with the bases loaded. That opened the door for the Reds to shoot up the San Francisco Giants like the Alamo.

Great start to a homestand.

Highlights:

Bark in the Park last night in Cincinnati – (Sorry we didn’t make it this time, Bentley)

Phillips two-run home run

Bruce bases-loaded double

Retaliation for Votto being plunked?

Latos’ strong outing

Our First Wrigley Field Trip

I finally made it to Wrigley Field. It took me nearly 30 years in my life to make the trek some 6 hours and 15 seconds north, but I made it. It didn’t matter that I saw my Reds lose 6-1 in front of a crowd of 38,405.

It was the number one thing on my bucket list. As I looked up into the sky this past Saturday afternoon, I could have died right there a happy man. Here is the story of my day in Wrigleyville. And to think I was in Chicago the day Phil Humber threw his perfect game.

This was moments after my first view of the Wrigley Field marquee. I know I was acting like a child because our friends that live in Wrigleyville were laughing at me. I snapped a bunch of pictures and basically acted like most first timers probably do. Actually, maybe more excessive than that. But there’s no words to describe what I felt when I first saw it.

All I know is I’ve wanted to be at this spot for as long as I can remember. I first remembered seeing it in the intro to “Perfect Strangers”.

We decided to post up at the Cubby Bear. We had about an hour and half to kill, and there’s nothing better than drinking a few cold 312’s across from Wrigley Field with it in plain view out the window. As for the Cubby Bear, there were a fair amount of Reds fans on hand doing the same thing. Also, the best chilli I’ve ever had in my life; including Skyline. Sorry Cincinnati. It’s true.

Another full on view of the marquee just before we were ready to head inside.

This is a giant macaroni noodle. It’s significance is unknown by me at the present time, but I’m guessing Wrigley owns Kraft or something like that? Or there’s some type of long-standing partnership existing. It’s just cool and others were taking pictures of it so I made like the tourist I was and decided to get it before I dug into the meat and potatoes of the stadium.

Check out these old timers playing brass instruments outside the stadium before you enter the park! Now this is a ballpark!

When I went inside, I told my wife the first thing we were doing is heading to the Bartman seat. If Wrigley Field was bucket list item numero uno, this was easily 1a. More on this to come in the following post, but I can cross off Steve Bartman’s seat off my list as well.

This is about the moment I kept saying to my wife “can you even believe we’re really here?” I guess it’s one of those moments every die-hard baseball fan who reads this blog can relate to. Wrigley Field is unlike any other ballpark on this earth. This little Midwestern gem sits in the middle of a neighborhood. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in Chicago and be able to walk over to the game some weekend afternoon. There’s probably a good reason I wasn’t born into that position, because I would find myself doing it far too often.

I continually found myself taking in each moment slowly, trying to savor it all. Suddenly I realized yet another different quality than I had at any other park I’ve been to. There was a song playing, but it was all by the organ. It was beautiful. And I knew the song but I just couldn’t think of it. As I looked around at everything I’ve waited three decades to see, I had to guess the song. It was Whitney Houston’s “Dance with Somebody”. I don’t think I ever enjoyed the regular rendition that much.

There she is folks, the beauty in all of her glory. Look how green the ivy is.

Pretty good view of the left field Wrigley rooftop with ‘Hey Hey’ on the left field foul pole. Someday I’ll be back to sit in those bleachers where Sammy used to hit em’.

Just another shot from around Bartman central that I had to have.

Here’s something else that makes it an old-time ballpark. I imagine I looked pretty weird snapping a picture while taking a leak, but oh well. I had to do this to give you an idea of the full experience. The next thing I knew I was thinking about the guy who did the Pete Rose headfirst slide in one of these a few years back. At least I’m not him.

Just another pregame shot of beautiful Wrigley. It was a cool day but the sun was shining.

Check out the old style rafters above, as well as the pillar built into the seats. It’s different from the stadiums that go up today, but that’s what gives all the character. I’m told there’s something else different about this stadium than other parks. The visitors clubhouse isn’t down below the dugout like most parks but above where you see right here. I never knew that until a fan who had done a Wrigley tour shared that with me as I was taking this picture.

Here’s the right field Wrigley rooftops. Free advertisement here, someday I’ll be checking out Wrigleyrooftops.com and setting up a game from there. I hear it’s $120 for all you can eat and drink. It might have came in handy for us on this day.

One of my favorite shots of the entire day.

There’s the legendary manually operated scoreboard in deep center field. And it keeps accurate time!

Waiting for the game to start, little did I know that the Reds weren’t going to be hunting for a sweep come Sunday at this point.

I ended up sneaking down a little closer (and in the sunlight) for the first inning to get some good pictures. It was amazing how friendly all of the fans in the stands were to us. I attribute this to the Cubs just not being competitive for so long. The people don’t feel threatened. They’re just die-hard baseball fans. Knowledgeable. There to take in the atmosphere just like me.

And here’s Downthelinerooftop.com, in case you want to sit in the rooftops in foul territory.

To think we live such a life in such a place. That’s Joey Votto running and warming up on the field by the way.

Paul Maholm seems to have the Reds number. And when I showed up at the park wearing my Jay Bruce jersey, I was upset to find that Dusty held Bruce out of the lineup because he was 2 for 15 lifetime against Maholm. What he needed to be told was that I came all the way from Ohio to see a Bruce Bomb at Wrigley Field, and Jay’s two hits off Maholm lifetime were both dingers.

Votto getting ready for his first inning at-bat. It was a long day for Joey. It seems like he homers every time my wife and I are at the park together. It wasn’t meant to be on this day. Votto went 0 for 3 with a walk and a couple of strikeouts.

Future Reds Hall of Famer at the plate.

And again. My wife and I don’t do shots anymore. We stopped doing that a long time ago. But I told her I bet her that Joey Votto would go deep today. She said not going to happen. I told her if it happens, we’re doing shots after the game, my choice. Joey saved her from a hangover.

Mike Leake, little do you know you’re about to get pounded all afternoon, Wrigley Field style. I don’t like Leake’s stuff one bit. After 10 hits and five earned runs over 5 and 1/3, Leake would hit the showers. He just wasn’t fooling anyone.

Here’s the main attraction for the Cubbies, Starlin Castro. He had a couple of knocks and added a triple.

I think Starlin Castro is going to have an Alex Rodriguez type of career in Cubbie land.

Dan Patrick sung the seventh inning stretch. One of my favorite pictures of the entire day.

Carlos Marmol is one of my fantasy baseball closers. I like his tools and his skills a lot. He has great stuff. The one thing I disregarded is that Marmol isn’t going to save a lot of games this year. The Cubs aren’t going to win a lot of games, and even in this appearance it was a non-save opportunity. He’s still one of my favorite pitchers in baseball and I got to see him in the 9th on the mound at Wrigley. Unfortunately my team was butter to his hot knife.

Get ready, Reds. Carlos Marmol is gonna send them home happy with their fourth win of the young season.

And Marmol was dealing. If you got up to go to the bathroom like my wife did, you would have missed Marmol’s 13 pitches altogether. Guy was pitching like he was double-parked. And he quickly dispersed of three Reds hitters in order to seal the win down, dismissing thousands of Cubs fans to their afternoon date with a local watering hole of their choice.

Here’s one last look at Wrigley Field from behind home plate before I exited the turnstiles. What a day. What an experience. I don’t know how long it will be until I return, but I will be back.

We finished up the afternoon over at Murphy’s Bleachers bar. Which should be a whole new post all in itself. There I met a couple of salesmen Reds fans from Iowa, a bridal party–and the brother was on hand said he was really good friends with Patrick Kane. I met about 100 other strangers who seemed like my best friend for 10 or so minutes. I sang “Go Cubs Go” while wearing a Reds jersey. A few beers make you do funny things. My wife asked me when we’re moving to Wrigleyville.

One of the greatest baseball and life experiences I had ever been a part of was in the books.

Game 13, 2012: Reds Stave off Sweep in St. Louis

[Box Score]

Cincinnati.com | Better off Red | Mark Sheldon | C70 at the bat

Analysis:

I texted a couple of my buddies who share my love/hate with the Reds with me yesterday while perusing the box score. The Reds had closed out a key 6-3 win in their house of horrors against a hot St. Louis Cardinals team. They had lived to fight another day. The season wasn’t over, yet. Bronson Arroyo came up big as he has in the past on a day where you had to have a win, only allowing a three-run bomb to Matt Holliday.

The usual crew of Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Drew Stubbs, and Jay Bruce had a say in the win.

“You know what kind of teams play to avoid sweeps? Bad ones,” my friend responded to my text. I guess he isn’t optimistic like I am. But I quickly texted him back–I have a feeling that the Reds will go into Sunday with a chance to sweep the Cubbies this weekend–and if they do all will be right with the world again.

You can’t sweep a team until you win one. The Reds can’t go on a winning streak until they win this afternoon at Wrigley behind Homer Bailey. It’s got to happen first.

Video:

Brandon Phillips solo home run puts the Reds on the board

Joey Votto RBI single

Drew Stubbs solo home run

Steve Berthiaume: “Cincinnati Reds tried for Albert Pujols.”

I’m going to have to credit a Cardinals blog with the assist on this one.

Last week on the Jonah Keri podcast, ESPN’s Steve Berthiaume (whom we love) was the guest. He spoke about the Cincinnati Reds coming thisclose to acquiring former Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols:

“I think, think they (the Reds) were a lot closer to getting Albert Pujols than anybody knows or anybody talked about. I think the Votto money was targeted for Pujols in the off-season and when that didn’t pan out that they said, OK, let’s keep our guy, let’s give it to Joey Votto. I think those two were more connected than anyone realizes.”

Alright, before you start with the ‘I don’t buy it’ business, remember that Berthiaume is way more connected than you or even I. I do buy it.

Look at the money the Reds gave Votto. I think there were rumblings in the Reds front office about going after Pujols. And I think that Walt Jocketty used Pujols as a way of convincing Bob Castellini that the Reds could write a contract like this up to begin with.

When the Reds missed the mark of how much Pujols wanted, those numbers still worked for the guy already under contract and all the Reds needed to do was change the name written on the deal. A right handed hitter like Pujols helps the Reds more than Votto does.

Reds avoid Cardinals sweep

[Box Score]

[Cincinnati.com]

I didn’t get to see the first business day special of the year, because I was doing business. The Reds avoided getting swept by their division rivals after getting in a 3-0 hole thanks to a Jon Jay home run off Johnny Cueto.

Cueto didn’t have his best stuff it seemed, but he kept the Reds in the game over the course of five toughly contested innings. He did play the role of stopper, not allowing anything beyond the three runs the Cardinals were able to muster early against him.

I knew this type of game was coming from Joey Votto. Call it the first signature game of the Votto $225 million dollar contract era, but Votto doubled a couple of times and singled a couple of times, and his average rose to the mid-.300’s. What’s crazy to think about is if he’s going right his average won’t dip below .300 again this season.

It seemed that Votto and Wilson Valdez, Zach Cozart and Drew Stubbs willed the Reds back into this one; along with phenomenal efforts in the bullpen from Jose Arredondo and Aroldis Chapman.

The Reds evened their record at 3-3 after six games, two behind St. Louis and one behind Milwaukee. There’s a long ways to go but things could have been a lot worse on the first homestand.

The Reds now head to Washington for another afternoon delight today followed by three more on the Weekend with the Nationals. The best news is probably that the Reds will miss Stephen Strasburg’s turn in the rotation.

Highlights

Chapman’s dominating appearance

Heisey’s walk-off single

 

Cincinnati Opening Day 2012: The Perfect Opening Day

[Box Score]

MLB.com Highlights | Cincinnati.com

From Jay Bruce’s bomb off Edward Mujica to dead center field to Johnny Cueto shutting down the Marlins offense all day long, to the pregame beers and the post-game euphoria; this was probably my favorite Opening Day in Cincinnati to date. Bob Castellini saying that the All-Star game would be coming to Cincinnati was like a cherry on top.

My 8th straight Opening Day in Cincinnati will be my favorite for a while I feel like.

 

We started the day off at the In Between Tavern. Nice view of the stadium there in the background. We could have and probably should have headed over to the newly developed area directly across from the ballpark (Holy Grail, Kenny Chesney’s Bar, etc.) but we went old school to the first place we could walk into. And I’ve been at In Between Tavern a few times before Reds games in my life. A few times too many.

We guzzled some beers, met some folks from Columbus, and started talking 2012 Reds, memorabilia, and then the day’s first odd omen happened.

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/#!/DiamondHoggers/status/187970546053545984"]

I really had no clue. I just guessed. And ’53’ did pop into my head.

It’s slightly different than when I was a little kid, but there’s still nothing like that first view of the year of the field from inside the stadium. There’s something magical about it.

Here’s a good look at our seats right on the right field foul pole. It was $110 a piece for these. Probably should have went the StubHub route, but at least we were in. You never forget where you sat on an Opening Day. A lot of other games might blend together, but you will always remember exactly where you sat on Opening Day.

Here’s a view of the F-15 flyover at the end of the National Anthem. We had the best seat in the house for that!

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/#!/DiamondHoggers/status/187980493202014208"]

I crushed a few more stadium beers. The peanuts tasted as fine as they ever have. But I need something a little more filling to tide me over.

Mmmmm Skyline Chilli. How I’ve missed you. To think my wife has been doing Weight Watchers so strictly, and I’m off at the Opening Day Reds game crushing beers and slamming chilli dogs. I’m going to have to do intense cardio every day for the next month to burn off all the junk I took down yesterday.

Another kind of cool shot you could probably do without but I had to get it on here somewhere.

Second great omen of the day. I NAILED the scoreboard stumper in about 5 seconds. The question was ‘Five different catchers have started for the Reds at Great American Ball Park on Opening Day. Name them.’

  1. David Ross
  2. Javier Valentin
  3. Ryan Hanigan
  4. Ramon Hernandez
  5. Jason LaRue

Sometimes I nail the stumper, but I’ve never gotten it that quickly before.

The game had ended with Sean Marshall slamming the door, after Bruce’s crushing homer to dead center and Aroldis Chapman dominating a couple of hitters that stood no chance.

I was buzzed, and I was riding high. There was an atmosphere that I had never seen before outside the stadium when we headed back to the In Between Tavern for a victory beer before heading back to our car and making the trip home.

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/#!/DiamondHoggers/status/188050474925166592"]

And though there was some beer muscles going on when I said it, I do believe it. I do think the Reds are about to embark upon something special this season. Cincinnati deserves it as a city. The time has finally arrived. It’s going to be a summer of love, people.

Opening day in Cincinnati 2012 is now just a memory.

Votto’s first game under the extension (of course, he got a knock). Cueto’s seven shutout innings. Bruce’s blast to center to put it away. Cozart had a couple hits. Ryan Ludwick’s debut. Chris Heisey got a double off the wall. Chapman and Marshall’s domination. The beers. My buddy. High-fiving stranger after stranger in the streets after the game.

To think we get to live such a life.

 

Your Opening Day 2012 Post

I read an article in the New York Times the other day that should be required reading of any close friend of mine. Maybe that’s because basically all of my close friends like baseball or it’s at the very least been what has sewn us together in the first place. The article was called ‘What Baseball Does to the Soul’.

A couple of things I like from this article I’m requiring you to read if you already haven’t on Opening Day Eve:

  1. This is what baseball can do to the soul: it has the ability to make you believe in spite of all other available evidence.
  2. Baseball does what all good sports should do: it creates the possibility of joy.
  3. It confirms that life is not static. There is so much more left to be lived.

That’s really just a few of the reasons that it’s a great read, and why Opening Day is a celebration of hope. And changing seasons. And new beginnings.

I say it every year in this annual post: we could truly see anything tomorrow. We could see anything this season. That’s what makes tomorrow and the next several months to follow so special. Let your mind dream for a minute on what might be in store for this 2012 season.

We could see Jay Bruce win the National League HR title. We could see Jay Bruce become the MVP. How many bombs is Giancarlo Stanton going to hit? Will Adam Dunn rebound to be the Adam Dunn we all grew up watching? Are the Anaheim Angels going to roll to the World Series Miami Heat style? How’s Pujols going to adjust to American League pitching?

This will also be the year that we get acquainted with Bryce Harper for the first time–and we’ll get to know Mike Trout a lot better perhaps. Your fantasy teams are looking pretty solid right now, and every day is your chance at redemption for last year’s poor showings amongst your peers.

How many knocks will Joey Votto get towards earning that new big contract? How will Prince and Miggy fare together in Motown? Cubs fans have hope until the games are played tomorrow. The bad news is so do the Twins, Astros, and Orioles as well. Everyone’s in first place again.

The spring will quickly fade into summer and the seasons will change, and soon we’ll be doing this exercise all over again. Baseball will still be there for us, going on; happening. No clock involved. When we’re at the park, time will stand still for just a few hours after walking through the turnstiles before we have to walk opposite way out of those same entry points and return to reality.

It’s the greatest sport on earth, and it’s begun again. It’s time to savor the moment and enjoy it. As you take it all in tomorrow, baseball is good for the soul because the possibilities are unlimited and it allows you to dream where most other things in life do not. And remember on Opening Day, you might just see anything.

Diamond Hoggers salutes you, the fan; on Opening Day 2012. Follow Diamond Hoggers on Twitter live from Opening Day in Cincinnati for the 8th straight year.

$225 Million Will Get You a lot of Lattes

The Reds locked up Joey Votto today to a 10-year, $225 million dollar contract. It’s the largest contract in Cincinnati baseball history. Hell, it’s the largest contract in Cincinnati sports history.

I’m shocked by this, but extremely pleased. At the end of the day, I think Votto is going to age well and be extremely productive over the course of the next decade. It almost guarantees the franchise relevancy of some fashion well into the next era and roster nucleus.

The reactions will continue to roll in with some saying that the Reds went too far, or that the Reds got a bargain; I think it was somewhere in between and a fair deal.

I tip my cap to Reds owner Bob Castellini. The Reds ponied up and didn’t scrimp on this one. They kept their homegrown superstar in the Queen City for the length of his career. You could not ask for more from an owner in this type of market. Castellini is getting props all around the sports world right now.

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And give the Reds bonus credit for the timing of this announcement. The Votto signing comes as the Reds are headed home from Spring Training in Goodyear, Arizona; and perhaps will serve as the last act before a season to remember begins.