Here is a diary of my happenings from Opening Day Weekend, 2006. Enjoy!
April 2, 2006
11:55 a.m.: After delaying the departure time of my 4 hour trip to Cincinnati by nearly 2 hours due to packing tardiness, my wife and I are finally geared up and ready to leave for the Queen City. We’ve stopped by the bank, got the necessary amount of money from the ATM, filled the Oldsmobile up with gas and are on the road. I’m pumped. This is Opening Day for crying out loud. The beginning of a new season. High hopes are always easy to find on opening day. Everyone is tied for first! Even more exciting is the fact that my wife worked late last night and plans to sleep on the way, giving me complete control of the radio and heating/cooling.
11:56 a.m. My wife is already asleep. Is there anything more 100% guaranteed on a long trip than your wife going to sleep in the car? I think there is some type of female mechanism involved between the ignition switch and a woman’s time to sleep. Women, help me out with this!
3:57 p.m. We arrive at the hotel in Florence. I’m upset because I’m 2 minutes slower than my previous record. I’ve made this trip several times and can’t seem to crack the 4 hour mark. Perhaps I need some type of Roger Bannister, 4 minute mile training in order to get this trip done in under 4 hours.
4:20 p.m.After some nifty negotiating between myself, my wife, and the hotel clerk, my wife and I are able to receive the family discount at the hotel, saving me a hefty chunk of change in the process. I can now honestly say that in the last 4-5 years of going to Cincinnati ball games, I have paid full price only once for a hotel. Mainly thanks to some coupons that are easy to find.
10:27 p.m. After killing some time, grabbing a bite to eat, and watching Hitch on Starz in the hotel, I’m exhausted and ready for bed. Needless to say, the 4 hour nap my wife got in on the road didn’t do her any good. She’s been asleep for at least an hour, begging the question: “What am I doing watching Hitch while my wife’s asleep?” Good thing I’m married or I’d be questioning my own sexuality right about now.
9:38 a.m.: OK, the time change officially has me screwed up. I can’t seem to get adjusted quickly enough. I love daylight savings time. It doesn’t get dark now until 8:00. But still, I would’ve had to have taken Monday off of work anyway just to get adjusted to the change.
I walk outside and notice the sun is shining, there’s a little chill in the air and just a slight breeze blowing from the balcony of my room. I think to myself: “It’s going to be a beautiful day for a baseball game.
9:42 a.m. Suddenly a tornado like wind whips around outside and black clouds fill the sky.
10:33 a.m. A long standing tradition is completed. My wife and I arrive at the “Big Boy” for our customary opening day breakfast. Ever since I was a little kid, I loved eating at “Big Boy”. I think it was the statue out front that captured my attention. Whatever it was, I still love eating there. My dad’s an even bigger fan.
11:12 a.m. We arrive in the city and this brings me to my biggest sporting event complaint of all time. I see it as highly unfair and a rip-off to charge people to park at a sporting event. Especially in stadium lots! Parking is now $10 dollars at the stadium. If you add that to the price of tickets, it can get rather ridiculous. Tampa Bay has the right thing going this year. Now I know attendance is down for Devil Rays game, but what a great idea by the organization to allow free parking this season. What a great way to get fans to come out. Perhaps the new ownership can also use this idea to get more fans to games like Wednesday’s 12:35 game, or even for a mid-May Thursday night game. If you buy bleacher seats, it costs you more to park your car than it does to watch a baseball game! (note: I parked in an adjacent lot for $5.)
11:23 a.m. My hat nearly blows off from the wind. My wife comments that she is actually fighting her way through the wind!
12:02 p.m. After browsing through the city, we find our way to the parade. I’m not a big parade fan. Never have seen the point really. Now I’m not from Cincinnati and thus don’t share in the tradition of the annual parade, but parades overall make no sense to me. I just don’t understand the point of standing on the side of the road, watching fire trucks, high school bands, and giant hamburgers and fries walk by. I can see those things by watching a house burn, going to a high school football game, or smearing myself with ketchup and mustard. Of course there is one highlight for me in every parade. The job I envy the most. The guy who has to follow the horses with the shovel and trash can. How can I get this job? Is there a class in college to take in order to do this? Does this guy attend career day? I need answers people!
12:30 p.m. My wife and I leave the parade. There’s only so much excitement one man can have in a 30 minute span. The highlights of the parade for me include: The pooper scooper (obviously), the Corvette breaking down in the road and watching random people come to the rescue, and a buddy’s picture of his red bagel he had for breakfast that morning. Nothing like a red ham and cheese bagel for breakfast! And to think, I went to Big Boy.
12:44 p.m. The line for the metal detectors isn’t quite as bad as I expected. The lines were long of course, and they need to be. For goodness sake, we’ve got the most powerful man in the World in the same vicinity as us. Security must be tight. And it was. The tightest I have ever experienced. But a crazy thing happened to me while standing in line. Have you ever been somewhere and recognize someone but can’t quite point out who it is? This happened to me while in line. I’m standing there, maneuvering my way from a long line to a shorter line when a guy walks by. I ponder the face for a second, do a quick double take as the man weaves through the crowd, and then it hits me. “Hey! That’s Marvin Lewis!” That’s right. While waiting in line to get through the metal detectors, the Head Coach of the Bengals just walks by like he’s a normal person. The guy behind me in line had the same delayed reaction as me. No one else seems to recognize the guy as meanders through the crowd. Semi-famous person #1 I encounter today.
Now I’m like a little kid when it comes to famous or semi-famous people. I admire people who are well known. It’s rather sad. As I get older, I catch myself wrapped up in people who are now younger than I, yet famous. Same with the Reds now. There are a handful of players playing today who are younger than I. This isn’t supposed to happen! The Reds are supposed to be these mythical characters that are always older than you who you look up to.
This brings me to three separate stories. The first being when I was a kid, maybe 10 years of age and my parents had taken me and my sister to the mall on a trip to Cincinnati. While in the mall, my dad notices a man shopping with a woman in a store. My dad thinks the man resembles Norm Charlton. I walk by after having this pointed out to me and realize that it really is him. Thus my mind starts racing as to how I can approach this guy and get his autograph. Remember, I’m 10. I walk into the store, his wife in the dressing room, and say “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Norm Charlton?” Norm’s response: “Yeah, my mom told me that when she named me!” After that embarrassing exchange, he autographs a slip of paper for me and my sister.
Last year, again in a mall, me, my wife, and my 1 year old son were sitting in the food court grabbing a bite to eat. While eating, I look over at another restaurant and there is a guy in line with his wife and kids. The guy looks very familiar. Again, one of those situations where it takes a split second to put the name with the face. I quickly realize that it is David Weathers! OK, David Weathers is far from super star status, but semi-famous nevertheless. My thoughts quickly go from my food, to how can I approach this guy and get his autograph. Realizing that he is eating with his family, I can’t approach him. So I devise a plan. I use my wife and son as autograph bait! After convincing my wife that athletes are more likely to sign for a kid and a woman, my wife goes over and gets his autograph. Mr. Weathers and his wife comment on the cuteness of my son, signs an autograph for him, and tells us to have a nice day. In the process, I’m slouched over at my table trying to take his picture with my wife’s cell phone. I believe his wife spots me and thus I make a conscious effort not to make eye contact with the table the rest of the meal. As they leave, he tells us to have a nice day again. Nice man! What becomes obvious to me is that I am the only one who recognized him! No one else in the mall notices who this man is. Is this a sickness?
Lastly, just the other day, I walk into my school’s library (I’m an elementary school teacher) and notice that a local weather man is in there reading to a group of kids. I go into semi-famous person shock mode, quickly racing down the hall to grab a camera to get a picture. I’m a sad, sad man!
12:52 p.m. I finally enter through the metal detectors and into the stadium! *SNIFF* AHH, that Baseball Park Smell!
1:10 p.m. Semi-famous person citing #2. While waiting in line to enter into the Pro-Shop, my wife notices the man in front of us trying to take a picture of someone on his camera phone. My wife, late like myself, realizes the man is trying to take a picture of Nick Lachey who has just entered through the ticket gate. Now Nick Lachey is just a semi-famous person, especially without his top-heavy sidekick, but I race into shock mode. I grab my camera out of my bag, race in behind him and quickly snap a handful of pictures. I’ve decided that after my pooper scooper duties are up, I’m going into a career of paparazzi work!
2:05 p.m. Bush makes the first pitch. Regardless of your political affiliation, it is an awe inspiring feeling to see the leader of the United States of America in person! One of the top 50 moments of my life, ranking behind my marriage and birth of my son, but slightly ahead of watching a guy scoop poop from a horse in the middle of the road.
2:14 p.m. Harang starts the game off with a strike. Baseball Season is here again!
2:21 p.m. It took exactly 7 minutes for your fair weather Reds fans to surface. Dunn has just misplayed his first fly ball of the evening and fans boo him as if he’s a punch and judy hitter with no future. What idiots!
2:26 p.m. Matt Murton has just homered, the score is now 5-0. Suddenly my wife is extremely cold and showing signs of being ready to go home. She realizes that I have only left 2 games early in my life. Today won’t be the 3rd!
2:30 p.m. Snappy Tomato? The first newbie of the season. Catchy song!
2:32 p.m. Tony Womack draws a walk. Harry Doyle once said you can judge the season by the opening at bat. Cubs triple. Reds walk.
2:37 p.m. Dunn hits a sac-fly. The Reds are on the board. That would’ve made a nice prop bet in Vegas. What would the odds have been that the Reds first run of the season would have come on a Womack walk, scored by a Dunn sac-fly. A million to one? A billion to one? I’d be a rich, rich man!
2:46 p.m. Matt Murton is now my least favorite player. He’s replaced Ricky Henderson and Barry Bonds. A 2-run homer and then he robs Kearns of extra bases!
2:58 p.m. My beautiful wife exits for the concession stands and returns with my cheese coney! It’s a great day!
3:11 p.m.Scott Hatteberg belts a homerun. We’re back in this game. My first observation of the season on Hatteberg is that he’s wearing #21, Casey’s old number. I always have mixed feelings seeing a new guy march in and wear a favorite’s old number. I felt weird seeing Aaron Boone wear Sabo’s #17. A felt odd seeing Dunn wearing #44.
3:30 p.m. It never fails. Anytime I go to a game anymore, I get stuck next to the most obnoxious, annoying fans. Today was no different. Two guys decide to plop down in some available seats right in front of me. Combined they have to be 100 years old. However, they act like 12 year olds. One of the guys reminds me of Sloth from the Goonies. The first 4 innings is just obnoxious laughing, goofy comments, and making fun of player’s names. Why can’t I go to a game and enjoy it with sane fans? Same thing happened to me 3 years ago. I had gotten 2nd row seats behind the visitors dugout. Reds were playing the Giants. I went to see Bonds. I dislike him as a player and person, but nevertheless, I’m all about seeing the great players of my time. Despite my personal feelings, he’s still one of the great players of my lifetime. Sitting 2 rows from the field, I have a great view of Bonds and the game. What ruined the experience for me is that a group of children, probably 20 total, are sitting 3 rows behind me. Thus the whole game is turned into a nightmare little league game. “We want a pitcher, not a belly itcher” chants fill the air. Pure torture! Luckily my annoying duo of this game leaves after the 4th inning.
3:42 p.m. Dunn homers! We’re tied up!
3:52 p.m. My ultimate highlight of the evening. The return of the Kahn’s hotdog/smoke sausage commercial. Classic!
4:04 p.m. Dunn makes another blunder in LF. Fans go nuts. One fan even yells out Wily Mo Pena in the direction of LF. Another yells out at “Fat” Dunn. Idiots! Harang exits. Chris Hammond enters.
4:10 p.m.Hammond exits. Burns enters. Still no outs in the 6th.
4:16 p.m. Fly ball to LF. Routine fly ball, or so it appears. I was sitting down the 3b line and you could see the ball carrying. It was like someone caught it in mid air and just threw it even further. Dunn definitely misplayed the ball. I’m sure he’d admit to that. But in his defense, the wind was brutal! There were times I thought I was watching the game in Chicago.
4:24 p.m. After nearly 30 minutes, the 6th inning is over! Hope for a Win is gone. But I’m not leaving!
4:45 p.m. My wife and I decide to improve our view. I turn around and notice we are two of only a handful of people still sitting in the upper deck. We move down to the lowers, behind the dugout, and the game becomes exciting again. There’s something about the added element of the chance of catching a foul ball that makes any game exciting. I’ve never actually caught a live game ball before, so there is always that excited feeling. I did have one opportunity once. Blew it big time. Back in ’98 I believe, I was sitting on the foul side of the left field foul pole. Me and 3 buddies were stationed there, no one around us. It was a late August game with no fans in attendance. Boone hits a hooking rope that hooks foul, heading right for me. The ball hits me square in the hands, ricochets off behind me and my cousin wins the scramble for the ball. All I had to show for my efforts was a red, bruised hand!
5:55 p.m. The game is finally over and we begin our journey back to the car and head home.
6:05 p.m. We reach the car, turn on the ignition, and head home.
6:06 p.m. My wife’s asleep!
Despite the outcome, Opening Day is still a great experience. Listening to WLW on the way home made me realize something. Does the outcome of the game on Opening Day really matter? Sure, it would have been nice to bring home the W. Winning games is always an added bonus. But on Opening Day, isn’t it more about the excitement of a fresh, new season getting started. Watching your team take the field for the first time. Telling your buddies that Adam Dunn and Scott Hatteberg are on pace to hit 162 homeruns this season (nothing compared to the 324 dinger pace Pujols is on). It’s just a great feeling. I look forward to this day every year, and have ever since I was at least 12 and actually got wrapped up in these things. And I will continue to get excited for the Opening Day, even if the Reds have 10 consecutive losing seasons with no hope in sight.