I’m home after a fantastic weekend at Redsfest. It was my first experience, and I came away with two firm conclusions:

1. If you haven’t been, you have to go to Redsfest. It is a first-class event, and Bob Castellini deserves as much praise as we can lavish upon him for going all-out on a fan event of this type; and

2. I’m definitely bringing my children to Redsfest next year. For several reasons, they couldn’t join me this time around, but there are a ton of activities for the kids.

Overall, lots of fun for everyone at Redsfest. I definitely enjoyed getting to talk to some of our favorites, including C. Trent (who related a great Dick Pole story) and Reds beat writer Mark Sheldon, and some other Reds bloggers including Doug and a couple of the OMGReds guys. Unfortunately, we kept missing Slyde of Red Reporter fame; maybe next time.

Below the fold, I’ll give some more of my thoughts and impressions of the weekend, many of which are culled from our twitter feed. I will also have some pictures (and video) of the event later, as soon as I get them all uploaded. And yes, that will include a picture of me with Dusty Baker.

Suffice to say: I was overwhelmed by the event, and that surprised me. We don’t get to say this enough, but: kudos to the Reds.

–Lines for autographs were very long. Which didn’t bother me a bit, since I don’t really care about getting autographs. Everyone did say, however, that players were very accomodating.

–Record attendance for Redsfest this year: 17,500 people, including 8.400 on Friday. That’s amazing, given the state of the product the Reds have put on the field over the last decade.

–Funniest/nicest/most entertaining Reds player I had the chance to interact with this weekend: Chris Dickerson. By far. (Although Jay Bruce and Carlos Fisher were high on the list, as well. These guys understand what a PR opportunity Redsfest is, and they took full advantage).

–Got to shake hands with and talk to Chuck Harmon, the first black player in Reds history. He was extremely nice. It was so much fun watching him interact with kids.

–Barry Larkin was the one guy I wanted to get a picture with, but he was a popular attraction. The lines were too long, so I skipped it. Someday, maybe he’ll come to Chadsfest, and he’ll stand in the line to get his picture with me. I’ll even give him an autograph.

–Dusty Baker said a couple of things of note. First, he dismissed summarily the idea of moving Brandon Phillips to SS. Also, he basically coronated Drew Stubbs as the starting CF. Baker seemed very impressed with Stubbs.

During a Q & A session, Dusty stammered through two straight Taveras questions from fans, and was about to get a third when Marty Brennaman rescued him by changing the subject. Give Dusty credit for recognizing the sentiment in the room, however. After initially trying to defend leading off Taveras all year, he said that Taveras will likely be forced to accept being the 4th or 5th outfielder in 2010.

–Edinson Volquez is on track to return “late July, early August” according to GM Walt Jocketty.

–Jocketty also said that first-rounder Mike Leake will likely start next season in AA.

–Baker was very complimentary of Homer Bailey. Bailey wasn’t there, by the way. He was probably the biggest name among current Reds who wasn’t in attendance.

–The crowd cheered every time Jonny Gomes’ name was mentioned. Jocketty said he had just talked with Gomes’ agent, and that they’d talk again at the upcoming Winter Meetings. I wasn’t too encouraged by his noncommittal answer, but the crowd seemed very satisfied.

–Classic moment: Eric Davis and Jay Bruce were next to each other, and there were lines for people to get their pictures taken with each of them. Davis: “Jay, why are all the chicks in your line?”

–I thought about asking this guy for his autograph, but I don’t think he really plays for the Reds.

–Winner of the most insane jersey that I saw, although one of the OMGReds guys wore a Scott Ruskin jersey. That’s pretty good.

Jim Maloney and Jerry Lynch. (Yes, I know the quality of the pics isn’t great; these are all snapped with my phone. Pics from my actual camera are forthcoming, and they should be better quality.)

–Ron Oester is really bald.

–Evidently, Oester chewed out Chris Sabo for being late to a photograph session, then Sabo got mad and left the building, refusing to do the session.

Later, the Reds got him to return, but he kept acting bizarrely. For example, when the 1990 Reds were on stage taking questions, Sabo was the only player who wasn’t sitting in the front row of seats on stage. He left his seat empty and sat behind everyone else. Also, he was the only player who wasn’t wearing a jersey.

–Tom Browning had a red plastic cup in his hand every single time I saw him during the two days at Redsfest.

–Mario Soto was wearing a sweet brown fedora. He looked just like Indiana Jones.

–I looked everywhere, but couldn’t find Adam Dunn. The Reds must not have invited him this year.

–I played in the Reds Community Fund charity poker tournament, and had a blast. Carlos Fisher was seated at my table for a long time, and he was great. Brandon Phillips was at the table next to me and he was as outgoing/exuberant as you would expect.

I just missed finishing in the money, but I outlasted over 90% of the field, by my count. The blind structure was absurd and stacks were ridiculously short, but it was a charity tournament, so it was all in good fun.

Marty Brennaman was hilarous — and off-the-record, if you know what I mean — when they were auctioning off various items. I will probably play in the tournament again in the future. It was a fun time.

Daniel Ray Herrera and a banana?

Poor Jack Armstrong.

–Once, Herm Winningham walked by me, and two guys said “Norm!”, Cheers-style. Strange.

–Mascot Gapper started dancing on stage. Comment from disgusted old lady behind me: “That’s obscene.”

–Lots of merchandise for sale. Would you pay $150 for a game-worn Daryl Thompson jersey? Me neither, but gotta admit that $25 seems like a bargain for this.

I almost purchased a game-worn David Weathers jersey, but I just couldn’t talk myself into spending actual money on it.

–Bronson Arroyo gave a pretty entertaining concert. His carpal tunnel must’ve been feeling okay, because he was pickin’ and grinnin’.

–Jim Day was all over the place, especially at the poker tournament, where he was doing play by play. I’m not going to comment further, because Day really seems like a genuinely nice guy.

–The place went absolutely nuts when the University of Cincinnati football team finished off Pitt in that crazy game on Saturday. It was a wild scene.