Homer Bailey with young fans in Indianapolis. Photo: Gary Cochran

Homer Hears a Hoo(sier) – By Gary Cochran

The Reds Winter Caravan rolled into Indianapolis on Saturday with Jay Bruce giving way to Homer Bailey over the air. Jay left Indiana last night for Texas while Homer was leaving Texas to take Jay’s spot on the western leg of the caravan.

I arrived over an hour early to secure my spot and, sure enough, the autograph line was already 200 plus Reds fans long.  Fortunately, the line wrapped around perfectly where my spot was fairly close to the platform where the players were going to sit.  Unfortunately, the sound system was so bad that my good luck still didn’t allow me to hear much of what was going on.

Thom Brenneman arrived first on the stage and delivered the introductions.  He played to the crowd in his usual way by trying to stir up the college rivalries.  Most of the fans that were close enough to hear were only interested in the autographs so his wisecracking banter didn’t last long.

After his brief introduction, Thom began announcing the members of the panel.  Phil Castellini was the first to hit the stage. His introduction was filled with praise for how he and the rest of the Reds’ ownership were responsible for bringing the winning formula to Cincinnati. He received modest applause but the crowd was holding out for more star power. Phil was followed by Ryan LaMarre and the crowd still appeared unimpressed. Then came Corky Miller who finally got the fans excited.  Homer Bailey may have been billed as the marquee player on this stop but you would never know it in Indianapolis. Homer was the final introduction and it was time for the Q & A session.

My initial thought about this stop was that it was the first of the day and the players would be more upbeat than they would be later in the day. As it turns out, it was the first of five stops and they were in a hurry to get it over with so there wasn’t much interaction. The few questions that were posed (that I could hear) were the lighter fare such as: “If you weren’t playing baseball, what would you be doing?” “What’s your favorite color?”, etc. They let one five or six-year old fan ask a question but I had know idea what he said. They should consider bringing roadies next year to improve the acoustics.

Before autographs began, the caravan staff announced that time would only allow for one autograph per personality per person. That was not a rule that was obeyed. The fan directly in front of me had authentic home and away jerseys for Corky Miller and he signed them both. I am guilty of breaking that rule myself. I had intended on getting a ball signed by Homer but there was a vender near the line selling 8X10 photos of the no-hitter with Homer being hoisted in celebration by Ryan Hanigan so I couldn’t resist.  When I asked him if he would mind signing two items for me, Homer replied, “Hey, not my rule.” I walked away with a baseball signed on the sweet spot (he was even dating baseballs “9-8-28” in reference to his no-hitter) and a beautiful autographed photo commemorating one of top three Reds moments I have ever witnessed.

There wasn’t exactly time allotted for photos but Homer and Thom were allowing fans to pose with them while they signed since they were on either end of the panel.

I lingered while the Fox 59 representative interviewed Homer and Thom. Homer was asked the generic questions about how he likes the city and so forth and he gave the generic responses. The only thing I came away with after that interview was that it IS in fact colder in Indiana than it is in Texas. Thom appeared genuinely excited about the upcoming season and even went as far as declaring the 2013 Cincinnati Reds the favorites to WIN the World Series. He called this year’s team the best team he has seen since he has been broadcasting Cincinnati baseball.

Overall, the stop was great. Everyone who showed up got an autograph (or two… or three…). The personalities were all very friendly and didn’t appear to be irritated by anything. There were some strange requests. Some people walked by and couldn’t resist jumping in line to have anything signed—one guy had Homer Bailey sign his Indianapolis Colts Hat.  ???!  When the event ended, everyone quickly disappeared except Homer and Thom who participated in the interview with Fox and then disappeared.

For this Reds fan, it was well worth the 3-½ hour drive.