Phil Castellini has one foot on my neck and he knows it. Boy, do I know it, too. Still, he didn’t need to do it so forcefully, so publicly, so humiliatingly this week. You see, the Friday before Opening Day in Cincinnati, I picked up the phone and bought a season ticket.

There. I said it.

Go ahead. It’s your turn now. I’m the problem. I’m the reason Bob Castellini and son can get away with their new venture, Budget Baseball, a/k/a The Dollar Store Down By The River at Great American Gall Park. Say it. Nothing changes as long as people like me exist. Call me the sucker that I am. Call me clueless. I get it. And yes, I look away in shame as I pass by The Riverfront’s new billboard on I-75. Somewhere, my friend Chad Dotson is shaking his head right now, wondering where I went so wrong.

Lay on MacDuff.

Here’s the thing, though. I love my baseball. I wrote about it once. How my childhood Friday nights were spent meticulously laying out my Knothole baseball tee, pants and stirrup socks at the foot of the bed, praying Saturday wouldn’t bring with it rain. How I walked away from major league baseball after the strike in 1994; and how I only came back when my son—having, as it turned out, been a baseball fan in utero—began turning the channel from the Telletubbies to Taubensee, comma Eddie.

From thereon, it’s been three trips each summer down the Pennsylvania Turnpike from New York City, an average of 15 games a year to satisfy my Reds fix. I have long looked forward to the day when I might move here and wander the ballpark on any summer evening of my choosing, surfing on the rise and fall of the crowd noise at every barrel of the ball. So, when the dream came to fruition in October, when I settled in to my new home on river, I poured over the ballpark map online, agonizing over which was the most advantageous seat to purchase. On the aisle? In the shade of the overhang? How close to Joey? Then, I waited for the lockout to end.

You’d think we’d know by now just how little sports owners care about their patrons by now. I mean, Cincinnati has had Exhibit A right there down river at Paul Brown Stadium for decades, for god’s sake.

But, here we are, taking it in shorts once more, this time in the most audacious manner. This is going into the pantheon of local quotes, along with “I’m sorry I bet on baseball” and “I think of myself as a man of faith, as there’s a drive into deep left field…”

Don’t be surprised if you see workmen taking down Nuxy’s famous letters on the facade facing Ft. Washington Way while the Reds are on the road this weekend and replacing them with “WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO GO?” It was such a Marie Antoinette moment, it had me picturing the owner’s son wearing an 18th century gown and a powdered wig. Let them eat cake, indeed.

Any desire to see the accounting books of the Reds has become a moot point now. Phil Castellini made that apparent when he essentially told fans, “hey, I’m doubling down, and I’ll do it on Opening Day, no less, because I don’t need your ticket window money. I have Apple TV and Peacock silver to supplement my local TV coin, Disney Plus banknotes and my revenue-sharing bullion.”

Still, I’m going because I’m no longer in the early innings of my life. I don’t have the time left to wait for another Richie Rich to move into the owners’ suite and make public promises he has no intention of keeping. I’m not letting the Castellini family deprive me of those last few years watching the greatest first baseman the Cincinnati Reds have ever had. I’m not missing the second-coming of Dwight Gooden in the form of a long-awaited Greene prospect with an electric arm. I’m not going to miss baseball games in the company of my son and brother. I’m not going to be left with only the memories of my father’s late inning Lemon Chill, or my mother’s sequined Reds hat. I’m going to make as many new memories as I can, while I can. They may rob me of a competitive nine, but they won’t rob me of that.

The Reds employees worth feeling sorry for are the Media Relations folks who now have the impossible task of cleaning up the mess in Aisle Phil. Maybe part of that was the apology he issued to the fans later in the evening via press release:

“I apologize to Reds fans and regret the comments that I made earlier today. We love this city, we love this team, and we love our fans. I understand how our fans feel and I am sorry.”

All fine and dandy. But I gotta say in my best Roy Scheider voice, “you’re gonna need a bigger mop.”

Phil Castellini knows all this. But you must tip your cap to him. The brutal honesty is refreshing—in a deeply saddening way.

48 Responses

  1. Alex

    Admirable. At 35 and part of the lost generation of reds fans this might be it for me. I’m still at the point of my life where if some trust fund baby clown show asks, “where I’m going”, I don’t mind telling him. My fiance and I are planning lots of Florence Y’all trips and trips to lots of other ball parks. We’ll be wearing our reds gear and tagging the reds, “where ya gonna go?”

    Joey is on social media now, I don’t need bally sports to watch him.

    Let’s keep one very important thing in mind when we think of the incompetent trust fund baby garbage we witness. The players and coaches have obligations to speak to media. It’s my understanding that owners and GMs are under no such rule. That means that big bob, his jersey boy clown sons and Nick krall, go out of their way to say all these dumbs things. Phil went out of his way to go on a stage he didn’t have to and say that. And than, he doubled down. Cause that’s the kinda guy he is. Has done absolutely nothing in his life but thinks he’s a big deal cause of daddy. Screw him.

    • RedsFan11

      Well said Alex. I am part of the lost generation as well. I like your idea of tagging Reds on social media as you go to different places!

    • realist

      Very well said Alex, in effect the reds owners are telling the fans, who cares if you come to our games or not we are still going to be rich so screw you for criticizing us. I am so glad silver spoon Phil spoke his mind for now everyone knows what he thinks of the great unwashed reds fans. It is so much worse on twitter for the Castellini’s they get no love from anyone. Now Reds fans are going to be feeling what Oriole fans have felt the past decade, the reds roster is ridiculous with Aquino, Sanmartin, Moustakas. Also watch for Votto to fall way back on his numbers from last year without Winker and Castellanos to protect him in the lineup.

  2. RedsFan11

    Richard, usually I disagree with you but I must say I’ve never liked one of your articles more. I completely understand your position. I myself will go to a few games this year and will feel that sense of shame and disappointment in myself for going.

    But it’s not Doug, Chad, RLN or Macduff that you should be feeling the shame from. It’s the Castellini’s. They make me feel embarrassed and ashamed to go to a game and support and invest in my team because they reap the benefits all while investing little or nothing in return.

  3. Pablo

    All well said Richard and enjoy your new memories at the ballpark with your brother and son. Maybe just bring in your own food and beverages so the Scrooges don’t get any extra cash from us deplorables.

  4. Hotto4Votto

    I know where I’m not going. I’m not going back to GABP while the Castellini’s own the Reds. Phil’s made that concrete in my mind, I was already on the fence. I can’t support them any longer.
    Went to my first Bengals game last season, probably going to plan on another. FC Cincinnati games have always been fun too. Then all the Marvel movies, lots of entertainment choices.

  5. Steven Ross

    The hubris of Castellini to make such a crass comment is not only disingenuous to team, fans but City as well. I’m abashed at his ‘tude. Sell the team so you and your Daddy can save face. In simple terms: Get lost!

  6. Doc4uk

    Baseball is really screwed up in general. The fact that there is really no salary cap or any real effort to create some competitive balance is the real issue

    • SultanofSwaff

      +1. Baseball missed it’s best chance to right the ship with the latest bargaining agreement. Despite a few player’s best intentions, clearly greed on both sides took precedence over the best interest of the league. You’d think they would look at baseball and football and get a clue, but alas.

  7. Cyrus

    Mr. Fitch can flat out write. Maybe Richie Rich is years away from buying the team but this piece has 4 $$$$ as a rating cause it was rich.

    Great piece!

  8. realist

    Great article, i understand why you got the tickets and I don’t hold it against you. As for me my son is a dodgers fan and we will be buying tickets for that game but wearing dodger blue at least. I fell in love with the 1990 team after moving to Ohio, but this past off season was too much. i follow redleg nation cause it is good drama and writing, I will be back if and when Bob sells the team. For anyone who says good riddance, be advised there are many who feel like I do.

    • 2020ball

      I for sure wont hold it against you sir, same as anyone buying tickets to watch their favorite team.

  9. Doc4uk

    However having stated this the REDS scouts and GM’s have really screwed up with the signing of Mike Moustakis and Mike Minor and others.

  10. Frankie Tomatoes

    I just got back from a well needed two week get away. I missed the Castellini comments and I’m glad I did. How disconnected from reality can one person be?

    Nice piece, Richard. As another person who is “experienced in life” I can understand making the best of the time we’ve got.

  11. Doc

    25-30 years ago I accompanied my daughter on a confirmation retreat when we lived in Dallas. The retreat director gave a very cogent example about someone who feels slighted by another, then alters his or her behavior to avoid the person perceived to have caused the slight. Won’ go to social functions where the other might be there. Avoids the person at business functions. Whatever. In effect, the ‘slighted’ gives the other person significant control over the ‘slighted’s’ life, denying himself/herself pleasures and enjoyment of life.

    His teaching is clearly evident in reading these threads. How miserable it must be to live a life complaining at every turn about something which is a total non-essential to a good life. Richard is the smart one, not because he wrote the article, but because he chose to not let things he can’t control deprive him of the pleasures of baseball and family in his life.

    • realist

      Dude, we won’t go to the games because we don’t want to enable incompetence. How can you determine whether people who complain or vent on this site are miserable? It is a huge stretch to imagine anyone who writes a negative post regarding the ineptitude of the Reds organization with being miserable in all other aspects of their lives. It would be like me saying you are a terrible baseball fan for not criticizing the incompetence displayed by the Castellini family. Or asking the administrator to censure what you say because I find it disgusting. Truly you have a dizzying intellect.

  12. old-school

    Well said Richard and I agree.
    I’ll be at GABP very soon cheering on Jon India and the team and strolling through the park to see the views of the river and stopping by the Banks. Looking forward to it.

  13. Votto4life

    This year marks my 50th year as a Reds fan. A half of a Century. Of those 50 seasons, 47 of them ended in disappointment. Why is it then am I still a Reds fan? Because of the other three.

    • greenmtred

      Exactly, Votto. And because baseball is fun to watch. I don’t much care was young Phil said.

  14. Jim Walker

    Five of the 1970’s Big Red Machine “Regular 8” players were born in a ~30 month period within which my own birth date falls. Thus, I had the good Reds fan luck to come of age with the BRM.

    Even prior to those BRM days, I’d experienced a Reds pennant as a not quite teenager in 1961 and also the devastation of a barely missed opportunity in 1964 when I sat in a field box at Crosley Field on October 2, 1964, literally within 2-300 hundred feet of The Triple Play which robbed the Reds of at least a regular season tie for the National League pennant. That one night was several years’ worth of growing up for the 15 year old me.

    Following the BRM era, the 20th century wound up with the 1990 World Championship, a couple of division titles (’79 and ’95), and the heartbreak of 1999’s near miss along with a couple of what might have been seasons resulting from work stoppages in 1981 and 1994. I enjoyed the good and threw my hands (and maybe other things at times,) into the air over the bad.

    As the organization has struggled for the last 2 decades aside from the fleeting glimpse of success in 2010-13, I have also struggled within myself to not take on the persona of an aging person jaded by the success of the team in the previous decades. Hopefully, I have succeeded more often than not.

    This said, because of what I have experienced, the great and not so great which together define my memories, I cannot truly put myself into the heart and mindset of those Reds fans who have not had the privilege to experience what I have as a Reds fan, My advice to all is to do what you must to maximize your own experience and memories. That’s what I’ll be doing.

    • Michael Armstrong

      Great reflection as always Jim. For myself, I am always going to follow and root for this team, no matter what. They are a common interest that I have with my adult son, and we enjoy some laughs even if we have to talk about how bad they are. We still chuckle over Gary Majewski stats (like giving up 134 hits in only 78 innings as a Red). Unfortunately for me, I became a fan at the worst possible time – 1977 – and so have enjoyed a grand total of one World Series victory in 44 years if I am doing the math right.

      • Dayton Ducks

        Same here! I was getting ready for school in rural VT on that fateful October 1976 morning when my Dad took a call from his younger brother in Dayton. He came into the kitchen and said “The Cincinnati Reds just won their second straight World Series.” I had no idea who they were but was hooked at that moment just by my Dad’s simple statement. From ’77 on I was baseball mad, but convinced that I’d just missed it, that I would never witness another title–1990 was a most pleasant surprise.

  15. Scott in Texas

    Beautifully written article, Richard. It is why I can not and will not ever turn my back on this team or this sport. It’s not about the ownership, the players, or the end of season record for me. The Reds are part of my fabric and have been since I began listening to their games in 1976 while living in a small town in Southern Indiana. It’s about that child that I was, spamming the WLW call line for the possibility of getting to ask Bob Trumpy a question about how the Reds were going to fare in the upcoming season. It’s about that same child once getting through to ask his favorite player, Pete Rose, a question. It’s about the memories I share with my older brother, and the times that he would charge down the stairs and I would charge up the stairs, to celebrate a late night game winning homerun from Tony Perez. Baseball to me will always be greater than the sum of its parts, whomever and whatever those parts may be at any given time. This is my team, and I too have dreamed about retiring nearby so that I can spend my days and evenings in that ballpark. Wins and losses aside, I just want to close out my life in a manner similar to how I started it – watching my favorite team play my favorite sport, and hoping that THIS year will finally be the year. Thanks again for writing this, Richard.

    • Richard Fitch

      Thank you for sharing that, Scott

  16. Mark Moore


    Well written and thoughtful article. I wouldn’t think of blaming you for your choice. Season tickets are a commitment, but they aren’t the majority of ticket/gate revenue and that’s only a slice of the pie anyway.

    For an out-of-towner such as me, my choice will be not to visit and spend money in Cincinnati. I have closer options (Nats or Braves) plus I have MiLB teams nearby (including the infamous Durham Bulls).

    My reaction to Phil’s arrogance is disgust. He and Big Daddy are way out of touch with people like you who are beyond loyal fans, yet he challenges our commitment while showing none of his own. I hope for the best from our Reds … but long-term, this arrangement will be problematic.

    Where will I go? Not to Cincy at this point. Not at all. But that’s my choice and I respect the choices others make.

  17. Daytonnati

    Welcome back to Reds Country, Richard! My career took me out-of-state for 20 years and, miraculously, brought me back for the past 14. I have never regretted returning for a single second. I hope your return means more contributions to the RLN – I always enjoy your takes.

    Like you, age has softened my “absolutes”, as in I am a little more careful about “absolutely” doing or not doing anything anymore. As such, during the strike I knew I would be coming back – I missed it too much. The Bengals made this off-season much more tolerable, but there is still nothing like the Reds on TV or at the ballpark. Everyone fretting about how to see the games with the various TV packages? That used to be me. Until I realized Occam’s Razor advises me to purchase Spectrum and know I will see them all, home and away. Literally, one trip to the ballpark = a month’s worth of games on cable.

    Am I disappointed with Reds ownership? Yes. But I was also appalled at the Bengals ownership over the years and then watched them completely reset the narrative with two #1 draft picks and an major infusion of swagger. I suspect getting a Bengal ticket will be much more difficult going forward. I am hoping the Castellinis were paying close attention to the electricity in the ballpark Opening Day with the “Who Dey?” chants. The Bengals aren’t “spending” money anymore, they are “investing” it. A big difference, but the key to success in almost all business endeavors .

  18. Nick Kirby

    Thanks for this Richard. At some point during the dark days of 2016, I realized how foolish that I was for being so upset and negative during an incredible 2012 season because of my dislike of Dusty Baker. I promised myself that I would never let that happen again. Life is too short to be upset about things out of our control and let that steal things that bring us joy.

    • TR

      Well stated. Todo passa. The saga of Phil C. and Castellini ownership will not interrupt real fans love for the Reds.

  19. Votto4life

    I will still follow the Reds in 2022 but it won’t be with the same level of commitment. Caring for my 91 year old disabled mother requires a good deal of planning for me to get away to the ballpark for a few hours. I made the effort last season and attended 25 games or so, but Im not sure how often I’ll make it to the GABP this year.

    I will still listen to listen to a fair amount of games and follow the team on the internet. But I won’t be there much in person.

    I have watched a lot of bad baseball over the years. I have survived some pretty bad owners. Lord willing, I survive this current lot.

  20. LDS

    I’d take Baker over Bell any day of the week. And Marge over Bob just as readily.

    • 2020ball

      You’d want another bad manager just because you dont like the current one? Thats utterly ridiculous.

      • LDS

        Baker had a .524 winning pct while managing the Reds. In six seasons, Baker’s teams finished first twice. Bell has .490. His best finish was 2nd in 2020 during the COVID shortened season. Had the season progressed, the Reds probably wouldn’t have finished 2nd. So, while many here don’t like Baker, that he was more successful is unambisuous.

      • greenmtred

        I like Baker. His teams were clearly more successful than Bell’s have been to date. His rosters were generally better, too, which is why his teams were more successful. Most of the complaints against Bell were made against Baker, and likely would be made against any manager. Fans judge with the benefit of hindsight and rarely take into account that baseball is, at its core, a game that features frequent failure.

  21. doofus

    Are Phillip Queeg and Phillip Castellini the same person?

  22. Chad Dotson

    Where did you go so wrong, Richard?

    • Old-school

      My daughter went climbing and camping with a group in Virginia for spring break . I found out there are places in Virginia not far from Reds country. Didnt know that.

      • Chad Dotson

        That’s how I became a Reds fan. 3.5 hours from Cincinnati, but just across the Kentucky border in Virginia.

      • TR

        Reds fans in Virginia probably go back to the days of 8 teams in the N.L. with the Reds and Cardinals the most southern geographically at that time.

  23. William

    Why the Reds are not taking advantage of having Joey Votto and doing their very best to win a World Series, I do not know. I think they make more money by keeping Winker. They might be 4 and 2, instead of 2 and 4. Well, maybe Hunter Greene wins Rookie of the Year, and Senzel has an All Star year. Perhaps, Votto wins his second MVP. Wishful thinking? Yes.

  24. Rod Andrews

    Go to the games, enjoy the season, and forget what Castellini said. Reds fans need to quit being so thin-skinned and quick to throw in the towel. Why do any of us believe we have to be consulted by the front office? I’m not letting anybody keep me upset. It is what it is. If you dont want to go to the game, dont go. If you do…

  25. KathyB

    Welcome home, Richard. When I lived in NKY I generally lacked funds to go the ballpark except for daughter’s free tickets (Lindner era) for getting great grades in elementary school. We would upgrade the old Riverfront seats to lower nosebleeds. She and her friend would wander around and ignore the game.

    Now she is married to a bonafide baseball fan. She learned to listen to Marty and Cowboy on the radio and fell in love with the goofiness of the the banana phone. They live in the wilds of Indiana. I told Tim he just moved a little farther west than Delhi. Maybe a trip to a game with them will happen this year.

    My only request for Christmas 2021 was a Joey Votto shirt. I now have two. A red tshirt with Reds logo on front and Joey and number on back. A white game jersey style with #19 and Votto on it. Nevermind that the vendor ripped us by send a much too large jersey. Must have sent men’s size shirt. Ordered next size down (no returns for size issue) and they sent a youth one. It might fit daughter.

    Regardless of ownership they are OUR Reds. When people expressed sympathy to Roger Ebert after Murdoch bought the Chicago Sun Times , he said “It’s my paper, he just owns it.”