My point exactly. You’re right on the money my dude

The 2014 Cincinnati Reds Coaching Staff – A Freshman Class

Hello, fellow Reds fans.

The Cincinnati Reds have officially played 63 games in the year 2014. They have won 29 of those games.

But more disconcertingly, they have lost 34 of those games.

The “beginning breeze” of baseball season is swiftly moving onward into the mid-season grind. We are slowly closing in on seeing what the Reds are capable of, and are moving more into – “Well, this is what we’ve got, and this is what we don’t.”

At what point do you realize you have reached your ceiling?

In the beginning of June, I believe the ceiling has yet to be reached.

Since the first postseason birth in 2010, this organization has changed drastically. Looking back over the past three years, the amount of shifts between Reds 40-man rosters and coaching staffs is simply astonishing.

If you look at this chart, you will see the Reds 40-man from 2010. Only 10 players from that squad are on the team today, while 14 were dropped after 2010 and 20 maintained the roster but are not there today.

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As you recall, the Reds went 91-71 and finished first in the NL Central but fell 3-0 in the NL series against the Phillies.

Now if you look at 2011 by contrast, the Reds added three more players that are on the squad today (Todd Frazier, Devin Mesoraco and Zach Cozart), dropped 18 players and kept nine more guys that would later be dropped.

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The Reds went 79-83 in 2011, finishing third in the NL and did not make a post season appearance.

Now onto 2012. The Reds added Ryan Ludwick, but primarily cleaned house on their pitching staff and added six new guys, including Broxton, Cingrani, Hoover, Latos, Simon and Marshall.

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 2.21.10 AMThe Reds would go 97-65, finishing first the NL Central, but would fall 3-2 in the NL Division Series against the Giants (shudders).

And last but not least, 2013. The Reds dropped 12 of its players, but kept a majority of things the same.

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The Reds would go 90-72, finishing third in the NL Central but appearing in the postseason on a wildcard spot. However they fell to the Pirates in the one-game show.

Now. It’s 2014. And we look like this:

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We have 13 new men to the roster.

I wanted to show these charts and highlight the players with the intention of showing how the Reds have grown and progressed, and in what areas we have invested in players and in what areas we have remained relatively unchanged.

If you compare the graphs from 2010 to 2011, you notice one of the largest differences  is the infielders. By simply adding Cozart and Frazier, they have slowly “weeded out” other guys that they don’t have as strong of an intent of using. However, after 2011, the outfielders and infielders remain a very consistent with a few drop outs.

The largest difference here is the pitching staff from 2011 to 2012. After eliminating 12 men, they were able to add the pitchers we see throwing today, and into 2013, it was even greater solidified.

Now, you may be wondering: Okay, that’s great, but why does it matter?

Well. Because we can pitch right now. But we can’t hit. (Expert analysis here, I assure you.)

One of the most consistent problems with the new era of Reds baseball (2010 onward) is the lack of offense. The Reds were able to look at the 2000s and see our severe pitching problem, and they fixed it by stacking us with several just knockout players.

But they didn’t anticipate our offensive problem.

The infielders, outfielders and catchers have always changed and shifted throughout the 2010+ era of Reds baseball. However, I believe the Reds are now on a movement to gain stronger hitters. They have put their faith a few strong guys who have shown offense in the past – Votto, Bruce, Phillips, Ludwick and Heisey – and they are still holding strong to new guys such as Frazier and Cozart. However, the bringing in of Skip Schumaker and Brayan Pena (although not anticipated to be as successful as he has been) I believe shows that they have acknowledged our hitting problem, and want to bring it out of the woodwork and out in full force.

Long story short, the charts of players show who has been on the team when they have made it to the postseason and who has not. We made it there in 2010, 2012 and 2013. But who on the team now was there then, and could get us there now?

Only ten from the 2010 squad.

Yet if you look at the 2012 and 2013 squads, a majority of the guys are still on the team today. 2012  did win games, and 2013 did appear in the postseason.

The guys know what it takes to make it to October. Despite it being June, they know the atmosphere, environment and pure talent that it takes to make it.

The men have the talent and have proven it to us.

Well, then why aren’t we winning? If not much changed with the men on the team, then what exactly is “going wrong?”

Take out the painful truth that guys are getting older and we have been dealt with our fair share of injuries. Look beyond the 40-man to the group of 10 who we call their coaches.

Out of the 10 (excluding Bryan Price), seven are in their first season with the Reds.

They’re the new guys here. Not the players.

The Freshman Class includes:

Nilson Antigua, Bullpen Catcher;

Don Long, Hitting Coach;

Jay Bell, Bench Coach;

Jeff Pico, Pitching Coach;

Freddie Benavides, Coach;

Steve Smith, 3B Coach;

and Lee Tinsley, Asst. Hitting Coach.

The three that are not are Billy Hatcher (1B Coach, 9th season), Mike Stefanski (Catching Coord., 11th season) and Mack Jenkins (Bullpen Coach, 3rd season).

Let’s look at pitching-coach turned Manager, Bryan Price. In his previous four-year tenure as pitching coach, the Reds ranked seventh, 12th, third and fourth in team ERA, and his 2012 and 2013 staffs were two of the most successful in franchise history. Before arriving with the Reds, he spent 10 seasons as pitching coach for the Mariners and Diamondbacks. He has endless experience working with pitchers and he knows how to turn a staff into a top-notch group of men.

But does he know how to handle hitters?

I’m not trying to imply that the reason we can’t score runs is because the pitching coach is now in charge of the whole operation. The players are major league players and should know how to hit and drive in runs.

No can ever look at a situation like this and pinpoint the exact problem and what is going wrong. Winning takes a lot of factors falling into place, and losing takes a lot of factors falling out of place.

The Reds have consistently had a problem with driving in runs, situation hitting, etc. Yet this year it all seems so much worse than usual.

Take a look at hitting coach Don Long. Mr. Long spent 2011-2013 as minor league hitting coordinator for the Braves and was the Pirates’ Major League hitting coach from 2008-2010. He has 11 years of minor league managerial experience, all with the Angels, and three times was voted his league’s Manager of the Year.

In 2008, the Pirates finished sixth in the NL Central with a record of 67-95. In 2009, they again finished sixth in the NL Central, going 62-99. In 2010, they lost 105 games (57-105), again finishing sixth.

(Because, well, Cubs.)

In 2010, the maximum amount of runs scored was 15 vs. the Brewers. Most of the games they won were against the Cubs and the Astros. In the games they lost, they were barely able to muster more than 3 or 4 runs.

Now. I know there are many more push-pull factors that go into a loss and a win. But on paper… the offense doesn’t look good. It may be there batters. Or it may be the coaching staff.

Moving onto the rest of the coaching staff:

Nilson Antigua (bullpen catcher) replaced veteran bullpen catcher Mike Stefanski, who is now the catching coordinator. Prior, he spent five seasons from 2009-2013 as the organization’s hitting coach and catching instructor in the Dominican Summer League.

Jay Bell (bench coach) worked with Reds manager Bryan Price at Arizona in 2006, when he was the bench coach and Price the pitching coach. He worked in Arizona for 5 seasons overall, as bench coach for the club in 2005 and 2006 and as an advisor for 3 more seasons from 2007-2009.

Freddie Benavides (coach) spent the previous 15 years in the Reds’ Minor League system, including the last 6 as player development field coordinator.

Jeff Pico (pitching coach) spent the previous 11 seasons in the Diamondbacks system, the last two as Minor League field coordinator.

Steve Smith (3B coach) is on his third season on a Major League coaching staff, after spending three years with the Indians. Prior to joining Cleveland he was an Infield and Third Base coach at the Major League level for eleven (11) seasons with the Seattle Mariners (1996-99), Texas Rangers (2002-06) and Philadelphia Phillies (2007-08) and has 36 seasons of professional baseball experience under his belt since beginning his playing career in 1976.

Lee Tinsley (Asst. hitting coach) spent the previous three years as the Cubs’ minor league outfield/baserunning coordinator and spent five seasons as a first base coach in the Major Leagues for the Diamondbacks (2006-2008) and Mariners (2009-2010).

Bryan Price worked in Arizona from 2006-2009. Out of these men, three worked with him during his tenure for the Diamondbacks.

In 2006, the Dbacks went 76-86, finishing fourth in the NL West. In 2007, they went 90-72, finishing first and sweeping the Cubs in the NL Division Series but falling to the Rockies in the NL Championship Series. In 2008, they finished second in the NL West, going 82-80. In 2009, they finished fifth with a record of 70-92.

A majority of the coaches have worked with other major league clubs before. Many have worked in minor league systems. However, focusing primarily on hitting, the new hitting coach and assistant hitting coach appear to either have little experience working with hitters… or a low success rate while working with hitters.

So. What’s the problem with the Reds, exactly?

You decide.

 

Witte.

Opening Week 2014

Hello fellow Reds fans!

Baseball… is back. *dun dun dun*

To say I’m happy would be an understatement. I’m not happy. I’m ecstatic. I’m overjoyed. I’m exuberant. I’m a kid on Christmas morning. In my mind, we’ve already won the World Series. That’s how happy I am.

(An overstretch? Possibly.)

I was fortunate enough to spend my Opening Week (aka Opening Day and Opening Night and then the “other game” the day after Opening Night) with members of the Reds family. Between the Power Stacks peeps and the Twitter peeps, both games were nothing but a non-stop social interaction surrounded by my favorite sport on the planet. As I think most games should be.

I’ve always been of the opinion that games should be generated for each individual fan’s interests. For some people, that means going with the family, letting the kids run around in the Fan Zone and letting them experience the game. There’s the people who go for a good night out, and there’s people who go religiously to every game, focusing in primarily on stats and numbers and the “logistics” side of the game. You have casual fans and die-hards, ballpark and food enthusiasts and autograph collectors. Personally, I believe most people are a healthy, steady combination of every quality – we all love the entirety of the game with our “favorite parts” to watching it or going down to the ballpark.

I’m the kind of person who likes to follow in on logistics when I’m watching the game at home or listening on the radio, but when I’m at the game, I’m a social butterfly. I want to talk to people, interact with them and be part of the GABP movement. I’ll cheer for Joey and boo for Neck Tat. Sure, I’ll pay attention to the logistics and other factors – but in the moment, I’m a normal fan who wants to chat it up with other fans.

And then I’ll read the recap online the day after.

You have to make the game your game. If you want to watch every pitch and analyze it, do it. If you want to watch your kids run around on the playground, do it. If you want to chat it up, chat it up. If you want to do a steady combination of everything – then do that.

You do you, kid. You do you.

A HUGEE shoutout to all of my friends and family that I was fortunate enough to spend time with on Monday and Wednesday. I’m so excited to spend this season with you. I could list off all of your names.. But you know you are. Yes, you. You’re awesome.

PICTURES!

Opening Day….

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Opening Night…

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(Ignore the pure grossness of T-Witty and I meeting Nicky G. It’s fine.)

The next game I’ll be attending will be April 11. Hence, you better be there too.

#NecessarySass

Em

Thought Processes During A Typical Reds Game

HI FRIENDS!!!!

Oh my goodness. I have missed you all SOOOOO much. It’s not even funny. Like, I just want to hug you all. “Hi, I’m Emily and I like warm hugs!”

I’m so happy baseball season is returning. Seriously. I feel like even with all of the things that are going on in my life right now, I am ten times happier and more optimistic now that baseball is ALMOST here.

In honor of baseball almost returning, I’m going to do a post dedicated to “Thought Processes During A Typical Reds Game.”

But you have to make it through work first. Which can kinda suck.

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Then… it’s 5 o’clock! And you’re freee!

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You rush to your car… only to be greeted with traffic.

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You quickly change in your car, and walk to GABP, greeted by a few of your friends…

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You are invincible.

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Until you walk in and lose each other five seconds later.

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REUNITED UNDER THE ONE TRUE LOVE OF FOOD

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You find your way to your seats…

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And the game begins.

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Cueto is healthy and pitching, so you’re like…

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But then the Cards start off with a solo homer. And their offense continues to respond in stride.

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Things don’t look good. Your buddy looks at you going:

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Okay, time to redeem ourselves.

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Votto starts off with a double…

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And BP knocks in an RBI.

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TAKE THAT, CARDS.

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Okay. Second inning. We got this.

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Cueto keeps up the strong pitching, striking out each batter.

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But kinda boring.

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Er, um, exciting!

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It’s been three innings. WHY HAVEN’T WE DONE ANYTHING.

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Someone tries to make small-talk with you but you’re just like:

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Nothing may be happening, but it’s YOUR nothing.

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You try to read the opposing team’s lineup…

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*mumbles names to self* OH HELLO GOD BLESS AMERICA.

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Inning break. Nothing’s happened lately… and people are going a little bit crazy.

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You start to think of what it will be like if we do win. Or at least score.

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Annddddd the Cards are winning.

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Finally. Our time to shine.

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Frazier is up to bat.

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(And Frank Sinatra reminds you that you are incredibly, incredibly single.)

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Frazier strikes out. Jay Bruce is up.

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Two strikes…

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And BOOM. WALK-OFF HOMER!

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Girls are screaming, and Jay’s all like…

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Cardinals fans are like:

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But we’re like:

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You driving home with your buddies, happy as ever:

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But your friends are like:

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Overall, when you get home, you’re perfectly content.

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You could be this, but you don’t care.

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Peace out, whiny birds!

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Emily

Reds Caravan

Hello fellow Reds fans! Long time no blog!

For those of you who just love to keep up with my personal life, you know that I’ve been writing my blog on my internship at ESPN1530. I try to limit that blog to career-specific things, and even though I would love to ramble about the Reds… Well… 

I can’t.

But this weekend I was able to step back from my role as the intern and just be Emily, the Reds fanatic. My sister and I drove down to Lex Vegas (aka Lexington, KY) for the stop at the Kentucky Horse Park on Saturday. After a lengthy battle with traffic, wind, snow and faulty GPS’s, we finally arrived at around 4:10pm. The Reds had yet to officially arrive, and did not enter the building until around 4:20 (except for Corky Miller, who apparently drove himself and walked in before everybody else did…)

The Reds arrived with Thom Brennaman, Phil Castellini, Walt Jocketty, Jim Day, Mr. Redlegs, Corky Miller, Sam LeCure and Ryan LaMarre. *swoon*

I looked at the table of men in front of me and I noticed two things: One, everyone up there has more power and makes more money than I will ever have. And two, they all have really awesome hair (minus Mr. Jocketty).

Hence, I entitled that leg of the tour: The Fabulous Hair Tour (minus Walt).

They answered around ten or fifteen questions before the small crowd stood in line for autographs. This was the first year that the Reds have done the Lexington leg at the Horse Park and not the mall, so they allotted three hours when the entire event was completed in less than two. My sister and I were able to have solid, decent conversations with everybody on the tour. Thom is probably one of the sweetest, most personable people I’ve ever met, and Sam LeCure does not want to follow my sister on Twitter because she only tweets about the Reds and he “already knows all about that.”

So much sass. And really great hair.

Mr. Redlegs snuck up behind Tess and scared her half to death (it was hilarious), we talked to the representatives from the HOF, and we were also able to chat with Michael Anderson. We both verbalized our fears of Rob Butcher, were hit on by mascots and were able to see the spectrum of Reds Country beyond the Greater Cincinnati Area.

Also, do you guys remember how during Redsfest I finally told Devin that I was the one who wrote the blog piece on him and how there was a Reds employee who finally urged me to go talk to him? TESS AND I SAW HIM TOO! And he remembered us! 

“Yeah, I remember you guys… Weren’t you the one who was like, ‘I don’t want to be awkward, I don’t want to be awkward…’ “

Oh Emily. Good job.

His name is Matt. He’s an executive in ticket sales.

And he’s super friendly.

But the true topper of the event (and what made the gas worth it) was that I was able to get a selfie with Ryan LaMarre *insert swoons here*

Proof.

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Guys. This is the most perfect human being. Ever.

Sigh. Swoon. Sigh.

He also gave Tess his autographed name tag, with a drawing of Corky Miller on the back.

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I’m telling you guys. Ryan LaMarre. Do not forget his name.

We also got pictures taken with Mr. Redlegs (who is a HUGE flirt)…

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And we took a selfie. Because tradition.

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Our good friend Michael also took our picture with Corky.

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Overall, very successful day. 

Sunday was the Select-A-Seat event at GABP, the final leg of the Caravan where every stop met back home to do a final spot dedication to both local sports fans and season ticket holders.

Our father told us “no” to season tickets this year, but we still wanted to go to the event. 

We were around five minutes late (typical) and we were able to snag a seat by the end of the room. Our friends Katie and Rob were there too, along with Lisa, Jamie, Michael, Rob Butcher and dozens of other Reds employees. Michael was taking pictures, Jamie was wandering and Lisa was tweeting, Instagramming and Facebooking. 

(Sorry Jamie.)

The crowd size was average, but I don’t think it was as big as the Reds were hoping. I still considered it to be a success, mainly because I was able to see so many good Reds people. 

Tess and I acted like complete goofballs, but here’s the thing – we had fun. The day was fun. It was memorable. And even though I may have gotten many weird looks, I wouldn’t trade the day anything in the world.

Except I did try to put Phil Castellini on the spot and ask him, “Are you looking for any interns?” but right as I raised my hand, the Q & A session was over. 

Dang it.

I did ask Brayan Pena what he thought his new walk-up song would be (his first question of the day) and he first said how grateful and thankful he was to be a part of the Reds organization, and then said he liked a little bit of everything and would have to ask his wife what she thought (which then led Tess to loudly clamp her hands over her heart and exclaim, “That’s so cute!!!”)

Being goofballs…

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Selfie!

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Beautiful ballpark.

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Our good friend Rob (@RedlegsRobby) was interviewed by people at Fox Sports. He was also able to get his Eric Davis jersey signed, which he’s been waiting to get signed for over 20 years. That’s dedication. Or insanity. 

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Tess also introduced herself to Zach Bonkowski, Promotional Events Director for the Reds. She was super nervous, but I’m very proud of her for taking the initiative to introduce herself. #ProudSista

Overall, the weekend was a huge success.

Until next time,

~Witte

PS. 61 days till Opening Day.

#Redsfest 2013

Hello fellow Reds fans!

Sweet Jesus. What a weekend.

Redsfest 2013 was, in a word, amazing.

My weekend began Thursday night when the volunteers reported for training down at the DECC.

First walking in, this is the line… 

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Someone came along and handed us programs to skim over to grasp a brief idea of the weekend. Making it to the front of the line, I was greeted by two people surrounded by programs, papers and flashcards. They handed me my assignment and I picked up a detailed list of the volunteer positions.

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Seconds later, the Reds very own Nick St. Pierre (aka Gapper) loudly and proudly handed me my t-shirt. The “theme” for Redsfest was the original and classic Mr. Redlegs image, as noted by the t-shirts, bags and staff polo’s. I loved it.

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The volunteers were then served free pizza, and slowly we all entered the main floor of the event.

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It was beautiful.

The “guy in charge” gave his typical speech and thank you’s, going over the gist of what it means to volunteer, how important our job is, positivity, etc, etc. We were then divided up into groups of four and taken on personal tours of the vicinity. Our tour was led by a man named Patrick, Promotional Events Manager for the Reds. He explained the layout of the event, various tasks for each area and other important pieces and questions to make sure each volunteer understood what they were expected to do. 

We were greeted by other Reds employees during this time who further explained areas such as Autographs and Photographs that are of dire importance for fans, including Ralph Mitchell (a proud no-shave November participant), Vice President of Communications and Marketing. Our tour group was explained areas at the same time as Nick St. Pierre’s group, which definitely added a new and happy twist to the explanations. 

Here are some pictures from the tour, including the VIP Season Ticket Holder Lounge and the Connect Zone. Sorry for the poor quality… walking and taking pictures is more difficult than it appears. 

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Once the tour was finished, Patrick answered any questions we had and then we were sent on our way, excited to embrace the weekend.

Walking back to my car, I took this picture of Fountain Square, all lit up and decorated for Christmas. Not very baseball-y, but I thought it was pretty. #WorthIt

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Friday morning, I woke up at 730, scurried along to my 8am class, and then promptly returned to my dorm around 915, freezing but excited. I had classes at 1220, 125 and 230. By 330 I would be done with classes for the rest of the semester and by 4 I would be at Redsfest. Or so I thought.

Thursday night my 230 class was cancelled, and Friday at 930am, the University announced that they were closing at 1pm to make sure students and faculty/staff could avoid the bad weather that was scheduled to hit around 3pm. My class at 1220 is scheduled to last until 115, so my professor just cancelled it, not wanting students to have to stay for only 40 minutes. 

So essentially, my day was over by 9am. 

My parents, the protective spazzes that they are, booked a hotel room at the Millennium for the weekend, so I could avoid having to drive in the poor conditions. I arrived at the hotel around 1pm, my sister already having gotten there at 12pm. I valeted my car and happily embraced the warmth of the hotel. Tess greeted me the lobby and we went upstairs to our room.

Redsfest was scheduled to begin at 3, but the doors opened at around 230. That gave two teenage girls with one bathroom and two mirrors approximately an hour and a half to prep and physically place themselves in line to enter the building.

More difficult than one would think.

After much struggle, by 2pm, both of us were Redsfest ready.

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We went downstairs to eat lunch, happily greeted by our friends Lori, Katie, Summer, Tiffany, Melissa and Summer’s friend. While eating, the Reds tweeted that Joey and Jay would be at Photograph 1 at 315. It was only 215, but Tess was ready to go.

We ate as fast as we could, paid, and then promptly sprinted to the DECC. We were less than a block away, but entering this building was A STRUGGLE.

There’s a skywalk that connects the DECC to the Millennium. We figured there would be no problem is using it to enter the event, avoiding the cold and a long walk. When we tried to enter, however, the guard said we could not unless we were volunteers or workers. Upset but still in a hurry, the coatless Wittsters rushed downstairs and across the street to the main doors of the event. 

But then we were turned away AGAIN because the tickets were at will call and we entered in through the wrong door.

Still coatless, we finally made it to the “proper door.” Feeling extremely salty, we stood in line waiting for the tickets at will call and the bags/Tess’s lanyard. 

Okay, so let me try to play this out for you. You’ve got two girls both under the age of 20 trying to meet Joey Votto. One of them is his biggest fan and will do ANYTHING – I mean anything – to meet him. We’re in a hurry, we’re coatless, and we’ve been refused admittance into the building TWICE. 

So when the guy at will call asked me how I was doing, all I could say was – “Salty but excited and finally warm.”

Still frazzled, Tess and I walked to another line. After we were greeted countless times by people who told us we couldn’t do something or that what we thought was right was actually incorrect, when we finally received our tickets, we walked into another line, but Tess asked the guard – “WAIT. What is this line for?”

The guard looked at her humorously perplexed and said – “To get in.”

I chuckled, and Tess said thank you and apologized for the odd question. 

But we were FINALLY going to properly and warmly enter the main floor. And then sprint to the JDV.

Walking through the incredibly long but quick-moving line, I found my boy.

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And then Emily was happy.

We also ran into our friend Wes, said hi and waved in typical Emily and Tess fashion.

THEN WE WERE IN. 

I told Tess to just “go” – and boy, she did. She SPRINTED to Joey. Her brown hair was flying and her light bag moved vigorously off her back.

The mom for the weekend, I greeted Tess around 30 seconds later. This was the line at around 305 to meet Joey.

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Tess was excited. Very, very, very excited. And she wasn’t afraid to express it. She asked the guy in front of us in line around 10 times if it REALLY was the line for Joey. Then just to be sure, she asked two volunteers and one security guard. 

This girl was going to meet Joey if it killed her. And at that point, I was pretty sure it would.

Tess then spend the next 10 minutes having full and in-depth conversations with everyone around us, talking about how much she loved Joey, the Reds, her previous Redsfest experiences, and everything else under the sun. Loudly and vocally, she started to cry when he showed up at 315. When we reached the entrance of the line, she hugged the volunteer who told her she would be able to meet Joey. All throughout the line, she continued to blabber and fan-girl over the 30-year-old baseball player. She even made up a script of what she would say when she met him – “Hi Joey, my name is Tess. Can I have a hug? Good work on your foundation, I think it’s really great.”

Folks, you can’t make this stuff up. 

At 355, it happened. 

The people behind us and the rest of the people in line couldn’t have been more excited and happy for her. One of them even said “Don’t forget to breathe!” Tess hugged Joey, talked to him and took a picture with him. I was so proud because she didn’t even cry (in front of him). 

Tess hugging Joey…

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And then the moment.

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She was completely and utterly happy.

Oh, and I met him too. Of course I was the awkward one. Guess I should’ve prepared a script, huh Tess?

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On cloud nine, we made our way over to the Connect Zone. Shaking with pure joy, we talked to Michael Anderson, proudly bolstering and bragging about our greatest accomplishment. According to Michael, we were “glowing.” 

We then spoke to Lisa and Jamie, exploring the Connect Zone’s latest fun activities. 

By this time, the weather was beginning to get worse. My friend Alex sent me a snapchat of his view from work…

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As cool as I thought it looked, I was worried about the players, fans and other volunteers/employees. If it really was going to get bad… would people come? And would they be safe?

Here’s a picture I took of the roads from the 2nd floor (while charging my phone) at around 730.

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Needless to say, I was happy I was inside… and didn’t have to drive.

Because of the weather, attendance on Friday was relatively low. From a fan’s perspective, it was perfect – not too crowded and not too long of lines. But from a “Reds perspective…” it was disappointing, because fans who would have come were kept away because of Mother Nature.

But on Friday, I was a fan. So I embraced the short lines and my latest paycheck.

I received paid photos from Joey, Mike Leake, Devin (twice) and Luddy.

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Mike’s, Devin’s, and Luddy’s lines were supppppppper short. But that’s not why I met Devin twice.

Scratch that, three times.

Devin was scheduled to be at an unpaid photograph booth with Soto at around 415 on Friday. I had just met Joey, and I knew my weekend could not be complete with meeting my boy. 

I wanted to tell him about the blog post I wrote on him (that he read!). I had full intentions to… but at the last second, I stopped. I couldn’t do it. I had just rambled to JDV… But I couldn’t tell Devin. I don’t know why. I froze up.

Attempt #1.

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I knew I had to try again. So I did. It cost me $20… but I did it.

First time around, I had full intentions of telling him. I had spent the $10 and then line was super short. 

But when the time came, I couldn’t. Again, I froze.

Embarrassed and mad at myself, I stood along the side where he was taking photos. No one was in line. I knew I missed my chance. 

I hoped he would come along the side and talk to me. I was too nervous to actually ask him to come over… so I just kinda… stood there.

IT WAS SUPER AWKWARD AND I DON’T LIKE TO THINK ABOUT IT.

Someone came up next to me, Sharpie in hand, and asked Dev to sign something. Of course he said yes. I scurried out of the way, and more fans came up and asked for autographs. The Reds employee in charge of the station told the fans that Devin had to take pictures, and if they wanted autographs, they had to get in line. The fans shifted.

One of my friends, Sarah, a fellow #DevinFanClub member, entered the line as well. Wearing her #DevinFanClub shirt, she met him and got his autograph on a ticket. Devin said he liked Sarah’s shirt, and she said I was a member too, pointing at me. Standing off to the side, I smiled and waved when Devin looked at me and smiled. Sarah then got his signature, and came to visit me on the side. The line had died down. Tess also arrived as we discussed the beauty of Devin.

It was Sarah, Tess, a Reds employee, a couple volunteers and myself. I told Sarah how I didn’t tell him (again), but how badly I wanted to. She told me I should just go through the line again. Tess then encouraged her. After 5 minutes of convincing, I finally threw my hands up and yelled, “Oh screw it!” And went to stand in line. Everyone, including the volunteers and the Reds employee, laughed and cheered me on.

I gave my money to the volunteer, my bags with the other, stomped my way up to Devin and just started talking, ignoring all typical social norms of meeting players.

And then, I told him. 

I told him everything. How I knew his fiancee, how I was the one who wrote the post, how I hoped he liked it, how I wanted to formally introduce myself and how this was the third time TODAY I had tried to do this.

He just laughed, and I smiled. 

We talked for a little bit about the post, his fiancee and how I wasn’t wearing my #DevinFanClub t-shirt. Shaking hands with formal introductions, he asked if I still wanted a picture. I looked at him and said, “Well, I did pay for it…” Chuckling, we took our third picture for the evening.  We said goodbye, and the people along the side began to cheer. I held my hands up in typical Rocky fashion, nodding my head in extreme happiness and pride. I was THIS close to making out of there with some dignity – until Sarah and Tess realized I had forgotten my bag. Everyone tried to get my attention and I broke out of my pride zone, embarrassed. Bright red, I grabbed my bad from the volunteer, thanking him. 

Devin just smiled.

I was greeted by Sarah, Tess, the employee and the volunteers. We group-hugged (Devin not included). 

It was wonderful.

My girl Sarah documenting The Moment…

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And then – boom.

(The top picture is the 3rd time I met him (after I told him), and the bottom one is from the 2nd time.)

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I spent most of the evening in one of two places – the Connect Zone and Photograph #1. 

Here’s Tess and I having fun and being classy in the Connect Zone…

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Taking Reds selfies with my girl Nzinga…

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Solo selfie!

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Tess and I went on adventures and pretended to be Major League Baseball players.

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I snuck – I mean, legally visited – the VIP Lounge…

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Minor leaguers at the bar, because why not.

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Manny Para aka Robin Thicke and Johnny Boy.

I went on a Connect Zone scavenger hunt and made it rain with the Reds Piggy Bank…

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I helped my girl Nzinga meet her love Chappy (see her Twitter for video and photographic evidence).

I discovered that I won an autograph opportunity to meet Brandon Phillips…

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… but then realized I would be volunteering during it, so I gave to it Tess.

I watched Tucker and Ryan try to balance Ho-Ho’s…

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And Todd Frazier go up against his his beautiful and lovely wife Jackie in a tissue-box-battle. (Jackie won.)

I caught up with old friends…

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And made some new ones. (What’s up, @taybay4?!)

I played Moundball (and failed miserably, ask Katie), charged my phone approximately four times and spent ridiculous amounts of money on things I didn’t need. I received the world’s greatest massage and even learned how to drive a segway (and ROCKED IT).

The entire day was, quite simply, perfect. Except the whole “no entry” thing and the whole “it took me three times to finally tell Devin” thing.

Because the roads were absolutely awful, Sarah and Nzinga stayed with Tess and I for the night. We hung out down in the dinning room area with other Reds fans for a bit, but eventually left to crash from pure exhaustion, overjoyed with our day and excited beyond words that we were able to do it all again tomorrow.

Approximately 9 hours later, I am back at the DECC. Yet this time, I’m not a fan – my t-shirt with Mr. Redlegs’s face on it proves that for a mere 9 hours, I am an employee of the Cincinnati Reds.

It’s go time.

My assignment was the 3rd Floor Fun Zone, the action-packed kid area where they can run around and bounce and swing on things. At first, I was selfishly less than thrilled – I wanted to be on the main floor, interacting with players. Yet working with the kids was my personal favorite part of Redsfest.

The kids aren’t there to collect autographs or pictures; they don’t want to stand in lines for hours just for a quick swish of the pen. They were there to have fun. It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the concept of the game, trades, deals, money, the Internet – the list goes on and on. You forget the real point of baseball – it’s a game. Games are supposed to be fun. When you stop having fun and enjoying yourself… you’re not playing the game anymore. You’re going through the motions and hoping for the best. 

The 3 hours I spent on the 3rd floor were the absolutely best hours I have ever spent at Redsfest.

The kids reminded me of the truthfulness of the game. They were able to put a smile on my face after I was completely exhausted from the day before. I was joking with them, helping them, giving them high-fives and encouraging words to help them. 

I loved it.

Here are pictures of Gapper and Mr. Red trying to make it to the top of the inflatable I was in charge of…

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As much fun as I was having, at around 130 Patrick (the man who first gave me the tour on Thursday) came upstairs and asked one of us to help elsewhere. I volunteered. 

He took me downstairs to the main floor. I was going to replace another boy who was handing out programs so he could take his lunch break. After he returned, I was supposed to go to Autograph C and help out there. The boy never came back, but I wasn’t complaining. I spent the next 5 hours greeting fans, taking pictures, telling them how to get upstairs and where the nearest bathroom was, how to get their hand stamped – I wasn’t just a program distributor, I was an information booth, a photographer, a tour guide and a smiling face to fans of all ages. I must say I enjoyed working with the kids more than working with the programs, but it was still an enjoyable experience as I was able to talk with fans and help them receive the best Redsfest experience possible.

Pictures from my new job…

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Also thanks to Brent Collins for introducing himself to me while I was working! Such a pleasure to meet you! (Also, I love when people call me EmWitt, so thank you!)

When I went on my lunch break at around 1230, I was greeted by a plethora of Reds celebrities.

Sam LeCure…

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C. Trent, John Fay and Bryan Price…

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And just to take in how much I was fan-girling, here’s Bryan Price, Walt Jocketty, C. Trent and Jim Day – less than 20 feet away from me.

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Also, C. Trent – thanks for the catch up on Friday! Very enjoyable.  

By the time 630 rolled around, I was completely and utterly dead. I didn’t even want to try and make plans… all I wanted was my bed. I ended up falling asleep on the couch in the Connect Zone… before I was awoken by Tess. Thanks, T-Witty.

As I said earlier, I was the mom for the weekend. After I returned back to my dorm Saturday night, I emptied out my mom bag and was astonished at everything that was inside of it… and everything I had bought.

My 5 fan photos, as pictured above, and my 6 other photos…

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My three autographs… 

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Tracy Jones.

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Jack Hannahan (He was so cute and adorable. When I told him he was one of my favorites, he looked me in the eye and smiled and told me thank you. I was dying).

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Nick Masset ($20).

I spent $10 on a Hall of Fame package, which included a free ticket to the HOF, a bobblehead and a poster.

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I also bought a $10 t-shirt from the Redlegs Run. Do I run? HA! Nope. But did I need this shirt? Absolutely.

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Free poster from the Reds Rally Pack…

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Items from the free bag…

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Items from volunteering…

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My ticket…

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T-shirt I received from the Connect Zone scavenger hunt…

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SHOUTOUTS!

HUGE special s/o to my amazing big, Sarah, who volunteered at Redsfest this weekend as well. She’s a rockstar and volunteered both days. Like big like little. :)

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And of course s/o to EVERY Reds employee and volunteer, especially Lisa, Michael and Jamie, who have been working for months in preparation for this huge event. It was incredibly successful and I hope you guys enjoyed yourselves! 

(And special s/o to J. Ramz for this killer picture.)

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If you’ve made it this far in the post – Dang. Thank you!

Redsfest 2013 was absolutely FANtastic (get it? Because Reds have the best fans in baseball?) and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. From interacting with the kids to hugging Joey Votto… it was utterly, completely, simply amazing. 

I love you all and now I’m in denial.

Can’t wait to see everyone at Reds Caravan!

This is a “see you later” but not a “goodbye,”

~Witte

 

 

 

#RedsfestWeek – Day 4

Hello fellow Reds fans!

Tonight is volunteer training in preparation for the beloved weekend. While I will be attending Redsfest as a fan on Friday (TOMORROW!), I will be volunteering on Saturday. Tonight is when my fellow volunteers and I find our little homes for the next two days, and I’ll be sure to post ASAP where I’ll be. Consider this your open invitation to come say hi!

In honor of volunteer training, today’s post will be on why I love community service and the various opportunities presented by the Reds not only during Redsfest, but throughout the entire year.

The Cincinnati Reds Community Fund was established in 2001. Since then, it has grown tremendously to have an unprecedented and unfathomable effect on the Cincinnati community. From the Urban Youth Academy to the building of softball and baseball fields across the counties, the RCF is more than just a collection of money and raffles. It’s an impact, a movement whose main desire is to serve the people of Greater Cincinnati. Some may say the RCF is powerful because it has the “Reds” in front of its title. Yet I believe the true power and positivity lies within the the Community. It’s the people who make the impact, not just a name.

Thanks to my education at the University of Cincinnati and the outreach of the RCF, I am able to volunteer once a week with the Reds Urban Youth Academy (UYA). Currently being housed at the old Clark Montessori High School, the UYA is a baseball and softball clinic that provides free instruction to kids from the ages of 8-18. Tuesday nights are when the boys are in for baseball and Wednesday nights are when the girls are in for softball. For multiple reasons, I do not work with the girls on their conditioning and softball skills, but rather with a group of UC and NKU students who work with the girls on aspects beyond the game, such as goals, dreams, beliefs and academics.

The program began in October and just ended last night until the week of January 6, when it will continue again until mid-February.

I absolutely loved my experience with the UYA. To say it changed me would be an understatement – From day one, I knew that this was something special and I was already growing into the woman I desire to be. Growing up in a predominantly female family and attending an all-girls high school, one of my true passions is female empowerment and working with girls of all ages to reach their full and honest potential. The UYA enabled me to do just that. I cannot wait until the clinic begins again in January and plan to continually work with the UYA for as long as they’ll have me.

At the recommendation of my mentor and Reds employee Michael Anderson, I signed up to volunteer for Redsfest in 2012. I was terrified. Excited, but terrified. A fan myself, I understand the expectations and desires that fans have while attending the event. They want to have a good time with their family and friends but they also want “stuff” – autographs, pictures, bats, balls, hats, etc. I understand it because, well, I’m the same way. If there’s a photograph booth with Devin Mesoraco at it you can bet I’m standing in line for it. Still, I was nervous. If someone didn’t get to meet a player because of one lousy mistake… ANYWAY.

All I can say is despite the seemingly huge crowd and all of my unprecedented worries, volunteering at Redsfest was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. It’s exhausting, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. You become closer not only with the organization, but with various players, fans and your co-volunteers. I can’t explain it – but you just get it. The feeling, the family, the friendship, the “Reds Way.” It’s an experience that has the ability to change you for the better.

This year, I’m not terrified anymore (well, slightly – white death). I’m ecstatic. Enthralled, even. I’m not saying it’s going to be the best weekend of my life BUT… It’ll be pretty darn close.

Be sure to come visit me at whatever station I’m at on Saturday!

~Witte

#RedsfestWeek – Day 3

Hello fellow Reds fans!

As I write today’s post, I am wearing my volunteer t-shirt from last year. Here’s what it looks like…

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Pretty snazzy, right? 

Everyone has their own personal favorite component or particular part of Redsfest. Whether it’s stocking up on your autographs or watching your kids run around in little Reds t-shirts, your favorite Redsfest characterisitic or activity is highly likely to be someone else’s as well. 

Personally, I have three favorite events/things to do at Redsfest.

My two favorite things to do at Redsfest are meet the players and meet other fans. Whether it’s getting a picture (that usually involves hugging, especially if your name is Sam LeCure) or a run-in while they’re late for a signing, meeting the players of the past, present and future enables fans of all ages to truly feel like they are a part of Reds Country. Let’s face it – what screams “WELCOME!” more than a hug, high-five or even a smile and wave from Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips or Jay Bruce?

(Dear Jay Bruce, Expect hugs. Love, Em.)

However, meeting with fans of all ages from all backgrounds is truly what makes Redsfest a unique experience. One of my passions is fan interaction and involvement, so Redsfest is just that. It’s having a 20 minute conversation on Jay Bruce’s hair or Joey Votto’s butt with another fan you just met while standing in line to meet @DatDudeBP. It’s watching kid’s faces light up when they meet their heroes. It’s learning about the history of the boys in Red from a completely new perspective from an older fan. It’s loving the Reds with other crazies who love them too.

This brings me to my next favorite component of Redsfest – the Connect Zone. Jamie Ramsey writes: “Stop by the ‘Reds Connect Zone’ to check out photo booths, phone charging stations, internet access and appearances by Reds players and bloggers. The area includes expanded space for fans to watch live broadcasts from Reds on Radio network affiliates. Follow the @reds on Twitter and receive updates all weekend on which players will be in the autograph and photograph booths 30 minutes advance of each session. Fans can use the hashtag #Redsfest when tweeting from Redsfest.”

The Connect Zone is everything I’ve been tweeting and blogging about complied into one area. It’s hanging out with other Reds fans, forging new friendships and strengthening old relationships. It’s being able to say Jamie knows you by name and face and then hoola-hooping with him 2 minutes later. It’s a couch to crash on, tables to eat on and space to breathe when all you see is Red and everyones face begins to look the same after the first 3 hours. It’s meeting the some of the coolest people ever, from local media celebrities to players. It’s hanging out with your family.

Most importantly… IT’S A PLACE WHERE YOU CAN CHARGE YOUR PHONE. 

I have no doubt that I’ll be sleeping – er, um, hanging out – at the Connect Zone more than once while down at the DECC. COME SAY HI! I’m the tall one. 

While the Connect Zone is my favorite napping location and I love hugs from professional baseball players, my hands-down favorite Redsfest moment is the Opening Ceremony. Scheduled to take place on Friday at 530pm, every Reds player past, present and future has their own 3 seconds of time to shine as they are introduced to the entire crowd. Smiling and cracking jokes, the players are fully in their element, surrounded by their colleagues and brothers. Cameras flash from every direction, but they don’t care – they’re hanging out with their idols and teammates.

And there’s also an inspirational video. Because who doesn’t love inspirational videos.

Be sure to come say hi to the people in the Connect Zone (myself included!). And don’t forget… Hug a baseball player today. #RedsHugs

~Witte

 

#RedsfestWeek – Day 2

Hello fellow Reds fans!

So I had something planned for day 2 of Redsfest anticipation, however, with the incredibly fresh Ryan Hanigan trade… Well, it just seemed silly.

Is Hanigan gone forever? Well, um, no. He’ll still be catching, throwing players out every which way and terrifying them with his grittiness. Yet I’m still heartbroken, because he won’t be doing so in a Reds uniform.

Ryan was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-way trade that also involved the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 33-year-old veteran catcher spent a majority of last season on the bench due to various injuries.

Last week, renowned columnist Paul Daugherty spoke to a group of Linder students on the business side of sports. During the Q & A period, someone asked if the lack of a strong locker room presence by someone like Scott Rolen affected the team this season. Doc answered by saying that while Rolen was an extremely powerful presence in 2010, there really isn’t anyone in the Reds locker room now that could be what Scott was. You’ve got to have both the attitude and the numbers, and the people who have the numbers don’t have the attitude and the people who have the attitude don’t have the numbers – people like Ryan Hanigan.

It is true that Ryan’s average for 2013 was .198. The numbers do not lie. However, considering he spent a majority of the season on the bench… You have to look further and realize that his OBP of .306 wasn’t too shabby either.

To honor Ryan’s career as a Red while still focusing on the event this weekend, I’m going to talk about my personal “fanship (a fan relationship)” with Hanigan.

Because oddly enough, my two personal favorite memories of the catcher occured at Redsfest.

In 2012 I volunteered to work Redsfest for the first time ever. I was both terrified and excited as a kid on Christmas morning – I was going to be THIS close to professional baseball players and I had to force myself to not let my inner fan-girl shine too bright. I worked the kids autograph booth. One of my jobs was to stand behind the players while they were signing and make sure that they had everything they needed and to let the fans know that they were only allowed to get one item signed. Ryan was one of the players that I, for lack of a better term, “babysat.”

Ryan arrived right on time – a small miracle for players – and waved to the young and eager crowd. Wearing his spotless white jersey and a pair of nice tan pants, Ryan put away the catchers’ mask and greeted fans with a smile. For a brief 40 minutes, he wasn’t trying to scare or trick anyone – he was a friend.

Surrounded by sharpies and bottles of water, Ryan began to sign for the kids in line. There are certain guidelines and procedures that you are supposed to follow when you’re signing autographs – such as only signing one item, no pictures, moving quickly, etc. But gritty Hanigan didn’t seem to care. And the fans loved it.

I remember standing behind Ryan, asking him if he needed water or a new type of pen. He didn’t need much, because the fans were giving him everything he needed – a friendly smile, a positive attitude and moderately awkward but cute conversation.

I can distinctly recall standing behind Ryan when a little boy no older than 4 came up (after his mom lifted him up to the table) and placed his tiny bat up on the table. Grinning with missing teeth, Ryan asked him how he was doing, calling him his buddy and making the boy smile even more. After taking the bat, the boy then slid the team picture up to the table. I reached my hand out and began to tell the boy’s mother that Ryan could only sign one item, however, Ryan took the pen and signed it without haste. Smiling back at the boy, he gave him a high-five and the boy jumped down. Scurrying away, his mother smiled – “Thank you.”

Ryan’s face was in a permanent smile for the rest of the day.

2011 was my first Redsfest. I wasn’t scared, but rather excited – excited beyond belief that I was going to be able to meet my favorite player at the time, Yonder Alonso. I met and received autographs from multiple other players, including Yonder, but nothing compared to meeting Ryan Hanigan… twice.

It went a little like this. I was with my friend at the time, and we simply went to whomever had the shortest line. On Friday, we got a picture with Ryan. We made small talk and I was my usual awkward self. The next day, we were in line for autographs. When it was my turn, I walked up, said hello to Ryan and placed my team photo on the table. Ryan looked up at me and smiled – “Hey, haven’t I met you before?”

Well gosh darn it folks I might as well have dropped dead.

My face lit up like a thousand suns as I beamed back at him – “YEAH YESTERDAY WE GOT A PICTURE TOGETHER!!!”

Smiling at the strange kid before him, Hanigan handed me my picture and told me to have a good day.

Snarky and excited, I told him I would “see him soon.”

He smiled.

I would later tell people that, “Oh yeah, Ryan Hanigan recognized me. We’re basically best friends” and brag and brag about how cool I thought I was.

(I would like to take the time to apologize to Ryan for scaring him. But if I made your day… Well, you’re welcome.)

That is how I will remember Ryan. Not for his bad batting average, not for his grittiness, not for how many players he threw out – but for Ryan Hanigan, the person. The philosophy major who loved to study and learn and put an ad out to the reporters when his dog got lost. The smiling man who broke the rules by signing pictures for kids and taking photos.

The catcher who recognized me that one time.

Ryan, have fun in Tampa Bay. Embrace the sun and catch a no-hitter for David Price.

We’ll miss you.

~Witte

#RedsfestWeek – Day 1

Hello fellow Reds fans!

Welcome to Redsfest Week!

In case you haven’t heard, this weekend is the famous, family-friendly and WIDELY popular two-day event created by the Reds for the fans entitled “Redsfest.” Filled with non-stop opportunities and Cincinnati quirks, Redsfest connects fans of all ages to players both past and present, the spirit of Cincinnati baseball, the beloved organization as a whole and other fanatics just like themselves. For $27, fans can experience two days that are designed just for them.

I’m beyond excited.

A “holiday” is defined as “a day of celebration or recreation where business or work is suspended or reduced.” Redsfest is my favorite holiday. Not because I have less work to do (with finals in two weeks, I have lots of work to do), but because it’s two days of celebration – celebration for the history, present and future. It’s having fun with my favorite people, honoring my favorite thing in my favorite city. It’s my favorite holiday, because for two specific days, fans are the number one priority.

Redsfest is THIS WEEKEND. Ahh! #Stress.

To celebrate one of my favorite things about being a Reds fan, I’m going to do a post every day this week leading up to Redsfest to help generate excitement and interest for the event. And because it is Monday (and Mondays tend to be not so fabulous), I’m going to do a list of “Top 5 Reasons Why Redsfest Is Better Than Mondays.”

Top 5 Reasons Why Redsfest Is Better Than Mondays

1. You don’t have to wake up early.

Redsfest is Friday from 3pm-10:30pm and Saturday from 11am-6:30pm. The dreaded 6:30am alarm can be shut off as you can enter the event at any time that works best for you on either or both days.

2. You can wear whatever you want.

Put away your pencil skirt/suit and drag your wrinkly Reds t-shirt from September out of the dirty clothes bin. (Wash it first.) Head on down to Redsfest and be comfortable and proud in your red, white and/or black.

3. You’re not forced to see your co-workers, your boss or your teachers.

When water cooler small talk just isn’t cutting it anymore and your teacher’s voice is mimicking that of Charlie Brown’s, Redsfest adds new flavor and excitement to the conversation and enables you to talk to new people that share your interests.

4. You get to spend time with your family and friends as opposed to your desk and computer screen.

While meeting new people is enjoyable, spending time with your family and friends is a rarity that isn’t always able to be embraced. Redsfest provides the perfect, family-friendly and safe environment to simply have fun with your loved ones.

5. It’s not on Monday.

What’s better than the weekend? Very little. Redsfest takes your average weekend and spruces it up with baseball liveliness.

So with all of that non-Monday characteristics, why not spend your weekend where you really want to be – surrounded by Reds fans?

(reds.com/redsfest)

Be sure to visit tomorrow for Day 2 of #RedsfestWeek!

~Witte

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