On behalf of the participants in all three legs of the 2009 Reds Winter Caravan and the entire Reds organization, we would like to thank all the Reds fans who came out to our various stops throughout the last four days and showed off their Reds pride. You are what makes the Caravan a successful event year after year, and you continue to show that Reds Country extends far beyond the I-275 loop around Cincinnati.
Also, a special thanks to the Reds front office staff members who took time during the Caravan to send in photos and reports. Zach Bonkowski, Rob Butcher, Michael Anderson, Jamie Ramsey, Larry Herms, Corey Hawthorne, Kathryn Braun, Kate Petach and Jackie Reau all did outstanding jobs making sure those Reds fans reading at home could feel a part of the action.
The Northerners are on their way home after a very successful stop at Polaris Fashion Place in Columbus. Reds President and Chief Executive Officer received a terrific round of applause from the fans. While the group was inside at the event, it snowed about 3 inches. They came outside to a blizzard, and the roads are treacherous, but Patty will get them home safely. Before the Northern Tour signs off, they want to recognize the advance and event crew: Ryan Niemeyer, Dustin Bradds, Craig Bradds, Matt Merchant, Corey Hawthorne, Britton Martin, Stephanie Mileham and JP Owens. Job well done folks.
The Northern Leg finalliy retired for the evening at around 4 a.m. but they wanted to send a big Redlegs thank you out to Cluck-a-do-da-doo. The fine dining establishment provided the best late night eats of the trip for the Caravaners. Who would have thought that chicken fingers, french fries and deep fried pickles in a savory barbeque suace would have tasted so good.
The Southern Leg rolled into Lexington, KY this afternoon for a stop at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital on the campus of the UK Medical Center. They were able to meet and greet with a few of the patients and their families in a playroom. The crew also found out a few of the patients could not leave their rooms, so they made some bedside visits. Devin Mesoraco and Brandon Phillips were a big hit, and the youngster Devin – himself only 20 – really enjoyed meeting with the kids. The hospital stops are such an important component of the Reds Caravan, and the South Leg crew would like to thank the staff at Kentucky Children’s Hospital for allowing the Reds to spend an hour visiting with the patients.
After the hospital, the bus was off to the Fayette Mall where a crowd of almost 500 were already waiting for the Southerners to arrive. By the end of the night, it’s possible this crew of rock stars might have signed 1000 autographs. Reds CEO Bob Castellini made a special appearance at this stop to sign autographs and chat with fans. If there is one thing for sure, it’s that in addition to being horse country, Lexington is definitely Reds Country.
Reds President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Walt Jocketty received some very good news during tonight’s Lima Mall stop of the Reds Winter Caravan. Head Athletic Trainer Mark Mann called to tell Walt that shortstop Alex Gonzalez should be ready to participate 100 percent in all drills on the first day of spring training. Gonzalez was examined today in Miami by medical director Dr. Timothy Kremchek, who ran Alex through a series of tests and agility drills. Dr. K was very pleased, and that’s great news for Reds fans. Alex missed all of last season with a compression fracture in his left knee.
The Lima Mall is the Northerners’ last stop of the night. Following tonight’s event, they’ll feast on Subway and watch the movie Wanted as they head back to Columbus and rest up for tomorrow’s Winter Caravan finale at Polaris Fashion Place in Columbus.
On a sad note, the Reds are losing one of their biggest supporters of the Winter Caravan in Tom Francis of WIMA Radio, shown here with Mr. Redlegs at Saturday night’s Lima Mall stop. Tom moved to Lima in 1958 “for just a couple years” but has been there ever since. He is retiring after 50 years at WIMA. The Reds wish Tom the best in his retirement.
The now self-titled “Bestern” Leg wanted to thank the 350 fans who showed up for autographs at Stoops Automotive in Muncie, IN and also a “job well done” to WXFN radio’s Steve Lindell and his on-air crew for interviewing all members of the Caravan live during the event.
The Western gang certainly has enjoyed its share of top-notch food stops throughout the Caravan. On Thursday night, the group enjoyed a dinner at Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse in Vevay, then followed it up last night with some delicious entrees at Maggiano’s Little Italy. The crew just left another great establishment – Damon’s in Muncie – and is on its way to Welling’s Steakhouse in Richmond as well. Reds PA announcer and affiliates guru Joe Zerhusen has been the unquestioned food champion, putting on an eating clinic at every stop. One staffer reports Joe Z. devoured 4 quarter-pound hamburgers and healthy helping of fries earlier this afternoon.
So what do Major League Baseball players like to watch to pass the time in a tour bus criss-crossing the Buckeye State? More baseball of course.
Mike Lincoln, Chris Valaika and Billy Hatcher enjoy the MLB Network via satellite on the Northern Tour’s bus trip from Celina to Lima. The crew is traveling in style, with DVD players, satellite TV, a nice bathroom and shower and plenty of drinks and snacks.
The Northern Leg participants are unanimous in their support of motor coach driver Patty Patterson as the leg’s MVP.
After a quick trip north up I-69 from Indianapolis, the Westerners arrived in Muncie, IN, home of Ball State U. The Fightin’ Cardinals sport a number of famous alumni, including David Letterman, William Baldwin, Betsy Ross, Zach Bonkowski, Bill Reinberger and Teddi Mangas-Coon. Stoops Automotive was rockin’ with Reds fans and ESPN 1340 aired the visit live.
At this stop, fans learned from both Dusty Baker and Jeff “Cowboy” Brantley who created their respective nicknames. Dusty”s mom came up with his because he was always coming home dirty from playing baseball, while Lenny Harris coined Jeff as Cowboy because of his oft-worn cowboy boots.
The west leg of the Caravan continues in Dayton on Sunday where it wraps up for 2009.
The Northern crew voted on the comedy Step Brothers to get them from Findlay to Celina. The group is already looking forward to tonight’s main feature, Wanted (starring the one and only Angelina Jolie), which will play as they drive from the Lima Mall to Columbus.
The difference in the weather from yesterday to today has been unbelievable for the Northerners. When they arrived at Portsmouth Elementary School yesterday at 2 p.m., it was 57 degrees. When they loaded the bus this morning in Columbus, it was clear but about 18 degrees. In Celina now, it’s blowing snow and about 25.
Below, Mike Lincoln and Chris Valaika visit with fans, while World Series hero and current coach Billy Hatcher chats with fans after joining the Northern crew today. Also, the Reds Rover sits in the parking lot of Bella’s Restaurant in Celina.