Thank You Reds Fans

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.

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I would like to thank the members of the Northern Leg of the Reds Caravan for a fantastic stop at the Celina location (Bella’s Italian Grille, as the photo above shows). My own experience is worth sharing in this forum to express my appreciation, most notably to Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman, for welcoming my wife and our relatives (two young twin boys (age 9)) who came to see the stop.

I am a native of Mercer County (where Celina is located as the county seat). I saw the note on the website that there was going to be a broadcast for WKKI (94.3) in Celina on Saturday afternoon; however, I did not know if there were going to be at the studio or at a remote location. Thankfully, my cousin Brad is a friends of the station manager for WKKI, who told Brad that the stop would be at Bella’s instead of the studio. I was thinking of going to the Lima stop (near where I used to live and work), but I chose to get in the car and hit the road for Celina.

There are a few important things to know about me. I am a lifelong Reds fan (since I was the boys’ age, around eight or nine years old) thanks to my grandmother listening to Reds Radio back in the day with Marty and Joe calling the action. I remember Pete’s 4192, Tom’s Perfect Game, Eric’s World Series shot, Jose’s World Series pitching gems … they seem like such distant memories now (over 20 years ago) … but I remember them vividly. My favorite player of those years (Barry Larkin) is much like my current favorite (Brandon Phillips), and I will always be partial to the infielders for defensive ability (and Gold Gloves).

What is more important to share is the distance I chose to drive to go see the caravan stop in Celina. I now live in Cincinnati … in close proximity to Great American Ballpark … and I wanted badly to see the caravan at multiple locations. I couldn’t make it to either Dayton or Maysville (the next closest stops), so I went “back home” to my familiar turf of Mercer County, home of former Reds’ great Wally Post and football stars like Jim Lachey, Bobby Hoying, and Jeff Hartings. Joe Nuxhall was (and still is) one of my favorite Reds of all-time … and he visited the Mercer County Elks every year for the Wally Post Invitational (a tournament my own dad has played multiple times). The Reds “blood” runs deep there (more than the cross-state Cleveland Indians or northern neighbor Detroit Tigers) … and I couldn’t pick a better stop (albeit a “private” one) to see the players, coaches, and management up close and personally.

I didn’t know the Celina stop was a sponsor-only event, as the main section of the restaurant was closed for the meet-and-greet with the Caravan members. Much to my (pleasant) surprise, Thom Brennaman was walking towards the door as we were walking into the restaurant. He smiled, said “hello”, and passed by our group. When the hostess said “sorry, this is a private party”, we clearly looked dejected. Little did we know that Phil Castellini along with Thom were heading back by us to go into the room (possibly for their radio time but not long before they needed to hit the road for Lima). Thom saw my wife’s jacket (an Oak Hills Local Schools fleece) and commented about how we came so far just to see them there. The boys were excited (and probably nervous) to be talking to a celebrity (who they see on TV regularly), but they were cool about the visit. Phil, who was talking to a group in the restaurant, saw my wife’s camera and offered to take our photo together with Thom. How cool was that?!? Completely unexpected, incredibly exciting … the team COO (son of the team owner, no less) taking our photo with the team’s top-notch broadcaster (no offense, Marty).

Needless to say, what happened up until that point was great. What happened next was better. The boys got autographs not only from Thom (who signed their Reds “Honorary Contract” sheets from the “Run the Bases” promotions last year) but also formal autograph sheet signatures from Walt Jocketty, Billy Hatcher, Chris Valaika, and (again) Thom Brennaman. We got another photo of Billy Hatcher signing the sheet for both boys on the way to the bus. Wow … it’s all I could muster … not even quick enough to get an autograph for myself from the Reds’ great and current coach. Billy – you still rock! I was lucky enough to meet you (ever so briefly) during the 1990 season … thank you for caring about fans like me and being so very friendly.

I hope to have my own photos posted on my Cincinnati Reds blog (cincinnati-reds-fan.blogspot.com) as soon as I can. I will be a Reds’ fan for as long as I live … bring home a winner in 2009!

My wife and I made a weekend roadtrip out of the caravan. We traveled from our home in Perrysburg, OH to three caravan stops: Indianapolis (IN), Lima (OH), and Maysville (KY).

Believe it or not… it was a lot less driving than we had last year when we were living in Kansas and made the drive to caravan stops in Indy and Louisville. Regardless, we had a great time. Thanks for putting on such a great event.

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