Friday, April 27, 2012

Winning on Wednesday: Our experience as guests of the Reds

Wednesday marked a third consecutive victory for the Reds as they downed the San Francisco Giants 4-2 at home (read our recap of the action here). But the Redlegs weren't the only guys winning on Hump Day. Wednesday also marked a unique opportunity for four of us here at Redlegs Review, as we were lucky enough to serve as humble guests at the game, courtesy of our awesome host Lisa Braun (Reds Director of Digital Media & Consumer Clubs). What we took away from the whole experience won't soon be forgotten.

Here's my due diligence in providing a detailed recap of the night's happenings:

The action got underway around 3:40 when the lot of us met up outside the white, pearly gates of Great American Ball Park. Among the party of four included RR staffers Will, Jesse, Matt and myself.

We weren't scheduled to commence with Lisa until around 4:20, so we burned some time visiting the Reds HOF & Museum gift shop and marveling at all the cool Reds gear. Jesse splurged and bought himself a sweet-looking, backpack -- eliminating all further complications of having to lug around his jacket and camera with his weary arms/shoulders.

As we all kept chatting the time kept ticking away. After what seemed like an eternity, the time finally came for us to meet up with our generous host, Lisa. By 4:25 the five of us were off to take in batting practice on the field. After arriving at the tunnel leading out to the field we realized that we had forgotten something -- our field passes. Our return trip back upstairs rewarded us with our golden ticket to access BP. By 4:45 we were standing directly behind home plate, our feet clearly planted on the GABP turf, and gazing upon the beautiful scenery that lay before us.

By then a slightly overcast sky had settled in over the stadium, but the threat of rain wasn't going to dampen our spirits. We watched in awe as the likes of Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and the rest of the gang took turns dotting the GABP seats with mammoth home runs. Lisa then introduced us to Rob Butcher, the team's Director of Media Relations, and we all shared a good exchange talking about everything from the weather, our impressions of the stadium, and the mini-controversy that arose from the club honoring UK coach John Calipari and his staff at Tuesday's game. Apparently, there was a small group of fans who were slightly perturbed by the move, and that had Rob and the rest of us a bit puzzled. Nonetheless, it was a treat getting the chance to shoot the breeze with Rob. We thank him for his time.

From L-R: Rob Butcher, myself, Will,
Matt, Jamie Ramsey & Jesse
After Rob went on about his business we continued to snap as many photos as our poor cameras could take -- you know, to capture the moment. By around that time our ole' pal Jamie Ramsey, the Reds Assistant Director of Media Relations and author of Better off Red, stopped by to chat and say hello. Will and I had previously gotten the pleasure of meeting Jamie on our trip in Denver, and it was nice to see that he hadn't forgotten about us.

The five of us indulged in a range of topics including: our thoughts on the team so far, Votto's contract extension, those pesky Cardinals from St. Louis, food, the NFL Draft (RG3 or Luck?), and of course, blogging. After talking at modest length with Jamie he squired Bruce to come over and we got to formally meet the left-handed slugger -- oh, and he was gracious enough to snap a pic with us too!

It was literally around that same time when our old friend and #BPGiveaway host Brandon Phillips strutted on on over to say hello. As much as a joy it was in getting to catch up with him, it was equally as entertaining for myself for Matt and Jesse to get a chance to meet him. In a world of professional athletes who tend to forget just how blessed they are to be able to play a game for a living (and get paid rather well at that), it's refreshing to see a player who is still able, willing, and capable of connecting with the average person/fan. To Brandon, I commend that.

After we wrapped up our session at batting practice it was onward to the Reds Hall of Fame & Museum for a quick tour. Outside of Matt, I'm ashamed to report that none of us had ever explored the building full of history before. So, naturally we were pretty excited about not only getting the chance to look through it, but having our very own tour guide in Lisa as well.

The 1990 World Championship trophy

After dropping a few, smooth facts about some of the memorabilia in the museum, Lisa revealed to us that she got her start with the organization there. When checking out a Pete Rose jersey, she told us about the discrepancy of Ty Cobb's career hit total -- which I had never heard before. In 1981 an independent research found that Cobb played in a game in 1910 in which he recorded two hits, but was credited with four. This would have put his career tally at 4,189 instead of 4,191. However, according to Lisa, so much had already been made about "4192" that MLB never overturned the discrepancy. Four years later on Rose smacked his 4,192 career hit at Riverfront Stadium...and the rest is quite literally history.

We continued on with our tour, relishing in the rich tradition of the franchise's history. We tried our luck at throwing balls and strikes in the pitching cage, but none of us had much success. I can report to you though that my right elbow is a bit sore today -- a cheap price to pay to be able to uncork a few fastballs in the middle of a place filled with glass cases.

Soon after we caught Will on camera robbing a home run, we made our way to the radio booth replica section. Once there willing participants had the shot at calling a historic, play-by-play moment in Reds history. Once Lisa informed us that she had yet to have a blogger actually partake in the challenge, I knew right then and there that I had to unleash the golden pipes. We even have video/audio of my dubious call of "Ken Griffey Jr's 500th HR" as proof, courtesy of the fortuitous Jesse. Needless to say, I don't think Marty's job is in jeopardy anytime soon.

We concluded our tour with a quick trip through the actual HOF portion of the site before dashing to the covered concourse area of the stadium (it was raining pretty good at this point). It was here that Lisa and us went our merry ways. We expressed our gratitude for her kind hospitality and exchanged good-byes before quickly turning our collective attention to a pressing issue -- dinner. Our rumbling stomachs were expressing their displeasure of our neglect, and we began on a mission to console them.

After weighing my wide variety of options, I finally settled on the chicken fingers basket w/fries for a thrifty $9.50. It was still lightly precipitating outside the protection of our cover, so we scarfed down our respective meals at a deserted, sponsor table before making any further decisions.

By the end of our meal it was time to head to our complimentary seats. We strolled toward the right-field moondeck where we nestled into a set of (4), front row seats eclectically named the "Budweiser Thirst Row" (Rob had told us during BP that the area was originally used as a photo pit, but lack of use led to their decision to put in seats). All four of us basked in our good fortunes as we peered out over the wall onto the field -- soaking up the view of luscious, green grass and the aroma of tasty cuisine swirling around the park.

A steady rain in the second inning forced us to relocate our operation elsewhere. One of us had the piece of mind to head over to the newly-erected "Highlight Zone", a social media smorgasbord located near the Reds gift shop in left field. We popped a squat at a table and began viewing the game from one of the wall's many flatscreen tubes. We even caught the tweet @DatDudeBP had sent our way earlier on one of the six screens surrounding the massive video wall.

Will and his helmet nachos,
in all their glory.
It wasn't too long until Will delivered on his promise to buy a thing of "helmet nachos" -- he had been harping about the desire to throw down some down since the early afternoon, so you can only imagine the amount of anticipation (and curiosity) we had all four built up by then. Sure enough, Will returned to the table with an ungodly amount of nachos for one person to eat. We all took turns munching on those for a bit while talking over the topic of baseball, of course.

By the bottom of the 5th, the rain ceased and we made our way back to the beloved Thirst Row. It was at this precise moment in time that I decided to take advantage of an amenity that's not usually available to me during such outings, I plugged in my lifeless iPhone to one of the outlets located behind us for some added firepower (hey, got to keep up with the Twitterverse, ya dig?). We experienced MLB history when freshly-promoted J.J. Hoover made his big league debut in the sixth.

With the Reds trailing 2-0 heading into the home half of the seventh, we decided to take matters into our own hands -- rally caps. Matt turned his cap inside-out and Will donned his newly-acquired plastic helmet (no worries, he rinsed it out beforehand) and the comeback was on! Not a minute later after the guys adorned their hats, Scott Rolen connected for a no-doubter to spark the offensive onslaught. The Queen City bombers would plate three more runs in the inning to take a 4-2 edge.

The bottom of the eighth brought forth a healthy dose of #Chapmania as southpaw Aroldis Chapman was called upon from the 'pen. I don't know if it was the cool breeze blowing off the banks of the Ohio of Chappy's heater, but there was a noticeable breeze during that half inning.

Sean Marshall made quick work of the Giants in the ninth to preserve the victory. The Pepsi Smoke Stacks exploded with a roar of approval, thus sending the damp GABP crowd home happy. We took one last group picture before heading for the exits.

On the way back to the car Jesse served as a superhero of sorts. It was on our brisk walk that we came across a lonely and abandoned Reds cap. After further investigation we realized that the cap was indeed the lost property of a kid. We continued on our voyage hoping that the kid who lost it may just happen to come along. As fate would have it, he did. Jesse was able to provide a sigh of relief to both the son and the father as the cap turned out not to be lost after all.

On the car ride home we shared our favorite quotes, happenings, and general thoughts on the whole experience. We shared some laughs, browsed some pics, and made a memory that I hope all four of us will remember for a long time. I know I certainly will.

A final tip of the cap to our lovely host Lisa Braun, and the rest of the Reds staff, who made this night possible. We thank you.

Pics of the outing are now available on the Facebook fan page.

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