A pair of fuzzy blue gloves sat atop the pile of fan mail on the
corner of manager Dusty Baker’s desk, a sure sign that opening day
was at hand.
And not just any opening day.
The first game of the season will feature plenty of cold air and
extra fanfare for the Cincinnnati Reds on Thursday. They’ll
celebrate their National League MVP and their first division title
in 15 years.
Then, the pitching-improved Milwaukee Brewers – one of the teams
poised to try to snatch that NL Central title away – will try to
climb into first place on the first day.
”In truth, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing,” Reds second
baseman Brandon Phillips said. ”I don’t care if we were playing
the Pirates. It really doesn’t matter. You’ve got to go out there
Both teams worked out in snowflakes Wednesday, a numbing
reminder that spring training was over and the cold reality of the
regular season was one day away. The forecast for the opener was
dry skies and temperatures in the 40s.
Better use those gloves.
”We came from like 90 degrees yesterday,” Reds starter Edinson
Volquez said, referring to the final spring training game in
Arizona. ”We flew back last night, and there’s snow today. It’s
kind of different.”
Something else’s that’s different: The city has something to
The Reds hadn’t been to the playoffs since 1995 and were on a
nine-year losing streak before they broke through last season, then
got swept by Philadelphia in the playoffs. Opening day is always a
big occasion in Cincinnati – kids skip school to watch the annual
parade through downtown with parents who take time off work.
First baseman Joey Votto will be honored for his MVP award
during the pregame festivities, which will include a fly-over by
Air Force jets.
”Oh man, they need to go ahead and just make this a holiday in
Cincinnati,” Phillips said. ”This is what it’s all about. I love
opening day. People who haven’t experienced this are really missing
While the Brewers and Reds worked out amid snowflakes on
Wednesday, the thin videoboards that show the NL division standings
were glowing above the right field stands. They displayed the Reds’
wishbone ”C” stop the NL Central.
The Brewers were listed third, right where they finished last
season with a 77-85 record. They upgraded their pitching staff by
getting right-handers Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, giving
themselves a lot more pitching to complement one of the league’s
Greinke cracked a rib while playing a pickup basketball game in
the offseason, ending his chances of starting the opener.
Right-hander Yovani Gallardo will pitch instead.
”We’ve got a great team here,” Marcum said. ”As a pitcher,
you don’t have to go out and put up zeros every inning. If we do
things the way we need to do, we will be pretty good. These guys
can hit. We will be fun to watch.”
It’s only the second time that the Brewers have opened the
season in Cincinnati. The other time was a memorable game in 2000 –
Ken Griffey Jr.’s first with his hometown team after coming over in
a trade with Seattle. It rained that day and the game was called as
a 3-3 tie in the sixth inning.
Those who have been in the game for most of their lives still
find opening day special because of all that surrounds it and all
it represents, no matter how wet or cold the day.
”You remember the opening day Little League parade,” said
Baker, who will participate in his ninth opening day in Cincinnati
as a player or manager. ”I do. It’s the best game.”