Opening Day in the MLB

For the past 142 (well 141 but who’s counting) one team has not heard the words home opening game. They have not had to. Every season they have opened at home and the home opener was just called Opening Day of Major League Baseball. It might be because they were the first Professional Team. It might be because of their location. It might be because they almost sell out every time. It might be because they are the Cincinnati Reds.

Why Cincinnati?

The Reds started out as the first openly professional team in 1866, just one year after the Civil War. Baseball was in it infancy at the time and over the next 16 years many changes came. In 1876 the team started playing in the newly formed National league. Over the next few years the team moved to a new league, but by 1890 the team had rejoined the National League for good and baseball was on its way to becoming a great american pastime.

Cincinnati was the southern most city in the league. With harsh winters and less experienced grounds keepers, other teams were happy to visit the “warm” city. Before tv, radio, or movies baseball and other live events were some of the only form of entertainment around. This meant that the Reds opening game was almost always a sellout. With a cut of the sellout profits and a better climate visiting teams decided to keep playing in the Queen city on the first day of the season. Be it tradition or an homage to the fact they were the first pro team, the Reds have opened the season at home on the first day of play ever since.

The fanfare and the Parade

At the turn of the 19th century Baseball, like most early years of a sport, had not formed the single major league they are now. The National League was competing with the American Association. To stand out the teams promoted Opening day more and more. If  fan was a fan of your team, the thought went, they would stay all season. To promote the game Cincinnati drove both the Reds, the visiting team, and a marching band down the streets to the field hyping the upcoming game along the way. This lasted until 1902 when the team stopped their parade. The fans decided to continue on their own.

For the next 2 decades local groups, known as rooters, would meet and march towards the game, promoting both the game and themselves along the way. in 1920 Findlay Market joined in on the fun, becoming one of the loudest and largest of them all. After a while the rooter groups stopped marching towards the game. The tradition faded. The only one left marching was the Findlay Market group.  Being the largest of them all changed the event from a tailgate fan event to a full fledge parade, albeit a small one.

Eventually the Ball park they were marching too moved downtown and the parade route took on a new direction and scope. What had once been a group of shop owners heading toward the park nearby became the citywide holiday event that many in Major League Baseball have come to recognize as the start of the season nationwide.

Alas due to a change in the schedule of MLB, and the date of Easter, the 2018 parade will not happen until the 4th game. 


Great American Ballpark

100 Joe Nuxhall Way,

Cincinnati, OH 45202

Today, April 3, 2017, the Cincinnati Reds play the Philadelphia Phillies at home. This will be the first game of the 2017 season. While the Reds had a less than stellar 2016 season, fans entering Great American Ballpark today will be entering with high hopes. They will also be entering the latest stadium in a series of stadiums that go all the way back to the first games of professional baseball.

Opened in 2003, and named after Great American Insurance headquartered nearby, the stadium is one of a string of attraction along the ever changing riverfront. It’s neighbors U.S. Bank Arena, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and Paul Brown Stadium all share the Central Riverfront Garage. The garage has plenty of parking for any game. The garage is very well organized with signs telling which structure is nearest and every exit has a street map telling what section it is and how to get back to it.

The stadium itself is surrounded by an open concourse with a gift shop and Hall of Fame Museum on one side and amazing views of the river on the other. Once inside the main gate fans will find a large open hallway with shopping on the left and a kids area on the right.  The layout is simple and circular. Walking in one direction will take a fan all the way around the park and back to where they started. This is a great way to get exercise during the game, but does not offer 360 degree views of the field like Fifth Third Field or other smaller venues.

The shopping inside the park is good, but the main gift shop is right outside the entrance and connected to the Reds Hall of Fame Museum. Inside the park smaller shops are spread through out with plenty of opportunities to pick up a hat or shirt. There is even a shop selling game used items, such as balls and bases.

Food is abundant at Great American. Most of the traditional ballpark fare is sold at concessions stand ringing the park. Some local items, like chili and goetta, are sold at specialty stands. Fancier sit down bars and restaurants are available too. A market near the entrance sells fresh fruit and bottled drinks. Almost any dish a fan might want is available. While the prices are ballpark prices the portions are huge and one dish will fill a person up. The value is the same as most any restaurant but the unique variety and locale make a meal a must.

Great American Ballpark,The National Steamboat Memorial, and BB Riverboats Docks

The overall theme of the stadium seems to be a river dock during the age of steamboats ( and baseball). The venue can be light on the theming in some places, it makes up for it in others.  Between the two scoreboards is a multilevel bar and patio in the shape of a steamboat. The paddle wheel of the boat is the National Steamboat Memorial located across the street. The smoke stacks billow steam for every Reds home run and fill the sky with steam and fireworks after a win. From certain seats working steamboats can even be seen giving passengers rides up and down the river. Fans will have a hard time forgetting that Cincinnati was once queen of the Ohio river and that steamboats made this possible.

With all that is available downtown Great American will be a highlight to an over filled day of fun for any fan, even if the team is having an off year.