Frank Robinson appeared out of the mist on Race Street, sitting up on top of the back seat of a convertible. He might as well have walked out of the cornfield in Field of Dreams.
The Hall of Famer, one of the greatest players in baseball history, smiled and waved to the sparse crowd on this stretch of the April 6 Findlay Market Opening Day Parade. He looked pretty good for a man in his seventies, particularly on a raw, drizzly day.
A CityBeat colleague next to me was practically giddy.
“Frank Robinson looked at me and waved,” he said in a tone usually reserved for “I found $100” or “We’re getting the band back together.”
The next car was also a convertible, and sitting up on its rear seat were Reds pitchers Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez. The budding young stars from the Dominican Republic blew on their hands trying to stay warm but still smiled and waved, no doubt wondering how they ended up in an open car inching through a gray Midwestern downtown on such a non-Caribbean type of day.
The weather certainly didn’t help showcase Cincinnati on this day, as most people in the parade probably couldn’t wait for it to end so they might dry out.
Unfortunately we had to cancel CityBeat’s float that morning, knowing our annual showcase of a local band — complete with mics, amps and speakers — would be trouble in the rain.
But the show went on as planned, and everyone made the best of it. If you’re a city that’s been hosting an Opening Day parade for 90 years, you don’t let a little bad weather get you down.
I’m a baseball fan, so I get excited when each season starts. Hell, I’m pumped when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.
What’s always impressed me about Cincinnati, as someone who didn’t grow up here, is how the whole city embraces baseball and the Reds on Opening Day. It’s another of those small ways that locals have stubbornly held on to a collective individuality, as quirky as three-way chili and “Please?”
Baseball is the only American sport with any romance, so it’s not surprising that Cincinnatians bond with the Reds. The team has won titles frequently enough to engage just about every generation (1919, 1939-40, 1961, the Big Red Machine of the 1970s, 1990) and thus really has never lost any age group.
Today’s teenagers and twentysomethings are ready for their own championship team, and many pundits (including Bill Peterson here) say the current roster is poised to deliver. It would help cement another generation of loyal local baseball fans and at least another 20 years of Opening Day mania.
The mantra in Field of Dreams was “If you build it, they will come.” We tweak the saying a bit in Cincinnati: If you open the season, we will come.
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