It’s tough, at this point, to debate the fact that Bob Castellini might be the greatest thing to happen to the Cincinnati sporting scene in the last decade. Coaches and players come and go, but a commitment from ownership is the most important thing any pro sports franchise needs for sustained success.
When Castellini took over control of the Reds, he promised, “We will bring championship baseball back to Cincinnati.”
He’s delivered on that promise and more. The team has won two division titles under his leadership, but he’s done it by keeping his promise to build through the organization and keep the team’s best players long-term. Last year he shelled out more than $250 million to keep Joey Votto in a Reds uniform for what is likely to be the first baseman’s entire career. He’s given extensions to Johnny Cueto and Jay Bruce before they reached free agency and has a young pitching staff tied up. He’s also gone out and OK’d the money to sign Aroldis Chapman.
In 2006, the Reds’ payroll was 22nd in baseball. Now it’s 17th, belying the team’s market size. The team has won two of the last three division titles and is set up for years to come with a core of young players and talented pitchers.
Off the field he’s built the Reds Community Fund into an inspirational beacon in the city. He’s helped bring The Banks to fruition, making downtown Cincinnati a destination for tourists and locals alike.
Throughout it all, the big man had his eye on a crown jewel — bringing an All-Star Game to Cincinnati. Of course he wants to win a World Series in Cincinnati, but that is beyond his control.
What he could control was the team’s pitch for an All-Star Game.
Since 2006, Castellini has worked tirelessly on commissioner Bud Selig, pestering him about bringing the All-Star Game to Great American Ball Park. Three years ago when Selig attended a Reds game in spring training, I asked him about the All-Star Game in Cincinnati, and Selig joked that he’d heard plenty about the possibility. Afterward, Castellini shook my hand and thanked me for asking the question. I’ve seen him do the same to John Fay, when the Enquirer beat writer has asked Selig the question.
Major League Baseball told the Reds they could have the 2019 game, marking the 150th anniversary of professional baseball in the town where it was born. That wasn’t good enough for Castellini, who has shown over the years he’s not a patient man. He wanted it sooner — he wanted it to help the city show off its wares as soon as possible.
Castellini’s efforts seem to have paid off. The Enquirer reported Jan. 21 that sources confirmed Cincinnati will host the 2015 All-Star Game, and Selig was expected at a press conference in Cincinnati Jan. 23 to announce it.
The game itself isn’t as big of a deal as the event as a whole. I’ve been to each of the last two All-Star Games and five overall — it’s an event that spotlights the host city from the start of the season, culminating with three days of celebrating the game and the host city.
In recent years, the event has held the Futures Game the Sunday before the All-Star Game, featuring the game’s best prospects, along with a celebrity softball game (Nick Lachey, I’m sure, has already cleared his calendar). Monday is the Home Run Derby and Tuesday features a parade and the game. There’s also the FanFest leading up to the game. By the time the first pitch is thrown, the celebration is close to complete, having impacted the host city in major ways.
And by 2015, Cincinnati should be ready to show off the progress we’ve seen in the last couple of years — from The Banks to Washington Park and the transformation of Over the Rhine. This is the stage we’ve been waiting for — and a stage we’re ready to stand on, thanks to Castellini, who has delivered on his promises and more.
Thinking Out Loud
Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski will be leaving the school to become the new athletic director at Georgia Tech in March. Bobinski was in his 12th year overall as Xavier’s AD and second stint in the gig. At XU, he hired Thad Matta and Chris Mack and oversaw the opening of the Cintas Center. Bobinski never shied from the spotlight, but never seemed to seek it, either. ... Bobinski was rumored to be interested in the Boston College job late last year, but Brad Bates left Miami University to go to BC instead. It seemed like Xavier dodged a bullet, but then Georgia Tech came calling. While there was hand-wringing over the loss of a football coach at UC, these two departures will likely be much more costly to the local sporting scene.