BEST HITTER DOING THINGS NO ONE ELSE DOES
People know Joey Votto is one of the best hitters in baseball, an MVP-caliber player in his prime. Reds fans are lucky to see him play every day, and even more so when you pay attention to how interesting his approach to the game is. Last year, Votto went through an entire at bat without leaving the batters box to take a single practice swing — and he never swung during the at bat, coaxing a full-count walk without ever offering at a pitch. It was a full-on intimidation of the opposing pitcher, which is in line with his stated goal of winning every at bat. He doesn’t keep track of home runs or RBIs, and it makes him one of the most fascinating hitters to watch. cincinnatireds.com.
BEST COACH WHO REBUILT THE UC BASKETBALL PROGRAM
They say following a legendary coach is one of the most difficult positions in sports management. In Mick Cronin’s case, the situation was doubly bad after the University of Cincinnati ran off Bob Huggins back in 2005. Cronin has proven to be up to the challenge, though, rebuilding the Bearcats’ basketball program from scratch, this season appearing in the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year. Even more impressive than his resolve in repairing the school’s relationship with a frustrated fanbase is Cronin’s dedication to UC and his hometown of Cincinnati. Cronin’s leadership — and thick skin — was exactly what UC’s basketball program needed to weather the storm of Huggins’ departure, and he’s the one person who won’t be tempted to parlay his success into a higher-profile job and force Bearcat fans to go through the entire rebuilding process again. Cronin is one of us — a down-to-earth dude whose postgame comments are both funny and thoughtful, and he’s not afraid to speak out about things like conference realignment being a massive money-grab that doesn’t have the best interest of student athletes at heart. gobearcats.com.
BEST REALLY RICH REDS FAN
You might want the Reds to win the World Series, but there’s no way you want to do so more than Bob Castellini. The Reds owner was happy the team reached the playoffs again last year, but he’s not satisfied. Castellini has said again and again that his ultimate goal is to bring a World Series title to Cincinnati. He’s already brought the All-Star Game and kept Joey Votto here for a long, long time, so don’t bet against him. The Redlegs officially start their quest for a second-consecutive division title at home against the Los Angeles Angels April 1. cincinnatireds.com.
BEST PIPELINE TO THE BENGALS
Bengals coaches probably know their way around Athens, Ga., by now. As the team readies for this year’s April draft, they’ll no doubt spend some time in the home of the University of Georgia looking for the latest Bulldog-turned-Bengal. Cincinnati has selected a player from UGA in each of the last three drafts and has taken seven Bulldogs in the last nine years. Two of the team’s four Pro Bowlers came straight from Athens, as A.J. Green and Geno Atkins were teammates in college before teaming up in the pros. Watch out for the likes of Jarvis Jones or Alec Ogletree making their way to Paul Brown Stadium soon. cincinnatibengals.com.
BEST EXCUSE TO DRINK CHAMPAGNE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY
You might think the Western and Southern Open in Mason is a bit of a hoity-toity affair, and when you see a champagne stand on the ground, it’s tough to argue. But once you get past any prejudice of the upper crust, you’ll find the city’s best sporting event. The world watches Cincinnati for a week every summer in one of the tennis world’s biggest events, when the game’s best players spend all week in town. You can watch the big names like Roger Federer or Serena Williams on the stadium court, or enjoy some of the world’s best at a much closer range on the side courts. And the booze doesn’t hurt, either. cincytennis.com.
BEST EXERCISE PEOPLE GET WHILE MOST OF US ARE STILL SLEEPING
If you’re not really into running or waking up early, it’s likely that year after year you do not know when the Flying Pig Marathon is coming to Cincinnati’s streets. Well, it happens every May, and even though some of us only find out via Facebook after our friends have already done more exercise that morning than we’ll do in a week, it’s a big deal that helps raise money for more than 200 charities and brings a lot of attention to the city. The Pig includes a 5K, 10K, relay races and half- and full-marathons. If you want to put in the work to earn your very own Flying Pig medal, you better start training soon — this year’s race takes place May 5. flyingpigmarathon.com.
BEST REMINDER THAT GABP LIES NORTH OF THE OHIO RIVER
In one of the silliest “controversies” of recent years, some fans were upset last year when John Calipari and the national champion Kentucky Wildcats were honored before a Reds game in April. Some fans booed Calipari and crew, upset that the hometown Reds would honor a team from another state (even if it is one you can see from the ballpark — for real, not in a Sarah Palin way). If it makes Ohioans feel any better, UK this year missed the NCAA Tournament and lost in the first round of the NIT.
BEST UPSCALE HOCKEY PROMO
No one has to hide the fact that when you go to a hockey game half the intent is to drink several adult beverages (most people’s ratio falls somewhere along the lines of 50-percent drinking, 25-percent nachos and 25-percent hockey watching). The Cincinnati Cyclones have our backs with promotions that put the drinking fun into watching Canada’s favorite sport. This year the Cyclones are offering “Pucks & Pints” and “Pucks and Pinot” nights, where attendees can sample a wide variety of wines and craft beers in a luxury suite while the players warm up before the game. You can pretend you’re going to watch the fighting, but there’s no shame in enjoying mini vanilla bean cupcakes paired with Wild Horse pinot noir.
BEST LOCAL REPRESENTATION AT A NATIONAL EVENT
The Tristate was the center of the college basketball world in March 2012. Four of the teams that made it to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 were from Ohio — UC, Xavier, Ohio State and Ohio University — while Indiana and Kentucky also crashed the party, with the Wildcats winning it all. We’ve long boasted that Cincinnati is the center of the college basketball universe — there are eight schools with longtime college hoops traditions within a 120-mile radius — and the region’s representation in 2012 was the most proof yet.
BEST FREE STUFF AT THE BALLPARK
You’d think by now the bobblehead craze at big league stadiums would be over — but you’d be wrong. This year the Reds have increased their bobblehead nights to five, with ceramic renderings of Brandon Phillips, Aroldis Chapman, Mat Latos, Todd Frazier and Joey Votto on the schedule. Chapman’s bobblehead features a flaming baseball, Latos’ tattoos will be painted on his arms and the ladies will be guaranteed to take Votto home one night, at least. cincinnatireds.com.
BEST MONDAY MORNING THERAPY
After several years without a local morning sports talk radio show, former Angry Guy Tom Gamble returned to the airways in January talking sports, not Classic Rock. Gamble hosts The Morning Drive on Cincinnati Fan 100.3-FM for three hours starting at 6 a.m. every morning. No longer do locals have to wait until the afternoon to complain about the previous night’s game, they can voice their displeasure on the air first thing in the morning. fm100thefan.com.
BEST SIGN UC WILL FIND ITS WAY INTO SOME NEW CONFERENCE
While all the signs are pointing toward doom for the UC Bearcats and their conference home — Louisville found its way in the ACC, the Catholic schools are stealing the Big East and the Big 12 hasn’t called — there is one reason for optimism: Athletic Director Whit Babcock. Babcock didn’t waste any time when Butch Jones left the Bearcats for Tennessee, quickly hiring Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville. His quick and decisive action to fill the school’s most prominent athletic position showed his ability to upgrade the Bearcats’ situation even in tough circumstances. It also helps that new UC president Santa Ono is a big supporter of athletics at the school. gobearcats.com.
BEST SAND ON THE STREETS (OR BEACH) DOWNTOWN
The cobblestones on Elm Street in front of Music Hall were replaced by tons of sand over Labor Day weekend last year for the AVP Cincinnati Pro Beach Volleyball Tournament. Olympic gold-medalist Kerri Walsh made a last-minute appearance and reached the finals of the womens’ division. The event is expected to return this year — hopefully 3CDC didn’t get too annoyed having to clean it all up. avp.com.
BEST FORMER PLAYER PLAYING DEVIL’S ADVOCATE
When Tracy Jones gets behind the mic on 700 WLW’s Eddie & Tracy Show, he transforms into one of the more hilarious caricatures in local media. Part prickly misogynist, part well-natured idiot — and all know-it-all — the former Reds player entertains WLW’s uptight white male audience and comedy enthusiasts alike by pretending to defend those wronged by society (mostly women) while seemingly missing the point as much as possible. During one show he explained why he gives his girlfriend’s dog chocolates (the dog prefers a certain brand), and radio partner Eddie Fingers said Jones’ absence later that week was because animal cruelty officers showed up at his house. We assume it was a joke — there’s no real way to be sure, and that’s kind of the point. 700wlw.com.
BEST REASON TO LOOK FORWARD TO 2015
It was no easy feat for Bob Castellini to bring the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game to Cincinnati. The Reds CEO had worked tirelessly on MLB Commissioner Bud Selig since 2006, and his pestering paid off when MLB announced early this year that the game — and its $75-$100 million in revenue — will soon return to the place where professional baseball began. Castellini was also instrumental in getting the The Banks project together after years of delay, and by 2015 that development, along with other progress we’ve seen in the last couple of years, including Washington Park and the transformation of Over-the-Rhine, will be on full display. cincinnatireds.com.
BEST BEARCAT LEGEND TO
Former Bearcat basketball player Jack Twyman died last May at the age of 78. Twyman was one of only three players in the storied history of the UC program to have his number retired (his 27 hangs on the wall inside Fifth Third Arena with Oscar Robertson’s 12 and Kenyon Martin’s 6). Twyman is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame who was a six-time All-Star during 11 NBA seasons. He led the Bearcats in scoring for three straight seasons from 1953-55 and in 1955 became UC’s second All-American after averaging 24.6 points and 16.5 rebounds. gobearcats.com.
BEST WAY TO FULFILL THE REDS’ NEED FOR SPEED
The Reds are coming off a season in which they made the playoffs and start this year looking even better on paper. That hasn’t stopped fans and media from being intrigued by the progress of Billy Hamilton, who broke baseball’s minor-league single-season steals record last year. Hamilton, who is rated as the 20th best prospect in all of baseball, stole 155 bases over two stops in the minors. He’s being converted to center field, where he is expected to start 2014 for the Reds. cincinnatireds.com.
BEST SUPER-TALL LOCAL FOOTBALL RECRUIT
LaSalle junior wide receiver Derek Kief is one of the most sought-after high school football players in the country. He has a website dedicated to his recruitment, which recently noted that he’s among only four players in Ohio to receive offers from both Ohio State and the University of Alabama (one of them spurned both powerhouses and went to Michigan — ouch!). The 6-foot-5 Kief still has one year left at LaSalle before entering the college game in 2014. derekkief.com.
BEST NON-GARBAGE THING RUMPKE DOES
Rumpke might be building a yucky garbage mountain out in Colerain Township, but over in Harrison the company is involved in something we can all get behind — one of the biggest underhand baseball tournaments in the country. Rumpke Park’s Metro softball tournament draws teams from all over the region, and these dudes take softball seriously. It’s not uncommon for players who participate in the annual tournament to use batting gloves, science bats and wear No. 69 on their T-shirt jerseys. Cincinnati is a big softball town, but this tournament is for the serious of the serious. They will yell at you if your team starts beating theirs. rumpke.com/rumpkepark.
BEST NEW ’DO FOR A GUY PAST HIS SIXTIES
Marty Brennaman might have been joking when he said he’d shave his head if the Reds won 10 straight games last season, but in late July the team did just that, beating the Brewers, Astros and Rockies 10 times in a row. The Hall of Famer held up his end of the bargain, offering to buzz it off during an on-field ceremony if fans raised $20,000 for the Reds Community Fund, a nonprofit that connects at-risk kids with baseball. Fans responded with more than $50,000 in donations, the Reds shut out the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday, Aug. 3 and Marty lopped it off during a postgame ceremony that drew national attention to the nonprofit’s work and the Reds’ winning streak. cincinnatireds.com.
BEST SPORTY ADDITION TO OTR
Cincinnatians love sports, even many who work at design firms or wear fashion hats, looking like they’ve never played an inning of tee ball their entire lives. You’d be wrong to judge them (us) for sometimes shopping at H&M, because we like sports, too, and Rhinehaus in Over-the-Rhine is a new haven for the cool kids to watch sports in Cincinnati’s hippest neighborhood. Conveniently located on 12th Street between Main and Walnut, Rhinehaus has local and craft beers along with more than a dozen TVs. There aren’t many games this place will miss, considering they’re signed up for NFL Sunday Ticket, ESPN Game Plan, ESPN Full Court, MLB Extra Innings, Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Soccer Plus. rhinehausbar.com.
BEST FREE BIG SCREEN FOR
WATCHING REDS GAMES
Fountain Square has long been the city center’s go-to gathering spot, and that’s certainly the case when the Reds are playing on the square’s 30-foot-tall LCD screen mounted atop the Macy’s building. City Center Development Corporation oversees the programming (turning on the TV) and sales of adult beverages, making Fountain Square kind of a giant community hangout, the perfect place to stop by when you don’t feel like having your friends over to make a mess in your backyard while barbecuing. 3cdc.org.
BEST EXCUSE FOR RUNNING AROUND IN YOUR UNDERWEAR
Mount Adams residents were greeted one morning last February by a sight they probably very much appreciated — hundreds of people running the streets in their underwear. But it wasn’t some type of alcohol-fueled debauchery one might find at 3 a.m. in this busy bar district. The 2013 Cupid’s Undie Run was a fun run through the neighborhood on Valentine’s weekend that raised money for The Children’s Tumor Foundation, a national nonprofit research organization. This year’s event beat its goal of $50,000 by raising more than $70,000. cupidsundierun.com/cinci.
The Cincinnati Rollergirls made national headlines in 2010 thanks to Sadistic Sadie, one of their best players. The problem was, the news didn’t have anything to do with her performance on the track. Sadie pleaded guilty to fraud and was sentenced to prison. Well, now she’s out of the clink and back in the rink. Luckily for Sadie, Derby may be one of the few sports in which a prison stint enhances your rep. cincinnatirollergirls.com.
BEST UNDERHAND BASEBALL FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T WEAR TIGHT PANTS
We’ve touched on the fact that Cincinnatians are pretty serious about their softball. But among the batting gloves-wearing, full uniform-sporting enthusiasts in this town exist several friendly leagues run by the city in some of our lovely local parks. Cincinnati Recreation Commission’s athletics and recreation department manages men’s, women’s and co-ed spring, summer and fall leagues at Solway Field in Northside and Schmidt Field in the East End (among others). A reasonable league fee pays for umpires, giant baseballs to use and basically a nice, urban place to run around and play against people who don’t typically ’roid rage if a call doesn’t go their way. cincinnati-oh.gov/recreation.
BEST SIDELINE LEADER
Nope, it’s not Marvin Lewis or even new Bearcats coach Tommy Tuberville. The best football coach in Cincinnati is St. Xavier coach Steven Specht. The longtime Bombers coach was honored last year by the NFL as the country’s best high school coach, winning the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award, earning $25,000 in the process, with $15,000 going to the St. Xavier football program. The Bombers won the Greater Catholic League for the 22nd time last year. stxavier.org.