Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Cold Day in Cincinnati

This week's column is about my trip to Cincinnati for opening day baseball. I know Florida just won a national championship, I know Barry Bonds is being investigated, but I thought I would write something a little lighthearted this week. So let us begin.

The trip began on Sunday and we made our way to the Buckeye State. The day was cloudy, but warm with a few sprinkles. Until we got to Louisville, then we ran into what some may call a deluge. The rain was so hard we couldn't see the cars in front of us. Our driver narrowly missed crashing us several times. but we made it into Cincinnati alive, if not shaken.

Throughout the night in Cincinnati there were thunder storm warnings, tornado watches, and sirens going all night. Lightening streaked the sky surrounding the PNC Bank building and the rained poured, but nothing devastating took place, at least to my knowledge.

My friends and I had been preparing for this trip by keeping an eye on the weather for weeks. We wanted to know how to dress for the game. One good rule of thumb is it is always better to dress too warmly than to not dress warm enough. I thought that to myself several times as I saw many women wearing open toed sandals and capri pants. We all bundled up, though not enough, we would realize later.

We began our walk to the stadium at about 9:30. The stadium doors were opening extra early this day because President Bush was throwing out the first pitch and security would be tight. We decided to go ahead and skip the opening day parade and check out the Reds batting practice.

We arrived at the Great American Ballpark thinking that it was going to be a good day even though the wind was whipping. We did not take into consideration at that time of the temperature drop we were facing. The security was set up before the gates of the ballpark and we had to walk into tents, empty our pockets, walk through the metal detectors, and get patted down. I notice that when it came to getting patted down, a few of the people looked as though they knew the drill a little too well.

We made our way in and headed straight for food. We had not had breakfast yet so we decided to start our day with the most important meal. Most went for Skyline Chili Coneys, but I thought that was a little too much for breakfast, so I had a Big Red Smokey and a bratwurst. Hey, it's sausage, you eat sausage for breakfast.

We then watched some batting practice. We also began to notice that with the 20 to 30 mile an hour wind swirling around the stadium that it is a little colder than when we first arrived. Instead of feeling like an opening day game with sun and warmth and bright colors, it felt more like an early October game, dreary and cold, with the Reds long out of contention for fourth place in the division.

We decided that perhaps we should go to the souvenir shop and buy something or at least get warmed up. I then decided instead to go sign up for a Cincinnati Reds credit card. I do not need a credit card and I don't expect to take one if offered, but for just filling out the paperwork, you received a free gift. My free gift? A nice warm Cincinnati Reds blanket. I thought I could wrap up in it during the game or burn it for heat.

Game time and we are all freezing but ready for the first pitch. President George W. Bush comes out to a rousing ovation and throws a good pitch. A better pitch than many of what the Reds' pitchers threw that day. This marked the first time a sitting president had thrown out the first pitch for the Cincinnati Reds. No matter what you may think about the man, it was pretty cool to witness the president throwing out a first pitch.

On to the game. I am not going to give the the total rundown, you can check a box score for that, but I will give you some details of the game. I noticed the groups of snipers strategically place around the stadium, that gives you a good feeling let me tell you. I notice that it is getting colder and colder. I notice that a player for the Cubs has both a divine and evil name, Angel Pagan.

The wind is still swirling and it seems to be affecting the outfielders, well, at least one anyway. Reds outfielder Adam Dunn has had an adventure in left field. He has crashed into walls, run around in circles and when he finally does track down a pesky fly ball and makes the catch, he gets the largest ovation of the day. It is getting still colder. Three in my group are wearing their free blankets as hijabs around their head to keep their faces warm.

I decide at the end of the third inning that it is lunch time. So I go and look for more healthier fare and I decide on another brat and a hot dog. The lunch of champions, something the Reds will not be this year if today's game is any indication. While in line for my artery clogging food I get behind a guy and his Lindsay Lohan look alike girlfriend. The line is so slow that I miss the entire fourth inning and part of the fifth and this girl in front of me has not stopped talking the entire time. I now know of her undying love for Bonnaroo and how she has planned her whole summer around it.

Back to my seat and I scarf down the chow and wrap myself up in my blanket and prepare to freeze for another 4 innings. My cousin asks someone else in the group if there is any chance he could talk the group into leaving early and I say he could have talked me into leaving in the first inning.

Let me try to explain to you how cold it was in the ballpark that day. Take the coldest you have ever been in your life and multiply by one hundred. Got that? Now punch yourself in the face five times and you are half way there.

We decide to leave at the top of the ninth inning and we head for the exits. Half of our group must have looked like a group of Bedouin nomads with our blankets wrapped around our heads. As we arrived closer to the parking garage a group of people came out of a hotel right in front of us. Being half frozen and delirious from the cold I almost ran into the head of the group. I quickly recognized that the guy I almost flattened on my race to the warmth of a well heated mini van was none other than Cincinnati's own, Nick Lachey. For those who do not recognize that name, he is the former Mr. Jessica Simpson.

After our almost literal brush with fame, we got into the vehicles and headed home. Even though the elements were brutal and the Reds stunk, that was not what this annual trip was about. It was about hanging out with your friends and enjoying the atmosphere that is opening day. I hope that some of you can experience this with your favorite team. I forgot to mention, it is also about the food. In case you are wondering, for dinner I had a hot dog, a jalapeno cheese dog and a corn dog. You know, just a little something for the trip home.

Stayed tuned for Bratch's photo essay including a cameo appearance by Nick Lachey.

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