[This report was filed by Drew McMurray who attended the Western Tour stop in Evansville, Indiana.]
It was very cold in Evansville today. However, no polar vortex could keep Reds fans from coming out to convince the powers that be that Evansville should be considered a regular stop on the annual Reds Caravan. The Western Tour included Marty Brennaman, Doug Flynn, Bob Miller, Brayan Pena, Tucker Barnhart, Eric Davis, as well as Gapper.
As my two daughters and I arrived approximately ten minutes before the beginning (4:00 pm local time) of the event, I realized that there was already a much larger crowd than I had anticipated. A prominent space near two mall entrances (as well as the JC Penney store) was set aside for the Reds and the entire area quickly filled quite nicely. All seats were occupied as we took our place in the line. The line soon stretched from the stage area to a mall entrance and wrapped back around to the area behind the seats in front of the stage. Though I never actually won the jar of candy corn that my middle school math teacher promised I would if I guessed the number of pieces in the jar, I can confidently report that the number of people in attendance was safely over five hundred (a Reds fan/doctor with whom I spoke, who may or may not have won the jar of candy corn when he was in middle school, estimated that the crowed was “well over” five hundred).
While in line and prior to the question/answer session, I turned around to take a picture of the line and encountered none other than Reds CEO Bob Castellini. Considering that I was not aware that he would attend the event, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that the owner of the team was willing to venture this far from Cincinnati to meet and greet Reds fans. He was extremely congenial and even agreed to take a picture with us. [See below.] Afterward, I calmly explained to my oldest daughter that, yes, he was the man who owned the team and that he could indeed add a pink alternate jersey (though the likelihood was not great, regardless of whether or not she asked him about it) if he so chose.
The question and answer session is typically not something that I would expect to be especially revelatory. However, Assistant GM Bob Miller, when asked the obligatory question about Aroldis Chapman starting (yes please!), did plainly state that “like the past two years,” Chapman will be “stretched out in spring training” and added something to the effect that teams can, in fact, lose potential starting pitchers during spring training due to injury. My fingers are crossed, not for an injury, but for Chapman to do what he has done over the past two springs and dominate as a starter, causing both Chapman and Bryan Price to see the light. Hey, one can hope, right? Commence with the Chapman speak if you will.
Since we left the line to take some pictures, we occupied the end of the line (which seemed to only grow longer with time) upon the conclusion of the question/answer session. Though the event was only scheduled to last until 6:30 (local time), we did not approach the table until thirty minutes after the scheduled end. Once at the table, my daughters collected autographs on a great Reds Hall of Fame print that was available and fist bumped Eric the Red (replete with “fireworks”). As the evening was growing long and the line seemingly longer, I kept my conversation at a minimum, though I did ask Brayan Pena how to say “no more somersaults” in Spanish.
Many Cardinals fans maintain that southwestern Indiana is their territory. There are also a significant number of Cubs fans in the region as well. I commend the Reds for including Evansville and hope (as many fans I spoke with expressed) that there is soon an Evansville Reds Radio Network affiliate. However, judging from this evening’s attendance, the region is already Reds Country.