[This report was filed from Indianapolis by Nate Dunlevy.]
The Western leg of the Reds caravan swung through Indianapolis, and as always, a good time was had had by all.
I’ve been going to the caravan for a number of years, and this year’s stop was the best crowd in recent memory. The team added Eric Davis to the lineup, and his presence helped draw several hundred people to Castleton Mall on the north side of Indianapolis.
Local hero Tucker Barnhart got some love from the hometown fans. Barnhart grew up in Brownsburg, IN, a suburb of Indianapolis, and several fans bragged about seeing him play as a boy.
Brayan Peña spoke some Spanish upon prompting from the crowd, and Davis cracked everyone up with his loose interpretation of Peña’s words. Big Red Machine alum Doug Flynn and assistant GM Bob Miller rounded out the panel.
The question and answer session featured Davis recounting that the achievement he was most proud of was beating cancer. This got him another rousing cheer from the crowd.
Steroid use was a common question, as fans asked Marty about Ryan Braun and Davis about Barry Bonds. Marty was typically unequivocal in his condemnation of Braun, and rolled his eyes and glowered as Davis said nice things about Bonds, though gave a thumbs up as Davis said Bonds caused many of his own problems.
The two were the biggest name at the panel and were the ones everyone was there to see. My own seven-year old son got to meet Marty, who was clearly delighted by the children present. I had him sign my Marty and Joe bobblehead, and thanked him for all the wonderful years of baseball.
I had met Davis in Cooperstown two summers ago at Barry Larkin’s induction, but it was fun to shake his hand and thank him for hitting the first homerun I saw in person. I’ve had a plaque on my wall with his rookie card in it for 20 years, and now that card bears his signature.
The kids had a great time seeing major league players up close, and everyone walked away with great memories. Gapper was there for comic relief, and my kids were both thrilled and slightly horrified by him. They signed up for the Reds Heads kids clubs and chattered all the way home about the games they’ll go to in 2014.
The caravan continues to be a vital lifeline to a critical market. The Reds are broadcast locally on both radio and TV now, which helps, but events like this one are strategic in continuing to claim Central Indiana as Reds country and not Cub-ville. The mission is to win the hearts and minds of young Hoosiers, and today, it was mission accomplished.