Reds baseball, and Opening Day more specifically, has been a central theme of my family ever since I can remember. It’s been woven into the fabric of my family’s life and has provided the back drop for some of my fondest memories and major life events. I can remember like yesterday my late mother forging doctor notes year after year excusing me from school and taking me downtown to experience the hustle and bustle of the Findlay Market Parade and the dark peanut laced concourses of Cinergy Field. Those kinds of memories aren’t the kind forged by classrooms and rule following, they are the kind of memories formed by a shared passion for something that represents so much more.
Whenever I think of my childhood, family, and mom, my mind immediately goes to Opening Day. My mind wanders to the rainy Monday when Ken Griffey Jr. played in his first game for the Reds. I remember my mom surprising me with a Ken Griffey Jr. jersey when she picked me up from school the morning of the game. I remember the excitement leading up to the game, visiting Findlay Market for the first time, and my dad pulling some strings that allowed me to walk in the Findlay Market Parade. I remember strolling into the dark stadium on a gloomy day and the smell of flat beer and peanuts mixed with rain.
As my family matured so did our traditions. Gone were the days of skipping school and dancing around in the parade. Fake doctors notes were replaced by pre game beers with friends and family. I remember spending many years at the Montgomery Inn Boathouse before the first game of the season, hanging out on the sunny balcony overlooking the gleaming Ohio River. I remember my mom insisting that we do a shot of tequila (her favorite) to commemorate the new season. I remember the sweet, pungent smell of cigars as my dad lit up on the balcony with his friends to celebrate the day. I remember complaining about the long walk from the Boathouse to the stadium. It was the same thing every year. It was clockwork.
Opening Day was an entire family affair. My older sister, younger brother, mom, dad, and I were all brought together by the joy that the day provided. As time grew, so did our family. Opening Day was the setting for major first-time encounters between my family and future wives and husbands. I can remember hanging out with my future brother in law for the first time, sipping a beer, talking Reds baseball, and thinking “this guy is going to be alright.” I can remember bringing my future wife to Opening Day and seeing her fall in love with it, all while my family, and I, fell in love with her. Opening Day sparked the relationships that eventually grew between my family and the outsiders that we now love.
The first game of 2018 marks the 8th Opening Day in a row that my entire family won’t be together at. Since my mom passed away in 2011, the day just hasn’t been the same. Consistency has been replaced by a feeling of apprehension. My mom was the glue that held the day together. Her passion and spirit is remembered, but can’t be recreated. My family and I try to organize and coordinate before the game but many a years the day passes without seeing each other’s faces.
Opening Day 2018 has a chance to be the start of another down year for the Reds. Wins and losses are important to most fans (and me), but try to look past it. Try to take Opening Day, and any Reds game you go to this season, in stride. Appreciate the time you spend in others’ company at the game. Appreciate a cold beer on a lazy Sunday afternoon at the yard. Look out over the right field stands and take in the view of the Ohio River. Have fun racking your brain trying to solve the Reds Scoreboard Stumper. Enjoy the sound of Marty Brennaman’s voice on the staticky radio while you’re cruising down the street with the windows open on a warm day. Realize how good it feels to live out another summer enjoying the little traditions that Reds baseball gives us.
I hope to one day rekindle everything that Opening Day meant to my family. Maybe time is all that we need, but I believe that my family owes it to my mom to reignite the bond that the day provided us with. All it’s going to take is a little bit of effort and for someone to bring up those sweet, sweet memories that the day has given us.
Jeff is Cincinnati born, Ohio University educated. Reds baseball has been a central theme of his family ever since his mom and dad helped him skip school to attend Opening Day. Jeff has been accused of having a “man crush” on Joey Votto and longs for the day that he gets to witness the Reds finally win a playoff series. You can follow him on Twitter @Gaaangs