Saturday, June 16, 2012

Vacation 2012, June 8: Exceeding Expectations

Well, we made the four hour drive to Cincinnati in less than six hours (no, really).  It was a good trip.  I was tired since I was up until 3 am packing.  I don't know why I do that to myself.  We went straight to the stadium and met our escort for the afternoon.  His name was Kylee and he had gifts for us.  He had black Reds hats for me & Bryan, red Reds hats for the boys, and small teddy bears wearing a Reds hat, jersey, and holding a bat for each of the boys.

After we got our special passes that were marked "Field Visitor" we went into the undergound area of Great American Ballpark.  He took our picture outside the Reds Clubhouse.  Then we went down some hallways and through a guarded door to the visitor's dugout and onto the field.  We stood in a roped area behind home plate.  From there we watched the players take batting practice and stretch.  There were very few people in the stadium because the gates weren't even open yet.  We got a couple balls that rolled our way and the boys got to keep them.  We saw players, managers, broadcasters, and front office staff we recognized.  Of course we had our camera and took many, many pictures! 

Outside the Reds Clubhouse

As batting practice was winding down we were escorted to the front of the Reds dugout.  The lady (Lorrie) who arranged all this for us was there, and she would bring players over and introduce us.  The first player we met was Jay Bruce.  He's the right fielder.  Zachary was tired after the long trip, and it was very hot so his Shy & Cranky mood was in full swing.  We were a little surprised by this since he had been in such a great mood as we walked to the stadium, but these moods can hit him faster than a migraine.  What can I say, he's four so I guess he's allowed a little moodiness.  Anyway, Jay started talking to us and when we tried to introduce Zachary he hid behind me.  Jay says, "Maybe you'd like my batting gloves?" and immediately pulls them off and hands them to Zachary.  Bryan, who never leaves the house without a Sharpie and his collector's quick thinking, says, "Would you sign them?"  So now Zachary is the proud owner of a pair of Jay Bruce game used autographed gloves.  He wouldn't acknowledge Jay or any of the other players we met, but after the fact he is very excited about the experience.  Eli enjoyed himself too, he started waving to people as soon as we entered the Reds offices and didn't stop until we were in our seats for the game.  I'm pretty sure his arms got sore. 
Jay Bruce using the batting gloves he later autographed for Zachary

With Jay Bruce outside the reds dugout

After Jay left Lorrie brought Drew Stubbs over.  He plays center field .  He talked to us quite a bit and was very amused by Eli.  Eli kept pointing to Drew's face and saying "baby."  We didn't understand at first until I saw Eli's reflection in Drew's dark sunglasses.  He took them off and held them in front of Eli so he could see himself better.  I don't think Eli got all ten fingerprints on Drew's lenses but he came close.  After posing for a picture with us he signed a mini helmet for the boys.

Eli seeing his reflection in Drew Stubbs' sunglasses

The next player we got to meet was Scott Rolen.  He is the regular third baseman, but he's on the Disabled List right now because of shoulder problems.  He is an old man in baseball terms.  I only say that because he & Bryan are the same age and it's really my way of teasing Bryan.  Bryan actually played against Scott in high school as conference rivals (Scott went to Jasper High School).  Anyway, he came over and spoke to us.  As Zachary was turning away during the introduction Scott said, "It's okay, I have a boy & girl at home who are shy too."  He signed a baseball for Zachary and talked with Bryan for a few minutes. 

With Scott Rolen

The last player we got to meet was Zack Cozart.  He's the shortstop.  When we watch games at home Zachary likes to watch Zack because "He has my name except he's Zack and I'm Zachary."  A few months ago Bryan had written to Zack and told him he was Zachary's favorite player.  He sent Zachary batting gloves in the mail.  When we met him Bryan told Zack that Zachary has them and loves to show them off.  Zack's reply was "People don't think we get our fan's letters but we really do."  Just a little encouragement to anyone who has thought about writing to their favorite players!  Anyway, he signed a mini helmet for the boys and posed for a picture with us before having to leave for a hitters meeting. 

With Zack Cozart

Between meeting players we just hung out in front of the dugout and watched.  Music was playing and Eli was dancing in my arms.  A small crowd of people had gathered behind the Reds dugout in hopes of getting some autographs and Eli had the attention of nearly everyone there as he waved his arms in the air and bounced.  I'm not sure how I held on to him because he was moving so much and I was laughing so hard.  Even Zachary was laughing at Eli and it helped bring Z back to his normal happy mood.

All the players we met were so nice and genuinely wanted us to enjoy ourselves at the game. They even thanked us for coming which I thought was funny since the Reds provided the tickets for us.  Each of them wished us luck and shook hands with us as we met and parted parted ways.  I used to be a Reds fan by marriage, but this experience has made me a true Reds fan!

Kylee took us back across the field (we walked across the on deck circles) and back to the visitor's dugout the way we came in.  On the way he handed Bryan another gift for us:  $50 in concession vouchers that are good all season.  Of course we were hungry and planned to buy food anyway, but it tasted even better just because of the kindness we'd been shown.  Our tickets were aisle seats in the lower level behind the visitor's dugout.  The protective net behind home plate ended just to our right so Bryan was always ready with his glove in case a foul ball came our way (which it never did). 

Helmet with two layers of nachos & cheese = one very happy & full family of four :)

Eli making friends

The game itself was very exciting.  Zack Cozart scored the first run and the Reds had an early lead.  Joey Votto hit a 3-run homer, and they held that lead until the Detroit Tigers tied it in the 8th.  No one scored in the 9th so we went to extra innings.  Miguel Cairo scored the winning run on a aqueeze bunt by Wilson Valdez in the bottom of the 10th, so we had a Reds victory.  Zachary's mood had improved dramatically with food, and he was completely caught up in the excitement of the win.  I was holding him at the end of the game so he could see (the crowd was on its feet!).  He stayed in my arms and slapped fives with anyone who would as he yelled "Go Reds!"  Even some Tiger fans gave him five because it's hard to be upset at a little kid cheering for his team. 

The Reds have fireworks over the river after Friday night games.  The bright lights were shut off and we sat through more than 20 minutes of the most spectacular fireworks we've ever seen.  Zachary literally could not sit still.  He gave complete play by play of each blast.  Eli watched the sky in awe.  It was his first time seeing fireworks.  Apparently he wasn't as impressed as his brother because he fell asleep in my arms despite the loud booms and blaring music.  He woke up when we were leaving and waved to everyone as we made our way out of the stadium and walked to the van.  Yes, I mean he was still waving and smiling as I buckled him into his seat. 

Our hotel is in Florence, KY which in normal traffic is about 20 minutes from Cincy.  Despite game traffic it didn't take much longer and we got to our hotel about midnight.  Eli was completely out by then and didn't even wake up when I took him out of the van.  He stayed asleep all the way to our room (including an elevator ride).  He woke up for a while at 2 when we gave him his meds and changed his soaking wet diaper, but he went back to sleep until his normal wake up time.  Zachary was very wound up at the hotel, but very agreeable to putting on pjs and brushing his teeth.  He laid down while Bryan brushed his teeth and was asleep before Bryan was done. 

It was a great day and we are so lucky to have had the experience together.  All of us had so much fun and we are so grateful for the special opportunity.  We asked Zachary what his favorite part was and in typical four year old fashion he said, "The fireworks.  Then the game.  Oh yeah, and meeting the players!"  A huge thank you to the Reds organization and MLB for making this incredible memory for us.

Former Reds player Joe Morgan

Eli loved watching her until we got this close

Our autographs and gifts from our wonderful Reds experience

The boys trying on their Jay Bruce autographed batting gloves

Bryan and Zachary standing in the Reds on deck circle

Coming up out of the visitor's dugout and taking his first steps on the field

Mommy & Zachary enjoying Reds batting practice

Daddy & Eli watching batting practice

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