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Since moving to Long Island 4 years I only get 1 chance a year to see them play when they square off against the Mets. As I side bar, I really love Citi Field and enjoy going there. I highly recommend seeing a game there if you have the opportunity. This year I got the privilege of seeing them twice thanks to interleague play.
This was my second trip to Yankee Stadium and it was a much more pleasant experience. My previous experience was a rough one. A baseball game with the temperatures over 100 degrees with a wife who was 7 months pregnant was probably not the best idea. I never really had any desire to take another trip to Yankee Stadium until a good friend offered us to go with him and his family.

Fighting NY traffic on a Friday is never fun which proved to be the biggest frustration of the evening. Paying $20 to park several blocks, one mall, a giant parking garage, and three little league diamonds away was a close second. The surroundings of Yankee stadium are really nothing to take note of. A few sports bars and a lot of little venders selling #2 jerseys were the only other real attractions going on. One thing that stood out to me as a visitor as we approached the stadium was that those fans LOVE their Yankee jersey. I spent the walk tricking the daughter of my friend into rooting for Reds players since she could not name anyone on the roster other than Derek Jeter. She was all set to be yelling “Go Billy Hamilton” until my wife couldn’t contain he laughter anymore.

Yankee Stadium is beautiful and clean from the outside. They have done a good job making it look like a museum or historical building that occasionally hosts baseball games. This is vastly different than a lot of the stadiums I have been to. It was not necessarily “fan friendly”. They let the fact that it is Yankee Stadium speak for itself and have the entertain people. And it sort of works.

The one thing setting Yankee Stadium apart is walking in and “feeling” baseball history around you. They have done a good job capturing the spirit of the Yankee tradition even in a newer ballpark. You know it is a new park but you get the feeling that you are walking into one of the great stadiums of history. It really makes me wish I had a chance to see the original. Getting a glimpse of Monument Park, seeing the flags and banners of all 27 of their championships, pictures of the old greats, and retired numbers beyond the left centerfield seats make you realize this really is a great organization… no matter how hard that is to admit. I could have done without the giant wall painting of George Steinbrenner behind the bleacher seats.

All of that nostalgia was put to rest a bit when I noticed the ticket prices! No wonder they can afford nearly any player on the planet. The prices of the concessions were not much better. $9.75 for a beer. When I joked about the price the vendor assured me, “Yea, but this baby is ice cold!” I wonder if I could have struck a deal for a lukewarm one. Although the $5 Johnny Rockets vanilla milkshake may have been worth it. That thing was awesome. This was a slight cover for the mediocre $12 chicken fingers and fries.

The fans I ran into at Yankee Stadium were all very friendly to a guy wearing a Johnny Bench jersey. They didn’t seem to care too much when I admittedly cheered a little louder than necessary for Brayan Pena’s first of 2 homeruns. This sparked one of the more humorous conversations of the night. I was sitting next to an elderly couple wearing Yankee jerseys. I cannot stress the jerseys enough, they were everywhere. The older gentleman leaned over after I had stopped cheering and sat down and asked “Is that the guy who just played in the All-Star game for you?” I chuckled and told him no, he is actually our back-up catcher and our starting catcher was the All-Star. He then said “Oh, so you have him playing DH in the American League games.” I laughed a little harder and said “No, he is playing first base since Joey Votto is hurt.” This started several minutes of conversation on how the Reds did not in fact have a backup first baseman. Amazingly, he was shocked that a team would not have a backup first baseman. It was fun hearing from a Yankees fan about what he thought his team would have done if they lost their star player for an extended amount of time. Go out and get someone else to play! Ah the Yankee way.

The other thing I will remember about my trip to Yankee Stadium was seeing Derek Jeter play in his final season. I have never heard a stadium cheer for a player as loud as Yankee fans cheer for #2. It is incredible… and obnoxiously overdone. The ovation was nice when he was announced on his first plate appearance. It is a really cool touch how they use a voice recording of Bob Sheppard, the late PA announcer of 50 some years, to call Jeter to the plate. Just another touch of trying to keep the Yankee tradition front and center. The applause Jeter got anytime he was did anything on the field got a little old. I have never heard 47k people go nuts when a SS makes a routine play. They went crazy when a ball hopped over Todd Frazier’s glove for what should have been an error. The place erupted when he scored a run. He made a nice play down the third base line on a blooper by Billy Hamilton that you would have thought was a replay to his running into the stands to make a catch based upon the cheers from the crowd. He still got cheered when he made a fielding error. I really don’t think he can do anything wrong in the eyes of Yankee fans. I will give them credit though. Yankees fans do know how to treat the great ones even if it is a little overdone.

The fans really do care about their team. It was fun seeing fans have a good time and supporting their team. It helps when they are winning. I was surprised to see how many stuck around to listen to Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” play several times over after the Yanks sealed the 4-3 victory. My wife and I waited several minutes to get our picture taken on the railing with the field as our backdrop along with loads of other fans. The fans we were surrounded by through the game gave their condolences for the loss and even offered up some “better luck next times”. Despite Yankee Stadium not really being a fun, fan-friendly stadium the Yankee fans were, well, friendly and fun.

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Run Billy Run

nyredfanatic —  05/01/2014 — Leave a comment

Well it has been 17 games since our last post here at Riverfront Ramblings. The delay may have been since I have been busy. Maybe it is because we have finally had some nice days and I have actually wanted to be outside and do some yard work. Maybe I realized I am not that great of a blogger. But maybe, just maybe, I have not been that excited about this Reds team. We all know about their struggles to start the year. 3-7 in their first 10 without a lot of offense and a terrible bullpen wasn’t enough to carry me through the early season buzz. They got healthy (a little bit at least) and moved Joey Votto to the 2nd spot in the lineup and that seemed to help a little. The offense went on a 10 game stretch where they scored at least 4 runs. That was neat. They started to play better for that stretch and things were looking up. But as the smoke cleared and things settle down they were still 9-8 over those 17 games. The most inspiring portion of their season thus far and it was still barely over .500. Thankfully 5 of those 17 games were against the cubbies. As the season progresses that is what this team may end up being… A .500 team. That is not going to be enough to get us into the post season. That is the sort of season that will start to make me look forward to the Bengals earlier than I would like.

So what is the thing that keeps me checking the box scores for this team? Billy Hamilton. I know a lot of people have been harsh on the youngster for his lack of getting on base. Yes, I would like to see that rise as well to fill the void that Choo left from last year. Sure I would like to see a few more infield hits and successful bunt attempts. Yes, I would LOVE to see him be the best leadoff man in the major leagues. He has been far from perfect. He has been thrown out trying to steal bases on occasion. Five times to be exact. He has looked helpless and overmatched in some of his plate appearances. But in my blogger opinion, he is the only thing really worth getting excited about when it comes to the offense of this team. (The starting pitching has done well, especially Cueto and Simon)

Before screaming that Billy needs to be sent back to Louisville or pitted at the 9th spot in the lineup lets not forget the plays that he has made. I have never seen a guy go from first to third on a routine ground ball to the pitcher. Billy was running on the pitch and literally never stopped. It was pretty crazy. We have seen him tag from 2nd to 3rd on very shallow fly balls making RF’s look like little leaguers trying to throw him out. And seriously, what about the tagging from third to home on what was essentially an infield fly rule pop up. The most incredible thing about this is the right fielder called off the second baseman and was coming in on the ball making it an easier throw home… and he was still safe. He creates panic in pitchers. Just look at what he did to Francisco Liriano of Pittsburg. He was on base creating havoc when he gave up a home run to Joey Votto… that was Liriano’s first home run to a left hander in like 19 years. A week later again against Liriano, Billy drew a leadoff walk. In the next three pitches to Votto Billy successfully stole 2nd and then advanced to 3rd and then home to score on back to back wild pitches. That was not the first 9 pitches a starter wants to throw.

There is no doubt the kid is fast. Very fast. I wont knock him too much for getting thrown out a few times while trying to steal bases. Most of those caught stealing were on first pitches where everyone in the park knew he was going and the pitchers and catchers were on high alert. Not too many people at any level can successfully steal in those situations. The game I went to in NY was an example of this. Billy came on to pinch run and everyone in the place knew he was running on the first pitch. He got gunned at 2nd with a perfect throw. This will happen in the major leagues until he learns a little more of the art of stealing a base. This will come.

So in a season where I have almost forgot we have a guy named Jay Bruce on the roster, and where Brandon Phillips might be showing his age we need all the excitement we can get. Joey Votto’s lack of power has not been exciting. I don’t tune in to see what he is doing anymore. The fact that arguably the best power hitter this season in Devin Mesoraco is on the DL for the 2nd time says a lot of this lineup. There simply isn’t a lot to get excited for. It is becoming easy to not pay attention to this team. But with Billy in the line up I do catch myself checking the box scores. I check to see how he did. I watch the video replay to see what he can do on the bases. He is the guy that has my interest right now. So until this season swings around a little my battle cry for the Reds will remain: Run Billy Run

Reflecting on the last 10: Well we are 10 games into this season and things are not looking good fans. I really am trying to be an optimist here, but right now, I feel like I am simply being a realist. The Reds are sitting at 3-7 and have looked bad getting there. Their 3 victories have all came with exceptional pitching efforts, including 2 shutouts. 2 of the wins have been won by a combined 2 runs. There really has only been 1 game out of the 10 where they seemed to play a complete game, and even then it took Mike Leake pitching great and Billy Hamilton exhibiting his game changing speed. Man he needs to get on base more. These 10 games have been hard to watch (or listen to).

What we’ve learned: So what have we learned in this young season? First and foremost, the offense of this team is very poorly constructed. And that is being polite. Sure people can say the Reds are battling injuries, but outside of Devin Mesoraco those injuries are to backups and pitching. It is not a good sign when your top choice as a pinch hitter is your backup catcher. Chris Heisey, playing off of the bench, is the only other contributor to this offense. I would argue he needs to be starting and Hamilton needs to be coming off of the bench. He is more valuable as a pinch runner at this point if he can’t get on regularly. Our starting SS has 1 hit in 10 games and no walks. Unfortunately there is no depth at the position and no one to challenge him or push him. Skip Schumaker will not provide the boost that this team needs when he is healthy. He was brought in to be a backup and he will produce like a backup. This team desperately needs a RH bat in a bad way. In my opinion things will not get any better until that happens.

The bright spot: Devin Mesoraco is back from an injury and hitting the ball very well. If he keeps it up, he could slide up in the lineup a bit and provide some help. See, there is some optimism for you. Still, I do not think his return will be enough to improve the offense in a drastic way… and there is the pessimism.

Looking forward: So will it get any better and do we have anything at all to look forward to? Yes! The thing we have to look forward to is having our top 3 bullpen pitchers returning at some point. 2 of the loses have been pegged on the bullpen and another 2, possibly 3 games, have been blown open and put out of reach because of the bullpen. This part of the team will get better with time and get back to where it was last year as one of the top bullpens in baseball Help is on the way! Mat Latos will eventually return… hopefully? He apparently is having set backs with his arm. His return would help the rotation and strengthen the bullpen by moving Simon back into his spot and replacing one of the lesser arms currently taking up space. Those are the only improvements I see in this team’s future. Baring any trades the offense is what it is. I do not see it getting better than slight improvements with the current lineup. Votto’s numbers will increase and Bruce will hit more than he currently has. I think Hamilton’s numbers will increase a tad and we can expect more from him as the season goes on and he grows. I think Cozart will reach base again at some point this season. However, I do not see this offense as enough to carry this team past a third place finish in the NL Central.

The Standings: Looking at the standings at the 10 game mark provides no more optimism. Sure the Reds are only 5 games back… wait, that’s not good either. The Reds are in last place in the NL Central while the Brew Crew stands at the top. Yes it is early, but it is still not a very good sight. I think when the smoke settles and the roster heals up things will get a little better. We will pass the Cubs in the standings eventually. Our pitching staff we will improve and provide us enough wins to not end up in last. If I had to make some predictions with the small sample size we have I would be depressed with the outcome. With what we’ve seen so far this year I predict the Cardinals to be the NL Central Champs. I think they have enough offense and a top notch pitching staff. They will start to hit better and offensive production will improve. After the Cards I would predict the Brewers in second and the Reds and Pirates wrestling around for their spot at third place with the Cubs looking up at everyone. Again, these predictions are off of what we have seen in the first 10 games of the season. Take a look at the standings and see what you think. Here is to hoping I am wrong!

 

 NL Central W L PCT GB
Milwaukee 8 2 .800
Pittsburgh 6 4 .600 2.0
St. Louis 5 5 .500 3.0
Chi Cubs 4 6 .400 4.0
Cincinnati 3 7 .300 5.0

This past weekend was the one chance to see the Reds live this year. Well, I could go see them at Yankee Stadium in July but I would have to pull back my pledge to never go to another Yankees game. After paying way too much money to sit in 107 degree temperatures the last time there I am ok not seeing another game in a stadium that resembles a museum rather than a fan friendly atmosphere.

So what did I think about Citi Field? It was awesome. Maybe it was the fact that I got to sit in one of the suites that made it worth while. This was a huge plus on a rainy night with temperatures in the low 40’s. The all you can eat food platters in the suite surely helped out a lot too. As did the fully stocked refrigerator. We were able to get a mini personalized tour of the ballpark from someone who has worked there the last several years and knew the history as well as being a life long Met fan. Mostly though, Citi Field is an awesome park. It is clean and fun. It is nicely laid out with a lot of character and simply a good place to watch a game… but the suite seats helped a lot.

The best part of the night was getting to share all of this with my dad, the guy who taught me to be a Reds fan. Seeing him act like a little kid on Christmas was simply hilarious. My dad, who has never met a stranger, talked to anyone and everyone who would listen about how excited he was. He shared memories from games he has witnessed and stories from different ballparks. He talked about which ballpark had the best food and where his favorite seats have been. He reminisced on the good and the bad the Reds have been through. This was another memorable night I am sure he will talk about for years to come. Thanks for making the trip out here pops and I hope you had a great time.

We didn’t get to watch batting practice from the field like we had planned on due to the rain and the Reds lost. Those were the only two bummers of the evening. The terrible news of the night came when we finally decided to warm up and watch the game from inside the suite and we missed the foul ball that landed in our box… only to be snagged by the kids from the next one over.

Take a look at some of the pictures from my visit to Citi Field. Thanks to everyone who made it possible. You know who you are!

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Fully stocked fridge is a plus

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I ate way too much off of this plate

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These were to die for

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View from our seats

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Citi Field entrance

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In front of the #42 in the Jackie Robinson area

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This is what we were doing when we missed our foul ball

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My wife Jen admitting that this is how she wants to watch games from now on

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View from the outfield while on our tour

 

Here is a recent article from Sports Illustrated I stumbled upon about Opening Day in Cincinnati. It is pretty neat and shows a glimpse of why I love being a Reds fan. They are some of the greatest sports fans out there when they have something to root for. Go Reds.

 

http://m.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/blog/2014/04/sports-illustrated-writer-blown-away-by-cincinnati.html?ana=fbk&r=full