Archives For Offseason

Ahhhh, February… The Gregorian’s least favorite month of the year (28 1/4 days…. talk about short end of the stick!). For some, it’s all about Valentines Day; for others, it’s President’s Day Sales and vacations. In Long Island, they take an entire week off of school for “Winter Break” which is a standard that has been in place for a few decades because it was traditionally the coldest week of the year and the school could save significant money by turning the heat off for a week.

For for us loyal fans, February is the beginning of baseball season. Football comes to a close with the Super Bowl, and the College Basketball games are just starting to make noise as the bracket comes into perspective. The NBA and NHL are still so far away from their playoffs that we aren’t really paying attention. But the fact that Pitchers and Catchers report in 14 days has us glued to our seats reading blogs (thanks by the way) and rumor threads on twitter.

But what do you do to fill in the dead time…

And for the last 10 years my answer to this question is to attempt to watch a Baseball movie or two (or three or four depending if Kevin Costner is in it) every week until opening day. Some of my favorites in no particular order are as follows:

1 – “42” – The Jackie Robinson Story : This has been a great new addition to the line up. I would say it rivals Remember the Titians as far as story telling goes.

2 – The Costner Classics. “Field of Dreams” “For the Love of the Game” & “Bull Durham” – Has he made a bad baseball movie? The narration style and allegories that these movie draws from are great. Bull Durham is my personal favorite, a minor league movie, and it does really well to capture the Pitcher and Catcher relationship, as seen in one of my favorite clips:

3 – “Money Ball” – I feel like this one sneaks in under the radar, while being more of a business movie than a baseball movie, it hits all the right notes at the end. Brad Pitt does an amazing job of keeping the pace going and giving us enough baseball to keep us engaged, but opens a whole new conversation as to the business of baseball. Very interesting.

4 – “Major League 1 & 2” – Easily the most quotable movie. Even though it’s a tribe movie (in state rival) It has enough charm to help me get past it.

5 – <Insert 90’s Kid Baseball Movie> – Where it’s Angles in the Outfield, Rookie of the Year, or The Sandlot it’s an instant classic. Baseball movies were reinvented (From your 40’s and 50’s post war attempts) in the 70’s with the Bad News Bears, focused on kids and baseball’s role in developing our youngsters. The Sandlot is the obvious crown jewel in this sub-genre, which tops nearly every movie list, not just for kids, as it draws heavily on the heart behind the game that is in every kid’s memory.

6 – The Natural – Such a good movie. Enough said.

I’m sure I’m missing plenty of good movies to draw from, Mr. 3000 obviously…. and my wife’s favorite, “A league of their own”…But leave a comment and tell me your favorite moments from Baseball and Cinema.

2015… man oh man… it truly was the best of times and the worst of times. Not just for the sports world that circled around Cincinnati, but also in my personal life.

I realize I didn’t post in 2015… it was pretty crazy. Having moved back to Ohio in the fall of 2014, I was still attempting to put roots down back at home and felt reinvigorated to make new memories vs dwelling on the old ones. So i lost my focus for the blog. I switched jobs 3 times from late 2014 through early 2016, so I was putting the ax to the grind. Each opportunity brought new challenges, some of them were the best of times, and then there were also the worst of times that saw the first two opportunities come to a close. My current role as the Director of Communications at my local church, Mount Carmel Christian Church on the east side of Cincinnati just a few minutes from my home has been an incredible opportunity and has helped me to refocus and get back into a grove of telling captivating stories that hopefully share their roots with many of you.

2015 saw the purchase of our first home, the welcoming of our 3rd child Asher, the MLB All Star game, and an 8-0 start for the Bengals. These were the best of times.It also saw the complete collapse and fire sell of a team that had been a playoff contendor for five straight years in the Reds, and an equally brutal, but much more sudden collapse of a team who was ushered out of the playoffs for the 5th straight wildcard weekend in a row for the Bengals. These were the worst of times.

Below are the pictures to capture these moment:

Reds 4 reds 3 reds 2
reds 1 bengals 1 bengals 3

1 – Aspen and I went on a daddy daughter date to a day game where were treated to some nice seats that came with her Red Heads memberships. The Reds beat the Marlins and we got to see Michael Lorenzen pitch who became one of our 1st half favorites to follow.

2 – Aspen and I attended a night game, this was us during the 7th inning stretch where we sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame together, which became her favorite song that summer. The Reds also won, and by the 3rd inning we were able to sneak down into the 11th row seats on the 1st base line and she provided ample entertainment for everyone around her 🙂

3 – the Whole family got to attend a game for “Bark in the Park” night against my wife’s team, the New York Mets. This was Asher’s first game, and one of the joys of taking little kids to Bark in the Park night is watching them go up to all of the friendly dogs and say hello. They were so excited! I was just happy knowing that my kids wouldn’t be the most annoying aspect of the night since there were plenty of Dogs that had little to no respect for the game and it’s traditions 🙂

4 – My dad and I took in all of the spectacle of the All Star game, it was a doozy, especially getting the watch Todd Frazier win the Home Run Derby in walkoff fashion in front of his home crowd. The electric nature of the crowd was as if we had just won the world series! Definitely a once in a lifetime moment, and I was ecstatic to share it with a great man after several seasons apart.

5 – My dad also purchased a Half Season home game package for the Bengals that got us tickets to the Chargers, Chiefs, Browns and Steelers home games. We mopped the floor with the first three, with the Browns game being a rather fun Thursday night game (overcoming the prime time curse), but the last two games were both brutal loses to the Steelers with the first one being a huge scare with QB Andy Dalton breaking his thumb which ended up being a season ending injury, and the 2nd (Picture #6) was a heart breaking playoff loss that for the most part was a frustrating 58 minutes followed by the wildest 2 minutes of my life…

When AJ Green caught what should have been the game winning TD with a minute forty something left on the clock, in a game that had seen some incredible hard hits and very intense action both on the field and in the stands, the roof blew off the building. 60,000 plus let out two decades worth of frustration as we felt the lack of playoff victories finally coming to a close. Who knew that two minutes later it would all slip away due to some of the most ridiculous on field and off field antics, poor control of both teams and refereeing that I have ever seen that setup the Steelers for a chip shot FG to win the game. It was a long, rainy, walk across the bridge back to KY where we parked our call. Just thinking about the season and how it played out, it just ripped your insides out. The reds had done it to us, but let’s be honest, we all saw it coming, and it was a long, drawn out process over a period of months that left you devastated, but at least it just seemed like business… The Bengals game was sudden and traumatic, and it felt personal. The time invested in the team, sacrificed from family time, would never be recaptured. All of those positive feelings I felt sitting with my dad at the Home Run Derby celebrating what felt like a personal win, were strangely inverted at that moment at Paul Brown Stadium where the exact opposite feelings poured out of us, trying to hide our embarrassment and shame in that brutal of a loss. What can you say… That’s just sports.

2016 will hopefully bring new memories, unfortunately most of them will be in front of a TV and not live in stadium until we can recover our faith in the teams in order to shell out the money to enjoy them live, but it helps me put into perspective the gamble of falling in love with a sports team, and how little of a gamble it is to fall in love with my family. My favorite moments of this year weren’t when my team won, it was when I was with them, win or lose. So, if nothing else, Thank you Bengals and Reds for giving me a platform to share special time with the ones I love, and for that, you’ll always be there for me, and I’ll always be there for you. Looking forward to this coming year!

It was 2001. Senior year of high school. A couple of my friends from the football team and I were putting together the mother of all March Madness pools. We sold 200 brackets at $5, and for a high school kid, having $1,000 cash stuffed into an envelop in your locker is pretty exciting until you realize the police department is bringing in the drug dogs that month to sniff around… Dodged that bullet…

Mike McQuery was about as far from an athlete as they came in my high school, but the guys knew his sports, and in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, that was a rare find. Stat heads hadn’t taken over sports yet, there was no public knowledge of money ball, and the word fantasy was used only in the context of cheerleaders.

Mike won our bracket hands down, basically uncontested, and it left a sour taste in a few of the jocks’ mouths. How did this guy know more about sports than we did? His answer, fantasy sports…

Mike was trying to explain fantasy sports to a group of us and to be honest, at that time it sounded like the dumbest thing i had ever heard of. This was coming from a guy (me) who had spent portions of his childhood playing Dungeons and Dragons, Final Fantasy, and collected all 151 Pokemon…. It was a collision of worlds… Dorks and Sports mixed like oil and water.

Now to be fair, in 2001, technology hadn’t embraced fantasy sports yet. Heck, Aim was all the rage, Napster was all i used my computer for, and cell phones were only good for playing Snake on, rarely was a text ever sent.* (editor’s note: this article is being typed out on a cellphone, we’ve come a long way in 13 years)

This breed of fantasy sports involved a 3 ring binder, a USA Today subscription and more #2 than an SAT prep class.

Fast forward 3 years.

It’s 2004, i’m now a junior in college, a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon, and finding myself a bit detached from sports now that I wasn’t competing myself. One of my brothers. Reintroduced me to the idea of playing fantasy sports, but by now, it was as easy as signing into Yahoo, plus, free chicken wings at a draft party sealed the deal.

That year i played in my first fantasy football league and also my first baseball league. I found that it was pretty fun and helped me to really get to know more players than just the ones that played for my teams. I got to know the guys i played with and it made watching the games on tv more exciting. Pretty good deal i thought.

No harm done right… That’s how all addictions start…

I had every intention of playing in the same leagues the next year, and did, but as i met new people, and shared my interest in fantasy sports, i began to get invited to other leagues. At first my heart revolted to the idea of turning my back on my leagues to join another one, that would be like fantasy adultery…

My heart was torn, old friends or new friends? What to do?

Well, i did what anyone would do, i played in both leagues… And the next year i was in 3, and finally it was 4… By the time ESPN got on board, i was in over my head. At one point i found myself owning so many different players in so many leagues that every play on an NFL sunday both helped me and screwed me. I needed help.

Luckily, moving away and having kids, took time away from fantasy sports. Overtime, leagues closed and college friends moved on and joined leagues with new friends, and eventually, i was back down to just 2 or 3 leagues.

This year, i finally made my exit from both Fantasy baseball and am playing in my last NBA league. Just one NFL league with local friends that is highly competitive.

Some of my favorite memories was my 2005 all Bengals team that won my first championship, my all Asian fantasy baseball team, and my dominating fantasy Nascar league win.

In all, this blog was started to fill the void that i had been pumping with fantasy sports for so long. Fantasy baseball is just so much work, and ain’t nobody got time for that!

Fantasy or not, being a fan takes some ingenuity and a willing ness to do your research. I’m excited for this year, not having to worry about losing a fantasy league because jay bruce bombed a homerun against me. It will be a return to purity, and a year of great memories, not fantasies!

Rounding third and heading for home, this one belongs to the fans!

Author: Cory Juliano – February 24th, 2014

I have been thinking long and hard over who my favorite Red on the current roster is as Spring Training kicked off and players are fine tuning their skills down in AZ. While it would be easy to pick Joey Votto I feel it would be a cop out. It’s easy to root for an perennial MVP caliber player. Don’t get me wrong, he is the guy I would refuse to leave my seat when he is due up. Aroldis Chapman is another player that makes me want to stay glued to the TV on those rare nights I get to watch a game. Admittedly, I will tune into the radio broadcast on my radio subscription when a save situation is coming just to listen to Marty call the strikes. But no, Aroldis is not my choice of favorite current Red.

My favorite Red on the roster is still Brandon Phillips, even after the up and down circus he has been the last couple of months. Yes, I know he was rude and offensive to a reporter. He embarrassed himself and his at the time manager in a horrible way by going off the way he did on a guy for simply doing his job. It was hard listening to the bleeped out conversation. Hearing your favorite player act like that hurts. It is like seeing your favorite radio host and being several unimpressed by the way they look. Yes, he complained about ownership and how they were spending money. He should be happy with the contract he signed. Yes, there were numerous trade rumors in the off season saying he would be traded making us fans feel like he was not an important part to this team. Yes, he has shut down the media while at Spring Training. Yes, he has been less than perfect and hard to love as of late. In a lot of ways he has been a turd lately and involved in a lot of negative stuff.

So why is BP my favorite player? For a several reasons. The obvious one is the way he covers the right side of the infield. Watch his highlights if you don’t agree with me. Seriously, go to youtube and check it out. Go. Go now (but please come back). He has the best glove I have ever seen. He gets to balls no one else in the game playing second base can. He is a Golden Glover who brings excitement to the position in a way no one else ever has (or least that I have seen). He is the best defensive 2nd Baseman in the game. He has won 3 of the last 4 Gold Gloves. The fact it is not 4 for 4 is a JOKE. No offense to Darwin Barney but he couldn’t make half of the plays BP did in 2012. Even Cubs fans have to agree on that, right Chad? He is a Web Gem and Top 10 regular. His glove and arm strength easily make him a fan favorite.

Secondly, BP is my favorite because of his versatility at the plate. He hits where ever the team needs him to. Last year after the Reds lost their scheduled clean up hitter for much of the season on opening day it was BP that was called upon to step up and move from the 2 hole in the line up to the 4 hole. Now, I was never a big league hitter but this seems like a tougher transition than one would think. He changed his approach and did what he said he would and drove in 100+ RBIs. He has stepped up and lead off when needed to. His flexibility in the line-up is admired. He can hit with some pop (although he might be losing some of that) and he can choke up, shorten his swing and flick the ball out into right field with seemingly ease at times. And seriously, the grand slam he hit in Milwaukee a couple of years ago is still worth looking back at. Again, go check it out if you haven’t lately. He brought his big boy bat on that one and put it off of the slide in left center. Having seen that slide in person it is VERY far. He has possibly the coolest follow through in baseball when he knows he has hit a long ball too. Okay, so maybe his offensive ability is a stretch but I need to justify my opinion here. That is what a blog is all about after all.

So why else do I have a baseball related man-crush on BP. How about his interactions with the fans. He was one of the first baseball players to use social media to close the gap between us fans and pro athletes. Very similar to what Chad Johnson of the Bengals did before he went dumb and called himself a number. My favorite BP story is when a young kid in St. Louis asked him if he would come to one of his games while on a road trip via Twitter. On the off day in St. Louis BP showed up at a little league ball game to watch the kid play. Seriously awesome. Any pro athlete who would do something like this gets the nod in my book even if he embarrassed a reporter who was questioning his performance at the plate.

There is one more reason that he is my favorite current player on the roster. No, it is not because he puts on an MVP performance against the Indians, the team who traded him to the Reds because they didn’t value him as a prospect. No, it’s not because he names his gloves and treats them like girlfriends and “breaks up” with them if they are not performing up to his standards and then goes back to them when the others fail. No, it’s not because he pulled off one of the funniest plays ever. May we never forget . Most likely the reason he is my favorite is because he assisted me in my hatred of my most detested player in MLB. Yadier Molina. Yes, I vomited in my mouth a bit as I typed that curse word. I HATE Yadier Molina. Maybe it’s because he destroys the Reds. Maybe it’s because after the bench clearing fight he turned around and hit a home run. Maybe it’s because he has that little smirk on his face when he is doing it. Maybe it’s because he kicked Phillips bat away during Phillips’ normal first at bat ritual with every catcher and refused to shut his mouth before the fight. Or maybe it’s just the neck tattoo. Heck, I don’t know, maybe it is simply because he plays for the Cardinals (more vomit in my mouth). Whatever it is, I do not like that guy. Watching him and Phillips square off at home plate made me root for BP even more. So much so that me and my dad went to the next game to see if he would dare tap Molina’s shin guard again. The stupid umpire stepped in between them and didn’t give him the chance. Stupid umpires take away all the fun of baseball.

I like a guy who will stick up for his team and create a little excitement in the sport. To me, that is what BP does for the Reds. He gives a little character to a relatively calm and sometimes boring group of guys (go back and think about the end of last year if you want to call me out for saying this team was calm and boring). He brings excitement. He brings energy. He brings a little something else every ball club needs and that is why I still consider him my favorite Red. He is one of the reasons I excited for March 31. And I sure hope he gives Molina another “tap” for good luck in that first at bat. GO REDS!

Author: Brian McGee – February 15th, 2014

Since I was a little boy, my mom took me to Catholic mass. As the 90’s progressed, and my involvement in more serious levels of sports increased, it wasn’t unusual to show up in my uniform and bolt for the car as soon as the mass was over. One Sunday, I began to notice that it wasn’t uncommon to see a few individuals and families craft strategic exit plans following the eucharist. Now, if you are unfamiliar with the liturgical process, there isn’t a whole lot to be done after communion, at least not from the pews end. The families that conveniently slipped out the side door with a quick genuflect, almost seemed to have the upper hand, especially in avoiding the post church traffic. I wondered why we didn’t follow suit with this ingenious idea…

It was later on that summer, while at a Reds game at Riverfront Stadium, where we were getting beat from what I could tell, pretty handedly, that I found out why we weren’t one of those families to hit the side door after mass. My mom grew up in Cincinnati, born in 1955, with many memories of Crosley Field, the Big Red Machine, and NL Pennants blowing in the wind. I looked over at my mom, sitting in her stadium seat, arms crossed, not happy with the events that were unfolding. But she was glued to that seat.

Now my dad grew up in Indiana, but had adopted the Cincinnati teams as his hometown team, but one thing he did not adopt was my mother’s Catholicism. That’s probably a story for another blog, but I digress… My dad worked as a chemical engineer, and seemed to always be looking for ways to improve systems. His company had season tickets to the Bengals that they would use as gifts to business partners after contracts were signed, and with numerous 2-14 seasons in the early 90’s, it was more like a curse to give a business partner those tickets… Most of them would have rather you swiftly kicked them in the groin or pour salt in their eyes. But my dad didn’t really mind the quality of the football, and I didn’t know any better, so we would often take the tickets and go watch the Bengals get steamrolled up and down the turf. It was a regular habit, but sometime around the first few minutes of the 4th quarter, my dad would turn off his headset radio that he used to listen to the play by play from 700WLW (nothing like completely tuning out your son while at a sports event ^_^ ) and he would stand up, which was my cue to follow suit, and he would say, “looks like it’s done, let’s head for the car so we can beat traffic.”

Back to Riverfront on that summer day. I turned to my mom and asked her, “Why don’t we leave early and beat traffic?” I don’t recall her even turning her head to look at me, but spoke softly to say, “Brian, there are two things you don’t leave early… Church and Baseball.” Then it all sank in. It’s not over till the fat lady sang… and Marge Schott wasn’t much for show tunes. Maybe as a little girl my mom was convinced by someone to leave a game early and fell victim to that unthinkable sinking feeling you get when as you exit the “No ReEntry” gates and you push through the turn style, then you hear it… CRACK… followed by the roar of the crowd… and there you have it… you’ve missed the biggest play of the season…. who knows, but that fear was enough to keep my mother glued to her seat until the game was in the books and Marty flicked off the power switch to his microphone.

So I got quite the education. Even when things seem like they are done, you stick it out till the end, just in case a miracle happens. Thanks for the faith mom.

If you have a story where you stuck it out till the end win or lose, or left early and regretted it, please share with us down in the comment section. Make sure to subscribe to our blog, and just leave us a comment in general! Take care, rounding third and heading for home, this one belongs to the fans!