Monday, January 30, 2012

Baseball, Family, and the F-22 Raptor

If you follow the Cincinnati Reds or the surrounding area news, you most certainly have heard something about the 2012 Reds Caravan Tour. The Tour traveled over 2,800 miles with over a dozen stops. Spoke Bait and the Game covered the Dayton, Ohio area North Tour at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Check out my Spoke Bait and the Game: Q and A with the Cincinnati Reds article for full coverage of the event. The meet and greet session kicked off right after the Q and A event. 450 tickets were issued on first-come, first-serve bases. We had arrived shortly after the Air Force Museum doors opened at 9:00am, and were amongst some of the first fans to arrive. A two year old can’t always behave sitting in one spot for over two hours, so we sat in the back for an easy escape if it arose.

We were the very last two ticketed fans to get our signatures. We were followed by non ticketed guests as time allowed. My daughter Abbie was in charge of the baseball and I was lugging her, the diaper bag, and a catcher’s mask for Devin Mesoraco to sign. Right on cue, Abbie rolled to the ball to Thom Brennaman, a Cincinnati Reds radio broadcaster and son of HOFer Marty Brennaman. The Brennaman’s have always been family oriented as Thom greeted Abbie with a smile and some small talk. Next up was Chief Operations Officer Phil Castellini, again Abbie rolled the ball across the table and Phil signed. Like any front office man, he asked if we attended Great American Ball Park. I replied “Of course! We attended at least a dozen or two per season, and probably more this year.” Walt Jocketty, the Reds General Manager was on deck. This time, instead of a sharp ground ball to second, Abbie hurled her four seam fastball at Mr. Jocketty. Walt, astonishment by a small girls arm, asked if she wanted a spot on the starting rotation. Walt rolled the ball back to Abbie as we thanked him and wished him the best on this upcoming season. Next, we both stood face to face to the Wrigley Roof-Topper, Mr. Perfect Game, a guy who broke his arm pitching on live TV, All-Star and 1990 World Series Champion Tom Browning. Again, Abbie rolled the ball to Mr. Browning. I couldn’t find any words for him other than a greeting, as I stared and told my daughter stories about him from when I was a boy, as if he was a picture in a museum or plaque in the Reds Hall of Fame. Tom signed Abbie’s ball and we thanked him cordially. I was up; I pulled my old beat-up catcher’s mask from the diaper bag, shuffling a peanut butter sandwich, wipes, and sippy cup out of the way. I asked Devin Mesoraco, the Reds catcher if he could  sign my mask. We talked for a while as he said “Where the heck do I sign this thing at?” We both agreed the front would be best as he jotted his name and number in silver marker. Again, I wished him the best in the upcoming months and told him I looked forward to seeing him catch on opening day. Next up was Reds prospect outfielder Ryan LaMarre, a very promising minor leaguer who one day could add depth to the 7, 8, and 9 positions. Mr. LaMarre, like the rest of the crew, was a really nice guy, even after signing over 450 autographs.

 Overwhelmed and ecstatic, I snapped some pictures of Abbie with her autographed baseball. In a moment of excitement, she threw the ball as it rolled across the museum floor. I quickly tracked it down, laughing, and got back to taking more pictures. It was finally time to head home. We walked out amongst giant aircrafts from Korea, Vietnam, and modern wars. We strutted past an F-22 Raptor, holding our heads up high, proud of our successful day, we felt as proud as the pilot of one of those planes. We turned the hall where Air Force Medals were on display. Being a U.S. Army veteran, I would have taken the time to crack some jokes at the Air Force, instead we kept talking about how awesome our day was, and how I now had to follow up on a ice cream promise for her good behavior. Abbie, repeating words non-stop like any toddler, rattled off “AWESOME” what felt like a million times.  By now our country’s National Air Force Museum was full of museum visitors and air craft on-lookers. We were walking against the crowd in Cincinnati Reds Jerseys and a catcher’s mask in hand. We escaped to the parking lot, and after a half-mile hike, found the truck.  Abbie instantly fell asleep to soothing rumbles of my old ford truck. When we got home, I tried to extract her from her car seat without waking her. She was startled for a second as she mumbled “Awesome” from some sort of half-sleep, incoherent state and quickly returned to her nap. What an awesome day it was. Autographs, meeting baseball players, and to share it with your kid are second to none. It was a great kick start to what is bound to be the greatest baseball season since 1990.


This is Reds radio broadcaster Thom Brennaman, and Reds front office Chief Operations Officer Phil Castellini.
(Picture on Right)


Reds GM Walt Jocketty and prospect outfielder Ryan LaMarre
(Picture on Left)

All-Star Reds pitcher and 1990 Reds World Champion Starter Tom Browning
(Picture on Right)

Devin Mesoraco, one of the Cincinnati Reds catchers autographed my MacGregor catcher's mask. 
(Picture on Left) 

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