When I was a boy, I had the privilege of watching the Big Red Machine play baseball. If you don’t know, the Big Red Machine was the greatest baseball team ever – the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970’s. The starting eight were: Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Dave Concepcion, Tony Perez, Cesar Geronimo, Ken Griffey, and George Foster, led by Manager Sparky Anderson. I’ll never forget the excitement as we walked into the stadium. We could smell the hotdogs and popcorn. We could hear the crowd and the pre-game atmosphere. Finally, the national anthem and, “Play ball!”
My dad had season tickets that he split with a business associate. They took customers to games, and sometimes my dad would take me and my brother with him and his customer, or he’d just take the family. We sat in the green seats (the second section up from the field in Riverfront Stadium), under the next level’s overhang (so we didn’t get wet if it rained) by first base. My favorite treat was the sundae that came in the upside down miniature Reds helmet. I had quite a collection of mini-helmets. The real privilege though, the real joy, was being there with my dad.
A few nights ago, I had the privilege of enjoying the game as the dad. My sons and I went to see this year’s National League Central Division Champs (the Reds) take on the Milwaukee Brewers. It was a blast! I taught my sons how to shell peanuts – they had never had peanuts in the shell before. A couple of foul balls came pretty close to us. The Reds were ahead 4-2 when Manager Dusty Baker sent ace reliever Aroldis Chapman to the mound. Chapman’s fast ball reaches upwards of 105 mph at its peak and makes Major League sluggers cry. Yes, folks, that is the fastest pitcher ever clocked in the Majors. So, my boys will always have that memory of getting to see the fastest pitcher ever (he was a little slow that night, reaching just 100 mph, but he only pitched the ninth inning).
Wow. I’m so glad I get to be Dad to these boys! I know what it’s like to experience the joy of the ballpark as a boy, but now I know the joy of being Dad and taking my boys to the diamond, talking about the legendary players from my youth, and watching the champs of today set new records and reach for baseball glory.
I’ll always remember watching the Big Red Machine with my dad the way men of his generation remember watching Mickey Mantle and the Yankees. My boys will love the Big Red Machine because I’ve told them stories of watching the greatest team ever, but they’ll love their Reds – Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Aroldis Chapman, etc. – even more, not because they’re better than the Machine, but because they are the team of my boys’ childhood, and they got to go to the ballpark and watch their Cincinnati Reds with their dad.
When was the last time you went to the ballpark with your boys? Or girls? Take them. You won’t be sorry.