How Cincinnati taught me to love baseball

Six years ago, had you asked me what my wedding cake topper was going to be, I would not have said "Mr. Redlegs and Rosie Red." Primarily because six years ago, I had no idea who those were, and secondarily, because six years ago, I had absolutely no interest in baseball. Now, I know that Mr. Redlegs and Rosie Red are two of the Cincinnati Reds' mascots, and I also am a big enough baseball fan that their miniatures were our wedding cake toppers.

So, what changed? Well, before we get there, we have to go back. Way back, possibly to my childhood. Baseball was not a sport we really watched in my household. Except for the summer of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire. I remember that we watched that home run race with a deep intensity when my father was home, and tuned into the game where the record was broken. My father told me that it was a history-making event, but even now, I couldn't tell you who won, or what the number was, or even the date without the help of Google.My first year of college was the year the Red Sox won the World Series. My friends had to explain to me why this was a big deal, and I fell asleep during THE game, waking up because my friends were cheering around me that the Sox won. I knew it was a historic event, but it really didn't burn itself into my memory. Though, when I ask my husband who won the World Series in 2004, he couldn't recall, so maybe that memory is special? I remember grinning and high-fiving someone that night, but baseball didn't catch my interest, though ice skating and ice cream that cold fall night did.

Then, I met Allen. We attended our first Reds game the same weekend we signed the lease paperwork for our first apartment together, a month before we moved to Cincinnati. The tickets were a gift from a friend of mine, and the seats were awesome. We went to the game with one of Allen's friends and, well, I had a lot of fun at the game, though I came away from it with no more of an understanding of baseball than I had when we walked in the gates. I know I saw a triple play that night, but I don't really remember it.

What caught me with live baseball - in person - was how much action you miss when watching a televised game. In a televised game, you're seeing snippets of the field. The pitcher, the batter whether the infield is in, or out, it's all focused on but in bits and pieces. At a game, you can see when the infield comes in, and exactly how they've shifted for a particular batter. You can see if they are anticipating a steal, or what's happening in the outfield. It requires a lot of attention in-person, but if you don't want to watch the at-bat, you can check the outfield, go for a walk, and still be surrounded by the hubbub of the fans surrounding you.

That didn't mean I automatically became a baseball fan, no. In the first two years we lived in Cincinnati, we went to Opening Day - both years. The first year it was cold and raining. The second year it snowed. As someone who really dislikes being cold, I still couldn't tell you a thing about those games once they got underway. In those two first years living in Cincinnati, we attended over forty games and one RedsFest in addition to the Opening Day games. I went to all of those games, as it was something to do, but it wasn't my first choice of weekend activity.

Then, 2010 happened. I discovered that I loved the energy within the ballpark. We went to Boston. The Reds won their division. All I really remember about that year is it was the first one since moving to Cincinnati where we hadn't planned to go to many games. This was in part because Allen was traveling a lot for work, and we also were hoping to go to Boston for a vacation. I knew that I was hooked by baseball and the Reds when I would turn on the ballgames in the evenings I was on my own, instead of the various movies and TV shows I planned to watch. Allen knew I was hooked when I started texting him play-by-play, complete with commentary, and appropriate use of baseball abbreviations. The night of the Home Run Derby that year, antsy, I went to the gym, and watched the derby from the ESPN room, in lieu of watching the movie playing in the other cinema room. I was hooked.

So, what changed? That is a question I struggle to answer at times, because there wasn't one turning point that made me go from "baseball is OK," to "I love baseball!" There were a variety of factors that went into my developing a love for the game. For one, it's really hard NOT to start to like something when you're exposed to it for 1/4 of your year - or more - and want to learn more about it. Additionally, the energy in the ballpark is incredible, whether the Reds are winning or losing. Even in other ballparks we've been to, we've had fun interacting with the other fans. Fenway was an especially amazing experience, as it was like the ballpark had become a family during the three-hour game. Really, baseball happened. Cincinnati happened and made me a Reds fan.

Now, I don't watch all of the games, and I struggle to listen to the games on the radio. But going to a ballgame or turning it on in the evening while we play with the cats and catch up on the day? Definitely a favorite pastime. I'm starting to develop an interest in the minor league teams in the Reds farm system. Allen says when I start looking at the trade and draft rumors, he'll know I'm hooked. As it is, I'm not quite there yet, but in a recent conversation, I referred to something as a "pickle," and then chuckled. Six years ago, that's not a term I used. Now, it's a regular part of my vocabulary, along with other terms from baseball's lexicon. I really wouldn't have it any other way.

The photo in this post is from our wedding, and was taken by Sarah Warda Photography. All rights are reserved.