The Great American Game

Walking from Kentucky to Ohio
For most Kentuckians, it's a long-standing tradition to drive up to Cincinnati to take in a ballgame.  We don't have any professional teams of our own in the Commonwealth (although some rather accurate sources have posited that the Basketball Wildcats are pretty much equivalent to an NBA team), so we cheer on the Reds and the Bengals because they're right across the river.

Last Saturday night, I went to my first-ever Reds game.  I really don't know why I'd never been to one before, other than I've just never found baseball as interesting as basketball or football.  I figured it would be a good time to grab a pretzel and maybe a watered-down Bud Light, feign interest through the game while checking the UK-Kent State score on my phone, pick up a piece of Reds gear, and then be able to say "Oh, yeah, I've been to a Reds game."  I had no idea that it would actually be extremely fun.

I drove up with my parents and brother for the evening.  We had the fun idea to stop in Newport, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati.  We had dinner at the Hofbräuhaus, a German restaurant and Biergarten; the food was amazing and the beer was far better than most craft brewery options.  We walked off our Spätzle and Jägerschnitzel by taking a pedestrian bridge across the river to the Ball Park.  It was a beautiful night for a walk, and our car was safely tucked away in a valet lot.

Once the game was under way, I found myself really enjoying the experience.  Turns out, I know way more about the mechanics of baseball than I realized.  And the game didn't drag out like I'd been warned that it would. It helped a lot that the opposing team -- the Houston Astros -- wasn't very good.  Joey Votto, the Reds' first baseman, was very good.  As was pitcher Bronson Arroyo.  It was fun to see the crowd go wild as each player's intro music was played.  I had to laugh as I imagined pro basketball or football players having theme songs, but it just worked.

You can't tell from here, but that's Joey Votto. He's pretty.
It helped a lot that my brother is a Reds Superfan.  He loves the game, loves the team, and loves the experience.  He could tell me the difference between Mr. Red, Gapper, Rosie, and Mr. Redlegs.  He knew the words to the songs, and all the traditions.  It helped me feel a little more at home.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the quality of the ballpark concessions.  The soft pretzel was as good as the one we'd enjoyed at an excellent German restaurant only hours earlier -- that's quite an comparison.  I don't personally eat hot dogs, but everybody in my group said that the Big Red Smokey was amazing.  Even more amazing was the fact that the watery Bud Light I'd anticipated turned out to be a local IPA, from Cincinnati's Moerlein Brewery. 

The walk back to Kentucky capped off a lovely evening.  In a "straight out of central casting" moment, there was even a violinist playing on a park bench as we walked across the bridge.   I found myself mentally planning a trip for next season.  I think I'm a Reds fan now.