Baseball, Forgiveness, and Peanut Butter Sandwiches

“Life is hard,” my Grandma would tell me. “Eventually someone will hurt you. When that happens, you get to decide: fight back, or forgive. It’s up to you. What will you do?”

As a kid, I played baseball in the field behind my Grandma’s house. We played every day, all day, and each day for lunch, my Grandma made us her world-famous peanut butter sandwiches. These were beautiful: a single piece of toast with a thin layer of peanut butter spread on top. That’s simple enough, but what made them special was she wrote your name into the peanut butter so you knew THIS one was yours.

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Empty Fields

It was a simple field. The path to it ran past my grandmother’s house, through a set of bushes and into a circular clearing behind. First base was a tree stump. Second was a raised patch of earth that kicked up dust whenever someone ran over it with a lawnmower. We used an old glove, one we found lying underneath a rock next to a stream in the woods behind my house, for third. Home was ditch that had worn thin the first couple years we played there, and then gave up on growing anything thereafter, because when you played ball as often as we did – day after week after month after year – without ceasing, even in the cold months, it tends to leave a mark. Childhood is more powerful than Mother Nature in some ways, which is probably why it wears out so quickly leaves such a lasting impression.

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Under the Blankets with Marty and Joe

Every night, as a kid, I listened to the Reds on 700 WLW. Every night. Without fail.

Some nights, particularly those when the Reds played teams on the west coast, my parents would tell me to go to bed round about the sixth or seventh inning, just as things were getting good.

“Awww, Mom! Come on! Eric Davis is up first next inning. Can’t I just stay up till then?”

“No. Bedtime. Get upstairs.”

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Rituals

This time of year is always tough. Football season is ramping up, the weather has hinted that it might start to cool off a bit here soon, and the kids have gone back to school. Even those of you who are not either a student or a parent have, at the very least, spent a long commute caught in the sloth-like wake of a school bus, wondering why we haven’t developed flying cars be now.

The answer: because your stupid teenagers would drive those flying cars, crashing into each other, killing thousands. Then where would we be?

There’s lots to distract us from our favorite pastime. Heck, I’ve even given up on Fantasy Baseball. My team, the Florida Dumpster Fire, has descended into last place, breaking decades-long records for ineptitude in our keeper league. It’s easy, in seasons like this, where the impossibility of a postseason was a foregone conclusion before the Findlay Market Parade took its first steps on Opening Day. Back then, we thought anything might happen. Now, we know that nothing has and nothing will. How do we keep things relevant?

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Ron Robinson and the Near-Perfect Game

I have a lot of good Reds memories. Most of us do, I guess.

I remember sitting on the floor in my living room, watching Eric Show give up THE HIT to Pete Rose. The REAL hit came a few days earlier in Chicago, but nobody knew it then and we celebrated like we’d won the lottery. I screamed so loud, our pet beagle, Murphy, had to leave his customary spot in the sun next to the door to get away from all the noise.

I was in attendance on Johnny Bench day in the early ‘80s when Bench hung up his spikes. The game was humdrum, but they gave a Johnny Bench handout at the gates to the first X-thousand guests. I still remember how it looked, sitting in the corner of my room next to the door. No amount of music posters, Chicago Bulls memorabilia from the ‘90s MJ teams, or hastily built bookshelves could supplant it from that place of honor. I kept that handout stapled to my wall until I graduated high school and THEN I kept it with my baseball cards. I lost both it and the baseball cards when my parent’s basement flooded in 1998. So it goes. Bench was always my favorite player. I wore my baseball cap backwards from birth in deference to him. I still do, even though I’m nearly 40 and I look weird when I do it. It just feels wrong to wear it right.

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What if DAS PLAN isn’t working?

Ever since we started this most recent rebuild, the Reds have told us to BE CALM and DON’T WORRY, because (and repeat this with me now) “There is a plan.” This plan allegedly includes graphs and charts and other implements of destruction printed up on glossy paper in an official binder somewhere in Great American Ballpark.

Billy Hatcher and Jose Rijo stand guard over the plan when the Reds are out of town. They drink espresso and reminisce about the 1990 team. Or so I hear.

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The Battle of Futility: Reds v Astros

The good folks at Redlegnation have me writing the game previews for the Reds’ series against the Houston Astros this weekend. I’m hip-deep in Toastmasters work this weekend, plus we have to get that garage cleaned out at the homeplace at some point. But … Baseball!

Follow along all weekend and see if you can spot when my brain finally goes off the rails!

Phoning It In – Reds v Astros, June 19, 2016

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? We got to see Cody Reed pitch, finally. Adam Duvall hit a home run and struck out. The Reds lost in extra innings. And all was right with the world.

The Cody Reed Show – Reds v Astros, June 18, 2016

There will be a baseball game this afternoon. Someone – either the Cincinnati Reds (27-41) or the Houston Astros (32-36) – will win. Afterward, someone on this site will give stellar insight and analysis of the game. Other sites will do their same, tired shtick. But the real news today, of course, is the major-league debut of top Reds pitching prospect Cody Reed, who is #60 overall, and #3 in the Reds system.

The Battle of Futility Begins Anew: Reds v Astros, June 17, 2016

Remember the good ol days when the (dis)Astros were in the NL Central and everyone enjoying taking their turn, beating the snot out of them? Those were the good old days, weren’t they? #Sigh

The Records Fall: Ichiro eclipses Pete

Sometime this week, or maybe the next, Ichiro Suzuki of the Miami Marlins will break Pete Rose’s hallowed record for most career hits.

Before you get excited, there are caveats to that, of course. Ichiro only breaks the record if you include the 1278 he got while playing in Japan. And, if you’re going to do that, you might as well include Pete’s 400-500 hits from minor league teams. But if you’re going to do THAT, you have to take into account that the Japanese league plays significantly fewer games than the US each season. But then … and then …

I get it. This isn’t a debate about who holds the record. Rather, it’s a conversation about records in general.

Most Reds fans who were alive at the time, know where they were when Pete broke the record. We remember it like it was yesterday.

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Dust-Busting: Reds v Nationals

The good folks at Redlegnation have me writing the game previews for the Reds’ series against the Washington Nationals this weekend. It’s Dusty Baker’s return to Great American Ballpark. Either that or its the Reds going to whatever they call that stadium out in DC. I don’t know. I have four, small children and a full time job. Ain’t nobody got TIME to know those things. All I know is the way the Reds have been competing lately, it makes me wish the old Dust-meister were still here. This, of course, means I’ve gone completely insane!

Sweeping the Dust Away- Reds v Nationals, June 5, 2016

Baseball is fun when the hometown wins, and it is especially fun when you beat the first place team in another division. The Reds won yesterday on the strength of Adam Duvall’s 15th homer. Now, in the midst of a four game winning streak, your Cincinnati Reds (21-35) break out the brooms for the series sweep against the Washington Generals (33-23) today at Great American Ballpark.

#BelievelandSouth – Reds v Nationals, June 4, 2016

Just like I said in yesterday’s pre-cap, the Mighty Migty Redlegs (20-35) rolled the Washington Gnats (33-22) to take their winning streak to THREE WHOLE GAMES, and notched another victory toward their inevitable domination of the NL Central, the National League, the World Series, and even the entire sports world. They will dominate in a way similar to how the Cleveland Cavaliers will dominate this evening. #BelieveLandSouth.

I Feel Good! Reds v Nationals, June 3, 2016

Would ya look at that? The Cincinnati Reds (19-35), having won 3 of the last 4 games against the offensive juggernaut known as the Colorado Rockies, return home to face the Washington Nationals (33-21) for a three-game weekend series. Three out of four in a row for series victory. #Awesometastic! The Reds haven’t done that since Woodrow Wilson was president (or something like that). They keep this up (and you just KNOW they will, right?), they’ll finish the season with 100 victories and will storm their way through the playoffs to an eventual World Series victory!

Hey. Let’s Keep Adam Duvall

One of the bright spots on the Reds trava-sham-mockery of a season thus far has been the Dave Kingman esque emergence of Adam Duvall, who occasionally hits homeruns to mask the fact that he strikes out more than a horny physicist at a bikini convention. Homeruns are cool, though. And, as Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine once said, chicks dig the longball. So let’s keep him.

Playing GM for a major sports franchise is a fun thing to do. That’s part of why so many of us do Fantasy Sports. Unfortunately, for many of us, there is a huge difference between making fantasy trades online and actually running a major sports organization.

Which is a good thing, because I’m getting killed in my fantasy baseball league. Sure, the guy winning the league has a masters degree in statistics and is an athletic director for a large school district in northern Ohio. But I’m an Analytics Manager for an international, entertainment company. I really should do better than 8th out of 10.

I’m kind of embarrassed about it. I hope nobody finds out.

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