VFW field home to Reds Legends camp memories

I would like to mention something very special about the former home of the Cincinnati Reds Legends event for the last 23 years. If the old VFW field could somehow speak and show emotion, then I truly believe it would have been sobbing and crying during Reds Legends week this summer.

As we officially say goodbye to a piece of property that has become more like an old friend and a part of the family, than just a ball field over the years, The Wagner Family and the entire Cincinnati Reds Legends Event staff would like to genuinely say, thanks for the memories! Every square inch of the VFW field and surrounding complex has been stepped on by some great Cincinnati Reds Legend at some time or another over the last 24 years … 36 Cincinnati Reds Hall of Famers, five National Baseball Hall of Famers, 33 National League All Star selections, 27 World Series veterans, six National League Most Valuable Players, four N.L. Batting titlists, two World Series Most Valuable Players, 23 World Champions, four MLB record holders, 18 N.L. Gold Glove award winners, three N.L. Firemen of the Year award winners, and nearly 4,000 camp children in 24 years have graced your grassy fields and spaces during Reds Legends week.

In 23 years, thousands upon thousands of Lite Flite baseballs have been hit out over your tall trees by dreaming young boys into south side street. Hundreds and hundreds of home runs have been hit completely out of the park at Ron Casci’s hitting station behind the left field fence to the chagrin of parking motorists at the MMH offices. Dave Parker, Eddie Milner, Bobby Tolan, and George Foster once roamed your left and center fields teaching young athletes the art of tracking down a fly ball. 1990 World Series Heroes Chris Sabo, Nasty Boy Norm Charlton, Herm Winningham, Tom Browning, Ron Oester, Todd Benzinger, and Eric Davis all visited your cozy confines on numerous occasions to give baseball knowledge to Marietta youth.

Hundreds and hundreds of young pitchers have learned the tools of the trade at your field, being taught by some of the best baseball men and pitchers to ever play the game. Immortal Cincinnati Baseball Legends Pete Rose “Charlie Hustle” ran the bases in your infield, Hall of Fame Big Red Machine Manager Sparky Anderson captivated children and adults alike in your fan zone, Hall of Famer Johnny Bench played a game of catch in your infield. Cincinnati Reds mascots Gapper, Mr. Red, Rosie Red, and Mr. Redlegs delighted every year at the annual kids Wiffle ball game. Hall of Famer Tony Perez taught little children the basics of power hitting in your batter’s boxes. Gold Glover “Mr. Automatic” Leo Cardenas taught youngsters infield prowess over your dirt spaces for over 20 years. The Old Lefthander Joe Nuxhall delighted fans of all ages during his appearance there, and many more Cincinnati Reds legends, too many to number, have arrived at your doorstep for 23 years to use your field and grassy areas as a tool to teach children this game of baseball that we all love so much in this country.

Even though most people in this area have never realized the awesome gravity of what we have brought to this little town and community of Marietta for over two decades, I would like to graciously say thank you to Marietta Mayor Joe Matthews for recognizing our 20th anniversary four years ago, and many thanks go out to all businesses and persons in the Marietta area who have supported our event over the the last 24 years. You are very appreciated! And we are very grateful.

The old VFW field was never just a ball field to me, but it was a living sanctuary of dreams and memories. I watched my seven children grow up there from Reds Legends summer to Reds Legends summer. My brother and I started the Marietta Sandlot baseball league at VFW Field back 15 years ago, and then later the VFW Post 5108 High School Legion Baseball team which competed for five seasons from 2005 to 2010, finishing with a five-year record of 71 to 46. We also organized and ran church softball leagues there at the VFW Field even before the beginning of the Reds Legends event.

Many heroes, both local and legendary who have contributed greatly to the event over the years, have now passed from this life since the beginning of it all. None more precious to me than my father, Roy Ellis “Tink” Wagner, whose support of me and the event has been the cornerstone of our 24 years of success. The Reds Legends camp may have moved to a new location, but a big part of our hearts will always remain at Marietta’s VFW Field.

The thousands of special moments we all shared there together will be with us forever. We made magical memories there, and made dreams come true for thousands of children for 23 years. And nothing, or no one, can ever take away the accomplishments or memories of that wonderful era from 1993 to 2016.

Mike Wagner