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Column: Top 5 Reds games I’ve attended

I’ve always looked forward to Opening Day in Major League Baseball.

This year, though, my excitement level was through the roof as my dad and I had tickets to the Cincinnati Reds’ season opener against the Cardinals. Attending a Reds Opening Day game has always been on my bucket list and I was thrilled to finally be checking it off.

The game was supposed to take place at 4:10 p.m. today, but we were planning to get there bright and early so we could find a good spot to view the annual Findlay Market parade. However, the parade has been canceled and Opening Day has been postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

My dad and I are sitting in limbo now, wondering if there will be a baseball season at all and if so, will we still be able to make it to the rescheduled version of Opening Day. It’s disappointing, but it got me thinking about all the Reds games I’ve been to over the years.

My family moved from California to Ohio in 2002, and since then I’ve been to at least one Reds games every season. I’ve had the chance to see some pretty cool moments, from walkoff home runs to players throwing punches. Here are the top five Reds games I’ve attended.

5. Cueto earning his 20th win

The 2014 season was a bit disappointing, as the Reds finished with a losing record after making the playoffs in three of the previous four years.

Some friends and I decided to attend the final game of the season, a day game against the playoff-bound Pittsburgh Pirates. The Reds’ all-star ace, Johnny Cueto, one of my all-time favorite players, was set to take the mound that day and was sitting at 19 wins on the season.

No Reds pitcher had won 20 games in a season since 1988, so it made for some good drama.

Cueto was his usual self that day, throwing eight innings of one-run ball, but the Reds offense struggled that day and the game was tied at 1-all going into the bottom the eighth.

With a runner on third, manager Bryan Price elected to let Cueto, now well over 100 pitches, bat for himself. Cueto delivered with a slow roller back up the middle, driving in the go-ahead run and securing win No. 20 for himself.

Cueto was traded to the Royals the next season and helped them win the World Series. He’s without a doubt the greatest Reds pitcher of my lifetime and it was cool be there for that moment.

4. Nearly catching a home run

This game is the only one on this list that didn’t take place in Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark.

It’s also the first game I remember attending.

It was a Reds game, though, back in 2000 when they visited the Los Angeles Dodgers. My dad and I had seats in right field, which ended up as the perfect spot to be. In the fifth inning, Reds outfielder Michael Tucker drilled a fly ball right at us. As the ball got closer, it became clear to my dad he had a shot to nab it.

He dove to his right, but the ball smacked off his palm and bounced three or four rows behind us. We watched as the person who ended up with the ball threw it back into the outfield.

The Reds ended up winning, and we drove back home where my mom met us at the door.

“Fifth inning, Michael Tucker?” she said. She’d recorded the game and spotted us on Tucker’s homer. We watched it back and laughed, and I still remember legendary broadcaster Vin Scully’s call.

“He unloads with a vengeance and that ball is gone!”

3. Playoffs in Cincinnati

When the Reds made the playoffs in 2012, I promised myself I would make it to one of the games.

“You never know if or when they’ll make it back,” I told myself.

I convinced my dad to go with me to Game 3 of the National League Divisional Series against the Giants. The Reds won the first two games in San Francisco and we had hopes of watching the Reds clinch the series.

It wasn’t to be, though, as the Reds dropped a heartbreaker, 2-1, and ended up losing games 4 and 5 as well.

But the atmosphere that night was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Great American Ballpark has never been louder at a game I’ve been to, and seeing thousands of white rally towels waving in the air was amazing to witness.

2. Reds-Cardinals brawl

It’s hard to believe that an 8-4 Reds loss would be one of my most memorable games, but this wasn’t an ordinary loss.

In August of 2010, the Reds and Cardinals were going back and forth for the NL Central lead. It was clear the two teams didn’t like each other, but some comments by Reds all-star second baseman Brandon Phillips leading up to this game set the stage for an all-out brawl.

I was sitting down the third-base line with a group of friends. We watched as Phillips stepped into the batter’s box to lead off the first inning. He had a tradition of tapping the catcher’s shin guard with his bat, as a way to say “have a good game,” but Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina wanted no part of it and kicked the bat away. Phillips and Molina got in each other’s face, and players from both dugouts made their way to home plate, forming a mob. Just when it looked like everything was settling down, players began shoving and swinging at each other. The entire stadium went crazy watching this unfold. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing.

After everything settled down, there was still a buzz in the park. Every Cardinals player that stepped up to the plate was booed, but nobody got it worse than Molina, who clubbed a home run later in the game, effectively silencing 30,000-plus people with one swing of the bat.

I’ve never felt tension like that at a game before.

1. Finally seeing a Reds victory

I mentioned attending a Reds game every year after my family moved to Ohio in 2002. Believe it or not, every single one of those games from 2002 to 2009 was a loss. As a kid, going to a Reds game for me was like Christmas, except each present was filled with coal as they would always lose.

But in May of 2010, my dad and I went to see the Reds play the Mets. It was the first of five Reds games I went to that season.

The game was tied in extra innings when shortstop Orlando Cabrera came to the plate. He hit a rocket down the left field line. Sitting in right field, it was hard to tell if the ball was going to be fair or foul. Then we watched the ball smack off the foul pole for a home run and a Reds win.

My dad and I jumped up and down and high-fived everyone around us. It was a special moment.

On this day, I am missing baseball. I am wishing I was driving to Cincinnati with that giddy feeling I always get on the way to a Reds game. The great thing about baseball, though, is that even when games aren’t being played, I’ll always have the memories I’ve made, like the ones listed above. Nothing can take those away.

Jordan Holland can be reached at jholland@mariettatimes.com.

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