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Vinel: Opening Day 2020 will be memorable for different reasons

<p>The Cincinnati Reds lead the Chicago Cubs, 1-0, in the top of the second inning May 15, 2019, at Great American Ball Park. The Reds eventually won, 6-5, on a Yasiel Puig walk-off single.</p>

The Cincinnati Reds lead the Chicago Cubs, 1-0, in the top of the second inning May 15, 2019, at Great American Ball Park. The Reds eventually won, 6-5, on a Yasiel Puig walk-off single.

CINCINNATI — I’m 9 years old in the spring of 2008, and I’m sprinting toward my driveway. 

It’s March 31, and it’s raining. I don’t mind, though, as I turn right and run down the hill, my backpack swaying behind me. I’m wearing my white and navy Our Lady of the Visitation school uniform, but the only color I’m seeing is red.

The Cincinnati Reds are already 30 minutes into their Opening Day game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and I just got off the bus. Their biggest fan is late.

Once in my house, I charge into my parents’ bedroom and flip on the TV.

“Great, we’re losing 1-0 already.”

I’m 11 years old in the spring of 2010, and I’m actually there.

My first Opening Day game in person. It’s April 5 — I’m on spring break — and somehow, my dad scored tickets for the whole family to see the Reds play the St. Louis Cardinals. I just finished taking in the annual parade, where I watched grand marshal Johnny Bench ride by, waving out the back of a drop-top Ford Mustang — one of my all-time favorite players in one of my all-time favorite cars. 

Magical.

Now, I’m sitting in between my mom and my younger brothers, way up in nosebleeds on the first-base side of Great American Ball Park. I lean forward, elbows resting on my knees, chin on my hands.

“Are you having fun, C?” my dad asks, thinking I might be bored.

“He’s just concentrating,” my mom says.

“We’re going to be good this year,” I tell them without looking up from the field.

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I’m 12 years old in the spring of 2011, and my dad is driving me to baseball practice.

Sitting shotgun, I’m wearing my Reds gear, and the radio is tuned to 700 WLW. It’s March 31 — Opening Day. Cincinnati is trailing, 6-4, in the bottom of the ninth, as we sit at a red light on Bridgetown Avenue.

“Here’s a fly ball, hit back into right field…” Marty Brennaman, the play-by-play announcer, says, his voice rising. “It’s hit well. This one belongs to the Reds! Ramón Hernández, an opposite-field, three-run home run into the Milwaukee bullpen … And this Cincinnati Ball Club is absolutely jubilant.”

So are my dad and I. We high-five.

I’m 19 years old in the spring of 2018, and I’m stuck in calculus class at Miami University.

The rain showers of the previous few days have subsided, and the sun is peeking out from behind the clouds. Because of a weather-forced cancellation the previous afternoon, Cincinnati is attempting Opening Day No. 2. It’s Friday, March 30.

“Watching the Reds game?” my dad texts me.

“Unfortunately, no. In class,” I reply when my professor isn’t looking.

Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals shut out the Reds, 2-0.

“Bummer,” my dad sends.

I’m 20 years old in the spring of 2019, and Brady Pfister and I are scrambling. 

We’re on a spring break trip in Destin, Fla., with our friends, but we’re the only ones who care about Opening Day. The Reds are playing the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the first pitch is quickly approaching. I’m pacing the condo. The rest of our group is at the beach. We don’t have a radio. We don’t have a TV. 

How are we going to experience this game?

After downloading a half-dozen radio apps, Brady finally finds one that offers a free, one-week trial. 

Bingo.

We grab our gloves, throw on 700 WLW and head to the beach. We toss a baseball through much of the game, but when the ninth inning comes around, we position ourselves right next to the phone.

“Now the hold, and now the pitch,” Brennaman announces. “A ground ball to second. Up with it, is Peraza, to first, and this one belongs to the Reds!”

“You better remember to cancel that free trial by next week,” I tell Brady, grinning.

I’m 21 years old in the spring of 2020, and it’s not happening.

Today is March 26 — Opening Day — but due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, games are rightly postponed until who knows when. Ohioans are cooped up in their homes after a shelter-in-place order by Governor Mike DeWine.

I don’t know exactly what I’ll do this afternoon. Fox Sports Ohio is airing the Reds’ Opening Day game from last year. I’ll watch that, but it won’t be the same.

My dad, a paramedic, is working anyway.

“We can wear Reds gear and set up on the couch with a beer and watch it on TV,” my mom said yesterday, laughing. “I’ll make popcorn and hot dogs.”

“I’ll do that with you,” I said.

Once this pandemic passes and the real 2020 Opening Day arrives, you’ll see me at the ballpark. We’ll be OK this year.

Oh, and the Reds will be good, too.

@ChrisAVinel

vinelca@miamioh.edu

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