For as long as I can remember, Opening Day has been a big deal for the Cincinnati Reds, their most ardent fans and the entire city of Cincinnati. As the oldest team in professional baseball, the Reds always open the season at home.
Or at least they used to. Because player strikes have delayed the start of the season, there have been one or two times when the Reds have begun the season on the road, but in most seasons, the Reds have started the season with an afternoon home game with a capacity crowd in attendance.
Typically, Opening Day in downtown Cincinnati is treated as an unofficial holiday. Adults take off work and kids skip school to see the game. The late Tony Curnutte, a co-worker and the biggest Reds fan I ever knew, always drove to Cincinnati to be one of the first in line to buy Opening Day tickets on the day they went on sale months before the game.
Unlike Tony, actually being on hand for the game has never been a priority for me. I went to one once with one of my sons. I didn’t enjoy it. Our seats were terrible. We could have seen the game much better on TV at home. I have never had another desire to attend an Opening Day game.
However, I don’t remember an Opening Day when I did not take off work early to be sure I was parked in front of the TV when the first pitch was thrown.
Opening Day 2020, slated for late March, was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, and that cost many businesses that profit from the Opening Day celebration thousands of dollars in lost revenue. Motels, bars and restaurants that cater to Reds fans on hand for the game lost one of their most profitable days of the year.
Well, Opening Day 2020 in Cincinnati will finally arrive this Friday, and it will be Opening Night. The Reds game against the Detroit Tigers will begin shortly after 6 p.m., and instead of being played before nearly 40,000 cheering fans, the game will be played in a mostly vacant Great American Ball Park, a great place to watch a game, in my humble opinion. But what’s a Major League Baseball game without fans? We soon will find out, but this delayed Opening Night will so different from other Opening Days it will scarcely be recognizable.
For the Reds, the empty stands will not be the only change with the opening of th season. For the first time ever, the National League will be using a designated hitter this season, a change I don’t like because I’m an old fuddy-duddy traditionalist resistant to change. Nevertheless, I knew this day was inevitable.
Another change is that Shogo Akiyama, a star in Japan for years, will be the first Japanese player to play for the Reds.
Because the normal 162-game season has been reduced to 60 games, and the Reds will be playing 40 of those games against teams in the National League Central Division: Pittsburgh PIrates, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. The other 20 games will be against teams in the American League Central Division.
All this and more will be so different it will be difficult to get used to, but at least they will be playing. I actually think the Reds will be good this year. However, if the team starts out 1-7 like it did in 2019, my interest in baseball will quickly sink to the bottom.
Reach JOHN CANNON at firstname.lastname@example.org.