The Birthplace Of Pro Ball
The Cincinnati Reds play host to the Chicago Cubs at Great American Ballpark on April 22, 2016. The Cubs won, 8-1
My first MLB stadium experience dates back to June 14, 2003. It’s only appropriate my first game came in the city where professional baseball was born, Cincinnati. There is debate on where the game of baseball originated. But it’s clear the first professional baseball team originated in 1869 in Cincinnati, the Red Stockings.
While no direct relation to the original Red Stockings, the Cincinnati Reds are steeped in great tradition. While the Reds have not been to the World Series since 1990, the organization has seen its share of success over the years. Opening Day means more in Cincinnati than it does in any other city. There’s an Opening Day parade in downtown Cincinnati, and former Reds flock to Cincinnati to partake in the activities. The Reds pretty much always open their season at home.
It may also seem appropriate that 2003 was Great American Ballpark’s inaugural season. After playing in the concrete cookie cutter known primarily as Riverfront Stadium since 1970, the Reds finally had their own baseball only stadium. The Big Red Machine of the 70s experienced plenty of success at Riverfront early on with 4 National League pennants and 2 World Series titles. By the late 90s the multipurpose artificial turf stadium had worn out its welcome. While Riverfront (then known as Cinergy Field) had a grass field its final two years, and the NFL’s Bengals had left, the Reds and their fans were ready for a change.
So that’s your brief history lesson on baseball in Cincinnati. Late 2002 was when I first started getting into baseball, so I was still a relatively new baseball fan when I went to my first game. My first game would feature the Reds playing host to the Philadelphia Phillies. I was excited in particular to see the Phillies because they had my favorite player, Jim Thome.
You’ll come to find out later on that the Cleveland Indians are my favorite team, and I’ll have plenty to say about them later. In 2003, I followed the Phillies pretty closely because of Thome. Thome had previously spent had all of his career with the Indians before signing as a free agent with the Phillies before the 2003 season. So my first game ever featured my all time favorite player. Not bad.
I could go on Baseball Reference and give you a recap of the game, but I know no one wants that. If you really want it, here’s the link for the game’s box score. https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CIN/CIN200306140.shtml. I will tell you what I remember. I remember the Reds Adam Dunn leading off the bottom of the 1st inning with a long home run. The Phillies Bobby Abreu tied the game with his own solo home run in the top of the 2nd.
My memory about the rest of the game doesn’t serve me too well, sadly. But I vividly recall an offensive explosion by the Phillies we did not see. Heavy rain rolled over Cincinnati in the 8th inning. The game had turned into a pitcher’s duel, with the Phillies holding a 2-1 lead. However, with the rain coming down fast and strong my family decided to head back to our hotel.
What happened in the game during our drive to our hotel can only be described as “that escalated quickly.” The rain went as fast as it came and the game resumed in the top of the 8th. When I got back to our hotel room and turned the television on, I saw the Phillies had busted their lead open to 12-2. They scored 10 runs in the 8th inning after we left! Those are my memories of my first Major League Baseball game. Final score: Philadelphia 12, Cincinnati 2.
Overall, GABP is a fine retro ballpark. Located on the banks of the Ohio River, it pays home to the great history of baseball in Cincinnati.
One of favorite eats there is LaRosa’s Pizza, a locally famous pizza joint in Cincinnati. Get a slice and a beer and you’ll be set for a few innings.
It’s a family friendly ballpark. When you go there, you will realize why Cincinnati is a baseball town and why the Reds open the season at home every year.