All Things Must Pass: Reds Bittersweet Home Finale

Happy Reds! National League Central Division Champs 2012!It was a cloudy late September day with the threat of rain in the forecast and dampness in the air on the afternoon the Cincinnati Reds closed the book on their home schedule for 2011. It was a 12:35 start on a cloudy day and the weather matched the feeling in the ballpark.

The Reds hosted the Houston Astros in a game that meant nothing in the standings and the highlight of the day that saw the disappointing season coming to a close after the success of the season before was a gem spun by right-hander Bronson Arroyo who beat  Astros’ ace left-hander Wandy Rodriguez.

As fans left GABP for the final time until the following April when they would again be all excited about the new season, Arroyo was being interviewed on the field and it was played on the scoreboard and fans were buzzing about how well he pitched and hoped it was a harbinger for nine months from then.

Why not? They really had little else to be excited about as their team finished 79-83 and a distant third.

Certainly many fans were gearing to watch the upcoming postseason and as baseball fans do, were prepared for the excitement and enjoyment each game provides leading up to and including the World Series. It is simply Americana.

However exciting it would prove to be and it didn’t get much better than the way the World Series dramatically ended, no matter who you were pulling for, here it lacked that local flavor and to some the taste was bitter considering the hopes entering the 2011 campaign.. It was as if a key ingredient was missing from a batch of Skyline, but we ate it anyway and moved on.

As is often the case, no make that a golden rule of mine as I always attend the finale, I recall that last day of the season vividly, that dreary afternoon when Arroyo’s sweeping curve lit up the park as he mowed down hitters one after another.

I too recall that feeling in the pit of my stomach … no not from too many ballpark dogs … when the Public Address announcer thanked everyone for their support during the season, his booming voice echoing across the emptying ballpark while a graphic appeared on the scoreboard with the same message of thanks that basically said we appreciate your business and see you next year everyone.

It was a stark reminder the few would play on and the Reds were among the many in baseball that soon would not. I also remember the long walk to the car, not in distance, but one that seemed 10 times as long as usual because I always take the end of a season here rather hard.

Thursday’s gray sky may have been eerily reminiscent of a year ago, but sometimes one not only reflects, but calls upon recent history for comparison and even though I knew just how good we have had it here this year with this team, the moments following the Reds last regular season home game … emphasis on Regular Season … was like a bucket of cold water poured over my head on a hot August afternoon sitting in Sawyer Point. Wow, was that walk refreshing.

And it was that way for more than one reason, even if the recently concluded game seems meaningless by some standards, the Reds having long since clinched the Central Division crown.

With Milwaukee leading 1-0 with two outs in the bottom of the 9th and no Reds on base, Cincinnati pulled out a 2-1 win as you already know so I will spare you the electrifying details that added spark to my step despite my somewhat staggered gait..

But it was far more than that dramatic win and dramatic is an understatement I know, that put spark in a step that was little more than two feet dragging along and head bowed, looking like a person who had lost his best friend, a season ago.

Few if any here need be reminded of how each of the last two regular seasons ended here in the Queen City, but it doesn’t hurt to realize what this ownership has done and what these players have already accomplished, once more even before the next round of fun begins in earnest in the playoffs.

It was a bit like 2010 all over again, but there is a different feeling in the air this time. . That 2010 team delighted the Tri-state faithful with a Central Division title and frankly many were satisfied, some secretly, some outwardly, to have done so and see that team just reach the playoffs after a lengthy postseason absence. That, “hey we made it” battle cry followed by a feeling of relief and mores accomplishment. Sure the throng hoped for more before the Philadelphia Phillies made short work of the Reds in the playoffs, but they gladly took what the team had accomplished.

This year there appears so much more hope for a longer stay and less satisfaction with just making the Big Dance. And for yours truly, the stark comparison of the final walk to the car after the final regular season game each of the past two years including today’s could not have been more dramatic.

Nor could the hopes ahead for this team. I was one of those who openly admits feeling good the Reds just made the playoffs back then. That was then. That season was followed by the 2011 roller coaster ride that has since continued and needless to say, an upward trek.

I guess the point is we are now among the chosen few, among the lucky ones to have hope beyond the regular season and once in a while it does not hurt to remind ourselves. We have been royally treated thus far and could get really used to such regal ways even if this seems just the beginning this time around.

And as is the case each and every time I am at a game, something someone like myself who has been around MLB for decades can’t help, I am always scribbling notes on the side of my scorecard, in this case notes that have little do do with the springing of new hopes this Fall, like those we eternally have each April.

Every team has its loyal fans that make their way to opposing parks. It is the nature of baseball if not part of its beauty and here geography dictates just how many of them you see wearing enemy garb, much like the many Reds fans who bring out the gear on the road.

Certainly here you are going to see more Pittsburgh Pirates gear than San Diego Padres stuff. And as one would expect, the teams you see the most fans wearing the other team’s colors are to some degree, the Pirates and mores the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee, the first two neck and neck for most battalions of loyalists.

Just a continued observation, relative to nothing about the Reds actually. But the most loyal Reds fans who go night after night will certainly understand and likely agree concerning enemy troops.

When Cubs fans come to town, it is anything but peaceful at GABP and they relish making a ruckus and after the brawl between the Reds and Cards not so long ago, Cardinals fans, who swarm the city in waves as do Cubs fans, acting just as arrogant I might add as Cubbies fans, have taken on the same demeanor.

Then you have a goodly number of Brewers fans every time they come to town. However they are such a different breed. The come, they watch, the clap, they get up and leave at game’s end, win or lose, stoic and polite. And leave they did after a heartbreaking loss, without incident.

Could the same be said had the Cards or Cubs lost in the same manner? Just something to consider and really just a tip of the cap to Brewers fans, just good homespun, Midwestern folk and it was not only a continued observation but a pleasure to see.

Anyway, unlike last season when Milwaukee won the NL Central title and were gearing up for the playoffs this very time of year and experienced the feeling we now do, they will soon be taking out their cold weather gear for hunting and fishing while Reds fans will bring out their hoodies and gloves for postseason baseball.