And The Wheel Turns

And The Wheel Turns

There are so many things. So many moments to hold and rewind as we Cincinnati Reds fans head off in our hardhats to the reconstruction project ahead and you head off for your well-deserved October glory.

Pardon the interruption, Baseball, but there are just a few things that need to be said.

Thanks, Johnny Cueto.

Thanks for that brilliant debut in 2008, a “Hola World” performance that woke us from our decade-long slumber of mostly mediocre baseball. Your first two games — 18 strikeouts and zero walks — gobsmacked a long-suffering fan base and gave us a reason to dream.

Thanks for letting us grow along with you and your dreadlocks, as your journey became our journey, from your nascent, awkward “falling-off-the-mound” delivery to your eventual stalwart presence as the anchor of the rotation.

Thanks for the Tiant Twist, the way you turned and showed the batter your back, as if you were coveting the baseball, a Faberge egg you were unwilling to share with anyone but your battery mate. You gave the hitters your back. We had yours.

Thanks for making Great American Small Park big. Through the sheer force of your will, you seemingly pushed the outfield walls back on every batter who strode to the plate with havoc on his mind.

Thanks for 2014. In a train wreck of a baseball season, you were our one constant, our lodestar. There were so many days when the Reds were over matched. Yet when Kershaw or Wainwright took the hill, you were there to meet them, standing tall on the mound, all five foot eleven inches of you, your message to your teammates behind you implicit and clear: “we’ve got a chance today, boys.”

Thanks for the smile and the guile. Even when batters reached base, you had this uncanny knack for keeping them from advancing onward. After games, you feigned an inability to speak English, allowing a translator to keep the prodding media at bay.

Thanks for the Kickin It With Cueto t-shirt. We wore that sucker out whenever the Cardinals came to town.

Thanks for the relentless work ethic that surely came straight out of the barrio. For the miles of concrete steps you ran alone in an empty ballpark. For your competitive nature. For the way you carved yourself into the finished product we all saw in you those many years ago.

Thanks for sweeping away those forgettable seasons of journeyman pitchers past. Thanks for an excellence that brought back memories of dominance; of Maloney and Seaver; Soto and Rijo.

The wheel turns. The lineup card changes. Fresh faces arrive like fresh chalk lines in the dirt. The lights come up. The patrons take their seats. The hotdog vendor honks his familiar plea. Unfamiliar numbers take the mound. And the wheel turns.

It’s your turn, now Johnny. We’ll watch as you introduce yourself to Cabrera and Trout. We’ll root for you, favorite son. Ich bin ein Missourian. We are all Royals now.

We’ll meet again someday. Maybe it will be at 25 Main Street in a sleepy little town in upstate New York. Throngs of Reds fans will gather. The band will play. Red, white and blue bunting will billow on the railings. You will finally speak to us in English. And we will roar for No. 47. For you will always belong to us. To Cincinnati.

Thanks, Johnny Beisbol.

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