Game 163

It’s a continuation of a long term plan, a journey halfway met.

You could see it on this Third Avenue Monday morning, the young family with 10-year old in tow, father and son poised at the exit of the subway, pulling on fresh garments heavy with the many letters of the Borough of Queens’ newest king stitched across the back; a Viking god officially usurping a Dark Knight. It’s these little moments, peeking out from under the covers of this too long winter that reveal Opening Day.

For this Cincinnati ex-pat, those moments will have to wait. As ubiquitous as the name “Syndergaard” is in Gotham, so will more prosaic names, “Bench,” “Rose,” “Bruce” and “Votto” deck the bodies of those 43,000 plus souls that pass through the turnstiles, leaving cold, Crosley Terrace behind to step once more into baseball’s warm embrace.

No, it will likely be June before my personal opening day arrives, when I step around historic murals to reveal the green of the infield grass, perfectly cut against the cinnamon brown infield dirt. Yes, it will take me back to those halcyon riverfront days; and even further back to the corner of Finley and Western Avenue, where the Clopay factory warehouse a college boy once worked hid rows of forlorn and forgotten Crosley Field seats and all the baseball ghosts that wandered there.

Mostly, it will remind me of memories of father, brother, daughter and son, the days that kept me upright in the face of personal turmoil.

Great is Baseball. The National Tonic.

It’s as true today as it was in 1930.

.   .   .

Sure, April 3rd is Opening Day for the Reds, packed with it all that romance and nostalgia.  Just past that golden time lurks a place—a promontory from which we can stand and glimpse a far off future, if only we can turn our gaze in the right direction. This Opening Day is for our purposes Game 163. It’s a continuation of a long term plan, a journey halfway met.

To measure this season in wins and losses is to measure time with a protractor—or miles with an egg timer. You’ll miss the big picture by following just the box score. Wins signify results. The Reds are still in the process stage. I want to see Jose Peraza get seasoning. I want Cody Reed to discover his inner warrior, to realize he belongs on the mound and can dominate the Kris Bryants of the world. The necessary march of time will bring Nick Senzel—Third Baseman of the Rebuilt and Shiny Future—to Great American Ball Park—and not a tick-tock before.

Will Robert Stevenson harness his control and begin the process of discovering his command? Is Amir Garrett really ready to make the jump from AA—where no Andrew McCutchens dwell—to the major leagues, where everyday Trumbos feast on replacement level pitchers for their daily bread?

Johnny Cueto’s first start for the Reds was a moment of brilliance followed by two years of struggle before he found his inner Johnny Béisbol. Jake Arrieta and Cliff Lee each spent five years in pitching purgatory before they took their games to another level. If you expect definitive answers to the Reds rotation in 2017, you’ll need to trade in the rose-colored glasses for a different prescription.

Clues will be offered. Answers will be provided in bits and pieces and come from unexpected places. Remember when Joey Votto was supposed to be Robin to Jay Bruce’s Batman? Perhaps it’s Scott Schebler who will become the Reds’ slugging future and not Adam Duvall. We’ve drifted from Robert Stevenson to Cody Reed to Amir Garrett as our Anointed One on the Hill. What if it turns out to be Sal Romano instead?

The Rebuild has been difficult because Reds fans have never really seen one up-close and personal. Yes, teams have been bad for long stretches before, but the way out has never been outlined and orchestrated with such a detailed plan, from scouting, development, research and investments in facilities like it has now.

Uncertainty it just that. It should not be mistaken for failure. It may just be time to ruffle up the spirits for the season to come, not because 88 wins are around the corner, but because the reveal is in the making. You just have to keep watching.



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