PDT Sports Writer
CINCINNATI—As an outsider, I will admit that I did not understand the concept of Portsmouth Day at a Cincinnati Reds game.
Questions ranging from the history to the details that coincide with this annual event always bounced through my head. I always knew this territory loved their Redlegs, but to an extent where they had their own day?
That’s when I had to investigate.
For the first time in my life, I attended a Reds game as a member of the media and not as a fan. My attendance to the ball park could not have been any more perfect as I arrived to watch Scioto County resident Jim Saddler throw one of the four “Ceremonial First Pitches” of the day, this one into the waiting glove of Portsmouth Mayor David Malone.
As Saddler and the rest of the party, who were allowed to be on the field for this occasion, walked through the tunnel on the visitors side and up to their waiting elevator to be seated, Saddler was grinning from ear-to-ear as if he were actually a five-year-old boy trapped in this elderly man’s body.
“I enjoyed pitching with the mayor, he is a good person,” Saddler said
A little more than a month ago, Saddler was approached by the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce about tossing one of the strikes towards the Great American Ballpark plate. He admitted that he warmed up with a local area fire department prior to his big moment.
“I loved it,” Saddler said. “It was a great thrill.”
Jokingly, Saddler admitted that if he were in this same situation 45 years ago, he would’ve taken the baseball and ran home.
It’s these moments. Moments like Saddlers, the Scioto County Career Technical Center’s Criminal Justice Center color guard presenting the colors or Hannah Noel belting out another great rendition of our national anthem, that helped paint a bigger picture towards reaching my ultimate goal of understanding the purpose of the day.
Very few people grow up in this country not on a baseball or softball diamond, dreaming one day of actually being on the field of a Major League ball park with all of their friends and family on hand to watch. I’m not going to lie, I had plenty of daydreams where I was making the game-winning hit and I sometimes still do. The kid inside me still lives.
Unfortunately, that kid also sits up from atop press row and watches Aroldis Chapman reach triple digits on the gun and memories of Randy Johnson pop up. Needless to say, the last time I wore baseball pants was my senior year of high school.
Okay, let me get back on track after that stroll down memory lane.
This day also gives fans an opportunity to take their family to the ball park and teach the next generation how the game goes, while friends and the rest of those in attendance, watch something great. In Sunday’s case, the 32,514 in attendance were able to watch two of the game’s best young pitchers—Johnny Cueto and the Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg—battle it out on the mound in what could ultimately turn out to be an early-season playoff preview.
Those who attended also may have witnessed the next Reds star in Derrick Robinson shine for the first time in his young major league career. Robinson, who batted for Cueto in the sixth, recorded his first major league hit off Strasburg.
“It was a great feeling to get that first one out of the way, especially in that situation,” Robinson said with the ball resting in his locker. “We’re starting to rally right there to help us get ahead and to win the game. It’s a great feeling to get that first one out of the way so now it’s game on.”
In what appeared to be a hit-and-run situation, Robinson was on the move as Shin-Soo Choo roped a ball to the outfield that put runners on the corners. Robinson would later say the play was a straight steal.
Xavier Paul would hit into a fielder’s choice to Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa. The fielder tried to cut down the lead runner but Robinson’s speed was too much and he scored what was the game-winning run before his teammates added two more to make it a 6-3 final.
“I was going on the ground, anywhere in the infield,” Robinson said. “Instincts kicked in as soon as I saw it off the bat and on the ground.”
Sunday may have been the perfect day to have Portsmouth Day. Not only did fans get a chance to watch and learn the game of baseball, they also had a chance to enjoy a spectacular day at the park with friends and family.
Now I get it.
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or email@example.com. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.