By Matthew McAdow — Contribtuing Columnist
Spring Training Begins
The seventy-degree weather in Ohio this past week had me eager for days at Great American Ball Park. The child in me wanted to grab my Rawlings black glove and toss baseball with my father like old times. Just like many of you, when I think of Summer, I think of cookouts, mowing the yard, my pool, and Reds baseball. I don’t believe a better combination can be made. While we haven’t quite made it to Spring yet, we have made it to Spring Training and the first game of the year for the Reds was one to remember.
While the first game of the 2023 Cactus League for the Reds wasn’t perfect, it certainly ended in perfect fashion for this young ball club. In the bottom of the 9th and a tie ballgame, shortstop prospect Matt McLain managed to hit a walk-off homerun and empty the Reds dugout. McLain had a magnificent performance and ended the day 2-2. McLain represented everything this organization is about, as he is young and is a part of the future of this organization. He is 23 years young and is trying to claim a roster spot before the end of March and after watching the first game, he certainly could have a chance. Outside of the exhilarating finish to the game, Alejo Lopez, Noelvi Marte, Luke Maile, Will Benson, and Alex McGarry all reeled in a hit as well. Cincinnati gave 9 different pitchers some innings on the mound and I was impressed with Buck Farmer, Reiver Sanmartin, and Fernando Cruz. Getting quality performances from the bullpen will be key for Cincinnati to have any success in the NL Central.
Adapting to Change
Sports are ever-changing and as we discussed last week, some much needed changes were made to the rules of baseball. After having a weekend to watch some live action, here are my thoughts:
· Shortstops and Second Basemen will be more important than ever. With the shift-ban, they have a ton of ground to cover. I think in one weekend, I saw more “dribblers” make it through the middle of the infield than I did all season last year due to the shift.
· The time limit for the pitchers and batters was a much needed change, but it certainly will take some time to get used to. You could see throughout many games that players haven’t adapted yet to the new rule with many batters taking too long to get prepared in the box. Cutting out the unnecessary batting glove adjustments and “pants-fixing” cut the average length of the games this weekend to about 2 and a half hours.
· A record number of stolen bases will happen this season by far. The bigger bases along with the rules for the pitcher regarding stepping off the rubber will greatly increase the number of stolen bases.
· I really hope to see the pitch clock moved to a smaller box located by the scores while watching on TV. I enjoy being able to see the clock, but the size of the clock behind home plate seemed to catch my attention more than it should. I felt like I was counting down a “buzzer beater” as a child each time a pitcher received the ball back from the catcher.
Trenton Irwin joins Matt’s Take
After reaching out to the PO3 Agency, Jessica Campbell kindly got me in contact with Bengals wide receiver Trenton Irwin. Trenton was a joy to do a Q&A with, just as he was a joy to watch all season. Irwin attended Stanford during his college career and then spent some time with the Dolphins before landing in the Queen City. Irwin emerged as a great receiver for Burrow this season and it was great to see him get more snaps. He made some crucial catches throughout the season and was a huge contributor in a great season for the Bengals. The chemistry between Joe and Trenton was a sight to see and I am excited to watch his career progress as we enter the 2023-2024 NFL season.
Q: What has been your favorite moment as a Bengal so far?
A: “Shoot I got to say my TD and Irish dance against the Browns on a flea flicker was awesome for me. But there’s so many great moments with these dudes!”
Q: What are your off-season goals for 2023? A: “My goal every year is to go get better and keep trending upwards! But speed, quickness, contested balls, deceleration are all a part of my to do list.”
Q: What do you believe this team needs to do in order to be a Super Bowl contender next season? A: “Man, playing at the level we have the last few years. We just need to fine tune some things and keep playing our game and being us!”
Q: If you need advice from someone on the coaching staff or another player, who would you typically turn to? A: “Dan Pitcher has been my guy since day one. I always reach out to him about how he sees stuff but our whole group is great!”
Q: The Trenton Irwin Football Camp begins in roughly one month. Has this been an annual camp? If so, what do you enjoy the most about working with the youth? A: “Trying to make the camp an annual thing for sure! I honestly just love the kids energy and possible life lessons in sports. Just creating a day with all that pure energy is wonderful!”
Q: If you could watch a football game with any past or present player, who would you choose and why? A: “Shoot, I don’t know if I have a magical answer for this question. Probably watch a game with the people that I could learn and grow the most with for the team and that’s probably some mix of Zac Taylor, Joe Burrow, and Troy Walters (lol).”
Bronson Arroyo joins Matt’s Take
Cincinnati legend and member of the Reds Hall of Fame, Bronson Arroyo kindly joined Matt’s Take this week for a second time. An introduction regarding his baseball career isn’t needed and this week, Bronson is joining to talk about more than Reds baseball. Bronson is more than just a former pitcher, he is a talented musician who is known for his great voice, instrument skills, and intriguing music. Arroyo is in a band titled “The 04” and they recently released a new album – “Some Might Say.” I listened to each track on the album and it was great to hear Bronson crush another set of songs. I am eager to listen to this new album live in the upcoming season and of course, I had to throw in some Reds questions for Bronson as well!
Q: How does your new album compare to your previous releases?
A: “Well, this is the first one that is all original music, stories, created out of my mind. My first album was a collection of cover songs that I enjoyed in my youth. This album was created front to back with 5 guys, myself and four bandmates that I’ve known for the last twenty years…”
Q: What is your favorite song on the album and why?
A: “I think probably Guerilla Warfare, the second song on the record. It is really hard to choose. You hear all the time that songs are like your kids, in a way…There really isn’t a song on the album that I don’t like or it wouldn’t have made the album, but I would say Guerilla Warfare…I wrote the song in Cuba when I was finding where my Father, my Uncle, and every on my father’s side-where they were living, their baptism records, and we were literally walking in the streets where my family had been in the early 1950’s…The lyrics for that song were written the day after that.”
Q: What is the overall message that you are trying to portray in the entire album?
A: “I wrote a lot of these songs about external things. A lot of people write about internal experiences, but I was trying to observe the world and write about it from someone else’s point of view, in a way…The one thread that goes through the entire album that is ‘Bronson Arroyo’ is to be present tense, because you will die quickly and look at the glass half full. Enjoy the moments as they pass because they won’t last forever. That truly is who I am…”
Q: What are you looking forward to the most with the Reds roster?
A: “You know, I am looking forward to seeing if Ashcraft, Lodolo, and Greene can really sustain themselves as three major league starters, staying healthy, and applying pressure to other teams. You have a really young ball club and it’ll be really difficult to compete if those young guys don’t bring their A-Game.”
Q: What pitcher on the current Reds roster reminds you of yourself?
A: “My skill set is kind of a dying breed in a way-being a crafty guy who doesn’t throw hard. Everyone on that staff pretty much throws in the 90’s at least. It’s more of a ‘beat you with physicalness’ and less mental….I’d say the closest you would get to it is Chase Anderson who is coming into camp and trying to fight for a spot on the roster. He throws a lot of changeups and is getting up in age. He has an idea of how to flip a breaking ball across the plate and beat people with command…”
Q: Will you be attending Reds Opening Day?
A: “I am going to be in the parade. I think myself and Danny Graves might be in the parade…I will be in the house, probably not sitting in the stands this year, but I’ll be in the clubhouse…”
Q: What is your honest prediction for the Reds record this season?
A: “I know what it’s like to be in that locker room, but honestly if they can play .500, that is an amazing season for me. If they lose 90 and improve 10 games from last year, I still think that’s a pretty good job…”
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