When I was five years old, two very important events happened in my life. 1. I started playing organized baseball which led to a lifelong obsession with the game, and 2. Ken Griffey Jr. was traded from the Seattle Mariners to the Cincinnati Reds.
Since both of these earth-shattering moments occurred at a relatively crucial juncture in my life, — from toddler on a rampage to semi-conscious preschooler –I was just aware enough to understand the game in front of me and that I needed to pick a favorite. I gravitated towards Junior because of his smile, his backwards hat, and most importantly his towering home runs.
So from that moment on, the Reds became a lifelong obsession of mine and have shaped my life to the point where I am identified by my fandom. People who don’t even follow the sport will be sure to tell me when the Reds lose, trying to get a rise out of me. I’ve lost more than my fair share of sweatshirt bets* on Reds’ games, and I don’t plan on giving up. I’m the type of Reds’ fan that believes Pete Rose should be in the hall, Johnny Cueto acted in self-defense when he kicked Jason LaRue, and that Yadier Molina is a punk while Brandon Phillips is just charismatic. But most of all, I’m a Reds’ fan who despises all things Cardinals.
All of this to say, when I had the opportunity to come write for a baseball blog, I was ecstatic. When I knew it was a Cardinals’ blog, I was torn: do I turn traitor on my team and further my writing or do I stay loyal and miss an incredible opportunity. Obviously, you know which path I took.
Since that fateful day in June, the Reds and Cardinals played very similar baseball. Both teams have been streaky, going on the occasional run, but both have hovered near .500, never truly making a push at the Brewers. Both teams have had their share of decimating injuries, from Joey Votto to Michael Wacha, Brandon Phillips to Yadier Molina. But most surprisingly to me, the Cards really haven’t done anything too repugnant during my time writing for this blog.
I came into this job with a healthy dose of hatred for the Cardinals, but I will leave this position with mutual respect. While neither team likes each other on the field, they both play the game the same way. Both are detrimentally vocal occasionally, both rely on dominant pitching, and both fanbases are incredibly knowledgeable about the game.
So as the 2014 season is entering its stretch run and the Reds are fading out of contention, I will now get to sit back and simply enjoy the game of baseball without worrying about my allegiances. I know that I will always be a Reds’ fan, so over the next three games, I won’t be upset if the Reds lose, because let’s be honest, the way their playing that’s the least surprising outcome. I won’t be annoyed when Adam Wainwright takes the mound, and I won’t bad mouth Yadier Molina while he’s on the DL. I’ll simply enjoy the game in front of me and look forward to 2015.
Ken Griffey Jr. is in the Reds’ Hall of Fame now, effectively ending that chapter of both his and my life. I’ve adapted over the years and have come to love all the Reds’ players who don the uniform with Mr. Redlegs on their sleeve, but Junior will always be my favorite. Not because of the towering home runs or the backwards hat, but because he was genuinely happy playing the game, and happiness is all that really matters in this game.
Tonight’s contest between the Redlegs and Redbirds is at 7:15 CST.
*A sweatshirt bet is a bet on a game where the loser has to wear a sweatshirt depicting the logo of the winning team for the entirety of the next day.