Fans send off Reds with rally in Cincinnati
Thousands gather at Fountain Square to cheer team
CINCINNATI -- On a crisp, cool fall afternoon in downtown Cincinnati, where by now much of the focus typically has turned to football, Fountain Square was transformed into a sea of red.
Thousands of Reds fans gathered Monday for the "Rally on the Square," a formal send-off for the team which made an appearance at the celebration before flying to Philadelphia.
The Reds, who are making their first postseason appearance since 1995, will face the Phillies in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Wednesday night at 5 ET on TBS.
Many Reds fans in attendance Monday weren't old enough to recall the last time the Reds reached the playoffs, let alone the 1990 World Series championship team.
"I've been a Reds fan my whole life," said 23-year old Alex Vehr. "I've never seen anything like it. I was too young to really remember the '95 team. I didn't see this coming this year. Not at all."
News of manager Dusty Baker's two-year contract extension, which was announced at a press conference at Great American Ball Park earlier Monday, spread quickly throughout the crowd.
"It's awesome," said Vehr. "I mean, why not? He's won everywhere he's been. We've got so much young talent. There's no reason why they can't do this every year."
Hall of Fame Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman hosted the festivities, which included speeches from Reds president and CEO Bob Castellini, general manager Walt Jocketty and former second baseman Joe Morgan of Big Red Machine fame.
"I'm a part of the history of the Cincinnati Reds," said Morgan. "These players are part of the future."
A video recap of the 2010 season was shown on the large HD screen atop the Macy's store on Vine Street amid cheers from the crowd. Shortly after the video, sirens could be heard as the team bus rolled up Vine with a police escort.
"This turns the clock back for me to past celebrations we've had here on Fountain Square," Brennaman said.
The entire Reds team and coaching staff appeared on stage moments later. Castellini addressed the crowd first by saying how much it meant to him and his family to bring a championship home to Cincinnati.
"I was asked how we did this," Castellini said. "I said we hired smart, hard-working people and got out of their way."
When Jocketty referenced Baker's new deal a chant of "Dusty, Dusty" emanated through the crowd.
Several players spoke, including Jay Bruce, fresh off being named NL Player of the Week after hitting the walk-off home run that clinched the NL Central title on Tuesday.
"All 25 guys did their part," Bruce said. "I appreciate my teammates. I appreciate the fans' support. I'm proud to represent this city in the postseason."
In addition to the team's appearance, the rally featured food, drinks and live music. Reds mascots Gapper, Mr. Redlegs and Rosie Red and the Reds Rally Pack entertained fans as well. Fans also had the opportunity to purchase Reds postseason merchandise.
The event culminated with a fireworks display off the top of a downtown building.
There were numerous references to many preseason prognostications that had the Reds finishing as low as third in the NL Central. Some Reds fans admitted to making similar predictions.
"I wasn't sure, but I thought maybe they could finish second, behind the Cardinals," said Daniel Coletta of Westwood. "If the pitching is right I think they can beat Philadelphia."
Baker spoke last, drawing laughter when he commented on a few of the Reds players' especially stylish forms of dress for the flight to Philadelphia.
"I must have one of the most eclectic and handsome teams in baseball," said Baker. "We're like America. We have everyone from everywhere. And we let them be themselves. That's why we win."
Jeff Wallner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.