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01/26/11 12:29 PM EST

Reds expect big turnout for weekend caravan

Three tours to make 15 stops from Thursday through Sunday

CINCINNATI -- If last month's Redsfest was any indication, when fans attended in record numbers to see Reds players up close, there might be a very strong turnout when players travel to see the fans on the Reds Caravan.

The Reds' National League Central title last season and a lackluster Bengals football season have driven attention back to baseball a little quicker than usual around Cincinnati. Members of the caravan contingent should see likewise as they make 15 stops over four states and cover around 2,600 miles.

"We expect the 2011 caravan to be bigger and better than ever," Reds public relations manager Michael Anderson said on Wednesday. "It's a great opportunity to connect with fans all around Reds Country and for fans to get up close and personal with their favorite Reds players, coaches and broadcasters."

Reds Caravan, presented by CincinnatiUSA.com, departs from Great American Ball Park on Thursday morning to embark on three separate legs, with the trips concluding on Sunday. It's considered by the club to be one of the biggest buzz builders for fans before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Goodyear, Ariz., on Feb. 16.

The caravan will split up into western, southern and northern legs and fan out across Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia.

Slated for the Western Tour -- with highlighted stops in Louisville, Ky., Bloomington, Ind., Indianapolis and Hamilton, Ohio -- are second baseman Brandon Phillips, Hall of Fame radio broadcaster Marty Brennaman, top catching prospect Devin Mesoraco, assistant general manager Bob Miller and Gapper the mascot. Pitcher Matt Maloney will be on hand Thursday only for the stop in Louisville.

The Southern Tour will move through Charleston, W. Va., Ashland, Ky., Bowling Green, Ky., and Lexington, Ky. Outfielder Jay Bruce will be on hand on Saturday and Sunday only. Also part of the entire trip are general manager Walt Jocketty, broadcaster Jim Kelch, chief operating officer Phil Castellini, 2010 first-round Draft pick Yasmani Grandal, former Reds pitcher Tom Browning and mascot Mr. Redlegs.

As part of the Southern Tour is a Saturday, Jan. 29 hometown visit to Great American Ball Park for the annual select-a-seat event for season-ticket holders.

The Northern Tour will travel through Athens, Ohio, Parkersburg, W. Va., and Dayton, Lima and Columbus in Ohio. On that journey will be manager Dusty Baker, broadcaster Jeff Brantley, pitcher Travis Wood (Thursday and Friday), pitcher Homer Bailey (Saturday and Sunday), prospect Todd Frazier and mascot Rosie Red.

All fan stops are free and open to the public. At most visits, the groups will take time to participate in question-and-answer sessions, pose for pictures and sign autographs.

Each stop will also feature a raffle of two tickets to the March 31 Opening Day game vs. the Brewers at Great American Ball Park.

Representatives from the Reds ticket sales department will be available to discuss season-ticket packages. The Reds Hall of Fame and Reds Community Fund will also have a presence during the visits.

Along the way, the three different legs will be making private stops at Reds on Radio affiliates.

For the full itinerary, please visit reds.com/caravan.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.