Day 2 in Phoenix found us in Goodyear at the 4 year old Goodyear Ballpark. It's a beautiful ballpark. It's located west of Phoenix in what could pass for farmland in the desert. The stadium is perfectly manicured and looked like it had just opened yesterday. The Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians share the facility. They were our match-up for the day. We arrived early to survey the scene and see which players would be milling about. The Big Red Machine was my childhood team. I loved the Reds of the 70's and can recite their starting line-up to this day. Like my son, I was a front runner and didn't come to appreciate my home town Pads until later. To this day I have a soft spot for the Reds. These 2013 Cincinnati Reds are fan friendly and a little goofy - a lot goofy in the case of Matt Latos. Most players interspersed their pregame routine with autographs and interaction with the fans - interaction with a cop in Latos's case. Billy Hamilton is the exciting young player all the Cincinnati fans are excited about. He spent a good amount of time signing and chatting with the crowd. He's with the big league club this spring but is not slated to stick with the major league team until 2014. He stole some obscene number of bases in the minors last year so we were looking forward to watching him play. In his 2 at bats he tried unsuccessfully to get on with a drag bunt and then struck out looking. We never got to see him light up the base paths. The other fan favorite is Brandon Phillips. I know what he brings as a player (2× All-Star, 3× Gold Glove winner, Silver Slugger winner, 30–30 club 2012, Defensive Player of the Year) but I'd also heard great things about his personality and approach. The first thing you notice is the smile - big, bright, contagious. Whether signing baseballs or turning a double play, he was constantly smiling. He really seems to understand this is a game. These guys have the privilege of playing a game for a living. Granted it's very hard work and very few make it, but ultimately it's just a bunch of grown kids playing a kids game for a ton of money. What's not to smile about?
The future of the Reds get limber
Matt Latos signing
Brandon Phillips with Goodyear Ballpark mascot Zizzy
Reds phenom Billy Hamilton
Cabrera running the track between innings
Brandon Phillips - Done for the day