The Cincinnati Reds and their fans have moved on, the pain of the October playoff collapse fading by the day.
That seemed to be the theme of the annual Redsfest, which began Friday and continues today. The scene at the Duke Energy Convention Center was an assault on the senses. Thousands of fans snaked through autograph lines, paraded past memorabilia dealers — and their stacks of signed baseballs and tables of glossy photos — and stocked up on apparel for the 2013 season.
Behind the scenes on the second floor, the past, present and future of Reds baseball collided. Everyone stopped by to exchange raincoats for jerseys: from the 72-year-old former ace Jim Maloney to the current star Joey Votto — who appeared to have not shaved since the Reds blew a 2-0 lead in the National League Division Series against the Giants — to 2012 Dragons players like Robert Stephenson, El’Hajj Muhammad and Steve Selsky.
At 5 p.m., the entire group lined up behind the main stage. Dragons pitching coach Tom Browning had a spot near the front. Not far away were his former teammates on the 1990 Reds, Todd Benzinger and Eric Davis.
In another line, the current Reds joked and hugged and caught up. For many, it was probably the first time they had seen each other since October. If they didn’t notice second baseman Brandon Phillips’ glittering yellow shoes, they weren’t paying enough attention.
For all the fans and players, the memories of Oct. 11, when the team lost Game 5 to the Giants 6-4 at Great American Ball Park, are fresh, but the focus is on the future.
“It left an ugly taste in my mouth,” third baseman Todd Frazier said, “but we’ll build on that. We’ll come back strong.”
Frazier admitted he couldn’t watch much of the remaining playoffs. The story that unfolded, with the Giants rallying to beat the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series and then going on to sweep the Tigers in the World Series, did make at least one Red smile.
“I’m not going to say it made me feel better,” center fielder Drew Stubbs said, “but it eased the pain a little bit. For them to go on and win it all, I was happy for those guys.”
The noise at the convention center didn’t approach the decibel level of Game 5, but it had to remind the Reds of their brief October run. Reds fans almost willed the team back in the final game from a 6-0 deficit.
“It was definitely one of the louder moments,” Stubbs said. “Obviously the way the season ended for us was disappointing. Everything came together for the Giants at the right time. It’s a funny game. We took two games at their place, and we’re in the driver’s seat. Your thoughts are moving on to the next series. The momentum can shift so fast. That was a great example of it.”
Dayton Dragons Fans Booster Club member Mark Miller, who attended Redsfest on Friday as he does every year, called it a depressing finish to the season, but he has high hopes for the future.
“The season had gone well all year long,” he said. “You thought they had overcome the Johnny Cueto injury, but I think in the end, that’s what did them in. It was disappointing. But they didn’t just load up for one season last year with the signings and the trades. I think they loaded up for the next four or five seasons. The expectations have to be just as high this year as they were last year.”
Springfield resident K.J. Amidon brought his two sons, Mathis, 13, and Broc, 9, to Redsfest. They come every year for both days to add to their collection of 60,000 autographs. Broc said it was a horrible feeling seeing the Reds collapse in the playoffs.
“One kid at our school was crying,” Broc said. “It was really emotional. But I think they are actually going to make it far, far into the playoffs next year.”
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