Greetings Reds fans!  I’m Zach Bonkowski, and it’s my pleasure to be joining in on the guest blogging fun today, the 26th of July, 2010.  Today is a special day for Better Off Red because it happens to be the birthday of BOR CEO James Ramsey.  More on that later…

I think it’s pretty standard for a guest blogger to throw out a few credentials before beginning, so I’ll take a moment to do that.  My role with the Reds is as Director of Promotional Events and Telemarketing.  

Our department tries to oversee all Reds’ related events with the attempt to ensure that they are fun and operationally buttoned down.  Some of our “favorite” events are Redsfest, the Winter Caravan, Opening Day and most recently, post-game concerts such as the MC Hammer show on July 16.  We have fun, but challenging work.  Our audience expects the best and we make every effort possible to give it to them at each and every event.  

In my job I also have the pleasure of writing a lot for the Club and our long list of talented emcees and announcers.  My writing is what you hear from the public address system of the ballpark, announced by my dear friend Joe Zerhusen (aka “The Trained Monkey”).  

Joe_Z.jpgBut despite some experience putting words to paper I can unequivocally say that I have a profound new respect for just how good J-Ray is at this after spending a few days putting this blog entry together.  But here goes my best shot at giving a few thoughts and a little commentary.  


Although I grew up in Cincinnati (technically Harrison, Ohio – Go Wildcats) and have been a Reds fan my entire life, I’ve really learned over my 9 seasons with the team to manage my expectations and not get too caught up in hype – whether it be in the preseason or regular season.   So when Jamie predicted during Spring Training that this year’s team would reach the playoffs, I tried to close my web browser quicker than Drew Stubbs goes from 0 to 60.  I thought Jamie was just trying to be a “good soldier” and put out some positive vibes for the loyal readers.  But as we approach the true stretch run of the season, I’m starting to allow the excitement to really set in.  In my humble opinion, we have a great mix of veterans and youth and really good team chemistry.  

Maybe it’s cliché, but the baseball season is long (First point of business when I’m named Commissioner – make Pete Rose eligible for Hall of Fame…second point of business – go back to 154 game regular season).  So winning goes a long way for helping the morale of employees around the ballpark.  And I can easily say that this season has been the most enjoyable in the 9 that I have been a part of as a Reds employee.  I’m really rooting for this group to make the postseason and give the City and all the fans throughout Reds Country a chance to cheer them on into late October/early November.  


When the team leaves town, we usually get the weekend off unless there’s an event (and yes, we work year round – even in the “offseason”) and this past weekend was a nice R&R break.  Other than laboring over this blog entry, I was able to hang out with friends and do some much needed yard work.  It all started on Thursday night and I gotta tell ya, ever since Brothers opened up at Newport on the Levee it’s became a favorite happy hour place for us Reds employees (and will be until this place opens up).  


Now, on to the roast…er, tribute to Jamie!  

Jamie and I came up through the ranks at the same time.  In 2001 we both served as interns – me in Marketing and him in Media Relations.  (At the time though, he didn’t speak to me because he thought I was full of myself – I know, hard to believe.)  Besides a short stint that I did with the Potomac Cannons (Nationals) in 2002, the two of us have been here together for nearly a decade.  Not only have we been co-workers for that time, but he’s also been one of my best friends outside of the office as well.  Until I bought a house in Norwood a little over a year ago the two of us lived in separate apartments right next to one another in the building that houses Habits in Oakley, OH.  That building has become somewhat of a Reds Front Office dormitory, with former employee Dann “Filthy Slug” Stupp and current employee Eric “Lil’ Feller” Keller having once lived there along with Jamie and I.  (It also currently houses loyal Reds fan Jim Church – RING IT UP CHURCH!)  

From 2003 to 2006 Jamie and I spent approximately 1,325 nights hanging out at Habits.  If you ever go in and notice the collection of bobbleheads above the bar, the majority of those came from Jamie – who was always trying to suck up for a discounted drink at the bar.  Ostrich burgers, potato rags w/ ranch (pictured below in it’s heart-attack-on-a-plate goodness), a large selection of beers, a juke box featuring YHF (you’ll know what that means if you’re musically educated – which means Reds Premium Sales Manager Ryan Rizzo is completely stumped) and Golden Tee Complete made Habits the perfect place to live above during some of our formidable years.  

Potato Rags.jpg
The movie The Hangover partly based on our lives.  Weekend trips to Chicago & Cleveland, along with concert festival trips to Austin City Limits and Monolith have made for a lot of good stories.  Once in Chicago we had Jamie convinced that he forgot to pack any underwear for the trip – just prior to heading out to JC Penney we had him go and get ice for the room.  Moments after leaving the room he burst back in and flung the ice bucket across the room after he discovered all of his skivvies were inside.  Those were really good times, but in all honestly the majority of the funny stories that came out of those trips can actually be attributed to the antics of Larry “The Inspector” Herms and John “Rat” Rieder.    

“The REAL loveable losers”

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Jamie and I share a love for good music.  And I don’t mean the stuff you’ll hear on radio in Cincinnati, I mean the stuff you’ll hear at The Southgate House in Newport, and until this year, the stuff you would have heard on WOXY.  Probably my most memorable music related experience with Jamie was when he scored us some sweet tickets to a Wilco show at The Aronoff Center.  At the time we had uber-cool first baseman Scott Hatteberg playing for us and since Scott was a huge Wilco fan, he joined us at the show.  Because Jamie let our ticket hookup know that Hatte was joining us, we received two front row, center stage tickets, along with four nice seats towards the back of the lower level.  Scott and I came solo, while Jamie had brought a date (the lovely Beatrice Derffo) so I got to watch the show from up front.  I’ll never forget that about halfway through the show I decided to let Jamie come up to watch a song or two from the front row…and about 60 minutes later I realized there was no chance I was getting my front row seat back.  

4 boys and wilco.JPG

So anyway, today is Jamie’s 34th birthday and with that I have two requests of the loyal BOR readers out there.  First, if you’re a resident of the 34th state to join the Union – beautiful Kansas – then it’s your week to submit your team spirit photos in the Reds Fan State Challenge!  The Sunflower State is on the clock – submit your photos to and J-Ray will report the results at the end of this week!  Here’s a look at the leaderboard located in the BOR Headquarters of Great American Ball Park:

State Challenge Board.jpg

And secondly, it’s time for loyal readers to wish Jamie a happy birthday!  Submit your comments or photos via e-mail to or Tweet them to @CincinnatiReds.  We’ll collect them and post them all on Thursday as the final post before Jamie takes back rightful control over his “baby”.  And to lead things off I’ll submit my photo wishing Jamie a BIG Happy Birthday, taken earlier today from BOR headquarters:

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Thanks for reading – if it was a tenth as entertaining as one of Jamie’s posts I’ll consider it a huge success!!   


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