You folks who followed the 2016 Reds Caravan on Reds.com and here on Better Off Red are probably familiar with the friendly rivalry the “Rock Star Tour,” spearheaded by “Mercury” Marty Brennaman, has with the other three legs of the Caravan. His daily recaps that appear on BOR, which help capture the pro-wrestling-like competition, must be read the same way they were written – with tongue firmly planted in cheek and with a suspension of disbelief. Marty free-styles his soliloquies on the bus while I sit nearby and type them word-for-word. In between belly laughs and paragraphs, another tour-member or two might add something or change a word/sentence for editorial purposes. It’s easily one of the tour highlights as Marty’s live audience (everyone on the bus) sits backs and braces itself for what he’s about to say next.
But I’m here today to fill in the blanks, separate reality from fantasy and provide another glimpse of what I saw/experienced on the East Tour of the 2016 Reds Caravan – (WITH PHOTOS!)
First, I have to say that the guys on this year’s bus formed one of my all-time favorite groups. With three Caravan “rookies” added to our bus this year, I wasn’t sure how they’d react to our traveling band of merry pranksters but as it turned out – they fit right in. The rookies, Dmitri Young, Nick Krall and Amir Garrett joined “rock star” veterans Tucker Barnhart, Ryan Rizzo, Chris Welsh, Mercury Marty and yours truly to cover over 900 miles of highway and several hours of hijinks.
From Thursday through Saturday, our tour went East towards West Virginia. Our main stops included Athens (OH), Charleston (WV), Parkersburg (WV) and Ashland (KY) with radio affiliate stops in Maysville, Portsmouth, Rio Grande, Middleport, Grayson, Pikeville and Logan (WV) sprinkled throughout. Our schedule is rigid and precise and built on punctuality.
A typical stop involves the guys signing a lot of autographs, posing for a lot of photos and answering a lot of the same questions. But let’s face it – how hard can that be? The guys were naturals at interacting with the media and the fans and answering mostly amusing but sometimes challenging questions. I was very impressed with our team, especially Reds assistant GM Nick Krall, who gracefully answered the lion’s share of those challenging questions. Marty even acknowledged on the bus that Nick changed his mind on some of the more traditional opinions that the veteran Hall of Fame broadcaster held on baseball and the Reds team.
During the middle of Day Two of the Reds Caravan, things start to become routine and formulaic. It’s easy to catch yourself going through the motions and taking for granted what the Caravan is out to accomplish. However, on two separate occasions in two separate cities, I heard two separate young men say the following while interacting with our panel: “this is the greatest day of my life.” Of course, I considered the hyperbole of such comments but even still, both times I was taken aback. Normal everyday people, who are simply involved in a game called baseball with varying degrees of celebrity, have the incredible ability to touch someone so profoundly by simple interaction. Those grateful fans were my personal highlight of this trip and they, in turn, made me thankful for my small role in this big production.
Not to overstate it but I love my time on the bus with the guys on the Caravan. The stories, the laughs, the camaraderie combine to create magic…especially when you have the perfect blend of personalities (and we did). I loved getting to know Amir Garrett. He’s such a class act and a great kid and I’m going to root my heart out for him. Tucker and I picked up right where we left off the last time we saw each other and he’s one of the few Reds players I consider as a personal friend. Like Amir, Tucker’s a world class guy and easy to cheer for and I’m especially excited about his new nickname (Bingo). Like I said earlier, Nick Krall was fantastic and I was very proud of his performance on the trip. He was a welcome addition to our crew. Dmitri is a very special person and a very special friend of mine. He was asked to join our group at the eleventh hour and without batting an eye, he agreed to postpone his busy schedule to travel with us. Dmitri is a good man and the experience, guidance, expertise and enthusiasm he brought to our bus was unmatched. And then there is Ryan and Chris and Marty – three of my favorite dudes who help make this annual voyage an absolute pleasure for me. Few people can make me laugh as hard and as much as Riz, Creeper and Mercury.
A huge thank you to all of the folks who did the actual heavy lifting on our leg of the RedsCaravan; the real rockstars: Mike Middaugh, Kayla Parsley, Christian St. Pierre, Nick Kulik, Nick St. Pierre, Sherry Rowland, Pam Owen, Jackie Reau and Lori Salzarulo.
And a very special thank you to all of the fans and affiliates in Ohio and West Virginia who hosted us!
So enough of my maudlin ramblings. Let’s get to the photos, shall we?
As is tradition on the Reds Carvan, “Mercury” Marty Brennaman recaps each day of his time on the road.
Here’s day two:
Yesterday marked the second day of the Rock Star group’s tour of the Reds Caravan; and as I extinguished my lights at the Ohio University Hotel room last night, my cup overflowed with a lot of positive emotions but none bigger than pride. I’m prideful of a lot of things involving this Rock Star Group but one aspect overwhelms all the others and that is the pride I have for for the three rookies: Dmitri Young, Nick Krall and Amir Garrett. Individually and collectively they have carried themselves with style, with class, with dignity and above all else a sense of giving to the many of hundreds of thousands of people that we have touched in the last 48-plus hours. And believe you me, we’re not done yet.
A quick synopsis of day two as it relates to the rock star group: we woke up yesterday in Athens, Ohio to a full blown blizzard that would cause other people to pause…not this group. They charged out of the hotel’s entrance to the bus all the while trying to stay upright and not go down due to the ice and snow separating themselves from the hotel and the bus. Were they concerned about life and limb? No one gave it a second thought. The main concern was boarding the bus and heading toward Grayson, Kentucky and our network affiliate WUGO Radio. One of the big expectations of the Grayson stop is seeing the man-eating Rottweiler that wanted to take a bite out of everybody but sadly, he’s long passed. The food spread that the folks at WUGO provide is unmatched, especially the catfish. Another highlight was our introduction to Miss Kitty, a beautiful black and white cat that lives at the station.
From Grayson it was on to Pikeville where they were swinging from the rafters. And as usual, we did not disappoint – we gave it back to the city! Shortly thereafter, we boarded the bus for our third stop of the day: Logan, Ohio. As always, no matter what stop we make, the folks here told us that the crowd for this stop was the biggest in recent memory for the Reds Caravan (quite honestly, we are certainly not surprised).
Our last stop of the day was clearly the biggest. They were seventeen deep on both decks waiting for us at the Charleston Town Center. Rumors are swirling that there may be a bigger mall by the time WE come back. It’s truly hard to separate one stop from the other and the reason is simple…we love the people and the people love us (and to those of you wannabes in any of the other three legs – they don’t love you nearly as much).
Until next time,
As is tradition on the Reds Carvan, “Mercury” Marty Brennaman recaps each day of his time on the road.
Here’s day one:
Back in the 1920s the late great legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice penned these memorable words: “For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, he writes not whether you won or lost but how you played the game.” Little did Mr. Rice realize, that when he penned those words, as memorable as they’ve become, that he was writing in truth about the Rock Star Group. Why you ask? When the scorer writes about this group, he concerns himself with honor, integrity, honesty, certainly compassion, and the inherent feeling that everything we do is right. We would grade out extremely high because first and foremost – the people, Reds fans are of the utmost importance to us. Because of our ongoing and consistent popularity, there couldn’t be any other way.
On day one of this Reds caravan our travels have taken us to Maysville, KY, Portsmouth Oh, Rio Grande OH (Where we provided nourishment to the masses in the form of roasted chicken at the original Bob Evans restaurant), and then on in to Middleport OH and concluding a very remarkable day with the citizenry and students of Ohio University in Athens, OH. Groups that liken themselves (erroneously I might add) to the Rock Star Group would readily single out one stop as being the one that they can hang their proverbial caps on. Well I’m here to tell you, there is no hat rack. EVERY stop we make stands out as a stark reminder of how successful we are at filling the void of the lives of the people we touch. It’s hard to imagine as we, individually and collectively, lay our heads on a pillow tonight and go to sleep (after we say our prayers, of course) we feel very fortunate to be walking, talking members of this rather august group.
Until next time,
I hope you all enjoyed following the Reds Caravan this year. For me personally, it’s an amazing experience that keeps getting bigger and better. I’m very fortunate to travel each year on one of the three motorcoaches with my dear friends Ryan Rizzo, Bob Miller, Chris Welsh, Lee May, Brandon Phillips, Tucker Barnhart and yes, “Mercury” Marty Brennaman. After seven years with the same core group, it actually feels like we are part of an extended family. Lee’s absence this year made things seem a bit incomplete despite a solid substitute performance by our buddy Todd Benzinger. (Lee had Reds Fantasy Camp obligations during this year’s Caravan).
If you’re a frequent follower of Better Off Red, you know we have self-appointed ourselves as the “Rock Stars.” The truth is, our perceived self-importance is a contrived act designed to generate banter between our other two “rival” groups. It makes an otherwise long four days on the road a little more fun. Trust me when I say the “Rock Stars” are completely aware of how ridiculous we are. I think our pals on the other two tours would agree with that “ridiculous” part. Hopefully our absurd antics aren’t taken too seriously.
The Caravan doesn’t exist without the heavy lifting done by our support staff and advance team. They are the people behind the scenes who don’t get to watch movies on the bus or nap when they feel a bit road weary. Nope, they’re the ones doing most of the work and it would be silly to pretend otherwise. For our tour it was Patrick McGrath, Matt Cherry, Shannon Senger, Kristen Meyers, Katie Busching, Mark Harlow and the one and only Nick “Gapper” St. Pierre. Each of the thee tours have these groups and they are the folks directly responsible for making the Reds Caravan the best in the biz.
Something I couldn’t help but notice during this year’s Caravan stops was the enormity of the crowds. All of our public “fan” stops were attended by so many Reds supporters that, at times, it became overwhelming. This is great for the organization. However, the enormous crowds do sometimes create issues. Our Caravan stops (and travels) are precisely timed, rigidly scheduled and strictly maintained. Thus, when the group is scheduled to depart a certain venue at a specific time, there’s no wiggle room or flexibility. This means there are some folks that don’t get a chance to get autographs or meet members of the traveling group. Obviously, it’s in the Reds’ best interest to accommodate all of the fans, but logistically, sometimes it’s just not possible.
Believe me when I say we really try to do our best to make everyone happy; this is evident by keeping the Caravan a free event (many other teams charge admission and for autographs) and especially evident when @DatDudeBP leaves the table to walk the autograph line to sign for everyone that may not otherwise make it through in time. That’s called taking the extra step to making the fan’s experience a positive one and it’s also called “Brandon doing his thing.”
Speaking of Dat Dude, he is easily the most accommodating star player I’ve ever been around. Is he flashy? Sure. Is he a hot dog? Absolutely. Has he ever lost the idea of how important our fans are? Not one iota. Instead, he is a PR dream. Brandon usually has a smile on his face and he’s always respectful and grateful for the support he receives from his adoring fans. He’s a great player, sure, but it’s his “fan-friendliness” that puts him on my short-list of favorite players. To site an example: when we were at the Lima Mall for the huge Caravan stop, Brandon took a breather from walking the line to sit down and chat with long-time Reds fan and World War II Veteran Frank Clark, who traveled from Bluffton, OH to support the club. It wasn’t scripted, it wasn’t contrived, it was simply Brandon doing his thing.
My buddies and colleagues on the other two Caravan tours checked in with similar stories and reported similar large crowds. It all makes me proud to be part of this event and especially proud to be a member of this organization.
Thank you to everyone who traveled this year to a Caravan stop or followed along online. We appreciate it very much!
After four days on the road, I am happy to be back home. But I know it won’t be long until I start looking forward to the next Caravan tour. In the meantime, we have some baseball to play and a championship to win. I’m beyond excited about the 2013 season.
Expect good news
(2013 Reds Caravan: Northern Tour)
“Mercury” Marty Brennaman puts the finishing touches on the 2013 Reds Caravan North Tour…
The bus is pulling out of Dayton and if ever there was an unforgettable stop in the history of, not only the Reds Rock Star Group, but the entire Reds Caravan, the stop at the National Museum of the USAF was absolutely record breaking.
Other groups can only aspire, but never really attain the numbers we appeared before today – try two thousand plus (not our numbers, rather, the museum’s announced attendance). They started lining up at 7 this morning; some of us were still asleep. When we walked into the hangar where the event was held, it was a sea of faces, with the one constant – the expectation that this was going to be one of the unforgettable days in their lives… and I’m here to tell you, it absolutely was.
It was a fitting way for the greatest of the great, to shut down another Caravan. This one had its own unique qualities that we will remember as a band of brothers and that you will remember as Reds baseball fans.
At the risk of sounding arrogant, because we pride ourselves on our humility, if the Reds of 2013 perform as well as we did over the last four days, all of the rest of the teams in the National League can mail it in.
Our individual and collective thanks go out to all whose paths we crossed since Thursday.
And to those of you who had to suffer through the Southern and Western Tours, hopefully, in your future is the Rock Star Group.
Until next time
PS – I hope his penmanship gets better
We ran into some snow on Friday during the second day of the Reds Caravan Northern Tour and had to navigate through some treacherous conditions on the east side of Ohio. We made it through just fine, though. Saturday we experienced incredible crowds in Columbus and Lima. Hall of Famer “Mercury” Marty Brennaman recaps days two and three…
First, my profound apology for not checking in with you great Reds fans at the conclusion of Day Two. As individuals and as a group, we have been so overwhelmed with a variety of events over the last 48 hours, that I was remiss in checking in with you on Friday. Sometimes, I’m at a loss for words (but not often) to adequately express the challenges and victories that we deal with over a four-day period.
Friday it seemed as if we were facing, at times, the perils of death; in a blizzard unlike many of us have ever experienced before. A snowstorm that bordered on a complete white-out. But it was not a deterrent. We forged ahead; as our bus trip took us where we needed to be. And while all of us were on the edge of our seats, I can say with every degree of certainty that not one person in this band of brothers ever had a thought of turning back.
We made our stops, unfortunately with the exception of beautiful Marietta, OH. But fortunately as the day wore on, the weather got better. Our day ended up in Parkersburg where we were greeted with another, yes, record-breaking crowd. When we laid our heads on our pillows in Columbus on Friday night, we did so with a sense of incredible accomplishment – overcoming odds that lesser bus tours (and there are two of them) would’ve never even considered going on.
Saturday was an entirely different day. The weather was glorious and our personalities were the same…wonderfully off the charts. From Nationwide Arena in the state’s capital (record-setting crowd) to an intimate get-together in Findlay, to our final stop in Lima, it was all amazing. In fact, Mr. Brian Tierney, the supervisor of maintenance at Lima Mall was quoted as saying, “There has never been a crowd this large in the Lima Mall for any Reds Caravan stop in all the years I’ve held this position. And considering the personalities that are here tonight, we didn’t expect anything less.”
We humbly express our great gratitude and love to all the fans on Friday who braved the elements, and those on Saturday who beat the doors down in Columbus and Lima just to look at us. We know that your time and effort was worth it.
Please look forward to our wrap-up later today.
Love and kisses,
PS – The only problem I’ve experienced on this trip, is realizing that my adult son can’t legibly write his own name.
Wow, what a day! Three big public stops this afternoon on the Reds Caravan and every venue was a sea of red. We’ve got one more day with stops in Dayton, Lexington and Hamilton. You can find the details HERE.
Check out all the fan photos on twitter by searching the hashtag #RedsCaravan. Here are some of ours:
MUNCIE (thanks Rob Butcher and Audra Sordyl)
LIMA (thanks Jamie Ramsey and Nick Erikson)
BOWLING GREEN (thanks Larry Herms and Kathryn Braun)
Hope to see you on Sunday!
It’s been a busy Saturday on the road for our Caravan crews. The crowds have been huge, the Q&A questions are great, and our fans are so enthusiastic about the 2013 Reds season. Thank you to all that have come out to see us. Here are photos from the first half of the day. Check out the schedule, photo albums and twiter coverage HERE
INDIANAPOLIS (thanks to Rob Butcher, Nick Erikson and Megan Hewitt)
COLUMBUS (thanks to Jamie Ramsey and Michael Anderson)
SELECT-A-SEAT EVENT AT GREAT AMERICAN BALL PARK (thanks to Larry Herms and Laura Coleman)
FINDLAY (thanks to Jamie Ramsey)
CELINA (thanks to Rob Butcher)
PORTLAND (thanks to Rob Butcher)
LONDON, KY (Courtesy of Larry Herms)
PARKERSBURG, WV (courtesy of Jamie Ramsey)
BLOOMINGTON, IN (courtesy of Rob Butcher and Audra Sordyl)
Tomorrow we head to Columbus, Lima, Bowling Green, Muncie, Indianapolis and Great American Ball Park. Get all the details on the Reds Caravan HERE. See you on the road!