Redsfest still feels like Christmas morning, despite team's awful season

CINCINNATI -- The Reds had an awful season last year. There's no doubt about it.

And yes, the team traded away big name players like Todd Frazier, Aroldis Chapman and Jay Bruce since last December.

That doesn't make Redsfest any less magical.

My two boys, now 6 and 8, have been looking forward to Redsfest, the team's annual December celebration of all things Reds baseball, since the season ended. Well, maybe long before that.

At Redsfest, my boys and kids all across the region don't seem to care much about who isn't here anymore.

Instead, they care about who is here.

Being a nearly lifelong Reds fan myself, I was eagerly awaiting the chance to connect with baseball in the dead of winter.

MORE: 9 things you shouldn't miss at Redsfest this year

For me, as a parent, Redsfest is always like Christmas morning. Some of the spark is gone for me now that I'm an adult. I've seen good years and bad, and there is less mysticism around everything. But experiencing the big day(s) through the eyes of my children brings the magic back.

The boys woke up this morning buzzing like they would on Christmas morning.

“Today is Redsfest day,” my oldest practically shouted.

I picked the boys up after school and we headed down to the Duke Energy Convention Center.

On the way, they prioritized who they most wanted to get autographs or pictures with. Of course Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips are on that list. Somehow we have always missed those two long-time fan favorites.

But to my surprise their first reaction was the same player: Adam Duvall.

Then they talked through it and my 8-year-old decided he really wanted Jose Peraza's autograph. My youngest said he most coveted Eugenio Suarez's autograph.

That's the great thing. There are still tons of players these kids know and admire.

When we walked in the door, there was a difficult discussion and negotiation between them: Do we get our picture taken with Adam Duvall or get Billy Hamilton's autograph?

We opted for Hamilton.

And here's the other thing about Redsfest this year: These younger players really and truly enjoy it.

Not that I thought the players in years past didn't enjoy being a part of Redsfest. But this year seemed more prominent.

Hamilton took so much time with each kid. He joked with them and mugged for photos with them. He seemed to be enjoying himself more than the kids were.

We met up with a fellow baseball coach and a baseball teammate of my oldest son. To the adults' surprise, the kids decided they wanted to see a cooking competition between Brandon Finnegan and Anthony DeSclafani. The boys picked their favorites to win the competition and laughed when Finnegan burned the meat for his tacos nearly immediately.

They cheered when DeSclafani won.

It's these kind of moments – getting to see the players up close and personal that kids and adults should treasure. Regardless of how many games this team wins in 2017.

I nearly ran into Cody Reed in the hallway.

I think everyone who saw Brandon Phillips LOVED his wardrobe, especially his hat.

Walking back to the car -- well past bedtime – I asked the kids: So was this year better than last year?

The answer was immediate: YES!

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