Everything you need to know before Opening Day

Posted at 8:00 AM, Mar 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-28 07:34:47-04

CINCINNATI — Ahhh, baseball season is here.

We're already dreaming of smelling hot dogs sizzling on the grill, sipping cold beers on sunny afternoons and beefing up our bobblehead collections.

Oh, right: And the game, too. (Almost forgot to mention that.)

We're totally into the spectacle of Opening Day. But truth be told, as far as the rest of the season, we're more interested in all the fun happening off the field at the ballpark than on. With that in mind, here's a guide to the new season for the more casual Reds fan. See you at the bar.

Opening Day/Week festivities

Reds Opening Day is one of those special experiences that Cincinnatians, baseball fans or not, look forward to all year. In recent years, the Reds have turned it into a days-long celebration of the team's first home series. Here are the biggest events to know.

The Block Party: The Queen City’s unofficial holiday kicks off at 11 a.m. April 4 with the Reds Community Fund Charity Block Party, on Joe Nuxhall Way and Freedom Way right outside of Great American Ball Park. The party benefits the P&G Cincinnati MLB Urban Youth Academy and includes live music, beer trucks and tents from Anheuser-Busch, LaRosa’s pizza and the Queen City Sausage grill cart. The party runs through 4 p.m. on Opening Day.

Courtesy of Findlay Market

Findlay Market Parade: The 97th Findlay Market Parade will start down Race Street from the market at noon April 4. This year’s parade grand marshal is Lou Piniella, the manager who led the team to a 1990 World Series sweep. The parade will end at the Taft Theatre.

The ballpark's gates will open at 2:10 p.m., followed by the first pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies at 4:10 p.m. 

Opening Night: If the large crowds of Opening Day are not your thing, the Reds also will offer "Opening Night” at 7:10 p.m. April 6 inside the ballpark. The team will take on the Phillies again, but this time pregame includes a red-carpet player appearance in the Fan Zone, post-game fireworks and live music by the Rusty Griswolds. (Fans can enjoy fireworks again on April 8 after the 7:10 p.m. game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.)

Kids Opening Day: GABP will show its kid-friendly colors with “Kids Opening Day” at 1:10 p.m. April 10 in a game versus the Pirates. The first of the “Family Sunday” series of Reds home games includes a baseball cap giveaway to children 14 years old and younger, a pregame party and parade outside of the ballpark and a red carpet, too.

The New Stuff

Baseball games often go on for hours, so it's good to know what there is to eat at the ballpark. And this year, there's a lot of delicious new food on the concessions lineup. 

The Crab Box

Ballpark executive chef James Major and his team worked overtime in the offseason preparing new menu items to tempt the palates of both foodies and baseball fans. Definitely try the Crab Box, a mound of fries covered with lump crab meat, cheese and seafood seasoning. Other new items include a pulled pork and Kobe beef sandwich, an ice cream dipping bar, Machine Room chili fries, fajita bowls, ribs and a Montgomery Inn chopped brisket sandwich. Bonus: Taste of Belgium is introducing a red velvet Belgian waffle at its stand location this year. For fans on a budget, there is also an “All You Can Eat” concession stand that serves unlimited hot dogs, sodas, popcorn, peanuts and chips for just $20. Learn more about the new menu items here.

There's a New Bar, Too

For only a $15 ticket, fans get exclusive access to the new Cincinnati Bell Fioptics District Rooftop, a private rooftop patio located along the third-base side of the View Level of the ballpark. The patio will have swanky furniture, interactive games and great views of the Cincinnati skyline. Fioptics District Tickets also guarantee your seat or spot at the drink rail in sections 408-410 of the ballpark. Oh, and did we mention that each $15 ticket includes a complimentary drink?

So. Much. Swag.

Get to almost any home game early enough and more than likely you will score some sweet merchandise. This year the Reds have deemed “Super Saturdays” as the day to get premium items such as bobbleheads, shirts, ballcaps and even a beer stein. And don’t miss the Fathead player wall decals that will be given away during most “Family Sunday” home games. Check out the full schedule of promotional giveaways here.

Special Events

Some ball games at GABP definitely will be more exciting than others: 

  • The Reds will host a "Star Wars"-themed weekend full of costumes and fun giveaways (Yoda bobblehead, anyone?) May 6-8.
  • The team will honor Hit King Pete Rose during the Reds Hall of Fame induction weekend June 24-26. The Reds will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Big Red Machine’s 1976 World Series win on June 24 with a pregame on-field ceremony featuring members of that historic team, throwback uniforms and postgame fireworks. On June 25, the organization will induct Rose into the Hall of Fame. Rose's No. 14 jersey will be retired on June 26, followed by an induction gala at Duke Energy Convention Center.
  • "Major Flavor,” a tasting event on May 26, will feature a three-course meal prepared by ballpark executive chef James Major — and an open bar!
  • “A Night of Their Own” baseball training night for women will take place on July 21.
  • Want to do yoga on the field? The popular “Sliding into Om” event is scheduled for Sept. 3.

Small Talk

If you see some faces on the field you don't recognize, don't worry; the players are still getting to know each other, too. Just look for old favorites like Joey Votto and "DatDudeBP" Brandon Phillips. Go Reds!