CINCINNATI – Expect double the fun when professional baseball returns to the Queen City Friday
Baseball season will officially begin at 4:10 p.m. when the Cincinnati Reds deliver the first pitch against the Washington Nationals on Opening Day at Great American Ball Park. As Cincinnatians know, though, there is more to Reds Opening Day than just the game.
The return of baseball is a citywide celebration -- and more so this year for multiple reasons. Here's what will be different, new and familiar this season.
Yes, there will be two days to celebrate
The biggest deal this year is that Reds Opening Day and the Findlay Market Parade will take place on different days.
The 99th annual Findlay Market Parade won't take place until April 2, three days after Opening Day. And the reason for the split is simple.
Members of the Findlay Market Merchants Association postponed the parade because the week before Easter, which falls on April 1 this year, is one of the busiest times for Findlay shop owners.
Instead, the parade will begin at noon April 2 on Race Street near the market and follow its traditional route to downtown.
This isn't the first time the Findlay Market Parade and Reds Opening Day will be held on different days. The Reds' 1994 season opened with an Easter Sunday night game, which forced the market to hold its parade the following morning.
There is an upside to Opening Day and the Findlay Market Parade being held on different days this year: nearly double the number of celebrations. Among the highlights:
- The Opening Day Celebration will take place 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday on Fountain Square.
- The Reds Community Fund Charity Block Party will take place 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday in front of Great American Ball Park.
- The Reds Kids Opening Day will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday outside of the ballpark before the Reds play the Nationals at 2:10 p.m.
- New this year: The Taft's Season Opener weekend, sponsored by Taft's Ale House, will take place 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday through Monday at Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine.
The baseball celebration picks back up on Monday for the Findlay Market Parade. Here are some bigger celebrations to know:
- Rally on the Square will take place from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday.
- The Banks Block Party, hosted by the Holy Grail, will kick off at 11 a.m. Monday at Joe Nuxhall Way and Freedom Way and end before the Reds' 4:10 p.m. game against the Chicago Cubs at the ballpark.
Inside Great American Ball Park
Great American Ball Park will offer Reds fans new views and places to buy brews this season.
Phil Castellini, the Reds chief operating officer, unveiled ballpark upgrades two days before Opening Day. Upgrades include new places to view games and places for brews.
Spending a day at the ballpark is going to get a lot tastier this year.
While ballpark staff always cooks up something new, this year's offerings come with a heaping side of love for classic Queen City fare. New treats include Frisch's hot fudge cake in a cup, a goetta fry box and a burger topped with some of the Queen City's favorite foods.
Expect some earlier night games ...
The Cincinnati Reds are introducing new features this season at the ballpark, including several early night games.
The Reds will play the Cubs on April 3 for the first of 15 earlier night home games this season. Each game will begin at 6:40 p.m. instead of the usual 7:10 p.m. start time.
The earlier start time will allow fans and families to get home a little earlier, according to Michael Anderson, manager of Reds public relations.
The dates for the other 6:40 p.m. home games include: April 12-13; April 23-25; July 28; Aug. 11; Sept. 6-7; Sept. 10-11; Sept. 25-26; and Sept. 28.
... and a few more concerts
A popular feature introduced during last year will return to the ballpark this season with a twang.
- Country music stars Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt will play a standalone concert June 16, followed by the Zac Brown Band on Aug. 4.
- Hometown favorite Walk the Moon will play a concert after the 6:40 p.m. Reds' game against the Philadelphia Phillies on July 28.
- Country singer Jake Owens will perform after the Reds' 6:40 p.m. game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 11. All fans with game-day tickets will be able to enjoy Walk the Moon's and Owens' concerts, which will begin immediately after the game.
Super Saturdays, Fireworks Fridays and Family Sundays will all return to the ballpark this year.
During each Saturday home game, the Reds will give away team memorabilia. Saturday swag options include Kids Opening Day ball caps on March 31; a Reds garden gnome on May 19; a Rosie Red bobblehead on June 30; and a Joey Votto Funko Pop! collectable on July 28.
This season will see 11 Friday post-game fireworks shows presented by Rozzi's Fireworks May through September, plus a special Independence Day show on July 4.
Each Sunday home game will include live mascot races, face painters and kids prize giveaways for families. This year's Family Sundays "Run the Bases Days" will be held on April 15, July 1 and Sept. 9.
The Reds Hall of Fame Induction Weekend, honoring former Reds outfielder Adam Dunn, pitcher Fred Norman and manager Dave Bristol, will be held July 21-22.
The Reds Hall of Fame & Museum also added a new exhibit this season. "Reds Threads" features more than 120 items including jerseys, jackets, pants and caps. The exhibit traces the history of Reds uniforms back to the 1869 Red Stockings' knicker-style uniform.
The Baseball 101 "A Night of Their Own" women's event will take place Aug. 16, followed by the "Sliding into Om" yoga event on Aug. 26.
For a full schedule of promotions and giveaways visit reds.com/promotions .
Themed ticket packages
Themed ticket packages, first introduced last year, will return, too, and this year's themed packages each come with a limited-edition bobblehead.
The first themed ticket package event on April 25 will include a Bob Ross bobblehead giveaway when the Reds play the Atlanta Braves at 6:40 p.m. Other package themes include: Star Wars on May 4; a Flying Pig theme on May 7; "Peanuts" on May 20; Margaritaville on June 29; Elvis on July 27 and the Grateful Dead on Aug. 17.
The most popular themed ticket package, though, may be the Fiona bobblehead giveaway; that will be available when the Reds play the Detroit Tigers at 7:10 p.m. June 19.
For more information about each themed package visit reds.com/themes .