CINCINNATI -- Spring training is still months away, but Cincinnati Reds fans don’t have to wait until March to get their baseball fix.
The club’s Redsfest winter warm-up event should hit the spot – especially with the addition of Reds Hall of Famer Pete Rose to the lineup for the first time ever.
Redsfest takes place Friday and Saturday at the Duke Energy Convention Center, featuring more than 300,000 square feet of activities, including autograph and photo booths with current and former Reds players, interactive games for fans of all ages, game-used and authentic memorabilia and more.
Reds chief operating officer Phil Castellini said it’s a great way to connect fans with the team during the offseason, while also supporting outreach programs through the Reds Community Fund, to which all proceeds of the event will go.
In addition to Rose and other Reds alumni such as Lou Piniella (Friday only) and Eric Davis, more than 75 current players and coaches, minor leaguers and broadcasters are scheduled to attend, including Joey Votto, Zack Cozart, Billy Hamilton, Devin Mesoraco, Adam Duvall and Bryan Price.
So, what can you expect exactly? The first thing you need to know is the event is not free, but once you’re in with admission there are many free activities and things to do without additional cost. Here are the Top 9 things you won’t want to miss at Redsfest:
1. Shake hands with Pete Rose: Rose’s induction into the Reds Hall of Fame this summer opened the doors for “Charlie Hustle” to attend Redsfest, as he previously was banned from Major League Baseball-related activities. This weekend, Rose will be camped out in the Reds Hall of Fame area on the main floor supporting the “Pete Rose Hit Collection,” a fundraising campaign for the bronze sculpture of him that will be unveiled outside Great American Ball Park on June 17, 2017. Fans who buy one of the balls from that collection will get to meet Rose and get a photo with him. He also will be on the Main Stage for Q-and-A sessions at 6 p.m. Friday and 12:15 p.m. Saturday.
“Not only have we revitalized that love of Pete here locally, but … also helped reconnect him to the game in a positive way, so we expect that connection here to be positive and hopefully bring some fans in,” Castellini said. “Certainly that Hall of Fame booth is going to be jam packed.”
2. Main stage highlights: See everyone at once at 5:30 p.m. Friday when current and former players – Rose included – will be introduced to the crowd, following some opening remarks from Reds owner Bob Castellini. For those looking for something a little less baseball-focused, check out the Reds Cooking Show at 8:35 p.m. Friday or 4:25 p.m. Saturday or catch performances Saturday by members of the Harlem Globetrotters (1:45 p.m.), Cincinnati Ballet (2:10 p.m.) and The Mistics (3:50 p.m.) local band. The Globetrotters also have an exhibition at 4:20 p.m. Friday.
3. Eric Davis-signed bobblehead: Fans can get an exclusive Eric Davis 30/30 dual bobblehead – commemorating the 30th anniversary of Davis becoming the first Red to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season in 1987 -- when they purchase a 2017 Reds Pick-Six ticket plan. However, those who purchase a plan at Redsfest will actually have the opportunity to get their bobblehead signed by Davis in person. Visit the Reds Ticketing Booth on the main floor for more details.
4. Play Redsfest Bingo: Redsfest Bingo is a new addition this year and should be a draw Friday night, as 18 bingo games will be played between 6 and 9 p.m. on the third floor that day only. Fans ages 18 and up can purchase six-face cards for $5 each or enter all 18 games for $25 (cash only). Walk-ups are allowed. Each game includes Reds prizes, autographed memorabilia, tickets and more, but the final two games will feature cash prizes of $1,000 each.
5. Get free autographs: Every player that attends participates in at least one autograph session per day, at no charge to fans (limited to one item to be signed). Some sessions are open to the general public, while others are limited to season-ticket holders or kids ages 17 and under. Once you enter the main floor exhibit space, check the info screens to see times for specific player appearances, which will be announced 30 minutes prior to the sessions. Fans can also receive text alerts by texting REDSFEST to 66128. For each autograph session, the player will sign only for the first 225 people to get in line, so be sure to get in line fast. Advanced registration and bidding for special second-floor autograph sessions already have ended.
6. Smile for the camera: Maybe autographs aren’t your thing, but who can pass up a photo opp with a player? There are four photo booths on the main floor with players waiting to say, “Cheese,” with you and your family or friends. Sessions will be open for 50 minutes each, allowing as many fans through as possible in that timeframe. Booth No. 1 takes the photo for you and provides a printout on the spot for a $10 donation to the Reds Community Fund. Booth No. 2 and 3 are free and require you to bring your own camera. Booth No. 4 is free to Reds Season Ticket Members only. There also is a life-size team photo cutout display on the main floor.
7. Play ball: Test out your baseball skills on the main floor with some of the interactive fan activities such as speed pitch, batting cages and base-running or play some ball at the two whiffle ball fields -- where Duvall says he would be if he were a young fan attending Redsfest. The Reds Rookie Field is designed for younger kids and will provide “open swing” time throughout the entire event. A variety of activities also will take place on the Gorilla Glue Field of Dreams, including open swing (3 to 5 p.m. Friday and 6 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday), a Celebrity Home Run Derby (5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday) and other fundamental learning sessions. For the full schedule, visit the website here.
8. Just for kids: Find all the entertainment your young kids will need upstairs. The Reds Heads Fun Zone on the third floor offers more than 20,000 square feet of kids activities such as a batting cage, steal-home challenge, bounce houses, trampolines, story time with players, a photo opportunity with Santa Claus and various stage performances. It’s also the best place to sign up young Reds fans for the 2017 Reds Heads Kids Club, Reds Rookie Baby Club and Club Red Teen Club. The second floor holds several activities for Reds Season Ticket Members, such as the mascot visiting rooms and an 18-hole putt putt course that was added last year.
9. Giveaways and merchandise: Even if you don’t spend any money once inside, you still won’t leave empty handed. The first 11,000 fans each day at Redsfest (basically everyone) will receive a free Reds drawstring bag and a pair of Reds socks, so be sure not to miss the handouts on your way in from any one of the three entrances to the center. For those looking for some Reds gear or great holiday gifts, stop at the team shop for apparel, find game-used merchandise in the Reds Authentic area, purchase season tickets and Holiday Gift Packs at the Reds Ticket booth in the center of the main floor or check out the Topps Memorabilia Gallery to find an array of items brought in by local vendors. You can also register to win the Toyota Tundra that was featured behind the left-center wall at GABP in 2016. One lucky fan will win the truck during an on-field ceremony on Opening Day 2017. Visit the Toyota booth on the main floor for more information.
Also of note: The Redsfest Connect Zone is the place to be for all social and digital media followers. Stop by this year’s new location near the indoor baseball fields on the main floor to visit the Better Off Red area, participate in the Redsfest Selfie Scavenger Hunt or use one of the free cell phone charging stations to help keep you connected all weekend long.
IF YOU GO
When: 3 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Duke Energy Convention Center
Ticket prices: Adults -- $25 for two-day pass, $17 for one-day pass; Kids (ages 12 and younger) -- $12 for two-day pass, $7 for one-day pass. Children 3 and under are free. Passes include a free ticket (one per day pass) to April 5 game vs. the Phillies.
Where to buy tickets: At Great American Ball Park, online at www.reds.com/redsfest or at the Duke Energy Center, starting 9 a.m. Friday and 7 a.m. Saturday.
Proceeds benefit: The baseball-themed outreach programs of the Reds Community Fund
What you can bring: Small bags and purses are allowed but no luggage or rolling duffle bags larger than 16 inches by 16 inches by 8 inches are permitted. Strollers are allowed, but may not inhibit guest movement or block aisles. There is a coat check for $2.
MAIN STAGE SCHEDULE
3 p.m. Welcome to Redsfest and DJ
4:20 p.m. Harlem Globetrotters Exhibition
4:45 p.m. Topps Pack Wars
5 p.m. RCF Knothole Baseball
5:15 p.m. Toyota Tundra Ceremony
5:24 p.m. Season recap
5:28 p.m. Bob Castellini remarks
5:36 p.m. Introduction of Reds past and present
6:01 p.m. Reds history video
6:05 p.m. Pete Rose Q-and-A
6:30 p.m. Kids Only Press Conference
7:10 p.m. Hot Stove Report presented by FOX Sports Ohio
8:05 p.m. 2016 Reds Team Awards
8:35 p.m. Reds Cooking Show
9 p.m. Topps Pack Wars
9:10 p.n. Reds Feud
9:45 p.m. DJ Etrayn with split the pot winner
10:30 a.m. Welcome to Redsfest
10:50 a.m. Carseat donation ceremony
11 a.m. NKY Baseball/Softball with pitch-in for baseball and St. Elizabeth’s Healthcase
11:15 a.m. Skyline Chili Reds Futures High School Showcase press conference
11:30 a.m. Hot Stove Report by FOX Sports Ohio
12:20 p.m. Pete Rose Q-and-A
1:05 p.m. Kids Only Press Conference
1:45 p.m. Harlem Globetrotters exhibition
2:10 p.m. Cincinnati Ballet
2:45 p.m. Topps Pack Wars
3:10 p.m. Word Chain
3:45 p.m. DJ Etrayn/social media
3:50 p.m. The Mistics
4:25 p.m. Reds Cooking Show
5:10 p.m. Reds Feud
5:50 p.m. DJ Etrayn with split the pot winner