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Why isn’t Opening Day a holiday?

By Garth Shanklin – News Democrat

After an off-season that primarily consisted of trading away fan favorites (or trying to, anyway) and a torrent of national media outlets announcing the team’s death before they even took the field for spring training, the Reds finally began playing games that counted this week.

Before the team got to that point, however, there was one last bit of housekeeping left. The squad had to set a 25-man roster, which involved making cuts and placing an entire starting rotation worth of pitchers on the disabled list.

Jon Moscot, Michael Lorenzen, John Lamb, Anthony DeSclafani and Homer Bailey all ended up on the 15-day DL earlier this week, forcing fans to prepare themselves for a rotation that consists of Raisel Iglesias, Brandon Finnegan (who has started exactly four career games), Alfredo Simon and someone named “To Be Announced.” Spent hours looking him up, couldn’t find anything. Personally, I’d go ahead and start Robert Stephenson, since he’s on the roster, but what do I know.

Those are the starters, though manager Brian Price has said DeSclafani should be able to start the team’s game on April 10th, so he’ll be added to the rotation shortly.

In the bullpen, there are a lot of guys who I had never heard of before or, in the case of Ross Ohlendorf and Dan Straily, didn’t know they were free-agents. Ohlendorf joined the team in late March while Straily was claimed off waivers on April 1. One of the team’s hurlers from the ‘pen is Blake Wood, a 6-foot-5-inch right-hander who doesn’t even have a page on Reds.com at the time of this writing.

Most of the position players are familiar to a majority of Reds’ fans. You have the stalwarts, like Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, you have the guys coming off injuries, like Devin Mesoraco and Zack Cozart, and you have the backups who played a ton last year like Eugenio Suarez and Ivan De Jesus Jr.

Other than the swap of Suarez for Todd Fraizer at third base, the team’s starting position players should be relatively consistent. The only other starter from Opening Day 2015 who didn’t take the field is Marlon Byrd, who will start the season with the Cleveland Indians. Johnny Cueto was the team’s opening day starter on the mound last year, but since he didn’t finish 2015 with the team I didn’t think he needed to be counted.

At any rate, the one consistent thing in Reds country doesn’t happen on the field. The opening day festivities throughout the city are, in my opinion, unparalleled.

The shutdown of streets in the city begins well before sunrise, as a large amount of time is needed to prepare the roads for the seas of red that will flood them once the parade begins.

It’s not like the die-hard fans who want to be at the game have any qualms with missing work anyway, and of course you’ll always have those among us who will be working on the holiday simply because it isn’t one of the major ones, but for the vast majority of fans out there who take the day off and pull their kids out of school to enjoy the game, why not make it a holiday?

WCPO asked this same question to both Mayor John Cranley and Gov. John Kasich earlier this week, and surprisingly enough both responded. Cranley said he “wasn’t ready to take that step” and the governor’s office simply said “no.” However, they did provide the station with an official resolution declaring April 4, 2016 as “Cincinnati Reds Opening Day.”

Thanks for that, governor. Anyone with a calendar could have seen that coming, but the resolution (dated April 1, no less) really helps drive home the point.

So it would appear the fan’s outcry for a holiday (which is by no means limited to the Queen City) will fall upon semi-deaf ears for at least one more year. Since we can’t appeal to the powers that be in the government, how about we try a different approach?

For over 100 years, the Reds were the team that opened the Major League Baseball season. Every year from 1876 to 1989 the team played in the season opener. Just two times in that span did the team debut on the road, with rain being the culprit both times. In 1990, that streak was broken when the team visited the Astros in their opener.

In that time span, ESPN launched Sunday Night Baseball, and that signaled the end of the Reds even participating in the season’s opening game. This year, the network aired three games on Sunday, the day before “Opening Day.”

Since it’s becoming clear the Reds will not be able to convince anyone to turn the day into a holiday, how about we attempt to return the team to the opener status? Sure, the squad is going to be in the middle of a few down years, but if the talent pans out, the team should be competitive within two or three years.

Even still, with ESPN now airing multiple games on Sunday, the Reds can easily be incorporated into that day. Would the Findlay Market Parade have to change? Possibly, but I don’t think it would be too much different than it is right now. As a matter of fact, the parade falling on a Sunday may help boost attendance, as people would no longer have to suddenly get sick to attend.

Even if no changes are made to the opener by the Reds or by the powers that be in the state government, Opening Day will continue to be the best day of the year in Cincinnati. It signals a fresh start, the beginning of spring, and a new test in our ability to quickly match the names on the back of the jersey with the faces on the other side. More importantly, however, it signifies the return of baseball, and that’s something everyone can get behind.

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