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Thread: Reds going, going, gone (article on Reds leaving Florida for Arizona)

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    Reds going, going, gone (article on Reds leaving Florida for Arizona)

    Reds going, going, gone
    Spring training just won't be the same in Arizona

    By Howard Wilkinson • hwilkinson@enquirer.com • March 29, 2009

    It was Wednesday, March 11, at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla.
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    The Cincinnati Reds played the Houston Astros in a so-called "meaningless" spring training game - meaningless unless you are one of the young ballplayers trying desperately to impress and win a roster spot.

    The Florida sun shone in a cloudless sky. A cool breeze off the Gulf of Mexico made the flags in center field flutter left to right. Palm trees beyond the outfield wall swayed in rhythm.

    The scent of coconut sunscreen wafted over the ballpark, lathered on most of the 3,889 pale, northern snowbirds who had passed through the turnstiles. It mixed with the smell of beer and hot dogs and, occasionally, a hint of Skyline Chili from the coney stand in the right field corner.

    Aaron Harang pitched four scoreless innings; the young Redlegs stole five bases, scored eight runs and won the game for the paying customers, who happily sat through the two-hour, 40-minute game, wishing it could go on longer.

    Could there be a better day than that?

    Not in this world.

    I was one of those 3,889 that day, and as perfect a day as it was, there was a tinge of sadness as I walked out through the gates of what Marty Brennaman likes to call "tired old Ed Smith Stadium." I knew, as did many of the others there that day, that it would be my last Reds spring training game in Florida.

    Next year, after training in Florida since 1946, the Reds trade palm trees for cactus, the Florida sunshine for an Arizona suburb.

    Sad, but true.

    The town of Goodyear, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, gave the Reds everything they wanted in a spring training facility - a brand-new, 10,000-seat park, new training fields, a big clubhouse, all free of charge. Goodyear gave the Reds all of the things Sarasota County balked at before county officials changed their minds.

    By then, it was too late, and Sarasota is looking at spring 2010 as its first season since John McGraw brought his New York Giants there to train in the 1920s that it will not be the spring home of a major league team.

    Signs of neglect

    Truth to tell, Marty is right. It is "tired old Ed Smith Stadium." It was easy this year to spot the signs of a ballpark in demise. Nobody bothered to repaint the once vibrant blue seats that have faded to a kind of robin's-egg blue after decades in the Florida sun. There are cracks in the cement here and there. Even the palm trees over the outfield wall are beginning to look worse for wear.

    It's nothing like the baseball palaces some Grapefruit League teams play in each March.

    Over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Clearwater, the Phillies play in a gorgeous new ballpark called Bright House Field, decked out with all the bells and whistles that are the new standard for Florida ballparks - a giant tiki bar over the left-field wall, grass seating in center field where fans can roll out beach towels and watch the Phils, exotic food booths, a playground for the kids, a "Beers of the World" concession stand.

    Ed Smith may be tired and old, but nothing that a little triage and a few buckets of paint couldn't fix.

    And it is in Florida, which, in this old baseball fan's opinion, is where spring training is meant to be.

    I've been vacationing around Reds spring training every March since 1982, with a couple of exceptions where illness or a hot political primary kept me away.

    When I started going south, the Reds occupied the late, great Al Lopez Field in Tampa, an old-fashioned ballpark where, it seemed, fans had access to everything.

    Helping Klu

    One of my best memories of Al Lopez Field was on one of my early spring training jaunts. I went to the ballpark in the early morning, and stood around watching minor-leaguers go through their drills. Some young players were hitting in a batting cage off a pitching machine.

    The pitching machine was acting up, drilling balls into the dirt five feet in front of the plate. Ted Kluszewski, the Reds' legendary slugger of the 1950s, was working with young hitters. He was getting frustrated with the pitching machine.

    "Hey, buddy, come here a minute," Big Klu hollers, in my direction.

    Is he talking to me?

    "Hold this thing down while I fix it."

    So I walk over, bend down and hold the pitching machine down as hard as I can. When I look up, I see Klu straightening out the metal barrel of the pitching machine with his bare hands and those famous, massive biceps. Problem solved. Pitching machine starts throwing strikes.

    Would that happen anywhere but in spring training?

    Then, in 1988, the Reds moved to Plant City, a rough-around-the-edges railroad town just off Interstate 4, 22 miles east of Tampa. Plant City tried hard to be a major-league town, but there just wasn't enough there to hold the interest of baseball fans when the Reds weren't playing. When the Reds moved in, Plant City had one motel - a Holiday Inn just off the interstate - and one sit-down restaurant, good old Buddy Freddy's, a tie-on-the-feedbag place where you would often see Joe Nuxhall chowing down.

    Plant City could not compete with the lure of Sarasota, with its Siesta Key, Longboat Key and day after day of breathtaking sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico.

    It is hard to imagine how a suburban bedroom community in Phoenix's urban sprawl could compete with a place like Sarasota. It has everything - pristine white sand beaches, the Mote Aquarium and Marine Laboratory on City Island, the chance to watch the sun set from the patio at the Dry Dock Waterfront Grill on Longboat Key, peanut butter cream pie at Yoder's Amish Restaurant.

    And, yes, it has Tired Old Ed Smith Stadium.

    A much longer drive

    Sarasota, Fla., is 824 miles from downtown Cincinnati. All you have to do is get on Interstate 75 and drive south until you hit the Fruitville Road exit. One road, all the way to paradise.

    Goodyear, Ariz., is 1,592 miles from downtown Cincinnati. Thinking about driving that far makes my head hurt.

    Will Reds fans make that trek, which is practical only via the air? I don't know. I might.

    But I can tell you who won't.

    At that March 11 game, I was sitting in the box seats on the third-base line, next to a family from Dearborn County - mom, dad, two little girls who looked to be about 6 and 4, and an infant boy in dad's lap. They'd come all the way from southeast Indiana in the family SUV.

    The girls were wearing Minnie Mouse ears; they'd been at Disney World in Orlando the day before. The next day, they would be out on Siesta Beach, building sand castles and running in the surf.

    Can you picture that family buying five plane tickets and hauling three kids and a week's worth of luggage to an Arizona suburb where there's no trace of Mickey, much less Minnie, and the nearest beach is in California?

    Don't count on it.

    And that, Reds fans, is reason enough to be sad.

    http://news.cincinnati.com/article/2...PT04/903290365
    I miss Adam Dunn.

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Reds going, going, gone (article on Reds leaving Florida for Arizona)

    Spring Training note: During WW 2 the teams above the Mason Dixon Line were not allowed to travel south for ST, so the bulk of the Midwest teams trained in Indiana. The Reds used the IU Fieldhouse. During one of their springs there the Reds groundskeeper (Matty Schwab Jr.) saw a big guy taking cuts at the local field and got him a tryout with the Reds. The player was a football player named Ted Kluszewski, the Reds liked what they saw and signed him.

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    Re: Reds going, going, gone (article on Reds leaving Florida for Arizona)

    Sarasota farewell

    It was one of the more bizarre pre-game ceremonies I've ever seen.

    As I've stated, this is the last game the Reds will play in Sarastoa. So there were some city officials on the field doing an official farewell kind of thing, with Reds president and CEO Bob Castellini and GM Walt Jocketty saying goodbye to the stadium operations folks with a framed picture and a handshake.

    But as the city officials were talking to kick things off, there were boos. And more than a few. It's not a huge crowd here at Ed Smith Stadium, but clearly those here are still not pleased with how Sarasota botched this. Talk to most, and the blame falls largely with the city that the Reds are leaving. And the fans here today let them hear it.

    Castellini quieted them somewhat by saying that the folks on the field were among those who worked to keep the Reds here and he wouldn't have been on the field with them otherwise. It's a departure, he said, that was bittersweet.

    "We've played baseball in Florida for the past 87 years," Castellini said. "We leave a lot of memories and a lot of tradition. We leave Sarasota with some heavy hearts."

    http://marksheldon.mlblogs.com/
    I miss Adam Dunn.

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Reds going, going, gone (article on Reds leaving Florida for Arizona)

    "We've played baseball in Florida for the past 87 years," Castellini said. "We leave a lot of memories and a lot of tradition. We leave Sarasota with some heavy hearts."
    * New Orleans - 1896 - 97, 1900
    * Cincinnati (1901-1902)
    * Augusta, Ga. (1903)
    * Dallas (1904)
    * Jacksonville (1905)
    * San Antonio (1906)
    * Marlin Springs, Texas (1907)
    * St. Augustine (1908) - Cincinnati’s first trip to Florida
    * Atlanta (1909)
    * Hot Springs, Ark. (1910-1911)
    * Columbus, Ga. (1912)
    * Mobile, Ala. (1913)
    * Alexandria, La. (1914-1915)
    * Shreveport (1916-1917)
    * Montgomery, Ala. (1918)
    * Waxahachie, Texas (1919)
    * Miami (1920)
    * Cisco, Texas (1921)
    * Mineral Wells, Texas (1922)
    * Orlando (1923-1930)
    * Tampa (1931-(1942)
    * Bloomington Indiana (1943-45)
    * Tampa (1946-1987)
    * Plant City (1988-1997)
    * Sarasota (1998-2009)

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    Re: Reds going, going, gone (article on Reds leaving Florida for Arizona)

    [QUOTE=OnBaseMachine;1825442]Sarasota farewell

    We've played baseball in Florida for the past 87 years," Castellini said. "We leave a lot of memories and a lot of tradition. We leave Sarasota with some heavy hearts."

    Then why are you leaving Florida. What was the rush.there was plenty of time and yes more than one city in Florida wanting to talk including Plant city again. Yes Sarasota blew it big time but they also passed the refermendment before anything was etched in stone in Goodyear. The Reds have a big following in Florida and any of these spring games you attend the Reds fans makeup for a lot of the attendance. I live here and can verify that as I attend seveal games a year down here, and you have a lot of pissed off fans. But as John Allen said when asked about all the fans who supported them in Florida all those years "we'll make new fans." It was like to hell with you fans in Florida.
    I'll still attend spring training games here next year and maybe I'll come to Arizona one spring as it is very nice out there.but its not Florida and its not going to seem the same but I will always be a faithfull Reds fan as I have been for almost 50 years and always have my memories of spring training here.
    Please just don't tell me about your heavy heart and tradition.
    "Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser."

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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: Reds going, going, gone (article on Reds leaving Florida for Arizona)

    Arizona will be great.
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful

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    Smells Like Teen Spirit jmcclain19's Avatar
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    Re: Reds going, going, gone (article on Reds leaving Florida for Arizona)

    My wife, my son and I went and sat in the grass in the outfield at Goodyear this past weekend.

    Awesome stadium - great views. The area around it is pretty much empty desert at this point, but you can see all the Reds, Indians & Ohio stuff all over the stadium.

    The dugouts already say Reds on the 1st base side and Indians on the 3rd base side. The Scoreboard has Reds & Indians logos on it - its really cool to see.

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    Member SirFelixCat's Avatar
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    Re: Reds going, going, gone (article on Reds leaving Florida for Arizona)

    Quote Originally Posted by jmcclain19 View Post
    My wife, my son and I went and sat in the grass in the outfield at Goodyear this past weekend.

    Awesome stadium - great views. The area around it is pretty much empty desert at this point, but you can see all the Reds, Indians & Ohio stuff all over the stadium.

    The dugouts already say Reds on the 1st base side and Indians on the 3rd base side. The Scoreboard has Reds & Indians logos on it - its really cool to see.
    I, for one, can not wait. Since we live in LV, we are very (and by we I mean me, plus the girlfriend indulges me baseball) excited about ST next year. I'm trying to convince myself that since I play poker for a living, that I could stay there are 4 weeks next year...we'll see about that

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    Re: Reds going, going, gone (article on Reds leaving Florida for Arizona)

    Hal McCoy: The people made Ed Smith bearable

    By Hal McCoy

    Staff Writer

    Thursday, April 02, 2009

    SARASOTA, Fla. — As Shakespeare put it in Romeo & Juliet, "Parting is such sweet sorrow."

    Don't know if I buy that one as applied to the Cincinnati Reds and their forced departure from this beach-side property. After 12 years of doing their spring work here, the Reds do their sweat and grunt work next spring in the Arizona desert, where cacti are king.

    While I won't miss tired old Ed Smith Stadium, even though it has its charms, there is much that will be missed, starting with my condo on Siesta Key, where the sugary sand of the beach is 20 feet to the right of my Palm Bay Club front door.

    And there is Gus's 12th Street Café, across the street from home plate, where the omelettes are as big as manhole covers and Diane treats you like a first cousin. And there is The Broken Egg, where Dick Vitale eats every morning and says, "This is my office," as he spends more time on his cell phone than he does chewing eggs.

    It is nearly time for the final game, normally just another dreary exhibition against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The beat writers are sitting in the second row of the small, cramped press box.

    For 10 years, we sat in the front row — how long it took us to figure out the blinding sun that obliterated our laptop screens couldn't reach us in the second row. And screeching foul balls are more likely to crack craniums in the front row.

    A fan from Sarasota showed me his homemade sign, "The $un $ets on $ara$ota Ba$eball." And it is nothing like watching the sun set on Siesta Key with the 80-year-old gentleman playing 'Taps' on his coronet. They needed him here Thursday.

    Sarasota Mayor Lou Ann Palmer addressed the pregame gathering and was roundly booed and finally said, "I'm glad you are angry because I am angry, too, that the Reds are leaving."

    When she presented team owner Bob Castellini a key to the city, a fan yelled, "Why didn't you give them a new stadium?"

    Only 2,935 showed up in 7,500-seat Ed Smith for the farewell, but the people working inside the place are the best.

    Most of all, it is the people — especially the 50 or so ushers at Ed Smith, the friendliest and most helpful folks one can imagine, always with a kind word and smiley hello.

    Same with the yellow-shirted security guys and the small five-man grounds crew, called "The World Famous Ed Smith Stadium Grounds Crew" by the public address announcer. They aren't truly world-famous, but they might be the best in all of spring training crewdom.

    And I'll miss the pounding of puppy paws coming down the stretch at the Sarasota Kennel Club, where I made many appearances to visit my money with Director of Misinformation Leo Bertram McCarthy.

    So, it is goodbye old friends. We'll write from Arizona.

    http://www.daytondailynews.com/s/con...pmccoyweb.html
    I miss Adam Dunn.

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    Re: Reds going, going, gone (article on Reds leaving Florida for Arizona)

    Sarasota blew it but they will land a team within the next couple years.That was an elite area for spring training baseball.Some smart owner will jump on it.Damn I hate the thought of that drive to Goodyear.
    "Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser."

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    Re: Reds going, going, gone (article on Reds leaving Florida for Arizona)

    Another view on Sarasota (& Ft. Lauderdale). Just goes to show what people are dealing with when dealing with the City of Sarasota.

    Complaints flow about O's spring training sites
    Players, coaches, others voice concerns over conditions in Fort Lauderdale, Sarasota
    By Jeff Zrebiec and Dan Connolly |
    jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com and dan.connolly@baltsun.com
    6:23 PM EDT, April 2, 2009

    SARASOTA, Fla. - As the Orioles head north at the conclusion of spring training, they leave behind facilities badly in need of either an overhaul or a wrecking ball, depending on whom you ask.

    This spring, Major League Baseball received multiple complaints from umpires about the conditions at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, the Orioles' major league spring training home since 1996. The situation is even worse at the team's long-time minor league complex in Sarasota, where three organizations have boycotted playing at Twin Lakes Park this spring over concerns about the fields.

    Those developments, along with continued discontent from Orioles players, coaches and executives about the facilities, has intensified attention on the organization's failure to settle on a long-term spring training home, an issue that has persisted for years.

    "I think we've finally reached the point where it's fish or cut bait," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "We're in the business of developing players. What would enhance that development is a facility that is more conducive to us all being all together and being on an even playing field with the other clubs."

    Though the Orioles are actively negotiating with Sarasota and Fort Myers on new homes, there's a decent chance they'll be back in Fort Lauderdale next year for a 15th straight spring. They have two option years left at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, and even if the team finalizes a deal with another Florida city -- and Orioles director of communications Greg Bader said "there will be a resolution to this matter soon" -- they might not be able to move in to the new complex immediately.

    On the minor league front, club attorney Alan Rifkin confirmed that the Orioles are in negotiations with Sarasota County officials to extend their lease at Twin Lakes Park, which expires in December. However, that shouldn't be taken as a signal that the Orioles aren't focused on improving their current situation, according to Bader, who spoke on behalf of club executive vice president John Angelos. Angelos, who is heading the effort to find a long-term spring training home, deferred comment.

    "It's extremely important and definitely a priority for the club," Bader said. "State funds are available and communities are being left without teams. We've always had the urgency. Now we have a situation where we have several opportunities."

    O's, visitors complain

    While negotiations continue, players question the deteriorating conditions of the current facilities.

    "I think most of us would be lying if we said this is what any of us would expect from a major league organization," said Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts as he sat in Fort Lauderdale Stadium's home clubhouse, where the lockers are outdated, the carpets are stained and water drips down from ceiling vents.

    Jake Arrieta, one of the organization's top pitching prospects, echoed those sentiments about the minor league facility.

    "We're all very blessed to be in the situations that we're in, but it also comes with the territory that you expect to have nice facilities to work out in," he said. "Not that we're tired of Twin Lakes, but I all think we deserve something better."

    Arrieta, who spent a couple of weeks in big-league camp, got to experience both facilities that are considered among baseball's worst. At Fort Lauderdale Stadium, the visiting clubhouse is closer to the size of a janitor's closet than a classroom. There is no cafeteria and the weight room is in the parking lot in a tent that leaks when it rains, and has to be swept regularly to remove leaves.

    "When you have a big-league team that has a weight tent with rented weight equipment located in the parking lot, that's pretty sad," Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff said.

    The playing field has also come under scrutiny. The problems included the playability of the field after rain, and to a lesser extent, the quality of lighting.

    MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said the league sent a letter to the Orioles documenting complaints from clubs this spring. "They assured us that they will take all necessary steps to address the issues," Courtney said.

    Forced on the road

    Three hours north, Orioles minor leaguers have had to play almost all their games on the road this spring after the Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and Cincinnati Reds informed team officials that they didn't want to play at Twin Lakes Park.

    A Rays spokesman confirmed their refusal, citing "unsafe conditions" and the fear of injury. A Red Sox official, who requested anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity, confirmed that the team refused to send its minor leaguers back to Twin Lakes Park for a second day after they played there once this spring and experienced infields that he called "substandard, in real bad shape. It was hazardous to infielders, pitchers and baserunners," he said.

    Instead, the Red Sox agreed to pay for a bus to transport the Orioles minor leaguers to their facility in Fort Myers to play the game.

    While Bader maintained the Sarasota fields as "perfectly adequate and safe," several Orioles said they didn't feel comfortable at all playing on them because the ball takes terrible hops so often. The infields are hard and unlevel, and there are soft spots around the bases that have felled many a baserunner this spring.

    "That's the worst field I've ever played on in my life and I'm from Venezuela," said third baseman Melvin Mora, who played in Sarasota on a rehab assignment in 2007.


    O's officials sensitive

    The state of the facility has clearly become a sensitive topic for team officials. President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said only that the three-hour distance between the major and minor league facility is a "handicap" for the club, but he's confident that the situation will soon improve. He declined to discuss the state of the facilities.

    Director of player development David Stockstill said he couldn't comment and several minor league coaches and players were warned not to discuss the conditions when the team learned that a reporter was coming to Sarasota to do a story about the facility.

    "We were told to not say anything about the field, but if nobody says anything, it's never going to get fixed," said third base prospect Mike Costanzo. "It's tough to get quality work in here."

    As part of their lease with Sarasota County, the Orioles are responsible for the maintenance of the fields, though one look at the property suggests either resignation or neglect. The outfield grass is faded and dead, marred by weeds and anthills. It's a stark contrast to the adjacent Little League field that has plush, green grass and well-manicured dirt.

    "We haven't committed to a spring training facility, so I don't think they are willing to pump any money into the place," said Single-A Aberdeen manager Gary Kendall, who runs extended spring training at the facility. "That's where it lies. They're up against a lot down there."

    The four fields are maintained by only a three-man groundskeeper crew that has to prepare the fields for the Orioles' minor leaguers and clean up after high school and college teams use the fields at night. The crew's equipment appears older than the weathered Earl Weaver "Power of the Oriole Way" poster that is barely still hanging in their equipment shed. The crew doesn't even have the roller to roll the infield, a grounds crew staple.

    In the clubhouse, which includes the facility's only indoor batting cage though it's barely usable, the lockers are made of chicken wire and wood. There is no separate weight room. There is no air conditioning in the clubhouse, and the bathroom is so dirty that one Oriole said it "should be condemned."

    Orioles reliever Chris Ray spent five months last year at the complex, rehabbing his elbow after having Tommy John ligament-reconstruction surgery. His sunglasses got stolen on his first day there, setting the tone for a forgettable stay.

    "I don't know what to say about the facility other than that it just needs to be leveled and rebuilt," said Ray. "It's a shame. You draft someone, hype them up and then they go to that facility and they're like, 'Wow.' I think that's a little bit embarrassing."

    Perhaps Costanzo summed it up best when he said, "There's no doubt that everybody in the clubhouse -- and I can speak for all of them -- want to get the hell out of here."
    "You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one."

    --Woody Hayes

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    Re: Reds going, going, gone (article on Reds leaving Florida for Arizona)

    RED WITH ANGER: SARASOTA BOOED (5:27 p.m. ET)
    Fans booed the mayor before Cincinnati's final spring training game in Florida and, in front of only less than half the capacity of Ed Smith Stadium, the Reds wrapped up a dozen years in Sarasota with a 6-5 loss to a Pittsburgh Pirates split squad.

    The Reds have trained in Florida since the 1920s, but are moving to Arizona -- the site of their first camp in 1891 -- to share a complex with the Cleveland Indians.

    The small crowd vented at politicians who failed to keep the team in town and have been unable to lure a replacement. Mayor Lou Ann Palmer and two other local officials were booed loudly on the field before the game. When Palmer asked the crowd for a moment of silence over the Reds' departure, one man yelled: "It's your fault!"

    With that, the mayor invited the fans to go ahead and express their frustration.They did, providing a long, collective boo. "I'm glad so many of you are angry with us, I really am," she said, "because I'm angry with us, too."

    Reds owner Bob Castellini presented mementos to the stadium crew and thanked residents for supporting the team for 12 years.
    2014 predictions:
    99-63 WS champs (Cards take 2nd WC, Mil 3rd, Pit 4th, Chi 5th)
    Bruce/Votto neck and neck MVP race (neither takes it)
    Bailey CYA winner
    Hamilton ROY & GG

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Reds going, going, gone (article on Reds leaving Florida for Arizona)

    the site of their first camp in 1891
    Eh?

    The first team to train in AZ was the 1929 Detroit Tigers, in 1891 Arizona was 21 years from statehood.


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