I thought I'd share a rather awesome Reds experience I had recently.
I'm sure I've relayed this before but quick background: growing up in South Dakota, all my friends were Twins fans. Even at age 7, I couldn't be like everyone else so red being my favorite color coupled with the Reds having a pretty good team in the mid-70's led me to become a lifelong fan - even though I had never set foot in Ohio.
Until last week.
In more recent history, I work for Yamaha (musical instruments, not motorcycles.) Last summer, a guy I work with started playing one of our keyboards at the Oakland A's games. Out of the blue in December, I received an email from our local Cincinnati dealer that the Reds were interested in upgrading the organ at the ballpark. It seemed a perfect fit to get the Reds the same keyboard as the A's were using so I started talking with John, the Reds organist about using this keyboard. Many emails and phone calls later, I found myself in Cincinnati to help John get everything up and running for the May 21-22 games vs. the Braves.
Note: I did have dinner with Chip at Moerlein House the night of the 20th. He did not show me his Javy Valentin tattoo!
On Monday, I met John at GABP in the morning and we worked our way through the tunnels and elevators up to the booth where the old organ and soon to be new keyboard are. It's right next to Walt Jocketty's suite on the first base side. I would spend 24 of the next 48 hours in this room; it was pretty freaking cool. We got John setup and started making the change from mid-70's keyboard technology (the old organ from Riverfront) to 2012. We also started planning the transition for the DJ who plays all the effects. In the end, we'd made quite a technological leap from the organ in that we were using one of Yamaha's most advanced keyboards being controlled "satellite style" with two iPads.
In the afternoon, John took us on a tour of GABP. We walked all around the stadium and spent some time on the Cincinnati Bell section. John fired up the Calliope (steam-powered pipe organ) they have in the outfield and we played a few tunes. If you heard a rather carnival-esque sounding version of "Night and Day" in the Cincinnati air on the afternoon of May 21, that was me!
After that, it was back to the booth for more setup. We kept working through setups and various situations so John would feel comfortable playing during the game. The on-field activities increased with different running, stretching, fielding and batting practice for pitchers and then the team. When the gates opened at around 5, John played the organ for a few minutes and we went to eat in the cafeteria. We ended up sitting down and eating with Gapper who had some amusing stories. After dinner, we headed back to the booth and I walked right past Joe Morgan who was getting something to eat (I did not see what he chose but I believe he had a cookie.)
Everything starts happening. The booth we're in contains all the audio control for the stadium. The guy sitting next to us was the mixer for the entire game so he had to have his pulse on everything from the pre-game interest interviews to the sound FX to the announcer to John's playing, etc. etc. This booth also houses all the video and graphics for the scoreboard, replays, everything; it's a pretty busy place. John explains that he typically only plays between innings and when the Reds are batting so it was pretty cool to see how he worked with the DJ. Basically, John and the DJ would agree who's going to "play" the next foul ball (during an inning) and as soon as it was hit, they'd play. Many of the "charges" they played, would be together with the DJ adding the stomps and claps.
BTW, this was the game where the Reds HR back to back to back and two of them were caught by the same fan in the outfield.
As the game went on, John asked me if I wanted to play so we fired up the iPad and I played a little drum part underneath John after the mascot race. We were rocking out and I looked up and we were on the Jumbotron...holy crap! I'm more used to playing for 3-4 people rather than 17,000. Nevertheless, I soldiered on and no one was injured.
In the middle of the 7th, I went out of the booth to hear how the new keyboard sounded in the park. John of course played TMOTTBG and everything sounded great. Our preparation of recreating the traditional ballpark organ sound paid off. Off course, it's not the most critical listening environment but still, it was pretty satisfying to hear.
After I came back, John pointed to the mirrored window between us and Walt's booth. There was Joe Morgan checking out the game. No sign of the cookie from earlier!
The game ended with the Reds winning and we watched the post-game interviews and other activities. Leake got the shaving cream pie and the grounds crew started to put the tarp on as it started to rain lightly. I drove back to my hotel soaking in the experience: a Reds fan since the mid-70's who had never been to a Reds home game just spent the entire day "behind the scenes" in the stadium.
The next day I found out we were going to be doing TV interviews...three, in fact...holy crap! The first one was in the morning around 10 and he interviewed John and me. I ended up on the cutting room floor but John made it. You can see it and get an idea of where we were sitting here. That's me to the left of the screen in the beginning!
On Monday, I felt out of place with my Yamaha shirt so I had to get some Reds gear to fit in. John took me by the team shop after lunch (we got Graeter's, Chip!) and though the temptation to max out the plastic was strong, I exhibited a modicum of restraint by "just" getting a jersey and a collar for Gordy the rally dog.
That afternoon, Fox19:
and Fox Sports Ohio came by for interviews.
These were longer, more involved chats about the technology and how it will enhance the ballpark experience. My FSO interview was with Brian Giesenschlag who bonded with me due to our similarity in haircuts. No idea when these will air.
Back in the booth, John asked if I wanted to play more during the game. He would play the organ and I would play the keyboard so we did "I Wish" after the umpires were introduced and played together on TMOTTBG; that was beyond cool.
The Reds won again and I got to see Aroldis Chapman shut the Braves down in the 9th.
After the game, the Reds marketing director gave me a box full of cool stuff like a Scott Rolen GG trophy, Votto bobblehead, calendar, blanket, etc. I didn't expect that at all and it was a really nice gesture on their part. We kept making jokes about how my presence kept the winning streak alive and I should probably stay another few days. I said that John would probably need me to come back in September and/or October for a "tune up" and everyone thought that would be a good idea.
After John and I parted in front of Gate 3, I walked back to the car in kind of a fuzzy cocoon. It was a totally awesome experience to not only be at a Reds home game, but have such a behind the scenes look at operations.