Moving out: Expanded Reds Caravan underway
With warm spirits amid freezing temperatures, four legs to visit five states
CINCINNATI -- The temperatures were in the single digits Thursday morning, with the wind chill being well below zero. The frozen air outside of the Reds Hall of Fame underscored that like a hard slap to the face.
Amid what would be optimal weather for hockey, the Reds are using the next four days to promote warmer days and baseball -- both are seemingly just around the corner. The team kicked off the 2014 edition of Reds Caravan.
An expanded version of the annual tour, there will be four different legs covering the five states of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia and Tennessee while traversing over 3,000 miles through Sunday.
"We're looking forward to meeting thousands of fans along the way," Reds chief executive officer Bob Castellini said.
Several Reds players, past and present, made up the caravan cluster that headed out. Starting pitcher Mat Latos is a caravan rookie making the trip for the first time.
"I woke up this morning and it was negative-9 at the house," said Latos, who is part of the South Tour through Kentucky on Thursday only.
Part of the West Tour around Indiana will be new catcher Brayan Pena, who was signed as a free agent in November. Pena did a video chat with his wife and kids in Miami, Fla., which will never have to grasp the frigid temperatures northern states are experiencing.
"They were excited to see the snow, a little more excited than I was," Pena said.
All smiles for early in the morning, Pena was happy to make the trip. He will be wearing a Reds jersey to make caravan stops before he even gets to wear one while playing a game for the team.
"It's not my first rodeo. It's great to do it," Pena said. "I have the opportunity to meet a lot of the players. I'll have the opportunity to meet the fans, the media, and it's nice. It's nice for them to get to know me a little bit. What you see is what you get. It's exciting. I'm very happy to be part of this organization, and hopefully we can bring a championship home."
For new manager Bryan Price, it will also be his first winter caravan for the club. Price has been Cincinnati's pitching coach the past four seasons but hasn't been one of the faces of the franchise. Just like Redsfest last month, that will be different on caravan, when he will be a main attraction.
Price is on the East Tour through parts of Ohio and West Virginia.
"I have an itinerary and scanned it," Price said. "But I know there's going to be a lot of bus time, a lot of stops and a lot of visits. The good thing for my first caravan with the Reds is to be able to connect with the Reds fans that aren't located right here Cincinnati. I'll be able to get out to surrounding communities and surrounding states and get it out there that we appreciate what everybody does to support the club."
Price's promotion was the first, and biggest, of the Reds' offseason moves. As far as the roster, the team added complementary free agents like Pena, utility player Skip Schumaker and re-signed lefty reliever Manny Parra. All were two-year contracts done in November, but no major acquisitions have been made since.
It's no secret that fans are restless after three playoff appearances in the last four years without a series victory to advance. That included being eliminated from the National League Wild Card Game by the Pirates in October. Since then, Cincinnati has also lost key players Shin-Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo.
Price did not believe those losses, coupled by a relatively idle winter of moves, would make it hard to sell the team's positives on the caravan.
"I'm excited because what we have is untapped resources here," Price said. "We have players that will be in our regular lineup and on our bench that have room to get better. We'll continue to watch the development of Devin Mesoraco, Zack Cozart and Todd Frazier for sure, and certainly Chris Heisey has a lot of room to grow and improve.
"As well, we have our iconic players -- Joey [Votto], Brandon [Phillips] and Jay [Bruce], and that group that will continue to be better and be the core and driving force of what we do here. It's certainly exciting to think that Billy Hamilton has a chance to be at the top of the order, playing center field and providing a speed element that we haven't had in a while."
Besides there being 17 fan stops over the next four days, all four caravan legs will visit 20 radio affiliates throughout the trip. For the full itinerary and the player-appearance roster, go to the 2014 Reds Winter Caravan page on reds.com/caravan.