VIENNA, W.Va. - In 2006 when a group of buyers led by local Cincinnati businessman Bob Castellini purchased the Cincinnati Reds, they promised the fans of major league baseball's oldest franchise to not only build the team back into a winning organization on the field but to become a stronger presence in the community.
The Reds were coming off of five consecutive losing seasons, the most in the history of the storied franchise, and despite playing in a brand new ballpark, the club was struggling to capture the baseball magic that once existed in the Queen City.
Seven years later that magic appears to be back stronger than ever judging by the hundreds of Reds fans that came out in miserable weather conditions to form a line from one end of the Grand Central Mall to the other to get an autograph from some of their favorite Reds personalities at the 2013 Reds Caravan Friday.
Last year's Reds team came up one win shy of making it to the National League Championship series and this years team appears poised to make a run even farther into the playoffs.
In addition, the Reds Community Fund, which was created to improve the lives of Cincinnati youth by leveraging the tradition of the Cincinnati Reds and the game of baseball, continues to do just that by renovating fields and providing opportunities to kids with disabilities among various other tasks.
Attendance at the beautiful Great American Ballpark has continued to rise over the past few years and the Reds ratings on both television and radio are some of the highest in all of baseball.
As is the case with many successful organizations, it all begins with the performance of the team on the field and the ability to keep its core together, a job that falls on the laps of General Manager Walt Jocketty and his assistant, Bob Miller, who made the trip to Vienna.
"We have been able to extend guys early on," said Miller, speaking specifically of pitcher Johnny Cueto, first baseman Joey Votto, and outfielder Jay Bruce, all of whom have signed long term contracts with the club long before they were eligible to leave via free agency. "We have to be creative, we have to move stuff around, and we have to look at long term guys that we feel will stay healthy and productive."
Adding to the excitement was the announcement this week by major league baseball commissioner Bud Selig that the 2015 All-Star Game would be held on the banks of the Ohio.
Public relation nightmares seemed to be common place for the Reds back in the 80s and 90s thanks to scandals involving baseball's all-time hit king Pete Rose and their late owner Marge Schott, but todays organization is the complete opposite.
Case in point came last year when long time announcer Marty Brennaman made a wager with bench coach Chris Speier that if the Reds won 10 games in a row, he would shave his head bald.
When the Reds managed to win those ten games in a row, Brennaman fulfilled his promise by not only shaving his head bald, but doing so in front of a full house at GABP, thanks to donations to the Reds Community Fund of over $25,000 by local businesses.
To top it off Brennaman removed the Reds jersey that he had been wearing to reveal a shirt that matched that of several young cancer stricken children from Cincinnati whom had been invited to participate in the event. This year's Reds squad has as good a chance as any to bring home their first world championship since 1990, but even if they don't, the magic and the tradition of the Cincinnati Reds is back as strong as ever.
Mike Morrison is a Marietta Times part-time sports writer.