Opening Day: Thank God baseball is back

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By Matt Birkholtz

Opening Day has been a tradition of mine with my fiancé Jessica Purnell since we have been together.

The past two seasons, we have purchased Power Pack tickets, which guarantee you Opening Day tickets.

Well, with a wedding in t-minus two months, we both decided the money we save for those tickets would go to our wedding.

Now, being a big Cincinnati Reds fan, I was looking for any possible way to get tickets for the game, but no matter what contest or ticket website I went to, the prices or chances were just too big for me to splurge for the tickets.

About a week before the big game, Jessica told me that one of her co-workers had two tickets available for $30 per ticket. I was giddy with joy. I felt like a little child in a candy store being able to pick out my favorite snack.

After talking it over and the wedding approaching, we both decided we shouldn’t spend the money and just go down to the parade and watch the game at the Holy Grail Bar and Grille.

Then came one of the biggest surprises that I will never forget.

Around 9:30 a.m., Jessica gave me a call and told me her job was raffling off three tickets to the game. My hope for going to the game started to increase with every minute, especially with the raffle not happening for another hour and a half.

Jessica called again at 10:30 a.m. and told me that only six people had entered into the drawing. I clasped my hands together and prayed that she would win.

At 11 a.m., Jessica called the house again. I answered.

“Would you like to go to Opening Day with me?,” she asked.

My heart is pounding faster and I responded, “YES!”

With having three tickets, we both invited her brother, Lyle, who went in on the Power Pack tickets last season.

So, it went from just going to the parade and watching the game on television, to now being three of the 42,000-plus people in Great American Ballpark.

After picking up some snacks at Kroger, I parked at Newport on the Levee, seeing a flow of red, walking the Taylor Southgate Bridge over to Cincinnati, joining the 100,000 people that would be lining up the streets for the 93rd Annual Findlay Market Parade.

There I met up with Jessica and we stood exactly where we had the previous two years for the parade, watching Rosie, Mr. Red, Mr. Redlegs and Gapper parade along with grand marshal Aaron Boone and hundreds of other floats.

Time flew by and it was time to head down for the 10th Opening Day at Great American Ballpark.

We met Lyle up in the bleachers and we chatted with my parents, who had tickets up there and for my dad, his first Opening Day since he saw the St. Louis Cardinals face the Chicago Cubs in 1968.

The best part of this day was where we were going to be sitting.

As we handed the usher our tickets for section 129, row K, seats 8-10, we noticed that we were closer than anticipated, merely six rows behind the Reds dugout. I have never been that close to the field before.

I don’t know how many times I thanked Jessica for this opportunity, but the whole day was terrific, seeing the players up that close and as the ballgame progressed and Johnny Cueto pitching seven scoreless innings, this Opening Day will always have a special place in my heart, because without Jessica, this day could have not been possible. She brought the little child inside me out that day and I couldn’t have been any happier, until we get to June 9, when I see her walk down the aisle on our wedding day.

(Matt Birkholtz is the sports writer for the Grant County News. He can be reached at mbirkholtz@grantky.com or 859-824-3343.)