If Phil Castellini was concerned about a breakdown in the talks between Major League Baseball and the players’ union on a new bargaining agreement impacting Redsfest, he wasn’t showing it.
The franchise’s annual two-day, fan-a-pa-looza, which starts on Friday and extends through Saturday at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati, was going ahead as scheduled, even if the two sides didn’t reach agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and current Reds declined to participate. Still, the Reds’ Chief Operating Officer admitted to a touch of relief that a new five-year agreement was hammered out, just as the old one was expiring.
“We were going either way, but it’s nice that it’s behind us,” Castellini said Thursday during a media preview of the annual event. “We’re happy that it won’t be an issue.”
This year’s Redsfest is scheduled for Friday from 3-10 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Two-day tickets cost $25 for adults and $12 for children 4-12 years old. One-day tickets cost $17 for adults and $7 for children 4-12 years old. Children three and under are admitted free.
Two-day ticket purchases include two free tickets to the Reds game against Philadelphia on April 5. One-day ticket purchases include a free ticket to the same game, and the first 11,000 fans who show up each day receive a free drawstring backpack and a pair of Reds socks.
Admission gives fans access to more than 100 autograph and photo sessions with current and former Reds players. Highlights this year include the “Pete Rose Hit Collection,” designed to raise money for the bronze Rose sculpture due to be unveiled on June 17, 2017, outside Great American Ball Park. Fans who buy a Hit Collection baseball – with each ball representing one of Rose’s major league-record 4,256 hits – can meet Rose and have a photo taken with him. Rose, who was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame during the 2016 season, also is scheduled to participate in question-and-answer sessions on the Main Stage on Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 12:15 p.m.
“We went from the Year of Pete to the Years of Pete,” Castellini said.
Also available this year is an Eric Davis 30-30 dual bobblehead, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the former center fielder becoming the first player in franchise history to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season. Fans who purchase a Pick-6 plan of tickets receive a bobblehead and a chance to have Davis autograph it.
Another new wrinkle this year is Redsfest Bingo, scheduled for 6-9 p.m. on the third floor of the convention center, located at Fifth and Elm streets. The event features 18 bingo games with each including prizes such as autographed memorabilia and Reds tickets. Fan can buy six-face cards for $5 each or play all 18 games for $25. The final two games of the even each will feature cash prizes of $1,000. Fans must be at least 18 years old to play.
Redsfest will be capped by the 11th annual Celebrity Poker Tournament on Saturday. A limited number of spots were available, and the team urged interested fans to call 513-765-7240 for details. First prize was guaranteed to be at least $11,000.
This year’s Redsfest is the 19th produced by the franchise, but it’s sort of celebrating its 20th anniversary. The first one was staged between the 1996 and 1997 seasons and drew a total of about 10,000 fans. Convention center remodeling forced Redsfest to miss a year. Last year’s event attracted 20,118 fans, an 11 percent increase over 2014.
“It’s a chance for fans to see us as normal people,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “We can interact with them on a more personal level than we can during the season. We’re so locked in and focused during the season that sometimes we might not be able to sign as many autographs as we should.”