18-hour drive can’t keep local man from Opening Day

The Hamilton native and current Clearwater, Fla., resident had his plans to fly to Cincinnati fall through, but he still made it to Great American Ball Park in time for his 18th Opening Day.

“I worked a 10-hour shift bartending Saturday, got home at 3 a.m, grabbed by bags and my dog, Jameson, and was on the road by 4 a.m.,” Kist said. “It’s usually a 14-hour drive, but Interstate 75 was shut down to one lane in every single state that I went through, so I was about four hours behind what I normally do. It was definitely a painstaking experience, but I wouldn’t miss Opening Day for the world.”

Kist wasn’t the only one in his group that traveled a long way for the game. Childhood friend Jeff Hawkins came in from Maine, where he is stationed at the Mechanicsburg Naval Base, for his first Opening Day experience.

Cincinnati’s Myra Riefle, the former Rosie Reds president who, was attending her 39th Opening Day and sitting with Price Hill’s Dale Silver, the current Rosie Reds president who was present for her 22nd.

“My favorite Opening Day was when we played the Angels and I got to present the plaques to the managers for the first inter-league Opening Day,” Riefle said.

“Mine was a long, long time ago when my daddy took me to my first one at Crosley Field,” Silver added. “I don’t remember much except the smell of hot dogs, and I have a hot dog every year.”

Like Silver, the Opening Day tradition for Springfield native Steve Shutte began with a trip to the game with his dad.

“We’ve been coming for the last 20 years, and this is the first year he’s missed in a long time so I brought my two young boys,” said Shutte, whose sons Ethan, 8, and Nick, 10, were ripping line drives on the whiffle ball field in the Kroger Fan Zone before the game.

“The tradition goes back to my father and his father,” Shutte added. “They took me out of school and and I took these guys out of school. It’s a real special day.”

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