Fans never did get to see the Cincinnati Reds play at Great American Ball Park this season. They watched from outside the front gate. They watched on Fox Sports Ohio. Some parked their boats in the Ohio River and did their best to experience baseball from the water. However, the official attendance for the 2020 season will be zero.
Of course, there was one cheering section for all 30 home games that never failed to impress the players, and it delivered again Wednesday as the Reds closed the home schedule with a 6-1 victory against the Milwaukee Brewers.
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The Reds grounds crew watched the game from seats near the dugout, just down the right-field line. They banged on buckets. They shook noisemakers. Several wore Halloween masks on Wednesday. They did their part to inspire the home team with everyone else, save for a few people sitting with owner Bob Castellini in the Press Club behind home plate, stuck at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Reds thanked them many times throughout the season and one more time after the final home game. The players walked toward the groundskeepers, who got in a line and slapped hands with the players. It was a fitting ending for a strange season at Great American Ball Park.
No one was more grateful for the job the grounds crew did than Joey Votto, who said one opposing player told him earlier in the season, “I hate that group.”
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Votto thought, “That’s exactly what we need. We want the opposing team to hate, be annoyed by them. I think they don’t care in the least. They carried us at times when we needed energy, something different. They make noise. They cheer. They talk mess. They’ve been fantastic all year, and we’re going to miss them. Does this ever happen again? I’m not entirely sure. This was very fun. It was really fun."
The Reds (29-28) will enter the final series of the season on the road against the Minnesota Twins with the chance to earn the first postseason berth in seven years. From here on out, they will play without the grounds crew and without out fans at all.
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In the end, Votto wasn’t sure of what effect having no fans had on the team, which is 16-13 at home and 13-15 on the road.
“A lot of people going into the season asked about the fans,” Votto said. “It’s interesting. When you’re out there competing, of course, the fans are a part of it, but when you’re competing you’re trying to do your very best. I don’t know how much of a difference having the fans made in terms of results. I couldn’t really tell you that, but I can say having the grounds crew in our corner was a distinct advantage for us because no other city had that. There were times deep into the games where I felt, ‘Holy cow, I feel the energy from them.’ It’s been such a treat. We’ve made the very best of this."