Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Reds Implement No-Oswalt Policy At Ballpark

With 81 home dates a season, major league ballclubs must always be sensitive to the fan experience at games. High ticket prices, parking lot gridlock, obnoxious drunks, and mediocre baseball can all be major turn-offs for potential spectators. Today the Cincinnati Reds took a step to make the home fans’ experience at Great American Ball Park more enjoyable. The venue now has an official No-Oswalt policy.

The policy was implemented after the Reds’ 5-4 loss to the Houston Astros Monday night. Roy Oswalt earned the victory after allowing two runs over seven innings. The win improved Oswalt’s lifetime record against Cincinnati to an amazing 19-1. No one has been tougher on Reds since the McCarthy hearings.

With that track record in mind, management decided that Oswalt will now be prohibited from entering Great American Ball Park. Owner Robert Castellini explained, “We’re trying to promote a fan-friendly experience for the home fans. How fan-friendly can it be if their team has no shot in hell of winning?” Oswalt joins other items you won’t see at the ballpark, such as glass bottles, cans, and a quality bullpen.

General Manager Wayne Krivsky also cited safety concerns. “There’s been a lot of talk about alcohol in the clubhouse lately. Well, facing Oswalt drives our players to drink!” The Reds’ clubhouse does appear to be a safer place these days, especially since Lou Piniella and Rob Dibble are no longer there together. Cincinnati plans to further emphasize safety by hiring a new team physician, a position formerly held by Dr. Johnny Fever. As manager Jerry Narron remarked, “Safety is always a concern for us. Ken Griffey, Jr. is on our team.”

The Astros are expected to appeal the decision to major league baseball. However, the issue does not appear to be urgent for commissioner Bud Selig. After this series, Houston does not visit Cincinnati again until late September. Reportedly, Selig is assuming that the Astros ace will be a Yankee by then.

If the policy does get overturned, the Reds have a backup plan for future Oswalt starts. Noting that he is winless with a 6.41 ERA in five career starts versus Atlanta, Cincinnati would wear Braves uniforms and display a banner proclaiming “Welcome To Turner Field!”. Before things even get to that point, they plan to employ a proven strategy for getting someone banned from the ballpark in Cincinnati. They’ll tell Selig that Oswalt bet on baseball.

On the field, the Reds continue to struggle at 14-18. However, team officials remain proud of their home venue. The No-Oswalt policy is a small step to reward the home fans at Great American Ball Park. Management realizes that the Cincinnati fans have enough to worry about when they go to the ballpark. After all, sometimes Bengals are in the stands.