Big Crowd - No Baseball. Reds And Blue Wahoos Rained Out
It rained most of the day Friday, but when it began to let up at 5:30pm, the grounds crew took the tarp off the infield and got to work. And when Chloe Channell started singing the national anthem Friday night in front of a huge crowd at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium...it looked like the historic exhibition baseball game between the Pensacola Blue Wahoos and their parent club the Cincinnati Reds was finally about to get under way. But Mother nature can be cruel sometimes...and midway through the anthem the rains returned and the game never got underway.
The game was setting up to be a homecoming of sorts for former Blue Wahoo's outfielder Billy Hamilton, who broke baseballs all time stolen base record while with the club. During the player introductions, he got the biggest cheer of the evening. For his part, Hamilton said it felt like coming home, saying "this is where everything started, really." He also said that his game, the speed game, is taking on more importance in baseball.
Billy is set to be the Reds opening day center fielder and leadoff man. And he won't be the only one in a new position on opening day in Cincinnati. After four years as pitching coach, Bryan Price was named manager in the off season, replacing Dusty Baker. Price was looking forward to playing the game in Pensacola, saying that it's always good to come play with an affiliate of the ball club. Price is also pretty high on his center fielder, saying he didn't know if Billy "could have done anything more over the Cactus League season."
The person on the Cincinnati Reds staff who may have the biggest link to the area is new Bench Coach Jay Bell. Born at Eglin Air Force base and a graduate of J-M Tate High School in Cantonment, Bell had an 18 year career in the big leagues. He's thrilled to see professional baseball in Pensacola, saying it's something they talked about back when he was in high school. He spent the morning with family before heading to the ball park.
But there was no baseball played Friday night. After the game was officially called off, fans were invited to an autograph session with the Reds players near the club house. tickets for the game can be exchanged for a regular season Blue Wahoos game...or you can hold on to them. They'll be good if there is a Reds Blue Wahoos game next spring.