Redsfest connects organization with fans

Redsfest connects organization with fans

CINCINNATI -- It takes more than several days to convert the Duke Energy Convention Center into a baseball paradise for Reds fans, and the finishing touches of that effort were being made Thursday for 2015 Redsfest this weekend.

Work crews were assembling displays, booths, elements for the main stage and more. Analogically fitting, the Reds themselves have a roster that is being worked on this winter for a rebuilding effort into 2016 -- and stretching possibly into 2017.

Cincinnati, which is coming off a 98-loss, last-place 2015 season, is actively exploring trades of some key players soon approaching free agency -- closer Aroldis Chapman is drawing plenty of interest -- as it focuses on the long term.

Meanwhile, events like Redsfest, and the Reds Caravan in January, remain vital for the club to promote itself, its message and to provide a more personal relationship between fans and players.

"It's a reminder of why we do the things we do, to stay connected in the community and not just hide and stop talking to the media and put your head in the sand until it all gets better," Reds chief operating officer Phil Castellini said. "These fans are with us through thick and thin, and we're going to be there for them. I don't cancel Redsfest because we've had a bad season. It's for the fans. It's about the fans. And this is a great way for the fans to connect to the franchise and the players."

More than 80 current and former Reds players, coaches and broadcasters are scheduled to appear at Redsfest, which runs from 3-10:30 p.m. ET on Friday and 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. on Saturday. Joey Votto, Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips are just some of the attendees. There will also be a large collection of Minor Leaguers, including the organization's top three prospects -- Jesse Winker, Robert Stephenson and Amir Garrett.

The rebuilding does not make selling the experience of Redsfest any harder for Castellini and his staff.

"Not really. It's always about the connection. The connection today might be a little more of a focus on, 'Who's next?'" Castellini said. "That's exciting, especially for these young kids playing the game. It's exciting to be able to watch a guy get drafted, get into our system, go from [Class A] to Double-A to Triple-A and come to the Majors. If you're a kid that's been following those guys through our Minor League system, it's pretty exciting to watch them come all the way through."

One of those types of young players is starting pitcher Michael Lorenzen. Although he was a first-time Major Leaguer last season, this will be Lorenzen's third time attending Redsfest.

"When I get the opportunity to be face to face with everyone, it's the best part of the year for me," Lorenzen said. "I look forward to it every year."

For fellow pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, this year will mark his first time as a participant. DeSclafani was acquired in a trade with the Marlins for Mat Latos during the Winter Meetings in 2014, less than a week after Redsfest.

"The fan interaction is probably going to be the best that I've been a part of," DeSclafani said. "I've heard this is a big to-do in the city of Cincinnati. I'm looking forward to seeing how everything works and how much fun everybody is going to have."

For more information about Redsfest, go to reds.com/redsfest.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.