CINCINNATI -- With my media credential around my neck and my laptop bag slung across my shoulder, I stepped into Great American Ball Park for my first official game as a reporter.
To get to the ballpark, I had to weave my way through the throng of fans that had already gathered in the newly developing entertainment district a full three hours before game time. After staking out a spot in the press box, my dad and I headed out to the Cincinnati Bell Technology Solutions Pilot House overlooking center field.
I had been invited by CBTS to interview television personality and singer Nick Lachey and his wife, Vanessa Minnillo-Lachey, a former Miss Teen USA and MTV veejay. The Lacheys, who are expecting their first child, were both very kind, and I was able to conduct a short interview with each of them. I also scored interviews with Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, West Virginia University men's basketball coach Bob Huggins and Bengals radio color analyst Dave Lapham.
I headed back through the tunnels of Great American Ball Park, passing the visitor's clubhouse, the Miami Marlins team bus and various TV trucks before turning down a hallway marked "Umpire Suite/Star Dressing Room." This would take me to the field, where I snapped a few photos as the stadium filled up. As is on every Cincinnati Opening Day, game tickets were sold out, as a regular-season-record 42,956 fans filled the stands.
It was time to head back to the press box with 30 minutes until game time, and I set up camp with my laptop and voice recorder next to Mark Sheldon, the Reds.com beat reporter and my mentor. This, at least, was familiar territory to me: I'd already logged one -- albeit unofficial -- game on press row, Tuesday's Spring Showcase.
That had been an equally amazing experience. After interviewing Reds Futures Billy Hamilton, Tucker Barnhart, Ryan LaMarre and Neftali Soto, I'd spent an hour on the field taking in the interactive batting practice. I was even interviewed by Reds assistant director of media relations Jamie Ramsey (a friend of mine and the author of the popular Reds blog, "Better Off Red") on the Jumbotron.
That was another thing about being in the press box: everyone there made me feel truly welcome. Countless reporters covering the Reds' beat for various media outlets came up to me and introduced themselves. Way back in October, when I was offered the Youth Reporter gig, Commissioner Bud Selig had welcomed me to "the MLB family." And now, as I sit in the press box watching the first game of the 2012 Cincinnati Reds season, I'm really starting to feel the love.
There's only been one downside to the entire experience: Having to follow the golden rule of media etiquette. No cheering in the press box.
Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.