#Cincinnati road trip to see @BlueJays play @Reds, visit @NewportAquarium

Cincinnati…who knew?

           The novelty of interleague play in baseball has long since passed. What started in 1997 as a rare spectacle has become commonplace, with at least one interleague game every day now that the American and National Leagues each have 15 teams. When the split was 16 National and 14 American, there was no need for interleague matchups.

            Whatever the larger implications of continued interleague play are, this past weekend it delivered the Blue Jays to Cincinnati for a rare series there. The two teams had only ever played 12 times.

            Spencer and I headed out Friday morning for what we expected would be a 7-8 hour drive from London, crossing the border at Detroit and heading straight down I-75 to the Queen City (a nickname Charlotte, NC, also uses btw). Torrential rain, traffic jams and a search for chewable, children’s Advil in Monroe, Michigan, added some time to the journey. We arrived in Cincinnati around 6:30 Friday night.

            We had tickets to Saturday’s ballgame, so we planned to spend the evening checking out some of the sights of the city. Having never been to Cincinnati or given it much thought, I didn’t realize it sits right on the Ohio-Kentucky border, essentially sharing its metropolitan area with Covington, Kentucky. Maybe they could borrow another nickname and become the Twin Cities.

            We stayed in Covington, and were only a 10-15 minute walk away from Great American Ballpark, a terrific venue that holds about 45,000 people and features all kinds of attractions, food and fun. It’s a throw or two from Paul Brown Stadium, where the Bengals play. Both sit on the river and look great from a vantage point on the other side.

 Cincinnati, across Ohio River as seen from Covington, Kentucky

Cincinnati, across Ohio River as seen from Covington, Kentucky

            After checking in, we grabbed a cab and headed to Newport on the Levee, a collection of restaurants and shops, anchored by the Newport Aquarium, which was worth the trip all by itself. The Levee sits on the Kentucky side of the river. The cabbie was listening to the Jays-Reds game, and as we headed out for the evening, the score was 8-0 Reds…in the second inning. Ouch. Wearing our Blue Jays hats, we were among a handful of Jays fans roaming around the area, none too happy with the way the first game of the weekend series had started.

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            We stumbled across GameWorks, a cool place for all ages, with video and active games, some retro and some designed to spit out tickets so kids can spend $50 to take home a $5 prize purchased with their winnings. We played everything, including old-school pinball, a first for Spence.

            By the time we had burned through our tokens and Spence had spent his tickets in the prize zone, it was the 7th inning of the game. We sat down at the adjoining bar to watch. Whoa, it was now 9-8 Reds. The Jays had come almost all the way back. We watched for a while, and then hopped in another cab back to the hotel. We got there in time to watch the 9th inning in the bar, jammed with Reds fans. We watched the Jays tie the score at 9, then pull ahead 10-9, 11-9, then boom, 14-9, thanks to a 3-run home run from Edwin Encarnacion, his second 3-run bomb of the game.

            Sure it would have been fun to be at that game, but watching it from across the river, among all those Reds fans, was a blast. It also inoculated us somewhat for what was to follow the next day, when we walked across the purple bridge, a 15-minute stroll from our hotel to the ball game.

            Like the night before, the Jays fell behind 8-0. Unlike the night before, there was no miracle comeback. They fell 11-1 in front of a sell-out crowd, announced as the 100th sell-out in the short history of Great American Ballpark. There were lots of Jays fans, decked out like we were in Jays shirts and hats. Despite the scorching heat and lopsided result, it was a fun afternoon.

            We missed the rubber match Sunday afternoon because we were driving home, this time in better conditions, making it an 8-hour trip. I came home raving about Cincinnati, but the truth is I saw very little of the city. Most of our time was spent in much smaller and cozier Covington, Kentucky.

            Wherever we were, it was a great weekend. On the way home, with lots of time to talk and make plans, we decided we would have to hit the road again next year to see the Jays play somewhere else. We’ll have to wait for the schedule to come out before deciding where to go. It will be difficult to top this past weekend, however. It was a blast.

We saw dozens of amazing creatures at the Newport Aquarium, including sharks, jellyfish and a 90-year-old Galapagos turtle. We also enjoyed an up-close visit with some African black-foot penguins.