Best Use of Free Agent Money:
Small market teams like the Reds can’t compete with the big boys when it comes to signing proven ace starting pitchers. But when the chance to sign a 22-year-old who might be the second coming of Randy Johnson came along, Reds GM Walt Jocketty said, “Let’s do this.” It’s all somewhat speculative at this point, but the hard-throwing Aroldis Chapman (pictured) impressed during his first big league camp and could find himself contributing at the Major League level soon. For the price of $6 million a year, it’s a risk worth taking.
Best Baseball Stadium:
Sorry Great American Ballpark, but your soda-sponsored smoke stacks don’t do it for us. The University of Cincinnati’s on-campus baseball facility, Marge Schott Stadium, has the best view of the diamond. And it houses a fancy labyrinth of training facilities and batting cages underneath. The stadium, which opened in 2004, is part of the Richard E. Lindner Varsity Village — a collection of new athletic facilities on the east side of campus near Jefferson Avenue. The Bearcats nearly earned a spot in the College World Series last year, falling to Louisville in the Big East tournament final. Cheap tickets and plentiful beer nachos make this on-campus gem a great place for a ballgame. www.gobearcats.com
Best Online Sports Fix:
Former Cincinnati Post writer C. Trent Rosecrans headlines arguably the best local sports journalism team in the city at Cnati.com. And they do it without the benefit of a newspaper, television or radio station backing them up. Just good stories and great writing, not to mention the convenience of an iPhone app. It’s what sports journalism should be. www.cnati.com
Best Source for Wrastlin’ News:
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I’d really like to see some wild characters get into a brawl,” then look no further than Metropolis nightclub Wrestle Ohio. The web site offers news, rumors, results and upcoming events for as many of Ohio’s wrestling federations and organizations as it can find. Events are scheduled in Cincinnati frequently and are often free and always entertaining.
Best Xavier Player Who Jams on People
After a solid freshman season at Indiana University, Jordan Crawford decided to transfer after the firing of Kelvim Sampson. Indiana’s loss was Xavier’s gain. After sitting out a year due to NCAA transfer rules, the 6-foot-4 guard exploded on the Atlantic 10 scene, averaging 19.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists to earn Third Team All American honors (though the A-10 snubbed him for Player of the Year for some dude from Richmond), then carrying the Musketeers deep into the NCAA Tournament. Crawford’s next decision is whether or not his time at Xavier will be only a single season, as he’s considered a decent NBA prospect either this year or down the line.
Best Competition on Wheels:
You’ve heard about the Cincinnati Rollergirls in past Best of Cincinnati issues, but we still like them, so they continue to be included here. Now in their fifth year, the Rollergirls are on track with the nationwide growth of flat track roller derby in all of its athletic and kitschy glory. The varsity Black Sheep squad was recently ranked No. 4 of 19 teams in Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s North Central region and in the top 25 of more than 350 teams in North America by DerbyNewsNetwork.com. They play at Cincinnati Gardens, where you can enjoy beer and nachos with the family-friendly fun. www.cincinnatirollergirls.com
Best Way to Make Up for Gorging on Turkey:
After the Thanksgiving Day Race celebrated a century of annual 10K races last year, it’s safe to assume you’ll have this calorie-burning option again this fall. There’s a 10K runners only division, along with 10K run/walk and the option of bringing the kids along the route. Race proceeds go to charity, so you’ll feel doubly good about yourself no matter how many helpings of turkey you grubbed on the day before. Here’s to another 100 years. www.thanksgivingdayrace.com
Best Local Icon Who Looks Better With Every Steroid Confession:
West Side born and bred Pete Rose might have made himself look like an idiot with all his gambling denials and book tours (his bowl cut during the ’80s wasn’t glorious either), but his crime against the sport seems less appalling with every “I’m not hear to talk about the past.” Mark McGuire will coach for St.
Best Semi-Pro Team Whose Stars You'll Recognize
Fans of the University of Cincinnati football program who venture out to Cincinnati Gardens to see the newly created Cincinnati Commandos in action will see a lot of familiar faces: former Bearcats Ben Mauk, Dominik Goodman, Terrill Byrd and Khalil El-Amin are all competing for the local team in the Continental Indoor Football League. These players were all part of UC’s emergence as a Top 25 program, and judging by the Commandos’ 53-26 season-opening win their history together might just pose an advantage over the other teams in the CIFL. With free parking, a Family 4 Pack special (four tickets, four sodas and four hot dogs for $50) and the promise of fast-paced action with local connections, the Commandos have a lot to offer. Home games April 10 and 24, May 15 and 22. www.cincinnaticommandos.com
Best Side of the Reds’ Infield:
The Right Side of Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto. OK, both members of the left side of the Reds’ starting infield (Orlando Cabrera and Scott Rolen) have earned Gold Gloves. But the right side is the heart of the batting order, plus Phillips has a Gold Glove himself. The tough call means this year’s Reds infield defense will be as good as any since the team used to make the playoffs back in the ’90s.
Best Bearcat NFL Draft Picks:
Mardy Gilyard will go down as one of the best UC football stories ever, from working three jobs to stay in school after losing his scholarship to hugging little kids in the stands after running over them. Local fans hope Gilyard, the electric wide receiver and kick returner, is available when the Bengals make their second selection April 22. Similarly, Tony Pike’s success story includes his emergence as an outside Heisman Trophy candidate last year before injuries derailed the campaign. The Reading High School graduate still completed one of the most memorable UC football seasons and set himself up as a mid-round draft pick.
Best Sports Radio Host:
Although we recently heard Lance McAlister vehemently declare that his daughter will never compete against a boy on a wrestling mat (better off keeping her away from the cheerleading squad in our opinion), we appreciate his friendly few hours on the dial when he’s discussing stuff we care about. The lifelong Cincinnati sports fan abounds with enthusiasm for the home team, and his listeners love talking about what sports persona they’d like to do different things with. www.1530homer.com/pages/lancesblog
Best Reason to Eat Nachos and Drink Beer During the Week:
Not that you really need to have a reason to drink beer and eat nachos on a Thursday (this is America), but visiting U.S. Bank Arena for some Cincinnati Cyclones action is a great reason to partake in such a pleasure. With cheap ticket prices and promotions for nearly every home game ($1 beer on Thirsty Thursdays) and a talented roster with legit NHL prospects, it’s tough to find a better fun-to-value ratio (F:V) in town. www.cincinnaticyclones.com
Best UC Basketball Senior:
OK, so there were only two senior Bearcats this year (Toyloy, you cool too!) and Deonta Vaughn’s career didn’t end like he would have hoped, having never gotten a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament, but those who followed UC hoops during the transition from Huggins era to the present appreciate Vaughn’s many contributions along the way. The lone high school recruit during Mick Cronin’s first year, Vaughn was selected to the Big East All Rookie Team his freshman year and earned First Team All-Big East honors his sophomore year and was named to the Third Team his junior year. Whatever awaits Deonta after graduation (Pro ball in Europe? NBDL? Full-time position making fun of Larry Davis in press conferences?) he’ll forever have the support of Bearcat fans.
Best Women’s Basketball Team:
Although we like what Jamelle Elliott accomplished during her first season leading the University of Cincinnati women’s basketball team, the Xavier women’s team finished the season ranked No. 5 in the country and earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Head Coach Kevin McGuff developed two players — Amber Harris and Ta’Shia Phillips — who have been nominated for the Player of the Year award. Let’s hope Elliott and UC can pick up the pace and make the women’s Crosstown Shootout as big a rivalry as the men’s. www.goxavier.com
Best Reason to Wear Sweatpants in Public:
Technically, most players in the annual Cincinnati Metro Softball Tournament at Rumpke Park will be wearing some type of baseball pants (along with every piece of equipment ever to be worn by a big leaguer; reflector shades are not optional), though many are presumed to wear sweats during the week as well. That doesn’t matter once the Metro starts — the late July/early August competition is among the biggest local tournaments in the country. Softball is serious here, and so are the handlebar mustaches. www.rumpkeballpark.com
Best Use of Fountain Square Ice Rink:
On Jan. 16, giant fuzzy creatures of all forms congregated on Fountain Square for some good ol’ fashioned, product-promoting fun. Mascot Broomball featured Mr. Redlegs, UC’s Bearcat, the Cyclones’ Twister, Kentucky Speedway’s Horsepower, the Charmin Bear, Hoxworth’s Buddy the Blood Drop, Rumpke’s Binny, U.S. Bank’s Captain Shield and two “Flying” Pigs. No one kept score, because they were all winners. www.myfountainsquare.com
Best High School Football State Champions:
Cincinnatians are used to hearing about Greater Catholic League schools heading north and winning state football championships, but last year the lone title for Cincinnati came from Winton Woods. The Division II state champ Warriors led local polls for most of the season and brought home the hardware when it counted.
Best Awesome Football Conference Title Game:
After trailing by 21 points late in the first half, the undefeated UC Bearcats rallied behind Mardy Gilyard to beat Pittsburgh for the Big East title and a trip to a BCS bowl game. Gilyard ran a kickoff back 99 yards for a touchdown with just over a minute left in the first half, he caught a 68-yard TD pass in the third quarter and his 59-yard punt return set up a fourth quarter touchdown. Tony Pike hit Armon Binns for a 29-yard touchdown with 33 seconds left to give the Bearcats their first lead of the game, 45-44, and their second straight Big East championship.
Best Athlete Who Gets on TV a Lot:
Whether it’s creating his own Internet videos, starting free agency rumors or accepting almost every offer to participate in a reality show, Chad Ochocinco enjoys the spotlight. Soon after beginning a stint on Dancing With the Stars, the Bengals’ flamboyant wide receiver agreed to star in his own search for love on a VH1 dating show. How about Chad and Carson team up for The Amazing Race next offseason?
Best Summertime Sport During Winter:
At Grand Sands All Season Beach Volleyball, you don’t have to stop playing just because there’s a foot of snow outside. You can even play with your shirt off on one of their five indoor professional silica sand volleyball courts. The 20,000 square foot indoor venue also serves as a rainout venue for summer leagues. Located in Loveland, Grand Sands offers leagues and tournaments year-round. www.grandsandsvolleyball.com
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