Bengals join Reds for special BP

Bengals join Reds for special BP

CINCINNATI -- For nearly three decades, the Cincinnati Reds and the Cincinnati Bengals shared a home in Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field, but they never really had a relationship as one community of Cincinnati's finest athletes. That barrier began to dissolve Wednesday afternoon, when more than half of the 70 Bengals in attendance teamed up to take on Reds pitchers and coaches, the 80-degree weather and their own egos in a round of batting practice at Great American Ball Park prior to the Reds-Brewers game.

Just days before their final mandatory full-squad mini-camp, the Bengals welcomed the idea of a little change in routine. From Paul Brown Stadium, they took a short hike down Mehring Way to check out the home of their baseball neighbors.

John Allen, Chief Operating Officer for the Reds, said that this was the first time the teams have really come together for an event.

"Occasionally, we've had one or two [Bengals] come over for batting practice," said Allen. "But the whole group? It was Marvin Lewis' and Bob Castellini's idea."

In turn, Lewis said, "We welcome [the Reds] to come over any Friday and spend a day with us [to play football]. It'd be great."

But Allen didn't seem too fond of the idea and joked, "I'm not sure I want our guys out there banging around too much."

The one-hour batting session provided an afternoon of smiles, some solid hits and even more laughter at players who couldn't even make contact. Reds Hall of Fame radio broadcaster Marty Brennaman said it was "really nice that the Bengals showed up in the numbers that they did" and that it could be the "beginning of a new era of détente" between the teams.

Several Reds pitchers and coaches took turns pitching to the Bengals, including relievers Rick White and Esteban Yan, as well as first base coach Billy Hatcher. Even Lewis managed to get in a few tosses to his own players. He and Reds manager Jerry Narron are in their fourth and second years, respectively, at the helm of their teams. Among other duties, they've been trying to revive a fan base that's watched the two teams struggle in years past. Recently, though, the two teams have taken great strides with their on-field success.

Dressed in orange T-shirts with "TEAM" written on the back, the 2005 AFC North Champions were fully confident that they could knock some home runs out of a park known for its advantage toward hitters. Some Bengals were successful, whereas others learned that hitting a home run is a lot harder than it seems.

Before getting into the cage, loquacious Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson joked, "He ain't got nothin' on me," about Ken Griffey Jr. and his finesse for hitting the long ball. After hitting a few soft liners to the outfield, Johnson said, "I did good, so-so. I did good enough I know I can play."

However, the Pro-Bowler did say that no one on this Reds team could beat him in a one-on-one matchup in football.

"It's impossible. Just impossible," Johnson said with a confident smile.

Lewis said he didn't know if any Reds player could take on Johnson but that he'd be interested in seeing what multi-talented pitcher Bronson Arroyo could do on the gridiron.

The most impressive Bengal taking cuts was by far Kelley Washington, the 6-foot-3 wide receiver from the University of Tennessee.

Washington was actually drafted out of high school by the Florida Marlins in the 10th round of the 1997 draft and played 295 games in their system as a shortstop and third baseman. However, despite the career nine homers and 98 RBIs, he looked at his .213 career batting average objectively and decided to make the switch to football.

Brennaman also thought it was nice to see the two teams embracing each other in Cincinnati, "especially because these teams have basically the same fan base."

For those Cincinnati fans, nothing was better than seeing both teams for the price of one ticket on Wednesday, and maybe, just maybe, the luck from the Bengals 2005 season will rub off on the diamond for this year's Cincinnati Reds ballclub.

Sara Normand is an intern in the Reds Creative Services department. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.