Reds fan favorites picked as Opening Day Parade grand marshals

Findlay Market officials are turning to a pair of beloved former Cincinnati Reds players to help kick off the baseball season in the most Queen City way possible.

On Tuesday, leaders from the Reds, the parade committee and the city of Cincinnati gathered in Over-the-Rhine to outline details about the 105th Findlay Market Opening Day Parade on March 28. They shared a list of some of the participants and outlined a plan to honor the longtime voice of the event, Jim Scott. However, as it is every year, the biggest reveal was the grand marshal(s).

This year, the committee decided to recognize the accomplishments of Pokey Reese and Dmitri Young, members of an unheralded 96-win team in 1999. Despite winning the 10th-most games in a season in Reds franchise history, that squad didn’t qualify for the playoffs.

Reds mascots hold posters of Pokey Reese (left) and Dmitri Young (right).

Rick Walls, executive director of the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, called that group of guys a great team and fun to watch. But he noted what makes them special is many of those players continue to be active parts of the Reds family.

Reese and Young, for example, continue to take part in a variety of Reds-centric events every year, Walls said. That includes attending the annual Redsfest celebration and traveling across Greater Cincinnati each preseason to meet with fans. The duo also served as coaches on the same Reds Fantasy Camp team earlier this winter. They won the championship in Goodyear, Ariz. last month.

“We always say, ‘Once a Red, always a Red,’” Walls said. “And Young and Reese are great examples.”

An event unlike any other

While Reese and Young will be the focal point of the parade, there will be a bevy of other local celebrities and dignitaries making the 1.4-mile trek from Findlay Market to the Central Business District as well.

The roughly 150 parade entries include professional sports teams, nonprofit groups, circus performers, government departments, political figures, old-timey baseball players and more than 20 marching bands representing local colleges and high schools.

There will be floats and unicyclists and even a group of dads performing choreographed routines with push-type lawn mowers. Fans can also look forward to a BLINK-centric float that aims to build anticipation for the festival in October.

Neil Luken speaks during the 2024 Findlay Market Opening Day Parade press conference.

Many of those in attendance at Tuesday’s press conference at Findlay Market – Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval, City Manager Sheryl Long and Reds President Phil Castellini – plan to take part as well.

To funnel all entrants through the parade route takes a little more than two hours.

“[We’re all] looking forward to the first rite of spring,” said Neil Luken, parade chairman and owner of Neil Luken Meats at Findlay Market. He described the day as the beginning point to a “plethora of fun” he expects baseball fans and market visitors to experience in downtown Cincinnati this summer.

Honoring a Opening Day legend

As part of this year’s parade, the Findlay Market team decided to honor Scott, the parade’s emcee and a former 700WLW radio host. He’s this year’s honorary grand marshal.

Scott began his formal role with the parade more than 10 years ago, but his participation in the festivities began decades earlier. A lifelong baseball fan, Scott has attended Opening Day for more than 50 years.

Jim Scott

In years past, Scott’s participation in the parade would have been a virtual lock. However, today he’s in the middle of a well-publicized, months-old battle against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis that has severely affected his ability to move around.

On Monday, Luken and Findlay Market CEO Kelly Lanser made a trip to see Scott at his home. Though limited physically, Scott has showed mild improvement in the past few days, Luken said. He even stood up for the first time since Dec. 19 during Luken and Lanser’s visit.

Scott’s wife said it was the “best day Jim’s had in the last two months,” Luken recalled. Luken believes he’ll see Scott at the parade in some capacity when it begins. It starts at noon.

“We love [Scott] and can’t wait to see [him] out here on March 28,” Luken said.

About the grand marshals

Pokey Reese: Reese played second base and shortstop for the Reds from 1997 to 200. A first-round pick of the Reds, he signed with the club in 1991 and made his major league debut in 1997. He started at second base for three seasons alongside Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, picking up back-to-back Gold Glove Awards in 1999 and 2000. For the 96-win 1999 Reds club, Reese set career highs with a .285 batting average, 85 runs scored, 37 doubles and 38 stolen bases. Following his Reds tenure, he moved to Boston where he helped the Red Sox win a World Series in 2004.

Dmitri Young: Picking up Young in 1997 may not have been a favored move at the time by some Reds fans and they had to trade relief pitcher Jeff Brantley to the hated St. Louis Cardinals to get him. But Young soon won over Reds Country with his skills at the plate. He posted a .304 batting average over the course of his four seasons in Cincinnati, leading the club in batting in 1998 with a .310 mark.

Despite his big frame, Young wasn’t much of a slugger by today’s standards, but he still produced plenty of extra-base hits, averaging 16 home runs and 35 doubles a season during his time with the club. In 1999, he was one of the stars of the Reds team that finished one victory short of a playoff berth. After leaving Cincinnati, Young went on to become an All-Star with the Detroit Tigers (2003) and the Washington Nationals (2007).

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