On Opening Day 1999, this wet-behind-the-ears sports writer waltzed into the press box at Cinergy Field for the first time, knowing barely a thing about covering big-league baseball.
There are those who'd argue that remains to be the case, but I'd like to think that during the past 10 years I've grown as a writer and as a person having worked alongside some of the most talented scribes to grace the Reds beat, such as Hall of Famer Hal McCoy.
To be clear, this isn't a farewell speech. I'll be back. Soon I hope.
But, Monday, April 6 marks the first Opening Day in 13 seasons that I will walk into a Reds ballpark carrying a ticket rather than donning a credential.
Sunday's team workout was the first I'd missed since 2000, the first following the celebrated arrival of Ken Griffey Jr.
I haven't attended an Opening Day as a spectator since 1996. I'm anxious to see what I've been missing. I hear beer is in abundance.
The economy has hit hard. The weekly newspaper for which I worked as a columnist since 1997 folded this past winter. In addition, MLB.com, one of my feature writing clients, slashed its freelance budget in response to these difficult economic times.
As a result, my Major League Baseball writing assignments will be fewer. It remains to be seen how few, but I'm still holding out hope that I'll get to cover my share of big-league games at Great American Ball Park this season.
I'm encouraged that business still is good in the freelance writing game. The fall and winter has brought an increasing number of basketball and football assignments, both high school and college. I'd surely trade a handful of them to cover the game I love, as baseball is indeed my passion.
But, tomorrow I'll be shivering along with you, making the best of Cincinnati's most precious day amid the wintery conditions. I'll hoist a beer and hum along to 'Take Me Out To the Ballgame'.
I might even cheer. Shhh. Don't tell anyone.