Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 6/27/12
CINCINNATI For the Cincinnati Reds, listening to Horace Greeley after he said, "Go west, young man," has not been the soundest advice to which they've listened. For the Reds, trips to the west coast have been like booking passage on the Hindenburg, even if they knew what awaited at the end of the trip. In the past, a west coast trip has been where the Reds go to bury their hopes and dreams of winning divisions, or even of winning seasons. And even in the best of times, back in the days of The Big Red Machine, a trip that included San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, was no trip to Hawaii, not fun in the sun, not easy stroll through the park on a breezy summer day. Since the Brooklyn Dodgers became the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Giants became the San Francisco Giants before the 1958 season, and since the San Diego Padres were born for the 1969 season, the Reds have treated the Left Coast like a Siberian sentence. The Reds are 515-566 against those three teams in their home parks, a less than illustrious .476 winning percentage. This is all brought up because the Reds, leading the National League Central, packed their gear late Wednesday afternoon, a losing to the Milwaukee Brewers, 8-4, for 11 straight days in California no beach time, no deep sea fishing time, no gold time. It will be all business four baseball games against the San Francisco Giants in AT&T Park, beginning Thursday night, three baseball games against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Dodger Stadium, then four more baseball games against the San Diego Padres in Petco Park. Those 11 games wil take them to the All-Star game and it won't take a message in a bottle to tell them how they'll look in the standings. Reds manager Dusty Baker knows the trip-ups that can await unfocused teams and said, "The west coast is a tough place to play, but a beautiful place to play. So we may as well have a beautiful time and win a lot of ball games." Much easier said than done. And Baker knows it. "You feel good about heading on this trip by winning two of three from the Brewers, but it would have felt great leaving with three out of three," he said. "We just have to regroup on the coast, even though we're going to face some pretty good pitching, especially in the first two series." To start with in San Francisco, they'll face LHP Madison Baumgraner (9-4, 3.10), then Mr. No-Hiter, Matt Cain (9-2, 2.27), LHP Barry Zito (6-5, 4.00) and RHP Ryan Vogelsong (7-3, 2.23). "That three hours time difference is big the first few games and then when you adjust you are dragging because those games that end at 11 out there is really 2 a.m. on your body," said Baker. Baker said most west coast trips become Family Affairs, meaning some major adjustments. "You have to really dedicate yourself for west coast trip," he said. "There are a lot of distractions, a lot of things to do away from the ballpark, day and night. Invariably, a lot of families go west with the players because people like to go west. "You have to stay away from Disneyland and Sea World and all that sort of stuff," Baker added. "I've had some players come to the ballpark with sunburns and blisters from being at the beach, so you have to dedicate yourself. "When families come along, they want to change your routine," said Baker. "They don't want to just stay in hotel room like players are used to doing stay in your room, go to get something to eat then go to the ball park." Baker said that's where wives earn their keeep. "A lot of it falls on the wife to take the kids to where they want to go because the kids put pressure on the players with, 'C'mon, daddy, let's go to Disneyworld,'" said Baker." Baker was close friends with former San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh and remembers what Walsh told him about coming west. "He always told me you have to stress to your players that this is a business trip, not a vacation," said Baker. "And I have to also guard against the players looking forward to a vacation, which is going to happen after this trip for the All-Star break. You have to really dedicate yourself because it seems everybody has family and friends on the coast." Baker scribbled some notes on a sheet of paper after taking a phone call, a friend or relative asking for tickets in San Francisco. "See? Even me. I have friends and relatives in all three of these cities. You just have to have complete dedication to what we're here for to win baseball games." But, as history shows, it is never easy.
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