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Reds to open season against Marlins

CINCINNATI (AP) — Former Reds infielder Doug Flynn remembers opening day 1975, when he sidled up next to Pete Rose by the dugout railing and checked out the capacity crowd at Riverfront Stadium.

His first opening day in Cincinnati was one of his best.

“I was in the big leagues,” Flynn said, standing in the dugout at Great American Ball Park. “I was so pumped up!

“You remember the good ones, and the bad ones.”

Flynn’s team started on its way to a World Series championship in 1975. The current Reds have reason to think they could be a contender as well when they get started against the Miami Marlins on Thursday.

They’ve already had their first big payday.

First baseman Joey Votto agreed to a contract on Wednesday that added 10 years and $225 million while keeping him under contract through 2023 and makes him the face of the franchise. Fans will get their first chance to recognize the long-term commitment during pregame introductions.

“It means a lot not only for the franchise but also for the city,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It means kids can grow up emulating him and pretending to be Joey Votto.”

The Reds won’t be the only big spenders on the field.

The Marlins changed their name, moved into a new ballpark and spent $191 million to acquire NL batting champion Jose Reyes, left-hander Mark Buehrle and closer Heath Bell in the offseason. They also hired manager Ozzie Guillen to oversee the on-field transition.

After opening their new ballpark against the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night, the Marlins were looking forward to getting into a routine in Cincinnati.

“Get out of here and relax a little,” Guillen said. “The last couple of days have been crazy. There has been a lot going on. I felt like I was in the World Series again a little bit.”

After their game on Thursday, the Reds and Marlins have a day off before getting back into a more normal schedule.

“I think everybody is going to look forward to getting on the flight and getting to Cincinnati, especially with that off day,” said Buehrle, who goes against right-hander Johnny Cueto in the opener.

First, they’ll get to experience one of baseball’s most traditional openers. Baseball’s first professional team gets to open at home each year, and turns the day into a spring holiday complete with a downtown parade — former Reds third baseman Aaron Boone is this year’s grand marshal — and children skipping school.

Shortstop Zack Cozart is in line to become the Reds’ first rookie shortstop to start a season opener since Frank Duffy in 1971.

“It’s something that coming up as a baseball player — ever since I was 6 years old — you dream of it,” Cozart said. “And it’s finally happening for me. I’m excited for me. I’m also excited for this team. We believe we’re just as good as anybody.”

He’s got about 10 relatives coming up from Tennessee, and they’ve researched the history of opening day in Cincinnati so they can fully appreciate it.

“A lot of family wanted to know what the festivities were so they can get in and do the stuff as much as anybody,” he said. “They know it’s going to be a fun time.”

Third baseman Scott Rolen turned 37 years old on Wednesday and is approaching the final year on his contract, making this opening day a little extra special. He acknowledged he’ll be nervous at the start of the game.

Rolen, who had surgery on his left shoulder in August, feels good as the start of his third full season with Cincinnati.

“I’m comfortable with my health and my shoulder and where it is,” he said. “Going through spring training, five days in I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I was healthy all the way through.”

Everybody feels good on opening day.


AP Sports Writer Steven Wine in Miami contributed to this report.