The biggest Cincinnati Reds fan...in Barcelona
Maybe you consider yourself the greatest Cincinnati Reds fan in the world. Maybe you have a friend or family member so devoted to the Redlegs that you would hang that moniker on them.
Well, the world is a big place.
It’s a subjective title, but one name that has to be considered is that of Carlos Moreno Lopez, who lives about 4,400 miles away from Great American Ball Park in Barcelona, Spain.
There, in soccer-mad Spain, on any given day when the Reds are playing, sits the 39-year-old insurance agent watching the Reds play live on his iPad or PlayStation3, at all hours of the day or night – rooting passionately for his beloved Reds. Leaping into the air when Shin-Soo Choo hits a game-winning home run. Slinking down in his easy chair in disappointment when the Reds relief corps coughs up a lead in the ninth inning.
It doesn’t matter that there is a six-hour time difference between here and Barcelona. He is there, watching and listening, often into the wee hours of the Spanish morning.
Carlos Moreno Lopez lives and breathes Reds baseball.
“I love baseball; it is my religion; my passion,’’ Lopez said in a phone interview with WVXU. “And the Reds are my team. Now and always.”
How did this passion for the Cincinnati Reds begin?
It began with, of all people, Terry Francona, the current manager of the Cleveland Indians, and a former Reds player.
Lopez was a child growing up in Venezuela in the winter of 1986-87; his father, a native of Madrid, Spain, was a baseball fan and knew the people who ran the teams in that South American country, where baseball is extremely popular.
Little Carlos began going to Venezuelan winter league games with his father and became enamored of Francona, who was the batting champion of the Venezuelan winter league that season with a .350 batting average.
In the spring of 1987, Francona was invited to the Reds spring training camp in Tampa and made the team, playing mostly first base.
“That’s when I became a Reds fan,’’ Lopez said.
It was Francona’s one and only season with the Reds – he hit only .227. But, by then, Lopez was a fan of the Reds and particularly their young shortstop, Barry Larkin – who is, to this day, his favorite Red of all time.
Fast forward 13 years to 2000, when Lopez was a young man.
A friend of his was a close friend of the great Reds shortstop of the Big Red Machine era, Dave Concepcion, who was a folk hero in his native Venezuela and who had retired after the 1988 season.
In 2000, Lopez was invited to come along with his friend, Concepcion and others – including Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio, another legendary Venezuelan ballplayer – to Cincinnati for Concepcion’s induction into the Reds Hall of Fame.
He stayed at a downtown hotel with Concepcion, Aparicio and Tony Perez, the Big Red Machine’s Hall of Fame first baseman; and was there at Riverfront Stadium for Concepcion’s induction.
“My first feeling at the ball park was that I wanted to see Barry Larkin,’’ Lopez said. “And, because of that trip, I started to love the Reds even more because I know the city now.”
Ten years ago, Lopez moved to Barcelona, continuing to follow the Reds through the somewhat bleak years the Reds suffered through in their early years at Great American Ball Park.
The 2004 season was the last of Larkin’s long career; and Lopez was determined to come to Cincinnati to see his hero play one final time.
He came from Barcelona to Great American Ball Park with his wife, Davinia Navarro Castillo, an accomplished handball player whom Lopez has converted into a baseball fan.
They were at the ball park for Larkin’s final game.
“It was so exciting to see the final game of such a great player, one I admired so much,’’ Lopez said. “I will never forget it.”
Lopez, of course, is not the only person overseas who follows the Reds. According to Major League Baseball Advanced Media, about 10 percent of the page views on reds.com come from outside the U.S. There have been about 2,100 page views from Spain from January.
There’s no telling how many of those page views were from Lopez, who is on reds.com every day. And he follows all of the Reds players who have Twitter accounts.
The 2004 visit for Larkin’s retirement was his last trip to Cincinnati, but his dream is to come back some day for a World Series championship.
“This is a good team; we have great players,’’ Lopez said. “Their day will come. Soon. And I will be with them, always.”