COMMENTARY| When the MLB Network decided to showcase its "Face of MLB" contest before the start of the 2013 season, undoubtedly the marketing braintrust of the big show cringed as they watched Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto crush the likes of Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen and Derek Jeter on route to his fan-vote crowning moment as the official Face of Major League Baseball. The triumph was so monumental for MLB and its television marketing arm that there was no need to actually show its official face on TV after the announcement when the network with all of its resources at its behest could do the next best thing and just phone it in.
Faces of the Reds Franchise
Despite the "Face of MLB" designation, most in the baseball world would at least recognize Votto as the face of the Reds' franchise. His All-Star consistency and $225-million contract extension inked in 2012 would most certainly make him the most vital player on the team, if not the most recognizable.
Teammate Brandon Phillips, who like Votto has been voted by fans to start in the 2013 All-Star game, may be the more recognizable of the duo among baseball fans for his Twitter presence and seemingly endless parade of fielding highlights that has elevated him as the most exciting infielder to watch since Ozzie Smith.
The three-hole and cleanup hitter presence of Votto and Phillips in the Reds' lineup make them the Canadian Bacon and Honey-Baked Ham of the meat of the Reds' batting order, and together, if there were a Reds' coin minted right now with a face on the front and a face on the back, those faces would belong to Votto and Phillips.
But in Reds Country, neither is the face of the franchise. That distinction belongs to one man and one man only.
Since Castellini gained principal ownership of the Reds in 2006, the team has become revitalized at a level befitting Cincinnati as the cradle of professional baseball and home of the Big Red Machine legacy. Reds Country has watched Castellini undertake the team's overhaul in the face of lopsided payroll odds and a losing culture to grab his bull by the horns and lead the Reds into the arena of perennial contender. The about-face pulled off by the real face of the Reds' franchise is starting to gain more recognition nationally, as featured in a New York Times essay last week (July 6) by Craig Fehrman.
Castellini may have amassed a fortune through his devices as a perishable food distributor, but he is hardly a stranger to the baseball world. Castellini's first minority stake in the Reds was sold in 1984, but he eventually worked his way through the baseball world to become a partner in the Texas Rangers in 1989, then a partner in the Baltimore Orioles in 1993 and finally an investor in the St. Louis Cardinals before working his way back to his Cincinnati home to become the majority owner of the Reds.
Since his rather inconspicuous return to the Reds, Castellini has made all the right moves, fortifying the team foundation with established baseball people and solidifying the organization from top to bottom to the point where the past is now so intertwined with the present of the team that the history of the franchise is a palpable, living thing once again that will infuse another generation of fans in Reds Country with the legacy of the Cincinnati Reds.
Castellini won't likely have a rendition of his face featured in LEGO bricks like the Sean Kenney rendered visage of Votto that is currently displayed at the Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville, Kentucky and he won't have a collage of spectacular highlights splattered all over YouTube like Phillips, but if the fascinating Giuseppe Arcimboldo were alive today and commissioned to paint the face of the Reds' franchise, undoubtedly all of the pieces of Reds history and all of the faces of players past and present would be fused together to form the portrait of the true face of the Reds franchise: Robert Castellini.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the 2012 Reds season here.
- Sports & Recreation
- Cincinnati Reds
- Joey Votto
- Robert Castellini