Christy Criswell is a third-grade teacher at St. Ignatius School in Cincinnati, and their first day of school was the day after Labor Day. She was invited as part of a group of 10 fans from nearby Harrison, Ohio, to finish that first day back with a Reds night game against Philadelphia.
Any educator will tell you that is a long, long day. But watch episode 13 of "Bucks on the Pond," the MLB.com game show that came to Great American Ball Park for the first time, and you might say it was worth it.
Criswell and husband Ryan, along with friends and soon-to-be-newlyweds John Enneking and Brittney Walker, were part of the group that watched the runaway National League Central leaders become the most recent team to beat the Phillies. The group had "amazing" seats: Section 145, front row, "Moon Deck" section in front of the smokestacks.
"It was a lot of fun being on 'Bucks on the Pond,'" Christy said in an email Wednesday. "We came with a group of 11 but there was a little mixup with my husband Ryan's ticket, so the four of us walked into the game a little late. Even though we missed the first inning or two, playing 'Bucks' was well worth it. The experience was awesome and completely unexpected. Ryan and John are obsessed with useless trivia so this game was perfect for them. We are all huge Reds fans so getting to watch a Reds victory and win some cash was just an added bonus."
"Bucks on the Pond" is hosted by Jeremy Brisiel, and you might be a part of it when you least expect it. Fans at the ballpark interact with MLB.com's studio through the magic of technology in conjunction with game action inside. In creating a new experience for fans, MLB.com is giving people a chance to earn bucks while they spend bucks at the ballpark.
During the day, Christy was filling young students' brains with information. That night, she was answering trivia questions and saying to the other three contestants: "Some of these are just too easy!" Ryan called his wife "smart" but actually had to "shush" her for fear of overconfidence.
Contestants are asked a trivia question -- general knowledge and baseball -- on each pitch during a half-inning of baseball. Get the question correct and win money. Get the question wrong and it's a strike. Three strikes and you're out. That is exactly what had happened to a pair of fans at Fenway Park in the previous episode.
The questions' difficulty and value increase with the number of outs in the on-field action: $5 easy questions to start, $10 medium-difficulty questions after one out, $20 hard questions after two outs. If the contestant lasts longer than the team's at-bat, they win the bucks in their bank. As you can see in the video, not much goes wrong at Great American Ball Park these days.
"As exhausting as the first day of school is, I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to go watch the Reds play that evening," said Christy, whose husband works for the University of Cincinnati in the Project Services Department. "John and Brittney are really close friends of ours. We all grew up in Harrison and still live there today."
The four attended high school together, and John and Ryan once worked together at a construction company. The Reds are part of the ties that bind.
"I am a diehard Reds fan and recently purchased playoff and World Series tickets," said Enneking, who will marry Walker on Sept. 29 at his family farm in Blue Jay, Ohio. "I have sat in every corner of the stadium, Diamond Seats to bleachers, and the moon deck is the best place to see a game in my opinion."
Fans are chosen randomly whenever the "Bucks" crew is at that ballpark. Enneking said it was their good fortune that some before them declined to participate. Watch the show to hear an impression by his buddy, whom he calls "Waldo," and you might say it was "magically delicious."
"They definitely weren't happy when they found out how well we did and how much money we won," Enneking said of the others. "It has been an awesome year for the Reds, and it gets more and more exciting as the magic number continues to dwindle. I can't wait for the playoffs."
Then he added on his email: "And PS we all can't stand the Cardinals."
Brisiel said of this foursome: "The students of Ohio are in very capable hands. Harrison, Ohio, may now be the trivia capital of the whole Midwest."
In addition to the Reds, teams visited so far include the Cubs, White Sox, Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Royals, Astros and Marlins. Bookmark MLB.com/bucks and be on the lookout for the "Bucks" crew at your ballpark.