By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
04/06/09 1:35 PM ETCINCINNATI -- Among entertainers and celebrities, no one tries harder to plug Cincinnati -- or the Reds -- than native Nick Lachey.
In a departure from the politicians who usually get the assignment, the Reds had Lachey throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day on Monday before his favorite team played the Mets.
"It's probably one of the more honorable things you can do as a Cincinnatian," Lachey said. "I was very honored."
Lachey first gained prominence as a singer locally and then took off nationally with the singing group 98 Degrees. He has since reached higher degrees of fame over the years as both a television star and singer. Currently, he executive produces the reality show "Taking the Stage" on MTV, which is set at Cincinnati's School of Creative and Performing Arts.
On Monday, Lachey's arm was on center stage. Wearing the No. 4 jersey of second baseman Brandon Phillips while on the mound, Lachey delivered a pitch just off the plate to his catcher -- Phillips.
Regardless of what's on his resume or where he is, being a Reds fan is a major part of who Lachey is.
"If you grow up in Cincinnati, it's kind of part of your blood," Lachey said. "I've always been a Reds fan and I always will be. We're certainly hoping for good things this year, and the days when the Reds can carry their own torch are right around the corner. We've got a great immediate future ahead of us."
Monday's frigid weather, with showers and temperatures in the 30s, did not put a damper on the colossal Opening Day tradition that Cincinnati holds as the oldest professional team in baseball.
"We play hockey in this weather, not baseball," joked first baseman Joey Votto, a Canadian.
Reds right fielder and rising star Jay Bruce was experiencing his first Opening Day in the big leagues. Bruce didn't debut in the Majors until last May.
"Being able to be part of this -- Cincinnati is one of the greatest traditions as far as baseball," said Bruce, who was seated next to Votto. "For us to be a part of that tradition now is pretty special."
The nasty weather did not diminish the 90th edition of the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade. Hall of Famer and former Reds star Frank Robinson served as grand marshal for the first time as the parade ran down Race Street in downtown Cincinnati towards Fountain Square. Almost 200 floats were part of the procession.
One of those floats carried Reds pitchers Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto, who were late replacements for Bronson Arroyo while he threw a bullpen session. Robinson also served as the honorary game captain.
Inside the stadium, the entire Big East champion University of Cincinnati Bearcats football team held a giant American flag in the outfield while "Taking the Stage" singer Mia Carruthers sang the national anthem. UC head coach Brian Kelly delivered the game ball to the pitcher's mound.
Before the anthem, the Reds paused for a moment of silence to honor local sports icon and official scorer Glen Sample, who passed away in November. Sample's spot in the scorer's booth was left empty during the tribute and his booth was renamed in his honor.
The last piece of business before Aaron Harang threw the first real pitch of 2009 was to give Phillips his National League Gold Glove Award.
After that, it was time to start the season in a city that usually does Opening Day bigger and better than any town in the league.
"This is the one day when no one cares if you miss school or work," Lachey said. "It is the unofficial holiday of Cincinnati, for sure."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.