The Reds Community Fund celebrated its sixth annual signing day on Monday, presented by the 529 Plan CollegeAdvantage of Ohio. The event honors high school students from the P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy and the Reviving Baseball in Inner-Cities (RBI) program who have earned the opportunity to continue their baseball and softball careers at the college level.
Inside the Jeff Wyler Family Hall of Fame Theater at Reds Hall of Fame presented by Dinsmore, this year’s ceremony honored two softball and three baseball student-athletes:
Brian Giesenschlag of Bally Sports Ohio hosted the event and was joined by Reds President and COO Phil Castellini, Hall of Famer and Senior Advisor to President/COO Barry Larkin, Vice President and General Manager Nick Krall and Reds Community Fund executive director Charley Frank, among other Reds representatives.
While the five winners are ready to take baseball and softball careers to the next level, 12 other members of the program are graduating from the Academy and heading to college in pursuit of goals off the field. . It’s the perfect example of what the Reds Community Fund and Reds ownership had in mind when the Reds Youth Academy opened in 2014.
“With this program in particular, we’re creating what we call Major League Citizens,” Castellini said. “We have now come full circle in what is expected of the creation of these Major League citizens – it is about moving on to the next stage of life. If the next step is baseball or softball, that’s even better, but at the end of the day, we’re now recognizing and measuring results that go way beyond the game.”
Larkin echoed those sentiments and encouraged the teens to stay positive throughout their journey, even in the face of adversity. Baseball and softball are tough, and balancing the pursuit of success on the field with academic and social responsibilities off the field will come with challenges. But those skills on the court translate well beyond the diamond.
“Perspective is a really important thing,” Larkin said. “We have to understand what we’re trying to do, how we’re trying to get there, and understand that we’re going to fail along the way. But we cannot be discouraged in our failures. I love baseball because for me it provided me with all kinds of life skills that I applied, not as a baseball player, but as someone who had a positive impact on society.
Before the players signed their official letters, Giesenschlag spoke to each of them about their experiences with the Reds RBI and the Reds Youth Academy. One of the recurring themes in each player’s responses revolved around the positive, family-friendly environment that the Academy provides.
“It’s a great support system there because when I left New Jersey, they were the first baseball team to pick me up,” said three-year Academy member Dallas Arthur. and committed to Earlham College. “I started playing there and it was just a really good environment and they were really welcoming when I came to Cincinnati.”
Joe Mendy of Vandalia Butler High School has signed with Wilberforce University. The Reds and Wilberforce announced a partnership in late 2021 as the historically black university brings back its baseball program this fall for the first time in more than 80 years and will be competitively ready when play begins in the spring of 2023.
Roosevelt Barnes, a longtime RBI leader, current La Salle High School baseball head coach and Wilberforce baseball coordinator and alumnus, addressed the honorees and was blessed to see Mendy become the first player to sign with the Wilberforce baseball program for his return.
After Wilberforce reached out to Mendy and did his due diligence, he knew Wilberforce was the perfect fit and he was ready to be a part of the new era of Bulldogs baseball.
“I went there to see what it was like and it was something I wanted to be a part of,” Mendy said. “It’s definitely motivation to work harder and make a name for myself.”
After the guests spoke and the signers enjoyed their big moment, they took photos and participated in interviews with local media. After touring the Reds Hall of Fame, the group sat down for a private meeting with Reds pitcher Justin Dunn, who shared his experiences making the jump from high school to college and promised there would be many opportunities and obstacles to overcome.
Finally, the student-athletes took part in a pre-game ceremony before settling in to watch the Reds shut out the D-backs from the Power Alley Patio. It was a busy day, meant to celebrate high school achievements before the tough transitions on the horizon. But it was an experience the players and their families will never forget, all made possible through their hard work and the Reds’ continued commitment to the future of youth baseball.