© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
11/26/08 4:00 PM EST
Reds give back through youth baseball
Community Fund supported 284 teams, renovated fields in '08
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- The Reds Community Fund had lots to be thankful for this year. Generosity flowed again this year from all sorts of sources. Fans, businesses and Reds players donated their money and time to make community outreach efforts more successful in 2008. "Our outreach definitely went on all cylinders this year," Reds Community Fund executive director Charley Frank said. "Whatever we generate goes right back into the community."
In 2008, the RCF reported falling just below its fundraising goal of $1.3 million. It made community investments worth $1.7 million in 2008, with much of the money being used to provide children of all backgrounds an opportunity to participate in baseball.
One initiative that really made progress this year was the Match Program, which was designed to bring youth teams from the inner city and suburban areas together. After the program started modestly in past years, this year's matching grew to 14 different communities that played in "home-and-home" series.
The games weren't just inner city kids vs. suburban kids. Teams were blended to make the games friendly. Off the field, parents were encouraged to mingle and get to know each other and everyone got together at the end for a postgame barbeque.
"The growth of our Match Program is one that has resonated more than others this year," Frank said. "We used baseball as a common language to bring kids together and neighborhoods together. It really struck a chord with the people. The testimonials have been amazing."
There were many other advances in local youth baseball this year.
The Reds Rookie Success League, a free co-ed program that promotes character, completed its sixth season and expanded to six franchises with the addition of teams in Butler County and Louisville, Ky.
Revitalizing Baseball in Inner Cities, also known as the RBI Program, will hold its East Regional tournament in Cincinnati in July 2009, in the first year of a three-year commitment. The games will be held at parks throughout the region, with the championship game scheduled to be played at Great American Ball Park.
The Miracle League of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky broke ground on its first area baseball field in September at Dunham Recreation Center in Price Hill. The Miracle League is a national program that offers playing fields that are accessible to all children with disabilities. The new field will be dedicated in April.
Overall, a total of 284 youth baseball teams were supported by the Reds Community Fund.
The Field Renovation Program has the biggest and most expansive program undertaken by the RCF the past three years. This year, 85 more youth fields were renovated at parks throughout the region.
After starting out with 18 fields in 2006, a total of 234 fields have been renovated through the RCF's efforts.
"We're making sure the fields we invest in are being utilized. We partner with the community that uses them," Frank said. "We want to make sure we go back to the fields."
This year's renovations included "jewel projects" like the dedication of Marty Brennaman Field, a $55,000 project at Julifs Park in Anderson Township. Brennaman was recognized for his support of local youth baseball.
"It meant a great deal to Marty and Marty means a great deal to us," Frank said.
Brandon Phillips Field at Clark Montessori School in Winton Place was made possible, in part, because of a $25,000 personal donation by Phillips -- the Reds' 2008 winner of the Roberto Clemente Award for community service.
Ken Griffey Jr. Field at Weaver Park in the West End was dedicated after it was remodeled with new dugouts and signage. Griffey, who was traded during the season, is a long-time generous advocate of charity programs that benefit children.
The Marty Brennaman Golf Classic, held at the Belterra Resort in Indiana, received $251,000 in donations, with all proceeds benefitting the Reds Community Fund. The event has raised more than $650,000 since 2005.
Just around the corner are two winter staples that also promote and fund the Reds Community Fund. Redsfest, to be held at the Duke Energy Center on Dec. 12-13, raised $100,000 last year. Besides a memorabilia store and offering player autographs, money will be earned through a celebrity poker tournament, a celebrity Wiffle Ball home run contest and the sale of VIP experience packages.
From Jan. 22-25, the Reds Winter Caravan will travel through Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia. Players will be making hospital visits with children and dedicated fields will be upgraded through the renovation program. Many of the stops will be at sites where regional camps with Champions Baseball Academy will be held next summer.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.