Josh Bell is a towering figure, every ounce the slugger. Less obvious under the bright lights of baseball is that Josh is a deliberative, thoughtful individual with a thirst for learning and an appetite for knowledge. In less than two seasons with the Washington Nationals, he left an indelible impact on the community.
The Josh Bell Book Club reflects Josh’s ongoing ambition to be his best self and demonstrates his desire to inspire others through books that inspired him.
In 2021, Josh purposefully chose books for the club that offered concepts, mindsets and inspiration for being and becoming better people. He engaged thousands of fans on a monthly journey of self-improvement. The virtual conversations connected him to fans in a uniquely meaningful way as Josh shared highly personal insights and reflected on how the books affected his thought processes and influenced his actions.
Building on the broad book club success, this season Josh redirected his reading program. Listening to his “spirit and the voice inside,” Josh sought to reach young Black boys and girls that had the interest in becoming better but, because of their environment or a past bad choice, were at a crossroads.
Josh collaborated with the DC Capital Guardian Youth Challenge Academy. Its mission is to intervene in and reclaim the lives of at-risk youth (16-18), and produce program graduates with the values, skills, education and self-discipline necessary to succeed as adults.
Josh and two dozen cadets read and discussed The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. He hosted two get-togethers, one at the ChalleNGe Academy to kick off the reading and one at the ballpark at the end of the reading. The outing to Nationals Park included an in-depth book discussion, meeting with black executives at the Nationals, tickets to the game and NatsBucks for each cadet.
Josh Bell’s Book Club – Books. Betterment. Progress is a player-driven program that is unmatched in its genuine openness and vulnerability. It succeeded in 2021 with astounding reach and again in 2022 with astounding depth. Most notably, it succeeded because of its authenticity and because Josh is a human being wanting and willing to learn, and wanting and willing to share that growth journey with others from all walks of life.
Josh became the official player ambassador to the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy when he joined the Nationals organization. In this role, held previously by Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon, Josh served as a liaison between the clubhouse and the Academy as well as a champion for the program in the community. Josh was eager to represent the signature program of Washington Nationals Philanthropies because of the impact youth baseball and academic enrichment had in his early development.
The first opportunity for Josh to meet Academy Scholar Athletes came at the graduation ceremony for the Class of 2021, honoring eighth grade students as they graduated from Academy programs and set their sights on high school. In poignant remarks, Josh encouraged the students to strive toward the best version of themselves by setting goals and celebrating their accomplishments.
On the heels of the pandemic, Josh quickly and eagerly reestablished traditions begun by former Academy player ambassadors. This included regularly engaging with the program, coordinating a special visit to the Academy for players and coaches, hosting Scholar Athletes at Nationals Park, and greeting Academy students and athletes – like the 2022 Jennie Finch Classic champions – on the field. Further, he served as the face of fundraising initiatives that raise critical support for Academy programs.
What resounds in the hearts and minds of our Nationals Academy Scholar Athletes, are the quiet moments with Josh – playing a simple game of catch, tying a loose shoelace and making slime as part of a science experiment.
The true and undeniable measure of his contributions will endure through the authentic, human connection between Josh and the community that inspired so many.
* Note: Josh Bell remains the Nationals' nominee despite being acquired by the Padres on Aug. 2.