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Reds celebrate youth baseball in Play Ball game

MLB.com

CINCINNATI -- The Reds' inaugural Play Ball game with plastic bats may not have been a game that counted in any standings, but that didn't stop it from erupting into faux controversy on the first play.

One of the eight Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) youth invited to play in the game, which took place before the Reds' game with the Nationals on Friday night, hit a chopper down the third-base line, and it came to rest on the brown turf representing the line at the Reds' Fan Zone Field at Great American Ball Park. It was ultimately called fair by acting umpire Charley Frank, the executive director of the Reds Community Fund, much to the dismay of manager Phillip Castellini, the Reds' chief operating officer.

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CINCINNATI -- The Reds' inaugural Play Ball game with plastic bats may not have been a game that counted in any standings, but that didn't stop it from erupting into faux controversy on the first play.

One of the eight Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) youth invited to play in the game, which took place before the Reds' game with the Nationals on Friday night, hit a chopper down the third-base line, and it came to rest on the brown turf representing the line at the Reds' Fan Zone Field at Great American Ball Park. It was ultimately called fair by acting umpire Charley Frank, the executive director of the Reds Community Fund, much to the dismay of manager Phillip Castellini, the Reds' chief operating officer.

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"It took all of one pitch to realize this game was going to be a little more competitive than we may have been led to believe," said Frank, who began the game with split umpire-game caller duties. "We had to sort of give up the microphone to take on the umpiring responsibilities full time, which was a thankless job."

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By the third inning, Castellini's team jokingly said they were playing the game under protest. There were bat flips, there were elaborate home run celebrations, and there was even a consistent shift by the other manager, Reds general manager Dick Williams.

Williams' team ultimately won the game, 9-7, although Castellini's team put the tying run on base in the bottom of the sixth. But that wasn't the point of the game -- it was about having fun and teaching kids the right way to play the game.

The Play Ball initiative is a weekend-long series of events set forth by Commissioner Rob Manfred to help get youth involved in the sport. Friday's game was actually a makeup of a May 20 rainout.

"There was a lot of talent out here," Castellini said. "When you play with kids or adults that are better at any level in any sports, when you play with people better than you, you learn from them, you want to learn from them and you want somebody to tell you if there's a different or better way to do it."

One of the prime examples of a teaching moment in the game was when two of the RBI players bumped into each other trying to catch a popup. Immediately, Castellini encouraged his players to talk to each other to make sure that didn't happen again.

For the Reds, the event was viewed as a huge success, prompting Frank and others in charge of the event to wonder why they hadn't done it sooner.

"The message is that people can be playing any form of baseball and softball; it doesn't have to be nine-on-nine," Frank said.

Already expecting to do the event again next year, Castellini knows he'll have to step it up, and that Williams won't let him forget Friday's game.

"Oh yeah [he'll rub it in]," Castellini said, "'til this time next year."

Cody Pace is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Reds