Ten young baseball players from the Joe Morgan Association enjoyed a special day at Great American Ball Park when the Players Alliance “Gear For Good” tour rolled through Cincinnati.
The Players Alliance represents a group of 150 current and former Black professional baseball players who are dedicated to their mission of seeing more diversity in baseball and creating opportunities both on and off the field. The nonprofit is in the middle of a 30-city tour, hitting all Major League ballparks along the way, and Wednesday’s stop was the Queen City.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled of the work we did today with the Reds, bringing out this group from the Joe Morgan Association to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Players Alliance representative Jules Johnson said. “It’s just a small thing we can do to inspire this next generation of young kids not only playing our sport, but also kids engaging as fans who will hopefully become professionals someday and use baseball to create unique opportunities in their lives.”
The Joe Morgan Association was formed by the Reds Community Fund two years ago as a way to invest more time and resources for roughly a dozen key urban baseball and softball organizations. The Joe Morgan teams comprise the 12-and-under “Jr. RBI” age group, and they receive additional funding, opportunities and access to the Reds Youth Academy.
This particular group of aspiring big leaguers from the Joe Morgan Association was granted early access to Great American Ball Park and participated in a Q&A with Reds pitchers Amir Garrett and Mychal Givens and infielder Mike Moustakas. The pros discussed some of their personal struggles on the field, and what they have done and continue trying to do to overcome them. They also emphasized the importance of education, a strong work ethic, determination, maintaining a positive attitude and never giving up.
“Those are all skills these kids need to learn, especially when often times the deck is stacked against them,” Johnson said. “We want to be a small glimmer of hope and an opportunity on their journey, inspiring them and showing them what’s possible from a group of guys that look like them and come from communities like theirs. And to have an ally like Mike Moustakas, who’s not a Black player but is so dedicated to the cause and understands the importance of giving back to these communities, is so important.”
Baseball, especially at the youth level, can be an expensive sport to play. Many children from underserved and impoverished communities do not have the means to play and get priced out of the opportunity to learn and experience the game. So after the Q&A portion, the kids received a personalized baseball backpack equipped with bats, gloves and other necessary gear to play the game they love. One of the Players Alliance’s fundamental ideas is that if a child wants to play baseball, he or she should have the opportunity to play baseball. Money shouldn’t be the determining factor.
Equipped with their new gear, the kids in the group toured the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum before capping an unforgettable day by watching the Reds take on the Cubs.
With so many other children in need of assistance, like those from the Joe Morgan Association, the Players Alliance hopes to raise awareness for their cause and inspire others to get involved.
“We just look for support,” Johnson said. “We look for people to go out, support our kids and support our neighborhoods in our communities in need. Time, resources or anything you’re willing to give to our cause and the general cause at large -- which is creating opportunities for kids -- is what’s most important for us.”
For more information, visit theplayersalliance.com.