For the second time in just three years, the Reds RBI program sent two teams to the Nike RBI World Series.
The Reds Nike RBI senior baseball team and Reds Nike RBI softball team both punched their tickets by winning their Central Regional Tournament in Chicago, sweeping the competition, 5-0. The senior boys beat the three-time defending Central Regional champions and the 2022 Nike RBI World Series champions, the RBI White Sox. The softball team defeated the RBI Guardians to advance to the World Series for the fifth consecutive season.
Before leaving for the World Series in Vero Beach, Fla., both teams were honored at a special pregame ceremony on July 23 before the Reds played the D-backs. The boys took the field at the World Series the following week, while the ladies played ball the week of Aug. 7.
Although neither team brought home the hardware this year, their season accomplishments demonstrate the continual high level of play taking place at the P&G MLB Reds Youth Academy, where the teams train.
“In the past seven years, we have won five regional tournaments,” Reds senior baseball coach Roosevelt Barnes said. “We had a young group this year and knew this would be a challenge, but overall, we had a great season.”
During the regular season, the boys successfully made it to championship play in all but one of the tournaments they competed in. Barnes credits this success to the offseason commitment that Reds Nike RBI players are expected to adhere to.
“The young men were committed to the fall programing that involve skill development combined with strength and conditioning,” Barnes said. “Many of the players are already anxious for next season and the opportunity for a repeat at regionals. The work will start with a good fall program.”
Softball coach Pat Spurlock echoed these sentiments.
“Our expectations are a little higher, our program builds to the Reds' overall goal of building Major League citizens,” he said. “We want to keep growing to compete at the level of worlds, focus on our pitching and work hard.”
This year’s senior baseball team may have been young, but it was made up of many talented players who helped spur a return to the World Series. Infielder/outfielder Avery Battle had a strong showing in regionals. The Roger Bacon Spartan honor student was recently invited to attend MLB’s Breakthrough Series Invitational, a high-profile showcase that has produced many MLB Draft selections, including Reds 2022 first-round pick Cam Collier. Battle received his first collegiate offer letter at the beginning of his junior year from Wilberforce University, an HBCU with a college baseball program brought back after 80 years thanks to a partnership with the Reds Community Fund.
In addition, second baseman Cameron Rosel performed at a high level. The Madison County High School graduate signed his letter of intent in June as a part of the Reds Community Fund’s annual Signing Day. The five-year Academy member will play baseball at Kentucky Christian Academy.
On the softball side, catcher Karley Clark produced a standout effort to help her squad sweep regionals. It’s been a big year for Clark. While attending the MLB Elite Development Invitational, she became the first of just four softball athletes nationally to receive the prestigious Jennie Finch Empowerment Award, which exemplifies great individual qualities, both on and off the field, of a young female who is a scholar, humanitarian and an athlete. Clark, who is entering her senior year at Fairfield High School, helped that team win districts this past season and participated in the MLB Breakthrough Series in 2021.
Other key contributors at regionals and throughout the season for the softball team included senior Avery Roever, another participant in June’s RCF Signing Day. The Seton High School graduate was named the 2023 Academy Member of the Year and will continue her softball career at Defiance College. Catcher Isabella Wittrock, a 2023 Bellevue High School graduate, received the RBI for RBI Scholarship from MLB.
Throughout this RBI season, including just before leaving for the World Series, the teams had a special visitor come to the Academy with some accolades of his own: Reds first baseman Joey Votto.
Votto has long been a regular at the Academy and supporter of Reds Nike RBI. This year was no different, as the six-time All-Star made multiple visits to help coach the young players, bring new ideas and provide encouragement.
“Votto really reiterates what the staff and coaches teach throughout the year. The young players are always honored to have him around. He brings a unique perspective whenever he comes. It meant so much to the kids and coaches,” Barnes said.