EDINBURGH, Ind. -- A special part of Reds Caravan in recent years has been the chance for schools to enter a contest to win a "caravan takeover" and have members of the team make a stop and visit the students.East Side Elementary School, which is located 90 minutes west of
EDINBURGH, Ind. -- A special part of Reds Caravan in recent years has been the chance for schools to enter a contest to win a "caravan takeover" and have members of the team make a stop and visit the students.
East Side Elementary School, which is located 90 minutes west of Cincinnati in rural Edinburgh, Ind., was selected by the Reds and received its visit Thursday afternoon from the west leg of Reds Caravan. The 430 smiles of excitement on the kids' faces easily made the stopover worth it for the group.
"I like to be around kids and their energy. They give me happy things," Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez told MLB.com. "It's great to say hello to everybody, and they want you to sign everything. That's good and I'm honored to be a part of it."
Suarez definitely saw energy. Before the start of the program, Reds broadcaster Jim Day egged on the noise by checking the attendance of each grade -- from pre-K to fifth -- and telling them to get loud.
The kids delivered.
"I love the enthusiasm! Thanks so much for having us," Day told the students.
When Suarez, pitcher Tanner Roark, broadcaster Jeff Brantley, president of baseball operations Dick Williams, catching prospect Tyler Stephenson and mascot Rosie Red entered the school gymnasium, there were countless screams.
"It's awesome," Roark said. "I've never done anything like this, reach out to smaller communities. You come here and to the school, and we were at a radio station before. It's awesome to meet people who are so passionate about baseball. They're big fans.
"The kids are up and coming. Who knows what they can be? You try to show a little light into their eyes and get them excited. You see them having fun and there is nothing better."
During the time in the gym, kids were selected to ask some questions of the group.
"What is it like to step on a Major League Baseball field?" one child asked.
"What is your favorite city to play in other than Cincinnati?" asked another.
Suarez went with San Diego. Roark likes San Francisco.
"Not a lot of home runs get hit there," replied Roark, one of the club's new starting pitchers.
Before the caravan group entered the gym, they had a special session in a nearby classroom with about 30 students who were selected by teachers for showing good character, behavior and work throughout the school year.
Day taught an important lesson on pronunciation by getting them to say Suarez's first name correctly.
"Can you say 'Ay-you-hay-nee-oh?'" asked Day.
"Ay-you-hay-nee-oh," replied the kids in unison.
"That's a good job," Suarez said.
During a brief autograph session, one little girl came up and hugged Suarez, who was more than happy to oblige.
As part of the team's community outreach, the Reds asked schools to submit why they want to have a caravan stop for their students. Based on the submissions and the route schedule, the club picks a couple of schools for each of the four caravan legs to visit while on the road.
A lifelong Reds fan, principal Andrew Scholl couldn't pass up a chance to enter East Side Elementary.
"When I saw this opportunity to have a contest to have them take over, I thought it would be great for our kids," Scholl said. "We do have a high poverty rate, so a lot of these kids never get to see a Major League Baseball player or get to go to a Major League game. Them being able to come here is an incredible opportunity for our students."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.