CINCINNATI -- For 14 local high school and softball players, Wednesday marked the end of one journey and the beginning of a new one.At the Reds' inaugural "Signing Day" news conference inside Great American Ball Park, the 14 athletes -- all of which were from the P&G Cincinnati Urban Youth
CINCINNATI -- For 14 local high school and softball players, Wednesday marked the end of one journey and the beginning of a new one.
At the Reds' inaugural "Signing Day" news conference inside Great American Ball Park, the 14 athletes -- all of which were from the P&G Cincinnati Urban Youth Academy -- signed their letters of intent to play at the collegiate level.
"The Urban Uouth Academy represents the heart and soul of what Reds baseball is," said longtime Reds broadcaster George Grande. "The RBI program, as represented here, gives you an idea of where the heart of Reds baseball is. It's in the community."
The P&G Cincinnati Urban Youth Academy was the sixth facility to join the MLB's Urban Youth Academy program, back in the fall of 2009, and is a part of the league's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program. All Major League teams have supported RBI programs, and RBI annually provides 260,000 boys and girls the opportunity to play baseball at the high school level.
"It's just taught me a lot ..." Olivia Berger, a member of the academy who will attend Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, said of the program. "They gave me so much and I felt like I had to provide back. And if it wasn't for them, I would never be here right now signing."
Among the speakers at the news conference were Reds general manager Dick Williams and chief operating officer Phil Castellini. Both had high praise for what the athletes had accomplished.
"One of these girls might wind up on a World Series college team or an Olympic team," Castellini said. "One of these gentlemen might indeed play in the Major Leagues, and hopefully for the Cincinnati Reds. That story would be amazing. But this story we're telling today is already amazing."
The athletes also heard from Reds reliever Michael Lorenzen, one of the team's most active players in the community. He used his time at the podium to offer advice on ways to keep their journey alive as they move on to the next level.
"It's going to be hard. It's going to take a lot of dedication," he said. "But my firm belief is you're going to get out of it what you put into it. So the more you put into it, the more dedicated you are, you're going to be all right."
Jeremy Vernon is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati.