Reds Youth Academy unites kids, coaches

April 9th, 2021

Despite the ebb and flow of the past 13 months surrounding the pandemic, the Reds Community Fund has reintroduced some of its popular baseball and softball programming.

Opportunities to get kids back to the P&G MLB Reds Youth Academy have grown in the last couple months, thanks to the Reds taking the necessary precautions to ensure a safe environment.

Two recent events include the return of the Reds’ Fun At Bat and Coaches Education programs.

Reds Fun At Bat, an introductory curriculum developed by USA Baseball, featured 40 kids participating over the course of five weeks from the end of February through late March. The entry-level bat-and-ball program teaches baseball and softball players ages 5–7 fundamentals of the game like hitting, throwing, catching, fielding, running the bases, positions and more. The sessions also place an emphasis on character development, functional movement, active play and -- of course -- fun!

In 2020, the RCF adapted to the COVID-19 restrictions and unveiled a virtual format for Fun At Bat that provided kids the opportunity to enhance their skills from the safety of their home. Participants were encouraged to be active at home and post pictures and videos to social media. All who completed the virtual version received a Reds hat and Fun At Bat certificate.

While the response was positive and helped maintain engagement between local youth and the organization, it wasn’t quite the same. Thankfully, this year’s programming was much more consistent with the years prior to 2020.

“It was so exciting to have the kids back at the Reds Youth Academy for this year’s Reds Fun At Bat program,” RCF outreach coordinator Taylor Kinley said. “It was wonderful having a sense of normalcy for these kids to interact with one another and provide an opportunity for them [and their parents] to escape and let out some energy.

"We know that kids need to move, kids need to play, and ultimately, kids need other kids for their own development. Our team was eager to plan the details to ensure safe socialization while also providing families the opportunity to directly register their child for a local recreational baseball or softball team while in attendance.”

The Coaches Education program also returned, in partnership with teams representing the Joe Morgan Association, which was developed by the Community Fund in 2019. The Joe Morgan organizations feature baseball and softball teams in underserved areas and promote increased participation and enhanced skill development, while honoring the Reds Hall of Fame second baseman. The roster of organizations include the Bellevue Vets, Avondale Angels, Cincinnati Diamonds/Diamondbacks (Bond Hill), Cincinnati Tigers (Evanston), Madisonville Braves, Mt Airy Chargers, North Avondale A’s, Six Men Tigers (Evanston), T.S Bulls (West End) and West End Reds.

Hosted on Tuesdays and Thursdays from late February through late March, these seminars helped the coaches in these organizations develop the skills needed to conduct youth baseball and softball practices. Each evening of activity featured a 30-minute classroom session followed by an hour of hands-on training.

The on-field training took place at the same time each organization’s players were attending skills training. This enabled the coaches to take what they learned in the classroom and apply it directly to the field.

Throughout the five weeks, topics focused on proper fielding techniques and throwing positions, hitting basics, relay/cutoff throws and running a batting practice.

“We’ve been conducting coaches clinics now for the past three years, but this specific program was aimed at getting coaches out of their seats and actively engaging with them on drills and other aspects of coaching,” Reds Youth Academy assistant director Jeremy Hamilton said.

“It was rewarding to see the coaches having fun while doing the drills. If anything, it was a reminder how hard this game really is, and gave them more of a sense of how to approach teaching the game to their players.

"To see how engaged all the coaches were from start to finish was truly remarkable. Seeing this success gives me hope that we will be able to connect more inner-city coaches and build the younger generation of coaches of the future.”