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Prep showcase to highlight region's top baseball talent

Seventy-two teams from three states to play in third annual event

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati's reputation as a "baseball town" extends beyond the confines of Great American Ball Park and to area high schools and sandlots where the likes of Pete Rose, Ken Griffey Jr., and Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin honed their skills. In keeping with that tradition, the Reds announced on Monday their plans for the third annual Skyline Chili Reds Futures High School Showcase presented by Safeco Insurance.

The event has grown this year from 64 to 72 high school baseball teams from Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, and Southeast Indiana, including 13 first-time participants who'll play 36 games from March 29 to April 27.

Speaking at a news conference Monday in the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, Reds chief operating officer Phil Castellini said this year's Reds Futures High School Showcase will carry extra significance since three of the 2014 Reds Hall of Fame inductees are Cincinnati prep products: Griffey, Ron Oester and Dave Parker.

"That's a magical thing, to have three Cincinnati-born players going into the Hall of Fame," Castellini said. "Hopefully, we're growing some future talent for the Major League team through this showcase."

The Reds Futures High School Showcase will make good use of ballfields recently renovated through efforts by the Reds Community Fund. Four games will be played at the new Proctor & Gamble MLB Cincinnati Urban Youth Academy at the Roselawn Sports Complex, the result of a $7 million commitment by the Reds. Several games also will be played at the University of Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky University and Miami University.

All the players and coaches from this year's Showcase will be recognized during pregame ceremonies prior to the Brewers-Reds game on May 4. Ceremonial first pitches will be thrown by select Most Valuable Players from the event.

"People said, 'Why don't you do for baseball what you've done for football'," said Tom Gamble, president and CEO of In-Game Sports, which also manages Cincinnati's annual Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown high school football event. "It only made sense if we got the Reds to buy in. And they have absolutely embraced it."

Around 70 high school baseball coaches and athletic directors attended Monday's announcement.

A regular participant in the Reds Futures High School Showcase is defending Ohio Division I state champion Archbishop Moeller, the top-rated high school baseball team in Ohio according to MaxPreps. Moeller has produced such standouts as Larkin, Griffey Jr. and Buddy Bell.

"This showcase continues the momentum created by football in this city," said Moeller coach Tim Held, who has led the Crusaders to consecutive Division I state titles. "It brings a lot of people out to the game. Our kids get excited to play the event. You can feel a different intensity about it."

Tickets for the Reds Futures High School Showcase games are $5 and good for all games on that day. Each ticket includes a voucher good for a free View Level ticket to select 2014 Reds regular-season games at Great American Ball Park and also includes a coupon for one free Skyline Chili cheese coney.

Advance tickets can be purchased at each of the participating schools beginning in March. Tickets also will be available on game days at each of the ballparks.

Jeff Wallner is a contributor to

Cincinnati Reds