Reds pitch in to distribute baseball, softball equipment
On January 26, the Reds Community Fund, St. Elizabeth Healthcare and Pitch In For Baseball & Softball (PIFBS) distributed $45,000 worth of baseball and softball equipment to 19 high school baseball and softball teams and organizations from Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana.
Thursday’s event at Griffin Elite in Erlanger, Ky., marked the seventh consecutive year these three partners have teamed up to help local high schools and teams in the tri-state area. What made this year’s event extra special was a return to a format that hadn’t been seen since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The previous two years featured a drive-through style of equipment drive. Fortunately, this year was a return to normalcy.
“To have it back indoors, you really see the visual here,” said Cary Graham, manager of community relations and sponsorships for St. Elizabeth. “That was missing when we did the drive-through. There are a lot more coaches and players here, much more engagement, and it’s just so much more fun. It’s great to be back and have this program in person.”
Among the Reds' guests in attendance were several participants of the Reds Caravan, which has been touring Reds Country all week. Reds infielder Spencer Steer, third baseman and 2022 first-round Draft pick Cam Collier, second baseman and '19 third-round Draft pick Tyler Callihan and former Reds catcher/current coach Corky Miller all spoke to the crowd and posed for photos with each of the benefiting organizations.
At one point, those Reds players were all in high school chasing their dreams just like the teenagers they met at Griffin Elite, so they know the significance of having the proper equipment.
“It’s so important,” Collier said. “I’m from Chicago where a lot of kids don’t get stuff like this, and if they had it, they would have the chance to make it far. Knowing that these kids can get this equipment and get better with it, it’s a blessing and I’m happy to be here for it.”
“That’s the tricky part about baseball, is you have to have the equipment to play,” Steer added. “I think that puts a lot of kids at a disadvantage. A lot of times you have very talented players in baseball, but because of money, they’re going to other sports where it doesn’t take quite as much equipment. So you’ve got to give these kids an opportunity, and that’s what we’re doing here with giving them the equipment. If baseball is something they want to take on and they’re passionate about, this helps gives them that opportunity to play.”
The Reds Community Fund and St. Elizabeth Healthcare both invest dollars annually in the program to assist amateur baseball and softball in Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana, and PIFBS helps make those dollars go even further with their relationships with top equipment manufacturers. Donated equipment included baseballs, softballs, bats, helmets, gloves, cleats, catcher’s gear, portable practice nets and more.
The 11 Northern Kentucky schools that benefitted from the equipment drive were Augusta, Bellevue, Boone County, Campbell County, Dayton, Dixie Heights, Grant County, Covington Holmes, Ludlow, Newport and Scott. The four Indiana schools included this year were South Ripley, Milan, Switzerland County and Rising Sun. In addition, Ludlow Athletic Club, Bellevue Vets and Grant County Little League received support.
The annual equipment drive is one of many events spearheaded by PIFBS. The nonprofit aims to eliminate equipment as a barrier to playing baseball and softball by providing gear to underprivileged and at-risk kids in schools throughout the country and internationally. They have served tens of thousands of kids to date, and that number continues to climb with events like this.
“This program has grown significantly over the last seven years,” PIFBS director of strategic partnerships Mike Morgan said. “It started by helping around 10 groups, and now we have around 42 groups in the program. We’ve helped donate over $335,000 worth of equipment over these seven years, and we look forward to continuing that partnership in the future.”