Reds celebrate special PLAY BALL Weekend

June 13th, 2022

The Reds were on the road over the weekend, but baseball and softball were still in full swing throughout Greater Cincinnati.

The Reds and Reds Community Fund joined with Major League Baseball to celebrate the return of PLAY BALL Weekend from Friday through Sunday. The P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy served as the focal point for most of the weekend’s festivities, including for the kickoff event on Friday evening, which featured a Reds ‘home field takeover’ at the USA Softball C-Metro Tournament game between the Cincinnati Diamonds and Cincinnati Sluggers.

Special guests at the takeover included Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval, Reds president & chief operating officer Phil Castellini, Reds Hall of Famer Tom Browning, Cincinnati Police sergeant Tim Fritz, Reds mascots and the Reds Rally Pack. Reds Community Fund executive director Charley Frank emceed the program, first introducing Castellini to address the crowd.

“PLAY BALL is about introducing kids, both girls and boys, to our great games of baseball and softball,” Castellini said. “There’s activities and clinics, baseball and softball camps, and we also have training events for coaches and umpires. But here at the Academy, we’re also producing what we call major league citizens. It’s about taking kids to the next level and to have additional programs here at the Academy besides baseball: tutoring, mentoring, college preparatory sessions. We’ve really had amazing outcomes here.”

Major League Baseball and the United States Conference of Mayors teamed up to launch the PLAY BALL initiative in 2015, seeking to encourage participation in all forms of baseball and softball among all ages, with a special focus on youth. The Reds and Reds Community Fund have prioritized PLAY BALL ever since, but the annual weekend is emblematic of what the organization is working to achieve on a year-round basis.

Before reading a PLAY BALL proclamation officially declaring June 10, 2022, as PLAY BALL day in Cincinnati, Pureval shared his excitement about being able to represent the U.S. Conference of Mayors and its nationwide partnership with MLB.

“Baseball is America’s sport, and because of investments from organizations like the Reds, a whole new generation of kids will have access to our greatest pastime,” Pureval said. “And this park that we’re in right now is a personification of the incredible investment that the Cincinnati Reds have made into our community. We would not be standing here but for the leadership of the Reds.”

Pureval then joined Browning and the pair offered up simultaneous ceremonial first pitches to kick off the on-field portion of the evening.

The C-Metro Tournament continued all weekend long at the Reds Youth Academy and Landen Deerfield Park. There was an additional tournament in Xenia at Evans Acres Sports Complex on Saturday, and the Reds also hosted events Saturday during Knothole League games at Oakley and Lunken Fields. The weekend was supposed to conclude with the Reds hosting a local Pitch, Hit & Run event on Sunday afternoon at the Academy, but the official skills competition of MLB was postponed until June 17 and 19 due to weather.

Even with some games and programs getting rescheduled, it was a fun experience for the over 1,000 kids who participated in PLAY BALL activities across Greater Cincinnati. Each child received Reds tickets, tickets to the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum presented by Dinsmore, a Franklin bat and ball set, and a free MLB.TV subscription.

The weekend also reinforced the Reds' and MLB’s commitment to growing the game, which starts with the new generation.

“This is Major League Baseball’s way to try to get kids and families to think about playing baseball and softball at any level,” Frank said. “It’s so important to get kids and families reconnected with the game.

"What I love about the PLAY BALL message is it doesn’t have to be organized baseball or softball. You can do it at home in any shape or form, and it’s just meant to be fun.”