A little more than a week ago, the Cincinnati Reds RBI program brought back its first World Series trophy as the Reds RBI Senior baseball team defeated the top-seeded RBI Austin (Texas) team in the championship game in Vero Beach, Fla. In a back-and-forth contest on Aug. 7, the Reds RBI team broke open a close game with four runs in the top of the seventh and final inning, led by a two-out, bases-clearing double by RBI World Series MVP Tarrus Garrett. They held on to clinch its first title, thanks to a complete game pitched by Parker Geshan in the 10-5 win.
“Being at the MLB RBI World Series is an amazing experience,” said Garrett. “Getting to compete with guys from all around the country, having fun and getting the chance to play ball with my brothers, just bonding doing what we love. I wouldn’t want to do it with another group of guys.”
The Reds RBI team won the Central Regional, which advanced it to the baseball week of the RBI World Series for the first time since 2017. After going 2-1-1 in pool play, it won two elimination games on Aug. 6 -- a shutout of the Dodgers RBI Seniors and a thrilling extra-inning win against the Marlins RBI Seniors in the semifinals.
Head coach Roosevelt Barnes has had the honor of leading this team since many of his players were in middle school, along with an experienced coaching staff, which includes his wife, Kellie Boyd Barnes. The coaches have made an immeasurable impact on the young men both on and off the field, with the goal of getting them not just to college, but with several planning to attend Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU) schools.
“Those boys fought so hard, and when they came back, it was as if I started replaying some of the players and some of their at-bats even when they were 12 years old,” said Barnes of watching his team scrap its way to the title game. “To just look at them at third base and give the signs to them now, these guys have become men and getting ready to start their collegiate career, it’s like it all hit me at once. These guys are like extended family to me.”
Reds RBI coach and coordinator Clarence Gordon added, “This year was a culmination of everything we have been working toward as a staff in the positions we placed our boys in for successful outcomes. The travel, intense scheduling, training sessions, mental prep and love shared throughout this summer has been an amazing experience and something to remember. I am thankful and blessed to be able to contribute to this organization.”
Another person who has been influential to the RBI Program -- particularly during this special year -- is Reds first baseman Joey Votto. He made many trips to the P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy this spring and summer to help the RBI baseball and softball teams with their development. Votto also delivered a special message to the Reds RBI team before its championship game to urge it to represent Reds Country on the big stage.
“That was the last thing we watched when we got off the bus coming from the hotel to the field,” said Barnes of Votto’s message. “I reminded the guys about so much that has been invested in them. Votto is incredible man, we can’t thank him enough. That week when we came back from regionals, the time he spent with those young men and women was just so genuine and heartfelt. I think it really propelled some of these guys to really push and keep fighting, I really believe that.”
Less than 24 hours after their victory, the Reds RBI team was honored at Great American Ball Park on a Sunday afternoon before the Reds vs. Pirates game. Not surprisingly, Votto wanted to be a part of that celebration and caught a ceremonial first pitch from Barnes. He also had the opportunity to greet many of the team members in attendance and congratulate them on their historic victory.
The celebration on Sunday was fitting timing, as Aug. 8 -- 8/8 -- was “Joe Morgan Day,” honoring the legendary Reds second baseman who passed away last October. In addition to his impact as an iconic player and MVP on the great Big Red Machine squads, Morgan was known for his community efforts, particularly related to creating opportunities for kids in inner-city and underserved communities to play baseball and softball. The creation of the Reds Youth Academy that serves the Reds RBI program and thousands of other kids would not have been possible without Morgan’s efforts. In fact, each of the Reds RBI teams wore Morgan’s number "8" on their uniforms throughout the year to honor the impact he had on the program. In many ways, the Reds RBI championship was yet another title in the legacy of Morgan as well.
It should be noted that the Reds RBI Softball team also made history this season with a Central Regional three-peat. Following a 2020 postponement due to the pandemic and featuring a considerably younger squad, the young ladies won all five games in Indianapolis and earned a trip to their third consecutive RBI World Series, which took place Aug. 8-13 in Vero Beach. The team won its first elimination game before falling to Atlanta RBI in the semifinals on Aug. 12. It marked the first time that Reds RBI had sent two teams to the World Series and the first championship in program history.