In exciting news out of the P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy, eight Reds RBI players from the high school class of 2021 committed to play collegiate baseball. Four of those eight players plan to attend historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU).
This is a testament to the hard work and perseverance shown on and off the field by these young student-athletes, who have all faced their share of adversity over the past few years. These tangible results continue to tell the story of the headway the Reds RBI program is making in the Black community. Youth baseball is further proving to be a gateway to tremendous opportunities for young people in the area.
“We have made considerable progress over the last few years,” Reds 17/18U RBI coach Roosevelt Barnes said. “Sending our kids to Georgia every year for the HBCU Baseball Showcase has paid big dividends for the Academy's efforts to extend their amateur baseball careers and moreover an opportunity at a four-year college education.”
One of the eight RBI members, Quinton Hall, is going to play at the Division I level when he becomes a member of the Eastern Kentucky University Colonels.
“Q came to us at the end of his 15U season,” Barnes said. “Since then, he has been a leader, a good teammate and an excellent student with very high academic honors. Quinton is a competitor on the field and very fun to watch. I am very excited for his future.”
- Harrison Barnes (Sycamore High School) -- Tuskegee University*
- Kameron Boggs (Clark Montessori) -- Clark State College
- Javen Curtis (Walnut Hills High School) -- Clark Atlanta University*
- Nijel Davis (Moeller High School) -- Morehouse College*
- Ryan Dawson (La Salle High School) -- Denison University
- Elijah Ferguson (Mount Auburn Preparatory Academy) -- Clark Atlanta University *
- Trevor Fisher (Talawanda High School) -- University of Northwestern Ohio
- Tarrus Garrett (Kings High School) -- Wittenberg University
- Quinton Hall (Vandalia Butler High School) -- Eastern Kentucky University
For all of these student-athletes, playing baseball at the next level is a dream realized. Nijel Davis, a seven-year RBI player, will be attending Morehouse College in Atlanta. This HBCU’s prestigious reputation was a big part of what attracted Davis. He credits Reds RBI for helping to make this dream a reality.
“I realized that playing college baseball was a possibility when I started playing for Coach Roosevelt’s 17/18U Reds RBI team as a 16-year-old,” he said. “When I was on this team, I played against some of the best talent in the Midwest and performed at a high level showing that I was a future prospect. This was definitely a dream that I have always had, especially with my dad being a collegiate athlete. I knew that being a collegiate athlete would help pay for my education, so it was always a goal to get to the next level.”
It's always a great achievement for a student-athlete to earn an athletic scholarship at the collegiate level. But considering what so many of these kids went through and had to overcome in the past 12 months, it’s especially impressive.
“This group of young men has worked hard and were patient throughout the COVID-19 shutdown,” Barnes said. “They are teammates and brothers as well. They found ways to stay in shape and get their work in during the shutdown. I am extremely proud of them.”
For Davis, the past year-plus was unlike anything he had ever faced.
“I suffered a major concussion and ankle injury in an accident, which caused me to miss about a month of school and raised the question of whether I was going to be able to graduate on time” he said. “Eventually I recovered and caught up months later, but then a global pandemic occurred. I was robbed of many high school experiences and the opportunity to have a season.
“The social part actually took a toll on me more than the academic part. Academically I was fine; it was just the not being allowed to come in contact with others. Once summer arrived, we were allowed to practice with one another and thankfully have a delayed season. With junior year being taken away, I was scared it could end my dream of playing collegiately. I’m grateful that things ended up working out the way they did or who knows what my future would look like right now.”
Davis’ powerful story is just one example of what he, his teammates and so many other kids around the country have experienced. He is forever grateful to the Reds Youth Academy and RBI program for the avenues and opportunities they have opened for young men and women like himself.
“I have nothing but good things to say about the RBI Reds,” he said. “They were my first ever summer team. I couldn’t afford to play anywhere else at a higher level, so I’m beyond grateful that RBI existed. They gave me a big league experience while at a young age and did nothing but help me improve my game.
“The coaches there not only helped me with my game, but they also gave me valuable life lessons that I will never forget. I also made bonds with my teammates that I won’t ever forget. You can walk in the dugout the first day and not know a soul, but by the end of the summer you are brothers for life. And even when it seems like there’s nothing else they can possibly do for you, they continue to offer you scholarship opportunities, internships, and many other ways to get involved in the community.”
As for the Academy and RBI program, the work in assisting aspiring ballplayers in the Greater Cincinnati area on and off the field continues to pick up steam.
“I look forward to continued progress in our efforts to bring baseball back to our urban core,” Barnes said. “The Academy has allowed kids opportunities beyond getting on the field. We have had kids obtain paid internships in the [MLB] Commissioner's office in New York and have also provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to assist our athletes in obtaining a college education. Our leadership is committed to being an example of what organized youth sports should look like. I wholeheartedly believe this is one of the best places to be in the region for organized amateur baseball and softball.”