Reds signing day event honors, brings joy to student-athletes

May 29th, 2024

The Reds Community Fund honored local student-athletes with a signing day event in the Jeff Wyler Family Hall of Fame Theater at the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum presented by Dinsmore on Tuesday.

Host and Bally Sports Ohio broadcaster Brian Giesenschlag introduced nine seniors from the P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy and the Reds Nike RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner-Cities) program who are furthering their academic and athletic careers.

The student-athletes are:

Shelby Allen (West Clermont High School) – Capital University
Avery Battle (Roger Bacon High School) – Wilmington College
Hayley Cook (Mercy McAuley High School) – Franciscan University of Steubenville
Jordan Davidson (Lawrenceburg High School) – Wilberforce University
Daelyn Jarman (Princeton High School) – Muskingum University
Lanise Pates (Princeton High School) – Livingstone College
Mary Sales (Norwood High School) – Hocking College
Connor Seiter (Newport Central Catholic High School) – Wilberforce University
Lonell Williams (Princeton High School) – Muskingum University

Tuesday’s event marked the eighth signing day ceremony hosted by the Reds Community Fund. The yearly tradition has earned a special place in the hearts of Reds staff and supporters.

“This is one of my favorite days,” Reds President and Chief Operating Officer Phil Castellini said. “When we launched the Academy, these programs, some of them were already going on, but it gave us a home base that (the signees) have appreciated in the last seven or eight years, to grow and develop as people and we’re wildly excited about them going on to explore the next level of playing the game. But we’re most excited about the opportunities college is going to open up for them in general.”

Reds pitcher Emilio Pagán shared stories from when he first started playing at the collegiate level. He wanted the signees to understand that their path doesn’t have to be linear. Pagán spoke with the group about how he pursued his degree despite changing schools and majors.

Hall of Famer Barry Larkin echoed Pagán’s sentiments during his speech. Larkin originally thought he’d play football at Michigan, but ultimately focused on baseball. The lifelong Red also shared the importance of cherishing the relationships the student-athletes have built with their friends and family while playing sports. He found that the hardest part of attending college was leaving his loved ones behind and learning to stand on his own.

“Those people were your safety net. Now, they’re going to take a step back, and allow you to be the young men and the young women that you are. They’re going to allow you to figure out how you're going to get through your life,” Larkin said.

Both Lanise Pates and Avery Battle mentioned how much the Reds Nike RBI program and Reds Youth mattered to their development both on and off the field. Although the student-athletes come from different backgrounds, they’re able to come together to celebrate the sports they love.

Battle joined the Reds Nike RBI program in 2016 to further explore his love of baseball. Last season, he was a member of the senior baseball team that competed at the MLB RBI Regionals and World Series. He also previously participated in the Commissioner’s Cup.

Battle plans to study business or a sport-related major with hopes of becoming an MLB player someday. He also wants to break a batting record or two at Wilmington.

“I hope to be successful because I believe I can be. I want to do something big for the world,” Battle said.

Battle recognized his abilities through the Reds Nike RBI program, which encourages academic achievement and the pursuit of continued education in all aspects of life. One of the primary outreach programs of the Reds Community Fund, the outreach efforts connect children ages 4 to 18 years old with baseball and softball while fostering personal development.

Pates, an eight-year veteran of Reds Nike RBI, originally intended to study engineering at Livingstone but switched her major to sports management after attending a National Girls and Women’s Day seminar at the academy earlier this year. That wasn’t the only programming that had an impact on Pates, though.

“We had a mental health seminar, and it was a two-day seminar,” Pates said. “It helped because there's a lot of people, a lot of athletes, who die from mental health. The seminar helped with coping mechanisms you might have, and it opened my eyes to other things you can do instead of just going through by yourself.”

During a Q&A session with Giesenschlag, many of the seniors shared how the Reds Nike RBI program helped them grow on and off the field. They were grateful to the program and the Reds Academy.

It was a bittersweet moment as the seniors stood together for the last time, all wearing different hats for their respective schools. Although they were sad that their time with Reds Nike RBI was coming to an end, their hearts were filled with memories of playing at the RBI World Series, practicing with Reds players and hanging out with their teammates.

The seniors were able to spend a little more time together Tuesday night at the Reds game against the Cardinals. They were honored during pregame ceremonies and watched the game in a private group area with their families.