The Cincinnati Reds’ Youth Academy, founded in 2014 through the Major League and the Reds’ Community Fund, held its sixth signing day celebration at the Hall of Fame and Museum at Great American Ball Park on Monday afternoon .

Of the 11 athletes in the Cincinnati Reds Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities (RBI) Class of 2022, five will continue their baseball and softball careers at the college level. They are:

  • Dallas Arthur, West Lakota High School
  • Cason Bennett, Vandalia Butler High School
  • Andralyn Brown, Princeton High School
  • Alena Campbell, Mount Notre Dame High School
  • Joseph Mendy, Vandalia Butler High School

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Arthur, a pitcher who has just completed his second year with the academy, will attend Earlham College with teammate and pitcher/infielder Bennett, who spent three years with the academy. The couple are thrilled to spend four more years together wearing the same uniform.

Arthur moved to Cincinnati from New Jersey. He said this program was the first to take him over once he adapted to the region and was a key support system in a time of major change because right away the environment was warm and welcoming.

“Knowing how to use baseball as a catalyst to propel yourself through life (was the biggest lesson I learned),” Arthur said. “It’s not always about stepping up to the next level or being on top. Sometimes it’s just about using the opportunities you have to do what you can.”

Bennett ended up at the academy thanks to teammate Butler. He plays a two-way position, occasionally switching between midfielder and pitcher, and recalled when they were in Nashville, Tennessee, for a five-day competition. He said he got to the point where he was pitching every day and his coach told him, “Come on, be yourself, show yourself and be yourself.”

“This program means a lot to me,” Bennett said. “To become, to drive that hour from Dayton, it’s worth it. I have another family here … with (head coach (Roosevelt) Barnes and (the other coaches). I know I have a place to be, (a place) to have a good time, work and enjoy baseball.”

Brown, another pitcher, will head to Kentucky State University in the fall after spending four years with the program. She said the program has given her a family among her teammates and she loves them dearly because they’ve been there for everything – even Worlds in Florida, just to watch movies in their hotel room.

Campbell, yet another pitcher, will attend Genova College after two years in the program. She ended up at RBI for the same reason Bennett did: a friend.

“She didn’t want to go to tryouts alone, and then I ended up staying. After the first year, they asked me to come back and I agreed,” she said. “(I might come back) next year to coach (with RBI), but right now I’m coaching pitchers and helping kids in the Cincinnati area.”

Finally, Mendy, who spent three years at the academy as an infielder/outfielder, will be part of Wilberforce University’s first baseball team this fall. After 80 years, in partnership with the Reds, Wilberforce will set up a collegiate program and Mendy is the first recruit.

Hall of Fame inductee and former Reds infielder Barry Larkin offered words of encouragement to the five signing students during the closing ceremony:

“We’re going to fail. It’s going to be tough. When you go to college, it’s going to be tough. You’re going to have challenges. … Stay connected, communicate and keep your point of view. … If you go through ( all the hard times), you’re going to develop and create those skills that you can apply (later in life).”

Other members of the Reds RBI Class of 2022 who are going to college, though not playing ball, are Grady Harris Jr., Finneytown, undecided; Robert Walters, Walnut Hills High School, Texas Christian University; Parker Geshan, Talawanda, University of Miami; Liam Melley, Walnut Hills, University of Southern California; Brennan Seiter, Catholic from Newport Central, undecided; Jonathan Young, Western Hills, Wilberforce.

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