CINCINNATI—The public school system in Cincinnati has endured a bit of a slump since producing major leaguers like Pete Rose, Jimmy Wynn and Dave Parker. A new partnership between the city and Major League Baseball may go a long way toward reviving the tradition.
MLB will contribute $1.5 million toward the construction of the Reds Urban Youth Academy, a state-of-the-art facility that will provide year-round baseball instruction and educational opportunities for kids ages 6 to 18. The $5.5 million project is scheduled to be completed in 2015 and will be modeled after the four other academies already in use.
The announcement of the project preceded commissioner Bud Selig naming Cincinnati as the host of the 2015 All-Star Game during a press conference that featured several former and current Reds stars and front-office officials. And while the news of the mid-summer classic coming to Great American Ball Park may have stolen the headlines, the Urban Youth Academy has the promise of making a long-lasting impact on the city.
"Playing baseball is part of growing up in Cincinnati. Our ownership group has local ties," Reds chief operating officer Phil Castellini said. "It was logical that our group would try to do this."
The first Urban Youth Academy opened in Compton in 2006 and was followed by similar facilities in Houston, Puerto Rico and most recently New Orleans. Other projects are in the works in Hialeah, Fla., and Philadelphia. Selig has long praised these academies for both helping to revive interest in the sport in urban areas as well as providing a path for players to play at the collegiate and professional levels. Over 350 graduates have gone on to play college baseball or softball, according to MLB. About 200, have been selected in the draft, including 2012 first overall pick Carlos Correa out of Puerto Rico.
"I'm proud to be here," Selig said. "As the commissioner of baseball, I put a high priority that youngsters of all walks of life would have an opportunity not only to play baseball and softball, but to achieve success in their academic pursuits.
"We are honored to make this commitment to Cincinnati."
The academy will be located at Roselawn Park in northern Cincinnati and will be operated as part of the Reds Community Fund. It is scheduled to open in the spring of 2014 with four outdoor fields and a two-story observation tower. A 33,000-square-foot indoor training center is expected to open in 2015.
"Baseball is a social institution," Selig said, "with enormous responsibilities. When Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in April 15, 1947, it was baseball's proudest and most important moment.
"We're proud to have this academy as part of Jackie's enduring legacy."
MLB executive vice president of baseball development Frank Robinson oversees the Urban Academies program since taking over for Jimmie Lee Solomon, who was dismissed last June after 21 years as an executive with Major League Baseball.
"This is a proud moment," Robinson said. "I am glad the commissioner has allowed me to undertake this job. I enjoy working with young people. This is an unbelievable project that the Reds are undertaking . . . This is something for people to be proud of. This will give underprivileged young people an opportunity to learns skills and play baseball the right way.
"If they have ability to make it to the major leagues, great. But they'll also have a chance to take advantage of academic opportunities. To me, that's very, very important."
• Quad Cities River Bandits (Midwest) general manager Stefanie Brown announced in January that she has stepped down from her post in order to deal with family responsibilities that will require a significant amount of her time. The team said that Brown will remain with the River Bandits in a substantial but undetermined role. Brown was entering her second year as GM and sixth with Quad Cities.
• Geoff Brown, the only general manager in the Lakewood BlueClaws' 12-year history, is leaving the team to take a job as senior associate athletic director for Rutgers. Under Brown's guidance, the BlueClaws have led the South Atlantic League in attendance in every season since they debuted as a Phillies affiliate in 2001. The BlueClaws have begun their search for a replacement.
"It's a great staff in Lakewood and with or without me it'll be a great season at the ballpark," Brown told the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press.