Reds icon Davis helps launch RBI World Series

Reds icon Davis helps launch RBI World Series

CINCINNATI -- Eric Davis' 1989 season with the Reds was the textbook definition of a complete season. He hit .281, stole 21 bases, hit 34 homers and drove in 101 runs. He went to the All-Star Game and he won a Gold Glove and a Sliver Slugger Award, finishing in the top 10 for National League MVP.

As significant as those numbers were on the field, they made a bigger influence off of it. Prior to the season, Davis had been approached by John Young, a Major League scout, about a program to help inner city youth get involved in the game. For every home run, stolen base and RBI recorded, Davis agreed to donate money to Young's organization. That organization became what is now Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), an MLB-led initiative to bring baseball back in underserved communities.

"John came up with this idea in 1989 to create, to really eliminate the void in baseball," Davis said. "Once you get to high school, there is no other leagues in order for kids to improve or get better in. So RBI was really created to bridge that gap for that kid that was not good enough to make varsity or the junior varsity team."

Nearly 30 years later, the culmination of Young's work and the generosity of guys like Davis and Darryl Strawberry, who also helped fund the organization in 1989, showed up in the ballroom of the Kingsgate Marriott Conference Center, as close to 100 RBI players in the 13- to 15-year-old junior division gathered for a panel discussion during the RBI World Series weekend in Cincinnati.

Davis was one member of the panel, along with former Expos outfielder Marquis Grissom, Reds chief operating officer Phil Castellini, Reds assistant general manager Nick Krall and former Minor League catcher and Reds scout Marlon Styles Jr.

The roundtable discussion came on the back end of the first day of pool play for the juniors, featuring opening comments and about an hour-long question-and-answer session for the players. Among the questions, players asked for advice on their baseball careers and sought insight -- especially from Davis and Grissom -- about the intricacies of working in baseball.

Youngsters take part in Q&A

But the one thing that kept coming up from all members of the panel was controlling one's image off the field and being careful with social media. Dramatically, Styles quieted the room by holding up his cell phone.

"Here's your No. 1 enemy, guys," Styles went on to say. "Stop putting everything you do in public. This is taking you guys down like never before. You've got to start respecting women, you've got to start respecting your moms. You've got to start doing it. This is my biggest advice. Because teams aren't drafting bad guys anymore. You guys are putting this stuff out there so we can find it."

The panel discussed a wide array of hard-hitting realities -- stressing academic success and the realities of a future career as a player and the future of the game of baseball in African American communities.

But it wasn't all serious, as the kids were still there for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. When asked about fear during their career, Davis said he wasn't afraid of anyone, "but they were scared of me," and he joked when Billy Hamilton's name came up that Hamilton isn't faster than he was. Davis also wanted to drive home the point that they shouldn't let the experience pass them by.

On Saturday, every player in the room will get a chance to play in Great American Ball Park.

"Have fun. Enjoy this tremendous opportunity to be in a Major League stadium, a championship stadium with all the tradition that the Reds' organization has," Davis said. "Just take time to step back and look around you and understand the fact that, 'I'm here,' and not take for granted that you'll ever be back here."

Cody Pace is a reporter for based in Cincinnati. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.