CINCINNATI — The Johnny Bench Award is being expanded to include baseball and softball catchers in college and high school and will be relocated to a place of honor at the Reds Hall of Fame & Museum, Bench and the Reds announced Friday.
For 19 years, the award has been presented to the top baseball catcher in NCAA Division I. The Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission created the award in 2000 and dedicated it to the Hall of Famer and Reds legend.
The Bench Award will now go to an annual total of 10 catchers and include the top female college softball catcher along with the top high school baseball and softball catchers from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia.
“It’s already a prestigious award and the only way we could make it better was to bring it to Cincinnati and at the same time honor the best softball women catchers in college,” said Bench. “And now working with the Reds we can also recognize the top high school baseball and softball catchers from across Reds Country.”
The awards committee will help determine the winners with help from local media in each state. The Reds Scouting Department will also provide input for the baseball awards.
The 10 winners will be invited to an awards luncheon June 18 at Great American Ball Park and a baseball and softball catching clinic at the P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy. They will also be honored that evening on the field during pregame ceremonies before the Reds vs. Astros game at 7:10 p.m.
Previous winners include National League MVP Buster Posey of the Giants and established big leaguers such as Kelly Shoppach, Ryan Garko and Kurt Suzuki.