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Reds great Joe Morgan remembered as driving force behind Reds Urban Youth Academy

Joe Morgan, driving force of Big Red Machine, dies at 77
Posted at 5:29 PM, Oct 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-28 17:29:08-04

CINCINNATI — Roosevelt Barnes calls it a country club.

“You come here and you never want to leave,” he said.

Barnes is one of many who have found a second home at the Reds Urban Youth Academy. For the past 10 years, he has worked as the head coach of the senior boys baseball team.

The facility lost its architect in spirit, Joe Morgan, on Oct. 11; the next day, indoor activity at the Roselawn facility resumed for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“It was an odd sense of symmetry,” said Charley Frank, director of the Reds Community Fund. “To be honest, it helped our staff deal with the immediate sense of grief that we had. Totally emboldened us -- our mission and why we're here and how we got here."

Morgan meant so much to the youth academy: The street it's built on is named “Joe Morgan Way.”

“I don’t think any of this is possible without Joe’s input,” Barnes said. “His spirit of giving and wanting to keep the game alive in the inner cities is just remarkable. I'm encouraged every day to do all that we can that his vision comes to pass.”

Barnes' son RJ, a Sycamore graduate, is the first member from the academy drafted by a major league club. The hometown Reds picked the Morehouse senior in 2017.

“I feel like being at that academy was probably one of the best things that could ever happen to me,” RJ Barnes said.

Morgan may be gone, but his work lives on. More homes need to be built. It's the Joe Morgan way.

“You walk into a facility like this and your eyes are gonna get wide and you’re going to want to dream,” Frank said. We’re inspired beyond words to keep (Joe’s) legacy alive.”