CINCINNATI, OH - For the past 19 years, the Johnny Bench Award has been presented to college baseball’s top NCAA Division I catcher. The Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission created the award in 2000 and dedicated it to the Hall of Famer and Cincinnati Reds legend.
Today the Reds and Johnny Bench, along with the Reds Community Fund, announced that the award will be expanded in 2019 and permanently relocated to the Reds Hall of Fame & Museum at Great American Ball Park.
The Bench Award will now honor a total of ten 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:
• Top male NCAA baseball catcher
• Top female NCAA softball catcher
• Top baseball and softball catchers from Ohio high schools
• Top baseball and softball catchers from Kentucky high schools
• Top baseball and softball catchers from Indiana high schools
• Top baseball and softball catchers from West Virginia high schools
“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 support from local media in each state. The Reds Scouting Department will also provide input for the baseball categories.
All ten winners will be invited to Cincinnati on June 18 for an awards luncheon at Great American Ball Park and a baseball and softball catching clinic at the P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy.
The ten winners will also be honored that evening on the field during pregame ceremonies before the Reds vs. Houston Astros game at 7:10 p.m.
Previous winners include National League MVP and World Series champion Buster Posey of the Giants and established big leaguers such as Kelly Shoppach, Ryan Garko and Kurt Suzuki.