Ex-Reds coming: Annual Legends Camp scheduled for next week

The annual Cincinnati Reds Legends Camp will celebrate a milestone next week when area youth will be instructed by some of the biggest names in Reds history for the 20th consecutive season.

Among those scheduled to headline this year’s event include former Reds greats Eric Davis, Brett Boone, Don Gullett, Todd Benzinger, Herm Winningham, and Leo “Chico” Cardenas.

“This a very special event for not only myself but my family as well,” said camp Director and Reds Legend Camp founder Mike Wagner. “We have had a great 20-year run, and we are very proud of what we have been able to accomplish.”

Mid-Ohio Valley youth have had the opportunity through the years to learn the game of baseball from the best of the best in the storied history of the Reds including past visits from legends such as Pete Rose, Sparky Anderson and last year’s special guest Tony Perez.

The 2013 version of the camp will feature Davis and Boone, two of the most complete Cincy players to don a Reds uniform over the past quarter century.

Davis began his 17-year major league career with the Reds in 1984 and immediately became recognized as one of baseballs finest all-around players.

The three-time gold glove winner and two-time all-star compiled a career batting average of .269 with 282 career home runs to go along with 349 career stolen bases.

Davis, who currently serves as a minor league instructor in the Reds organization, was a member of the Reds 1990 world championship team and Wagner feels his expertise both offensively and defensively will be beneficial to this year’s campers.

“He may have been the best all-around player to play for the Reds over the last 25 years or so,” said Wagner of Davis, whose 1987 season of 37 home runs, 100 runs batted in and 50 stolen bases ranks as one of the best seasons in the history of the Reds. “He is working now with the Reds minor leaguers so he brings a lot to the table and can really help our kids improve their games.”

Boone played five seasons for the Big Red Machine from 1994-1998 and played some of the best defensive second base that Reds fans had seen since the days of Joe Morgan.

Boone, who won four gold glove awards in his 13-year major league career, was no slouch at the plate either as he owns a .266 lifetime batting average with 252 home runs and 1,021 RBIs.

After leaving the Reds after the 1998 season, Boone went on to have some of the best seasons of his career with the Seattle Mariners, including a 2001 season that saw him slug 37 home runs and knock in an American League high 141 runs.

“Boone was an all-star caliber player and a fine defensive player for the Reds in some lean years,” said Wagner of Boone, whose grandfather Ray, father Bob, and brother Aaron all had successful big league careers in their own right. “He brings expertise as a middle infielder and it will be great for the kids to learn from a real pro.”

Gullett is a favorite at Reds camp as the southpaw has made numerous appearances to the camp throughout the years.

“I think Don Gullett is the best pitching coach on the planet,” said Wagner of Gullett, who posted a 109-50 big league record with the Reds and the New York Yankees in the seventies before his career was ended prematurely due to a shoulder injury. “He was not only a great pitcher, he was a great pitching coach for the Reds for 12 years. He really knows his stuff.”

Benzinger and Winningham, who both joined Davis on the 1990 championship team, are regulars at camp as is the popular Cardenas, who will be making his 17th visit.

“He has been here year after year and has really been instrumental in the success of the camp,” said Wagner of Cardenas, a five-time all- star in his own right.

The camp typically draws as many as 200 youngsters each year and Wagner hopes to continue the camp for another 20 seasons.

“We have made a lot of dreams come true for thousands of Reds fans over the past twenty years,” said Wagner, noting that over 4,000 kids from at least 16 different states have polished their baseball skills at the camp.

“It takes a lot of hard work each year, but we have had a lot of support from our coaches that volunteer each year and also the local business’ that donate to the camp to make this possible.”

This year’s camp will open on Wednesday and continue through Friday.