By Brendan Hader
Former Lockland High School and Reds RBI softball player and current pre-med major at Miami University Diamond Smith is one of two recipients of the Jennie Finch Empowerment Award presented by ARM & HAMMER and Major League Baseball.
This year, the award honors young women who demonstrated powerful characteristics such as leadership, motivation, commitment humility and integrity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to the award, Smith received a $10,000 college scholarship courtesy of ARM & HAMMER.
During the stay-at-home guidelines enacted by local officials, Smith served her community by being a frontline worker, logging 35 hours per week at Walmart. Diamond continued to excel in the classroom at Lockland High School and graduated last spring before continuing her education at Miami.
Smith found out she was in the running for the Finch Award while on a Zoom call with her Reds RBI softball coach Steve Burger and her teammates. Burger informed the group of Smith’s nomination before introducing a surprise guest Jennie Finch (an Olympic Gold Medalist, Collegiate Softball Champion, and MLB Youth Softball Ambassador), who joined the call and announced that Smith had been selected for the award. With her teammates erupting in applause, Smith couldn’t help but hide her excitement as she flashed a big smile.
Finch then asked her about risking her own well-being to serve as an essential worker and help others.
“It was a lot to take in, you have to worry,” Smith said. “But at the same time, there are other people who come in and thank you, and you realize you’re doing something important, even if it’s just bagging groceries or taking groceries to someone’s car. That’s why I want to go into the medical field, to help people. This is what I want to do the rest of my life, so I might as well get used to it.”
A blue-ribbon panel, which included Finch and selected athletes among a pool of candidates, who are active participants of Softball Development programming led by Major League Baseball. Also receiving the award and scholarship was Cheyenne DeGross of Montgomery County, Maryland.
“We are incredibly proud of both Diamond and Cheyenne for their valuable contributions to their community during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kim Ng, MLB’s Senior Vice President of Baseball & Softball Development.
Smith has been a model representative of the P&G MLB Reds Youth Academy and Reds RBI program for many years. She became a regular at the Academy about seven years ago and later joined Reds RBI for four seasons. At the start of her time at the Academy, Smith was already playing for a softball team but wanted to compete at a higher level, so she made the transition to RBI. She was selected to be part of the team that played in the Jennie Finch Classic during MLB All-Star week in Cleveland last year.
When she wasn’t at the Academy or at school, she was most likely working. At the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, Smith was putting in weeks at Walmart that often exceeded 40 hours in order to bring home money to help her family.
“You don’t really see kids nowadays that will rather help their mom pay a bill than go and buy some new sneakers or something like that,” said an emotional Dina Smith, Diamond’s mother. “She’s amazing.”
Smith had the foresight to see the importance of her job and so many others long before people began to recognize essential workers during COVID-19.
“I saw it coming before the pandemic. This is an essential job, like everybody needs this or that, everybody needs garbage workers, and nobody thanks them. You never think about it. You treat everybody like the CEO is what I’ve always grown up with. And that’s thanks to my mother.”