- Mark Schmetzer Contributing Writer
Aaron Fossas hasn’t been in the Cincinnati Reds organization long, but he’s been around enough to know that Dayton is one of the better stops along the way.
Fossas felt obliged to pay back the hospitality he enjoyed while spending 2017 with the Dragons, and he did enough of it to receive the franchises’s Minor League Service Award on stage Friday night at the Reds’ annual two-day RedsFest event.
“I’m honored,” he said when told by a reporter that he’d be receiving the award. “I’m surprised. It’s an honor to be here. The Dragons do such a great job that Dayton feels like home, and I try to use that as a platform for community service.”
Fossas, a 25-year-old right-handed pitcher from Wellesley, Massachusetts, wasn’t the only Dragon honored. Center fielder Jose Siri was named the Reds Minor League Hitter of the Year after hitting .293 with 24 home runs, 46 stolen bases and a 39-game hitting streak.
Two former Dragons also received awards. Right-hander Tyler Mahle, who was 13-8 with a 2.43 earned-run average win 27 games, including 26 starts, with Dayton in 2015, was named the Minor League Pitcher of the Year, while third baseman Nick Senzel, who hit .329 with seven home runs and 36 RBIs in 58 games with Dayton in 2016, won the Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award as the Minor League Player of the Year.
Reds first baseman Joey Votto won the Ernie Lombardi Award as the Reds’ Most Valuable Player. Right-hander Raisel Iglesias received the Johnny Vander Meer Award as the Most Outstanding Pitcher, while third baseman Eugenio Suarez won the Joe Nuxhall Good Guy Award for media cooperation.
The major-league awards are voted on by members of the Cincinnati chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Fossas finished 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA in 66 2/3 innings over 44 games with Dayton in 2017, his first full professional season after signing as an undrafted free agent in June 2016. His success on the field was enhanced by his experience off the field, he said.
“We had a lot of community interaction,” he said. “Hospital visits, trying to cheer up kids who are in unfortunate situations. We had clinics. I grew up looking up to guys, and now I’m just trying to pay it forward.
“From what I hear, it pretty much doesn’t get any better than Dayton. Talking to other guys who’ve been around, you hear how great it is. The support is fantastic, and the fans get to know you.”
The 22-year-old Siri’s performance prompted the Reds to add him to their 40-man major league roster in November.
“His offense clicked,” said Jeff Graupe, the Reds’ senior director of player development. “He certainly answered the bell. We thought it might be a challenge for him early in the year, but once it warmed up, so did he. His power-speed combination was impressive.”
The Reds had to resist the urge to promote Siri during the season, Graupe said.
“That’s just a factor in the decisions we’re going to have to make moving forward, but we ultimately decided that the winning environment, the competitive nature of a playoff hunt, was the most important thing to his long-term development,” Graupe said. “Next year will be more of an individual focus.”
RedsFest resumed Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., followed by the annual Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament. All RedsFest proceeds benefit the Reds Community Fund.
Hunter Greene, the team’s 2017 No. 1 draft pick and the second overall selection, is among the players on hand signing autographs and posing with fans for photos. He had one of the earliest autograph sessions, and his queue was full before he arrived.
“I thought, ‘All those people are here to get my autograph?’ ” said Greene, a California native. “That was cool. It’s been a lot of fun. The turnout is awesome.”
Dick Williams, the Reds president of baseball operations and general manager, believes fans interacting with a player such as Greene — who appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated last spring as a high school senior — can work two ways.
“I think this is a great experience for the younger players to learn how to interact with the fans and see the interest and passion they have for the Reds,” Williams said. “I’m glad that the fans have someone like Hunter to get excited about. It’s fun for the fans to see someone they can relate to.”