By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
In a scene that would have made Satchel Paige, Minnie Minoso and Jackie Robinson proud, 20 minority baseball players signed letters of intent at Guaranteed Rate Field Tuesday night, to play in college. The players are part of the Chicago White Sox Amateur City Elite program, now in its 10th year. ACE’s purpose is to support players in Chicago who lack the financial means or family support to receive quality baseball instruction.
College and professional baseball scouting has become focused on travel teams, with college recruiters and scouts visiting suburban weekend tournaments. For players who come from low-income areas, participation on a travel team is a financial obstacle many inner-city kids are unable to navigate on their own.
“A lot of our inner-city kids and people around the area have been given the opportunity to showcase themselves and have a shot at really getting seen by a lot of colleges,” said White Sox Hitting Coach Todd Severson. “Without the ACE program, this would be talent never known about, which is why it is so important.”
The 2018 class of ACE players had 20 players eligible for college scholarships. The fact that all 20 received offers is an important step for the program, said its co-founder Nathan Durst. He said many kids may receive offers after the National Signing Date. This year marks the first time in the program’s history that everyone has a scholarship on the first day.
One of those who signed on Tuesday night was Jamarion Loston, a senior shortstop at Morgan Park High School. In 2015 Loston wrote that baseball was his only way out of the “hood.” He was overcome with emotion as he spoke to the media. “I got in this program when I was 12 years old. I want to thank everybody in this room for putting me in the position I am today. Without you guys, it wouldn’t even be possible,” said Loston, who is headed to Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, IA.
People within the White Sox organization for years have realized that baseball is literally a matter of life or death for some participants. They have had players who told them they only leave their homes for baseball and school because their neighborhoods are too dangerous.
“The reality for many Chicago kids is there isn’t much to keep the pulse of violence out of their lives, but for some, baseball and the White Sox ACE program can serve not only as a relief from that horrific reality, but also help them succeed in life,” according to White Sox Charities.
Two of the program’s marquee players are Jordon Rogers, a catcher from Simeon Career Academy and outfielder Kyle Salley from Home- wood-Flossmoor High School. They will play at Michigan and Duke respectively, two of the best Division I programs in the country.
To date, 168 players in the program have received scholarships since 2007. In addition, 21 ACE alumni have been drafted by Major League Baseball.
Class of 2018 White Sox ACE commitments:
Samson Barboza, Olivet Nazarene Univ.
Robert Bluntson, Paine College
Jeremiah Canada, Westmont College
Christian Carr, Harper College
De’Shawnte Carraway, Harper College
Joshua Coe, Wisconsin Lutheran College
Julian Everett, Lewis University
Maurey Garrett, Heartland Community College
Jaylen Heard, Heartland Community College
Jamarion Loston, Indian Hills Community College
Jeff Massey, Univ. of Minnesota
Diego Munoz, Western Illinois Univ.
Myles Norman, Indian Hills Community College
Daniel Rodriguez, Harper College
Jordon Rogers, Univ. of Michigan
Tylon Ross, Purdue University
Kyle Salley, Duke University
Brandon Simon, Univ. of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
Alex Thomas, Texas Christian Univ.
Mark Williams, Lindenwood Univ.