Sox Pride

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Last night we celebrated what has become a favorite tradition around our organization – college signing day for our Amateur City Elite (ACE) youth baseball team.

It is one of my favorite days of the year. Talk about organization pride!

Thirteen young athletes in our ACE program saw their hard work pay off as they signed that dotted line, and it was just as exciting for the parents who get to see their child not only commit to a baseball team, but to a college education.  Kids signed with a range of colleges and universities, including Northern Illinois, Michigan and baseball powerhouse Arizona.

ACE signing night.

As Jerry Reinsdorf has often said to me, “The baseball scholarships are great, but what really matters is the education.”

For those unfamiliar with our ACE program, it’s a White Sox initiative to offer rising stars in the inner-city baseball community the opportunity to play baseball against other highly competitive groups on a traveling team.  Baseball has become an expensive sport for youngsters.  The days of playing for your local Little League team have been largely replaced by travel teams who play other elite talent at tournaments across the country.  This requires the financial means to play on these travel teams, with most professional scouts and college recruiters spending their valuable time at these suburban tournaments and showcases.  The resource-challenged kids who often live in the inner city lose out.  That’s where our ACE program steps in by funding competitive travel teams – coached by top-flight instructors and decked out in Sox uniforms – comes in.  But it’s not just about teaching baseball and developing baseball players.  Ultimately, it’s about developing character in young men on and off the field while allotting chances to be seen by scouts and recruiters.

White Sox pitcher Hector Santiago was nice enough to fly in to congratulate the guys and general manager Rick Hahn addressed the group and their families, giving them advice along with his best wishes.

Rick reminded them of their coach’s team motto, “TNDO,” or “Take No Days Off,” which the players couldn’t help but chuckle at a little, as it’s a phrase Coach Kevin Coe has probably said more often than they care to remember.

But Rick told them to take that attitude with them in everything they do moving forward, in the classroom, in the weight room and on the field – take no days off.

“No matter how hard you work on the field,” the ACE kids were told, “Work twice as hard in the classroom.”

Including last night’s 2014 class, 85 ACE players have now been awarded scholarships through the program, while 11 have been selected in the MLB draft.  Just as important, 99% of ACE participants have graduated from high school.

As the players introduced themselves to the audience, each had their own personal message, but the same theme – the White Sox ACE program had changed their life.   It is hard to envision a program with a more rewarding result than that.

ACE signing night.

The night ended with Troy White, a former ACE player who played at Northern Illinois, addressing the group in private.  White was part of the first ACE team and is a perfect example of utilizing his skills to obtain a college education and from that, more opportunities.

Now he works as a sales intern for the White Sox and certainly followed the TNDO motto and implored his ACE successors to do the same – something they’ll never stop hearing.

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Latest Ratings

Baseball Prospectus, a website (baseballprospectus.com) devoted to the analysis of baseball and various metrics, released its White Sox Top 10 Prospects list earlier this week, with RHP Erick Johnson ranked No. 1 (he was fourth last year).

Johnson is followed by SS Tim Anderson, OF Courtney Hawkins, RHP Chris Beck, RHP Tyler Danish, SS Marcus Semien, 2B Carlos Sanchez, 2B Micah Johnson, CR Trayce Thompson and RHP Francellis Montas.

Anderson, the club’s first-round pick from the June First-Year Player Draft, Danish (second round pick) and Montas (acquired from Boston as part of the three-team Jake Peavy trade) all made the list after joining the Sox organization during the season.  Not on the list was recently signed Jose Abreu (for obvious reasons), while OF Micker Zapata and OF Jacob May were listed as prospects on the rise.

BP adds a few interesting comments …

“… their farm system is in much better shape than it was at this point one year ago,” BP writes, “and there is some talent at the big-league level that could be part of the next winning club on the South Side.”

“All told, the White Sox appear to be headed in the right direction as they try to get back on a winning track.”

And as a parting thought from BP …

“I’ve been highly critical of the White Sox in the past – both in terms of prospects and process – but I really like their 2013 drat and the international pursuits, and the system looks much better today than it did at this time last season.”

While it is a subscription-based website, I would definitely recommend baseballprospectus.com to any fan interested in sophisticated statistical analysis of baseball.

Hahn on Hot Stove

Rick Hahn got the chance to call into MLB Network’s Hot Stove this morning to talk about ACE signing day, the offseason strategy and Hawk’s Frick Award candidacy.

If you missed it, the video can be watched here: http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=31232467

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