White Sox creating success stories through City Elite program

Story Image CHICAGO- NOVEMBER 10: The Chicago White Sox host a signing day ceremony with five members of the White Sox ACE Team officially signing their letters of intent to play baseball at the Division I collegiate level. All five players will receive athletic aid at the universities of their choice, with White Sox general manager Ken Williams will be on-hand to congratulate the young athletes.

Updated: May 9, 2012 10:09AM



You don’t have to go far from U.S. Cellular Field to find some baseball players who might be on the White Sox’s radar someday.

But those athletes might not ­enjoy the same advantages as some of their suburban counterparts. To fix that, the Sox launched the Amateur City Elite program five years ago, and the effort is paying off in a big way.

Five high school seniors who play for ACE signed Division I letters of intent last fall: Marian Catholic’s Devin Pickett and Simeon’s Blake Hickman, both with Iowa; Walther Lutheran teammates Shaquille Cockrell and Chris Stevens, both with Alcorn State; and Simeon’s Shane Brown with Oakland (Mich.). Also, Simeon junior Corey Ray has committed to Louisville.

They are the latest success stories for ACE, which was the brainchild of Sox national scouting cross checker Nathan Durst and now is run by Sox director of youth baseball initiatives Dan Puente.

From one team and 20 players, the program has grown to five teams and about 100 players aged 13 to 18. While Durst and Puente had to sell their athletes to colleges before, now the situation has flipped.

“We’re at the point now, we have coaches coming to us,” Puente said.

And they’ll be coming to ACE at its soon-to-open facility at 119th and Morgan streets in the West Pullman neighborhood. Financed in part with grants from White Sox Charities, Bulls Charities and the Ray and Joan Kroc Foundation, the complex ­includes a lighted field with artificial turf and an indoor training facility that “puts the East Bank Club to shame,” according to Puente.

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