History, talent in the air at Double Duty ClassicWestminster Christian’s Ryan Perez pitches Wednesday during the Double Duty Classic high school baseball all-star game at U.S. Cellular Field. The showcase is an annual reminder of the Negro Leagues' legacy in baseball. | Keith Hale~Sun-Times
Updated: June 29, 2011 8:37PM
Last Saturday, Ryan Borucki was in the crowd watching the White Sox take on the Washington Nationals at U.S. Cellular Field. Little did he realize that just a few days later, he’d be down on the field playing.
After getting an invitation Monday to pitch in the Double Duty Classic, there Borucki was Wednesday afternoon, battling nerves and some of the top high school talent from around the country in the annual showcase game.
‘‘The first batter, I was shaking while I was going into my windup,’’ said Borucki, a rising senior at Mundelein who has committed to Iowa. ‘‘After that, I loosened up a little bit.’’
The proof was in the numbers: Borucki faced six batters and struck out every one for an East team made up entirely of Chicago-area players. It wasn’t enough to avoid a 4-0 loss to a West team comprised of local players and standouts from Maryland to California.
But this was about more than the game, which was named for late Negro Leagues great Ted ‘‘Double Duty’’ Radcliffe. The day began with a forum during which the players heard from former Negro Leaguers such as Minnie Minoso, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams and academics who talked about the Negro Leagues’ place in history.
‘‘I knew the players, but not all the history behind it,’’ said Borucki, who as a Sox fan was especially familiar with Minoso.
Another player with some previous knowledge of the Negro Leaguers’ legacy was the East’s DeJohn Suber, a rising senior shortstop from Morgan Park. Suber’s high school coach is Ernest Radcliffe, a relative of the game’s namesake.
‘‘He tells stories about how much (Double Duty) worked,’’ Suber said. ‘‘He tells me what I’ve got to do to be like him.’’
On the field, the day belonged to the pitchers, who combined to strike out 26, walk three and allow five hits over nine innings. It didn’t hurt that they were facing hitters using wooden bats.
‘‘That definitely helped,’’ Borucki said. ‘‘With metal (bats), sometimes I’m afraid to throw a fastball in case somebody gets into one.’’
Westminster Christian’s ambidextrous Ryan Perez threw two scoreless innings — one right-handed, hitting 92 mph, and one left-handed, topping out at 89.