Disabato: No losers in Double Duty Classic
Pat Disabato email@example.com | (708) 802-8837 June 27, 2012 8:48PM
Jerry Houston, of Mount Carmel, takes part Wednesday in the Double Duty Classic Baseball All-Star game at U.S. Cellular Field. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times Media
“Don’t get discouraged if scouts overlook you because of your size or a lack of strength. The one thing they can’t scout is heart.”
Frank Thomas, former White Sox slugger, addressing players Wednesday at the Double Duty Classic at U.S. Cellular Field
Updated: July 29, 2012 5:05PM
The outcome of Wednesday’s Fifth Annual Double Duty Classic High School Baseball Game at U.S. Cellular Field was irrelevant.
That’s not what drives the Classic.
Rather, it’s impetus is to recreate the old Negro League East-West All-Star Game, which was played at Comiskey Park from 1933 to 1960, right down to the baggy uniforms, and to educate youth on such great Negro Leaguers as Satchel Paige, Buck O’Neill and Smokey Joe Williams, among others.
“I really didn’t know much (about the Negro Leagues) until last year,” Mount Carmel senior Jerry Houston said. “To be able to talk to the old guys about what went on. One thing I’ve learned it’s that to play in this is an honor.”
Before I go any further, I must commend the White Sox organization. It continues to pioneer the revitalization of inner city baseball in Chicago through the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) and ACE (Amateur City Elite) youth baseball programs. Not only do the programs motivate kids in and out of the classroom and offer elite coaching and game competition, they provide exposure to college recruiters and professional scouts.
The Sox rolled out the red carpet Wednesday to players and their families, producing a pregame meal of prime rib, turkey and pasta, along with access to the Cell free of charge, among other amenities. The park was set up as if the Sox were playing, right down to the JumboTron and scoreboard. I’m pretty sure it’s a money-losing proposition for the organization. Money isn’t everything, however — unless you’re an organization that resides in Wrigleyville.
“To be able to play in this is an honor,” Rich Central infielder Matt Cole said. “It’s amazing to play in this ballpark. I’m lucky enough to be one of the players to play here.”
In all, 42 players, including 14 from the Southland, participated in the Double Duty Classic, named after famed Negro League star Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe, who commonly would catch the first game of a doubleheader and pitch in the second game.
“Playing in this game taught me a lot about the Negro League,” Cole said. “Those great players paved the way for us.”
A one-hour forum, featuring Frank Thomas, University of Iowa coach Jack Dahm and Texas Southern University coach Michael Robertson, preceded the game.
Generally, teenagers begin to wander off after a certain point, let’s say 10 minutes. But these young men remained attentive throughout.
Thomas, dressed in blue jeans, a black polo and showcasing a silver watch nearly big enough to hang on a living room wall, talked about the importance of hard work, believing in yourself and recognizing those who blazed the trail before you.
He also talked about overcoming his own disappointment.
The Georgia native and likely future Baseball Hall of Famer recalled how he won two state titles in baseball in high school, but even though he hit. 500 he wasn’t good enough to get drafted.
“It was depressing not to get drafted out of high school,” said Thomas, who went to Auburn on a football scholarship. “But I walked on to the baseball team at Auburn and I was an All-American my freshman year. I worked hard and believed in my abilities.”
Thomas then talked about an intangible that can’t be measured by a scout’s stopwatch or radar gun.
“Don’t get discouraged if scouts overlook you because of your size or a lack of strength,” he said. “The one thing they can’t scout is heart.”
Dahm talked about distractions that can prevent one from reaching goals, such as an active social calendar.
“Staying on top of your school work will help you avoid distractions,” he said.
Robertson explained what he looks for in a player, beyond the obvious skills.
“A strong desire, a love for this game is a big plus,” he said.
For the record, the East All-Stars, led by a perfect inning of relief by Rich Central’s Jalen Purchase and a two-run double by Reavis’ Richie Velez, won the game 6-2.
The reality is, there were no losers.