Marian Catholic’s Lavezz Middleton, five others sign letters of intent at U.S. Cellular Field

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The Middleton name is synonymous with elite basketball at Marian Catholic as Cedrick Middleton and Rod Middleton earned Division I scholarships.

Lavezz Middleton, their counsin, chose another path.

Baseball is his passion, shaped in large measure by his experience with the White Sox Amateur City Elite (ACE) youth program.

“When I was in eighth grade, I didn’t have a travel team to play for, and I knew they were the best team to play for,” Middleton said.

“They had a tryout at a nearby facility, I made it and I’ve been with them ever since.”

The senior Marian Catholic outfielder and Bucknell-recruit credited the summer travel schedule and daily rigorous off-season workout program for developing his skills and elevating his profile.

Middleton was one of six local high school players with roots in the ACE program who formally signed his college letter of intent at a ceremony in the presence of White Sox executive Vice President Kenny Williams at an auditorium inside U.S. Cellular Field Tuesday night.

“I’m sure many of [the six players] just a few short years ago could not visualize this, so it’s an honor for the White Sox to be part of the growth process,” Williams said.

Hope Academy’s Jackson Edwards (Judson), two Simeon players, Jalin McMillan (Illinois) and Jamary McKinney (Chicago State), Harlan’s

Torriun Towers (Clafin) and Mount Carmel’s Nelson Munoz (Grambling), also took part in the ceremony.

The ACE program was founded in 2007, and was the brainchild of White Sox area scout Nathan Durst.

“I was looking at a national magazine that rated high school prospects and it listed a Public League player I’d seen play as number 100,” Durst said.

“I knew he was much better than that, but he didn’t have the [national] exposure.”

Durst presented the idea of a community-based, youth group program targeting inner-city players encompassing an age range of 12-18 to Williams, who in turn presented the idea to White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

Williams said 85 alumni of the program have received aid to play in college.

Fourteen have been drafted, like former Simeon stars Darius Day (Texas) and Ronell Coleman, selected in the 40th round by the White Sox and currently starring at Vanderbilt.

Nine players from the celebrated Jackie Robinson West Little League World Series team are currently affiliated with ACE.

McMillan, who played for JRW, is a standout infielder for Simeon. He gave up playing basketball to concentrate on baseball. His older brother, Jabari Brown, preceded him in the ACE program and is playing at Clafin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

“Seeing my brother go to college and telling me about his experiences gave me a lot of excitement, and I wanted to share that with him,” he said.

Williams said the experience evoked memories of his own college signing.

The success has only broadened the initiative and expanded its reach, he said.

“It is already a fulfilling experience if you are just thinking about the numbers,” he said.

“Our only hope is that it expands beyond the city limits and gives other kids around the country an opportunity as well.”

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