The Middleton name is synonymous with elite basketball at MarianCatholic as Cedrick Middleton and Rod Middleton earned Division Ischolarships.
Lavezz Middleton, their counsin, chose another path.
Baseball ishis passion, shaped in large measure by his experience with the WhiteSox Amateur City Elite (ACE) youth program.
“When I was in eighthgrade, I didn’t have a travel team to play for, and I knew they werethe best team to play for,” Middleton said.
“They had a tryout at a nearby facility, I made it and I’ve been withthem ever since.”
The senior Marian Catholic outfielder and Bucknell-recruit creditedthe summer travel schedule and daily rigorous off-season workoutprogram for developing his skills and elevating his profile.
Middleton was one of six local high school players with roots in theACE program who formally signed his college letter of intent at aceremony in the presence of White Sox executive Vice President KennyWilliams at an auditorium inside U.S. Cellular Field Tuesday night.
“I’m sure many of [the six players] just a few short years ago couldnot visualize this, so it’s an honor for the White Sox to be part ofthe growth process,” Williams said.
Hope Academy’s Jackson Edwards (Judson), two Simeon players, JalinMcMillan (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 WhiteSox area scout Nathan Durst.
“I was looking at a national magazinethat rated high school prospects and it listed a Public League playerI’d seen play as number 100,” Durst said.
“I knew he was much betterthan that, but he didn’t have the [national] exposure.”
Durst presented the idea of a community-based, youth group programtargeting inner-city players encompassing an age range of 12-18to Williams, who in turn presented the idea to White Soxchairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
Williams said 85 alumni of the program have received aid to play incollege.
Fourteen have been drafted, like former Simeon stars DariusDay (Texas) and Ronell Coleman, selected in the 40th round by theWhite Sox and currently starring at Vanderbilt.
Nine players from the celebrated Jackie Robinson West Little LeagueWorld Series team are currently affiliated with ACE.
McMillan, whoplayed for JRW, is a standout infielder for Simeon. He gave up playingbasketball to concentrate on baseball. His older brother, JabariBrown, preceded him in the ACE program and is playing at ClafinUniversity in Orangeburg, South Carolina.
“Seeing my brother go tocollege and telling me about his experiences gave me a lot ofexcitement, and I wanted to share that with him,” he said.
Williams said the experience evoked memories of his own collegesigning.
The success has only broadened the initiative and expanded itsreach, he said.
“It is already a fulfilling experience if you are justthinking about the numbers,” he said.
“Our only hope is that it expands beyond the city limits and givesother kids around the country an opportunity as well.”