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White Sox proud to take part in ACE signing day

Six players able to attend college thanks to Amateur City Elite program
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- One by one, the six players seated at the front of the U.S. Cellular Field Conference and Learning Center on Tuesday night spoke about what the White Sox Amateur City Elite program has meant to them.

"I became a better player, and also a better person," said Jamary McKinney, who currently attends Simeon Career Academy. "The instructors and the travel, it was a great experience. I'm proud to be a part of this program."

CHICAGO -- One by one, the six players seated at the front of the U.S. Cellular Field Conference and Learning Center on Tuesday night spoke about what the White Sox Amateur City Elite program has meant to them.

"I became a better player, and also a better person," said Jamary McKinney, who currently attends Simeon Career Academy. "The instructors and the travel, it was a great experience. I'm proud to be a part of this program."

"It gives me a sense of teamwork," said Jalin McMillan, who also attends Simeon. "It has instilled a strong work ethic in me that has grown over the years. It gave me a sense of status. I remember the first time I got my White Sox jersey, I wore it around the house for two days."

McKinny and McMillan share another bond besides attending the same high school in Chicago. They were at the ballpark on Tuesday, along with Jackson Edwards, Lavezz Middleton, Nelson Munoz and Torriun Towers, to officially sign their letters of intent to play collegiate baseball and receive athletic aid at their future schools.

Edwards will be attending Judson University. Chicago State was McKinney's choice. McMillan will be going to the University of Illinois. Middleton chose Bucknell. Munoz's collegiate selection was Grambling State University, while Towers committed to Claflin University.

These kids put in the time and the work to get to this next level, combined with their on-field ability of course. Without the ACE program started by the White Sox in 2007, these kids might not have ever had the chance to see college.

That part of the process stands as a point of tremendous pride for the White Sox organization.

"Many of them I'm sure just a few short years ago probably could not visualize this," said executive vice president Ken Williams, who spoke to the six signees and their respective families and support groups at Tuesday's program. "It's an honor for the White Sox to be part of the growth process and we look forward to seeing what they have for the future.

"To hear them talk about their possibilities in life and the focus on their education, it's really heartwarming for me. Again, it's a result of a lot of hard work. It goes back to that it takes a village and this really is, this program has been a shining example of what a village can do."

Since the ACE program's inception, 85 athletes have received athletic aid to play baseball in college. Fourteen have been selected in Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft, including Darius Day (23rd round), Anthony Justiniano (38th) and James Davison (39th) during the '14 Draft. Day hit seven homers for the Rangers' Arizona Rookie League team last season.

Two ACE alumni were part of the 2014 College World Series, with Ronnell Coleman playing a part in the Vanderbilt championship. Nine current ACE players were on the Jackie Robinson West All-Stars 2014 Little League World Series United States Championship team.

Parents, coaches and teachers alike played a huge part in these young men's achievements, as Williams pointed out during his remarks. But it was the White Sox who presented an avenue for these inner-city players to be seen. It was the White Sox who gave the players a chance to not only further their baseball career, but further their life in any discipline of academia they choose.

"Sometimes the kids don't even understand what they are getting into until they actually get on campus," White Sox director of youth baseball initiatives Kevin Coe said. "But the parents know exactly what's happening. All the hard work, and these kids worked hard to get these scholarships. They had to earn them with a lot of long days, a lot of long nights, a lot of games and a lot of travel. And here we are today."

"Just think about the No. 85: 85 scholarships over the last seven years, 6 1/2 years," Williams said. "That's a remarkable and unfathomable number to think about when we first started. It is a really fulfilling experience."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Chicago White Sox