CHICAGO -- A host of elite inner-city high school baseball players and White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams honored the past and discussed the future at the Double Duty Classic on Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field.
The event, in its fifth year, brought high school baseball players from across the country to Chicago's South Side for an All-Star game and a pregame question-and-answer forum with author and Chicago historian Dr. Timuel Black, WBEZ Chicago Public Media correspondent Richard Steele and Williams.
Named in honor of Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe of the Chicago American Giants, the event celebrates and shares the history and tradition of Negro Leagues baseball in Chicago with the next generation of inner-city ballplayers. And while the teams honored past Negro Leagues' East-West All-Star teams by wearing retro uniforms during the game, the forum mainly focused on how the young men in attendance could make their futures successful.
Most of that talk with the high schoolers centered on the coming years. But the three-person panel told the young athletes to think far ahead.
"Think long term. It's a much larger picture," Steele said. "It's the big picture. It's life. Baseball is life -- a very big part of it for you guys -- but just a part of it."
Black urged the players to think about where they want to be in the long run.
"The important thing to realize is you're going to be here next week, next year," Black said. "What will you be doing? Whatever it is -- basketball, baseball, academics. What do you want to be like when you get to be [Steele and Williams'] age?"
Williams shared a story of interning with the Chicago Bulls marketing department during the offseason when he played for the White Sox. Instead of traveling or relaxing, Williams said he was focused on what came after his playing career.
"I learned what it was like to be in the front office," Williams said. "Why? Because there's always something next. What you're doing today, you prepare for the future."
The White Sox Amateur City Elite (ACE) high school travel team represented Chicago in the All-Star showcase, one of many inner-city youth organizations the White Sox are involved with. Williams, in his first season as executive vice president after spending 12 years as general manager, said the club's involvement in the community through events such as Tuesday's is important to him.
"Sports exist for the betterment of your community, whether it be through entertainment or the things peripherally you can add to your community," Williams said. "If you're not adding in the position that we're in, then you're subtracting. So to see that growth and to be a small part of it, yeah, that's just as important as anything else that we do."
Especially when it comes to sitting down with young men hoping to navigate their way to a successful life.
"Many of the same problems and challenges are going to be there for, it seems like, eternity," Williams said. "The one common denominator is I think they need to hear from us -- the adults who can help spread a little bit of positivity so that they can then see beyond the norm and see hope and future and different paths for the rest of their life. Possibilities."
Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth.