White Sox win 2022 Selig Award for Philanthropic Excellence

December 7th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- Jerry Reinsdorf frequently has been asked to name the best thing about owning a baseball team during his 41 years as White Sox chairman.

And what usually is Reinsdorf’s answer?

“Really, it’s not winning ballgames,” said Reinsdorf from the Winter Meetings on Wednesday, after his organization received the 2022 Allan H. Selig Award for Philanthropic Excellence. “It’s the impact you can have upon the community.

“Teams can leverage themselves so much and there are so many things we can do, and we have so many programs that do good in the community. My favorite program clearly is the ACE program.”

ACE, in this instance, represents the White Sox Amateur City Elite, which is one of the most comprehensive youth baseball programs in all of baseball. It’s this ACE program for which the White Sox were honored, edging out club semifinalists in the D-backs (D-backs Give Back Youth Jersey Program), the Cubs (Cubs Scholars and Pathways to Success), the Reds (Reds Community Fund Community Makeover), and the Yankees (Yankees-CUNY Partnership Program).

When it began in 2007, ACE aimed at “providing a pathway to the game of baseball for African American youth, while offering resources and mentorship to pull kids away from the dangers of some of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods,” according to an information sheet handed out by the White Sox earlier this offseason during the annual ACE collegiate signing day at Guaranteed Rate Field. There have been 120 ACE alumni go on to play in college baseball at the Division I level, while 28 have been drafted by a Major League organization.

Corey Ray, who at 28 is now a free agent after being part of the Brewers' system, was the first ACE participant to reach the Majors when he debuted in 2021. Troy Williams spoke during Wednesday morning’s ceremony in San Diego as a young man who played for ACE, coached for ACE and now is working in its leadership division after earning a bachelor’s degree from Alcorn State and a Master of Education degree in youth development from the University of Illinois Chicago.

“None of that happens without the opportunity that ACE has provided for me, to be totally honest,” Williams said. “Every room I walk in, I echo that statement that I’m not who I am today without ACE.

“We are going to continue to put the work in and try to grow the game. That’s what our mission is. We are going to keep providing opportunities for young people in Chicago and keep pushing it forward.”

Collegiate and/or professional baseball opportunities are a great derivative of this highly competitive and respected program. Blake Hickman, who was an ACE participant and a one-time White Sox Minor Leaguer, presently serves as the organization’s pitching coach at Single-A Kannapolis, and is an example of one direction ACE can steers its participants.

But for Reinsdorf, baseball is not the primary answer for ACE's most important reason. It’s life opportunities, a point he stressed Wednesday, and one previously stressed by White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams and White Sox vice president community relations Christine O’Reilly-Riordan, who both helped create ACE. More than 250 college scholarships have been earned by ACE participants, with more than 85 earning college degrees.

“The ACE program is a model of how clubs can successfully impact lives through action based on values that are important to our sport,” said Commissioner Rob Manfred from his statement in a press release on the award, after presenting the plaque to Reinsdorf.

“It’s the old story about you give the man a fish, you can feed him for a day. You teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” Reinsdorf said. “We’ve put these people out in the world with college degrees that they wouldn’t have otherwise had and then they can go out and have families and raise people who can be productive. It’s a good feeling. It really is.”

Troy Williams mentioned players “had a T-shirt, a pair of pants and some cleats” when he first started with ACE. But the 32-year-old added the White Sox have done such a great job in providing unlimited resources for a program supporting more than 640 youth. Wednesday’s award marked the second such honor for the White Sox organization.

“Now, we have to go develop another program so we can win a third time,” said a smiling Reinsdorf.

“I’m an ACE lifer,” Williams said. “ACE holds a very special place in my heart.”