Baseball skills finessed through the Chicago White Sox ACE Program helped two Homewood-Flossmoor High School baseball players earn college scholarships.
Bryce Gray of Flossmoor will be a catcher for the Notre Dame University baseball team and Percy Walters of Flossmoor will be a third baseman for the Morehouse College team.
“The White Sox are extremely proud of both players and excited they are able to continue their careers on the next level while attending these prestigious universities,” said White Sox Director of Youth Baseball Initiatives Kevin Coe. ACE has a working relationship with both universities, he said.
H-F Coaches Todd Sippel and Nick Kapchinske recognized the two players’ talents during the four years on high school teams. Their efforts on the field helped Sippel become the H-F baseball coach with the most career wins.
Gray and Walters started playing baseball at age 4. Little League play helped them learn the game. Gray and Walters’ strengths were obvious when they played for a traveling team, Illinois Titans, that was coached by Gray’s father, Jason Gray, who had played baseball in college.
When they turned 13, they got the chance to try out for the Amateur City Elite (ACE) Program that works with 150 minority players ages 12 through 17 who play in competitive travel tournaments. Chicago White Sox Charities funds the ACE program, including costs for uniforms, equipment, coaches, games and practice.
“It is a year-round program that includes games, practices, training and educational tutoring,” Coe said. “The White Sox try to create a unique environment for the ACE participants. Most of them will have an opportunity to interact with at least one White Sox player or coaching staff member at some point during their time in the program.”
Gray, Walters and H-F teammate Walter Carter got to play at U.S. Cellular Field in the 2015 Double Duty Classic game that celebrated baseball’s Negro League.
“I’ve had so many opportunities that other guys just wouldn’t have, whether that means meeting Major League players to throwing the first pitch at a Major League game and playing on major league fields. That’s been something that’s very special to me—what I’ve been able to do through baseball,” Gray said.
Gray was the standout quarterback for H-F’s football team that twice made it to the state playoffs. But he says baseball has always been his number one sport.
“It’s taught me a lot. Baseball is a game of failure and I hate to lose so it definitely taught me how to deal with failure, how to deal with the emotions of the game a lot better; how to compose myself, and not get too far down or too high up on myself,” he said.
Note: This story originally appeared in the April print edition of the Chronicle.