Sox way down, but Reinsdorf & Co. lift community

Double Duty Classic on Tuesday gives inner-city kids a chance to play on the big stage

There will be no bump in the standings for the White Sox on Tuesday, at least not from anything that happens at U.S. Cellular Field. But 40 high school players from inner-city programs will live the dream in big-league dugouts.

Where Alfonso Soriano and Alexei Ramirez hung out Monday night, wrapping up the most tepidly contested City Series ever, prospects such as Darius Day, Daren Osby and Rahman Williams will dump their equipment bags. The weather forecast might be iffy, but these kids will dance between rain drops, happily.

The sixth annual Double Duty Classic won't attract a big crowd to the Cell and will do nothing for the team's bottom line — admission is free. But it could be one of the best events of the summer here in Seller City. Like lots of other things that deserve attention but don't get it, it wouldn't have happened without Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

Reinsdorf has said he will recommend his family sell the White Sox when he's gone, which has caused some of the team's fans to ask this: Why wait?

With a plummeting record, a farm system that annually ranks near the bottom of the majors and no clearly stated blueprint for becoming consistently competitive again, it's easy to curse Reinsdorf and his legendary loyalty. He is allowing Rick Hahn and Ken Williams to rebuild the foundation that crumbled when they were listed in the reverse order on the company masthead and he hired one former player (Robin Ventura) to replace another (Ozzie Guillen) as manager.

How about blowing up the whole thing and bringing in outside voices?

That'll never happen with Reinsdorf. It's not his style, and that's why fans who rejoiced alongside Reinsdorf in 2005 now are trying to nudge him toward the door. But be careful what you wish for.

Chicago never has had a baseball owner who has done as much public good as Reinsdorf, and, unless Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg buys a team, probably never will.

It's fitting that Reinsdorf has a World Series ring. He paid for it with both his wallet and his heart, year after year doing the right thing where people are concerned. The luckiest are those who caught a huge break when Gov. Jim Thompson told Reinsdorf he could have his publicly funded stadium, but only if it was built in the shadow of Comiskey Park, at 35th and Shields.

There are better neighborhoods in Chicago. Reinsdorf has owned property or done business in all of them. But the kid from Brooklyn didn't forget his roots.

While the state gave Reinsdorf, Eddie Einhorn and their partners a sweetheart stadium deal, the team has worked tirelessly to make life a little bit better for people in Bridgeport and elsewhere on the South Side. It's why MLB gave Reinsdorf its Commissioner's Award in 2011 and why he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the SportsBusiness Journal.

"His legacy in the sports world is going to start with his championships," NBA Commissioner David Stern said at that dinner in March. "That's just the way people focus. But the more important legacy is the social responsibility one, which is being a community asset, including diversity, aggressiveness and inclusion that he has come to be known for."

Through White Sox Charities and the team's Volunteers Corps, Reinsdorf has put his fingerprints all over Chicago. But his passions always have been baseball and equality in the workplace. The Sox will host MLB's Civil Rights Game on Aug. 24, but the Double Duty Classic — named for late Negro Leagues legend Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe, a U.S. Cellular regular until his death — might have a bigger impact than its big brother.

Day, an outfielder from Simeon, and Rahman Williams, an infielder from Morgan Park, are among the headliners in a game that allows Chicago's inner-city players to compete alongside nationally ranked prospects like Osby, a pitcher who helped Redan High become the first all-black team from the Atlanta area to win a Georgia baseball championship.

"These kids come from the same communities where kids are getting shot and killed at crazy rates,'' said Kevin Coe, the White Sox's manager of youth baseball initiatives. "Our kids come from the communities where (54) kids got shot last weekend.''

The vision of Reinsdorf, Williams and scouts like Nathan Durst created a program that is helping kids go to college and sometimes on to pro careers. Day's older Simeon teammate, Corey Ray, was drafted by the Mariners last month but will attend the University of Louisville.

Ray was one of 12 players from the White Sox's ACE (Amateur City Elite) program to get scholarships last year, bringing the total advancing to college baseball to 80.

"It's so gratifying to start with a 13-year-old who can hardly hit the ball out of the infield and see him as a 17-year-old, getting ready for college,'' Coe said. "Kids are going to BCS schools. BCS schools wouldn't even recruit our city three years ago.''

As a team, the White Sox haven't built off their World Series title. But the organization does impressive things that don't show up in the standings. Come see for yourself on Tuesday.

progers@tribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribRogers

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