CHATHAM — Two Simeon Career Academy graduates and alums of the Chicago White Sox Amateur City Elite program could square off next week in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., if the ball bounces the right way.
Ro Coleman, a freshman outfielder for Vanderbilt, and freshman Corey Ray, who plays the same position for Louisville, are playing in college baseball's Super Regionals, which start Friday. Vanderbilt hosts Stanford in the best-of-three series, while Louisville hosts Kennesaw State.
The two are the first graduates of the Amateur City Elite program — which places talented inner-city teenage players on travel teams — to reach the Super Regionals.
"We're rooting them on and praying for them and hoping their teams advance," said Kevin Coe, the director of the White Sox program.
Justin Breen discusses two rising young stars in collegiate baseball from Chicago:
If one or both of their squads advance, they will have quite the cheering section: In January, Coe scheduled his 12-, 13- and 14-year-old baseball teams to compete in the Triple Crown Sports Slumpbuster tournament, which runs June 12-18 in Omaha, for the first time.
"The whole reason we scheduled that tournament was in case one of our guys made it," said Coe, of McKinley Park.
Watching the two 19-year-olds in the College World Series would provide great motivation for the kids in the program, Coe said.
"They've been good poster children for our program," Coe said. "They pave the way for the next crop of kids coming out of the inner city."
Both Coleman and Ray said baseball kept them off the streets and provided structure throughout their lives, especially after they suited up for the White Sox amateur teams from ages 13-17.
"There's a lot of violence in Chicago now, and I hope that Corey and I are giving our city hope that people can still come out the city and do great things," said Coleman, of Washington Heights. "Baseball has just helped me stay away from doing the wrong things."
Said Ray: "When you live on the South Side of Chicago, you have to find something to keep you out of trouble. You have friends who are up to no good, and with baseball, you have to tell them you have a game or a practice to go to."
Coleman and Ray have been solid as Division I rookies this season. Coleman, has 22 hits, 13 RBIs and eight stolen bases. He also delivered the regional-winning, walkoff single in a 3-2 victory over Oregon on Sunday.
Ray, of Chatham, is batting .328 with 22 hits, 17 RBIs and 10 runs scored. He credited Coe and the White Sox program, which sent 12 players to Division I schools in 2013, for enabling him to attend Louisville.
"Since we were young, Coach Coe told us we could go anywhere we wanted if we worked hard enough," Ray said. "The White Sox have done so much to help us to get where we are today, and I'm so thankful for it."
Ray said having the younger players in the program see either him or Coleman — or both — in Omaha would "mean a great deal."
Vandy and Louisville have met once already this season, with the Cardinals prevailing 11-7 on May 6. Ray and Coleman, who texted each other good luck messages before regionals, didn't get to spend any time talking before or after that game, but they would relish the opportunity to clash in Omaha.
"Being able to go up against one of my guys growing up, it would be great," Ray said. "They're a good team and we're a good team. It would be a great showdown. Sounds like a Cinderella story."
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: