DOWNTOWN — What James Davison lacks in size, he makes up for in ability and confidence.
The recent Morgan Park High School graduate stands 5-foot-7, but that didn't stop from being selected by the White Sox in the 39th round of the recent Major League Baseball draft.
The outfielder will reject professional baseball — for now — and instead decided Sunday to attend Howard College in Big Spring, Texas — one of the top junior college baseball programs in the country — on an athletic scholarship.
Justin Breen explains why it's college first for James Davison:
The Chicago Public Schools' Player of the Year — Davison hit .480 with 25 RBI and stole 32 bases for Morgan Park this year — will be honored this Friday at the CPS All-Star Game at U.S. Cellular Field.
"I work harder than everybody, especially being the smallest person in everything that I did," Davison said Tuesday. "I had to find confidence somewhere because everybody tried to put me down. I was so small, they wanted to crush my dreams. A lot of people told me I wasn’t going to be drafted or I wasn’t going to get a full ride in baseball. I just wanted to prove them wrong."
Davison, 18, has been in love with baseball since he started competing as a 3-year-old with players two years older. He has played in countless games since with park district, travel and school teams.
"The opportunity to play hundreds of games each year has allowed him to get a better understanding of his ability and how to use it on the field," said Kevin Coe, the director of the White Sox program and a McKinley Park resident.
Davison said baseball also kept him off the streets. He lives in Dolton with his mom, Michelle Savage, who has been divorced from his father, Roseland resident James Davison Sr., since he was 4.
Because of gang problems in his neighborhood, he hasn't left his home for anything other than baseball or school for months. When he attended Morgan Park, which won Chicago Public League and regional titles this year and finished 21-8-1, his dad would pick him up in Dolton and drive him to the Southwest Side school daily.
"If you walk outside to the store, there's gangs on the block," Davison said. "They'll try to rob you or try to jump you or just try to scare you away from the neighborhood just to show you how tough they are. I don't let that happen to me. I stay in the house."
Davison lets out his energy on the diamond, where he routinely sprints to and from the dugout to his spot in center field. Davison and his dad said that type of passion for the game will carry him for the rest of his career.
"He always has a chip on his shoulder," Davison Sr. said. "He always gives it 100 percent and his best shot. You have to drag him off the field."
Davison plans to spend one year at Howard College and reenter the draft, where he hopes to be picked within the top 10 rounds.
Asked where he expects to be playing in five years, Davison didn't hesitate.
"I’m going to be in the major leagues. No doubt," Davison said. "I know I’m going to work for it. I’m not scared to be on the big stage. I love the big moment."