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What Ed Howard’s selection meant to Jackie Robinson West and Chicago’s South Side

4 years agoAndy Martinez

Todd Prince watched last week’s first round of the MLB Draft with plenty of anticipation. 

The president of the Jackie Robinson West Little League organization knew Ed Howard, a former player in the Little League, had a chance to be one of the first 30 names taken off the board. When he heard Rob Manfred call Howard’s name with the Cubs pick, Prince was in awe. 

“We were ecstatic for him and his family,” Prince, who has been with the program for 21 years, said. “It’s great for the city, great for the community, the South Side of Chicago.”

Howard was a star on the 2014 Little League team that made a run to the Little League World Series title game and was nicknamed “Silk” by Barry Larkin. Howard and that team inspired the latest generation of Jackie Robinson West Little Leaguers. 

“We have kids right now that [are] 11 and 12 that started playing baseball because of Ed and the team and those guys,” Prince said. “For those kids to see him get to this level and they’re still progressing and training and trying to get better, it’s just a great thing for the league and for the kids and for our community as a whole.”

In fact, it reaffirmed the hard work that he and the rest of the Jackie Robinson West Little League organization are putting in. As much as the program strives to teach young kids the fundamentals like fielding grounders and hitting, they’re equally as focused on producing well-rounded young men. 

In Howard, they have another young man to continue that lineage. 

“You just reiterate hard work, get your good grades in, do the right things in school, make the right decisions as a young man and the sky’s the limit,” Prince said. 

Howard is just the latest Jackie Robinson West alum to prove Prince’s statement rings true. He joins Jeff Jackson (1989 by the Phillies) and Corey Ray (2016 by the Brewers) as Jackie Robinson West alumni to be drafted in the 1st round. 

But Howard’s selection was a little different than Ray or Jackson’s selection. 

“With so much going on, 2020 has been such a tough year so far — there’s so much negative and so much dissension — this is something that brought the city back together,” Prince said. “It’s a feel-good story. We all love baseball and it gives us some kind of hope and good feeling.”

Prince thinks Howard can be similar to Ray — who is the 10th ranked prospect in the Brewers farm system, per MLB Pipeline — in one aspect: his generosity. 

Ray, who is a Jordan brand athlete, gives back to the community by hosting baseball camps where he gives Jordan brand equipment. 

“[Ray] gives them an idea that if they continue to work hard they can actually get a chance to play professional baseball or college baseball as well,” Prince said.

While Prince hopes he can catch Brewers-Cubs games in the future where Ray and Howard can potentially go head-to-head, he knows they’ll continue to serve as an inspiration to their communities and to continue to give back.  

At the end of the day, Howard and Ray are testaments not just to Howard or Jackie Robinson West, but to the community as a whole. 

“There’s a lot of people that are involved in the baseball community here,” Prince said. “This is a salute to all of those people, all of the different leagues in the community that strive to produce these great young men and great student-athletes, which is first. We just are grateful and hopefully the league can continue to grow.”

To learn more about the Jackie Robinson West Little League, visit their Facebook page

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