CHICAGO -- Kevin Coe booked his trip to New Jersey to represent the White Sox at the 2016 Draft beginning on June 9. But this year's first round has much more of a personal meaning for the organization's director of youth baseball initiatives.
Corey Ray, a junior outfielder for Louisville, figures to be selected in the Top 10. Ray also will become the highest pick to ever come from the White Sox Amateur City Elite program, a dynamic concept to promote youth baseball in the inner city and give these kids playing a chance to further their on-field and off-field career.
"It's awesome, simply because of where he came from and his work ethic, and I guess he's the epitome of, 'Hard work will pay off eventually,'" Coe said. "To eventually become the best player in the country and have an opportunity to go in the first round, that's a remarkable story in place."
"In terms of the program, it's a positive from the standpoint that it gets a very good, somewhat well-known program even more notoriety," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "It not only encourages kids to participate in the program and college scouts to come make sure they are taking advantage of the opportunity to see these players play, but it may even encourage similar such programs in other communities, which is obviously good for the game as a whole."
Jim Callis' latest Mock Draft for MLB.com has Ray going fifth to the Brewers. Ray has been projected as high as No. 1, and also has been linked to the White Sox at No. 10 -- the first of their three selections in the first 49 picks.
Make no mistake that if Ray is available at 10, the White Sox will give serious consideration into taking the left-handed hitter and thrower, whom they scouted as recently as this past week. It certainly would be a great story, but there's no patronage involved concerning a player of Ray's immense talent.
"He's legitimately a Top 10 pick," White Sox director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler said. "If he would get to us, whether we took him or we didn't take him, he's a legitimate top half of the Draft guy that quite honestly has performed at every level he's played at. Everything he's done is purely off of Corey Ray and Corey Ray's ability."
"For the people who know Corey personally, there's a great deal of pride in his accomplishments," Hahn said. "But at the same time knowing the kid, it's not a great deal of surprise that he's managed to develop into the type of player and person that he's become."
Coe said that Ray, who played on ACE's first 13U team, has stayed in touch with the program.
"He came back in the winter and met so many kids," Coe said. "I always let them know he used to be one of you guys. He used to be this little weak kid that couldn't hit the ball into the outfield. He worked his tail off and now he's the best hitter in the country."