Pickett rewarded for faith in ACE program

Pickett rewarded for faith in ACE program

CHICAGO -- The following was the sentiment expressed by Devin Pickett on Nov. 10, 2011, when he joined four other players from the White Sox Amateur City Elite youth baseball program in signing their collegiate letters of intent during a ceremony at the home of the White Sox.

"Words can't express how much they helped me out," Pickett said of ACE. "I've been playing with the program for a couple of years now. They exposed me to a lot of big-time schools. I couldn't ask for more. I really appreciate it."

• Amateur City Elite program

Let's move forward to Nov. 15, 2016, and to the yearly ACE letter-of-intent signing program at Guaranteed Rate Field. Twelve players took part on this occasion, pushing the total of scholarship participants to more than 130 since the program's inception in 2007.

Pickett once again spoke, preceding White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams. Only this time, Pickett stood as a graduate from the University of Iowa, a working member of the White Sox baseball operations department and a proud example of the important opportunities provided by ACE.

"I've earned a greater appreciation for it now," said Pickett, who attended Marian Catholic High School before making the journey to Iowa. "I see the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes into it.

"Seeing it translate and being on the other side and seeing these guys, I know the work they put in and the time and commitment, and knowing that it pays off is the ultimate joy. I can speak for myself.

"Back in 2011 when I signed, that was the greatest achievement to date, signing my national letter of intent to go play at Iowa; four great years," Pickett said. "I owe it all to the ACE program."

The 23-year-old Pickett returned to the White Sox in June after graduating from Iowa and spent his time as an intern in the Community Relations department. His move to an internship with the baseball ops department began with an email and a request for Williams.

"Initially, I was like, 'OK, I'm an intern sending the EVP an email,'" said Pickett with a laugh. "He's a great guy. I've known Kenny from when I first signed. We had a long conversation, and he liked some of the things I said and talked to Buddy Bell.

"[General manager] Rick Hahn emailed me. I had a conversation with him as well. He gave me the opportunity, and this is something I've always wanted to do. It's a great start, and I'm excited to see where it evolves."

Williams referred to Pickett as "a special young man," adding that it gives the White Sox pride to have "someone who has gone through our program and come out on the other side." Williams also added to Pickett's story about moving to baseball ops.

"He wanted to learn," Williams said. "He was willing to do whatever it took. I said, 'Well, if that's the case, go talk to your supervisor and we'll make sure you're included and get you started back here.' He had that confidence, and he said that part of the confidence he acquired over the years was because of some of the groundwork our coaches in starting the ACE program provided him.

"It was kind of a special moment. He was really nervous sitting in my office, but a couple of days later, he found himself working in the baseball department."

During Pickett's most recent, eloquent ACE speech, he stressed being thankful for people who help ACE players reach this point because nobody gets to the top alone. Pickett also stressed education, something nobody can take away even if these young men don't get to play for the next 10-15 years.

Pickett's speech was more than mere words. He's living what he said.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.