By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
As far as high schools go, Mount Carmel is seen as a South Side Chicago institution, but one special baseball player has likely driven the Caravan’s loyalty up North in the wake of the 2020 Major League Baseball Draft.
Carmel’s Ed Howard was selected 16th overall by the Chicago Cubs in Wednesday night’s first round amateur selection proceedings for the MLB. Howard was expected to go high, ranked by many as the best overall shortstop in the draft, but the White Sox selected five spots prior to the Cubs at No. 11.
As the South Side team, who also had involved Howard in its ACE (Amateur City Elite) youth baseball program, the Sox would have been thought to consider Howard as well.
Instead, the Sox went with pitcher Garrett Crochet from the University of Tennessee with its pick, setting the scene for the North Siders to please many in the city with its pick.
It remains to be seen if Howard is on a fast track to starring at Wrigley Field.
From the majors on down, the Cubs aren’t lacking for young talent in the middle infield, but showing an investment in a young inner-city, Black baseball player makes a statement on its own, especially at this current time when pro sports teams, the Cubs noticeable among them, have almost tripped over themselves to make statements in support of Black Lives Matter and the overall freedom struggle for Black Americans.
As a teenage prospect, Howard shouldn’t have to carry anything — even on a representational level — that he doesn’t want to at this point, but given his background as a baseball lifer and a member of the Jackie Robinson West little league team that captured the city’s hearts by making the championship game of the 2014 Little League World Series before an overall disappointing end to that story developed in the wake of a disqualification of JRW’s feats by little league officials because of the team being accused of using ineligible players.
Regardless of any ending, it was easy to see Howard as a standout early during the games in Williamsport, Penn., due to his confident hitting and mature mastery of the field at short.
To be a Chicagoan devoted to the sport of baseball, a star of a heralded little league program and later a heralded high school and to use that experience to be a first-round draft pick of the Cubs presents a kind of destined scenario that could make Howard an in-process icon for this city.
Should he eventually make it to the majors and do so with the Cubs, Howard could exist as a twin game-changer on one side of town to be paired with Tim Anderson, who established himself as a new baseball star “for the culture” after a brilliant and provocative 2019 for the Sox.
But again, the pressure isn’t on for Howard to be the next Anderson or anyone else that’s already established. Simply being the first Ed Howard is getting him further than most, and the ride is just beginning. The caravan’s gonna need more seats.
Extra: Sox’s New Pitcher Described As “Sale”-like
As a slingin’ lefty, it doesn’t take much time to see signs of the last real White Sox ace pitcher in their latest draft pick.
Garrett Crochet definitely looks like a future starter, for no other reason than future starters should be selected with the No. 11 overall pick. That said, the 20-year-old junior did have a college career to back up the pick, having gone 5-3 with 81 strikeouts in 65 innings pitched over 18 appearances (six starts) in 2019 and being named a 2020 Baseball America Preseason First Team All-American.
At 6-6 and 218 pounds, Crochet is a hoss and a physical anomaly as far as big league pitchers go, much like Chris Sale in the way he uses his body to maximize velocity with the ball. It will be interesting to see if Crochet can maximize his abilities like the former South Side all-star.
In a piece for NBC Sports Chicago via Yahoo! Sports, Adam Hoge quotes Crochet as saying that Sale was a “mentor” to his game from afar. The piece also outlines a possibility for Crochet to have an accelerated path to the big league rotation, much like Sale did after being drafted in 2010, where he made his MLB debut by August of that year as a reliever.
“I’ve always envisioned myself as a starter and if I were to pull the Chris Sale maneuver and work up as a reliever and then turn into a starter, if that’s what the White Sox want me to do to help the team, that’s what I’ll do,” Crochet told Hoge.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR