By: Brandon Vickrey
Chicago, Ill. – April 1, 2021 – The Midwest Collegiate League has announced the addition of the Chicago American Giants as a new franchise beginning with the 2021 summer season.
The American Giants are named in honor of the original club of that same name, a Chicago-based Negro league team that was active from 1910 until 1956. The original Chicago American Giants won seven league titles and two Negro World Series championships during a dominant run from 1910 to the mid-1930s.
Chicago American Giants President Keronn Walker, a scout in the Chicago Cubs organization and 1999 Kansas City Royals draft pick, formed the team to provide Chicago players with opportunities to play and develop during the summer months.
“I want kids in Chicago to have the chance to play locally when they come home over the summer so that family and friends can see them play,” Walker said. “Summer baseball is very important for college players in our area. The weather doesn’t start to get better in the Midwest until the spring season ends, so this will be a great opportunity for our athletes to continue playing, especially with the pandemic that we’ve all had to face. Some of the players on our team are facing adversity at their respective schools, and this will help keep them interested in baseball and reunite them with Chicago-area friends and teammates to help make each other better over the summer.”
After his six-year professional playing career as a switch-hitting catcher, Walker decided to take action to reverse the decline of inner-city participation in the sport of baseball. He founded B.I.G. Baseball Academy to keep the sport alive in the city of Chicago and teach life lessons that carry over beyond the game.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Keronn Walker and the Chicago American Giants to the Midwest Collegiate League,” Commissioner Don Popravak said. “Keronn’s eye for talent and commitment to aiding young ballplayers in their development both in baseball and in life aligns perfectly with our league’s mission. His large network and positive reputation across the sport at the professional level will serve him well in helping our ballplayers advance their careers.”
Walker has named Darold Butler the manager of the American Giants. A 1996 Toronto Blue Jays selection in the MLB Draft, Butler is a product of Simeon High School and has coached in the city of Chicago for the last 15 years.
“Darold and I are former teammates and very good friends,” Walker said. “He’s one of the best hitters I’ve ever played with, and he’s always very honest with the players he coaches. We both love all of the kids in Chicago, and we’re excited to add the opportunity for him to coach collegiate players. I trust him to be fair with our players and give kids in the city an important chance to play during the summer months.”
Butler echoes Walker’s enthusiasm about the American Giants and can’t wait to continue to give back to the game of baseball and the city of Chicago by pouring his knowledge and experience into his players this summer.
“Summer ball is so important for development,” Butler said. “The players get a chance to be around different coaches and learn new things. They get to play different roles that they may not have played at their schools in the spring. Now that the draft has been pushed back to July 11-13, it will also give players an opportunity to get looked at by pro scouts after their college seasons end. We want to help them reach their dreams.”
A self-proclaimed “baseball junkie,” Butler is well aware of the important history that the American Giants name holds in the city of Chicago.
“It made sense for us to use the name, and I’m hopeful that we honor it well,” he said. “I’m looking for young men who will play hard every time they are on the field. We’re planning to have fun while competing at a high level. We want players who will play the game the right way and learn something from their experience. I’m very excited to get the summer rolling.”
Walker, who has served as a scout for the Cubs since 2017, graduated from De La Salle Institute in 1996 and attended Bluefield College in West Virginia before achieving his dream of playing in the professional ranks. He’s excited to use that experience for the benefit of Chicago American Giants players this summer and in summers to come.
“Being a scout is really going to benefit me in helping players who want to advance and continue to play beyond college,” Walker said. “I will be able to tell them what they need to improve. My network has grown over the years, so I’ll make sure that our kids have an opportunity to be seen at the next level. We’re also going to teach them how to be accountable and responsible. We’re looking for kids who are good teammates, reliable and understand the importance of the Chicago American Giants and what that name means to baseball. Darold and I are excited to share our experiences and continue to give back to the community. I’ve known Don for years and support what he does, so I’m thrilled to be a part of the MCL.”
The MCL is entering its 12th season of aiding collegiate ballplayers in their baseball development. Numerous MCL alumni have reached the professional ranks including St. Louis Cardinals All-Star Paul DeJong, former Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tony Cingrani, former New York Mets outfielder Kevin Kaczmarski and Milwaukee Brewers 2016 No. 5 overall pick Corey Ray. The American Giants will join the Joliet Generals, Southland Vikings, Northwest Indiana Oilmen, Crestwood Panthers and MCL Minutemen in the league this season.
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