May 2, 2007 — Four local athletes took their first steps Wednesday on the path toward playing baseball in the major leagues as they sat at Walkers By the Sea on St. Thomas to sign letters of intent to attend various Division I colleges on the mainland.
The students — John Meyers Jr., Jabari Blash, Causton Merchant Jr. and Kellen St. Luce — attend both public and private schools on St .Thomas and are all members of the V.I. Future Stars Baseball organization, which is geared toward building well-rounded student athletes.
Through the Future Stars program, the students were able to obtain scholarship packages to such schools as Alcorn State University, Alabama State University and Vanderbilt University.
According to Future Stars Program Director Darren Canton, the letter of intent binds each student to their respective college.
"Today is a celebration on behalf of V.I. baseball, where we're taking it from the Little Leagues all the way up," Canton said Wednesday to the parents, coaches and other supporters who turned out for the occasion. "One of our main goals at Future Stars is to get our kids onto the next level, college, and give them an opportunity to get away and experience that kind of life, however long it may last."
Speaking after Canton, each student said they were anxious for the opportunity to further their baseball careers, while balancing majors, such as political science, business administration and sports medicine.
Merchant and Blash, who will be attending Alcorn State, added that they are also looking forward to being part of the same team.
"I think it's great, because I'll have some one to trust and because we're going to be in a different city where we totally don't know anybody," said Blash, a centerfielder from Charlotte Amalie High School.
"I like it, too; it's more competition, V.I.-wise," Merchant added.
Merchant, currently a senior at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, said he has been in constant contact with his college baseball coach and will be training as a catcher.
While the four athletes said they were excited to take part in their schools' athletic programs, they also commented on what it would take to balance sports with academics.
"I think I'm mentally prepared for college life," said Meyers, a centerfielder from Eudora Kean. "I basically think I'm ready to make it to the next level — whatever it takes."
Supporters in the crowd said that "whatever it takes" might mean not seeing the field for the first year, but gave them advice about not giving up.
"This isn't about leaving here and forgetting your roots at the same time," said Kirk Thomas, Meyers' former baseball coach. "It's about opportunity. It's about you now applying yourself, handling the academics first and then the sports, because you've got to be a star in the classroom and on the field as well. A lot of us here, we had the talent but didn't use it, but you guys should go out there and make your parents proud, make yourself proud and make all of us here in the Virgin Islands proud."
Taking this message to heart, the athletes said they were looking forward to representing the V.I. community while away, and inspiring other up-and-coming players to pursue their dreams.
"Hopefully the classes underneath us, if they continue to work hard, will be up here as well, signing their own letters of intent for college," St. Luce, a pitcher from All Saints Cathedral School, said. "So, I'm ready to move forward and make a change, but I'm also ready to let the world know that we have amazing athletes right here in the territory."
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