Baseball, with its roller coaster of swings and misses, is a perfect metaphor for life, according to Richton Park’s C.J. Stallings.

“Kind of just maintain and stay afloat, that’s been what I’ve taken from the game,” he said.   

Stallings currently hitting above .400 for the Tuskegee University baseball team, but the fact that he’s even playing during his senior season is remarkable. Last October, he donated a kidney to his father, who was suffering with chronic kidney disease and on an exhausting dialysis regimen.  

During a recent trip to Kentucky State University Stallings’s team played a double header with his dad in attendance.

“A part of me is in him, so it’s pretty cool,” Stallings said. “The toughest, most resilient guy I know. Like I said, he’s been my role model and I’ve watched just how he’s handled situations. Even when his back’s against the wall, he always finds a way.” 

Corey Stallings, Sr. is the coach of the Rich Township baseball team. He said his son’s gift of life was amazing.

“What’s so selfless and miraculous about it on his part, is he knew there was a possibility he wouldn’t be able to play this year or even play again period,” said Corey Stallings, Sr. “And he loves baseball.” 

Corey Stallings, Sr. was a star player for Rich Central High School and spent his summers playing for the White Sox Amateur City Elite program, a highly competitive traveling team of South Side stars. The White Sox created the ACE program to open the game of baseball to African American youth, providing the resources and mentorship “to pull kids away from the dangers of inner-city life,” according to the White Sox.

“Not getting too high, not getting to low — that’s been what I’ve taken from the game,” Stallings said. “That’s what I took from White Sox ACE. That’s what they implemented in us. They really pushed that with us.” 

The ACE program’s coaches develop the 150 players annually with the intention of exposing them to college scouts. So far, more than 230 ACE players have earned college scholarships, with 100 going to Division 1 programs.  

Stallings, a 6-foot senior, plays right field.

“He started with ACE when he was either 11 or 12, and it was just tremendous – even to the point, and I think a lot of people miss this point – they put you in a position to play against the best competition, like basically in the Midwest. Sometimes, taking trips beyond the Midwest,” Corey Stallings, Sr. said.

Twenty-seven ACE participants have been drafted by Major League Baseball organizations 

“I’ve had a couple out of the ACE program, just second to none, a classy program,” said Reginal Hollins, Tuskegee’s head coach. “When I tell you from top to bottom, they really develop, and they teach the game the right way, so these kids come mentally ready to play the game and prepared for life.”