Like many elite young athletes, Justin Best He never even embarked on the sport in which he is now starring. Teenage Cornelius, North Carolina, loved golf when he was young, and it was more than just his father’s hobby.
But by the time he was six, Best had discovered a new love: He wanted to play baseball, a sport that for years had been in decline among African-American athletes while only increasing in popularity among Afro-Latino players.
Best’s father rick, a veteran, saw an opportunity: If he could pass on the discipline he had absorbed in the army and combine it with his young son’s interest in acquiring diamonds, it might do well. not mistaken.
“Sometimes you can push kids in the direction you think they should go,” Rick Best said. “I’ve pushed him toward golf, but sometimes the kids just resist and do what’s normal.”
Baseball was what Justin naturally attracted to and he continued to excel even during a league game, showing real signs that he was going to be a phenomenon. “When he was 12, he made 46 home runs in one season and that’s when we started to take it more seriously.”
By the time he was in the eighth grade, Best was so good at baseball that he already had offers to play in college at the Division I level. He’s committed to playing at Florida State University when he starts his freshman year next fall, and he’s one of the top prospects in baseball in the country playing center field.
Justin said, “I knew I had the talent to play at Power Five, so I said, ‘Why don’t I find out about my future this early?'” ‘,” adding that Vanderbilt and Florida State have always been among his favorite college programs.
“When your favorite school knocked on your door, it was an incredible opportunity, so we seized it,” Rick Best added. “If another school didn’t fit his profile or didn’t fit our family’s desire to enroll, I’m sure it would have been a longer process.”
Justin Best is really growing in his abilities, literally. At the age of 17, he was standing six feet three, lifting weights daily to strengthen and strengthen his 190-pound skeleton. His semi-daily workout includes leg curls, dumbbell press, bench press, squats, lunges, and abdominal exercises.
This work helped lefties earn an “excellent” rating for arm strength, batting, and strength by the Baseball Factory, a training facility for elite young baseball players. He also earned points at the Perfect Game All-American Classic and MLB High School All-American games this summer.
“The best has a very bright future ahead of him in the game,” scouting report for baseball factory Teen sums up. It seems to be the result of his father knowing how to hone his talents in time.
“One of the things I did to keep Justin interested in baseball was to always put him on the field against the best players in the country and that in and of itself kept the internal drive going,” said Rick Best.
But being a hitter is what Justin says is his favorite thing about playing, and for good reason.
“I like to talk about baseball because to me batting is my bread and butter and showing people that I really am that guy with the stick,” he explained. “My father drew it for me at such a young age by teaching me everything I know and has guided me on this entire journey thus far.”
It’s climbing baseball’s selection rankings while the sport’s popularity among African-American athletes—at least as evidenced by Major League Baseball rosters—is at its lowest in decades.
Players of color made up 38 percent of all MLB rosters at the start of the season but the bulk of that group — 28.5 percent — were Latin Americans. US-born black players make up only 18% of the league, according to Report from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.
The number of African American players in MLB has declined in recent decades not lost on Justin. He views himself as part of a new generation of American-born black players who are back in the game.
“I see myself starting a new trend because I try to see more and more of us love the game and it will continue to grow,” he said.
But for Justin, getting to that level has not been without challenges, particularly over the past two years, when he and other top prospects have lost an entire season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Undeterred, he maintained a 3.8 point average at the Combine Academy in Lincolnton, North Carolina, and kept fit as well as focused on his ultimate goal: to be taken into the first round of the MLB draft.
There were also groups that Justin participated in that helped him along the way bring elite young baseball players and prepare them to the next level, including Elite Development Invitation with leaders like Dale Matthews And the Kendo JonesThe Hank Aaron Invitationthe MLB Dream Series, and the Breakout Series.
With a bright future, he also spoke of those he looked forward to from both the present and the past.
“I’m a fan [Philadelphia Phillies right fielder] Bryce Harper Now because the way he carries himself on and off the field,” he said. “From the past will be Jackie Robinson Because it paved the way for black players to play baseball.”
He said his love of the game makes being on the court a place of comfort, where “I can really just leave the game and play the game.”
He said, “I don’t care who takes me.” “It would just be a blessing to play professional baseball, so that’s what we’re aiming for.”