CHICAGO (BVM) – Brother Rice baseball continues to reach new heights thanks to an extremely talented young core. Among them is Class of 2023 catcher Zion Rose.
The rising senior has been near the top of the Illinois state rankings throughout his high school career thus far, and it is in part thanks to his beginnings in the sport.
For quite some time when he was younger, it was the sport of football that caught Rose’s eye. He enjoyed the action and physicality of the sport, and was hoping to find a way to translate that to baseball. As he got more serious on the diamond, he found a position where he could make that happen.
“We had a practice and our catcher wasn’t there,” Rose said. “My coach was like, ‘You’re always in the linebacker position, always kind of down, just try catching one day.’ Ever since then, I’ve been hooked. I just really like how involved I am with the game.”
Rose grew up playing with Jackie Robinson West of Little League World Series fame, and additional travel clubs that helped him develop the energy and leadership needed for the catcher position.
“I feel like baseball challenged me a lot more than any other sport,” Rose said. “Baseball is a game of failure to succeed … It keeps me working, it keeps my game on point, and it’s a different person you have to be in baseball. It’s helped me mature as a man.”
While Rose believes his football career could have gone far, he decided to give it up as he entered high school. However, the main reason was because of how good he had become at baseball. At the beginning of his freshman year, Rose verbally committed to join the Louisville Cardinals in 2023.
I will like to thank my parents my grandparents my siblings and everyone who has helped in this baseball journey! Thank you everyone for pouring your all into me. Now that I’ve got that out of the way I would love to announce that I have committed to The University of Louisville! pic.twitter.com/LPg79wOCAB
— Zion Rose (@zionrosebball4) September 10, 2019
“Louisville was the first school to talk to me,” Rose said. “I’ve always wanted to go to Louisville. It’s been my dream school forever. They’ve been super consistent with their program. They grow some great players, have great coaching, great hospitality. Louisville is the MLB team in Kentucky. I felt like it was the right fit for me.”
While a bright future awaits at Louisville, Rose’s high school career is why many think the sky’s the limit for the talented catcher. That career did not start out on the best of notes, however, as Rose disappointingly had his freshman season canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My goal going into high school was showing out enough on the junior varsity level to the point where they had to bring me up,” Rose said. “Unfortunately, one day before our first game, they said, let’s wait it out a week, see what happens, and then it ended up being the whole season.”
Had Rose reached varsity as a freshman, he would have likely been primarily an outfielder or DH, as senior catcher and current Louisville sophomore Jack Payton held the starting role. However, with Payton off to college in 2021, it was Rose’s time to make his mark at the high school level.
“I came into it knowing, first time on varsity, of course there were nerves a little bit, but I knew I was going to have to be a leader,” Rose said. “It was a fun year, we made a great run.”
Rose was solid in his first action at Brother Rice last year, batting .389. However, with a talented team, Rose and his Crusader teammates left the year with a bitter taste in their mouth after falling to star pitcher Brady Louck and Plainfield East in the Class 4A Crestwood Supersectional.
With its strong core returning, Brother Rice continued to have high expectations going into this past season. For Rose, the sting of how last season finished only motivated him more.
“This squad has been the best team I’ve ever been on,” Rose said. “This year we had leadership, we had all the right guys, you could just tell everyone was focused on baseball. Everybody wanted to do good, we did everything right.”
Once again, Rose shined throughout the year, batting .496 with four home runs, 39 RBIs, 58 runs and 31 steals as an all-state player. He was aided by a special team full of plenty of Division I talent, something that doesn’t always happen at the high school level. Some of those players included Purdue commits Amir Gray and Cole Van Assen, Indiana commit Dylan Warda and Northwestern football commit Jack Lausch.
“The memories we made this year are going to last a lifetime,” Rose said. “It’s going to keep us connected forever. I really appreciate that I was able to have the season with those guys. They’re all going to big schools so we are probably going to play each other in the future, and that’s the cool thing about baseball … Baseball connects people like no other sport can.”
Unfortunately, Brother Rice (35-6) again came up short of a title, losing in the 4A state semifinals to Edwardsville in a game Rose believes they could have won. Still, it was a special season overall for the Crusaders as they made their fifth trip all-time to state.
“I think we beat ourselves that game, but that’s how baseball works,” Rose said. “We did a great job of representing Illinois this year and representing Brother Rice baseball. We really put Midwest baseball on the map.”
Part of doing that stems from what the nationally-ranked program did early in the season, beating two Florida heavyweights in IMG Academy and Montverde Academy. Later in the year, Rose also had a chance to check out what will eventually be his new home as he received a warm reception while Brother Rice played a few games in Louisville.
“It was amazing,” Rose said. “They had great hospitality, all the Louisville fans were coming out and they were like, ‘Oh, we can’t wait for you to get here.’ They had great competition down there.”
Once Rose actually puts on a Cardinals uniform, he hopes to find plenty of success. He also hopes it could be the next stepping stone to an eventual pro career similar as it was for a recent Louisville catcher, No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 MLB draft, Henry Davis.
“I’m so ready,” Rose said about joining Louisville. “I just want to mature as a player, get all their training, meet new people, make new relationships and win a college world series. Louisville produces some amazing catchers. I’m definitely going to have to work to get there, but that’s part of the game.
“I’ve learned over time, it’s not even about making it to the MLB, it’s about the journey … Once I get there, it’ll be like, ‘Wow, OK, I’m here, now I want to enjoy the process.’”
Rose continues to take things day by day, but this summer will bring about another chance to impress MLB scouts. Earlier this year, the Brother Rice standout was selected to compete in the High School All-American Game held at Dodger Stadium in July.
“It’s such an honor to be in that,” Rose said. “That was one of the things on my list that I have in my room on my mirror for my goals in 2022. I’m so glad that the MLB recognized me as one of the top players to go down and compete with those guys. It’s just another opportunity for me to put Illinois on the map.”
For Rose, making it to the MLB someday would go beyond the game. Currently, Major League Baseball has the lowest number of Black players in history. Even more rare is a Black catcher playing at that level. Rose hopes he can become the next, and provide someone for future players to look up to.
“That’s my goal, to make it as a catcher and be an inspiration to other young Black catchers,” Rose said. “I’ve been working on it my whole life … It’s definitely a tough position. I’m going to keep working hard and hopefully one day I am an inspiration for young kids.”
Rose has plenty of time to continue working towards that ultimate goal. But first up is finishing his career at Brother Rice on a high note. The Crusaders will feature a younger team next season, but with Rose leading the way again, success still seems possible.
“We’re bound to win a championship next year, I’m hoping so,” Rose concluded.