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A Star Baseball Player Was Killed For Sneakers. Now His Childhood Friend Will Award A Scholarship In His Honor

Torrence Sumerlin was a standout catcher at Whitney Young before he was fatally shot in August. A scholarship will give a Chicago kid the chance to attend Sumerlin's college and wear his number.

Family photos sit on a shelf as the family of Torrence Sumerlin, Jr., who was fatally shot last summer, gather in March 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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GARFIELD PARK — The loved ones of Torrence Sumerlin, a slain baseball star from Garfield Park, are celebrating his legacy with a newly created scholarship.

Sumerlin was shot and killed Aug. 20 in Tri-Taylor while meeting someone to sell a pair of Air Jordans. Sumerlin was just 26 — but he was widely known for his baseball skills, his commitment to his family and his entrepreneurial spirit. His death left people across the United States devastated.

Sumerlin’s former coaches at Allen County Community College in Kansas set up a GoFundMe to pay for his funeral, which was held at a packed auditorium in Whitney Young. Donations kept pouring in. The fund has raised more than $24,000.

The extra money will now establish a baseball scholarship in Sumerlin’s honor. Julian Calixo, who played at Allen County and was one of Sumerlin’s best friends, will pick a Chicago ballplayer who will attend Allen County for free and wear Sumerlin’s number.

“This is what T would want: another Chicago kid just like him, getting the chance to play at a high level,” Calixo said. “He’ll wear his number. He’ll be playing for him.”

Sumerlin’s family members are excited to meet the player who will receive the scholarship and carry on a part of their son’s legacy.

Carla Sumerlin, Torrence’s mom, holds on to every video she can find of her son, eager to keep his memory alive. 

There’s Torrence Sumerlin, still in his baseball pants dusted with sand, behind the grill at the family cookout. In another, he’s catching for Whitney Young Magnet High School. He’s smiling as he sits on a boat, jetting away.

“I just want you to hear his laugh,” Carla Sumerlin said, smiling and holding back tears. “It’s really hard to know that he’s gone. I think about him a lot. I still watch his videos.” 

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Julian Calixo, best friend of the late Torrence Sumerlin Jr. who was fatally shot last summer, talks with mother Carla Sumerlin in March 2022.

‘I Just Want To Let Him Know Who T Was’

Sumerlin was a baseball standout at Whitney Young, a collegiate champion at Southeastern University and an entrepreneur who had bought his own properties, paid off two cars and collected sneakers. His goal was to create “generational wealth” for his family, said his dad, Torrence Sumerlin Sr.

“He wasn’t interested in working for nobody,” Sumerlin Sr. said. 

“And he was well on his way,” Carla Sumerlin said. “If you knew my son, you loved him. No doubt.” 

Sumerlin was pursuing one of his side jobs — selling sneakers — when he was killed.

One man has been charged with murder in Sumerlin’s slaying, though prosecutors said another was involved in ambushing and killing the 26-year-old, according to the Sun-Times.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Baseball photos of Torrence Sumerlin, Jr., who was fatally shot last summer.

Torrence Sumerlin lived the same way he played baseball, Calixo said. The two had recently been playing together on a men’s league team, the Expos, who gave Sumerlin a nickname: “Daddy Hacks.” 

“Because he’s a free swinger out there: 0-2 count, back against the wall, he’d still swing right out of his shoes,” Calixo said. “Curveball, fastball, change-up, he’d swing it hard. It was always all or nothing with Torrence.” 

Sumerlin made “almost six figures a year” driving for Uber Eats and “took it very seriously,” Carla Sumerlin said. He committed to a set schedule, “11-3, 5-9, every day on the dot,” said his brother, Tre Sumerlin.

Torrance Sumerlin used the money to pay off his work car and a personal car, and to buy a two-flat on the Near West Side — the first of what he hoped to be many investment properties. 

“He told me, ‘You need to save your money, pops. Because when I’m ready to make the move, you better be ready to pitch in if you want to go,'” Sumerlin Sr. said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Tre Sumerlin, brother of Torrence Sumerlin, Jr. who was fatally shot last summer, listens as his family is interviewed in March 2022.

Sumerlin’s confidence was absolute, sometimes to the point you had to roast him for it, Calixo said.

“I was scrolling through my Snapchat the other day. We were playing one-on-one basketball, and I got a video of me just talking hella s— to him,” Calixo said. “And he’s just like, ‘Play me again, play me again, play me again, play me again, play me again.’”

“He’d play you all day,” Tre Summerlin said. “That’s him.”

Carla Sumerlin said in the time between her son’s hustles selling sneakers and driving Uber Eats, he organized a baseball team for neighborhood kids in Garfield Park. He was an honor roll student in high school and college. 

Torrence Sumerlin talked to his mom every day.  

“You would call him for anything and he’d come help you. He was the one I called. ‘Son, I need help with this. I need help with that,’” Carla Sumerlin said. “He’d say ‘Anything else, momma?’ That was his favorite line.” 

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Carla Sumerlin shows a video of a young Torrence Sumerlin, Jr., who was fatally shot last summer, after winning a baseball trophy as a kid.

Tre Sumerlin said his brother also was working on launching his own clothing line, to be called Family Before Everything.

“He showed up to our meeting about it wearing a shirt, tie, everything. And we were on the couch in sweatpants,” Tre Sumerlin said. “He said we talking business. He wanted to build real businesses.”

Sumerlin hoped to buy a retail property and start a store where people could exchange sneakers safely, his mom said. And he wanted to play baseball forever. 

“He would have had kids and been a coach, for sure,” Carla Sumerlin said. “That love of the game just made him go.”

Sumerlin was a catcher at several colleges before graduating from Southeastern University, where he played on the first team in school history to win the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics World Series in 2018. 

Calixo said he and Sumerlin were halfway through their season when he was killed. The team went on to win the league. They made custom rings with Torrence’s nickname and number on them.

“He was like our guardian angel playing out there. We had to put him in everything we had,” Calixo said. “Because he was out there celebrating with us, too.”

Carla Sumerlin turned towards her son’s friend and thanked him. 

“He was there,” she said. “He was with you guys.” 

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Julian Calixo, best friend of the late Torrence Sumerlin Jr. who was fatally shot last summer, shows off their team’s championship ring, adorned with Sumerlin’s nickname and number, in March 2022.

In the corner of the family room, Carla Sumerlin keeps a shrine to her son, brimming with baseballs, tee-ball photos from Horner Park and “pieces of him” she’s received from family and friends. She said she has kept all of her son’s things and does not want to part with any of them.

Carla Sumerlin said she remembers her son having to scrape by through college, working odd jobs and selling sneakers to pay for books and food. She hopes the scholarship will make it easier for the next kid that wears his number. 

“To have that in his name, to know that will always be there for somebody,” Carla Sumerlin said. “He would have loved that.”

Carla Sumerlin also said she wants to meet the young man Calixo chooses for the scholarship.

“I just want to let him know who T was,” Carla Sumelrin said. “And I hope this is a blessing to him, as our son was to us. … I hope the player, he’s just like him. That they want better, they want success in life. To grow up to be a good person, a good man.” 

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Family photos sit on a shelf as the family of Torrence Sumerlin, Jr., who was fatally shot last summer, gather in March 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Julian Calixo, best friend of the late Torrence Sumerlin Jr. who was fatally shot last summer, talks in March 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Raquel Menedez, Torrence Sumerlin Sr., Julian Calixo, Carla Sumerlin, Teddy the dog and Tre Sumerlin.

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