Dion Jackson was trying to decide who to draft first for his 11- and 12-year-old Babe Ruth League team five years ago. He sought some advice from another coach to find out who the best player was at that age group.
"He said, ‘If you don't take Chazz Person
, you'll be kicking yourself,'" Jackson recalled. "I watched him play for about three minutes, and said, ‘Thank you.' That was it."
Person had speed, a strong arm, great range as a middle infielder and could hit effectively anywhere in the batting order. He still does.
Person is now turning heads as a junior on the Masterman (Philadelphia)
baseball team. The 17-year-old is in his third year starting, the last two at shortstop.
"He's one of those kids that makes the coaches look smart," said Jackson, who has coached Person for five seasons on various summer league teams. "He's a free thinker, but he knows baseball more than I do sometimes. You're ready to tell him something and he says, ‘I got it.' He's reassuring. He's just a great all-around kid."
Person has been playing baseball for 11 years and is well-rounded on the diamond. He isn't just fixated on putting up big offensive numbers, he wants to be just as sound on defense.
"I like being a multi-dimensional player, especially since I'm trying to play in college," Person said. "So I try and pride myself in both so that I have more tools as a player. I don't want to be known as just a good hitter or good fielder, I can be a player that encompasses both."
Jackson calls Person smooth in everything he does on the field.
"One of the best kids I've ever coached in life, and I've coached my son. I tell my son all the time, ‘I'm going to trade you in for him,'" Jackson joked.
Person earned the starting nod at second base as a freshman at Masterman. He played well and hit around .350.
"As with any player it took him some time to adjust to the game," Masterman coach Victor Otarola said. "However, he never gave up and continued to work hard on improving his game."
At the beginning of his sophomore season, Person shifted to the other side of the diamond to fill the vacant shortstop spot left by a graduated senior. He thrived at his new position. His quickness helped him to range over to deep balls in the hole and his strong arm allowed him to throw out fast hitters. At the plate, he was a consistent .350 hitter.Learn more about the MaxPreps US Marines program at www.maxpreps.com/marines
Early on in his junior season, Person is hitting .400 with a .571 on-base percentage and playing well defensively. He has plenty of goals in mind that he wants to accomplish this year.
"I'm making it my goal to make five or so errors the whole season and trying to hit around .400 or even .500 – if I could, that'd be great," said Person, who will also play this year for Mount Airy in the Philadelphia American Legion.
Coach Otarola has shuffled Person around the batting order the last few years, throwing him in the leadoff spot, second hole and even as the sixth hitter. He's primarily a top of the lineup player because of his quickness. Person tries to utilize his speed every opportunity he can.
"When I was little and watched baseball I wished I was a power hitter, but that never really happened," he said. "I always try to hit the gaps and just play to my strengths."
His coach will occasionally throw Person at sixth in the lineup to try and kick-start the bottom of the order.
"He's a spray hitter and puts it in the gaps," Jackson said. "He has blazing speed. When he gets on the base paths, he makes it tough for anybody. But his defense is second to none. Around here we're all Jimmy Rollins fans, because he's been around for years, and that's who he looks like."
Along with playing baseball, Person is on the Masterman basketball team. He was a valuable role player this past season off the bench as Masterman advanced all the way to the Class AA state quarterfinals.
Person stays plenty busy with athletics, but he's also a very dedicated student. He's posted a 3.86 GPA in his first 2 ½ years at Masterman, which is renowned for having high academic standards. Person is enrolled in all advanced placement and honors courses this semester.
Maintaining solid grades is important for Person. His mom is a municipal court judge and his dad is a lawyer, so doing well in school is a must.
"It's always pushed me to be successful and better, or try to be better than everybody else, because that's all that's accepted in our family," Person said.
He is in his second year as a member of the African American Culture Committee at Masterman, which informs the student body about different things going on in the African American community. Person also volunteers a fair share of his time when he's able. Last summer, he was a counselor for a camp at The Salvation Army Kroc Center of Philadelphia. He supervised and mentored 7- and 8-year-olds.
"At first, I was doing it because I knew it would look good on my resume," Person said. "But I learned that dealing with these kids as a camp counselor began to benefit me with my patience and stuff and it was a very fun experience."
Person also helps organizations around the holidays, including preparing and handing out Thanksgiving baskets through the Barristers' Association of Philadelphia for the last two years.
Person is starting to look beyond high school to get a glimpse of his future. He'd like to play college baseball and has recently competed in a few showcases to give coaches a taste of his game.
Person has had interest from Fordham, the University of Ohio and the University of Miami. He's big into Miami, and the Hurricanes coaches liked what they saw during a showcase. Person said college coaches have expressed their love for his athleticism, ability to run the bases and at the same time be a smart base runner.
If Person hopes to achieve his dream of playing high Division I baseball, he knows there are plenty of aspects of his game he needs to improve.
"I think I definitely need to get stronger so I can add a power attribute to my tools as a player to be a complete, five-tool player going into college," he said.Know an incredible student-athlete who stands out in sports and in life away from competition? Click here to nominate them for a chance to be featured on MaxPreps.