Chicago’s Paris Head helps US win U-12 Baseball World Cup

On Sunday afternoon, 12-year-old Paris Head called his mom, Lakeisha Brown, to ask where she was. He’d been at the barbershop, unaware of the preparations being made outside their Humboldt Park home.

Brown and her neighbors were setting up tables and chairs and preparing food for a second block party in four weeks in Head’s honor — this one a surprise organized by the community.

Head pitched and played middle infield for Team USA at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) World Cup in Tainan, Taiwan. The Americans defeated the host country 10-4 in the final on Aug. 6 to claim their fifth U-12 World Cup title.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Head told the Tribune. “We got to celebrate with the team. On the bus ride back to the hotel we were singing ‘Party in the U.S.A.’”

Accompanied by his mother for the 13-day trip, Head said he enjoyed meeting players from all over the world and competing with and against them.

“The people were kind,” Brown said. “They treated us like royalty. They love them some USA.

“It was a great experience watching him play. Watching other kids get this experience was undeniable. Proud is an understatement.”

A left-handed pitcher who keeps his arm loaded with beaded bracelets to help with sweat, Head pitched 6 1/3 innings in the tournament with eight strikeouts and a 1.89 ERA. As a hitter, he had four RBIs and an .850 OPS. It was some of the best baseball of his young career, Brown said.

A few of Head’s current and former coaches attended Sunday’s celebration. Though the gold medal belongs to him, it also was a win for those who helped him develop through the years.

Byron Banks, who coached Head from ages 7 to 11 on his travel team, Athletic Konnection, attended with his wife. Seeing a former player succeed in the way Head did made Banks emotional.

“To coach a kid of that caliber and to have had an impact meant the world, but to see a kid that deserved it meant even more,” Banks said. “My wife and I were actually watching together and I just started crying.

“He put in so much work. He’s a kid that’s not going to stop unless you make him. He’s going to keep going, keep working. To see someone put in that work, you feel that they deserve something from it.”

David Reed, Head’s coach with the White Sox Amateur City Elite (ACE) program, agreed.

Paris Head laughs with one of his coaches, David Reed, during a block party Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023, in West Humboldt Park.

“On the field and off the field, Paris is a great kid,” Reed said. “On the field he’s producing some things that a lot of guys at his age and even higher don’t even do.

“Paris has the ability to be a five-tool baseball player. He can run with great speed, hit for power, hit for average and he has a plus-plus arm. He has the mental capacity to understand what’s going on around him and be able to react and communicate things to the kids. He’s like another coach on the field.”

As family and friends gathered to celebrate Head, music blasted from a speaker inside the family’s home. A playlist of songs about winning marked the occasion.

Though the crowd wasn’t especially large, enthusiasm was high. It was a co-celebration for Head and a high school graduate who lives next door. Children played in bounce houses and adults congratulated the young star, reminding him he made the entire community proud.

“I can’t even explain it,” said Virdell Brown, Head’s grandmother, who traveled from Nashville, Tenn., with her husband, Willie, to mark the occasion. “I’m so very proud of the young man that he is. I watched every last game. It did not matter what time it was. I set the alarm.”

Though he isn’t the first baseball player in his family, Head is the first to see this kind of success. Rogers Head, Paris’ grandfather and a former pitcher himself, said he recognized his grandson’s talent early and told Paris’ dad, Marcus, to show him videos of St. Louis Cardinals legend Ozzie Smith to get him better acquainted with what a shortstop looks like.

Paris Head plays in a bounce house with other kids during a block party Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023, in West Humboldt Park.

Paris’ family and friends encouraged him to take his passion for baseball as far as he can. But they noted that the winning and accomplishments don’t faze him too much, something they admire in someone so young.

Head said he hopes to play baseball professionally, but for now he just wants to enjoy the experiences. After talking with adults at the party and posing for photos with everyone who asked, he removed his gold medal, passed it to his grandfather and joined the rest of the kids in a bounce house.

“I am so overjoyed with this kid,” Rogers Head said. “What I really love about him is that he’s elite and he still wants to be a kid.”

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