Tears makes it official with Vols, set for national contest

By Maurice Patton

It wasn’t news that Kavares Tears signed a college baseball scholarship Wednesday with the University of Tennessee – the Columbia Academy standout announced his intentions to do so nearly three years ago – but there was news.

The left-handed Tears, who pitches and plays outfield and first base, has been selected to participate in the inaugural Minority Baseball Prospects All-American Game, which will take place Nov. 21 at Hank Aaron Stadium in Mobile, Ala.

“He’s that ‘five-tool’ guy,” said Alexander Wyche, a veteran high school baseball coach in Georgia and founder/CEO of Minority Baseball Prospects. “He shows power, with size, speed and arm strength. He can do it all.”

The MBP All-American Game will feature some of the nation’s top players from the recruiting classes of 2021, 2022 and 2023. The participants were selected based on evaluations of performances over the summer and scout recommendations.

“I didn’t know they were at any of my games,” Tears said. “This is the best summer I’ve had – ever, I think. I feel like I was more consistent. I was able to get more confident in my swing and hit for power.”

What he did is what veteran CA coach Richie Estep has always expected, and what the Tennessee coaching staff envisioned when it offered Tears a scholarship.

Kavares Tears (seated, center), flanked by parents Rodrick and Alicia, listens as Columbia Academy baseball coach Richie Estep comments on Tears signing a college baseball scholarship with the University of Tennessee during a Wednesday ceremony. (Courtesy photo)

“I’ve told everybody, he’s just different,” Estep said regarding Tears, the first Southeastern Conference baseball signee in the program’s history and the first NCAA Division I signee since former standout Clint Holloway went to Tennessee Tech after beginning his collegiate career at Columbia State.

“The ball comes off his bat different. It just jumps off his bat. But he’s got so much to go with it. He’s got a great arm, he’s got great speed, he hits for average, he hits for power. No matter where he’s played, he’s shined. He plays first base for us, but I think at that level he’s going to be out there in the outfield and in the middle of the (batting) order, driving in runs. He’s a special talent.”

Tears is excited about taking that talent to Tennessee next fall and joining forces with fourth-year Volunteers coach Tony Vitello.

“They’ve made huge strides; people are seeing what he can do,” Tears said regarding the former Missouri assistant, who led UT to a 15-2 start last spring before COVID-19 forced an early end to the season. “I think that’s made a big impact with the recruits.”

With minority participation levels in Major League Baseball hovering below eight percent – MLB made sure to point out that this week’s selections of Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Devin Anderson and Seattle Mariners outfielder Kyle Lewis as Rookies of the Year marked the first time two African-Americans were honored in the same year since the Mets’ Dwight Gooden and the Mariners’ Alvin Davis in 1984 – Tears is cognizant of his place in the sport.

“When you look at baseball, there aren’t too many African-Americans,” he said. “It’s mostly Caucasians, Hispanics. Bringing awareness that we can still make it, is humbling. It’s a good thing.

“When you go to a ballfield and you’re the only one there, (when) everybody’s looking at you like ‘shouldn’t you be on a basketball court?’, it motivates you to prove you belong.”

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. E-mail: mopattonsports@gmail.com; Twitter: @mopatton_sports.

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