THE MIND of a good businessman constantly toils, deciphering the best sales pitch while tailoring it to a specific clientele.
Asa James knows this well.
In fact, the Boys' Latin junior isn't only a businessman; he is a business, man! James buys and sells sneakers and has his entrepreneurial eyes set on owning his own company someday.
"I used to just buy them for myself," he said, "but after a while, I looked them up and saw how much they were worth, and I like business, so I thought I might as well sell some shoes and get some extra profit."
He does keep some for himself, estimating that he has nine pairs of size-13s at his disposal.
"Usually when Jordans come out, there's a long line, so I'll wait in line and the shoes might cost $170, but you might sell them for $400 or $500, which is a pretty good profit."
Yesterday, his pitches came from the mound as Boys' Latin ran away from host Roxborough High, 16-5, on a cold and blustery day of Public League Division B action. James struck out six and walked five, but perhaps his most significant contribution came at the plate.
After the Warriors (6-1) jumped out to an 8-0 lead through three, the Indians (6-2) had comeback on the brain with three unanswered runs until James launched a sixth-inning grand slam, through a biting wind, well over the fence in left.
"I just tried to get a good swing, and it happened to go over the fence for a grand slam," he undersold. "I honestly thought the wind was going to knock it down and it would be a single or something."
James finished 3-for-5 with four RBI and also scored three runs. On the mound, he gave up three unearned runs on five hits. Also significant contributors were seniors Antonio Harris (four RBI) and Jahlil Gregg (2-for-5), while junior Manny Fernandez (3-for-4, two RBI) and sophomore Abdur Mujahid (2-for-4) were also key.
Junior hurler Michael Moore was a human suture in relief for the Indians. Moore entered in the second and only allowed one run through three frames until James' home run. Five Indians errors certainly didn't help. He finished with nine strikeouts and three walks, but also gave up nine runs (seven earned). Collin Yeager drove in two runs while Michael Lopez and Zachary Santiago each added two hits.
As for our capitalist, James (teammates call him "Ace") lives in West Philadelphia near 46th and Market and is the youngest of six children. On weekends, he does janitorial work at local churches with an older brother to fund his business. His mother and father, Cheryl and Reginald, also have invested in him financially.
He said his first sneaker sale was a pair of Jordan Retro XIs, which he bought for $220 and resold for $400.
"Those shoes are very popular," he said, chuckling.
Most of his transactions begin via Facebook groups or sometimes in conjunction with consignment shops. He carries a 2.8 GPA and hopes to study business in college. Thus far, he has learned a valuable lesson.
"Always be careful and only go in with friends, because you never know who you'll [be in business] with," he said. "Sometimes I just go to consignment shops and they sell the shoes for me, and I give them a percentage."
His father introduced him to baseball when he was 8 or 9 years old and, "actually, I wasn't that good, but I just loved it and have ever since." He earned honorable mention All-Public honors as a freshman and second-team accolades last season.
And years from now when he's a successful business owner, James said he wouldn't forget where he came from or how baseball helped him.
"First thing I would do is probably give some money to my school, so they can do better and then I would try to open a few [ballparks] and help kids who can't afford things like baseball gear," he said. "Just try to buy some gear and set up a nice field.
"It's good for kids to play sports when they're young, because it helps them to become leaders and they can't always afford it, especially a sport like baseball. It's a thinking man's game and it can create leaders."
Asa "Ace" James might be Exhibit A.