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    Amari Allen is conquering high school baseball. What’s next?

    As the rest of his team chattered in the dugout, Amari Allen took a lonely stroll to his familiar spot in right field. Allen halts here, right at the warning track, before every game. Sherwood’s four state championship banners flutter with the wind at his back.

    Crouching down, Allen removed his cap and dropped his gaze to the turf. It was quieter there, away from the speakers blasting Guns N’ Roses and the growing crowd, which gathered a half-hour before the Warriors’ late April win over Montgomery County rival Quince Orchard.

    Two years ago, Allen was a sophomore without any true high school baseball experience. Now, he has a legitimate claim as the best player in the D.C. area, with a Maryland home run record, a state championship and All-Met Player of the Year honors. It is a journey that has been as taxing as it has been rewarding.

    For clarity within his chaotic rise, the 6-foot-4 senior prays three times per day: after he wakes up, before he falls asleep and here, for 45 seconds before the game.

    “I feel more confident. I feel more loose — it’s the reason I can do everything that I do now,” Allen said of his prayer. “He’s on my side.”

    Above all else, his motivation is acute. Plenty of the D.C. area’s top players are committed to Power Five schools, and a sizable number have spent years under the microscope of major league scouts. Over the past two years, Allen has outperformed most of those players.

    Bryce Eldridge is a two-way star. Ohtani comparisons have followed.

    But, until his shine continued over the summer circuit, Allen received little attention from those scouts. He had the same accolades without the same promise of a bright future.

    It has frustrated family members and teammates in the senior’s circle. It has stumped Allen, who changed his Instagram name to “UNDERRATED.” Maybe it has to do with his relatively recent rise or his stay at a public school. He’s also in rarer air, and endured a different journey, as a Black superstar in a sport where that is becoming increasingly rare. But, as Allen and Sherwood (16-1) eye a three-peat, he knows this path might be the right one for his story.

    “Maybe it’s going to work out how it was supposed to,” said Allen, who is committed to Chipola College, a two-year school in Florida that counts several MLB standouts as alumni. “I think God’s putting me in the best situation to become the best player I can. Maybe God wanted me to be on the back end and then just explode out of nowhere.”

    In the ensuing walloping of Quince Orchard, Allen’s singular traits shimmered. When the ball came off the bat of his teammates — many of whom will play in college — their contact generated a shrill pang. For Allen, the encounter resembled a sledgehammer striking steel.

    Last season, 0n Sherwood’s road to its second consecutive state championship, Allen hit .480 and tied the state record with 13 home runs while pitching to a 0.43 ERA.

    Against Quince Orchard this April, the lefty slugger notched two supercharged singles, the day’s hardest-hit balls, before the Cougars pitched around him, as most teams eventually do.

    “He probably gets one hittable pitch per at-bat,” Sherwood Coach Sean Davis said of Allen, who has three home runs and 16 RBI with a .444 average and .585 on-base percentage.

    Even if the attention suggests otherwise, Allen has stood out since his youth. He traversed the country playing travel basketball. He played football recreationally and returned to the sport this year after a long hiatus, quarterbacking the Warriors to a 9-3 record. He dabbled in soccer and tennis, too. In D.C.’s 12-and-under Little League, he threw no-hitters, dazzling with a curveball his peers couldn’t comprehend.

    In ninth grade, his dad moved from D.C. to the Maryland suburbs. Allen knew nothing of Olney, nor of Sherwood’s baseball program, but shined in his freshman year tryouts, earning a spot on varsity team as it went 7-0 in preseason scrimmages.

    In March, however, the pandemic erased his season. Sophomore year, Allen decommitted from Wake Forest, citing a coach’s departure, and spent the season away from the Warriors, attending to personal matters as the Warriors captured the state title.

    In his junior year, the team welcomed him back with open arms.

    Consistently, Allen was at his best in tight moments. It took just one game for Allen to reward his teammates’ faith: He blasted a go-ahead grand slam in the season opener. When he pitched, one shutout followed another, almost always against Sherwood’s toughest opponents. His work ethic stunned Davis, who watched as Allen dropped 40 pounds this offseason and spent months over the summer working on a transition to the outfield.

    His hitting — which scouts see as his most translatable skill — has shined brightest. Davis, who played against MLB all-star Mark Teixeira in high school, sees parallels in Allen’s game.

    “His clutch factor — it doesn’t show up on paper,” Davis said. “It’s not like he’s hitting solo home runs in the first inning. In pressure-packed situations, he shows up.”

    The postseason became Allen’s grand stage.

    Kevin Allen stood next to Derek Hacopian, another baseball parent, and watched as Urbana’s pitcher shook off the catcher’s call in the bottom of the sixth.

    That almost certainly meant one thing: In the 2022 Maryland 3A state quarterfinals, on a 3-2 count with the bases loaded, Amari Allen could expect a fastball in the strike zone.

    “No way,” Hacopian said.

    “They trippin’,” Kevin Allen said.

    Amari sent the ball over the right field fence. It hit Urbana’s bus in the parking lot.

    “That was probably the biggest moment of my life,” he said.

    Sherwood won, 4-2, with Allen’s grand slam providing all of the offense and his pitching carrying the team to the state semifinals, where they dispatched Churchill and then Severna Park for the school’s second state title.

    Still, Allen was a virtual unknown, and that ate at him. But his confidence after the season was at an all-time high. Finally, this past summer, his patience was rewarded.

    In June, he attended the MLB Breakthrough Series alongside some of the country’s top African American players. There, he worked with ex-MLB players, including Ken Griffey Jr. and Marquis Grissom.

    The experience was meaningful to Allen, who is the only Black player on his team and often the only one on the field. Growing up, he and his dad would usually be the only people of color at the baseball complexes they visited. Last season, he was the target of racist language during a road game.

    “This is where prayer comes in,” his father said. “This is why he prays. That’s the thing that’s going to make him stronger than me, you, any baseball team or any amount of money that anybody can pay him.”

    Allen doesn’t like dwelling on negative experiences, but they’re there. And he understands that he can be a light, as role models such as Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson and Atlanta Braves outfielder Michael Harris II have been.

    “It’s a point of pride because I feel like, if I fail or I show them they got to me or if I quit, they’re going to say, ‘We got to him’ and, ‘He doesn’t belong here,’ ” Allen said. “But if I keep playing, I show them I am who I say I am.

    “There are a lot of things we as African American players go through that other people may not go through, so it makes the game harder to love. … But I think us going through that makes us stronger and makes us know that we can do this, that they can’t push us out of that.”

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