Thursday, April 29, 2010

Strong Connection

Saturday was a great baseball practice despite the rain. Everyone showed up on time and the agenda was packed with lots of baseball development opportunities. A fun and enriching day of practice concluded and it was time for me to get home to hang out with the family.

A couple of my young Leaders needed a ride home. An hour later, after everyone had been picked up, we set out for their houses. When I asked them how to get to their house, they said, “go there and turn here.”

I thought for a second and the question came to my head before it leaves my mouth. But I had to ask.

"Do you know your right from left?"

“No coach.”

“Ok guys, your left side is the side of your heart.”

“Got it coach…Turn left on this street coach…Thank you for the ride Coach C.J.”

Being able to give directions and knowing left from right is just one example of the fact that without exposure, students can miss out on a lot of learning opportunities. With budget restraints, it is difficult for schools to expose students to new opportunities.

L.E.A.D. meets our Leaders where they are. We are in a position to ask about their dreams and connect our Leaders with possibilities through enrichment opportunities in the city. For the Leader that dreams of being an architect, L.E.A.D. connects him with the design team that built Turner Field. After visiting City Hall this year, L.E.A.D. Ambassador Julian Phiffer said, "I'm going to be the Mayor of Atlanta one day!" And L.E.A.D. extends learning from the classroom so that the city may benefit from our Leaders through service every 4th Saturday of every month throughout the year.

Schools can't do it all. L.E.A.D. exists to support. To connect. It is difficult to focus on right and wrong when you don't know your right from your left.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Talk Is Cheap

Every year, ballparks and schools invite speakers to come to inner city venues to talk about the great game of baseball. If timing is right, the youth may even get a chance to attend a camp. But what happens after that? After the guest speaker is gone and the camp crew boards their flight at Hartsfield-Jackson, what do the kids have left to grow on? The dilemma is, the “after” part takes a lot of investment – time, money, etc. The meaning of the word investment means to reap a future benefit that’s larger than your initial input OR effort. So on the front end, effective programming (you’ll see that word a lot here) may be costly to implement, but so is funding a child through the judicial system from youth to and through adulthood on the back end.
If I attend a school to speak to 200 young men about why they should play baseball and tell them to hang in there and leave never to return, did I do a good deed? Or did I just plant a seed of hope that has no chance of growing because I didn’t provide resources to nourish it?

Talking has its place but consistent action must follow if we expect change. We keep talking but the numbers of African Americans competing in baseball keeps declining. Being from the south, Dr. King is one of my most respected and revered people of all time. He wrote a lot of speeches, spent a lot of time talking, but boy did he walk his talk. I’m aspiring to be the Dr. King of inner city baseball; will you join me?