Thursday, October 28, 2010


Less than 40% of African American males graduate from high school and four of the most dangerous neighborhoods in America are located within 10 miles of our home base at Perkerson Park.  Our Ambassadors have a 100% high school graduation rate and all have been admitted to college.  Working with L.E.A.D. to give them a more positive future makes my heart happy.  When I consider that 75% of Atlanta Public School students live at or below the poverty level, it puts a smile on my face when I see a young man going to college using baseball to ensure that his family won't accumulate high debt in order to obtain a college degree. 

At times unfortunately, I believe that the smiles that my wife and I have on our faces lead people to believe that we have it all together.  The reality is that we are making it day by day.  The staff that is making L.E.A.D. successful is my wife Kelli and I.  We have faithful volunteers that includes the Leaders and Ambassador’s parents but we need more in order to keep L.E.A.D. going.  The "heart" work Kelli and I have done has gotten us to this point but this is our official call for help.

What do we need?  We need financial support.  If 5,000 people donated $10 a month for a year, we would meet our annual budget without a grant.  How have we been meeting our budget over the past three years?  Kelli and I haven't received a salary for our 7 day per week, 10 hours per day sacrifice.  We have been fortunate to receive grants from the Atlanta Braves, the MLB Baseball Tomorrow Fund and other local foundations.  We currently have a partnership with Mizuno that is year-to-year and our board of directors has been active.

Our results show that the program works and can be successful nationwide, but without staff and resources such as qualified coaches, staff, tutors and facilities, the future of L.E.A.D. will be difficult to maintain.

Unfortunately, having a heart for kids doesn't get the bills paid and we become limited in our ability to help additional deserving families.  Atlanta is my city and it hurts me to not be able to properly serve those families that want to do better.  If you can't find a way to do better, you are simply forced to survive.  My commitment is real.  We are in the trenches everyday trying to make Atlanta a safe place through the development of young men that are invested in making Atlanta great!

We also need your time.  When I was a kid, I was able to make my dreams become a reality through the support of a lot of people.  There is no reason that it can't still work.  There are millions of people living in this city.  Some are privileged and some are not.  At the end of the day, we are all Atlantans.   How much time do you have to donate to a worthy cause like L.E.A.D.  What professional resources can you provide to us?  We all have something to offer.

We are in the process of developing a Tailgate Club that will make giving to L.E.A.D. simple.  We are scheduled to launch the Tailgate Club December 2010.  For more details, visit  Giving to youth is the best investment that you can ever make.  You have a lot to offer and we want to show you what it’s worth to us.

Open both eyes wide America

Darren Oliver is a left-handed relief pitcher for the Texas Rangers.  I have never met Darren but I am a fan of his from afar based on his work ethic on the field and hearing him speak during press conferences.

Ron Washington is the manager of the Texas Rangers.  Ron had his share of problems during the 2010 season dealing with drug addition but he wasn't alone.  His struggle helped motivate the Rangers team to come together and do something that the organization has never done.  The Rangers are in the 2010 World Series.

Beside being members of the Rangers organization, Oliver and Washington have something else in common.  They are the only African-Americans participating on the field during the 2010 World Series.

Like anything in life, you have to be good enough to get invited to the "big dance".  But with less than 9% of blacks playing and coaching at the major league level, chances of having an African-American playing or participating in the World Series are too slim to bet on.

The reason that chances are slim is typically due to economics rather than interest in predominately black communities. Becoming a major leaguer starts with a dream at a young age and is fostered by professional training.  Professional training costs thousands of dollars to pay for travel tournaments, nutrition, consulting, vision training and equipment to name a few resources that you MUST have.  It is kinda like trying to drive a car without a steering wheel.  You will not compete as a baseball player at the highest level without consistent professional help.

We are talking about an annual 5K-10K investment.  Baseball is no longer the sport that allows you to develop skills by playing in the neighborhood, hitting rocks with an old wood bat and throwing strikes into a tire until your mom said it is time to come in the house.  Those days are gone!

There are less than 9% of blacks in the majors and less than 6% competing at the NCAA level.  This is a crisis but L.E.A.D. has heard the cry for help.  We’ve answered by going into the inner city, mentoring young men and preparing them for college.  We are proud to say 100% of our Ambassadors have graduated high school and were admitted to college; 83% of them have attended college on scholarship.  L.E.A.D. is the only development organization that uses baseball to promote excellence with those statistics.

My parents didn't have a college fund saved for me so getting a baseball scholarship was the best present that I could ever give them.  Now we are trying help more young men earn scholarships and give that same gift to their parents.

Baseball is America's game but something has to be done to increase the African-American presence at the MLB and collegiate level.  More African-Americans in the NCAA means more students have a chance to earn degrees and the opportunity to help create a stronger job force in America.  Getting this right means we see young black men to college, not in jail cells.  .

I'm actually cheering for the Rangers because of Jeff Francoeur but the 2010 World Series puts America on notice that enough isn't being done for baseball in inner city communities.  There will be millions of eyes on the World Series.  If your eyes can open a little wider America, look at L.E.A.D. in Atlanta.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Remembering When You Were Raw

I played golf this week for the fifth time in my life.  My wife Kelli and I were guests of Zach and Rachel Blend at the Goshen Valley Classic at the Cherokee Golf Club.  I'm not much of a golfer but I love it for another reason.  Golf keeps me grounded so that I can be an effective baseball coach; it gives me a reality check that I still need development in areas of my life just like the Leaders in L.E.A.D.

Several of the Leaders in the Legacy League program are very raw, meaning that they haven't been coached or developed professionally as a baseball player.  In order to be effective as a coach for them, you have to be patient.

Some times as coaches, we forget that we were once raw too.  We’ve played at the high school level and beyond and have accomplished our goals.  Now we think we have all of the answers and expect to introduce a skill one time to our players and expect them to get it.

Whenever I begin to lose patience with my Leaders in regards to their baseball development, I simply play golf.  It reminds me that we all start somewhere and no matter what a person’s athletic ability is, they have to learn how to do something and practice it to get it right consistently.  We teachers, mentors and coaches need a reality check sometimes in order to properly help our youth.   If you aren't helping them, you are hurting them.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Harvest time

The Legacy League is going well.  Our Leaders are showing strong progress in the classroom and on the field.

We are in week 6 of the Legacy League and I'm using my coaching skills on the field as well as to be a mentor and father figure.  L.E.A.D. is more than baseball so we have to be involved with Leaders in everything.  Our families count on our coaches to do more than teach their sons how to field fly balls.

One of my 9th grade Leaders from the Legacy League is failing two classes.  He has outstanding parents that really care about him so today I stepped in to address the problem.  He is a quiet young man with lots of ability and wants to attend the University of GA as an attorney.  This is his freshman year and he is learning a lot about himself and where he fits in life.  At his school, it is cool to fail classes and not cool to be a Leader.

After my long conversation with the young man, he said "I will do better coach!"  I asked him what makes you want to do better now.  His response was that he didn't want to disappoint L.E.A.D. and his city!  He now knows that he is more than a student/athlete after our talk.  He is an asset to this city.

Even though failing two classes isn't anything to be excited about, I truly feel that through L.E.A.D, I helped change a young man's life forever.  This country will reap the benefits of his success.

On another note, five Leaders have been invited to attend official visits to college programs.  Desmond Stegall (senior, B.E. Mays High School), Cedric Daniel (senior, Westlake High School) and Jarmani Conway (senior, Westlake High School) will travel to Jackson State University in two weeks to begin the recruiting process.  Kerry Webb (senior, MLK High School) and Kendrell Dabney (senior, SW Dekalb High School) will travel to Tuskegee University to begin their recruiting process in two weeks as well.

Planting seeds and maintaining them isn't easy but it is well worth it at harvest time.  L.E.A.D. has watched 100% of our Ambassadors walk across the graduation stage and into college.

Thank you for watering the seeds of L.E.A.D. by continuing to support our organization.  We won't let you down.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Principal for a Day

I couldn't wait to wake up for my day as principal at B.E.S.T. Academy, an all boys middle school in the inner city of Atlanta.

I arrived at 7:30AM and saw 30+ boys on the football field releasing some early energy.  It wasn't football practice.  Just a friendly game of touch football.

By 7:45, I was greeting several of the more than 400 boys that were getting off the bus.  Some had smiles and some had looks of frustration.  Maybe they didn't have dinner the night before or had a rough morning.  The world outside of the B.E.S.T. Academy walls presents a lot of challenges for the boys but they are all in a great place this morning.

At 8:30AM, we were in the cafeteria.  Some boys are eating a healthy breakfast while others are still being screened through the medal detectors.  B.E.S.T. is slowly but surely changing the community one student and one family at a time.

Between 9:00AM and 11:30, I visited 4 classrooms.  Mr. Blackmon's 7th grade language arts class allowed the boys to discuss the struggles between protagonist and antagonist.  Mrs. Babson's 7th grade language arts class gave all of the boys 10 minutes of soft music as they wrote their thoughts freestyle under dim lights.  They presented their writing so well.  Mr. Diggs’ 6th grade math class was the bomb – as in real loud when problems were solved.  I don't recall math being that much fun!  My day as principal ended in Mrs. Edwards’ 7th grade science class.  The boys were super engaged and hung on to her every word.  She was so nurturing yet professional.

B.E.S.T. is successful because of the leadership of its principal LaPaul Shelton.  It is a culture that sets high expectations and fosters respect between the teachers and students.  I saw them all at their best today and it wasn't staged.

I am now more motivated to invest more time and resources for B.E.S.T. as a partner in education.  I care about my city and know you will never lose when you invest in kids.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

L.E.A.D. Development P.R.O.C.E.S.S.

L.E.A.D.'s Fall Legacy League Instructional Program is America's 1st program that focuses on the professional development of inner city baseball players.  In three years, L.E.A.D. has successfully placed 83% of our Ambassadors in college with scholarships and 100% of our Ambassadors have enrolled in college. 

All of the talent in L.E.A.D. is raw, meaning that they haven't been coached professionally.  We don't run away from raw talent because we have a development P.R.O.C.E.S.S. that works.

We PREPARE our Leaders by educating them on the front end about the fundamentals required to convert their raw talent to skills that are attractive to college coaches for scholarship opportunities.

We REINFORCE those fundamentals taught on the field and in the classroom with skill building drills, using a methodology on and off the field with journaling and weekly blogs.

We give OPPORTUNITIES for our Leaders to learn from their mistakes in an instructional game  environment.  If they make a mistake, we recreate the situation and do it again.  Practice makes permanent.

We teach our Leaders how to COMMUNICATE through positive conversations with our coaches instead of negative body language.

We EXPOSE our Leaders to high level competition against top tier teams to test what has been learned.  The games are indeed a test.  We make mistakes on the test but get opportunities in practice to learn and continue the development process.

We teach our Leaders that without STRUGGLE there is never SUCCESS.  Proper development always includes failure.

L.E.A.D. will continue to succeed using this process of development of raw inner city baseball talent.  All we need is for the families to come into the organization willing to develop.