Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Get 100 in 10

Thirty four years ago, I was born into the world destined to be successful – according to my mom.  Her expectations were high even though funds were low.  My parents needed a strong support system to help with raising me.  That support system was the Atlanta community.

On April 10th, I will be celebrating my 35th birthday. My mom's formula for success – prayer, hard work, education and respecting others – has gotten me to a place where I can use baseball to serve others and I love every bit of it. This year for my birthday, I’m asking you to join a support system that will impact hundreds of young men in Atlanta.  In 10 days, I’ll celebrate my birthday with family, friends and youth baseball players at Perkerson Park.  I want to make the announcement then that 100 people have pledged to donate at least $10 a month for the next year.  Will you be a part of that pledge and help support your community?

As a kid, I wanted to be a professional baseball player for the Chicago Cubs.  I also wanted to be a successful entrepreneur.  Thanks to the support of my community, my reality has surpassed those dreams.  Today, I am one of the top baseball instructors in the country and owner of Diamond Directors ( I am also the founder of L.E.A.D., Inc., an Atlanta-based non-profit that uses baseball to help inner city middle and high school males access college.  To date, 100% of our L.E.A.D. Ambassadors have graduated from high school and enrolled in college.  87% of our Ambassadors have received baseball scholarships.  We achieve excellence in areas of academics, athletics, service/civic engagement and exposure.

L.E.A.D. offers year-round programs and I need your help in order for us to serve more student-athletes in the Atlanta Public School System.  By donating at least $10 per month for a year, you can help fund the addition of two teams in our 2011 Legacy League, America's first fall instructional league that focuses on the development and exposure of inner city baseball talent.  And our goal is not just to help these young men develop baseball skills; we want to address the fact that Georgia’s statewide high school graduation rate for African American males is only 43% and help more young men graduate and succeed.

Be a part of our winning team like countless others did for me when I was younger.  You can visit to set up a recurring donation.   Make your pledge and join me on April 10 at Perkerson Park and help me make the announcement that in 10 days, 100 people pledged to donate $10! This is the Atlanta Way!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Your name

L.E.A.D. shared the stage with some powerful and influential names this week such as Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Jean Childs Young and Walter L. Parks. This week, L.E.A.D. hosted Signing Day at six of our partner middle schools within the Atlanta Public School System. The LEADers at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, John F. Kennedy, Jean Childs Young, Walter L. Parks, B.E.S.T. Academy and Sylvan Hills signed L.E.A.D. scholarships.

Each LEADer's signature and date on the scholarship was an acceptance of L.E.A.D.'s mission to use baseball to access college. They also agreed to honor our pillars of excellence which include academics, athletics, service/civic engagement and exposure.

D'Anthony Morrow, Cameron Giles, Ryan Martin and Lolon Lemons are among the names of LEADers in our Middle School Development League that are destined for greatness. They will achieve greatness because of the support of people like you.

This was an emotional week for me as well as I looked into the eyes of parents that are grateful for the mentorship that we provide throughout the year to their sons. I spoke to school administrators that are thankful for the added incentive that can be provided to their students. L.E.A.D. charges our young men to make a difference in their school and in their community.  We hold our LEADers accountable by measuring their commitment throughout the year.

I want to say a special thank you for your attendance to Elanor Gotell who was in the first graduating class from Martin Luther King Middle School. Ms. Gotell's son Octavious Bradley Sr. currently serves as a coach for the Martin Luther King Cobras and Octavious Bradley Jr. is a member of the King baseball team. This is also Octavious Jr.'s first time playing organized baseball and he is loving it. Ms. Gotell's class was responsible for selecting the school mascot Cobras as well as the school colors royal blue and gold.

Great things are happening in Atlanta through L.E.A.D. and we invite you to join. My name is C.J. Stewart and I am the proud founder/CEO of L.E.A.D. What's your name?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wise souls

Spending time with my grandmother today gave me a boost of energy. Like most grandmothers, mine is the foundation of our family.  She is filled with so much wisdom and positive energy.

She never saw me play in a baseball game but she was always my biggest fan. We have a large family and grandma couldn't be everywhere at once.   I knew that I could always go to her for money to buy Nike cleats when my mom wouldn't buy them.  Lol!  She always found something for me to do around the house to earn the money though.

I'm older now and she was there to watch me be ordained as a deacon.  Her being there on that occassion meant more to me than seeing me hit a homerun.  She has also been present at several L.E.A.D. functions.  I remind her that I serve others now because I was inspired by her as a child.

A kiss on the cheek and a "job well done" from grandma is what I needed today.  L.E.A.D. will continue to move in the right direction with the prayers of wise souls like my grandmother.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Disney Magic in Atlanta!

Good old fashion hospitality is the secret sauce behind the Disney magic. There is an amazing culture created here. The best part? It can be duplicated.

It starts with having people involved that want to be involved. Disney employees seem more like investors in the Disney Corporation than just employees.

The second of many ingredients is good leadership. Someone is taking the time to make sure that all i's are dotted and t's crossed. Careful planning and execution is critical to providing a memorable experience.

I realize that Disney wasn't created over night. It started with a mission and vision a long, long time ago. That mission and vision was so clear and that is why millions of people throughout the world can leave Orlando, Florida with a smile on their face compliments of Mickey.

I'm having more fun here recognizing the people that are delivering the experience than riding the rides. Maybe I'm alone on this one but I'm a fan of serving others. Sanitation jobs are revered out here. The parking attendants could sign autographs if they wanted to.

We are mixing up the L.E.A.D. sauce and glad that you are willing to try it. We aren't perfect but we strive to provide a wonderful, memorable experience for everyone that is involved with our year round program; from the student-athletes on the diamond to the spectators in the stand.

L.E.A.D. is providing Disney Magic in Atlanta!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Career Day the Grove Park Way!

I heard the word entrepreneur for the first time when I was in the 3rd or 4th grade at Grove Park Elementary. Of course there were doctors, lawyers and engineers in the building but that wasn't what I wanted to do when I "grew up". I am so thankful that our school principal Mrs. Jones made sure that we had a large variety of careers represented that day.

Fast forward over 25 years and today I was able to have several of my dear friends share their careers with students at Grove Park. Exposure still means so much to me as an adult as I strive for excellence. That same exposure is what is needed to mold our students in APS. Like the old saying goes "you know what you know and you don't know what you don't know". Our students are capable of being great but it is our responsibility to expose them to tomorrow's positive realities today!

Special thanks to Grove Park's Principal Caitlin Sims and school counselor Ramia Cook for organizing the successful event. Thank you to my wonderful friends for pouring yourselves into the Grove Park students. L.E.A.D. Today...Change Tomorrow!

Jeff Johnson-Peachtree TV
Kristi Chadd Scott-Sports Radio Personality Kevin Donovan-Helios Partners (Marketing)
Patty Rasmussen-Freelance writer
Darrin Woley-Ignition (Marketing)

I will be updating this list with others guest presenters that were at Grove Park today.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Time for a good time

This has been a great vacation and much needed for the Stewart family.

My time in Orlando has allowed me to hear the laughter of my daughters as they swim in pool.  We go throughout the day without a set schedule and I use my iPhone mostly for photo taking.  We haven't seen Mickey at Disney yet but he looks good in our Braves gear.

Being here makes me realize that I needed a timeout.  When you love what you do, the last thing that you want is a break from it. I love baseball and I love L.E.A.D. and it has been good to charge the batteries back up under the hot Florida sun.

Time down here will be used to appreciate one another in the Stewart house.  The girls can scream as loud as they want to and stay up really late.  They deserve it.  Kelli has been able to get some good rest and that makes me happy because she wears her cape everyday back home.  I'm simply enjoying the ability to wear sandals and my Ambassadors visor.

It's Friday and our time is almost up.  Headed back to the ATL on Sunday and ready to work on Monday. In the meantime, my batteries aren't fully charged yet.  We miss y'all and we are having a good time.

Monday, March 14, 2011

High expectations

It is no secret that inner city schools struggle to meet the bar of academic achievement.  Know one has the perfect plan but the key is to have a plan.  APS has some of the most talented and dedicated teachers that you will ever find.  That is why I am encouraged that Atlanta Public Schools will produce more Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s and Ceasar Mitchell's in the future.

I am fortunate to have my organization L.E.A.D. to be a partner with the Atlanta Public School System through the Atlanta Partners for Education program. This allows me to be a part of the solution.

Within L.E.A.D., we meet our middle and high school male students where they are.  We are dealing with at risk male students but our expectations are extremely high for them.  We offer year round baseball programs with a methodology that helps everyone stay on track towards graduating from high school and enrolling into college.  We realize and accept that it takes a village to raise a child.

Some students have risk factors that are more serious than others and we are sensitive to that but every student has the potential to be great and it is my responsibility to set the bar high for every young man in my organization.  If a young man falls, it is also my responsibility to pick him up but push him forward.

One of the pillars of excellence in L.E.A.D. is exposure.  I truly feel that a young man is less likely to fail if he is exposed to a high level of success on a continuous basis.   High expectations has graduated 100% of our L.E.A.D. Ambassadors from high school and they all enrolled in college.   High expectations within APS produced Dr. Martin Luther King from Booker T. Washington High School  and Ceasar Mitchell from Benjamin Elijah Mays High School.

I am honored to be a part of the solution and I encourage you to do the same by joining our L.E.A.D. Tailgate Club at

If not me, who?  If not now, when?  High expectations is more than a buzz phrase for me.  The bar will continue to be raised high by L.E.A.D. within APS.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

God is in control

The view is so clear from up here as I fly into Orlando with Braves baseball on my mind. Number 22 in right field is a living testimony that dreams become real. What does tomorrow hold? I don't know, but I rest assured that God is in control!

I want tomorrow to bring me more resources so that more African American males will graduate from APS high schools and enter college. More resources will allow me to provide more mentors that can show them the way. These young men are smart contrary to popular belief. They need mentorship on a consistent basis more than math tutors. They need to understand how to manage their own lives. They don't want to fail but failure is the only option when no one will walk the walk with you.

I want next week to bring me more resources so that more African American males in Atlanta will compete in baseball rather than just playing baseball. What is the difference? To compete requires skill development which demands sacrifice, patience and commitment from both the player and the coach. To play only requires showing up. The rigors of baseball have prepared me to be a successful professional off the baseball field. It can do the same for many other young men in inner city Atlanta. Baseball and baseball only made academics relevant for me.

I want next month to bring me more resources so that more African American males in Atlanta can understand the true meaning of leadership through service and civic engagement. Leadership is an action word and not just an adjective. Leadership doesn't have a starting age. Service begins now! There is no reason that young men in Atlanta shouldn't have opportunities to be involved in service every month throughout the year. If we want them "straighten up", we have to first meet them where they are and L.E.A.D. the way.

I want next year to bring me more resources so that more African American males in Atlanta can be exposed to the amazing opportunities that exist right here in our city. We have more Fortune 100 companies in Atlanta than any other city in America. We can do more than taking a bus load of students on a field trip. What is the follow up? We peak their interest but what happens when the flame dies out.

Only God knows the destination of L.E.A.D. He has placed me in a leadership position to lead and I humbly accept it. I'm at the top of this vision and it is my daily prayer for wisdom and courage to fulfill the mission of L.E.A.D. We Launch, Expose, Advise and Direct! We achieve excellence in Academics, Athletics, Service/Civic Engagement and Exposure!

God is in control!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Wide eyes

Wider eyes mean that you can see more. On Saturday, March 5th, L.E.A.D. trained over 90 student/athletes from six of our partner schools (Parks, Young, King, Kennedy, Sylvan Hills and B.E.S.T. Academy) at my indoor training facility in Marietta. The rain didn't let up outside on Saturday and there was no way that we could let our student/athletes down by not having baseball practice.

With one phone call to the APS Athletic Department, we had six buses at six middle schools in inner city Atlanta coming up I-75 to receive an amazing baseball experience. Each young man made the unforced commitment to wake up and get on the bus. That made me so proud as the bus drivers called and said, "We are on the way Mr. Stewart!"

Our guests came in and were welcomed by Kelli and I along with some of our executive board and advisory board members. Kerwin Giles, our Middle School Baseball Director provided a comprehensive training program that focused on kinesthetic, visual and auditory learning. The practice schedule was executed by our Ambassadors as well as each school's coaching staff.

You should have seen how wide the eyes were of each student/athlete looking around at the 30,000+ square foot baseball training facility. They were amazed at all of the baseball specific equipment that they had access to paid for by their service in the community, commitment to academic excellence as well as commitment to L.E.A.D.'s mission and values.

Their wide eyes have now seen. Now they can dream. Their dreams of using baseball to access college can come true as long as they continue to follow our L.E.A.D.

Friday, March 4, 2011

I follow L.E.A.D.'s direction!

Going the L.E.A.D. direction has definitely molded me into a true Ambassador for the city of Atlanta as well as baseball.  I am a senior at Benjamin Elijah Mays High School and I have my eyes set on attending college upon graduation.  My short term goal is to be granted a collegiate baseball scholarship.  I will be visiting Grambling University March 18th-20th and planning visits to other universities in the near future.

After hearing words from our very own Ambassador Andrew Young, I realize even more that academics are the key to my success.  I work very hard in the classroom knowing that one day baseball on the field may be taken away.  I have come to gain more respect for the game of baseball now that I have seen the fields that Jackie Robinson played on through L.E.A.D.’s exposure opportunities.  Jackie Robinson opened the door for young men such as Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves and me.

Being able to talk to Jason Heyward who serves as L.E.A.D.’s Honorary Ambassador has helped me appreciate the game of baseball.  His talks have also empowered me as I move on to the next phase of my life as a college student/athlete.

There are many others who preach the L.E.A.D. direction that I am following such as the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Hank Aaron.  I know L.E.A.D.’s direction is right for me!

Desmond Stegall
2009-2011 L.E.A.D. Ambassador and Senior at Benjamin E. Mays High School