Monday, May 21, 2012

12,000 feet closer to God

Day 1: May 18, 2012
I woke up at 3:30AM to catch a 6:15AM flight with Dj Huyck to Denver, CO.  I have flown into Denver several times but I'm excited about this trip because we are going deep into the mountains.  From the Denver city airport, you can see the snow on the mountain tops and for me that is really weird considering that it is 80 degrees where I stand.

Dj is a good friend of mine that was born in Denver and now lives in Marietta and serves on the LEADership Council of my non-profit organization L.E.A.D.  His mother, Lois Huyck currently lives in a small town called Buena Vista in the mountains of Colorado.  Her and and here husband Charlie built their retirement home there many years ago.  About a year ago, Dj's father, Charlie died and we are here to organize a baseball clinic in his honor for youth in the town.

Charlie was a successful entrepreneur, an avid baseball fan and most of all a caring husband and father. What a blessing it is for me to be here to serve in this capacity.  Before his death, he dove into this community and supported baseball and youth.  This week, we are going to Honor The Game in his name.

I'm really excited about tomorrow.  We drove by the clinic field site which is the home field for the BV varsity baseball team.  What a view of the mountains from home plate!  I'm laughing right now because as I look beyond the right field fence, I see a couple deer in the back yard of a house.  I'm definitely in the mountains.

This is a small town but everyone is so nice.  The grade school enrollment is 250 students with a total population of less than 3,000 in the entire town.  That's alright because I'm either going to find or produce some baseball studs from this town.

Day 2: May 19, 2012
It's showtime!  The RSVP list shows 15 clinic participants but we are prepared for whoever shows up.  We have several baseball players from nearby Western State College which is led by Charlie Huyck's grandson Dylan.

The cars are pulling in and out comes a young man and young lady that look ready for some baseball. The father is an Atlanta Braves fan born in California.  He grew up watching the Braves on TBS.  His son is athletically built with a firm hand shake and introduced himself to me as Denver.  Really?  Like the city Denver I asked. Your first name is really Denver?  Yes sir he replied and yoou will never believe what his sisters first name is.  The cute little girl said, "hello my name is Atlanta."  That is awesome!  If Kelli and I have another girl, her name will be Atlanta.

The clinic is starting and we have 24% (60 kids) of Buena Vista's grade school students here at the clinic.  This is amazing.  Baseball really matters in this town and Charlie Huyck helped make it so.

Dj Huyck has the master schedule and players are rotating from base running, hitting, pitching and fielding stations.  I have the honor of developing the hitters at the clinic.  We had a lot of fun in the hitting stations.  I basically broke the swing down into parts for the kids so that they could understand it and left them with drills that they could do on their own.

There were several talented hitters that caught my eye but my buddy Denver stood out the most.  He is going to be a stud.

After the clinic, we drove 2.5 hours into Denver to have dinner and I got a chance to hang out with Colorado Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler.  I remember working with Dexter when he was 12 years old and now people are walking around the city with his jersey on.

Driving into Denver was exciting to say the least.  As we climbed the mountains in our Tahoe we reached over 10,000 feet and drove through some snow.  This was crazy considering we were just sweating at the clinic.

I'm full from the bacon cheeseburger and I feel asleep all the way back to BV.

Day 3: May 20, 2012
I slept in from a long day yesterday.  Today was so much fun because I went mountain biking followed by another trip to K's Dairy Delite then we went to the top of the Cottonwood Pass on the Continental Divide.

One of the toughest things that I have ever done in my life is ride a mountain bike up and down hills for 5 miles.  None of my friends will ever believe that I did it but I did.  As I was riding on one strip, a deer crossed 10 feet in front of me.  That is crazy!

I gained a better sense of perseverance as I climbed the mountain.  There were times when I had to climb a steep hill and wouldn't give up and there were other times when I needed to take a break and walk.  Dj was by my side most of the ride on the ATV and was great encouragement.  That was a real lesson to depend on others.  I couldn't have done it without his help.  I was also able to accomplish my goal to complete the 5 mile hike because I had a great bike from the Trailhead Bike Shop.  It is vital to have the best equipment when you are trying to accomplish greatness.

So I burned a lot of calories on the bike and I had to enjoy a double bacon cheeseburger, fries and two peanut butter milkshakes at K's Dairy Delite.  This food is so good and a landmark in Buena Vista.  It is a family owned business of the Huyck's and a place where Charlie spent a lot of his time.  The atmosphere reminds me a lot of Chick-fil-A because it has that family feel and lots of tradition.

I'm more than full and now it is time to hike to the top of the Cottonwood Pass but this time we are doing it in the Tahoe.  We drove up switch backs and did a few hairpin turns.  It was amazing to see.  We finally reached 12,126 feet and the view proves that there is a God.  I've seen views from tall buildings in Atlanta but nothing like this.  My view of the world is forever changed.

I'm on the grind everyday in Atlanta and I am going to spend more quality time with my wife and daughters when I return.  There was a peace and calmness that my trip to BV provided.

I'm really excited that this clinic is going to be an annual event so that I can come back next year and hopefully bring my family. The total population here is a little less than 3,000.  Click here to learn more about Buena Vista.

I've seen a part of the world that I never knew existed and people here are happy.  My take away from this trip is to slow down and enjoy life.  We have everything that we can possibly need in the big city of Atlanta and often times we complain because we want more.  There was no fee for me to climb the mountains and see God's amazing views.  I had time to reflect and speak to God about my purpose on this Earth.

I want to focus on not taking my days for granted and empowering as many people as possible because I am part of God's plan.

Honor The Game 2012.  Your legacy lives on Charlie Huyck.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mothers, I salute you

Without Mothers, the world would not exist. I have come to realize over the years watching my wife that being a mother is two full time jobs. My daughters excel in school because of Kelli. They strive to be servant leaders like their mom. They are also amazingly beautiful like their mom. I'm going to really be in trouble. Lol.

I am so happy today that I am also able to partner with over 200 mothers in the Atlanta Public School System to help them graduate their sons from high and enroll in college. My youth development organization L.E.A.D., Inc. serves middle and high school age boys so you already know the challenge that we face. L.E.A.D.'s mission is to provide inner city Atlanta at-risk males with access to higher education and civic engagement through baseball. Click here to check out our success.

As much as I hate to admit it, I gave my mom some fits when I was a teenager. Boys reach a certain age when we think that we can handle the hardships of the world by ourselves. I thank God for my mother and my community of believers being patient with me. Mothers are by nature nurturing and forgiving. Life is tough and often times neither nurturing or forgiving. I pray for strength for our mothers in the inner city of Atlanta today. The social life is different than it was when I was growing up. Boys are tempted with opportunities that I didn't know existed until I was an adult. Better days are ahead because God is in total control.

Lots of laughter, good food and story telling today. I salute all the Mothers today and you are in my prayers.

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Proverbs 31:30

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hats Off was a success...mission accomplished

It's a little bit after midnight and I am wired.  I had so much fun today during Hats Off on the campus of GA Tech.  Hats Off is a signature event of L.E.A.D. that provides young men (LEADers) in our organization exposure to career opportunities.

GA Tech Athletics is a national brand and located right down the street from thousands of students in the Atlanta Public School System (APS).  To become a student-athlete at GA Tech requires sacrifice and commitment to academics and your sport.  Tonight, GA Tech welcomed over 100 of our Middle School LEADers from APS to get a behind the scene view of GA Tech Athletics.

We were greeted at the main entrance by Nick Scherer (Director of Baseball Operations) followed by a tour of the indoor batting cages, locker room, weight room and dugout.  Our LEADers had the opportunity to meet Walter Smith (Sports Medicine Assistant Athletic Trainer).  Mr. Walt makes sure that all of the players are healthy and able to compete.  Head Baseball Coach Danny Hall had encouraging words for our LEADers while they were hanging out in the dugout.  It was really difficult for them to pay attention to him because of their admiration of the baseball field and Atlanta skyline.  This was a totally different view of Atlanta for them.

They were eager to find out what was next. We were escorted like celebrities to the new John and Mary Brock Football Practice Facility where we were allowed to run around with the GA Tech mascot "Buzz". The laughter was music to my ears.  I was inspired to attend college when I was 16 years of age while attending a GA Tech vs. NC State baseball game.  After working up an appetite, we enjoyed pizza and cupcakes.  Thank you Mary Jo Walker!

Now the fun begins.  It's time to take the hats off and hear from some important individuals that go to bat for L.E.A.D.  Our LEADers were privileged to spend some quality time with Dan Radakovich (GA Tech Athletic Director). He is truly an amazing gentleman that understands the need for L.E.A.D.  If L.E.A.D. wins, the city of Atlanta wins.  Dan introduced us to Mr. Roddy Jones who is a former GA Tech student-athlete that lettered in football and baseball.  He is currently in graduate school at GA Tech after a successful career on the field.

I was so proud of our young men for remaining engaged while our speakers shared their path to a successful career.  Mr. Taz Anderson empowered them with his football stories and success as an entrepreneur.  He is a class act.  Then we heard from Beau King and Abby Perez.  Their father Kim King grew up in the West End of Atlanta and used athletics to provide him with access to a college education.  The LEADers really connected with the story about their father.  Our final speaker was Mr. Tucker Barr who was also a student-athlete at GA Tech and is now an attorney of Arnall, Golden and Gregory.

As we left the football practice facility, we entered the baseball field from left field with all eyes on us.  There were over a 2,000 GA Tech and Georgia Bulldog fans in the stands.  Our LEADers were loving the well deserved attention.  Tyquavious Noland didn't want the night to end.

The first pitch was finally thrown.  They had the unique opportunity to watch the game with Victor Menocal who is also a GA Tech alum who played baseball for the Yellow Jackets.  Victor is now a baseball agent for Excel Sports Management and represents Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman to name a few.

What a day as I rub my eyes trying to fight sleep.  I took as many photos as I could with my iPhone but Dion Standford had the professional camera to capture the moments.

Our mission was accomplished tonight.  It was the first time on a college campus for several of our LEADers.  L.E.A.D. provides inner city at-risk males with access to higher education and civic engagement through baseball.  Our Hats Off event tonight allowed us to nurture the seeds planted with regards to attending college.

Special thanks to Wayne Hogan (Associate Director of Athletics-Public Relations) for making this event possible for L.E.A.D. Thank you Wayne for going to bat for us.

Our next signature event is our 3rd Annual Ambassadors Signing Day at Turner Field.  Hopefully we will see you there.  Click here to learn more about this event.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Will they be barking or buzzing?

I remember going to my first college baseball game when I was 16 years old in 1992. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets were playing the NC State Wolfpack at Russ Chandler stadium. It was also my first time on a college campus.  That experience was one that shaped my focus for the rest of my life. Attending college became a goal of mine after that evening experience with Coach TJ Wilson.

On Wednesday, May 9th, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket baseball team will host over 100 of the LEADers from my L.E.A.D. Middle School Baseball Development League. The Yellow Jackets will be playing against the Georgia Bulldogs. The atmosphere is guaranteed to be electric. It will be exciting to see which team the LEADers adopt as their own- will they choose to Bark of Buzz?

The young men will have have the opportunity to tour the Georgia Tech athletic facilities as well as meet Head Coach Danny Hall and other athletic staff. The icing on the cake will be their first time meeting of Georgia Tech alum and successful entrepreneur: Taz Anderson. Abby Perez and Beau King from the Kim King Foundation will also be there to meet the LEADers. They are successful entrepreneurs and the children of the legendary and late Kim King who is also a Georgia Tech alum. The Kim King Foundation is a supporter of L.E.A.D.'s Middle School Baseball Development League.

This is truly going to be a life changing exposure opportunity for our LEADers that will ultimately benefit the city of Atlanta. L.E.A.D.'s mission is to provide inner city at risk youth males with access to higher education an civic engagement through baseball.  We are all in this together. Click here to learn more about L.E.A.D.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Playoff baseball in APS baby!

Our spring middle school baseball season is almost over. A champion will be crowned on Saturday, May 12th at Booker T. Washington High School.

I have seen amazing development in the areas of fielding, pitching and hitting. I'm most impressed with the improved baseball IQ of our LEADers. Our coaches have worked really hard to teach the game of baseball away from the field.  Baseball requires so much patience and critical thinking.  It is the perfect sport to compliment academic excellence.

High school coaches in the Atlanta Public School System will soon inherit some talented young baseball players that are committed to being successful on and off the field.  Unfortunately, our playoffs this weekend will end the season of several schools. One season ends but another begins in June when the Junior Ambassadors compete and receive academic enrichment through August. Then comes our fall Legacy League.  L.E.A.D. is serious about providing inner city Atlanta middle and high school age males with access to higher education and civic engagement through baseball.

It has been a pleasure to watch the development of the LEADers and their coaches. With so much negative press surrounding APS, teachers and principals are able kick back and watch their students represent their schools with pride.  The scoreboard will dictate who wins the game on the field but our LEADers are winning at the game of life. Thank you gentlemen for your commitment and sacrifice during this 2012 L.E.A.D. Middle School Development League season.