Friday, June 29, 2012

We are officially the real deal

Major decisions are made daily under the "Gold Dome" that is our Georgia State Capitol building. It is only fitting that the L.E.A.D. Ambassadors are allowed to tour the nostalgic building and meet Georgia's Governor Nathan Deal.

Being an L.E.A.D. Ambassador is the representation of our great city Atlanta. To date, 34% of African-American males graduate from high school in the Atlanta Public Schools district. Take a deep breath of relief because L.E.A.D. continues to put a big dent in those numbers by graduating 100% of our Ambassadors while 100% enroll into college since 2007.

L.E.A.D. provides inner city Atlanta at-risk males with access to higher education and civic engagement through baseball. We are creating a new player. Student-athletes that are invested in our city. Young men that believe that their legacy is more important than their reputation. Click here to find the next opportunity for you to meet your L.E.A.D. Ambassadors. We are officially the real deal!

Friday, June 22, 2012

The best that money can buy

I'm writing this blog from the USA Baseball National Training Center. This week 144 players are competing for one of the 20 roster spots for Team USA 18 and under team. I am fortunate to be on the coaching staff for Team PONY this year. These are some of the top players in America that money can buy.  People don't realize the financial cost involved to become an elite baseball player.

Most of the kids here begin training with professionals and showcase their talent nationally by the age of 12. Below is a breakdown of annual cost to be the best in this game as an amateur.

Instruction (hourly four times per month) $4,800.00 per year
Strength/Speed/Agility Training (hourly four times per month) $4,800.00 per year
Travel Team $2,000.00 per year
Equipment (including bats, glove, cleats, etc.) $1,500.00 per year
Travel (including hotel and food for 15 tournaments) $4,000.00 per year
Total: 17,000.00 per year to be the best

These numbers are high but reflects what the top players in America are spending to be the best. If the families aren't spending it, someone is sponsoring them financially because of their ability with the return on invest being a college scholarship at the least.

The number of African-Americans competing are low at the collegiate and professional level. In my opinion, the numbers are low in participation because of the high cost to develop and showcase your baseball talent. It is often said the reason for the decline is due to a lack of interest but if that were the case, there wouldn't be baseball teams in predominately black high schools at all.  Baseball has been in the black community dating back to slavery.  Baseball is a business now.

As a professional instructor for Diamond Directors, I support the position of the game because it provides an opportunity for me to make money doing something that I thoroughly enjoy. I created my organization L.E.A.D., Inc. to provide inner city at-risk Atlanta males with access to higher education and civic engagement through baseball. If you don't have money or someone willing to sponsor you, you can't compete at this game beyond high school.

The kids here in Cary are vying for an opportunity to make Team USA deserve to be here because they are talented and continuously make sacrifices to be the best. I still believe that baseball is still America's favorite pastime but so many kids are being passed over because of lack of financial resources and mentorship.  The answer to these problems in Atlanta is called L.E.A.D.  Click here to learn more about L.E.A.D., Inc.

Friday, June 15, 2012

You are a great American icon

God has truly blessed me. The best blessing is my willingness and ability to serve others.

I grew up reading and hearing about so many men that fought for the rights of others and those men that put service over self.

One of those men is a living icon, Congressmen John Lewis. Mr. Lewis was considered as one of six major leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.  He was the youngest and only surviving member of that group.

Yesterday, I had the honor of hearing him speak at McGuire Woods about his humble upbringing in a rural town of Alabama. Education was his ticket out of poverty. He studied at Fisk University but God had other plans for him. Plans for him to serve others and help our country end segregation.

Left to Right: Russell Mackenzie, D.M. Therrell HS, Jamarcus Willingham, D.M. Therrell HS; Jacob Walker , Sophomore at Sewanee-The University of the South; C.J. Stewart

I feel that service has always been a strong part of my DNA because of my relationship with God, my parents and loved ones and role models like Congressman Lewis.

Our youth today will strive to be the best as long as we as adults set the proper example. Let's be intentional with our positive impact.

Thank you Congressman Lewis for being a great role model for me. You are a great American icon.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Brandon Thomas leads the way

As a long time GA Tech baseball fan, I am enjoying their resurgent effort.  The Yellow Jackets are off to a great start in the NCAA Super Regionals in Gainesville, FL with a win yesterday over the College of Charleston.  It's going to be tough to win it all but I like our chances because we have Brandon Thomas.

Brandon is a junior switch hitting outfielder that is leading the Yellow Jackets offensively with a .365 batting average.  He was recently honored by being selected for the ACC Baseball All-Conference Team.  He is also a projected 2012 top round MLB Draft Selection.  If you play baseball at GA Tech, that also means that you have to be a student as well.  Brandon excels at that also.  He was recently named to the Capital One Academic All-America team maintaining a 3.66 GPA in management.

Brandon has been a client of mine through Diamond Directors since the age of 12.  His family has also been a supporter of L.E.A.D. since 2008 while he was a student-athlete at Pace Academy.  While in high school, he helped raise over $3,000 that was donated to L.E.A.D. by families at Pace Academy.  His family also exposed our Ambassadors to the traditions of GA Tech Baseball by attending their annual preseason banquet.

I remember Brandon speaking to our L.E.A.D. Ambassadors in 2010 about his experience as a freshman at GA Tech.  They hung on to every word because he was doing something that they all dreamed of doing.  Being a student-athlete is a big deal.  One of the Ambassadors that took Brandon's words of advice as a personal challenge was Desmond Stegall.

Desmond recently completed his freshman year at Grambling State University.  He got his first taste of Division I baseball on the field but he is more respected for his 3.86 GPA.

On Friday, June 15th, Desmond Stegall will address a packed crowd of over 150 special guest as we honor our 2012 class of graduating L.E.A.D. Ambassadors at Turner Field's 755 Club.

Our success as an organization is largely due to the success of young men like Brandon Thomas and Desmond Stegall.  Gentlemen, continue to lead the way!