Sunday, December 29, 2013

Who's head?

Getting ahead gets in your head.
Hard to move forward when you can't measure the stride.

I'm alive but am I getting ahead.
Who owns the compass?

The body can move without the head.
If it moves forward, is it getting ahead without The Head?

My state of confusion is in my head.
One day I feel that I'm moving ahead but is it enough movement to celebrate?

Your words concentrate me and remind me that it's not too late.
I go backwards when I try to use my head instead of You being The Head.

But going backwards ain't really bad.
On your back you are still and can see others get ahead.

I'm a visual learner.
Your friends will come back for you.

I want to get ahead to bring others.
If I use my head we will all suffer.

Life is learning and moving is getting ahead when You are The Head.

On set for ESPN E:60 interview

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Ambassadors report before Christmas

It has been a while since I have blogged. The Ambassadors have done so much and I'm glad to be along the ride with them.

We've been practicing like crazy in the cages at D-BAT Atlanta this month. Super excited to have our Ambassador alums join us during their winter break from college. Coach Neiko Johnson and Coach Kevin Young continue to do an amazing job leading our Ambassadors to lead themselves. Believe it or not, the Ambassadors run their own practices which includes hitting drills as well as journaling and video blogging. They just also started reading Sean Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.

On Friday, December 6th, Kelli and I loaded up the SUV and took our two daughters along with three Ambassadors to Savannah to see our 2nd L.E.A.D. Ambassador Jason Wynn graduate from college. Jason graduated from Savannah State University with a degree in Homeland Security. He is now employed by Ashbritt. Our Ambassadors were able to see the ocean for the first time while we were there as well. So many great things to see in our state.

On Friday, December 13th, we loaded up three vans and traveled over an hour to Roberta, GA for an Ambassador retreat at Camp Grace. The weekend was full of effective team building exercises that will reap benefits for Atlanta in due time.

We have had a blessed year and pray the same for you and your family. Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 29, 2013

My 6-Pack of Thanksgiving

The day after Thanksgiving, I slept in late and woke up by the grace of God next to an awesome wife and without children screaming and jumping in our bed.

There are six things that I am most thankful for.

1. Dynamic Church Family

I am a proud member of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Atlanta led by Dr. Craig L. Oliver. We are spiritually fed throughout the week with multiple services. It is a community of disciples that are intentional about serving one another. May God continue to bless us as well as all churches open in the name of Jesus.

2. Amazing Wife and Daughters

I adore my wife and daughters. They are my world. My purpose in life is to protect and provide for them. I can only do this by submitting my life to Christ. I'm not perfect but I'm striving for excellence everyday as a husband and father. My girls are worth my daily sacrifices.

3. Healthy Family

I can say with excitement that all of my family members to my knowledge are healthy. At least they were looking good yesterday! That is a huge blessing to have your health to serve others. We don't know what tomorrow will bring but as for today, we have our health, strength and sound mind and may God receive the glory for that.

4. Awesome Friends

I have always been fortunate to have great friends. Ones that exist to help and not hurt. I don't spend as much time with my friends as I would like but they are always there when I need them.

5. Thriving Businesses

Baseball has always been my love and passion and through my for profit Diamond Directors and non-profit L.E.A.D., I use the sport of baseball to empower others. I have some amazing partners and mentors that help me achieve excellence daily. We are going to raise the bar in 2014 so be ready.

6. The Falcons Will Receive A High Draft Pick In 2014

Shaking my head about my Falcons. We are having a rough year but we are getting a top pick in the draft. It's time to RISE UP and win the Super Bowl and we will in 2014!

Monday, November 25, 2013

If L.E.A.D. ceased to exist, Ambassador Reggie would...

When L.E.A.D. wins, Atlanta wins! That's exactly why I'm sharing this interview of L.E.A.D. Ambassador Reggie Traylor (Freshman, Benjamin E. Mays High School, Atlanta Public Schools). It's not about L.E.A.D., it's all about Atlanta.

By the thousands, African-American males are not engaged in school in Atlanta.  By the thousands, they are dropping out of school.  Ambassador Reggie was on track to doing the same thing before L.E.A.D.  I can say with confidence that he will be a difference maker in our country in due time.

C.J.: What's L.E.A.D.'s mission?

Ambassador Reggie: L.E.A.D.'s mission is to empower an at risk generation to lead and transform their city.

C.J.: What are L.E.A.D.'s core values?

Ambassador Reggie: Excellence, humility, integrity, loyalty, stewardship and teamwork.

C.J.: Which core value are you the best at?

Ambassador Reggie: Humility

C.J.: Which do you struggle with?

Ambassador Reggie: Excellence

C.J.: Describe yourself with one word before L.E.A.D.

Ambassador Reggie: Confused

C.J.: What's the one word that describes you now?

Ambassador Reggie: Patient

C.J.: In 10 years from today, what will you be doing in life?

Ambassador Reggie: Hopefully somewhere with my own business.

C.J.: Not hope. What will you be doing in 10 years?

Ambassador Reggie: In Puerto Rico with my own business.

C.J.: Cool. What type is business?

Ambassador Reggie: Sporting goods

C.J.: Who is the most important person in your life?

Ambassador Reggie: My sister

C.J.: Why?

Ambassador Reggie: Because if I get into any trouble or not feeling so well, I know that my sister is the first person I can call.

C.J.: If L.E.A.D. didn't exist tomorrow, you would...

Ambassador Reggie: Do what I need to do in school to make another L.E.A.D. possible.

C.J.: That is an awesome answer!

Ambassador Reggie: Thanks!

C.J.: Your school experience would be better if...

Ambassador Reggie: I focus more with 100% effort.

Left to right: Ambassador Reggie Traylor (Benjamin E. Mays High School), CJ Stewart and Ambassador Tyrelle Wilson (Booker T. Washington High School) at Elizabeth Baptist Church November 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Atlanta Braves Are Moving Forward

So the Braves are moving to Cobb County in 2017? A very interesting move that is causing mixed emotions from fans and members of the Summerhill Community that have called The Braves neighbor for over 45 years.

As a fan and community partner, I have mixed emotions too. The fan side of me would love to have more options surrounding the stadium to add to the game day experience. The community partner side of me wonders how the residents of the Summerhill and surrounding communities will be affected short and long term. 

Then there is the leader in me that understands we don't always get to choose what happens, but we always have a choice in how we react. And here is what I plan to do as we move forward from this decision:

- Continue to work with my colleagues of L.E.A.D. and engage partners to provide opportunities for young people in Atlanta to recognize their future and own it,

- Continue to provide a Pathway To Empowerment so the youth we serve develop into invested, committed members of the Atlanta community, and

 - Continue to connect L.E.A.D. Ambassadors to the business community so they can earn positions in leadership where they have a voice at the table of development concerning what happens in their communities.

 That's how I'm deciding to move forward. I'm a son of this City; I love the Braves and I love Atlanta. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

How to kill three birds with one stone

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them. (Proverbs 11:3 ESV)

Why do people make good decisions? Why do people make bad decisions? I have accepted that strong core values precedes good behavior every time.

For the month of November, the core value that L.E.A.D. is studying is integrity. For our organization, integrity is a positive and consistent way of behaving. This is a simple definition to me that came from the mouths of our L.E.A.D. Ambassadors. It has to be a definition that they can own in order to uphold it.

In my opinion, there are three benefits to being a person with high integrity.

People will respect you
Do you enjoy spending time around people that you don't respect? Often times a lack of respect for someone is met with disrespect so it's best not to be in their presence. Respect is earned by positive and consistent behavior.

People will trust you
If I can't trust you, all that I can do is pray for you. For me, everyone starts with a clean slate of trust. Because we are humans, we will let each other down and I can live with that. It becomes a problem when your negative behavior is consistent and without conscience. If you want to be trusted, be consistent with your positive behavior.

People will follow you
If you have any desire to be a leader in your school, job, community or even in your own home, you have to be consistent with your positive behavior. An occasional crazy day of yours can be written off as you "having a bad day" but if you meet people most days with a bad attitude, late, full of complaints and excuses, know one will follow you because you are headed to destruction any way.

I'm not perfect but I am consistent with positive behavior and therefore I'm claiming to be a man of high integrity. I'm sure that means a lot to you if you are family member and/or friend of mine.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How skipping class today can negatively affect your future

I experienced a great lesson of humility today.  We are in the final days of the selection process of the 2014 class of L.E.A.D. Ambassadors.  One of our aspiring Ambassadors is now suspended from school for two days because he skipped one of his classes yesterday.  Since he can't attend school for the next two days, I asked his mother to bring him to me.  I had to make a choice to handle him with wrath or grace.  I prayed about it and chose grace and feel in my heart that he will be a better person for it.

He has been along for the ride with me today experiencing my life for a day. I'm proud of the position of service that God has me in. He uses me to make His appeal to others through some pretty cool activities. I'm prayerful that if I can show him what he will miss out on by making bad decisions, it will cause him to make the right decisions.  By no means am I perfect though.  I can guarantee that he will see me do several things wrong today. Today is about getting him back on the right path because his coach loves him and is willing to demonstrate it.  He will be charged to show grace and love to others in his household, school, team and community.  How about that?

Here is his blog detailing how skipping school today can negatively affect your future.  Feel free to make comments.

Skipping class can negatively affect my future because I can miss out on important lectures and advice from my teachers that could help me on something that I need help on in the future. If I'm not in class, I won't be able to hear those lectures and the advice.  If I don't hear them, I will make more mistakes in life than I would've if I was in class.

Skipping class is just like skipping breakfast. If you skip class you won't learn anything and won't gain any knowledge. In the future you will realize that you should have been in class so you can learn all the things that you can learn in that time period. If you skip breakfast you will be hungry for a long time then you will realize that you should have ate breakfast because now you will be hungry until you can get somewhere to eat.

Another example why you shouldn't skip class is because when you get older that's just like you skipping a business meeting that you should have attended so you can get all the information that you need for the next project you're working on or you might get the wrong information. Those are examples on how skipping class can negatively affect my future and why I shouldn't do it.

Ten years from today, I will be a major league baseball player. The team that I would like to play for is The Texas Rangers. I want to play for the Rangers because they always have a good team and mostly everybody on the team knows how to hit the ball well. I also want to play for that team because one of my favorite players Josh Hamilton plays for that them. Josh Hamilton is my favorite player because he makes good plays in the field and he also knows how to hit the ball far. Josh Hamilton made a lot of mistakes in his life like doing a lot of different drugs but he took it upon himself to stop and change his ways. Now he's clean and plays for the Rangers with a high batting average. I also admire Josh for the way that he supports his community through education.

L.E.A.D. Today...Change Tomorrow!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Effective Service

Whether we choose to admit it, we all need help. There is nothing more frustrating than being on the receiving end of "help" only to find that the need hasn't actually been met. To that degree, I'm proposing there is a right and a wrong way to help people. You can be sincere with serving others yet sincerely wrong. Real help should ultimately yield positive outcomes.

L.E.A.D. supporter Angela King with a LEADers from J. E. Brown Middle School for Hats Off 2013 at GA Tech
In my efforts to help other service minded folks out there, I'm sharing my checklist for authentic service. I hope you find it helpful. 

What specific core help does the individual need?
Often times I try to be the answer to the problem only to realize that I'm treating the symptoms and not the illness. In order to treat the illness, establishing a trusting relationship is a must. That obviously doesn't happen overnight but it needs to happen in order for the right questions to be asked and answered so all can get to the core of the problem. If we can solve the cause, we can surely solve the effect. We spend way too much time solving effects and not causes. That's a problem for everyone.

Do I have the capacity to help?
An empty glass won't refresh anyone. Before you can influence others to change, you need to contain something worth offering to others. A skill set combined with an emotional connection is powerful. Without both, the problem can become larger. I have a skill of baseball development that I use everyday to provide hope through my businesses, Diamond Directors and L.E.A.D., Inc. Ever wonder why I don't have a pilot mentoring program? You guessed it, I don't know how to fly a plane.

Am I willing to be available for a long period of time?
When we enter into relationships, we enter with our whole self. All of the disappointments and fears that we've experienced from the past are along for the ride. In order to effectively help someone, there must be consistent, empowering interaction to break down the walls of failed past relationships. This part of the process is hard and it takes more time for some than others. This is the foundation upon which your future engagement with your mentees will be laid. Be intentional and consistent; set the expectation from the beginning so you won't join the ranks of do-gooders who've let them down before. 
Is this about me feeling good or the person in need?
A man always has two reasons for doing anything - a good reason and the real reason. Now it's time to get all the liars to the table. This point is one of the main reasons why people that need help ALWAYS end up needing help and never reach their next level. If my help is about getting my name/photo in the media or increasing my status in the community then I'm only helping myself. On the flip side, if my help is about moving my mentee from a state of need to a state of self sufficiency then I have to be willing and able to remove my ambition. If not, more harm will be done than good.

Honored to hang out with the L.E.A.D. Ambassadors at the Cobb Galleria for Sports Champions Of Greater Atlanta Awards Banguet
If you want to truly help people, set S.M.A.R.T. goals with them and you will know two very important things: 1) how to measure your impact in their lives and 2) are they even ready to receive help and act on it. 

S-Specific Goal...what are we doing?
M-Measurable Goal...what are the steps to doing it?
A-Attainable Goal...can we really do this?
R-Relevant Activities towards the do list and a not to do list
T-Time Measured long will this take to reap what was sowed?
Remember, time is a non-renewable resource. Use it wisely. Be intentional. And for the love of Almighty God - be real.

Monday, October 14, 2013

From the Mouths of Our Youth...What Humility Means To Ellis Prigge

Thank you Ellis for agreeing to participate in this interview. My goal is to gain a better understanding of what humility means so that I can be more humble and mentor others to be humble as well. I spend 80% of my day everyday developing youth. Your answers have really helped me.

Ellis Prigge raised over $100 at his school to donate to L.E.A.D.
C.J.: What does humility mean to you?
E.P.: Humility to me means someone who admits their mistakes and is not full of themselves.

C.J.: What is the opposite of humility?
E.P.: The opposite of humility is someone that brags about themselves all the time.

C.J.: Who is the most humble person that you know? What makes them humble?
E.P.: The most humble person I know is my mom because she always doing nice things for me and barely for herself.

C.J.: Why is it important to be humble?
E.P.: It is important to me to be humble (not everyone thinks it is important though) because it gives me confidence and confidence makes me better. I want people to be surprised when I do something great.

C.J.: Complete this sentence. If everyone in the world was humble, the world would be...
E.P.: Less showy, not trying to act like people they are not.

C.J.: How do you feel when people aren't acting with humility around you?
E.P.: It makes me feel frustrated.

C.J.: Describe a situation that required you to be humble?
E.P.: When I was playing baseball in the summer and I hit a walk off it was hard not to brag.

C.J.: Describe a situation that requires you to be humble and you weren't?
E.P.: I wasn't humble when I had hit an inside the park home run and I was bragging and was full of myself.

C.J.: What percentage of people in the world are humble?
E.P.: I would say about 45%.

C.J.: What can schools do to help students be more humble?
E.P.: Schools can help by counseling, and teaching their is a lot more to life than just sports.

C.J.: What can parents do to help their children be more humble?
E.P.: Parents could help by maybe giving more discipline. Not focusing so much on winning, focus more about playing the game the right way. Act like you have been there before.

C.J.: Who's the most humble MLB athlete?
E.P.: The most humble MLB player is Jason Heyward. But could a player be great and also be humble? Can entertainers be humble and still be successful?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Being humble isn't easy yet I'm trying

Humility is a spiritual and mental muscle that must be exercised for strength. My humility muscles are extremely weak. I lose so many opportunities to exercise humility in the moment of interaction everyday. I often apologize for my mistakes later because I had an opportunity to realize that I was wrong. Humility is also about being willing to be wrong even when you are right for the sake of the other person? I would like to hear your feedback.

The L.E.A.D. Ambassadors along with Major General Ronald Johnson, Taz Anderson and C.J. Stewart
"Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less." ~Rick Warren

I was having a conversation with my wife trying to come up with a clear definition of humility. One that would allow me to exercise humility because I clearly know what it means and also have the awareness to do it when it is necessary.

I like Rick Warren's quote above because my problem with being humble at times is the thought that I have to "lessen" myself. If any perfect people are reading this, they won't understand how "lessening" yourself can be difficult. Rick Warren is teaching that instead of "lessening" yourself, think less of yourself. That's not easy to do either but I am willing to do that to make someone else feel good. I want others to feel good around me. That brings me joy.

"Life is a long lesson in humility." James M. Barrie

We also discussed a couple stages of development that must occur before you can achieve the fullness of humility.

Exposure to life experiences can harden and soften us as people. If you were raised by people that didn't own up to their mistakes, it makes it difficult for to be humble.

Purpose in life provides much needed accountability and leads to humility. I'm more willing to think less of myself now that I know my purpose in life. My purpose in life is to glorify God through the empowerment of others.  I'm fortunate to serve the world with excellence through L.E.A.D., Inc. and Diamond Directors.

Humility is the result of good and bad life experiences and realizing your life purpose.

Your thoughts?

Friday, September 27, 2013

L.E.A.D. Speaks for Itself

I've been retired from professional baseball (Houston Astros) for 4 months now and I've been approached with a lot of different opportunities. It's a blessing to have options when you're talking about life and your career. I took my time deciding which way to go and making sure I made the right decision for my future.

Neiko Johnson preparing for a game with Houston Astros Minor League affiliate
After meeting with C.J. Stewart over the course of the past few months I've come to realize that my decision to join him and the L.E.A.D. organization was the best decision by far. This experience benefits me in a number of ways. I am learning how to understand myself, how to help others become successful, how to become a great mentor, coach and it helps me create the vision of my future. 

Without this opportunity, I honestly feel I wouldn't be heading in the right direction as fast as I wanted to. L.E.A.D. helps me just as I am helping them. I realize we as mentors/coaches have an interdependent relationship with the LEADers (L.E.A.D. student/athletes) which is beneficial for both sides. The young men involved in L.E.A.D. benefit greatly and I am honored to be able to help them succeed.

L.E.A.D. stands for (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) which speaks directly to how the organization is structured. I love how the LEADers have to recite the mission statement, a bible memory verse, core values, and a precept daily. I feel that holds them accountable for the information that they are receiving and it helps them realize how great of an opportunity they have.

Being able to be involved in this is something I will remember forever. I will always be apart of this great organization and help out as long as I can. 

My goals can be accomplished from numerous places but this experience is different and extraordinary. Being able to surround myself with excellent people is the most important aspect. That alone was the biggest factor in my decision and so far it has paid off tremendously. The future is very bright within this organization and I show gratitude for this opportunity. ~Neiko Johnson

Neiko Johnson was a graduate of the University of Kentucky and played baseball for four years
Follow Neiko Johnson on Twitter @ThisIsNJJ.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Is your definition of excellence excellent?

L.E.A.D. has 6 core values that we govern ourselves by including excellence, humility, integrity, loyalty, stewardship and teamwork. We make decisions based on these core values. If we fail to fulfill our mission of empowering an at risk generation to lead and transform their city, it's because we didn't adhere to these values. By the grace of God, we continue to realize success because of theses values. 

September is a month that we focus on excellence. Our LEADers are required to blog weekly about what excellence means to them. They are asked to describe current and past experiences of excellence. This is important to L.E.A.D. because we want to make sure that we are serving our LEADers with excellence. 

The problem is that many of our LEADers can't define or describe excellence. So even if we feel that we are serving them with excellence, they can't receive it if they don't know what it is or what it feels like. It is a mystery to many of them.

I define excellence as simple as doing what is expected of you. Attending school everyday on time and prepared to learn is excellent. Even if you have a troubled home life, attending school where you can be supported by several teachers is crucial. There are good and bad teachers but rest to assure that there are a lot of good ones in the building that can serve you but not if you aren't in school.

"Excellence is a better teacher than mediocrity.  The lessons of the ordinary are everywhere.  Truly profound and original insights are to be found only in studying exemplary. -Warren G. Bennis

Teachers expect students to behave with excellence in school by expecting them to stay on task and respecting others. Teachers asking students to be quiet isn't acting with excellence as a student. I am sensitive to the fact that there are several emotional reasons why some students may not be able to stay on task in class. We have an opportunity as intentional mentors to teach students how to communicate those issues to teachers so that they can be sensitive and helpful. Lack of communication can prevent excellence from occurring.

Receiving an A in a class is excellence. B's are good, C's are average and F's are failing. Students must respect the opportunity to receive an education by attending school everyday, behaving in class, studying at home and maintaining a good relationship with their teacher.  If they do that, they can receive an A. You and I know that from experience. 

"Excellent work requires regular inspection. We all do better when others are watching, especially when it’s the Lord and those we respect. Excellent execution requires alignment of expectations." ~Boyd Bailey

Fortunately for our LEADers, we have year round comprehensive programming that supports their development on and off the baseball field. Life is a game itself and those that lose don't have a good definition of what excellence is.

Martin Luther King Middle School (Atlanta Public Schools) LEADer Octavious Bradley with The Lovett School Headmaster Billy Peebles at Lovett Spring 2013
Keep L.E.A.D. in your prayers. Our mission is engage an at risk generation to lead and transform their city.

How do you define excellence? I will share your feedback with our LEADers.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Low graduation rates in Atlanta of African-American males isn't the real problem

It's great to lead the way, providing you bring the followers along and engage them in the process. ~Kevin Daum

Engagement is to occupy the attention or efforts of a person or persons. This question is for adults age 25 and older. Name three things that you were fully engaged in when you were in middle school? In case you forgot, that was around ages 11 though 13. While you are thinking, I recall being most engaged in baseball, girls, and the youth choir at church in that order. 

I loved playing baseball as a kid. I fell in love with it around the age of 8 while watching Chicago Cubs games in the daytime with my grandfather. I always felt that I could play professional baseball if I continued to love it and have the right people on my side. 

Girls became less "yucky" for lack of a better word when I entered middle school. They dressed different and looked different and had me confused daily on how to approach them. 

Singing in the choir at Elizabeth Baptist Church was the thing to do back then because that's where all of the really good looking and "good girls" hung out. I couldn't help but feel the presence of God through songs but admittedly, I was most engaged because of the opportunity to socialize. 

I have daughters ages 6 and 12 and my wife and I serve over 300 middle school males (LEADers) within the Atlanta Public School System (APS) throughout the year since 2010. Our organization L.E.A.D. spends over 100 hours with them per month in the areas of academics, athletics, civic responsibility and commerce. We are fortunate to have the full support of the principals and our coaches are teachers in the school. 

The three things that I would like for middle school boys to be most engaged with is their spiritual relationship with Christ Jesus, academics and athletics in that respected order.

L.E.A.D.'s 2013 Middle School Character Development League Signing Day at Walter L. Parks Middle School

The only way that it can happen is for the significance of it to be exposed to our young men early and nurtured by intentional mentors with consist interaction. Teachers, coaches and mentors have a great opportunity to empower young African-American males. They are in a struggling state for sure in Atlanta and as long as they are alive, we have an opportunity to save them from themselves. Remember the prayers and support that you needed when you were in middle school?

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Tabias Wimby (B.E.S.T. Academy, APS) shaking hands with Hall Of Fame Coach Vince Dooley

It's great to lead the way, providing you bring the followers along and engage them in the process. ~Kevin Daum

Because males within the Atlanta Public School System aren't engaged in their spirituality, academics and athletics, they are graduating from high school at a rate of 34% while 80% of the entire Georgia Prison population comes from zip codes 30310, 30314, and 30318 which are located within the Atlanta Public School district. So the problem is that they aren't engaged and the results of the problem is the low graduation rate. 

See how L.E.A.D. engages our LEADers at

Friday, September 6, 2013

What's In A Name?

Calyx Jaxson was born into the world on Wednesday, September 4th at 8:05AM weighing 8lbs and 8 oz to his awesome parents Callix and Amanda Crabbe. To his friends and family, Calyx will be known as C.J.

I met Callix in 2000 when he was a rising senior at Stone Mountain High School. I was in my second year as a professional swing coach, learning what it meant to be a professional and I was also in my first year as a professional scout for the Cincinnati Reds.

For three months, my job was to evaluate Callix's speed, hoping for an increase so that I could report it to my scouting supervisor in hopes that Callix would get drafted. He indeed was drafted that year by the Atlanta Braves, but he chose to attend Young Harris Junior College over LSU as a student/athlete. The following year he transferred to Manatee Junior College (FL) and was drafted and signed by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Through all of this, I accepted the responsibility of being his mentor and swing/life coach. I had done all of the things that he wanted to do and I believed He could do them too and much more. My wife and I made it a priority to help him reach his goal of being a Major League Baseball player, loving husband and father and community leader. He thought we were preparing him to be drafted but we knew we were preparing him to win at the game of life.

I remember telling Callix in 2000 that I would never watch him play a game until he was in the majors. On April 3, 2008, I saw my mentee, Callix Crabbe, play baseball for the first time against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. I was filled with emotion then as well as now. We did it! He was starting at second base for the San Diego Padres.

Today, Callix is a beloved husband and father to two healthy children Calyx Jaxson Crabbe (C. J.) and Alana Naessa Crabbe (age 2).

What does it mean to me to have Callix name his son after me? To know that he thinks that highly of me is truly a blessing. It's a testament to how God is using me and I give all the honor to Him. I am grateful to Callix and Amanda for blessing me in this way; the student has now become the teacher.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

9 reasons why I didn't drop out of high school

I was far from being a perfect kid and I'm even further from being a perfect adult. I was raised by a mother and father that didn't tolerate foolishness. It was dealt with immediately. 
As a child, I did the right things in life because it was encouraged. If it were up to me, I wouldn't have graduated from high school with perfect attendance or with academic honors. Sports and girls were my love and passion. 

Around the 8th grade, going to school began to be a burden to me. I was making good grades but I couldn't see how good grades would equate to a career. Especially my career. I wanted to be a professional baseball player and an entrepreneur as my back up plan.

Here are 9 reasons why I didn't drop out of high school. 

My church
I was raised at Elizabeth Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Southwest Atlanta. It was considered cool to serve on an auxiliary at church. Church taught me morals. It would have been immoral to drop out of school when so many people in the city of Atlanta sacrificed their life and freedom for me to get a free education.

My mentors
I never had mentors that played professional baseball but they were accomplished in other areas and willing to put me in the right place at the right time to accomplish my goals. I was willing to stay the course in school because they hadn't let me down and I didn't want to let them down.

A few of my coaches and mentors (left to right) Mike Hurst, Rusty Hudson, Emmett Johnson and Dave Whitfield

My grandmothers
Could you imagine telling your grandmother that you dropped out of high school because it was too hard and you were too lazy to do the work??? After all the hours that she has worked to provide for you??? I couldn't do it, and the thought of it makes me sick now.

My parents
What parent brings a child in the world for them to fail? Mine didn't. Neither one of my parents have a college degree but they introduced me to Christ, work ethic and discipline to name a few. They too had some rough times but they didn't give up on me so how could I drop out of school?

Dad and mom with my daughters
My coaches
I'm not the only one that had coaches give countless hours of their time to ensure that I could learn life lessons in sports. They never got paid a dime to help me. There is no way that I could see one of my coaches in public and look him in the eyes and say that I dropped out of high school.

The Milliner Family were my coaches age 13-16 at Old National Athletic Association

My teachers
I remember all of my teachers by first and last name. I spent more hours at school than I did at home. I had some teachers that I didn't like because they didn't take it easy on me. They pushed me towards excellence even when I didn't know excellence was the best thing for me. The good teachers are put on assignment by God. To quit on my teachers was to quit on God.

My friends
All of my true friends were smart. Some were lazy like me but they were all smart. If I had dropped out of school and was the only one at home chillin' while everybody else was at school, I would have gotten ridiculed (AKA "joned out") to the dullest. So immature and so lame on so many levels.

My future wife
I always wanted to get married young to a good woman. No chance in the world that a good woman would want a man without a high school education.

My unborn children 
I loved my parents and I dreamed of having children that loved me. I dreamed of the day that my kids would go to kindergarten, graduate from high school and college. I guess I wouldn't be a good example to them if I had dropped out of high school.

60% of African-American males in Atlanta Public Schools will not graduate from high school. Question for you young men: If you drop out of high school, who are all the people you will let down? Here a a hint, start with the man in the mirror.

Monday, August 26, 2013

UGA has become a short distance away

I met Scott Stricklin about 12 years ago when he was a young assistant coach at Georgia Tech under the leadership of head coach Danny Hall. He later coached at Vanderbilt and his alma mater Kent State University where he played for Danny Hall. 
Scott was learning the ropes of coaching and networking just like me. I was developing the talents of players on travel teams through private instruction for a fee preparing them to play in college. 

I have always viewed Scott as the consummate professional. He has always been approachable and uses his ability to coach as a means to develop other coaches and players.

Scott Stricklin and CJ Stewart
Ultimately, coaching is about taking someone from where they are to where they need to be. In most cases, players have no idea of where they need to be. Thus the need for a coach. The title of coach shouldn't be taken for granted. 

L.E.A.D.'s mission is to empower an at risk generation to lead and transform their city. We use baseball as a vehicle to do that. We have partnered with Atlanta Public Schools (APS) since 2008 to serve an at risk generation. A generation of youth that doesn't realize the full value of a high school and college education. This is demonstrated in the fact that 60% of African-American males are not graduating from APS high schools.  Click here to see L.E.A.D.'s Impact Stats. 

L.E.A.D. is more than activities. We shift the mindsets of our Ambassadors from individuals to the consideration of an entire city.

CJ Stewart at UGA's Foley Field
Today I was able to share L.E.A.D.'s mission with the new University of Georgia head baseball coach Scott Stricklin. I was joined by Kevin Young who serves as the head coach for the Martin Luther Middle School Cobras. The King Cobras are one of eight middle schools in our year round Middle School Character Development League in partnership with Atlanta Public Schools (APS). Kevin is also a teacher at Grove Park Elementary School (APS).

Coach Kevin Young at UGA's Foley Field
Scott listened to our organization mission with understanding as well as with sincere concern for the increase of African-American males competing as student-athletes in the sport of baseball within the NCAA. There are less than 6% of African-Americans competing in baseball within the NCAA. Think about what Atlanta feels like if we have more African-American males from APS graduating from college.

Coach Kevin Young, Courtney Gay (UGA Student Affairs) and CJ Stewart
All it takes to change the culture of baseball in the inner city of Atlanta is for someone like Scott to care through speech and action. Scott is in an amazing position of influence as the head baseball coach at the University of Georgia.  I look forward to opportunities for our Ambassadors to be empowered by Scott and exposed to the legacy of the University of Georgia. Go Dawgs!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

L.E.A.D. is on a new mission...will you join us?

L.E.A.D. is on a mission with a new mission. We are now empowering an at-risk generation to lead and transform the city of Atlanta. When we do this, our Ambassadors will lead their city to lead the world.

The Varsity is an iconic restaurant founded by Reinhardt University graduate Frank Gordy
We do a lot and get great results and with so much going on, an outsider can easily get confused about what L.E.A.D. does. So I reached out to my good friend Brad Steele at Leader Enterprises seeking help for L.E.A.D.'s messaging and branding. With the support of the creative team at Leader Enterprises, we will be launching our new Pathway to Empowerment for our high school Ambassadors and middle school LEADers soon. It's a game changer in youth development.

L.E.A.D. Ambassadors Cornelius Reed is a freshman at Paine College with a baseball scholarship

Want to lead with us, click here.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sometimes you have to just unplug and go to the country

I recently spent two days with my wife and daughters in Pine Mountain, GA with cousin Ruby or better known as "Big Mama". What a time what a time. It's still fresh on my mind. 
On Sunday, we pulled up in just enough time to play 3 on 3 football with my young male cousins ranging in age of 6 to 14. My 12 year old daughter Mackenzi played also. Mackenna was surprisingly busy playing with the family dog "Rock". She is usually afraid of dogs but not this one. Maybe it was the country life getting the best of her.
Mackenna with "Rock"

As the street lights came on, we were sure to head home.

I stayed up for a little while to laugh and watch Shark Week but I was super tired. The kids went to bed around 2AM as expected. 

On Monday morning, we woke to breakfast. Man you can't beat breakfast in the country and a cup of coffee. 

We played football for about an hour in the back yard. Mackenzi got over her fear of playing football with the boys and scored our only two touchdowns on deep passes. We lost 16 to 21.  For the first time, Mackenzi even drank out of a water hose.

After sitting around watching TV and starving to death until Kelli came back with the food, my cousin "Meathead" cooked fat sausages and burgers. He has passion for cooking and could be an up and coming celebrity chef. 

Filling full and looking for something fun to do, we went to the Wildlife Safari. This place is crazy. You drive for 3 miles in the safari in your own car feeding lions, giraffes, donkeys, ostrich, llamas and just about anything else that you can think of. We laughed so much. Couldn't stop thinking about the Jurassic Park movie though.

On Tuesday, we woke up to breakfast again. This place is amazing. No football for me today though. I'm getting too old. Of course they asked to play hundreds of time. I'm praying for child like energy to hang with them. 

Kelli, the girls and I went to visit a friend then stopped by Callaway Gardens. We used to go there all the time for family reunions when I was a kid. It was really special to go back as an adult with my ladies. Mackenna was scared to death on the paddle boats on the lake. I remember my first experience on the paddle boats as a kid with my dad like it was yesterday. We also got some good exercise riding through bike trails. We stopped riding bikes for a brief moment and found a shaded area near the lake and prayed as a family lead by Mackenzi.

This trip reconnected me with my family in more ways that I could imagine. Thank you Cousin Ruby for the southern hospitality!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Want to lead Atlanta and the world?

The 2012-13 L.E.A.D. Ambassador year is complete. I have learned a lot about leadership in 2013 from both good and bad experiences. My patience, commitment and dedication to mentoring students and coaches has been tested and I'm still standing by the grace of God.

Our 3-month fall Legacy League season will begin on August 24th and 25th with our interview and field tryout process at Booker T. Washington High School. 

We are willing to meet young men where they are and put them on a path of empowerment. Our pillars of excellence are academics, athletics, commerce and civic. Stay tuned for a 12-month process that will transform young men from an individual mindset to one that considers their school, city and world. It is going to be a game changer. 

L.E.A.D. is a proud partner of Atlanta Public Schools and we are seeking a few young men that want to lead Atlanta and the world.

For more information about our application process, click here.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The first L.E.A.D. Ambassador with a corporate job

If you haven't heard by now, L.E.A.D. celebrated its first college graduate two months ago when Joseph McCrary graduated Magna Cum Laude from Savannah State University with a degree in accounting. 

Joseph was a member of our inaugural class of Ambassadors in 2008. In addition to participating in a number of service projects, baseball tournaments, and weekly blogging about their Ambassadors experience, we had a VIP tour of Mizuno's Corporate Office in Duluth. He and the other Ambassadors met with the accounting, sales and marketing departments as well as meeting my good friend Bob Puccini who serves as the President of Mizuno USA

The 2008 L.E.A.D. Ambassadors
Mizuno USA has been a faithful supporter of L.E.A.D. since we were established in 2008 providing equipment, uniforms and awareness about career opportunities at Mizuno. In the summer of 2012, Joseph worked as an intern in Mizuno's accounting department.

L.E.A.D.'s mission is to create positive outcomes for inner city at risk minority youth males by leveraging the relationship between academics, athletics and service. 

I am pleased to announce that as of Monday, July 22nd 2013, Joseph McCrary is an employee of Mizuno USA working in the accounting department.

From left to right: Kelli Stewart, CJ Stewart, Avera McCrary, Joseph McCrary, and John Schuerholz (Atlanta Braves President)
Thank you Mizuno for continuing to step up to the plate for L.E.A.D. and hitting home runs.

Monday, July 15, 2013

L.E.A.D.'s July Ambassador of the Month

It is often stated that less than 10% of MLB players are African-Americans and that is considered a problem.

Did you know that less than 6% of NCAA Division I baseball players are African-Americans?

Did you know that 60% of African-American males will not graduate from high school within the Atlanta Public School System?

L.E.A.D. creates positive outcomes for inner city at risk minority youth by leveraging the relationship between education, athletics and service. We are using baseball to transform Atlanta through our L.E.A.D. Ambassadors. 

Meet our L.E.A.D. Ambassador of the Month Nick Marigny. Nick is an age 19 senior at Jackson State University. He is an example of the commitment of L.E.A.D. to transform Atlanta.  Nick has been a L.E.A.D. Ambassador since 2009.

L.E.A.D. is the solution and we appreciate your continued support of our mission.

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Look out for Kingdom Men in Atlanta

My morning started off amazing at my church Elizabeth Baptist Church.  Under the leadership of Dr. Craig L. Oliver, we are being spiritually fed by the Kingdom Man series by Dr. Tony Evans.

As the co-founder of L.E.A.D., Inc., Lord knows that I need to be in the right fellowship with Him in order to properly lead others.

My wife Kelli, Sam Crenshaw (WXIA) and I with our 2013 L.E.A.D. Ambassadors graduating class at Georgia Public Broadcasting
In the Man Up section of the DVD session of Kingdom Man, we learned that the absence of kingdom men is bringing destruction, pain and anguish throughout the land.  A kingdom man is a male who has learned to live his life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. God's kingdom agenda is the visible manifestation of the comprehensive rule of God over all of life.

It was also discussed that men are to be exposed to three "hoods". Male-hood comes with birth. Boyhood is when you are dependent, immature and not yet responsible. Manhood is when you are responsible enough to take care of someone else.

The Kingdom Man study has put a life size 6'3" mirror in front of me so that all of my weaknesses can be revealed.  I am reminded of how much I need the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ.  In order for me to be the leader in my house, in my state and in my country, I must become a Kingdom Man and be subjected to God's will for me. 

I am spiritually immature in a lot of ways yet striving everyday to become a Kingdom Man. Along my journey, I am joined by several men longing for peace and a strong relationship with God.  Through us, several young boys will become Kingdom Men as we take over communities throughout Atlanta.

I know that I can make a difference in my city.  How about you? Please keep me in your prayers as well as the devoted men at Elizabeth Baptist Church as we complete the 6-month study of Kingdom Man by Dr. Tony Evans.  Join our Kingdom Man study group at Elizabeth Baptist Church in Atlanta every 2nd Saturday at 8:30AM. See you on Saturday, August 10th.

The "not guilty" verdict of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin trial this evening has me on my knees.  I have an opportunity to help lead a generation of males in Atlanta that come from several ethnic backgrounds, elementary school age, young professionals as well as seasoned executives to Kingdom Man status.

By the grace of God, I want to lead on purpose while being led by God The Father.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The legacy of another great King is still developing Atlanta

In 2012 with the approval of Atlanta Public Schools Office of Athletics, L.E.A.D. was able to name the baseball field at Booker T. Washington High School The Moore-Clendenon Baseball Field. This recognition was in honor of James "Red" Moore (Atlanta Black Crackers) and Donn Clendenon (NY Mets), both graduates of Booker T. Washington High School.

C.J. Stewart's youth through college coaches along with James "Red" Moore

After graduating from Washington High School in 1933, Mr. Moore went on to have an All-Star baseball career in the Negro Leagues for the Newark Bears, Atlanta Black Crackers, Baltimore Elite Giants and the Indianapolis ABC's.  Mr. Clendenon was the Major League Baseball World Series MVP in 1969 with the New York Mets.

Mr. Donn Clendenon

Booker T. Washington High School is also known for another famous alum by the name of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was a member of a team of men that convinced Mr. Clendenon to stay home and attend Morehouse College instead of attending UCLA.

Eighty years after James "Red" Moore graduated from high school at Booker T. Washington High School, competitive baseball is being played for the purpose of launching educational opportunities. Through a partnership with Atlanta Public Schools, L.E.A.D. is able to use the Washington High School baseball field to deliver year round programming that focuses on excellence in education, athletics, community service/civic engagement and exposure.  L.E.A.D.'s mission is to create positive outcomes for inner city, at-risk, minority youth by leveraging the relationship between education, athletics and service.

To date, 60% of African-Americans in the inner city of Atlanta will not graduate from high school.  Since 2007, 100% of L.E.A.D. Ambassadors have graduated from high school and 100% of them have enrolled into college. 92% of L.E.A.D. Ambassadors have enrolled into college with scholarship opportunities.

There are a lot of great people that have worked tirelessly to make Atlanta one of the best communities in the world. Their efforts have resulted in some of the world's most influential businesses and ideas calling Atlanta home and a lot of them were birthed here: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coca-Cola, the Civil Rights Movement, CNN. One of those great persons is Kim King

The Kim King Foundation has been a supporter of L.E.A.D.'s Middle School Character Development League for over a year by adopting Mr. King's alma mater Joseph E. Brown High School into our Middle School Character Development League.

Angela King sharing Kim King's 1960 year book with with J. Brown Middle School Character Development League LEADers on their Signing Day 2013

The Kim King Foundation has continued to bless Atlanta Public Schools and L.E.A.D. by renovating the baseball field at Moore-Clendenon Field. Our new field will allow us to

  • provide more effective baseball training to our Ambassadors by L.E.A.D. coaches
  • provide opportunities to attract competitive teams throughout the country
  • provide opportunities to attract college baseball scouts
This is all done by the Kim King Foundation to allow us to continue to launch educational opportunities for our Ambassadors. Our partnership allows our young men to be successful and ultimately allows allows us to transform Atlanta with them leading the way.

Field renovation by Joseph Peters of Laser Turf SE.  Photo 

Mr. King was many things to this community; an amazing husband, father, student-athlete and a successful real estate developer.  He cut the trail of serving others so that I may L.E.A.D. the way with excellence in Atlanta.