Sunday, February 24, 2013

Introducing our future business leaders, philanthropist, and fathers

This upcoming week will be exciting in Atlanta. L.E.A.D. will host its 3rd Annual L.E.A.D. Middle School Signing Week.

Eight of our partner Atlanta Public School (APS) Middle Schools will have its LEADers sign their L.E.A.D. scholarships in front of their family, peers and teachers.

Majority of my family received their formal education within Atlanta Public Schools. So this week, I'm also bringing them out to meet our LEADers. To understand the road ahead, ask those coming back. Success leaves clues.
L.E.A.D. is so much more than bats and balls. Our mission is to provide inner city Atlanta at-risk youth males with access to higher education and civic engagement through baseball. Our success is measured in the areas of academics, athletics, service/civic engagement and exposure. Our success is amazing! Click here to check out our IMPACT STATS!

On middle school stages across the city of Atlanta will sit future business leaders, philanthropist, and fathers. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. walked the halls of Atlanta Public Schools as well as the President of the Atlanta City Council Ceasar Mitchell, Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza HallAtlanta Police Chief George Turner and L.E.A.D. Founder CJ Stewart

L.E.A.D. Signing Day 2012 at Jean Childs Young Middle School
L.E.A.D. continues to set and raise the bar of excellence for youth development in Atlanta. Click here for details about our Signing Week. We would love for you to experience this with us.

L.E.A.D. Signing Day 2012 at John F. Kennedy Middle School

Friday, February 15, 2013

Professional achievement is a village effort

My dreams of playing professional baseball began at the age of 8 or 9 when I would watch Chicago Cubs baseball games with my grandfather in the day time and Braves games at night on the Super Station.  From that point on, my decision making for success was based on that dream coming true.  Everything that I did would either help me or hurt me with regards to being a Cubbie.

My parents have allowed a lot of awesome people to come into my life to mentor me. One of the best youth coaches that I ever had was James Holiday.  We all respected him for his baseball knowledge but most of all, he was always there for us.  We knew that we would have a team to play for every year and that he would bring the best out of us.  He was strict but we needed the discipline.  He got me ready for the next level.

L to R: L.E.A.D. Ambassadors Earl Muhammad, Cedric Reed, Evelyn Holiday, James Holiday, myself and Howard Walker
One of the best decisions that I ever made was signing to attend GA State University to play baseball for Coach Mike Hurst.  He is a living legend and has poured himself into thousands of young men and women.  He taught me so many valuable lessons that I use today when I mentor our L.E.A.D. Ambassadors.  My time at GSU has prepared me for success in life.

After college, my dream of playing professional baseball came true when I signed with the Chicago Cubs.  It was everything that I thought that it would be.  Upon my retirement, I began training amateur and professional hitters through my for-profit business Diamond Directors.

I remember training Josh Merrigan when he was 11 years old and now he is entering his freshman year at Georgia State University.  I have watched James Clements take thousands of swings since he was in middle school and now he is a freshman GSU Panther as well.

James Clements and his mother Kellie
Our success of Diamond Directors caused my wife/business partner Kelli and I to start a non-profit organization L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) in 2007 to provide inner city Atlanta youth males with access to higher education and civic engagement through baseball.  We successfully do that by graduating 100% of our Ambassadors from high school while 100% of them enroll in college and 92% enroll with baseball scholarship opportunities.

Accepting the award with L.E.A.D. Ambassadors Earl Muhammad and Tabias Wimby along my side
Two weeks ago, GSU Head Baseball Coach Greg Frady called to inform me about being honored as the 2013 Professional Achievement Award recipient. I was full of emotion that day and still on Cloud 9 now. Private victories always precede public victories. Thank you Coach Frady for empowering me to empower others.

God has blessed me in so many ways to be a blessing to so many others. I take my calling to serve others seriously. I can be all that God wants me to be because of an amazing wife, daughters, parents, family members, friends and supporters. I accept this award on behalf of you all. Without you, I can't achieve anything worth talking about professionally.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Atlanta Braves...The Team With The Good Faces

The Atlanta Braves outfield is stacked with talent and they are young.  I'm still on Cloud 9 with the decision that Frank Wren made to bring the Upton's to Atlanta.

Why did he do it?  I don't know the exact answer but in my opinion, he did it because he felt that they were good enough to help the Braves win.  That is a simple answer considering that every major league team wants to win championships and the general manager is charged to put a winning team on the field.

I have listened to so many people over the years say that African-American players never get a chance in Atlanta.  Most of these conversations happen in the barber shop of course.  The bottom line is that you have to be good enough to play this game regardless of your race.  Jason Heyward, BJ and Justin Upton are all good enough to help the Braves win and that is why they have the privilege of wearing the "A" on their hat with Braves across their chest.  The Atlanta Braves is more than a baseball team, it is a national brand.

The timing couldn't be any better for a school age African-American male that has dreams of playing this game.  For my Atlanta based non-profit organization L.E.A.D. Inc., the MLB isn't the focus.  Instead, we want to continue to increase the numbers of African-Americans that are competing at the collegiate level.  According to the NCAA, in 2009-10, the participation of African-American baseball players was less than 6% on its Division 1 teams.

100% of L.E.A.D.'s Ambassadors graduate from high and enroll into college while 92% of them enroll in college with baseball scholarship opportunities.  How would Atlanta operate if we used baseball to afford more African-American males to have the opportunity to attend and graduate from college and work for the Atlanta Braves, Coke, Delta, CDC, UPS, etc.?

L.E.A.D. serves over 500 Atlanta Public School males K-12 with year round programming and most if not all of them will be tuned in to watch several Braves games this season on television.  Several of them that track well with our Civic Stats will cheer on the Braves live at Turner Field with my wife, my two daughters and I.  It should be against the law to not watch Braves baseball if you live in Atlanta this season!

Thank you Atlanta Braves for continuing to add good faces to the roster.

Monday, February 4, 2013

On the front row eating hot dogs tonight at Price Middle School

The NFL season is finally over.  My Falcons didn't win it all this year but we will next year!

I have a great day planned for today.  I have some conference calls that will benefit a lot of youth in Atlanta, visit some of our L.E.A.D. partner schools then train Dexter Fowler and Telvin Nash before they head to spring training.

Before I head home to spend time with my lovely ladies, I'm going to watch some middle school playoff basketball action at Luther Price Middle School at 5PM.  Willis Sutton Middle School will match up against Price Middle School to determine who moves on for the basketball championship.

Click here to check out this photo of me with some of the students/athletes with Price Middle School after they won the 2012 football championship. Some really cool kids!

The shooting last week at Price Middle School still has people afraid.  I look forward to being on the campus this evening.  L.E.A.D. serves this community and other communities throughout inner city Atlanta every day throughout the year.  I can't explain why this incident happened but I feel that is my responsibility to be one of the first to respond and provide a sense of hope for the students.

L.E.A.D. currently serves eight of the Atlanta Public School 16 middle schools with year round programming including B.E.S.T. Academy, Sylvan Hills, Jean Childs Young, Martin Luther King Jr, John F. Kennedy, Walter L. Parks, Charles Harper-Samuel Archer and Joseph Brown Middle Schools.  Currently, Price Middle School isn't one of our partner schools but this shooting incident is more reason for us to add them.

My father shares stories with me about his days as a student at Price when it was a high school.  The legacy of this school in this community is rich.

I will have a front row seat this evening at Price Middle School watching some good basketball and fighting the desire to each three hot dogs and chips.  I'm trying to lose some weight.  I have to stay in shape to chase these kids around.

Continue the fight for excellence for students throughout this great state of Georgia.  They all matter and they all need us!