Monday, March 25, 2013

3 reasons why you should support me EVERYDAY

God continues to bless me everyday. Even my setbacks are blessings because it is an opportunity to trust in Him more and learn from my mistakes while gaining wisdom.

Fortunately, I have a lot more good days than bad days. I have a thriving for profit business Diamond Directors that provides the blueprint of success to amateur and professional baseball players across the world. We are among the world leaders in player development for baseball because of our 15 years of experience and a proven training methodology called AT-BATS.

The success of Diamond Directors also allows my wife and I to work together and provide inner city Atlanta at-risk youth males with access to higher education and civic engagement through baseball. This is the mission of our non-profit organization L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct). Through L.E.A.D., we are also a world leader in youth development with respect to our mission. L.E.A.D. is a proud official partner of the Atlanta Public Schools System.

L.E.A.D. hosting 350+ students from the Atlanta Public School System at the 2012 MLB Civil Rights Weekend at Turner Field
How in the world does Kelli and I continue to do all of this with excellence you might ask? We do it by the grace of God and we have a lot of smart friends. Our DREAM TEAM of mentors, board members and friends are amazing to say the least.

Hanging with the Stewart girls in our partner Georgia's Own Credit Union Suite at Turner Field during the Atlanta Braves game
People come up with great ideas everyday. It will remain just an idea unless you share it with others that are willing and able to help you convert that idea to reality.

I have learned that people support people and not ideas. Why would anyone want to support me?

2011 L.E.A.D. Middle School Character Development League Pep Rally
Here are three reasons why someone should support me. 

1. I live to serve others. Supporting me allows you to support thousands of additional people. I haven't always been confident in my God given ability to teach life lessons through baseball but now I am looking for opportunities everyday to empower others. You empower me everyday and I will remain a good steward and empower others. 

The Westminster School baseball players serving with L.E.A.D. at our adopted portion of the Atlanta Belt Line
2. I can be trusted. God has blessed me to do everything that I have ever asked for in life. To that end, my days now are focused on my legacy. I won't live forever and I want to be remembered as a servant leader when I cease to exist on earth. I want God to say "well done My faithful servant." A man that is focused on his legacy can be trusted in my book. How about yours?

3. I'm a fan of great treatment. It is important for me to be treated with respect above all things. I know that if I treat others with respect, I will be respected. I'm aware that we encounter disrespectful people everyday. I will focus on controlling what I can control and keep it moving. If I had the choice to be loved or respected, I would rather be respected. I respect the giving of time, talents and treasures of those that support me.

L.E.A.D.'s 3rd Annual Middle School Character Development League Signing Day at Walter L. Parks Middle School (Atlanta Public Schools)
Here are three ways that you can support me for the remaining month of March. 

1. Pray for my family, friends and supporters. I am praying for you and your family as well.

3. Click here and make a donation to L.E.A.D. $10.00 per month for the year goes a long way. It takes $3,500.00 annually for L.E.A.D. to keep a young man on track to graduate from high school. It costs the state of Georgia $90,000.00 annually to incarcerate a juvenile.

The L.E.A.D. Ambassadors with Georgia Governor Nathan Deal

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tommy Thomas "The Barber": A living legend

It is so much more than a barber shop. "Tommy's" is an Atlanta institution and he is an Atlanta icon. His father was the original owner and after his death, Tommy continues to keep the legacy going strong serving generations of Atlantans. The shop has been a community staple for over 50 years. The next time that you are in the World of Coca-Cola, check out his commemorative bottles. He has two of them!

Thomas Barber Shop Coke Commemorative Bottle featured at the World of Coca-Cola
I began getting my haircut at Tommy's two years ago by accident when I noticed my friend Leo Mazzone going in the shop. Tommy introduced himself to me and said, "Hey! You need a haircut. Sit in Swift's chair and let him take care of you!" And I have been a faithful client every since.

I spend 4 days per week in the shop catching up on news and meeting some of the most amazing people in the city of Atlanta. I've met Governor Deal and Don Keough in the shop along with Coach Vince Dooley, Charlie Finch, Charles Wellborn and Angela King.

Saturday's are the best days to go because Tommy always has hot donuts.

Tommy cares about this city and everyone in it. You will never see him drink anything other than Coke and I believe that food from Goldberg's next door will show up on his X-Ray.

Tommy Thomas with the L.E.A.D. Ambassadors at the 2011 L.E.A.D. Dinner With Champions Awards Ceremony
He has been a faithful supporter of inner city Atlanta youth through my non-profit organization L.E.A.D. We honored him in 2011 at our annual Dinner With Champions Awards Ceremony as a community partner. My Ambassadors love going to Tommy's. It is more than a haircut.  It is an experience.

Tommy Thomas with L.E.A.D. Ambassador Joseph Bester. Several important people have spent time in the back of Tommy's Barber Shop.
My daughter's love going to Tommy's because he gives them lollipops or money to get yogurt next door at YogurtLand.

Tommy is celebrating his birthday today and I wish that I could announce it to the world so that every person knows it. America is a better place with Tommy in it. He is a living legend.

Tommy Thomas receiving his 2011 L.E.A.D. Community Partner Award

Week 3 of the MSCDL from Coach Kerwin Giles

March 11

Practice at Brown Middle School was cancelled due to bad weather.

March 14

We played L.E.A.D. games on Thursday due to the Washington High School Varsity Baseball team having a home game on our usual Friday. Brown Middle School made a chilly Thursday evening rather warm with their very hot hitting and good defense to go on to a 15-5 victory over Young Middle School. Brown got most of their hits and runs from the top half of their order and got timely defensive plays in the field. Young played good defense but Brown continued to find holes with their hits.

March 16

Our day was started with King Middle School vs. Harper-Archer Middle School. King put up 6 first inning runs and did not look back on their way to a 9-0 victory. Samuel Katz pitched three scoreless innings to pace the way. Sahrod Poon had a great outing on the mound for Harper-Archer as they continue to get better each week. Their bats woke up a little more this week but could not string enough hits together to get on the board.

Our second game featuerd Sylvan Middle School vs. Kennedy Middle School. Sylvan started out slow but after going through the order, the bats woke up and put 5 runs up in the 3rd in route to a 12-4 victory and their first win of the season. Sylvan got a storng pitching performance from Vernard Kennedy and Wayland Lloyd to led the Bears to the win. The Kennedy LEADers were very upset because they were not at full strength due to several of their teammates participating in a track meet.

The last game featured B.E.S.T. Academy vs. Parks Middle School. This was the best pitched game of the season so far as Reginald Parham (B.E.S.T.) and Octavious Battle (Parks) battled pitch for pitch with Parham and the B.E.S.T. Eagles coming out on top 4-1. Battle struck out 12 Eagles but the Mustangs could not muster enough hits to get runners on. The defense on both sides was excellent behind the great pitching. This was the best played game so far on our young season.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Be Excellent, Go The Second Mile

L.E.A.D. Elementary School Character Development Series

I am proud to announce that the new name for L.E.A.D.'s Middle School Baseball League is the L.E.A.D. Middle School Character Development League. The reason for changing the name is to ensure that our LEADers, their family and the Atlanta community understand that L.E.A.D. is about much more than bats and balls.

Photo from left to right: L.E.A.D. Ambassador Mendez Elder (Grady High School); Ambassador Andrew Young; Reverend Joseph Lowery; Jason Heyward (Atlanta Braves) and L.E.A.D. Ambassador Wesley Clement (Mays High School)
Each week, I'm going to publish a blog discussing a character trait that is important to our organization. Many people say that baseball develops character. On the contrary, L.E.A.D. feels that baseball exposes your character first then it develops it. Baseball is the ultimate game of failure. It is also the only game that allows you to be considered successful based on you failing more than you succeed.  Yes, this is a correct statement and you will learn how during our time together.

The character trait that I will highlight this week is excellence. Excellence is also one of L.E.A.D.'s seven core values. According to, the word excellence is a noun and is defined as a state or quality of excelling or being exceptionally good; extreme merit; superiority.

I define excellence as simply going the "second mile." I recently heard Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy speak about the Chick-fil-A culture of going the "Second Mile" based on the Book of Matthew 5:41. Jesus says, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles”.

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Mendez Elder and L.E.A.D. Co-Founder C.J. Stewart attending a 2011 Atlanta Public Schools Board Meeting
My wife and I started L.E.A.D. in 2007 with the intention of doing camps and clinics throughout the year. Now L.E.A.D. is a year round character development program that uses academics, athletics, service/civic engagement and exposure to increase the high school graduation rate of African-American males from Atlanta Public Schools. We continue to go the "Second Mile" by serving our families with excellence.

L.E.A.D. Co-Founders C.J. Stewart and Kelli Stewart attending the 2013 L.E.A.D. Middle School Signing Day at Harper-Archer Middle School
Here are three things that you can do everyday to ensure that you are excellent.

1. Get feedback from others. Ask your co-workers and teachers if your work is excellent. If they truly want to see you improve, they will give you honest feedback.  Don't be offended by constructive criticism.  In order to do better, you have to know better, and once you know better, you have to be better.

My wife Kelli from time to time has to remind me to get my priorities together. I get so busy with preparing for business meetings that I neglect other more important things in life like family time, Bible study and my health. I'm thankful that she can slow me down at times and get me back on track. Who helps you to get back on track when you are falling off?

2. The results don't lie. If you feel that you performed well on a test but you get an "F", that means that you didn't prepare with excellence. 

3. Examine yourself.  You have to first experience excellence in order to be excellent.  The reason that L.E.A.D. can provide an excellent experience to our families is because we have been a part of excellent experiences.  Everyone has experienced excellence and therefore I believe that everyone can be excellent.

Learn more about L.E.A.D. at

"Narrate the positive script for your future and you are the star character."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

When Atlanta youth fail, there is money to be made and this is how

L.E.A.D. serves 160 LEADers in our Middle School Character Development League. It costs $73,000 annually to incarcerate a juvenile in the state of Georgia. $73,000 x 160 = $11,680,000 per year to "lock up" 160 juveniles. Somebody is making a lot of money off of the failure of kids. 

L.E.A.D. Signing Day 2013 at Charles Harper-Sam Archer Middle School
Play with the numbers of lives to increase the revenue (For example $73,000 x ... = ...). There are approximately 26,000 African-American males in the Atlanta Public School system and according to the statistics, 60% of them will not graduate from high school. When I do the math on my iPhone of $73,000 x 26,000 AA males it gives me a funny number but I know it is a TON of cash that is being made!

L.E.A.D. Middle School Signing Day 2013 at Walter L. Parks Middle School
Click here to check out L.E.A.D.'s IMPACT STATS at It costs L.E.A.D. $3,500 annually to keep an inner city Atlanta African-American male on track to graduate from high school and enroll into college. We continue to base our success on numbers. We can either be a part of the problem or the solution. Just my thought. Please share this thought with your network and I would like your thoughts as well. 

Your thoughts?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Week 2 of the MSCDL from Coach Kerwin Giles

L.E.A.D. had another great week of baseball. This was Week 2 of our Middle School Character Development League. The success of the MSCDL is due to the tireless planning and dedication of our Middle School Director Kerwin Giles. Here is Kerwin's weekly account of the on field development of our LEADers.

Monday March 4

I attended practice at Harper-Archer. We had a great day of practice as I worked with the infielders and pitchers on certain situations that I saw from the week of games before. The LEADers were very eager to learn new things about the game. It is our responsibility to find out where our LEADers best fit on the field so they can have the best chance to succeed.

Kerwin Giles at the 2012 L.E.A.D. Middle School Pep Rally
Friday March 8

Friday night lights(baseball style) featured B.E.S.T. vs. Harper-Archer. The B.E.S.T. Eagles bats continued to ring loud putting up 17 runs on their way to a 17-3 victory. Despite the score, Harper-Archer's play improved tremendously. The Eagles got an excellent pitching performance from Reginald Parham but it looks as if their bats will carry them a long way this year.

Saturday March 9

Our day got started with Brown vs. Sylvan Hills. The Browns Dolphins got a very strong pitching performance and rode that to a 8-3 win over the Bears of Sylvan Hills. Sylvan felt the effects of not having their usual catcher, as they allowed a numerous of passed balls to allow Brown to score some easy runs. Sylvan's overall play also improved leaps and bounds and I expect it to continue under the LEADership of Coach Sedrick Parker.

Our second game featured King vs. Young. This game will go down in L.E.A.D. Middle School Character Development League history. This was our first game to go into extra innings as King fought back from a 3 run deficit to defeat the defending champs 8-7. Young went ahead early and stayed ahead 7-4 until the 6th inning when the King bats began to awake. After tying the game at 7, King got a 1-2-3 inning in the top half of the inning and got a walk-off hit in the bottom half for the come from the behind victory. This game also had several Life/Character teaching moments, as this great game of baseball will provide about the ups and downs, peeks and valleys that our LEADers will definitely go through.

We finished the day with Kennedy vs. Parks. Parks jumped out to an early 5-0 lead and held on for a 5-2 victory. Kennedy showed the most improvement from last week but was not able to complete the comeback after scoring 2 runs in the last inning. Parks got an excellent pitching performance and held on with good defense.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My Mentorship Experience at Harper-Archer Middle School

For the past four Tuesday's, I have been serving as an in school mentor for our L.E.A.D. baseball team at Harper-Archer Middle School. This mentoring program is yet another great idea from my wife Kelli who serves as L.E.A.D.'s Executive Director. I will continue to serve in this role until the last week of the school year.

A group shot of the Harper-Archer Jaguars on L.E.A.D. Signing Day 2013
I spend 45 quality minutes per week with the LEADers at Harper-Archer Middle School to ensure that they connect L.E.A.D. with their academic success. Here is my weekly format for mentoring.

Take role. School attendance is one of the ways that our LEADers pay to be in our year round program. If you aren't at school, you are missing opportunities to learn.  Our success as an organization is based on increasing the the high school graduation rate of African-American males in high school.  The current APS graduation rate for AA males is 52%.  Click here to check out the IMPACT STATS for L.E.A.D.

Recite the L.E.A.D. precept. Our precept puts us all on one accord. We link arms and recite "I am proud to be a creation of God. I'm thankful for this opportunity to be a LEADer. I am my brothers keeper and together we will achieve greatness."

Recite a prayer. It is always great to hear our LEADers offer a prayer of acknowledgement and thanks to God for His many blessings to us.

Recite the L.E.A.D. mission statement. Understanding our mission allows our LEADers to recognize that we aren't just a "baseball team". 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. We achieve our mission in the areas of academics, athletics, service/civic engagement and exposure.

Time for reflections. Our LEADers are dealing with so many social issues that make it difficult to focus on receiving a quality education. We spend time discussing negative issues and resolve them as a group. This is my favorite time with them. It is powerful. They want to be successful in life so bad. They only need someone like me that can lead the way.

Collect the Tracking Sheets. Our LEADers pay for their L.E.A.D. experience with their school attendance, behavior and grades. They are required to have their teachers sign off on their tracking sheets weekly. The tracking sheets are like money. Bad tracking sheets, no baseball!

There are four things that must be in place to be an effective mentor according to my wife Kelli.

1. You must have something of value. Our mentees love baseball and L.E.A.D. provides a path to college and career opportunities.  L.E.A.D. was established in 2007.  We will have our first college graduating class this summer.

2. You must develop a relationship. Our mentoring program, baseball practices, baseball games, service projects, and exposure events gives us a great platform to build relationships with our LEADers.

3. You must have consistent interaction. L.E.A.D. is year round. You can't be more consistent than that.

4. They must trust you. Once all of the above are established, they will no doubt trust you and if they trust you, you can mentor them.

This is yet another reason why L.E.A.D. works.

The Harper-Archer Jaguars