Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Are Black Boys Blackballed?

It's widely accepted that sports is a microcosm of life. I would argue that no sport imitates life quite like baseball. If you stop to think about it, we spend our entire lives in the batter's box swinging at whatever life throws our way. When I first fell in love with baseball over 30 years ago I dreamed I would one day have the on-field talent and toughness of Jackie Robinson and the off-field charisma and consciousness of Martin Luther King Jr. Little did I know my entire life would be shaped by an attempt to right baseball’s biggest wrong, the lack of Black boys.

I dreamed of playing pro baseball while living on Hollywood Road as a child
In case you’re wondering, this blog is NOT meant to shame America's game. Instead, it’s meant to put a fence around decades of challenges faced by deserving Black boys who simply want their chance at bat. Apologies if this comes at you like a brushback pitch but my true aim is to spark a conversation that will bring forth solutions.

For decades older fans, coaches and casual observers have suggested three reasons to explain the sharp decline of Black boys in baseball:

  • Black boys aren't as athletic as they used to be. 
  • Black boys refuse to practice on their own. 
  • Black boys have lost the ability to think critically. 
I’m the first to admit, Black boys need to take responsibility for their own success. However, years of first- hand experience has completely persuaded me that reversing the above “reasons” will not magically level the playing field. In my opinion, the problem exists largely because Black boys face three elusive pitches that they just can’t seem to hit:

First the fast ball — White Is Right! This is the fastest pitch most black boys will ever see. It comes right down the plate in the form of the decision to play for a white coach versus a black coach. Individually this decision appears inconsequential but collectively it adversely affects the Black talent pool. Black boys are inclined to think the grass

is greener on the other side- meaning White coaches provide better instruction, more favor with scouts and a shield from the label that Black boys are lazy and not coachable. As a teenager, I was guilty of deciding that White was right. At the time, it was a selfish decision to protect my ego. Fleeing from my fears, I abandoned my community and planted the seeds of my talents in a garden that wasn’t mine. As a result, there was no harvest for the upcoming generation of Black boys. That cycle continues. Instead of thinking legacy, many Black boys are consumed with winning. 

That brings me to the second pitch, the change up— Winning Is Everything! The reduced speed and deceptive delivery of the change up confuses black boys timing. At an age when they should be intensely focused on self-development, they focus on winning games instead. Anxious and afraid they won’t have access to scholarships or major league scouting opportunities, black boys make the fatal mistake of equating wins with self-worth. The relentless pursuit of winning brings on an identity crisis causing them to bankrupt their personal identity in exchange for the identity of their team. Their “win now” obsession becomes the very thing that causes them to lose big later.

Finally, the curve ball. This is the most dangerous pitch of all. Hope Is Enough! Black boys filled with the illusion of hope sit and wait for the world to come to them. For a short time they spin forward through life like the threads of a curve ball but inaction suddenly drops them on a downward path toward their fate.

The true culprit for the decline of black boys in baseball
Photo by Jason Getz
is an all-star pitcher with the name HISTORY stitched on it’s back. History continues to throw elusive pitches past Black boys whose experience and exposure not only cause 
them to strike out in baseball, too often they strike out in life. This blog comes from the heart of a man who bleeds baseball. I’m in search of solutions that will preserve the future of the game I love. If you could wave a magic wand (or bat) what would you do to get more Black boys back into baseball? I invite you to disagree with me.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

What Keeps Temptation from Eroding Core Values?

Happy Mothers Day to my wife, Kelli Stewart, who challenges me - when necessary - to keep my core values strong!

Monica Pearson (left) along with my wife Kelli and I

Developing and maintaining strong values saved me from myself. The reason that I'm not in jail, or a deadbeat dad is that I made a commitment to learn and adopt good values. I believe that good values need on-going maintenance and require continuous discipline and commitment. It doesn’t take much for our values to erode over time if we aren’t careful. Temptation is all around us. Values will whittle away if you don’t stay vigilant and continue to make good choices.

These are the values that I’ve learned and adopted and that have served me well over the years:

Excellence - fulfilling expectations
Humility - not thinking of yourself less so that you can serve others more
Integrity - doing the right thing even when you can do the wrong thing
Loyalty - doing the right things for the right reasons, even if they're not popular
Stewardship - protector of your values and people
Teamwork - being your best within a group of people that are being their best for a specific purpose

I've never been tempted by drugs – never a dope boy - but I’ve experienced other temptations. There are plenty of opportunities for all of us to make bad choices. They are in an abundance daily.

One of the values I work hard to preserve is my integrity – doing the right thing even when I can do the wrong thing. I’ve found plenty of opportunities to do the wrong thing that given time will erode my integrity, if I let them; and know that it can be broken over time by perpetuating bad habits. For instance, I have a bad habit of browsing my phone while in the presence of my wife and daughters. I know better, but choose to do it anyway. Not only do I miss opportunities to connect with the most important people in my life, but I am also whittling away at one of my core values – integrity – by putting it in conflict each time.

Thankfully, the ladies of my life check my bad habit, and sometimes they do it with words that hurt my heart. They tell me that I care more about my phone than spending time with them. However, I’ll take the hurt because it gets my attention and makes me realize I am making the wrong choices for the goals and commitments I’ve made. Their words are a game changer, and for that I am grateful.

As you can see I am not perfect. Far from it. Like everyone, my values are constantly challenged. When they are, I rely on my family, friends and faith to keep my commitment strong.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Why is it intimidating to dream?

Before eight year’s old, I'm not sure I had a real “dream” of what I wanted to be when I grew up. However, at eight, after having watched Chicago Cubs baseball games with my grandfather in the summers, I knew. With the roaring AC inside, I would go outside to practice what I saw on television with what I had around me; collecting hundreds of rocks as baseballs with targets of large tree limbs and broom sticks used as a bat.

Living in Atlanta, the home of the Civil Rights Movement and being educated in the same public school system, I remember clearly as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used the word “dream” in his famous I Have a Dream speech quoted often to this day. Dr. King had a dream of freedom for all Black Americans, the end of segregation and discrimination. I had a dream of playing for the Chicago Cubs. Why are dreams important and what holds us back from really dreaming about the future, today?

To Share our Dreams or not…

As an eight year old Black boy being raised in the inner city of Atlanta, I openly and unapologetically told people that I wanted to play Major League Baseball for the Chicago Cubs. Many adults wanted a different future for me, an engineer, doctor or lawyer. This created conflict as our expectations were different. Dr. King’s dream of ending discrimination and segregation to set Black Americans truly free also created conflict. He believed so much in his dream, he paid for it with his life. If he hadn’t shared his dream, it would not become a reality and neither would mine.

Why do we hesitate to dream?

Dreams can be big, bigger than we are. They can be intimidating, overwhelming which makes us want to shy away before we even get started. Dreamers encounter naysayers, obstacles and conflict as evidenced by my experience and Dr. King’s. I suggest, any dreamer who dares to dream and implement can expect to encounter the same. Dreams can be costly, expose us and require sacrifice. So why bother?

Dr. King along with Jackie Robinson

I believe dreams are given to us by our creator to bring his heart to those on earth. Our personal experiences are used to create a passion in each of us about how we can make a positive impact on those in our communities. Dreams by design are led by us individually but implemented cooperatively. Dreams are a gift that bring us to live a life of significance.

All of us have the ability to dream; those who can tout significant achievements or those with disadvantageous circumstances. As leaders in our community, how do we foster the dreams of those most in need? How can we be dream enhancers instead of dream stealers for our disadvantaged youth? How can we show them what is possible?

• Dare to dream, because it takes courage
• Recognize that when you dream, you will encounter obstacles
• Enlist others to help you reach your dream, you were not designed to go it alone
• Dream Big – because when you do, big things happen.

I'm great at what I do as a coach and a mentor because it's my calling from God and I am responding to the call. I know it's my calling because of the GREAT EIGHT™.

What is your calling? Ask yourself these GREAT EIGHT™ questions daily for just 30 days to find out.

Remember – significance starts with a dream. Become significant – start dreaming.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”