Everybody has had a “brilliant” idea that they didn’t follow through. Like an awesome invention, where you say to yourself “I’m going to invent a ______ _______ and I’m going to be rich!” Sorry, folks, somebody else invented the Snuggie and Shoedini while you were just talking about it. Some people have an amazing career path planned out, but end up changing majors after two semesters. You can’t be an astronaut if you hate math, sad but true. Most people have had hobbies or collections that they have start, but just got bored and found other interests. I used to collect beer caps and baseball cards, but that’s been awhile. It’s hard to say what makes somebody fall in love with and stick with an idea, a career, a hobby, or even a cause. I guess when you know, you know. Right?
I pretty much have always known that I wanted to work in professional baseball, I guess you’d say being a clubbie is my “calling.” I stepped away from that career for eight years, but I was scheming up a way to get back to it. There’s been one other thing that I’ve aspired to do with my life for several years, and I’ve never really explored it, until recently. I want to create or work with a program that provides baseball to disavantaged youth.
I’ve been around baseball all my life and I owe a great deal of my character to it. It’s taught me how to be a part of a team, the benefits of having a positive state of mind, the rewards of hard work, how to learn from failures and successes, and, most importantly, it’s taught me how to interact with and treat other people. I want to be able to share those lessons with the young people of my community.
I’ve been following and reading about the R.B.I. (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) concept for quite awhile. R.B.I works with Major League Baseball and has succeeded and expanded and is now in over 200 cities worldwide. They have partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to join forces and expand the abilities and reach of both programs. The BGCA’s SMART Moves program teaches the kids about alcohol, drugs, health, and general education.
There is another organization similar to R.B.I. that is based in Atlanta, it’s called L.E.A.D and was founded by former professional player C.J. Stewart. I am constantly reading about the amazing things L.E.A.D. is doing in Atlanta. This organization’s primary objective is to get younger players to and through college. Their select travel ball team, the Ambassadors, boast that 100% of their players have gone on to college and 83% of them received baseball scholarships. They’ve worked with the Atlanta Braves and local professional players to put on clinics at Turner Field. Jason Heyward is a huge supporter of L.E.A.D. and it is the official home of the Jason Heyward Fan Club.
These programs are not only for developing young men from the city into major league stars. They teach these young men the life skills necessary to develop in to adults who can enrich their communities, not be involved in drugs or crime, and the value of an education.
The timing couldn’t be better for me to begin laying the foundation for this. The A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club in Birmingham, my hometown, is an R.B.I. partner. I happened to run into a coach from that organization a few weeks ago, we discussed the league’s history, facilities, instructors, contacts, and needs. It was a very exciting and informative fifteen minute conversation, even though it wasn’t much of a conversation because I mostly just listened and asked questions.
Working for the Barons will only help with this project. Being a clubhouse manager gives me access to professional baseball players. I can collect used equipement, collect memorabilia for fundraising auctions, and things of the like. My job has also introduced me to leaders of business in the Birmingham area, businesses that would possibly be interested in donations or sponsorship. I believe that my involvement could raise visibilty and awareness of the program.
In addition to working for the Barons, I’ve been working at Academy Sports & Outdoors (a sporting goods chain that has stores in the Southeastern U.S.) this offseason. There is a corkboard outside the office that is covered in letters from various schools and organizations thanking Academy for their donations to their schools and causes. I haven’t asked about equipment donations yet, but you can bet that I will!
Social media, especially Twitter, has been and will continue to be a great resource for me to use. I’ve been able to talk to Brian Emory, the Executive Director of Mississippi RBI which is based in not-too-far-away Jackson, MS, on Twitter. He’s excited by my enthusiasm and is looking forward to lending me a hand. I’ve been following the work of C.J. Stewart and L.E.A.D. and I intend to bother C.J. with and lot of questions in the near future. I also have 457 awesome followers (and spammers,) who I’m sure would be willing to lend me a hand in any way that they could. This is what I want to do, and the timing is perfect.
Please click on the links to the programs mentioned in this post:
L.E.A.D. – http://www.lead2legacy.org/
Mississippi RBI – http://mississippirbi.com/
A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club of Birmingham – http://www.aggbgc.org/