Three Cascade schools will be the site this week of an effort to not only bring young African-Americans into baseball, but provide a foundation of values to last a lifetime.
C.J. Stewart, a former Major Leaguer who got his baseball start through the Cascade Youth Organization, is founder and CEO of L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct). L.E.A.D. is hosting its second annual signing day events for its middle school developmental league from Monday, March 12, through Wednesday, March 14.
The events are designed to replicate the atmosphere created when high school students sign letters of intent to play for major colleges, only at the middle school level.
“We’re a non-profit organization that provides inner-city males with access to higher education and civic engagement through baseball,” said Crystal Giles, one of L.E.A.D.’s parent coordinators. “We’re also partnering with the Atlanta Public School System in the district’s first inner-city pilot middle school baseball program.”
Stewart, a former Chicago Cubs outfielder, said L.E.A.D.’s mission “is to provide inner-city males with access to higher education and civic engagement.
“The graduation rate for black males in Atlanta public schools is 34 percent,” said Stewart, who resides in Acworth. “Close to 80 percent of students in the system live at or below the poverty line. Playing baseball requires an annual investment about $5,000 to $10,000 a year, and these are some of the reasons we don’t have many African-Americans playing baseball at the NCAA or Major League level.
"Kids in the inner need and deserve professional support."
This is the second year of L.E.A.D.’s middle school development league. Stewart, who also runs a Marietta-based professional hitting instructional firm called Diamond Directors, hopes to add one to two additional Atlanta schools to his program in time for next year.