As part of our podcast series, Black College Nines reached out to Atlanta, Georgia native C.J. Stewart for what he has achieved in helping the dreams of urban youth and young men prosper and blossom within and outside the game of baseball. Knowing a thing or two about the rigors of living in an inner-city environment, C.J. Stewart places emphases on the values of achieving goals and is dedicated to making the dreams of young men happen.
The former Chicago Cubs outfielder has become an active baseball diplomat in the inner city with Atlanta’s youth. He has become both a determined and active leader to develop urban youth baseball players becoming responsible citizens through two programs he founded. L.E.A.D. (Launch Expose Advise Direct) was established in 2007 to develop baseball players into successful adults for “at-risk minority” metropolitan youths to advance in both athletics and education.
The other program, Diamond Directors which has earned Stewart recognition as one of the top organizations for player development in the country for collegiate and professional ball-players. A top hitting instructor, Stewart’s extraordinary list of Major League Baseball (MLB) players include Jason Heyward and Dexter Fowler of the Chicago Cubs, former MLB star Andrew Jones, and Pittsburg Pirates MVP Andrew McCutchen. The list also Includes Seattle Mariners 2016 first-round draft pick Kyle Lewis.
Stewart’s non-profit organizations reach out to young men within the Atlanta area who have a yearning to play baseball, but also “a hunger to be star performers beyond the field” leading inner-city youth in the right direction.
Stewart is an advocate for the importance of a college education. Through his help, he has been able to get more kids from within the Atlanta community to play collegiate baseball at the many Historically Black College and University (HBCU) baseball programs placing emphasizes how important it is to work hard both on and off the field.
Having a clear set of goals is one way C.J. Stewart helps his athletes to succeed. “We talk about goals, how to achieve them, then follow through”.
Taking the goals one step at a time to try and make it into reality is how Stewart put it into perspective to his players. “Try to let the goals motivate you, but focus on the day to day training to achieve them applying the same in the classroom,” Stewart stated.
Another major point, C.J. Stewart emphasizes in regards to both baseball and academics is mental toughness. Stewart explained how both are good examples of a test of willpower. “The idea is that all young people growing up in challenging situations need is an opportunity”. Stewart believes bigger and better things can happen.
The opportunity for inner-city kids to get into baseball, in particular if you don’t have the financial backing from your family, can derail dreams and aspiration.
Major League baseball today has gotten away from raw talent. Most baseball scouts run summer league baseball programs as parents pay a hefty fee to fund theirs kids’ baseball future which leads to an huge advantage from top college recruiting and baseball draft leader-board leaving inner-city kids with a major disadvantage.
With the help from his wife, is a big part to mentor those student-athlete in receiving college scholarships to HBCUs and non-HBCUs as well leading inner-city youth in the right direction through their non-profit organizations.
“Our goal is to take kids from the inner city and get them into college,” he said. “Somebody’s going to school on a baseball scholarship, and my responsibility is to help get those scholarships.”
It’s a responsibility Stewart has made his mission in life. We want to put the country on notice that there is a strong interest in baseball in the inner city,” Stewart said. “Despite what some people might think, young African-Americans do love baseball, and they yearn to play baseball at the highest levels” starting from his L.E.A.D’s program.
Now, he’s influencing more African-American young men the dream, an opportunity to play baseball, but to also became more than that.
Texas College head baseball coach Stanley Stubbs thinks the nation needs to know of the impact C.J. Stewarts is having on the development of top African American baseball players in youth, high school, amateur, collegiate and professional levels of baseball because of his commitment to Atlanta’s inner-city youth.
The Podcast focus on the grind of baseball in urban communities.