Hats Off was a success…mission accomplished

It’s a little bit after midnight and I am wired.  I had so much fun today during Hats Off on the campus of GA Tech.  Hats Off is a signature event of L.E.A.D. that provides young men (LEADers) in our organization exposure to career opportunities.

GA Tech Athletics is a national brand and located right down the street from thousands of students in the Atlanta Public School System (APS).  To become a student-athlete at GA Tech requires sacrifice and commitment to academics and your sport.  Tonight, GA Tech welcomed over 100 of our Middle School LEADers from APS to get a behind the scene view of GA Tech Athletics.

We were greeted at the main entrance by Nick Scherer (Director of Baseball Operations) followed by a tour of the indoor batting cages, locker room, weight room and dugout.  Our LEADers had the opportunity to meet Walter Smith (Sports Medicine Assistant Athletic Trainer).  Mr. Walt makes sure that all of the players are healthy and able to compete.  Head Baseball Coach Danny Hall had encouraging words for our LEADers while they were hanging out in the dugout.  It was really difficult for them to pay attention to him because of their admiration of the baseball field and Atlanta skyline.  This was a totally different view of Atlanta for them.

They were eager to find out what was next. We were escorted like celebrities to the new John and Mary Brock Football Practice Facility where we were allowed to run around with the GA Tech mascot “Buzz”. The laughter was music to my ears.  I was inspired to attend college when I was 16 years of age while attending a GA Tech vs. NC State baseball game.  After working up an appetite, we enjoyed pizza and cupcakes.  Thank you Mary Jo Walker!

Now the fun begins.  It’s time to take the hats off and hear from some important individuals that go to bat for L.E.A.D.  Our LEADers were privileged to spend some quality time with Dan Radakovich (GA Tech Athletic Director). He is truly an amazing gentleman that understands the need for L.E.A.D.  If L.E.A.D. wins, the city of Atlanta wins.  Dan introduced us to Mr. Roddy Jones who is a former GA Tech student-athlete that lettered in football and baseball.  He is currently in graduate school at GA Tech after a successful career on the field.

I was so proud of our young men for remaining engaged while our speakers shared their path to a successful career.  Mr. Taz Anderson empowered them with his football stories and success as an entrepreneur.  He is a class act.  Then we heard from Beau King and Abby Perez.  Their father Kim King grew up in the West End of Atlanta and used athletics to provide him with access to a college education.  The LEADers really connected with the story about their father.  Our final speaker was Mr. Tucker Barr who was also a student-athlete at GA Tech and is now an attorney of Arnall, Golden and Gregory.

As we left the football practice facility, we entered the baseball field from left field with all eyes on us.  There were over a 2,000 GA Tech and Georgia Bulldog fans in the stands.  Our LEADers were loving the well deserved attention.  Tyquavious Noland didn’t want the night to end.

The first pitch was finally thrown.  They had the unique opportunity to watch the game with Victor Menocal who is also a GA Tech alum who played baseball for the Yellow Jackets.  Victor is now a baseball agent for Excel Sports Management and represents Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman to name a few.

What a day as I rub my eyes trying to fight sleep.  I took as many photos as I could with my iPhone but Dion Standford had the professional camera to capture the moments.

Our mission was accomplished tonight.  It was the first time on a college campus for several of our LEADers.  L.E.A.D. provides inner city at-risk males with access to higher education and civic engagement through baseball.  Our Hats Off event tonight allowed us to nurture the seeds planted with regards to attending college.

Special thanks to Wayne Hogan (Associate Director of Athletics-Public Relations) for making this event possible for L.E.A.D. Thank you Wayne for going to bat for us.

Our next signature event is our 3rd Annual Ambassadors Signing Day at Turner Field.  Hopefully we will see you there.  Click here to learn more about this event.