How do I say thank you?

It took a lot of coaching to create the person that I am today. My playing days are over but I am prepared to coach and develop other young men the way that I was developed. I know the methodology and I know it works.

I started playing baseball at the Cascade Youth Organization and Coach Gus Burns was my first coach. He was an older gentleman whose gray hair was a sign of wisdom. He taught me patience. It took a lot to teach me how to finally make contact with the ball. Coach Emmett Johnson was Coach Burns’ assistant. He had a beautiful family and was an educator. He always stressed academic excellence. No grades, no baseball. I kept the same coaches and played on the same youth Braves team with the same players until I was 11 years old. We became a family.

My family saved lots of money and off to Fairburn, GA we went. Then I had to find the baseball fields. Coach Zack Davis was my coach from age 11 to 13. He taught me how to compete. We worked harder than everyone at the Old National Athletic Association. We were expected to win.

At age 14, I was still at ONAA but now playing for the elite Pirates. We had so much talent but unfortunately a lot of egos and bad attitudes. Coach James Holiday was very strict and introduced me to tough love. He wanted nothing but the best from us. Lack of effort and disrespect didn’t go unnoticed at all!

I finally got to high school. Westlake baby! We couldn’t seem to buy a win until Coach Dave Whitfield taught us how to love and respect the game. Our love was shown every game as we never stepped on the field with dirty cleats. That was a curse and we always came to school on game days with our uniform on a hanger. Pride baby!

When I was GA State Baseball bound, I was literally thinking, “I’m on top of the world.” I was drafted by the Cubs and was playing at a Division 1 school, thinking the world owed me. Above all, I finally had freedom. Coach Mike Hurst taught me that freedom has consequences. I made some bad choices but I learned. Although the hard way, I’m better now for it.

After GSU, I transferred to Dekalb Junior College. “Courteney, you are going to have to play hard here at Dekalb. No excuses!” Those were Coach Tom Cantrell’s the first words to me. He taught me how to play with passion. “If you are going to play the game, play it right and play it hard!”

Next stop was Chicago Cubs, baby! The dream became reality. I played for and was coached by so many legends. The coach that stood out the most to me was Tom Gamboa. He really believed in me and taught me how to believe in others. I always felt like an all-star around him.

L.E.A.D. will continue to develop young men on and off the baseball field under my leadership. That leadership didn’t come from a classroom or a coaching clinic. Life has put me with some great men. I say thank you by paying it forward!