Jackie Robinson, 42 and You

Yesterday evening, my wife Kelli Stewart and I were guests of the Atlanta Braves for the private screening of the Jackie Robinson documentary “42”.  The movie viewing was sponsored by Atlanta based marketing company Liquid Soul.

The evening started with a reception at Strip Restaurant.  I had an opportunity to spend some time with Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz as well as see some familiar faces of individuals connected with revitalizing baseball in the Atlanta African-American community.

My wife Kelli Stewart and I at Atlantic Station in Atlanta for the 42 movie. (Photo by Isha Edwards , EPIC Measures)

At the movie theater, we were greeted by several young baseball players.  It was really cool to have them there for this occasion.

The movie itself was nothing short of amazing. Check out the trailer.

In 1984 at the age of 8, all that I ever wanted to do was play professional baseball for the Chicago Cubs.  I would watch the Cubs games on WGN with my grandfather while drinking Coke in the day time and watch the Braves on TBS at night.  The Cubs had the better team so I cheered for the Cubs.

Achieving my dream seemed really simple because nobody ever told me that it was too hard.  Little did I know that prior to 1947, playing Major League Baseball for someone who looked like me was impossible. Branch Rickey (Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager) gave Jackie Robinson the opportunity to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the Major Leagues in 1947 and thus he opened the door for myself and thousands of other African-American baseball players to achieve our dream of playing professionally.  Prior to playing for the Chicago Cubs, I was a student/athlete (baseball) at Georgia State University.

The movie really brought to life the horrific stories that I have heard about regarding the state of America prior to the Civil Rights Movement. This movie is more than baseball. It showed Mr. Robinson as a loving husband and father, a caring teammate and a change agent for civil and human rights in America. He basically paved the way for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Jackie Robinson is the gold standard for serving others. My wife Kelli Stewart and I are co-founders of an Atlanta based non-profit organization L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) that provides inner city Atlanta at-risk youth males with access to higher education and civic engagement through baseball.

Prior to playing Major League Baseball, Mr. Robinson was a graduate of UCLA. L.E.A.D.’s focus is to increase the number of African-Americans playing in the NCAA. There are currently less than 6% of African-Americans competing in baseball at the NCAA level. Since L.E.A.D.’s inception in 2007, 100% of our Ambassadors have graduated from high school while 100% have enrolled in college and 90% have enrolled with baseball scholarship opportunities. Graduating from college gives our Ambassadors an opportunity to work in the front office of the Atlanta Braves with Mr. John Schuerholz.

L.E.A.D. is a proud partner of Atlanta Public Schools (APS). It is important for us to partner with APS because I am a proud product of Atlanta Public Schools like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Booker T. Washington High School) as well as my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. But did you know that 60% of Atlanta Public Schools African-American males will not graduate from high school?

Thank you Mr. Robinson for leading the way. This movie will educate millions and serve as a call to action to help youth use baseball as a means to develop life skills. Without baseball, I wouldn’t be the loyal and loving husband, father, son and servant leader that I am today.

What are some ways that you can help increase the number of African-Americans in your city that are using baseball to access college?

If more African-Americans males are graduating from college, how will that impact our country?

What is your connection to baseball? When was it introduced to you?