Mendez Elder L.E.A.D.’s the way to the Perfect Game National Showcase

A message from C.J. Stewart, Founder of L.E.A.D.

Being a L.E.A.D. Ambassador is about being exposed to the best that Atlanta and other U.S. cities have to offer and sharing it with the inner-city Atlanta community. We have four pillars of excellence: Academics, Athletics, Service/Civic Engagement and Exposure.

We select our Ambassadors from a three-month fall baseball development league, called the Legacy League. In order to be considered for the Legacy League, families must complete a college admissions style application process that includes an online application, letters of recommendation, family interview and an on field baseball tryout that is used to measure aptitude.

Our Ambassadors are held accountable for their scholarship opportunity in L.E.A.D. monthly. Their contributions on and off the field are tallied and measured; thishelps us determine who is invested in the organization and honoring the scholarship experience provided by our donors.

Mendez Elder is a junior at Grady High School in Atlanta and will be the first player to spend all four years in high school as a member of L.E.A.D. He is the face of our organization and represents what baseball could be in the Atlanta Public School System.

The Atlanta Public School System currently graduates only 34% of its African American male students. Seventy-five percent of the families that APS serves live at or below the poverty level. Through the support of the L.E.A.D. organization, Mendez is on track to graduate with a GPA of over 3.0 and earna baseball scholarship to a top-tier college.

This summer, Mendez will be only the second baseball player from the Atlanta Public School System to ever attend the Perfect Game National Showcase, which showcases the top 150 high school baseball players in America. There is an old saying that “you get what you deserve”. I can’t think of anyone more deserving than Mendez and his family!

In His Own Words: What does the Perfect Game National Showcase mean to Mendez?

Q: How many scouts do you expect to be there, and without this exposure,can you attend your dream school GA Tech?

Mendez: Scouts from the ACC, the SEC and most of the Major League teams will be at the Perfect Game National Showcase this summer. Without this exposure, being a student-athlete at Georgia Tech would be way out of reach for me.

Q: Has anyone else in your family gone to college?

Mendez: No. No one in my immediate family has gone to college.

Q: If you get a baseball scholarship to a Division 1 school, how willit impact your community?

Mendez: It would impact my community a lot because I would be one of the few to go to college through baseball. We have a middle school baseball program in L.E.A.D. now, and they all want to be Ambassadors like me. When I earn my scholarship to a Division I school, I will inspire them to do the same. And to go somewhere like Georgia Tech where they can come see me play? That would be a life changing experience for me and my community.

Q: What makes you sure that you will succeed at the showcase? Do you think you have a real shot to earn a Division 1 scholarship?

Mendez: All my life I have been practicing and working for a shot like this. Being in L.E.A.D. has helped me access the training I need to have a real shot at competing at this level. Through L.E.A.D. we have sponsors who help me get the training I need. Through Coach C.J.’s company, Diamond Directors, he’s been developing my swing for over 3 years now. And just recently I started working with a speed and agility trainer named Coach Matt at this place called Rapid Performance. Having access to this kind of training is unheard of where I come from, but because I have it, I’m confident I have a true shot to get a Division 1 scholarship.

Q: How do you plan to share your experience at PG National with otherplayers in your community and L.E.A.D.?

Mendez: Of course. Ever since 9th grade and being selected for L.E.A.D., I was taught to give back. I will blog about it and also spread the word in my community.Sometimes it’s all about holding conversations with people in person so they can see your face, and see that you are serious. I will encourage the scouts I meet to come scout Atlanta Public School baseball. There are baseball players all over Atlanta Public Schools (APS) but we just don’t get a chance at playing baseball on a higher level like players from other schools because we don’t have access to the resources that L.E.A.D. provides. As L.E.A.D. grows, I hope we’ll have enough money for scholarships for every kid in APS who wants to play baseball- but of course, like me, they have to earn it.