Fighting the good fight

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Being an African-American man in America presents challenges to me every day and being an African-American baseball coach definitely requires strong mental health.

Baseball was invented in September 1845 by a group of New York City men who founded the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club. The sport soon became an essential part of the American identity. While other sports were enjoyed by many, the sport of baseball aspired to become a sport that unified all people.

The number of African-Americans playing Little League and Major League baseball is on a steady decline. I believe this is a social justice Issue. I also believe that baseball is a microcosm of America.

I fell in love with the game in summer 1984 when the Chicago Cubs were beating everybody and went on to win the National League East (they ended losing to the Padres in the National League Championship Series). There were several African-American players on that team. Gary “Sarge” Matthews was my favorite.

I was fortunate to be drafted by the Cubs in 1994 and 1996, and “Sarge” became one of my hitting coaches there.

My mental health is very important to me, and every day as an African-American man, I am fighting to receive the benefit of doubt, respect and trust.

When I started my professional baseball coaching career in 1998, I spent lots of time trying to do the impossible—giving 110% effort to prove to my white peers that I was a good coach. I tried to dress like them and talk like them. I found myself at times frustrated about who I was becoming.

My mental health is very important to me, and every day as an African-American man, I am fighting to receive the benefit of doubt, respect and trust.

I am an African-American man and I have learned to love who I am. Having good mental health is a really good thing and I will give my life to protect it.

Toni Morrison said, “The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

Before racism becomes about people, it is all about power, so for me to have good mental health with regards to combating racism, I need:

  • Support and affirmation from my wife, Kelli, our daughters, Mackenzi and Mackenna
  • To remain connected as a committed and consequential change agent employed at LEAD Center For Youth
  • Interactions with people that are not of the African-American race that agrees with me as well as those with people that disagrees with me
  • A caring, compassionate and competent therapist
  • My Life Group at my church, Elizabeth Baptist Church

Is racism real or non-existent to you?

Are you an African-American baseball coach fighting racism? How do you fight it?

Are you a white coach who has helped an African-American coach fight racism? How have you helped him?

For more information, visit L.E.A.D. Center for Youth today. Also, check out our Digital Magazine.

C.J. Stewart has built a reputation as one of the leading professional hitting instructors in the country. He is a former professional baseball player in the Chicago Cubs organization and has also served as an associate scout for the Cincinnati Reds. As founder and CEO of Diamond Directors Player Development, C.J. has more than 22 years of player development experience and has built an impressive list of clients, including some of the top young prospects in baseball today. If your desire is to change your game for the better, C.J. Stewart has a proven system of development and a track record of success that can work for you.