“In September 2014, CJ Stewart, Co-founder of L.E.A.D., invited my 10 year old son, Christian, and I to speak to his L.E.A.D. Ambassadors prior to one of their Legacy League fall baseball games. The L.E.A.D. Ambassadors are all high school students that attend various Atlanta Public Schools. The game was played at Booker T Washington High School which sits in one of the highest crime ridden areas in the entire country much less our city or state. Needless to say, I was apprehensive about the environment.
After our 10 minute leadership talk my son and I stayed to watch the first game. There was a lot of baseball talent on the field. The players from both teams were talented and invested great effort. After an inning or so we noticed that there were no umpires. If the batter didn’t get a hit after a few pitches he either went to first base or to the dugout. There was plenty of cheering and encouragement and friendly joking and prodding going on but not a single disagreement or complaint.
After the game I thanked CJ for having us and told him we really enjoyed the game. I then asked him what the rules were. He said that because they couldn’t afford umpires, all games are self-officiated. The rules are 2 balls are a walk and 2 strikes are an out and the catcher makes all calls. I wandered what happened if a player doesn’t agree with the call. CJ quickly said, “they go home.”
My son and I couldn’t stop talking about we just witnessed on that baseball field. While I honestly didn’t know what to expect; I can tell you that what we experienced was the last thing, in the last place that I would have ever thought it would happen; we experienced the greatest example of respect I had ever seen. It wasn’t that these kids respected the game or their school or some “thing” else. They respected each other. Each kid played hard and worked hard, while demonstrating complete respect for their teammates and competitors; for the friends and neighbors; and for themselves. This is what truly defines this community.
Through the end of 2014 and the first few weeks of January 2015 the media was (and still is) dominated by the growing chasm between our inner city communities and our police officers. The continuous airing of riots and stories about the aggressive actions of police officers has become this countries primary inner city narrative.
I don’t live in the inner city, but I did attend that baseball game last September. I saw the kids that live in these neighborhoods and I was overwhelmingly impressed. And I know many police officers that are deeply and truly committed to serving in our communities.
An idea is born! What if our inner city kids played a self-officiate baseball game against the police officers that patrol their communities? What if we showcase the great people that live in and serve in our communities. What if we put the spotlight on the solid, caring and good people that truly make up our inner city communities instead of the few examples that seem to get all of the media attention? What if everyone watched our kids and cops respect each other?
CJ and Kelli Stewart loved the idea. The Atlanta Police Department loved the idea. We all met in person, shook hands and have rolled up our sleeves to make the Safe at Home Game happen. The Safe Home Game will reveal the true greatness of our communities.
We are planning several events leading up to the August 1st game including joint practices, a community picnic, L.E.A.D. Ambassador player ride-alongs with the APD players and recognition at Turner field during a Braves game.
The Safe at Home Game is a blueprint for other cities. Our vision is to see other cities replicate this event and showcase their great people through the Safe at Home Game.”