Rain did nothing to dampen the first annual L.E.A.D. Champions Draft Game and Luncheon at Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park. Sports icons such as Terry Pendleton and Brian Jordan led student athletes (Ambassadors) from various Atlanta high schools in skills drills and conversation in a facility usually reserved for the pros. 

Developed by Atlanta native and former Chicago Cubs outfielder, C.J. Stewart and his wife Kelli, L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) is a nonprofit organization that seeks to change the odds for inner-city youth with a pathway to high school graduation. ‘We scout the counted out’ is their tag line, bringing disadvantaged students together with sports and business leaders for mentoring and activities related to athletics, academics, civic engagement and commerce.  

 “We use baseball to help our Ambassadors overcome crime, poverty and racism.” says Kelli Stewart, “If they can overcome those things, having a career and other things they want are well within their reach.” 

L.E.A.D. Board member and long-time youth baseball coach Dave Schmit was drawn to the organization because it aligns with his experience on and off the field. “I’ve seen firsthand how baseball teaches valuable lessons about life. Discipline and collaboration are crucial. Playing with and learning from those who have achieved success is a powerful combination, and it’s an honor to be involved.”