The Minority Coaches Growth Initiative was established by my non-profit, The MSC Foundation of Philanthropy, as an effort to provide and encourage more learning opportunities for minority coaches in baseball. The plan is to promote baseball education to minority coaches so they can go back to their communities and continue to grow the sport among minority children.
I started my coaching journey when I was 18 years old. My baseball influences start with my cousin, David Blackburn, who starred at Lafayette Jefferson High School. He is older than me, so I would always see all of his trophies, press clippings and certificates hanging on his wall when I visited. Another was my mother Valerie, who made a statement that changed my life when I was cut from my high school team. She said, “Are you going to sit there and cry or are you going to find a way to get involved anyway? ”So in the summer of 1989, I became an assistant with a rec team with a couple of my friends, and I’ve been in coaching ever since.
In 2019, I restarted my Youth Developmental program called the Jaguars Baseball Organization with two goals in mind. First and foremost, our goal is to increase the participation levels of minorities in baseball, and secondly, we focus on developing “Champions” on and off the field by making God our central focus. In today’s social climate, I feel that God’s presence in our program is imperative.
Back then, I had no access to baseball education, there were no minority baseball coaches close by who I could network with, and I rarely saw kids of color playing the sport. I knew this had to change.
I want to make sure that when I leave the game, I can confidently say that I left it better than when I found it. In addition, I was inspired to establish this initiative because I witnessed the efforts of both the ABCA and the Frank Robinson Baseball Coaches Association to bring awareness to why there are so few minorities participating in baseball. After hearing both organizations speak during the baseball stoppage as a result of COVID-19, I knew that I had to be part of the change.
Both organizations did a great job of promoting communication and transparency when the topic was brought up. The MSC Foundation wanted to make sure this topic did not just fade away; we had to put our heads together to put a plan in action. That’s where the Minority Coaches Growth Initiative comes in. This will be picking up the cost to allow five coaches to experience the 2021 ABCA Virtual Convention, thus enabling these coaches to network with some of the game’s greatest minds, and educate them on the game.
We were proud to select the five winners in October:
1. Jabari Brown, Graduate Assistant, Eastern Kentucky University
2. Jerry Bruce, Head Coach, Parkview (AR) High School
3. Jhonneris Mendez, Head Coach, Martha’s Vineyard Sharks; Assistant Coach, Curry College
4. Jeremiah Clark, Youth Coach, McKinney, Texas
5. Rafael Sanchez, Head Coach, Glendale (AZ) Prep; Head Coach, West Valley Lions Baseball Association
The current climate of amateur minority players still needs assistance from the rest of our baseball community. I have been fortunate to witness middle school basketball and football over the past two years, and have found that minority children seem to gravitate to these sports. I believe that coaches of all races can encourage minority participation in youth baseball with the following ideals:
1. Community outreach to areas with a high minority presence – this can be achieved by clinics, reaching out to minority-owned businesses for assistance, and gaining access/assistance from local schools.
2. Providing scholarships to minorities who are interested in baseball – this can be an expensive sport. By offering financial assistance to help pay for equipment, participation and other fees, baseball becomes much more accessible.
3. Use success stories as a resource; invite some high-level minority players from your area to share with the children just how much fun baseball is. Players are a great avenue when it comes to recruiting interesting from the children.
4. Teach! Provide children with examples on how baseball can prepare them physically and mentally for other sports they may play. Baseball is also a great teacher of life!
5. Get involved – quite simply, we need more minority coaches in baseball. This begins at the youth level. Minority children and their parents gain a sense of security when they see individuals who look like them are involved. If you are already a minority coach, seek out other men of color to assist you, even if their baseball experience is limited.
I would like to recognize two ABCA members who did get involved and contributed to this effort, allowing us to add a fifth coach to participate in the 2021 Virtual ABCA Convention to help grow the game. They are Chuck Box, Head Baseball Coach, Hartfield Academy in Flowood, Mississippi and Chris Ball, Head Baseball Coach, HC Heritage Academy in Columbus, Mississippi.