Lost Boyz, Inc.

LaVonte Stewart, Founder and CEO of Experience Baseball’s South Chicago partner, Lost Boyz, Inc., tells this story:

A phone call brought the unexpected darkness of my 2013 Spring.  (At) 7:30am I thought I was getting a good luck call from the Commissioner of Lost Boyz Baseball, co-founder, and my Best friend like a brother, Joseph Stewart. To my surprise it was his mom; … I knew it was not a good call.  She informed me Joe was sick at Northwestern and his life term was expected to expire within 24-48 hours, just a matter of time.  My heart went to my throat, my eyes flooded, and my voice cracked as that of a pubescent boy.

I still coached and hollered and admonished my players that day as I normally would, although my heart was heavy and my mind burdened.  We lost two training games that day, the first to the South Side Bisons 15-12, and the second to the Rosemoor Sox 10-2.  I hurried home to change and headed out for Northwestern…

Joe and I met in 1991 on the field of play. He was a pitcher for Corliss High and I was a center fielder for South Shore High.  We faced his team that Spring and Joe was amazing, striking most of us out, hitting doubles, stealing bases. We could not stop this guy!  Couple of weeks later I passed him in my school hallway.  I said “Hey aren’t you the pitcher from Corliss that beat the crap … out of us?”  He smiled a million dollar smile, and emphatically said “Yup, I just transferred here”.  I rushed him to the Coach and by the end of the school day he was our new starting pitcher.

That was the beginning of a life long friendship between Joe and I.  See I couldn’t really play, and ever since Little League, no coach bothered to teach me because I sucked and my Dad didn’t play sports, so there was no Father/Son catch.  Joe immediately started addressing my deficiencies and working to instill confidence in me; he recognized my insecurity and embarrassment of my lack of skills.  By mid season I was catching every fly ball hit to center, admittedly awkward, but making the critical outs.  I was hitting shots and using my speed to steal bases. Eventually I went on to play college and semipro baseball, but Joe didn’t.  See we were supposed to go to college together and play baseball and football (he was also an All-City quarterback), but that summer Joe got shot in the back and paralyzed, and our other athletic friend went to jail. So I was the only one of the “3 Amigos” left.

Joe Stewart, left, and LaVonte Stewart, right, with the inaugural team of Lost Boyz Inc.

Joe Stewart, left, and the inaugural South Shore Little Leaguers.

Even though he had the better chance of going pro in something, he never got bitter and only wished me well in college.  By adulthood Joe and I decided to coach a little league team together, wheelchair and all.  We took a group of rag-tag kids, shaped them up, and won the South Shore Little League World Series…imagine that!  Our first year coaching and we took the Championship by storm, and not because we were the best team, but because we believed in those kids and made them believe in themselves, the same way Joe did me in high school.  In all this Joe never got bitter and made excuses for not doing things because of his condition. His faith told him that God had a reason and that he still had a purpose.  Joe stopped coaching after 2 seasons because his health declined a bit; even after having a leg amputated he showed up for season 2, and he never complained.  After the loss of his second leg, I insisted (out of guilt) he retire from coaching; reluctantly he did. We then started our own program, Lost Boyz Baseball, and Joe became the Commissioner.  Joe went to college at CSU, and eventually became my first son’s Godfather…

Joe transitioned on the afternoon of Mother’s Day (2013). I supposed God wanted Joe to pitch for Him on the field of Glory. So with my pain, heavy heart, weary eyes today, this season is dedicated to the memory of my brother from another mother, Joseph Stewart…..WE WILL MISS YOU AND HONOR YOU WITH THE 2013 SEASON.  MAY YOUR SPIRIT LEAD US TO A CHAMPIONSHIP. I WILL COACH THIS YEAR WITH ALL THE FIRE AND PASSION I HAVE IN ME. My message to the readers out there — you are blessed regardless of your condition…DON’T COMPLAIN.  My message to my players — no matter how bad you are, keep working hard and believe in yourself, you can be what you want to be….AND WHAT HATERS SAY YOU CAN’T BE……I am a witness…right Joe?

(Read the entire expert at Lost Boyz, Inc.)

The neighborhood of violence and uncertainty in which this story is set is less than 10 city miles from U.S. Cellular Field,   home of the 2005 World Series champs, the Chicago White Sox.

LaVonte Stewart and Lost Boyz are “existing community strengths” to their South Shore Chicago neighborhood. Experience Baseball and help support the boys at Lost Boyz.