Poverty is the Gun.

As I read through this article, I was blown away by its powerful and fearless message.  I cannot recall a time when a writer made an equally audacious and courageous statement.  “Poverty is the gun”? Could this possibly be accurate? Has society come to the point where we must speak so loudly for others to wake up and listen?

If gun violence is merely a symptom – or as I like to think, a result  – of a deeper, systemic crisis taking place in cities, we have a lot of work to do to uncover the culprit.  But first, it is important to link gun violence to its underlying emotional contingent: anger on the surface, and a vast well of sadness lurking beneath.

Where does this sadness stem from? Sadness is a result of loss and deprivation, and when children are deprived of opportunities from a young age, they have few creative outlets to work through their own challenges and experience personal growth and development.  They sit on their sadness until it becomes too much of a burden to bear.

I could go on and paint a stark image of this cycle, but I am writing instead to offer a solution to this immense challenge.  As I read this article, I immediately began to think of a TED Talks presentation I watched a while back given by a visionary named Theaster Gates.  Mr. Gates revitalized a marginalized neighborhood in Chicago by offering a unique opportunity for the community.  He bought a dilapidated house, fixed it up with the help of his neighbors, and designed a range of art and cultural classes to offer to the community around him.

Mr. Gates used the principles of art – beauty, imagination, creativity, and joy – to give families a voice and allow them to celebrate the very elements that make us human.  When individuals like Mr. Gates makes feelings of joy a reality, the well of sadness begins to rise up depths and to be released.

The example above highlights how crucial it is to a provide balanced, holistic Education in urban communities.  We must create positive environments which teach children to express themselves in a constructive way, and if we can get to them before they witness the violence that pervades our current condition, we will begin to address the problem instead of worrying about violence as the result.

You can view the TED Talk  by Mr. Gates below. Also, feel free to comment on this post with ideas you have implemented or witnessed that offer children a new kind of education and break this cycle of violence at its point of origination.

Help Give Books to Chicago Youth

We’re helping an ultra at-risk youth baseball organization in Chicago called Lost Boyz to raise $5,000 for the purchase of quality books and educational materials to supplement their after-school tutoring services.

These kids, ages 4-18, live in the South Shore Neighborhood in Chicago.

LaVonté Stewart, a former college baseball player, founded Lost Boyz to use baseball and softball as a positive deterrent to gang violence during the Chicago summers. LaVonté tells the story of having to stop one youth game while a man chased another man through center field with a handgun.

Against this level of odds, Lost Boyz has managed to grow in five years from one Little League team to four boys teams and a new girls softball team.

Now, Lost Boyz is looking to increase influence with their kids by acquiring space in their neighborhood for an after-school library and tutoring center.

As many of you know, Experience Baseball has partnered with Lost Boyz for the past three seasons, hosting kids and family members to press box seats for Chicago White Sox baseball games and donating proceeds from our educational baseball lectures directly to Lost Boyz.

This year, to help get Lost Boyz started with a new center and library, we’re trying to help raise funds to purchase books, a few shelves, and educational subscriptions for Lost Boyz.

If you are able, there are three things that can truly help us out:

Chicago library South Side Baseball Lost Boyz

Boys from Lost Boyz at an Experience Baseball event at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago on July 3, 2015.

Everything is tax-deductible.

We’ve spent time getting to know many of the kids over the last three years and they’re a hilarious, playful bunch of baseball fans who love their White Sox!

It’s difficult to think about how many of these kids have not had the same chances others have to access the books that instill love of reading and learning or to gather to play baseball “at the school” without fear of violence.

Lost Boyz is changing all that. And we’d like to help.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me directly at tobias@experiencebaseball.org.



P.S. If you would like to learn more about Lost Boyz, you can visit their website and follow them on Twitter.

4th of July with Martha Black, White Sox

Join Experience Baseball in Chicago on July 4th as we host Martha Jo Black, daughter of 1952 N.L. Rookie of the Year, Joe Black, at an exclusive dinner and presentation in an event suite at U.S. Cellular Field.

Stick around and enjoy the White Sox vs. Seattle Mariners ballgame and Fourth of July fireworks in the suite.

Proceeds benefit our friends and partners at Lost Boyz, Inc. in Chicago.
Eventbrite - 4th of July with Martha Jo Black and the Chicago White Sox

A limited number of parking passes are available upon request on a first come, first served basis. Food will be provided at the event.

The event will begin at 4:00pm on Friday, July 4. Gate information and meeting time will be emailed to you upon ticket purchase.

Martha Jo Black

Joe Black: More than a DodgerMartha Jo Black is the daughter of 1952 N.L. Rookie of the Year and former Negro Leaguer, Joe Black. She is the author of Joe Black: More than a Dodger, available in 2015, the first biography of her father that “tells the story not only of a baseball great who broke through the color line, but also of the father she knew and loved.” Martha Black will speak about Joe Black’s life as a ballplayer, as a businessman, and as a father.

Martha Black is the Coordinator for White Sox Experiences with the Chicago White Sox.

Lost Boyz, Inc. in Chicago

Lost Boyz Inc. is a not-for-profit organization with a common interest in community development in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Their efforts are directed towards revitalizing organized sports, fostering learning and innovation in youth, promoting public safety, and stimulating local urban economies.

Lost Boyz stands as an organization focused on preparing low-income families and youth from the South Shore neighborhood to lead the future.

Eventbrite - 4th of July with Martha Jo Black and the Chicago White Sox

For more information, email tobias@experiencebaseball.org.

Experience Baseball explores the Decline of African Americans in Baseball with Lost Boyz, Bases Empty

“Do you know the TWO biggest reasons for the decline in African Americans in baseball?” Eric Davis asked a group of twenty-five baseball fans at US Cellular Field on Friday.

“Breakfast and Lunch.”

When 75% of our cities’ youth don’t have enough to eat, making the ball team doesn’t really factor into daily existence, Davis said.

Mr. Davis and Miriam Ehrlich are Executive Producer and Producer of Bases Empty, a new documentary film in production that explores the issue of the vast decline in African American participation in baseball over the last 30 years.

As the keynote presentation at Experience Baseball’s Opening Event of the 2014 season, Mr. Davis and Ms. Ehrlich spoke Friday night to baseball fans from the Chicago area, including several members of Chicago’s chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), the Chicago community, and several young captains from the Patriots, Yankees, and Reds of the Lost Boyz Chicago youth baseball circuit.

After screening an extended trailer of the upcoming film, Mr. Davis presented the issue of the decline in African American participation in baseball in the light of the larger economic and socio-political realties of urban youth in Chicago.

“This documentary is about so much more than baseball. This documentary is about fathers,” Davis said.

Davis explained that for every young person in the room, there should be a father present not just to teach children how to throw a curveball, but also to live, study, work, and play in today’s America.

Of course it’s a two-way street, said Davis. And for every young boy from Chicago’s hardest neighborhoods that should be encouraged to grow into that father, every baseball fan, out of love of the game, should be encouraged to give back to baseball communities by funding youth development services and making efforts to learn and understand the issues that impact the future of baseball and its communities.

Proceeds generated from this event helped to support the tremendous efforts of our long-term community partner, Lost Boyz, Inc.

It was a gorgeous evening for a night at the ballpark. Prior to the game, the boys got a chance to take in the Rays’ batting practice and even scored a couple of signatures from Evan Longoria (who later homered in the game).

Lost Boyz with Evan Longoria baseballs at Experience Baseball event.

Boys showing off their signed Evan Longoria baseballs at the Experience Baseball event at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday.

The White Sox’ José Abreu knocked a two-out walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Rays. On top of all of that, it was fireworks night.

There was a lot of emotion to pack into one evening at the ballpark. But we couldn’t have asked for a better start to Experience Baseball’s sophomore season.

This event couldn’t have been possible without support from the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA), which graciously allowed us the use of the professional conference and learning center at US Cellular and donated tickets along the first base line, where 4 or 5 foul balls bounced into or over our heads during the game.

We are extremely grateful for the participation of Mr. Davis and Ms. Ehrlich from Bases Empty. For the tremendous passion behind their project, as well as for the trust and interest in our own young effort. Please check out their trailer and support them by sharing what they’re doing with other fans.

And as always, the love and support from Lost Boyz’ President and Founder LaVonté Stewart, and the entire Lost Boyz team, continue to humble and inspire us. To all the friends from Lost Boyz who participated on Friday, we thank them for the trust they put in us, and always for the incredible work they do on the ground every day to improve the lives of future generations of baseball players and fans along Chicago’s South Shore.

Experience Baseball Returns to US Cellular, Chicago White Sox

Join Experience Baseball, Miriam Ehrlich and Eric Davis, producers of Bases Empty: The Decline of African Americans in Baseball, along with the coaches and mentors from Lost Boyz, Inc. for a special kick-off event to the 2014 season at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago prior to the White Sox home game vs. the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday evening, April 25th.

Eventbrite - Experience Baseball Returns to U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago White Sox

This unique event will begin at 4:30pm and will include a special presentation of Bases Empty in the U.S. Cellular Conference Center, as well as lower bowl group tickets to the game. This is especially suited for Chicago baseball fans interested in a fun, friendly, and low cost networking and fundraising event.

Proceeds generated at this event support our long-term community partners, Lost Boyz, Inc.

About Lost Boyz, Inc. in Chicago

Lost BoyzLost Boyz Inc. is a not-for-profit organization with a common interest in community development in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Their efforts are directed towards revitalizing organized sports, fostering learning and innovation in youth, promoting public safety, and stimulating local urban economies.

Lost Boyz stands as an organization focused on preparing low-income families and youth from the South Shore neighborhood to lead the future.

About Bases Empty: The Decline of African-Americans in Baseball

BASES EMPTY: The Decline of African-Americans in Baseball is a feature length documentary that takes a careful, insightful look at the declining participation of African-Americans in baseball. Although it focuses primarily on the lack of participation at the professional level, it takes a critical look at factors that contribute to the apparent lack of interest African-American boys, adolescents and young men have in the sport of baseball at the amateur levels.

This film and presentation also addresses the socio-economic issues African-American communities currently face due, in part, to the diminished presence of baseball in the Black community. Finally, BASES EMPTY looks at current efforts to revive interest in the African-American community of a recreational activity that once served as a source and cement of community stability, positive social engagement, institutional development and sense of community achievement.

Eventbrite - Experience Baseball Returns to U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago White Sox

*Donation amounts for this event greater than $45 will be tax-deductible


Lost Boyz Inc. is a not-for-profit organization with a common interest in community development in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Their efforts are directed towards revitalizing organized sports, fostering learning and innovation in youth, promoting public safety, and stimulating local economics.

Lost Boyz stands as an organization focused on preparing low-income families and youth from the South Shore neighborhood to lead the future.

Read LaVonté’s Story


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.