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McCrary Shows Atlanta How to L.E.A.D.

Savannah State Grad Makes Most of Mentorship Program

By David Norwood II The Atlanta Voice intern | 6/27/2013, 11:16 a.m.
(L to R) Cedric Reed, Darvell Booker, CJ Stewart, Joseph McCrary, Marcus Hodge, Cornelius Reed. (Photo by Cortney McArthur at borntocompete.com)

ATLANTA --Six years ago, Savannah State outfielder Joseph McCrary stepped up the plate and joined the fledgling L.E.A.D. program started by former Chicago Cub C.J. Stewart.

Fast forward: Six years later, McCrary just became the first “ambassador” to graduate from college while in the program. L.E.A.D. (Launch. Expose. Advise. Direct) recently held its 4th Annual Ambassador Signing Day, with cooperation from Georgia Public Broadcasting at the GPB studios.

The other ambassadors honored at the ceremony were: Darvell Booker of Tri-Cities High School (committed to Paine College), Marcus Hodge of Southwest DeKalb High School (committed to Southern University), Cedric Reed of The New Schools at Carver (committed to Paine College) and Cornelius Reed of The New Schools at Carver (committed to Paine College).

“It feels good to be the first college graduate of the league ambassadors,” said McCrary, a former standout player at Stone Mountain’s Redan High School said. “I went to college and graduated in four years magna cum laude.”

The LEAD program is a non-profit that targets inner-city youth in both middle school and high school to prep them to compete for college baseball scholarships.

“The league is a twelve month [weekend] program,” said L.E.A.D. founder CJ Stewart. “They start off in our fall program which is our Fall Legacy league which is America's first fall baseball league that specifically focuses on taking young men in the African-American communities and using baseball for them to get them scholarships.

The league is an on- and off- the- field experience, which includes baseball development, monthly community service and civic exposure opportunities. The ambassadors also got opportunities to train side by side with MLB stars like Jason Heyward (Atlanta Braves) and Dexter Fowler (Colorado Rockies).

McCrary’s academic success dates back as far as his early childhood.

“Joseph has been a child that's been very well disciplined,” said his mother, Avera. “He strives to have good grades. He went through elementary, middle school, high school and college -- never making a C -- and that was because of the drive he has,”

As a high school player, McCrary had to balance athletics with academics. The key, he said, was staying organized.

“We would have practices at times like 6 a.m., 8 p.m. and 2 p.m. and I would also have to study in between practices,” the Savannah State graduate said. “As long as you keep a mental clock in your head and stay organized there shouldn't be too much of problem.”

Joseph looks at being a student-athlete as a blessing in disguise.

“If I didn't play baseball, I probably wouldn't have graduated from college in four years,” McCrary said. “Not to say I wouldn't have graduated from college but not in four years.”

While participating in L.E.A.D., staff members have taken notice of McCrary’s dedication.

“Joseph McCrary is special,” said L.E.A.D. board chairman Bill McLellan. “He's leading the way. He set the standard for all of those coming behind him. Magna Cum Laude at SSU while being captain of their baseball team and voted MVP by his teammates. He’s a tremendous example for guys coming through the program now. He's set the bar really high.”

McCrary has already set his agenda for post-graduation life.

“I plan to get an entry level position in accounting, get some experience in accounting and go back and get my master's,” McCrary said. “Eventually I'll determine whether or not I’m going to sit for the CPA (examination).”

For more information on the L.E.A.D. program, please visit http://www.leadcommunity.org