Success is all about you get and significance is all about what you give. I have been a professional coach for more than 22 years. To me, being professional means you are prepared, punctual, and able to make and keep promises.
To date, I have developed 40 Major League Baseball players and mentored several coaches. And I remain committed to developing legions of great baseball coaches. Recently, I have started mentoring Nile Ball.
Diamond Directors sat down with him to talk about how baseball has helped change his life and what the future holds.
When did you start playing baseball?
I started playing baseball at 3 years old competitively.
What Atlanta community were you raised in?
In Southeast Atlanta—Decatur to be exact. I have been in Dekalb County my whole life.
What did you dream of becoming as a child?
I had no other dreams but to become a professional baseball player.
I always felt my calling was in teaching, training or coaching baseball. I knew I always had the baseball mind, even when my skills needed work.
Where did you play Travel Baseball?
I have played all over Georgia, but predominantly at East Cobb and Exchange Park.
Where did you play high school, college and professional baseball?
I played high school ball at Whitefield Academy in Mableton, Georgia. In college, I played my first two years at Walters State Community College (Morristown, Tennessee), transferred to the University of Missouri for a year, and then finished up my final season at University of North Carolina Pembroke. Professionally, I played for the Sioux City Explorers and the Gary Southshore Railcats.
Why did you retire as a baseball player?
I felt as though professional baseball showed a lot of the raw side of baseball—the side that many players don’t talk about. I didn’t like very much at all. I always felt my calling was in teaching, training or coaching baseball. I knew I always had the baseball mind, even when my skills needed work. And I felt the Lord was calling me away from the game as a player, but not completely away from the game.
What were some of the life skills you developed from playing baseball?
One thing I learned is that life can be really unfair sometimes. Baseball showed me that life does not always go the way you want it or expect it to go. My whole life I had plans to play baseball at the highest level, but because I simply didn’t have connections I was denied that opportunity, even though many said I deserved it.
I also learned that hard work beats talent. Baseball consistently showed me that those who work hard are better than those with talent. Those who work hard and have talent are the best of the best. I’ve always had talent, but what I didn’t have for the longest time was a good work ethic. Playing baseball at the highest level showed me how to have a good work ethic.
Finally, I learned that you can always learn. The game is always teaching you something new every day. Some of the best and oldest coaches I had were the ones who wanted to learn from their players and hear what their players had to say.
How do you define the word Coach?
As someone who is able to teach just as well as he or she is able to learn.
What have you been able to learn from Coach C.J. and Diamond Directors about coaching that has caused a paradigm shift for you?
From you, I learned that the ambassadors and players of the game should always be the main focus. They should be the celebrities. It’s not about you as a coach, which is the true difference in my mind between player and coach.
I also learned how important it is empower players or for them to feel empowered. It is very important to help those who have not come from the best background to feel like they are kings—feel like they belong in this world and have a sense of purpose.
Another lesson is to give myself a daily gas tank. I tend to forget that I am human. That I have a mental capacity, and when I go over that capacity, it can be overwhelming. I’ve learned to reel myself in when I’ve reached my daily limit. This has truly changed the way I carry myself daily and who I choose to spend my time with. When you reach that limit, you’re doing a disservice to yourself and to who you are coaching. You need to be able to give them your full energy and attention.
The game is always teaching you something new every day. Some of the best and oldest coaches I had were the ones who wanted to learn from their players and hear what their players had to say.
What impact does Coach C.J., being a Black man, have on you as you are striving to become a Master level Coach like him?
It has been everything to me. We come from very similar backgrounds. I believe that more Black young men need master coaches like C.J. to help empower them. The majority of these young men are already in situations where a positive Black male influence is present. So C.J. being Black has made me very thankful for him. He has given me a great appreciation for the many Black coaches I had in my life.
Why should a parent allow you to coach their child?
Because I believe I’m simply good at what I do. I know that I know the game, and I know what would help the player and his success with just one assessment. I believe I have a great eye for talent and for finding ways to make players better, making me a great option for coaching.
What are your top three goals 10 years from now?
I would like to have an established coaching/training company. I would like to have my own establishment where I conduct my training. Lastly, I would like to have my own non-profit that benefits African Americans males who play baseball, and help them achieve their dreams and goals while keeping God first in all things.
How will you use your success as a coach to improve the game of baseball in general?
I want to hopefully grow the game in the diversity realm. I would love to see more African American males in the game because there is so much talent in these inner city teams that simply get swept under the rug due to lack of connections or where the play. I would love to have a ton of Black male baseball success stories under my belt as a trainer/coach.
How will you use your success as a coach to improve the game of baseball, specifically in financially impoverished Black communities?
I want my successes to be the success of multiple people—mainly African American men within the game of baseball.
To help keep your skills sharp, we have introduced a new type of Skill Build—our Virtual Skill Build, where I can help you develop hitting skills anytime, anywhere using anything. Check it out.
Remember: Intelligence tops being smart.
C.J. Stewart has built a reputation as one of the leading professional hitting instructors in the country. He is a former professional baseball player in the Chicago Cubs organization and has also served as an associate scout for the Cincinnati Reds. As founder and CEO of Diamond Directors Player Development, C.J. has more than 22 years of player development experience and has built an impressive list of clients, including some of the top young prospects in baseball today. If your desire is to change your game for the better, C.J. Stewart has a proven system of development and track record of success that can work for you.