Lost Boyz making a profound impact on Chicago youth through baseball, softball
Back in 2008, LaVonte Stewart Sr. was coaching a Little League team on Chicago’s South Side in a league that was about to fold. In the middle of explaining the bad news to the group of kids, they noticed a commotion nearby.
Two guys were chasing another with guns and instead of being scared, the kids were standing around, laughing and talking about it.
“At that moment, I really just recognized how desensitized they were to gun violence,” Stewart said.
That led to an idea. He founded Lost Boyz, Inc., a sports-based youth development organization in the South Shore community. Lost Boyz utilizes baseball and softball to teach kids important life skills.
In the first couple years after Stewart founded Lost Boyz, he started to recognize there was something deeper at play and the organization shifted a focus from being competitive in baseball to personalized development through a group process.
As the organization has grown, some of the kids have graduated into important roles within Lost Boyz.
“The young people that are now my staff that are 21, 22 are the same kids that I was coaching when they were 10 years old, 9 years old,” Stewart said. “So now they’ve returned and become the next line of instructors, of coaches, of mentors.
“We’ve put an emphasis on that title — coach. It is significant around here. It means everything. Whether they’re actually a coach or not. They can be a tutor, they can be an administrative worker, but we pass it to the kids that they understand: you preface everyone’s name with the title, ‘Coach’ out of respect. And that title means a lot.”
As Lost Boyz grows, Stewart and the organization want to continue to bring communities together through the love of baseball and softball.
“Amazingly, somehow, when it comes to Black participation, it’s still very low,” Stewart said. “When we look across the MLB, we look across college baseball, we look across high school, we look across youth leagues, the numbers are just down. So just getting kids in our community that look like me to be interested in the game again and getting involved in it has been a daunting task.
“That’s one thing — just bringing the game back to life in the Black community where I can help. I’m just one person, we’re just one crew, but where we can do our due diligence, we will. That’s what I want with Lost Boyz — bringing communities together through the love of this game so that we can get to know each other and have these tough conversations and get rid of these stereotypes and this preconceived bigotry that we have about one another. Lost Boyz gave me that opportunity to amplify that message to young people and to help young men maybe like myself who were kinda getting off track and were into sports or get them into sport and let them know what sport can do for you.
“We still love baseball and softball and we want to win, but at the end of the day, I always tell people as long as we got these kids in here and they’re developing themselves, we’ve already won. No matter what happens on that field, we’re already flying the W.”