grays-baseball_web.jpgMIAMI — The motto of The Miami Grays, an inner-city baseball organization, is “Team of the Future…The Future of America.’’

Head Coach Andre Payne and Assistant Coach Roosevelt Deleveaux Jr. work hard to make this a reality.

The first-year organization’s mission is to “increase the awareness of the sport of baseball in the inner city.”

The two men said they believe all children can succeed, and that not all success comes through academic achievement.

Self-realization and achievement through athletics are also major goals.

“There are a lot of kids with potential who need to be seen,” first-year Grays coach and program creator Payne said. “We try to give them structure and the younger you get to them the better.”

Both Payne and Deleveaux say the organization, focused on children in the fifth through twelfth grades, functions as an academy. Team and game play are dependent on tournament specifics and logistics.

Payne said that although the Grays operate out of Miami, no specific area has been designated to seek out talent. He hopes to expand not only throughout Florida, but also – eventually – to the rest of the nation.

“We want to reach as far as we can,” Payne said. “I want quality kids and ball players.”

As a licensed juvenile detention practical nurse in Miami-Dade and an assistant coach at Miami Norland Senior High School, he has been coaching for five years. He said the idea of creating such an organization had been on his mind for some time.

After assisting others in their programs and ventures as well as gaining support, he decided to take the chance with the help of Deleveaux. The two have been side by side for the last two seasons helping in summer leagues play.

Deleveaux does software systems work at Florida International University for his daytime gig.

“Baseball is an out and an opportunity,” Deleveaux explained. “We can often teach these kids the fundamentals of the game, but you cannot teach athleticism.”

Joe Jones III, 16, is an example of what the program produces.

His father, Joe Jones Jr., chose to get his son involved in the sport at around age five. Jones III, a transfer student from Miami Norland Senior High, currently plays at three positions for the Grays, and now attends Miramar High School.

“The sport of baseball is not like the other sports.” Jones III pointed out. “It is different and more challenging to me. My dad always wanted me to play baseball and I eventually fell in love with it.”

As a junior, he currently plans to attend college after next season at one of the following schools:
Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University, the University of Georgia, or the University of West Virginia.

“If nobody takes the time to reach out to these kids to let them know they have talent, then they are just there,” Payne said. “We want to open people’s eyes that there is good quality baseball being played in the city.”

As a 24-year coaching veteran around Florida over the years, Jones Jr. said he believes that with the decline of African Americans in the sport currently, opportunities abound for youth today to increase the number of black male participants.

“If our African-American kids will just participate in baseball, they will go a lot further than they and other people think,” he said. “If he (Jones III) continues to work hard on his weaknesses, he can make a great impact in this sport.”

Grays center fielder and Broward College Nursing major George Barber began playing the sport in 1995. The 19-year-old said the opportunity to play with other African-American males on a traveling team has been both a rare and exciting experience. “I like traveling and competing,” Barber said.

“We get to do stuff most underprivileged kids do not get to do.”

Deleveaux agreed.

“It is not just about cultivating their athletic ability, it is also about becoming productive members of society,’’ he said.

Deleveaux said the exposure factor for these young athletes is only a small part of the issue.

Constant fundraising, seeking sponsorships, finding playing facilities and assuming out-of- pocket expenses are the responsibilities of Deleveaux and Payne, Deleveaux said.

“Exposing these kids to something different is part of our goal. We also want to help bring our
African Americans’ long history in baseball back to the forefront of the sport,” Deleveaux said.
“Baseball gives you a lot of the fundamentals to be successful in life.”

Payne agreed.

“If CC (Carsten Charles) Sabathia can be the biggest free agent out there and we can have an African-American president, they can do it.”

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Photo by Mychal McDonald. Head Coach Andre Payne, right, coaches George Barber, left, how to swing a bat.