What were the big influences for you coming up?
Coming up, I was a big hip hop culture and fashion head. So it was natural for me to gravitate towards creative culture lifestyle activities. I was big into NYC hip hop, the source mag, and hit tons of hip hop concerts in middle school. As I got older and was playing baseball in the little league ranks and above, I really started identifying with some of the greatest players of the time like the Griffey, Bonds, Thomas, Bo Jackson, Prime Time (Deion Sanders), Sheffield, Ozzie Smith, Manny Ramirez, Dunston, Eric Davis…the list goes on. That’s when I really fell in love with the game. I thought it was the dopest thing to see black players wearing hats backward, in commercials, in magazines, and posters. Running up walls, laughing and smiling on the field.
I remember as a kid collecting autographs after games at the players parking lots. I saw Shawon Dunston come out after a game with his kids, and he was just clean with it. Had a dope gold chain on and was bumping hip hop in his drop top Benz as he left the stadium. I was like wow…that’s hip hop at the highest level. That was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever seen.
You come as quite the creative individual. Did you have a lot of creative influence while growing up?
Yea man. I’ve always been building and creating since I was a kid. My dad was pretty creative. Funny, my mom thought I was gonna be an architect because I built a model baseball stadium out of various craft materials after reading about another kid who did it in Sports Illustrated for Kids. I think he built Camden Yards or something. I didn’t have direct creative influence per se that was super available to me, but I sought it out from outside of my environment. My mom was an ESL teacher and pops wasn’t around much, but he was the cool dude you know. He was the one pulling up on the weekends bumping Luther Vandross or some other fly R&B music. He fenced for sport in college, loved jazz, was into photography, was in the military for a sec, and a bunch of other random things. So while brief, I would catch vibes from him when I could, and then would seek out things on my own. He planted some serious seeds for sure. I really started harnessing my own creativity thru music and hip hop fashion later on. That’s where it all started to really grow.
You played a high level of competitive baseball, what is that one takeaway from your experience?
I think the one major thing I learned is not excepting “no” for an answer. I had a long term goal of getting to MLB, and a shorter term goal of getting to professional baseball. I had a lot of people along my journey in high school and college who made some solid bold efforts to get in the way of those goals, but when I set my mind to something, I typically always get to that goal. So, of course, I got to pro ball, and I was willing to even sleep in my car at Dodgertown like Willy Mays Hays to get it along the way. Fast forward, I’m in MLB now via this glove brand. God works in amazing ways, and goals can still be reached in various formats and mediums. Sometimes the way you imagined isn’t the exact way it unfolds, but it still happens. The rest of the world’s “no” doesn’t have to be your “no”. Your “yes” is the only one that matters if willing to go thru some pain and patience to get it.
Now I carry that same baseball mentality about everything I do. When my mother told me I “could be anything I wanted to be,” I’m actually that kid that believed it to my core, so I’ve never really thought on any other wavelength. I don’t know how to.
You’re no stranger to the big talent baseball that comes out from a city like LA, so can you tell us how you made your persona and talent shine as a player and how are you transitioning that to Steelo Sports?
Certainly. My path was strategic, and more so because it had to be. Growing up with a single mom, I had very little peer or adult assistance. So I got creative and smart with it. I watched and recorded video of MLB guys hitting and fielding. Had a ball or tennis ball in hand at all times. Wall throws. I got to MLB games before the gates opened so I could watch the players practice. (That’s where the gems are. That BP and ground ball action in MLB pregame is where you see the raw baseball talent come out with that flavor.)
I knew I had to be 10 times better than my peers and competition just to get any consideration, so I had to smarten up. That was the only way it worked back before all these travel ball teams and catered showcases came about unless you had coaches backing you. As a black player on the amateur level and college level in the 90’s and early 2000’s, you were up against ALL odds. Even your coaches didn’t want to see you succeed. You get the labels we are all familiar with. Attitude issues, lazy, etc, anything to distract from the fact that you kill everything as the only guy that looks like you on the field. So I got a baseball book…I think it was called “breaking into the big leagues.” Mom got it for me. Changed my life. It was everything that scouts looked for and was almost like a blueprint of how to mold yourself into what pro scouts wanted. from scouting evaluation scales to everything. I started going to summer MLB tryout camps as a high school player every year just to be out there with top older talent and scouts. I got a baseball almanac with addresses and sent out letters of interest to about 50 colleges every summer to express my interest in playing college baseball. Where I come from no one helps you out, so I had to get it on my own. Coupled with being 6’3″ and 205 lbs in my prime college years, it wasn’t hard to stand out along with being one of a few black players along with every stop. But you still had to back it up. Fast forward to pro ball I did the same thing after scholarships to D1s.
As a player, I was in that trending crop of large shortstops. I also had locks and braids for a minute in college, still had my hip hop persona and everything like I did before. I and my roommate in juco both had locks, so you know we were clean up the middle at SS and 2B. I’ve just carried that into business. I’ve never really changed. I don’t believe in NOT being myself. I still rocked the Cuban link in my corporate sports career after baseball, just to make a point along the way. Now with Steelo, I own it 100%, so I can do it my way through a different lens, the way that I know, which is with hip hop flavor and creative culture vibes. The response has been a blessing. Most of the minority ball players in pro ball that see what we are doing are all a part of this global hip hop community now anyways. So we get love man. It’s organic and natural. Just like how we used to do freestyle ground ball sessions and behind the back, thru the legs tricks, etc, we got some flavor and tricks for this business of baseball now. So it’s exciting, to say the least.