C.J. Stewart is an Atlanta native and a former Chicago Cubs outfielder. He has earned the recognition of being one of the top baseball player development professionals in the country. As the founder and CEO of Diamond Directors (www.diamonddirectors.com), Stewart has achieved unmatched success in the player development industry. He has over 13 years of experience and his firm has developed some of the game’s top amateur, collegiate and professional players. Stewart’s impressive client list includes Jason Heyward (Chicago Cubs), Dexter Fowler (Chicago Cubs), Andrew Jones (Chicago White Sox), and Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates).
Stewart grew up in one of Atlanta’s most dangerous zip codes, 30318, in the Hollywood Brooks housing project. His story is a perfect example of the phrase, ‘where you start doesn’t determine where you finish’. Although statistically the odds were stacked against him, Stewart used the sport of baseball to transcend statistics and become a compassionate, engaged member of his community while having an international impact in player development. Through the help of kind strangers in his community, he was able to play competitive baseball in high school and ultimately showcase his talents in front of college programs. This exposure led to a baseball scholarship at Georgia State University and an opportunity for Stewart to be drafted by the Chicago Cubs organization as well. The opportunities that he had came from people in the community noticing his talent, and helping him access the necessary resources to help him use his talent to beat the odds.
Now Stewart and his wife Kelli, who serves as the Executive Director, are doing the same for inner city youth in Atlanta through their non-profit organization, L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct). L.E.A.D.’s mission is to create positive outcomes for at-risk, minority, inner-city youth by leveraging the relationship between education, athletics and service. Through year round programming, Stewart is providing deserving inner-city youth with a pathway to high school graduation, college access and career opportunities. L.E.A.D. is developing a fraternity of youth called Ambassadors: college bound, civically engaged student-athletes who are prepared to be positive change agents in their communities and world.
Like Stewart’s family, the families that L.E.A.D. serves lack the resources to create positive outcomes for their children, but through L.E.A.D., these deserving families have a proven system that is creating a formal pipeline from inner city baseball fields to colleges and businesses all over the country. To date, 100% of L.E.A.D’s Ambassador Student-Athletes have graduated from high school and enrolled into college while 92% have received college baseball scholarship opportunities. Stewart’s way of saying ‘thank you’ to those who helped him stay on the right path is to pay his blessing forward by creating empowering opportunities for Atlanta youth to live significant lives today and into the future.
Kelli Stewart was born in Atlanta and raised most of her life in Oglethorpe County, a rural community just outside of Athens, Georgia. Although both parents were not a consistent fixture in her life, Kelli’s Grandmother, Ms. Amy Lou Faust, provided a stable and nurturing home environment where she raised Kelli to have an old soul that has served her well in life.
Kelli is a graduate from Cedar Shoals High School in Athens, GA and credits her participation in ROTC as keeping her on the mostly straight and mostly narrow. Through the watchful care and guidance of her ROTC Instructor, Sgt. Fincher along with Ms. Sue Lee (English Teacher) and Shirley Daniel (Guidance Counselor) Kelli graduated from Cedar Shoals in 1996 and went on to study at Georgia State University. She completed her undergraduate studies at Kennesaw State University in 2011 where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the Coles College of Business with honors. In addition to her degree, Kelli holds a wealth of knowledge regarding sport based youth development as a resource for social justice and the impact sports has on the social emotional development of youth.
Today, Kelli, and her husband, C.J. Stewart, oversee two business ventures that they started together. Through Diamond Directors, they train and develop some of the country’s top amateur and professional baseball athletes; Jason Heyward (Cardinals), Dexter Fowler (Cubs) and Tyler Flowers (White Sox) are a few notable professional clients. Through L.E.A.D., they train and develop some of Atlanta’s hidden treasures in Atlanta Public Schools. L.E.A.D. provides inner city boys with the same opportunities to excel in life through baseball as the Stewarts’ Diamond Directors clients with he focus being accessing higher education and community leadership. To date, L.E.A.D. Ambassadors have achieved a 100% high school graduate ration 90% college enrollment rate, 93% scholarship rate (academic and athletic).
Kelli and CJ have two beautiful daughters, Mackenzi (Southern University) and Mackenna (The Lovett School).