MAY 2022  |  ISSUE 26
Earlier this month, we proudly announced the appointment of Dave “Smoke” Stewart to lead the Diversity Ownership Equity Initiative, which is an effort to assemble the first majority minority-owned Major League Baseball franchise in league history.
Stewart is a three-time World Series champion who spent over 40 years in baseball as a player, coach, scout, and executive. Prior to this appointment, Stewart served on our Board and has been a Baseball Advisor since 2019.
His announcement set the sports media world abuzz. Between local stories, national stories, appearances on local and national radio, one thing is evident: all eyes are on Nashville as a potential location for a future MLB team.

Building something from the ground up isn’t easy. Just ask Jackson Grant.
The athletic director and head coach for Howard Connect Academy’s middle school baseball team arrived at the school in 2021. Grant was tasked with developing a baseball program for the brand-new school in Chattanooga from scratch. With a strapped budget and Covid restrictions, he had to get creative in getting new equipment, turning to social media and an Amazon wish list.
“It was extremely challenging,” said Grant. “We had a ban on most fundraising activities because of Covid, so we were extremely limited on how we could raise funds. So, to be able to have basically one avenue to get revenue, I tried to push it as much as I can.”
Using donations and support from the community, Grant managed to keep his team on the field.
“I didn't expect it to blow up like it did,” said Grant. “I had multiple organizations reaching out to me. One of the coolest things was that I had coaches from other schools in the district donating their old equipment to us. I just think that goes to show what a community baseball is.”
However, his players learned another life lesson about competing. His team, made up mostly of kids who had never played much organized baseball, played against more experienced teams with years of experience. The team went 0-12 in their first year, and 0-5-1 to start 2022.  
“I had one kid last year who had played baseball before on my team, and I had 10 other ones who had never stepped into a batter's box before,” said Grant.  “Here I am going up against teams and players who have been playing on travel ball teams since they were four. We're going to be playing teams that have 10 years of experience on us. But, the one thing that I want to be able to say is that we outwork everybody. You know, we might not be more talented. We might not know more baseball, but we will outwork every team that we play.”
Then came April 25.
In its 19th game in school history, Howard Connect Academy got that elusive first win, a 7-4 victory over Brown.
“Knowing how hard it was last year, seeing how hard my kids worked just to get beat by 10 or 15 runs every game, and then they're back at practice the next day ready to work hard again, that was inspiring to me,” said Grant. “It was almost like, ‘oh my gosh, we can actually do this.’ It was just this sense of calm that was put over them that, ‘coach was right that if we work hard and we do the things that we're supposed to do, and we keep trying we keep coming back every day that we can do this.’ The looks on their faces was just something I'll never forget.”
Now, he wants his players to dream big. He hopes that a Major League Baseball team up the road in Nashville will give them hope for the future. Especially since many of his kids did not think baseball was an option for them a couple of years ago.
“To be able to see somebody like the Stars and say, ‘oh hey, maybe baseball is an avenue for me in terms of sports,’” said Grant. “They're not used to that. They don't know, so to be able to introduce them in that way and to be able to see somebody to look up to you in that way is everything.”

Home is where the heart is, and Judge Rachel L. Bell’s inherent passion for the Nashville community has roots dating back four generations.
A third generation native Nashvillian, her great-grandparents moved to Music City in their early twenties. Judge Bell’s family has a strong connection to Metro Nashville Public Schools, with many family members, including her mother, having worked as principals, administrators, and teachers.
“It’s important to me, as a young leader, to continue to be a part of the fabric of our community by showing up and making sure that when people ask you to lead or ask you to be a part of a project, that you do it and bring back information to your community," said Bell. "I've tried to do that as a judge.”
As the youngest judge elected in Davidson County [in 2012], Bell feels she brings a unique and important perspective to the table. Ten years later, Bell is paving the way for diverse voices in community leadership positions.
“I'm very passionate about community. I'm very passionate about meeting people where they are in all walks of life. I have a very diverse background, being a female, an African American, and then also openly LGBT,” said Bell.
Judge Bell’s role in the community is one that reflects the viewpoints and values of her constituents.
“It's important that when I'm sitting there, the values that are reflected in my community are what I speak about and what I share. This is what my community would like to see,” said Bell.
“My voice is important because we come from all walks of life. Being a young African American leader here in our city, it's important that we all have a seat at the table,” said Bell. “Shirley Chisholm said if they don't give you a seat at the table, bring your own. I appreciate the level of responsibility that I've been given here in the city, not just sitting there and listening, but also using my voice from what I've heard in my community.”
The judge relies on her community to speak up and get involved in the conversation surrounding community-oriented organizations and projects.
 “There are a lot of opportunities, if we show up. I want to be a person who has a seat at the table before things are finalized, who is part of the conversation. Then I want to set up meetings around our community so we can all share and hear from each other,” said Bell. “What I think and what other people in leadership think is not important if we don’t listen to our community and then try to put what they want into plans.”
Growing up in both a white and a black community, Bell recognizes what it means to be self-aware and the importance of growing up in a very diverse situation.
“We can listen to each other from each other's experiences and each other's backgrounds. And I think self-aware people are the people whom we need to have at the table willing to listen to others,” said Bell.
On the topic of an MLB initiative in her family’s longstanding hometown, Bell got nostalgic. Watching baseball alongside her grandmother was Bell’s first introduction to sports.
Bell shared that her grandmother loved baseball because it “was one of the first sports they saw on TV where Black men had an opportunity to play," Bell said. "So that was a fun space for me as a child, to watch baseball with my grandmother. We would watch the New York Mets.”
Baseball was Bell’s first love, igniting her passion for sports, which eventually led to a career playing basketball at Auburn University. Some of Bell’s fondest memories from her law school days in Memphis include sitting at the ballgame on a Sunday with her books, soda, and a hot dog.
“It's such a peaceful, peaceful place. It's a sport that you can just relax and enjoy. You can't rush a baseball game," she said. "And I love that about it too, that this enjoyment will last about three hours instead of a real quick, in-and-out sport.
“I think Nashville has such a great opportunity for all different types of new sports,” said Bell. “We just got a soccer team, we've got a hockey team and a football team, we’re talking about getting a WNBA team. Why wouldn't we have a major league team?”

April 15th was the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. One of the special things about this day is the opportunity to teach new generations about the history of the Negro Leagues and its impact on our National Pastime. Pictured below are members of the Nashville Stars Youth Foundation wearing a special “42” shirt to honor Jackie.


Our team braved the rainy weather on April 25 to participate in the 104.5 “The Zone” Spring Golf Classic at Old Natchez Country Club in Franklin, TN. Pictured (L-R) are:  Brent Dougherty, Ashton Johnson, Ron Slay. 


Our team was proud to support CreatiVets for their annual golf tournament on May 2 at Old Hickory Country Club. CreatiVets is a local organization aimed at helping disabled veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury through art, music, and creative writing.

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