BASE Ball III
On November 18 at Roxbury’s Reggie Lewis Center, more than 500 supporters, donors, honorees, public servants, corporate and academic leaders, and special friends joined BASE student-athletes and their families for the third annual Banquet of Champions and BASE Ball gala. A celebration of Boston’s urban youth and their potential for greatness, the event was also an urgent, and necessary, reminder of the hard work and resources still required to help launch them on the road to successful lives.
BASE Ball III, which raised more than $500,000, was emceed by New England Cable News anchor Frank Holland and sponsored by BASE corporate partners USA Funds, The Lewis Family Foundation, The Boston Foundation, Franklin Sports, New Balance, and Coca-Cola.
Featured speakers included Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and Shawn Dove, CEO of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement. Each spoke movingly about The BASE and its positive impact on young peoples’ lives.
Recalling how his own children grew up with an unconditional base of support beneath them, Gov. Baker reminded his audience, “Not everybody has that. What has always impressed me most about The BASE is its fundamental objective. To help kids– boys and girls – find that special thing about themselves.”
“It brings me to tears when I watch what The BASE means to these kids,” he went on. “We have here one of the true jewels of the city.”
Mayor Walsh alluded to the political uncertainty created by the recent presidential election. “Our jobs can be difficult at times,” the mayor acknowledged. “But when there are organizations like The BASE in our city and state, it makes our lives a lot easier. Because we know there’s a generation of young people going through the front door of The BASE and being put on the pathway to success.”
Shawn Dove expressed his deep admiration The BASE and its founder, Robert Lewis Jr. “The BASE is literally saving lives,” Dove said. Recalling his own journey from the street corners of New York City to heading a national network of organizations focused on black male achievement, Dove said “something powerful happens” when the right person says the right thing at the right time to vulnerable youths, a lesson he learned decades ago.
“Our young people don’t need saviors parachuting into their communities,” he continued. “What they need are believers.” Not billionaires with good intentions, he added, although money always helps. Needed even more are what he calls “will-ionaires,” individuals who believe in community-building – a belief that inspired Robert Lewis Jr. when he founded The BASE four years ago.
BASE Ball III also honored Micho Spring of Weber Shandwick for her longstanding commitment to Boston’s minority communities. Both as a corporate leader and in her former capacity as a high-ranking City Hall official, she has used her own immigrant background to champion and support a diverse range of Boston’s young people and their families.
“At times of change, we need to knot our communities tighter together,” Spring remarked. “The BASE helps us do that. The message for all of us here tonight is that we have the backs of all these young kids. You are our future. And we are determined to make sure that in this city, at this time, you continue to dream big.”
Steve Whalen of City Realty Group joined Mayor Walsh in likening The BASE to a talent pool mined by pro baseball scouts. At The BASE, he noted, great young employees are being created by a culture where “excellence is the new minimum,” much as the Dominican Republic draws MLB scouts to its culture of baseball excellence. Whalen, whose company recently hired ten BASE student-athletes, has also been urging local businesses to follow his lead.
“These kids have the fire in their bellies,” he said admiringly.
BASE Ball attendees also were treated to a three-minute video about The BASE and to remarks from many of its student-athletes, current and former.
Anthony Chuga, now enrolled in the BASE Freshman Year program, noted that when young people get knocked down by life’s circumstances, “What really matters is who helps you get back on your feet and how you do that.” When he and others connect with The BASE and its staff, “There’s nothing that holds us back,” he continued. “Nothing we can’t do.”
Lucky Luciano, a high-school junior and program intern, credited The BASE with providing her a personal comfort zone. And, she said, “No matter what you do, your comfort zone will always take you where you want to go.”
Tufts Univ. junior Malcolm Nachmanoff, talked about the life perspective he gained from being a teammate on a championship Astros baseball team in 2013. Another BASE alum, Jordan Matos, now a program coordinator for The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, boiled the essence of his BASE experience down to one word: chemistry.
“All the soft skills you learn playing baseball are transferrable into the professional field,” said Matos, who proudly serves as a mentor to younger BASE student-athletes. “And that’s something I’ve learned how to do.”
Among the many other VIP attendees were Boston Police Commissioner William Evans; Boston Police Superintendent William Gross; Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins; Matan Zamir, deputy consul general of the Israeli Consulate; Kirsten Hughes, chairwoman of the Mass. Republican Party; Boston City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George; Boston Red Sox officials Adam Grossman, Pam Kenn, Justin Prettyman, Kathryn Quirk, and Sheri Rosenberg; Paul and Saskia Epstein and Allyce Najimy of the Foundation To Be Named Later; John Cook of UBS Financial Services; Aixa Beauchamp of Beauchamp & Associates; Kate Guedj, Boston Foundation vice-president; Matt LeBretton, New Balance vice-president of corporate affairs; Al Minahan, senior policy advisor at Preti Strategies; Darla Pires DeGrace, head of the National Black MBA Association’s Boston chapter; Adam Franklin, VP of Franklin Sports; ; John and Nancy Frates; and Astros alum Ben Bowden, selected drafted this year out of Vanderbilt Univ. by the Colorado Rockies.
BASE President Robert Lewis Jr. summed up the evening’s special flavor this way:
“I question where in America tonight is there a room that looks like this,” he said. “We are young and old. Rural, urban, and suburban. Men and women. Beautiful and personable. A kaleidoscope and rainbow of people. We are resilient and smart and loving. The BASE is a methodology for all of us. Let’s play the game and stop being critics in the stands. Play the game. And let’s win the game.”
- Joe Kahn