Unlike on weekdays, Robert Lewis Jr. was wearing casual clothes. He was coaching baseball boys by cheering them on, telling them to look at the ball and even after the three outs, he hugged the boys, patted their heads and told them to keep working hard because more innings were coming up.
Lewis Jr. was born in 1960. He is one of six kids and grew up in public housing and public schools. While his mother had to raise him as a single mother, he still feels like he had everything because she raised her children with love and affection and taught them how to be responsible.
“My whole life from youth to now is hopefully about being responsible, accountable, appreciating life and the people around me,” Lewis Jr. said.
When he was a 16-year-old, racial tensions were high, and his house was firebombed. Lewis Jr. and his whole family were evicted from their home and left with nothing. He then decided that he wanted to do something positive and something right in his life. His passion for young folks came through sports. He has found that sports are a great way of teaching you life skills, values, and many other things.
Lewis Jr. founded THE BASE as a youth-development organization that works with students through sports. Right now it offers baseball, softball, and basketball, but the organization hopes to add other sports as it continues to grow nationally and internationally as well.
I was most interested to ask him about how he named the organization THE BASE. He told me that the name represents the base that you can stand on, as an individual, and the base of your roots.
“What I wanted to do is to use sports to shift the trajectory for young black and Latino folks and we were coming up and trying to figure out a name,” he explained. “We started thinking about a foundation, we needed something that's the base, the base of where you stand, the base of your roots, and all of a sudden, it became The BASE.”
Lewis Jr.’s goal was to show black and Latino youth how to be creative and resilient in this world. “People think that we are living in a risky community,” he said. “We are not, you give us an opportunity and all we have to do is succeed and be as great as we can.”
After reflecting on my time with Lewis Jr., I can honestly say that his love for sports, and for young folks to succeed and take advantage of new opportunities is clear. The way that he expresses his emotions when he talks with people around him is so natural and respectful, and the way he treats young people, as family, as part of him, is incredible. “It’s been 41 years coaching, I started when I was 18-years-old and I never left,” he said. “It was one of the greatest choices.”
Now he coaches one baseball team, the Astros, but back in the day, he was coaching more than one. For him, coaching is not a hard thing because he’s doing what he loves to do.