Academy Notebook: The Confess Project & Texas Rangers Youth Academy; USA Baseball’s NTIS tryouts

May 14th, 2021

Texas Rangers Youth Academy and The Confess Project cut away the stigma

Last Saturday, May 8, the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation and Youth Academy participated in Mental Health Awareness Month by partnering with The Confess Project to cut away the stigma around mental health.

The Confess Project is an award-winning non-profit organization dedicated to advancing minority mental health awareness and reform through its coalition of barbers trained to act as mental health advocates.

According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 4.8 million or 16% of Black and African American people in the U.S. reported having a mental illness1. Even with serious mental illness on the rise, they are unlikely to seek treatment due to stigmas within the community2. Additionally, CDC research from 2017 found suicide to be the second leading cause of death for African Americans, ages 15 to 24, and Hispanics, ages 15 to 343.

Lorenzo Lewis founded The Confess Project to heal these communities and erase the stigmas around experiencing mental health issues and seeking treatment.

“The Confess Project was inspired by my humble beginnings, going through mental health issues, depression and childhood trauma,” said Lewis, CEO & Founder of The Confess Project. “I also spent a lot of my time in my aunt’s beauty salon as a kid, where I saw the transformation of people helping people through the barber chair.

“I was able to work in the [grooming] industry for about a decade, and I knew that there was a huge need for reaching marginal communities, communities of color. My work is centered in supporting those communities, bringing them together and seeing that folks can get the resources they need to be better daily.”

Lewis founded The Confess Project in 2016, forming a coalition of barbers trained to act as mental health advocates. The Confess Project’s team of public health experts, therapists and education professionals travel around the United States to train barbers through their Beyond the Shop program. Barbers learn how to listen, provide feedback and act as messengers to get appropriate resources to clients.

The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation has been helping communities across Texas and beyond for 30 years. The Rangers are committed to diversifying all aspects of baseball, on and off the field, through the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy, the formation of the Texas Rangers Inclusion and Community Impact Council (ICIC), and the Charley Pride Fellowship Program.

“The responsibility of our organization extends beyond the stadium walls as we look to serve the greater community in which we reside. Through the Youth Academy, Foundation, and our Rangers Inclusion and Community Impact Council, the Confess Project was an ideal partner to creatively and impactfully do so,” said Ben Baroody, Assistant Director of Baseball Operations and ICIC subcommittee leader.

The Texas Rangers Youth Academy is home to young athletes across the area but primarily serves athletes from West Dallas, which is considered one of the most challenged areas in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

“Baseball and barbershops are classic settings that organically generate conversation,” said Baroody. “We are working through both platforms during this event, with the goal for those conversations to focus on mental health and raise awareness about family and individual resources in the Greater Dallas Area.”

Youth Academy athletes of all ages were invited to attend the three-hour event to receive free haircuts coordinated by The Confess Project. Additionally, mental health professionals from organizations like Mental Health America of Greater Dallas and Guided Journey Outreach Services were on-site to distribute resources and offer free mental health screenings.

“At the Academy, it means a lot to have these resources available to families,” said Juan Leonel Gárciga, Director of Youth Baseball & Academy Programs. “It was a really tough year for everyone last year, with circumstances that a lot of people haven't dealt with or experienced in the past.

“If [families in the neighborhood] want someone to talk to, then we can help them and connect them with the right people, making sure that they are in the right state of mind.

“There’s a possibility that an event like this helps change someone's life.”

The Texas Rangers Youth Academy marks one stop on The Confess Project's road to train 800 barber advocates during 2021 and reach one million individuals across the country.

[1] SAMHSA. 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH): African Americans.

2 Ward, E. C., Wiltshire, J. C., Detry, M. A., & Brown, R. L. (2013). African American men and women's attitude toward mental illness, perceptions of stigma, and preferred coping behaviors. Nursing Research >, 62 >(3), 185-194. doi:10.1097/NNR.0b013e31827bf533

3 CDC. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). [Accessed 08/02/2019].

Seven Youth Academy athletes advance in USA Baseball’s National Team Identification Series

USA Baseball’s National Team Identification Series (NTIS) is a comprehensive player identification program that gives athletes across the country a chance to compete for a spot on one of USA Baseball’s National Teams.

Athletes from around the U.S. participate in camps and tryouts at the local level in one of six regions across the country. Each region hosts two rounds of tryouts before the top athletes are selected to play for two All-Region teams. These teams will participate in the NTIS Champions Cup at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C.

On May 2, the Texas Rangers Youth Academy hosted a first-round tryout for regional athletes in the 14U, 15U and 16U age divisions.

Nine Youth Academy athletes participated in the first-round tryout on May 2, and seven advanced to the second round. Colin Moore, Major Spence, David Hogg, Aden Howard, Romel Garcia, Ben Stec and Jose Cortez will all represent the Texas Rangers at the round two tryouts in July with hopes to play in the NTIS Champions Cup.

This Sunday, the Academy will host an additional first-round tryout on May 16. Athletes in the 13U, 14U, 15U and 16U age classes will be evaluated on dynamic stretches, timed base running drills, defensive drills, batting practice and pitcher bullpens. The Texas Rangers Youth Academy will have four athletes participate in Sunday’s tryout.