My name is Cle Ross, I am the Executive Director of Kansas City Kansas Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (KCK RBI), CEO/Chairman of Success Achieved In Future Environments (S.A.F.E.) a tax exempt, non-profit organization that provides support through the sponsorship of educational programs and events, with an emphasis on youth from disadvantaged circumstances, and the founder of Clear The Beard.
I was born in Kansas City, Kansas in 1979. In 1982, my mother Patricia, my older brother Theo, and I moved to Wellington, KS, a small town near Wichita. I was raised in Wellington and graduated from Wellington High School in 1997.
At age 5, I began wrestling, and playing football and baseball. My mother was a church pianist and being a single parent, she made many sacrifices so that I could participate in every sport I was interested in. When I was twelve, athletic gear and gift certificates to our local sporting goods store started showing up anonymously on our doorstep. It was obvious that someone in my community had not only recognized my talent as an athlete, but also took a direct interest in trying to provide me with the resources needed to develop my skills. It was then that a piece of S.A.F.E was first born....I found myself trying to figure out ways to give back.
In 1994, my sophomore year of high school, my brother(on my father’s side of the family), Khaaliq Martin, was murdered. Khaaliq was living in Kansas City, Mo. and only 17 years old at the time. He was an innocent youth. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, a helpless bystander. Needless to say, 1994 was a tough year for me and as I worked through the emotions of losing my brother, I began to wonder how many other teens had lost siblings due to murder and how unfair youth violence was.
In 1997, my senior year at Wellington High School, I broke my wrist playing football and to avoid surgery, had to wear a cast from January through May. This meant I would never get to play Varsity baseball during my high school career(a lifetime High School JV player). I had several college scholarship offers for wrestling and football, but my passion was baseball. When I found out my cousin was trying out for the KCKCC (Kansas City Kansas Community College) baseball team, I contacted head coach, Steve Burleson. The tryout was a success as I was the only walk-on to make the 1998-99 roster.
My freshman year at KCKCC, I had to borrow textbooks from teachers, friends and teammates in order to study, because I could not afford the cost of books. That year, I promised my mother that I would work hard and never go another year in college without being on a scholarship of some kind, athletic or academic. I was able to keep that promise by earning an athletic scholarship at North Central Missouri College as well as The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff(UAPB). I graduated with a Mass Communication degree from UAPB and led the baseball team to the most wins in school history winning the triple crown my senior season.
During my time at KCKCC, my workouts would take me up and down Parallel Parkway, one day a teammate and I ran by the baseball fields known as Wyandotte County 3&2. At first glance the ball field was in bad shape, but upon second glance a vision began to plant itself in my head. I was intrigued by this unique field that sat dormant below the ground in the heart of the inner city, and I made a vow to figure out what was going on with those fields when I was done with school.
In 2007, I was finally able to pull all of my past experiences together. I founded S.A.F.E, and in 2008, I went back to Parallel Parkway, determined to keep my vow to find out more about the rundown ballpark. Turns out Wyandotte County 3&2 had more history than I knew. From 1947-1998 it was the home to over 2500 youth annually! This includes former Major League Baseball players: Ray Sadecki, David Segui, Damian Rolls, Neil Allen, Steve Renko, Kevin Young and current Atlanta Hawks Head Coach Larry Drew! After a year of tracking down the owner, S.A.F.E. was able to gain ownership of the ball field previously named Wyandotte County 3&2 (recently renamed Damian Rolls stadium).
Since 2010, S.A.F.E. has provided summer baseball and softball through its KCK RBI program to over 950 inner city boys and girls ages 3-18. Five players have continued on to play college baseball and 12 players will have the honor to participate in the 2012 Major League Baseball All Star Game Jr. RBI Classic.
I have been blessed and I'm constantly looking for ways to give back. I am initiating “Clear The Beard” as a fundraising activity for “Silence Youth Violence”. It is my hope that we can put an end to youth violence and improve the future for our youth by incorporating athletics and education. I believe that by renovating sports fields and facilities the benefits for our youth will last a lifetime.