CHICAGO (CBS) — Many people in Chicago are working hard to unify America as communities come together to overcome differences. This includes one coach with a last name that may sound familiar to baseball fans.
Batting practice reflects but one sliver of Ernest Radcliffe’s devotion to Chicago’s young people.READ MORE: Over 74,000 Unemployment Claims Filed In Illinois Last Week Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
“I am the head baseball coach at Morgan Park High School,” he said. “Director of the Show Travel Baseball program, director of the South Side Wolfpack Football Youth Organization.”
He is a coach who wears many hats with a much bigger purpose than batting averages or touchdowns.
“I found out at an early age, as I was coaching, that it saves a lot of lives and gives a lot of people hope,” Radcliffe said.
He estimates he has coached several thousand young people in 24 years, many from communities ravaged by violence.
“Coach Radcliffe is the model for a community champion,” said Dr. Abdullah Hasan Pratt.
Pratt, one of Radcliffe’s former players, is now an emergency room doctor at the University of Chicago Medical Center and a professor at the U of C Medical School.
“He’s the father to thousands of fatherless children here in Woodlawn and Englewood and South Shore communities,” Pratt said.
And on the West Side where Radcliffe just opened a new indoor baseball facility. It is yet another chance for the coach to fill the lives of young people with discipline and camaraderie in a peaceful setting, often bridging gang rivalries.READ MORE: Career Coach: When To Ask For Flexible Work Arrangements
“We call our football field, our baseball field, the gym the sanctuary where we can mentor young people and bring families together,” Radcliffe said.
“Many of them had lost multiple people. They’d lostd a cousin, a father, two brothers many times — and they were still out there, able to have fun, able to smile, able to dedicate themselves and discipline themselves to that team,” Pratt said.
Though Radcliffe has coached several sports, baseball is in his blood. He is the nephew of Negro League legend Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe.
Ernest Radcliffe played in college and in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
“I practiced in the snow. I practiced all year round, and I knew I wanted to be a pro,” he said.
After he hung up his cleats, he tried banking for a while, but the lure of the field was too great. And off the field, he has demanded his players have strong study habits and good grades.
“We stay with them all the way through college,” he said. “They come back, and they have a bachelor’s degrees, they have a master’s. We have young people that are doctors, lawyers.”
Coach Ernest Radcliffe is unifying a community.
“I wish I could just do this all day long and just coach and just be on the field and just mentor young people — because I love it so much,” he said.MORE NEWS: 2 Officers Among 3 Injured In Loop Crash On State Street
Radcliffe, along with his wife Tanya, also directs the Lady Wolves Cheer Dance team. He’s convinced if his athletic programs could be duplicated in every city neighborhood, violence would be reduced.