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Through The BASE, young athletes shine

Jack Drewry
Through The BASE, young athletes shine
National Urban Sports Classic, City Divas vs. Lady Twins – both teams from New York City. PHOTO: STEPHEN KEEP PHOTOGRAPHY

The BASE community organization, a 10-year-old urban academy, uses sports to engage Black and brown people in ways that strive for excellence.

Its “Success Lives Here” mantra has propelled some of its graduates to careers in the big leagues.

The BASE 18U baseball team with the visiting Pittsburgh Hardball team. PHOTO: THE BASE

The BASE held its annual National Urban Sports Classic last weekend featuring baseball, basketball and softball games at different venues.

Steph Lewis, the organization’s president and CEO, told the Banner that The BASE’s core philosophy is “to allow Black and Hispanic youth the opportunity to access sports without having to pay for it.”

Its unique “earn-your-spot” approach means that to play, the young athletes must participate in activities such as college tours, speaking engagements and STEM programs.

Akhai Marshall drives to the basket. PHOTO: THE BASE

The program was born in 2013 when Steph Lewis’ father, Robert Lewis Jr., a long-time coach in the South End, expanded the program participants to other cities. That includes when Ron Jackson, a World Series champion hitting coach for the Red Sox, brought a youth baseball team from Birmingham, Alabama to Boston. Steph Lewis enticed an established youth baseball team called the Brooklyn Bonnies to compete against local teams in Boston by offering room and board to the players. This was the beginning of the Urban Sports Classic. Soon more teams began visiting the Hub.

The BASE can now count alums presently in the Major League system, with Jhonny Felix and Luis Guerrero, who are part of the Red Sox Minor League system, and recent Los Angeles Angels free agent signee Ryan Hernandez.

Philadelphia Stars baseball teammates congratulate each other at the NUSC. PHOTO: THE BASE

In 2021, The BASE established a softball and basketball tournament for teen girls. The competition had three teams the first year; now there are eight from Boston to New York. 

“No one was focusing on accessible competitive girls’ sports in urban areas around Boston,” said Steph Lewis, “but we are growing the program.” That tournament is now called the National Urban Sports Classic, which includes basketball as well.

Sports, The BASE