Hakeem Stargell prepares the next generation of baseball players with Be Smooth Academy

Published 5:49 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2024

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If you have met Hakeem Stargell odds are you noticed two things about him: 1) that he loves baseball and 2) he loves the Troup County community. The former LaGrange High baseball star found a way to combine both of his loves.

In the spring of 2022, Stargell started the Be Smooth Baseball Academy with one goal: to improve and prepare the next generation of baseball players in his hometown.

“Honestly, it’s been a dream of mine since I was in high school, coming up playing the game,” Stargell said. “I think I enjoy this more than playing. To watch them grow and develop into young men is special.”

Stargell grew up running around the block and playing baseball where he now gets to foster that same love in other kids. Stargell spent three years playing for the varsity baseball team at LaGrange High before going off to play college ball at Wallace Community College, Dyersburg State Community College, and Bryan College.

There was no guarantee that this would be a success. All Stargell had was his knowledge and some connections in the community. Through this, he has constructed a place for the newbies and the experienced alike.

“We got a good mix. We have kids out here who have never touched a baseball before and we have kids out here with years of experience,” Stargell said. “We are willing to work with both. It’s fun to teach some kids the fundamentals while for others it is about maximizing their full potential.”

When starting this venture even Stargell questioned whether it would be a success at first. He stayed true to who he was and remained confident in his ability to teach and explain the game.

“I think feeling nervous comes with being an entrepreneur,” Stargell said. “I think you just got to take that chance man and I did have confidence in my knowledge of what I’m trying to do so I figured after a while as I keep going and just staying consistent people will start drawing to Be Smooth.

“I would say from May ‘22 to December ‘22 was kind of the point where I was just trying to gain clients and get people on board. In December 2022, I had my first infield boot camp. After I had it at LaGrange High’s indoor practice facility, I think people from the community saw that this guy was pretty serious about what he was doing.”

Be Smooth has grown so much in the last two years. It went from being just an infielder camp to that and so much more.

“Since we first started we’ve had three infield camps, two softball camps, a youth baseball camp, started a travel team and I’m still doing one-on-one lessons as well,” Stargell said. “It just keeps growing and I’m constantly adding more guys and girls for one-on-one lessons.”

Stargell tailors training schedules and workouts to his individual clients which can range from as young as five to seniors in high school. 

One of the newest editions to Be Smooth is the travel baseball team. The Monarchs, as they are known, were founded by Stargell’s father, Broderick Stargell, in 2005 with the younger Stargell being one of the first members of the team. The team was dormant for several years, but Stargell revived it earlier in 2024.

“We started practice in February, we had our very first tournament on Mother’s Day, May 11. So since then, we’ve done two tournaments,” Stargell said. “We plan to do a few more this summer.”

Stargell is not done with expansion yet. He is already plotting out how Be Smooth can grow and expand from here. The Monarchs travel team is looking to add two to three teams in the fall with tryouts set for July for the 6u, 7u and 8u teams. 

“We’re gonna continue to do the annual camps, and really just look to find a physical location like a facility here in LaGrange and kind of let that be our headquarters that we can use anytime,” Stargell said. 

Stargell also wants to squash any misconceptions about Be Smooth Academy and what it stands for.

“I think a lot of times people get the smooth mixed up with being fancy and that is not what Be Smooth is about,” Stargell said. “Be smooth is a state of mind. We want to be relaxed, be smooth. Baseball is a game of failure, so we focus a lot on the mental aspects of baseball and how you approach the game that way.”

Those interested in registering or looking for more information can go to the Be Smooth Academy website at besmoothacademy.com.