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Making A Difference: Coach Ernest Radcliffe Guides Young Men To Productive Lives Through Sports

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Coach Ernest Radcliffe has guided thousands of young men to productive lives through sports, and on Tuesday, he and his team celebrated 12 baseball players who are getting college scholarships.

As CBS 2's Jim Williams reported Tuesday, that is just a small sample of Coach Radcliffe's impact on the city.

Four young men provided testimony about Radcliffe's impact.

"He's made me a better player, and a better man," said Sean Bolin.

"I look at it as I was lucky to have this foundation," said Jatonne Eaton.

"He always just tells me keep pushing, and stay humble, and keep going forward," said Esa Waites.

"Coach Radcliffe is like a second father," said Michael Eaton.

Radcliffe says it is a calling - coaching thousands of boys in his baseball and football programs.

"I've been coaching since 1997 after my playing days with the St. Louis Cardinals," he said.

After his time with the Cardinals' minor league system, Radcliffe's guidance has led countless players to college scholarships.

The schools include Clark Atlanta University, Florida Memorial University, and Vincennes University – and that's to name only a few.

On Tuesday evening in Jackson Park, Radcliffe honored 12 of his baseball players who are all heading to college on scholarships - including those four young men who talked to highly of him. They may be leaving town, but they'll hear Radcliffe's voice.

"A lot of times, I think: 'What would coach Radcliffe say? What would Coach Radcliffe do if he found out, you know, what I'm down here doing?'" said Michael Eaton with a laugh.

That voice - that firm hand - keeps Radcliffe's players from danger and bad influences in a violent city.

"It's just so disheartening to see another young person – 11-year-old killed, 8-year-old shot

His programs are a solution.

"I want to save every kid if I can. I want to take the kids they say are bad. I want to take the kids they say can't learn," Radcliffe said. "I believe that once they get into a program and given the proper structure, then we can turn things around."

Play hard, study hard - Coach Radcliffe is watching.

Radcliffe: "We talk to them a ton about academics. I ask for transcripts to look at them, to oversee them, to make sure they're heading in the right direction."

Williams: "And if one is struggling, what do you do?"

Radcliffe: "Then we get them tutoring."

Former President Barack Obama stopped by a practice of Radcliffe's Southside Wolfpack football team this month in Jackson Park. He was impressed by what the coach has done on the West and South sides.

"I never thought that would happen in a million years," Radcliffe said. "A tremendous, tremendous honor."

"You got to find light in the city, which is why I'm glad I'm a part of this program," Bolin added.

It's light in the city from a coach who embraces challenges on and off the field.

"We have to reach out to young people, put our arms around them, encourage them, talk to them, show them the right way," Radcliffe said.

Coach Radcliffe said you have to get the kids when they're very young, and remain a steady influence. Some of his boys are just 5 or 6 years old, and he coaches through high school. We should add that as if he's not busy enough, Radcliffe is also coach of the Morgan Park High School baseball team.

Coach Radcliffe's wife Tonya leads a girls' dance and cheer team. Together, their reach is long.

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