SANFORD, Fla. – Jon Paul Reed is among Sanford’s growing community of entrepreneurs.
“We focus on development and exposure for student-athletes,” said the 36-year-old Jackson, Mississippi, native.
He’s a former baseball player who played independent pro-ball in the American Association and the Pecos League, according to his company website, Pure Momentum Sports.
In 2015, Reed moved from Mississippi and years later established Athlete University, a student-athlete resource center for kids.
[READ NEXT: Central Florida techie connects beginners with leaders in tech industry | Black Greek organization members say their movement changed society | Celebrating the legacy of meteorologist June Bacon-Bercey]
“It’s a long journey. I’m still on this journey but I tell people this all the time. It’s a phrase we use: ‘I’m too country to quit.’ You know, it’s just kinda like ... being a ballplayer, you make mistakes in front of everybody, so it becomes second nature to make mistakes but I look forward to the opportunity to show you how I adjust and I try to operate in that realm,” Reed said.
His journey began in the deep south where he said his mother raised him to learn about his roots.
“As a kid, I participated in challenge bowls, like African American challenge bowls, like Black History Month, so my mom made it a point to make sure that I knew my history,” he said. “She wanted me to be the best throughout any expectations, throughout anything that might’ve been negative from my background. She wanted me to be able to overcome those things, so she pushed me to do things I didn’t want to do at the time, you know. No kid wants to go to the mall and give the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in a suit.”
He comes from a family of athletes. One of his uncles was a Harlem Globetrotter. Jon Paul recalled he grabbed his first baseball bat at 2 years old and continued to play the sport throughout high school and at Florida A&M University, his alma mater.
“Right after college I actually went to Clearwater for a while. I was down there trying out with the Phillies and things went great,” he recalled.
But as things seemed to be going in the right direction, tragedy struck him at 26 years old.
“A couple of guys that I had met, you know, we were all hanging out one night and a guy, a drunk driver, hit us -- the night we all got the news we were all going to be given the opportunity to come to spring training,” he said. “After the accident ... I was kind of down for a little while, a little depressed. After that, I went back home.”
He went back to Mississippi, where he trained kids while he figured out what he wanted to do next with his life.
“You get to a point when you start having to make decisions in your life, whether or not you’re gonna go and create your life or (are) you gonna continue to chase this dream,” he said.
After those life experiences, he decided to give back by establishing his business so kids could flourish in whatever sport they desire.
“If you have the desire to be the type of person to make your own way and, you know, make your own decisions, you have to trust your instincts. You have to find good mentors, people who’ve already kind of walked the path that you walk,” he said. “I want people to always see me as a person that they want to accept information from. It’s not so much feeling like you have to, as much as I feel like my experience could aid them.”