Bob Muzikowski doesn't mince words. The Ivy League-educated nyc transplant has spent the last two decades nurturing change in some of the roughest neighborhoods of Chicago. His reason for doing so is simple. "I was reading this old book, the Bible," he says, "and it says to love your neighbor as yourself. And that doesn't mean to move where your neighbors are easy to love."

While this answer hides the plot elements of Muzikowski's hardscrabble childhood, addiction-ridden 20s, and his conversion to Christianity, it's consistent with the no-nonsense manner that guides everything he does. Muzikowski is not interested in parsing Greek verbs but putting into practice teachings that seem plain to him.

In May 1988, Bob and his new wife, Tina, found themselves leaving Manhattan for Chicago to pursue promising job opportunities and provide distance from Bob's past ghosts. They landed in a working-class neighborhood on the city's North Side, equidistant from its famous Gold Coast and infamous Cabrini-Green housing projects.

Bob's daily commute downtown alerted him to the plight of forgotten people and spaces. One space in particular caught his eye: an abandoned lot with backstops at opposite corners—enough to tell him it had once been two baseball fields.

On an evening walk in August 1990, Muzikowski met an African-American man named Al Carter, who was conducting batting practice with some kids. Carter, a product of the neighborhood, carried with him its history and hope. Carter's local knowledge and involvement provided Muzikowski something, despite his many business contacts downtown, he couldn't purchase. The two formed a partnership and decided they would try organizing an official Little League. "While I had no illusions that ...

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September 2008

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