The World Baseball Academy had its dedication ceremony for its three new baseball diamonds Oct. 17.
While the gathered crowd of WBA board members, students, families and members of the community were excited about the new fields, which feature artificial turf infields and irrigated natural grass outfields, what they were most excited about was the potential to see the organization grow.
“It’s allowing the World Baseball Academy to certainly meet needs, but it’s allowing us to expand our influence and our impact on the lives of young people,” WBA CEO Caleb Kimmel said.
The organization currently serves about 4,000 youth annually, including 800 at-risk youth, master of ceremonies Glenn Marini said, adding those numbers would “triple in the years to come.”
The WBA’s mission is to teach leadership and other life skills to youth through the avenue of baseball, according to its website.
“We’ve witnessed firsthand the powerful situation that happens when you combine the passion of a young person with a mentor,” Kimmel said.
Several youths spoke during the dedication ceremony, including 11-year-old Vincent Garcia. He said he gained not only the confidence to try out for the Foster Park Little League team through encouragement from WBA staff, but that he gained leadership skills as well.
“I learned that you should not only be a leader inside one program but you should be a leader all around,” he said. “I used those leadership qualities and became the president of both of our leadership programs at the Boys & Girls Club.”
Kade Kolpien, a Homestead High School student, said the old facilities at WBA were “a little outdated.”
“I’m just excited that some of the travel teams and even high school teams around Indiana will not have to travel what they think is as far to play on high-quality fields,” he said of the new facilities. “I’m hoping that it will bring in some better competition for some of these local teams…so we don’t have to go as far to play the top competition.”
When construction began in April, WBA only had enough funding to complete two of the fields, Kimmel said, adding that additional fundraising support allowed them to complete the third field as well.
The organization is still seeking about $700,000 in funding for lighting of the fields, a pavilion, upgraded bleachers and additional scoreboards, he said.
“Our promise to you is we’re going to continue to work hard to make this a first-class facility,” he said.
Games are slated to begin at the facility in the spring, Kimmel said. The plan is to host area college, high school, travel and WBA teams at the facility, as well as possibly Little League and Wildcat teams.
With that, Kimmel said the WBA was committed to making the facility a welcoming place for outside teams that would encourage good sportsmanship, a positive outlook and character development in youth.
“At the WBA we commit to doing our very best, being a good steward of what many of you have blessed us to manage,” he said.
The WBA is located at 1701 Freeman St., Fort Wayne.