World Baseball Academy has a unique history that has helped position this organization for some great things to come!
The founder, Caleb Kimmel, is a homegrown native of Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 2000, while still in college, Kimmel worked alongside his father in forming Between The Lines, LLC that served as the event planner for the annual Hoosier Classic Summer Baseball Tournaments. After graduating college in 2003,Kimmel expanded Between The Lines by beginning to add baseball instructional programs to complement the established tournaments.
In December of 2003, Between The Lines became a tenant at the Tahcumwah Facility in Fort Wayne, Indiana.It was in that same year some dynamic leadership crossed paths.
Steve Sotir, the former Director of Player Development for the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), had become a key administrative leader within Southwest Allen County School systems.However, Sotir had never really had the opportunity to utilize his unique baseball background while residing in Fort Wayne.
Kimmel and Sotir began to envision what could happen if established quality event planners partnered up with the international experts within the game. It was in those brainstorming sessions that the World Baseball Academy emerged.
Sotir brought in the leadership of Dr. Darin Van Tassell and Larry Bryant—key international baseball leaders who all have had a great impact on the growth of the game globally.Van Tassell, a professor of International Studies, was the Baseball Competition Director of the 2008 Olympics Baseball Games in Beijing.Bryant is a professor of health.These three men met at Georgia Southern University during their playing days and early college coaching days.
In 2007, these four leaders began to develop plans that combined the well-established local baseball programming in Fort Wayne with international opportunities around the world.
Van Tassell, Bryant and Sotir created the name “World Baseball Academy” to capture the essence of “teaching” the game of baseball. “Academy” represents the concept of being a student of the game. “Baseball” is the platform by which we can get the attention of young people, build a relationship with them, and educate them on the fundamentals of the sport and of life. “World” captures the essence of our global vision.
In 2008, Caleb and his mentors acted on their vision to create WBA as a not-for-profit that would use the platform of baseball to teach young people fundamentals of a sport and life.
As a tenant at the ASH Centre, WBA operated Hoosier Classic youth baseball tournaments as a stabilizing source of revenue. In 2012, WBA became the owner-operator of the 26-acre athletic complex, the result of a consolidation of the WBA and its not-for-profit landlord, Creative Sports (founded 2003).
With ownership of the ASH Centre secured, in 2018 WBA successfully completed the largest capital campaign for youth sports in Fort Wayne’s history, as the community rallied to build a premier youth baseball complex.Individuals, companies, foundations and the City of Fort Wayne donated more than $3.7 million to transform old, dirt playing surfaces into pristine fields with artificial turf infields, natural grass outfields and top quality lighting.
The main goals of the More Than A Game capital campaign are being realized now that the fields are in use.The project is providing greater access to quality fields for local kids, even while contributing to Fort Wayne’s reputation as a first-choice destination for youth sports.
WBA’s partnership with the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation was a catalyst for construction of a fourth field at the ASH Centre.This Youth Development Field is Northeast Indiana’s first 100% artificial surface, adaptive field, sized for youth baseball and softball, and built to serve all populations, including those with disabilities. The million-dollar field has become a reality because of the support of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation and local donors.
While more than five years of capital campaign fundraising and construction were occurring, WBA continued to grow its free services to boys and girls who are considered underserved or at-risk due to socioeconomic status and intellectual or physical disability.New collaborations and increased financial support helped WBA diversify and grow this programming. Now under the umbrella of On Deck, these programs reach more than 1,000 kids each year.