Bats and baseball caps have been supplanted by bulldozers and hard hats at the World Baseball Academy's fields at the ASH Centre.
The WBA's ultimate field of dreams – or more accurately, the fields of dreams – is on the way.
Earth work has begun for the future six-field WBA complex that will feature youth to college-sized fields as a baseball hub in Fort Wayne at 1701 Freeman St.
“We've got the big toys out here now,” World Baseball Academy CEO Caleb Kimmel said. “We'll have earth work for all 17 acres and all the earth work done for six fields, and we will complete two fields. As dollars come in, we can move right away on others and get things built.”
The first step of the project will be the completion of the college and high school size fields on the west side of the complex, which Kimmel estimates should be done for the 2018 spring season. The WBA has received donations and pledges of $2.35 million of the $3.2 million goal to complete the project.
The baseball facility has been home to the Hoosier Classic youth tournaments for many years. The tourneys have been moved off site this spring and summer while construction is underway.
The tournaments have been moved to the Aboite Township fields near the Jorgensen YMCA. High school age tournament take place at various Fort Wayne locations.
“The challenge this year in construction is shifting all of our programming offsite,” Kimmel said. “We intentionally shrunk a little bit knowing we'll have some pretty substantial growth in the near future. We collaborate with so may different baseball entities in town to partner with them and make sure our tournaments continue with quality this year as we prepare for the future.”
Kimmel hopes the completion of the first two diamonds for use next year will help provide the impetus to complete the fundraising efforts and fulfill the WBA's vision. The first two fields will be universal and can be downsized with fencing for younger age groups, Kimmel said.
“Getting two of our three fields in Phase 1 done will show the community we have quite a bit of confidence in our vision,” Kimmel said. “The message to the community is the outdoor projects are a go. We're not fully funded, but it's a go and we feel like the more people who know about it, the more they'll be involved and engaged.”
The WBA shares the ASH Centre complex with Optimum Performance Sports, which sports a weight room and indoor turf. It is also the home of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants basketball practice facility, which was underwritten by Lutheran Health Network.
“It's a vibrant campus with a lot of potential,” Kimmel said.