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Last updated: Fri. Apr. 25, 2014 - 03:56 am EDT

Bulgarian baseball players to visit Fort Wayne

World Baseball Academy demonstrates international outreach

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The international flavor of the World Baseball Academy will be in full swing next week.

Twenty high school baseball players form Bulgaria, most of them novices, will spend the week in Fort Wayne, learning about the game from local coaches and other players, all through the outreach of the World Baseball Academy (WBA), 1701 Freeman St.

The trip is the result of a venture into Bulgaria by representatives of the WBA. A group went to Bulgaria in 2011 and introduced baseball to the community of Kanzalak.

“What transpired since is phenomenal,” WBA president Caleb Kimmel said. “Dozens of kids are showing up for baseball practice even though there's no real structure. The students and teachers said, 'We want to come over and see you guys.' ”

Two teachers from the local school secured the funding to bring the group to Fort Wayne, and they will be the first international group to spend a week with the WBA here. They will arrive late Saturday night and return to Bulgaria on May 4.

The players will train at the WBA, and will be able to spend time in a variety of settings, including Whitko High School, IPFW and Parkview Field.

The WBA has an event set up for Monday in which local players and Bulgarian players will form teams for a night of baseball. Kimmel is bringing in 13- and 14-year-old players to join the Bulgarian players since Indiana High School Athletic Association rules do not allow current high school players to be involved in the event. The WBA is also seeking high school and college journalists to visit and interview the players to give them a chance to experience dealing with the media. Interested local journalists can contact the WBA directly.

“We want to create a real cross-cultural experience for the Bulgarians,” Kimmel said. “We want those kids to be on the same team as the local kids to really have a great experience.”

While a number of tournaments are played at the Ash Centre, home of the WBA, Kimmel says cross-cultural experiences such as this are vitally important. The WBA hopes to bring competitive international teams into Fort Wayne in the future when the facility is upgraded.

The host for the visit here is World Partners, which is working with Avalon Missionary Church to provide homes for the players during their stay here. Pitch In For Baseball (a nonprofit organization in Pennsylvania) also donated baseball equipment for the Bulgarian students.

“We try to use baseball as a platform or tool to mentor young people who have a passion for baseball,” Kimmel said. “Hopefully we can become part of their lives and partner with them and their families to help them become a positive influence in life beyond baseball.”

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