West Akron Baseball and Softball League president and 2014 Greater Akron Baseball Hall of Fame service award recipient Mike Dies uses his love of baseball and annual trips to minor league baseball games to give Akron kids the chance to play ball and have fun. This summer, he's taking 568 little leaguers to Canal Park.
I played in WABL until I was 12 and developed a love for baseball then. Being around my friends was mainly it. I played through high school and not beyond. Years later, I was watching my nephews play and thought, I want to coach these kids. So I did, and here I am 15 years later. WABL is about the kids that just want to play. Eighty percent of them won't play beyond high school. My thing is, let them enjoy it while they're kids, because one day it's going to be gone. You can never take away the memories. We have a day where we take our entire league to Canal Park to the RubberDucks game. If we could just get kids to watch baseball and watch the players, I think a lot of the game would teach itself. They don't need somebody hollering at them every second, telling them what to do and where to be. The kids get autographs, and we do a parade on the field. That's the beauty of a minor league, you can be a lot closer to the players and the players are more open to the fans and the kids. They get the idea that, that's what the kids want. The kids don't even know who the names are of these players, but they remember getting a high-five. — as told to Rachel Kalayjian