By STEVE KRAH
From a young age, Zach Huttie knew baseball was about more than just balls and strikes, safe and out.
It could be used to help teach important concepts.
When he was wrapping up his college studies, he felt the call of the diamond.
“I realized I didn’t ever want to leave baseball. I wanted baseball to be part of my life — some way, some how,” says Huttie. “What better way to teach life lessons than through the game of baseball?
“You do fail a ton of times, but it’s how you overcome that failure.”
Huttie is getting the chance to have an impact on the Fort Wayne area community in multiple capacities — all tied to the game he loves.
He came to the Summit City to be an assistant baseball at Indiana Institute of Technology — aka Indiana Tech — and has since added roles at Hoosier Classic Baseball Tournaments director/instructor for the World Baseball Academy and commissioner of the Indiana Summer Collegiate Baseball League.
“I like being able to change lives,” says Huttie, who is changed with Indiana Tech’s defense. “I like being able to see the kids overcome the adversity.”
Huttie also witnesses a growth in maturity.
“They come in as young men and see them become better men as they leave,” says Huttie. “One thing we preach at Indiana Tech is high character.”
Glen McClain, a redshirt junior first baseman and catcher for the Warriors in 2018, stands as an example of that growth.
“I’ve seen Glen blossom not only on the field but off and become a leader and help to mentor the young guys coming in as freshmen,” says Huttie. “It’s a team-first culture. It’s not just a ‘you’ thing, it’s a ‘we’ thing. It’s something we’ve installed.”
During the recruiting process, the Tech staff — led by head coach Kip McWilliams — does research on the player’s personality by talking with people like coaches, umpires and guidance counselors.
“We want to get a feel on who are those men of high school character who will help impact our program at Indiana Tech,” says Huttie.
Growing up in Raleigh, N.C., the son of Joe and Lonnie Huttie, Zach identified Denison University in Granville, Ohio, as the college for him as a sophomore at Athens Drive High School.
Before and after getting his diploma at ADHS in 2006, Huttie gained much from mentors like hitting instructor Brian Ward (who played for the Fort Wayne Wizards in 2000 and was later on the North Carolina State University coaching staff) and the Baseball Factory’s Kelly Kulina then played four years for the Big Red.
He earned a bachelor’s degrees in Environmental Studies and Communication from Denison and then a master’s degree in Sports and Recreation Sciences with a concentration in Coaching Education from Ohio University. He was a graduate assistant coach for the Bobcats.
It was a recommendation from OU head coach Rob Smith that helped Huttie land at Indiana Tech.
Smith, who played at Vincennes University and Indiana University Southeast, graduated at Indiana University and was an assistant coach at Purdue University, knew McWilliams was looking for an infield coach and sent Huttie his way. He was offered and accepted the job right after the interview.
“You never know who you know and that’s how I got the position up here,” says Huttie.
At the WBA, headquartered in the ASH Centre, Huttie gets to teach the game and also help young people.
“The World Baseball Academy uses baseball as a platform to develop young leaders,” says Huttie. “We work with at-risk youths in the community.”
The ASH Centre has three diamonds with artificial turf infields and natural grass outfields used by players 9U through college and there is plans for more. Huttie organizes and runs the tournaments played there and other area venues.
He works with a WBA leadership group that includes CEO/instructor Caleb Kimmel, director of baseball operations/instructor Andy McManama, senior lead instructor Ken Jones, scholarshipo baseball instructor Tim Petersen, scholarship director Linda Petersen, director of development Linda Buskirk and marketing director Kristen Kimmel, outdoor campus maintenance man Bud Wolf and Dominican Republic trip coordinator Jamie Frazier.
“We’re blessed as a non-profit to do a lot of good for the community,” says Huttie.
The ISCBL was organized a few years ago by McWilliams, Mark DeLaGarza and others to give area collegians a place to play and develop in the summer.
The 2018 season opens Saturday, June 2 and there are three league teams — Fort Wayne Panthers, Northeast Kekiongas and Summit City Sluggers.
The Panthers, with University of Saint Francis assistant Miguel Tucker, will be based on at Cougar Field on the USF campus. The Kekiongas, with head coach Indiana Tech assistant Pat Collins-Bride, will call Indiana Tech’s Warrior Field home. The Sluggers, with Jay County High School assistant Todd Farr as head coach, will be a rover.
In addition to Saturday and Sunday doubleheaders and weekday games with league and area men’s teams, Huttie says the ISCBL will conduct mid-week practices as a large group.
“It’s a developmental league,” says Huttie. Rosters tend to be filled with younger players — freshmen and sophomores.
Through all his baseball involvement in Fort Wayne, Huttie remains very close to his folks.
“My mom and dad our my world,” says Huttie. “They’re my bread and butter.
“I’m an only child. I talk to my parents every single night.”
Zach Huttie is involved in the Fort Wayne baseball community in multiple ways. He is an assistant coach at Indiana Tech, Hoosier Classic Baseball Tournaments director/instructor at the World Baseball Academy and commissioner of the Indiana Summer Collegiate Baseball League. (Steve Krah Photo)