Heart wide open

CAK student hosts inner city baseball camp

Wesley House Baseball Camp founder Christian Cate with, from left, campers Isiah Adams, C.J. Martin and Chandler Braxton.
A Christian Academy of Knoxville student opened his heart, donated his time this summer and took on a major project — but got a whole lot more in return.

Christian Cate, who as a CAK senior was required to formulate and complete a comprehensive Capstone Project, hosted an inner city baseball camp in July for children ages 7 to 10.

“(Capstone Projects) require students to ‘take their love for something and give it back,’” said Christian’s mother, Lisa. “It is to get them to think outside themselves.

“It is also about engaging in their interests and using their gifts to serve others.”

At first, Christian, who has played the sport since early childhood, planned to coach a team with a fellow classmate — who at the very last minute bailed on the project.

With few options still available, Christian instead decided to host a camp for inner city youth, and was able to work on the project with Wesley House, just off Western Avenue.

He asked if anyone there would be interested in a baseball camp, and they not only were eager to agree, but an overgrown ballfield already was located in the facility’s backyard.

In quick succession, Christian had assistance from agencies and individuals, some of whom he had never even met.

“It took on a life of its own,” Lisa said.

Local baseball commissioners Churchie Riley and Julia Weissinger, who Lisa said were “surprised a high school kid would take on such a project,” teamed up with officials from Knoxville Parks and Recreation Department to get the field cleared after Christian himself had made his own clean-up effort.

He also was able to enlist the help of baseball friends from Hardin Valley, Farragut and Bearden, Teen Board friends and youth coaches to round out the volunteer staff.

While Christian had the support of his parents, Joel and Lisa Cate, he credited people from all across Knoxville — and beyond — who pooled resources to help him procure the necessary baseball equipment campers would need, all of which Christian personally collected throughout the summer.

Enough baseballs, bats and mitts were collected to ensure each camper had his or her own set, which they were allowed to keep after the camp concluded.

Corporate sponsors, including Farragut Baseball Inc., and Laura Ash State Farm made sure the campers had new T-shirts and MLB baseball caps.

“People who didn’t even know us were generously giving us so much stuff. We got even more than we needed,” Lisa said, noting the excess will be donated to support Knoxville Center City Youth League.

The week-long camp ended up hosting about two dozen youngsters, whose days included devotion and prayer, baseball instruction and plenty of play and snacks.

“They had fun and were able to learn the game of baseball,” Lisa said.

“It brought me so much joy,” Christian said of the camp, where many participants had to be taught the very basics of the game. “Just seeing those kids’ faces light up and seeing how it didn’t matter if they won, or lost — they were just having fun.”

He credited many individuals with making the camp a success, and especially singled out his project mentor, Farragut Baseball League 18U commissioner Paul Buie, for his help, as well as Scot Herman, a coach and family friend.

“I learned more and got more out of it than we ever gave,” Christian said.

“We all did,” his mother added.

Though Christian was adopted very young, and is an only child, “he has got a lot of little brothers now,” Lisa said.

Despite youth summer vacation time being over, “I’m not done with the kids I worked with,” he said. “It is just the beginning. I don’t know where it will land, but it has been better than any trophy or (championship) ring.”