A midnight decision results in decades of service to youth, community

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — A single moment can change your life forever.

That came true more than 50 years ago for a man from the northeast side of Indianapolis. Dave Vahle was serving in the military overseas and brainstorming a plan to go AWOL. Instead, he made a midnight decision and turned his life around and many others since then.

Summer afternoons and baseball games just seem to go together. Families love the feel of the First Baptist Baseball league, which is a tradition in Indianapolis. The idea for all that fun started thousands of miles away.

"I was cleaning vehicles and scraping paint of the windows and that sort of thing," said Dave.

Dave was 23 years old when he got drafted to serve in Germany. Instead of feeling a sense of duty, he felt desperation.

"I wanted to run away," said Dave.

So late one night, he planned to escape. But he stopped when he saw a chapel and went back to the barracks. The next day, he heard a sound that he didn't remember hearing before.

"Baseball in Germany? Where did that come from?" asked Dave.

It was a sports program for military kids. Dave asked about getting involved and he did. Baseball, basketball, football, he coached all the kids he could and even his boss noticed.

"As post commander, I wish to thank you on behalf of all the parents," said Dave, reading from a letter he was sent.

When Dave came back to Indiana, he brought the spirit of sports with him. He founded the First Baptist Baseball League in 1968 with $300 and a prayer.

"There was one diamond," said Dave. "Now there's two. Now there's five. Now there's ten."

Dave focused on the 6- to 8-year-olds with a different attitude than you might expect.

"I'm not trying to create an all-star or Mr. Hero," said Dave. "That's not the point. Enjoy the game, know how to win, know how to lose and live accordingly."

Live accordingly, regardless of where you came from, and Dave says they came from all over central Indiana.

"You got out of your Rolls Royce or you got out of your cheap Ford and the kid runs, you don't know where he came from. Or who he is," said Dave. "It's not important."

What was important was that one decision and the countless families who have spent their Saturdays playing baseball because of it.

"How did what I did affect any of those players? I'll never know," said Dave. "That makes me feel good that maybe it had some effect on someone's life."

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