MR DALE MCMILLEN [MR. MAC]
(WILDCAT BASEBALL LEAGUE FOUNDER)
When someone mentions Wildcat Baseball and its lasting effect on Fort Wayne’s youth, one must think of the McMillen family and its patriarch, Mr. Dale McMillen Sr. who was affectionately referred to as "Mr. Mac."
Mr. Mac was the eldest of six children and began his American success story by helping his father in a thriving grain elevator business. Through hard work during the Depression and World War I, the family business followed the simple virtues of integrity, perseverance and pride in their work.
When most businessmen begin to contemplate retirement, Mr. Mac, at age 54, founded the Central Soya Company in Decatur, Indiana. The business included the McMillen Feed Mill and the Central Sugar Company. Since then Central Soya, through research and technology, has expanded globally by introducing innovations in soybean meal, margarines, gasoline additives, and chocolate coating to name a few.
The Wildcat League is an outgrowth of the zeal and effort of Mr. Mac to better a community and its children. Mr. Mac once said “We must pay some rent for the blessings and opportunities we enjoy while we’re on this earth.” He enjoyed seeing people’s lives made better by his generosity. The McMillen Foundation donated and helped construct what is known as McMillen Park today. Endowments at Indiana Tech and the establishment of the McMillen Health Center are among the many agencies that have benefited from our humanitarian founder.
In light of all that Mr. Mac has done for our community, he proudly referred to the Wildcat Baseball League as “the greatest thing I ever did.” To him it is a living monument embodied in each player who benefits from the program. His motto reflects the spirit he wanted to pass on to our youth: “This day I will beat my own record.” No better words express the life and philosophy of Wildcat Baseball League’s founder, Mr. Dale McMillen, Sr.
Mr. Dale McMillen died at the age of 91. Fort Wayne has benefited greatly from the stature and devotion of the McMillen family and its descendants. They have served the community and given a spirit that should be emulated.
Wildcat League History
Mr. Dale McMillen, while watching little league tryouts, noticed the disappointment on the faces of the nine and ten year old boys that failed to make the team. This was too much for "Mr. Mac," as he was called, to take. After discussions with other leaders, Mr. Mac organized a league for all boys who wanted to play organized baseball regardless of their skills, ability, race, creed, or religion. Our league motto of “Everybody Makes the Team,” is a vital part of the philosophy of Mr. Mac and the Wildcat League.
Originally 10 baseball sites were established. Area high school coaches were chosen as directors with college and high school students acting as assistants and junior assistants. The philosophy of the league was, and still is, to put as little pressure as possible on the participants. The emphasis is still on playing the game for “fun” and focusing on fundamentals to increase the skill level of the players.
Three league divisions were created divided by ages with 8 ½-10 year olds in the Kitty Division, 11-12 year olds in Kat Division, and 13-14 year olds in the Tiger Division. Regular baseball rules applied in each division with expectations made for safety concerns. Extra activities were provided to enrich the program. College coaches gave instruction at clinics, a special baseball excursion was taken to Chicago to watch a major league game, and Progress Day (the future Mr. Mac day) was held with baseball greats like Jackie Robinson, Carl Erskine, Bob Feller, and Ted Williams in attendance. In later years, Jack and Jill Amusement Park Day gave the Wildcatters a fun day.
The year 2002 marks the 42nd season for the Wildcat League, which has now expanded to include 15 sites. There are four league divisions beginning with Kitten--6-7 year olds, Kitty--8-10 year olds, Kat--11-12 year olds and Tiger--13-15 ½ year olds. Baseball rules still apply, with each site adjusting to their players. Baseball clinics are taught by college or high school varsity coaches and the McMillen Health Center instructs the players on current health topics every other year. Wildcat Wizard’s Night allows players to attend a minor league game and Mr. Mac Day (JULY 23, 2002) allows all participants a morning to compete for prizes and enjoy a healthy lunch near the end of the season.
In the last 41 years over 175,000 Wildcatters have enjoyed their summers on the diamonds of Fort Wayne and the surrounding area. They have played more than 100,000 games and 65,000 practices. Over 35,000 championship trophies and 39,000 perfect attendance trophies have been presented and over 33,000 baseballs used.
What hasn’t changed is the dedication of the staff and officers to the players and ideals of Mr. Dale McMillen. No matter how our world changes Mr. Mac’s vision of “Everybody makes the team” is still true in the Wildcat League.