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  • Writer's pictureNick Andriacchi

The Story of Keronn Walker - A True Entrepreneur

Updated: Mar 12

March 8, 2024

Looking for an inspirational story?

This article focuses on an individual that had a dream to start a baseball academy to serve at risk inter-city kids on the southside of Chicago. It wasn’t easy. He left a good job at a prestigious high school to pursue his dream and it was a real struggle to get the academy off-the-ground. He did it through his willingness to take risk and seize opportunities when they presented themselves. Mostly, he believes in himself and the good he does for the community. 

This story is designed to inspire staffers that have the “entrepreneurial bug” to launch their own businesses. Staffers do great work for the community (granted as a for-profit corporation) by providing employment opportunities for those who may otherwise have difficulty finding employment on their own. Staffers help with resumes, interview techniques and instruction on how to act in the work place. Many times, this leads to permanent employment with better pay and benefits.

Keronn Walker was born, raised and still resides on the south side of Chicago. After graduating high school, he chose to attend Bluefield College in West Virginia and pursue his dream of becoming a professional baseball player and earn his degree. After graduating, Keronn then went on to play 6 years of professional baseball as a switch-hitting catcher. 

After his playing career, Keronn took a job coaching varsity baseball at The University of Chicago Laboratory School in 2007. While he did a great job coaching there and the administration was pleased with his performance, he really wanted to break-free and become his own boss. His dream was a little different than most entrepreneurs. He wanted to start a non-for-profit to do something about the decline of inner-city participation in the sport of baseball. 

In 2006, Keronn took a leap of faith. With several members of that community, he formed an advisory board of directors who helped raise $100,000 in private funding to open up Chicago's first indoor baseball facility on Chicago's south side named B.I.G. Baseball Academy. Its mission is not limited to keeping baseball alive in the city of Chicago, but more importantly, to mentor and teach life lessons that carry over into adolescent's everyday lives. No kid is ever turned away. B.I.G. stands for “Bigger Than Baseball”.

The academy has created a buzz in Chicago. Local media coverage and visits from MLB star's like Lucas Gregerson, Curtis Granderson, and Nico Hoerner to name a few. 

The journey hasn’t always been easy. There have been many unforeseen challenges along the way. Funding, staffing and finding the right facility to offer the services to name a few. As with any new venture, adjustments had to be made as business conditions dictated. Keronn viewed every challenge as an opportunity and has the business acumen (and open-mindedness) to do things differently.

Since its opening, the academy has expanded into a bigger, 10,000 square foot in-door facility that accommodates more players and local teams. Keronn has been rewarded for his work by receiving multiple accolades and he was hired as an area scout for 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs.

Nico Hoerner, Chicago Cubs

The payoff has been that over 4,000 young athletes, both boys and girls have participated in the academy since its inception. The academy holds clinics and camps year-round and hosted a high school and collegiate summer wood bat league. Over 500 players from the academy are participating in baseball at the high school and collegiate level. 10 players were fortunate enough to sign professional baseball contracts (Alek Thomas, AZ Diamondbacks appeared in the World Series last year). Scholarships are always available for those in needs.

The skills taught on the field at the academy, carry over in how they live their life off of the field.

Frankly, I have had the pleasure of knowing many good business owners over the last 30 years that have some great stories to tell. But all of them start with passion, pride of ownership, the guts to leave good jobs to start a business and determination to make it work!

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