By late December, professional baseball franchises have put away the bats and balls for the season. Yet during the cold winter months, thousands of youth players across the country find time to compete in showcase events outside of their normal baseball seasons, including Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s own Kolton Yeager.

Kolton Yeager bats during the 2018 All-American Games in Texas.

This past December, he traveled to Dallas, Texas, to compete in the prestigious All-American Baseball Youth games. His coach with Bad Company, youth baseball team in Oklahoma City, nominated him for the invite-only event.

Yeager, whose preferred position is catcher, faced new challenges in the All-American Games. Though age groups break down most youth sports, this particular competition brings in talented regional athletes and incorporates multiple grade levels onto each team.

“When playing regular team tournaments, Kolton is playing 11 under,” explained his mother, Stacey Bennett. “His birthday falls in June, making him the baby of his grade, and he was playing with boys that were two or three years older than him.”

According to Yeager, the practical aspects of the three showcase games he played in differed from his typical experiences with Bad Company.

“Pitchers were throwing in the upper 70s down there,” he said. “I’m used to seeing someone throw in the 60s.”

His first impressions of his teammates — who he described as “much bigger” than him — were intimidating. The fact that the ball was coming in from his pitchers ten miles an hour faster than he was used to took some adjustment.

“Once I got used to it, I liked it,” Yeager added.

The experience showed him where he needed to improve to compete successfully at a high level moving forward.

For the family, the only letdown proved to be the harsh winter chill and rain. Despite the long haul from Oklahoma to Texas in freezing temperatures, Bennett said she was happy her son experienced it. A former softball player herself, she sees the positives for her son despite the weather.

“As a parent, this is an extreme honor to see your child play at the next level of competition and receive national recognition,” Stacey said. “I played at a highly competitive level, traveling all over the United States when I was his age, and love to see him getting the same experience and meeting other boys that have the same passion and love for the game he does.”