With a population fewer than 500, not much happens in the sleepy northwest Oklahoma town of Leedey. However, Citizen Potawatomi Nation tribal member Drew Ward brought excitement with his athleticism. He began his professional baseball career immediately after graduating high school in 2013 when the Washington Nationals chose him as a third round draft pick, giving his hometown a reason to celebrate.
“I got drafted as soon as I turned 18, so I had to grow up really quick,” Ward said. “But growing up in Leedey, Oklahoma, and getting to play professional baseball, this is a really awesome blessing for sure.”
Ward credits his father Gregg’s insight and the unwavering support from his family as the keys to his success.
“My dad was a professional baseball player. He knew what I needed to do to get seen by scouts, and it helped me out a ton,” he explained.
Today, Ward plays for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks out of Fargo, North Dakota, and calls the Oklahoma City metro home. When he is not playing or training, he spends his free time with loved ones and his fiancée Cassandra. Fargo is a 12-hour drive away from his home, but Ward finds a way to balance his career and relationships by keeping his priorities in line.
“At least five months of the year, I’m pretty much gone, but once I’m home, I try to spend all my time with family,” Ward said.
Up to bat
Ward began playing baseball at an early age, and he worked hard throughout high school to hone his craft as a shortstop and now first and third baseman.
According to an article published by Perfect Game in 2011, “Drew Ward is a 6-foot-4, 200-pound primary shortstop who has impressed college coaches from across the country and the professional scouting community with a skill level that seem well beyond his 16 years.”
While playing for the Leedey Bisons, he experienced a once-in-a-lifetime moment during the Oklahoma State Class B Tournament.
“I had a walk-off home run in the first round, and I mean, that’s probably been the coolest moment of my baseball career,” Ward said.
Although he now plays professionally, Leedey residents have not forgotten Ward and his talents.
“They’re happy for me. I always try to get in touch with as many people as I can. They always keep up with me, and they seem to be really, really proud of me,” he said of his hometown.
Growing up in northwest Oklahoma away from CPN headquarters made connecting to his Potawatomi culture as a youth difficult, but he feels a sense of honor for the opportunity to represent fellow Native Americans while playing America’s favorite pastime.
“People come up to me and ask what I am. They think that I’m Spanish, and I do speak some Spanish, but I tell them, ‘No, I’m Native American.’ And they say, ‘Oh, we don’t see very many Native Americans,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I know. I’m pretty proud,’” Ward said.
He hopes his career opens the door for more Native American professional athletes.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from, anything is possible,” Ward said. “Always go out … try and be better than anyone else, and keep going.”
His main career goal is to play for a Major League Baseball team, but until then, Ward takes every opportunity to learn and grow.
“I’m playing minor league right now, and I’ve had a few injuries that have set me back,” he said. “I’m still only 25, and I still have a lot more years to come.”
To learn more about the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and Ward’s 2020 season, visit fmredhawks.com.