EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another installment in our ‘Welcome To The League’ series, which profiles young players across the South Central League and their adjustments to amateur baseball
SCOTLAND — Teeners.
That was the last time Braxton Schmidt took the field in a baseball game.
Five years ago.
Talk about a hiatus.
A 2019 Freeman High School graduate, the 19-year-old Schmidt had certainly kept busy with other athletic endeavors, but it’s just that baseball wasn’t one of them.
When an opportunity arose to join his hometown’s amateur baseball team, he jumped.
“I always liked baseball,” said Schmidt, who will be a sophomore at the University of South Dakota this fall. “I wanted to play sports again.
“I don’t really get that chance at USD, but the fire is still there.”
When a handful of Freeman’s amateur baseball players stepped away from the game after last summer, manager Jake Weier approached Schmidt with an intriguing thought: There are going to be plenty of open spots.
“I thought it’d be a good time for me to play again,” Schmidt said.
He’s far from alone in that desire.
Schmidt is one of five amateur baseball newcomers for the Freeman Black Sox this summer, along with Dalton Bodewitz, Trey Christensen, Jackson Fiegen and Bailey Sage.
They’ve collectively brought a youthful spark to a Black Sox squad that is looking to turn a corner this season in the South Central League.
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The hiatus for Dalton Bodewitz isn’t nearly the same length as his friend’s, Braxton Schmidt, was, but it was still enough time for him to really miss the game.
Bodewitz, a 20-year-old Freeman High School graduate, played legion baseball for a Menno/Scotland team two summers ago and was then picked up by Freeman’s amateur team for the district tournament.
He then took last summer off, but has returned to the game.
“I’ve always loved baseball,” Bodewitz said. “When I was growing up, I did every sport imaginable.”
The idea of rejoining a former teammate like Schmidt was also something that sparked Bodewitz’s interest in playing baseball again, he said.
“We always had good chemistry,” Bodewitz said. “We ran track together and had some pretty good success.”
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For only being 19 years old, Jackson Fiegen has already seen plenty of high quality baseball in his career.
The Sioux Falls native began his American Legion career with Sioux Falls West, but then joined the Parker squad during his junior year at Parker High School. When Parker didn’t field a team last summer, Fiegen played with McCook/Miner.
He’s now at the amateur level with Freeman.
“It’s a whole different dynamic,” Fiegen said.
Not only on the field, but off.
The children seen running around during legion games were usually siblings of players, but now they’re Fiegen’s teammates’ children. The jokes in the dugout are all different now, as well.
“You can about imagine,” Fiegen joked.
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Trey Christensen isn’t exactly brand new to the world of amateur baseball.
While he was playing American Legion ball for Parker two years ago, he — along with Fiegen — was picked up by the Lennox Reds for their amateur district tournament. Christensen was then picked up by Harrisburg for the state tournament.
“I got the feel of it,” said Christensen, a 19-year-old who graduated from Parker High School in 2019.
Having played baseball since his T-ball days, Christensen was interested in finding an amateur home, and he did so with Freeman — the closest team for him.
“I like it a lot,” Christensen said. “I like the competition and it’s a fun atmosphere.”
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When he was playing Teeners baseball in Freeman as a youth, Bailey Sage would often hear his coaches jokingly say they hoped to be able to one day play on the same team as Sage and some of his teammates.
Sage had the same thought.
“I always thought it’d be fun to play with these guys,” he said.
One of those former coaches, Jake Weier, is now the player/manager for Freeman’s amateur baseball team, and this summer, Sage is one of the guys.
A 2019 Freeman High School graduate, the 18-year-old Sage played American Legion baseball for Yankton Post 12 last summer.
He’s now surrounded by older players at the amateur level. Although there’s certainly a difference in the experience level, Sage said the jump from legions to amateurs hasn’t been too much of a culture shock for him.
“It’s more offspeed stuff, it seems like,” he said. “The guys are still writing the book on you; they’re figuring you out.”
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