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Bat boy uses dugout as classroom

The Powell Pioneers are considered a young baseball team.

With just one player ineligible to return to the team next year, many of this year’s players had room to grow and improve.

Cale Wright, 9, isn’t quite old enough to play for Powell’s American Legion team, but if he ever dons the Pioneers’ orange and black, expect him to be ahead of the learning curve.

The little brother of current Pioneers first baseman Bryce Wright has taken advantage of his days as Powell’s bat boy to pick up a thing or two from the older players. Bryce said Cale is learning “the plays that we do, what the coaches like, what they expect out of him. I think it will help him if he goes on and plays.”

Cale’s duties are simple. “Just go retrieve the bat,” he explained. But his rewards are great.

“When you get older you might not know that stuff,” he said. “But you’ll remember (what you’ve learned).”

Pioneers head coach Jason Borders said Cale is quiet but his love for baseball is obvious.

“He’s a good kid,” Borders said. “He’s not there just to be in the way. He takes it pretty seriously.”

Bryce said he enjoys seeing his brother have a huge smile on his face during games.

“He’s having a good time,” Bryce said.

Cale plays Little League baseball in Greybull, where his family lives. Since Greybull doesn’t have its own American Legion team, Bryce plays for Powell, which has, of course, made Cale a fan.

As a shortstop in the Minors Division, Cale excels on defense, but hopes to apply the lessons learned from the Pioneers to his offensive game next Little League season. His time in the Pioneers’ dugout has taught him “not to be a first-pitch swinger,” he said at Roughrider Stadium in Gillette Friday.

Borders said he still struggles to get his players to be patient at the plate.

“I don’t even know if we really understand approaches,” Borders said.

So if Cale can learn that now, that will be hugely beneficial to him in the long run.

“If he’s a confident enough batter that he can have a strike on him, then it’s only going to be better for him as he goes along,” Borders said.

Listening to Powell’s coaches chirp at players about infield defense, a problem area for the Pioneers, “(I’ve) learned to throw it hard to first, not to baby it,” Cale said.

Bryce said being around Powell’s team will especially help Cale if he ends up playing for the Pioneers.

Of course, Cale admires the big leaguers as well. Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies is Cale’s favorite player on his favorite team. The four-time 20-home run, 20-stolen base All-Star is an elite offensive player, though Cale is quick to point out the two-time Gold Glove winner’s defensive skills.

“And a good outfielder,” Cale says, proving his attention to all facets of the game.

Watching experienced players, at both the major league or high school level, can teach a young ballplayer about how to play the game, but by immersing himself into the team, Cale has learned how to handle being in a competitive dugout.

Cale said he likes the atmosphere of the dugout, and has learned how to change his behavior depending on the mood.

Sometimes it’s loud, especially when the Pioneers are winning.

“Gage (Henderson) and Zander (Andreasen) usually cheer,” Cale said. “It gives (other players) more confidence.”

But other times it can be a pretty solemn place.

“Most people don’t really talk unless they have a big hit,” Cale said.

That’s when other players step up to encourage their teammates.

“Most of the time they say, ‘You can get ’em next time,’” Cale said, noting that assistant coach Mike Jameson is always “really confident in the team.”

Bryce said his teammates took a liking to Cale over the course of the season.

“Cale’s pretty shy so the first couple games he didn’t say much,” Bryce said. “But after that he started talking more and getting used to the kids (Pioneers players). They just talk to him and make him feel like he’s a part of the team.”

Borders said baseball can teach someone more than just how to field a grounder or lay down a bunt.

“There’s life lessons in that dugout, whether it’s how to lose gracefully,” Borders said. “It’s such a roller coaster throughout the game.”

Cale is often a fly on the wall, a position that allows him to pick up on many valuable lessons he wouldn’t get watching games from the bleachers. But, if you’re looking at it from a parents’ point-of-view, that might not always be a good thing.

When asked about some of the things he overhears in the dugout, Cale’s face breaks into a guilty, knowing smile before quickly muscling it away. Not wanting to get into specifics, Cale simply said players will sometimes react to poor performances with “cuss words.”

But Bryce isn’t too worried. He said Cale knows right and wrong, and when words are and aren’t appropriate.

Cale’s favorite game of the 2013 season was Powell’s 4-2 division-clinching win against the Cody Cubs July 20.

“We were down by two and just came back,” he recalled.

The memories, whether they help Cale as a player or not, seem to be what matter most to him. While having a team-full of role models and teachers will certainly benefit Cale the baseball player, it could have a greater impact on Cale the boy.

Even Cale hinted the baseball might be secondary, because as he put it, what he really wants to do as bat boy is “just to hang out with them.”

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