If any teachers at Lakewood Middle School assign a summer vacation essay, Ashton Larson has a story for them. The 12-year-old Overland Park resident competed at the World Cup in Taiwan last week as part of the 12 and under U.S. national baseball team.
Last month, he competed against 110 other athletes, selected from thousands across the country, for 18 spots on the national team. They had three days to practice together as a team before heading to the U12 World Cup.
“All of the kids are like Ashton, playing on a really high level. The coaches have a lot of faith in them and put them on the field. … Each day you could see how much they improved and were gelling as a team,” said Adrienne Larson, Ashton’s mom.
It seems to have worked out well for both Ashton and his team—they won the World Cup Sunday night, beating Taiwan 7-2 in front of 11,000 fans after a very successful week of games.
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“It’s awesome to watch your son set a goal like this to be on Team USA and work every day to achieve it. To be here, when the national anthem plays for your son… it’s hard to describe how proud we are,” said Geremy Larson, Ashton’s dad.
For Ashton, it was a week full of exciting new experiences.
“You play kids from all over the world,” he said. “It’s a bigger stadium, a bigger atmosphere. There’s a lot of people and a lot of drama. There’s a group that comes to every USA game with noisemakers and cheers for us.”
A pitcher and outfielder, Ashton has been playing the game since he was 2 years old.
“My great-grandma turned on the Cubs game, and I sat a watched the entire game. It’s a just a passion,” Ashton said.
It’s not easy to make it onto such a prestigious team, and Ashton has put in a lot of time honing his skills. Although Ashton and his family live in Overland Park, he usually plays with a team called the Sandcrabs down in Texas. That means regular trips to Texas from January to July.
“It’s definitely a commitment,” said Geremy Larson. “We’re committed to helping him follow his dreams, if he’s willing to put in the work and effort, we’re happy to support that.”
He also said Ashton has gotten a lot of support from his school and the Blue Valley School District to keep on top of his studies while perfecting his sliders and fastballs.
Locally, Ashton does strength training and conditioning. He also works with a hitting coach and a pitching coach on an individual basis.
“He’s not a big kid. He doesn’t look like a superhero—except for his hair… but he doesn’t pitch like a little guy at all,” said pitching coach Mark Nussbeck, owner of Premium Pitching KC. “He’s one of those kids… that hasn’t hit puberty. He’s doing all this with sheer work ethic, mechanics and drive. … This kid has built himself into competing with the best kids in the country.”
Nussbeck, who has known Ashton for about six years, said that Ashton comes in on days when he doesn’t have a lesson just to assist with other lessons Nussbeck is giving.
“He’s way more mature. You would never know he was 12. You would never know he could throw a fastball 70 miles an hour, he has been groomed to be his own coach, to self-correct… to develop major league muscle memory. This is the tip of the iceberg for someone like Ashton,” Nussbeck said.
Ashton’s father agrees.
“The skills and lessons he’s learning will carry him through the rest of his life,” said Geremy Larson.
Ashton has higher aspirations for his burgeoning baseball career. He wants to plays baseball for Louisiana State University and hopes to be a first-round draft pick someday, just like fellow Kansas Citian Alex Lange, a Lee’s Summit West graduate who also trained with Nussbeck.