Tale of Kale

You can’t really define a “normal” teenager. We all go to different schools, try different activities, dedicate ourselves to different things, and lead vastly different lives. It’s a time of self-discovery and finding out what you’re passionate about. But throw in the pressures of trying to attain decent grades and a group of friends that you enjoy, and it can become difficult to find out who you are.

And that’s who Kale Stout is. A teenager.

Stout doesn’t really know what he wants to do for the rest of his life. Doesn’t know who he would ask to a dance. He tries his best to maintain the grades he needs. But if he knew one thing for sure, it would be that he loves baseball with all of his heart.

“I will play baseball til’ the day I die,” Stout said. “Truly competitively, I’ve been playing for a little more than three years. But I played for my entire life before that.”

Now, normally you could say that simply loving or playing a sport isn’t something that makes someone unique. That could be said for millions of other young adults in the United States. 35 million of them according to information gathered by USA Today. So what makes Stout so special?

I doubt many of those 35 million kids can say that they are talking about likely admission with D1 schools like the University of Utah. Or that they’ve been to far too many college showcases across the country. Or that they put in over 4 hours a week practicing with a private pitching coach, not to mention the amount of hours spent practicing with a team and on their own (enough to rival the hours of a part-time job).

And he’s not just playing for his high school, either.

“I’ve played on about four travel ball teams, and they help you talk to the big college coaches and help you through the application process. They help you get noticed.”

Getting noticed in an environment as competitive as college baseball is not an easy task. In the past two years, Stout attended and competed in so many college showcases that he has lost count. And when you’re traveling as far as Florida, the pressure is on to do well.

“I won’t have a weekend off until late November. And even then, I’ll have tournaments right up until Christmas. It’s not an easy job,” Stout said, “But at this level, If you’re serious about going on to play in college or beyond, you have to make it your job. Not just practicing every day, but every day for hours at a time. It’s the only way to become that good,”

But not all of the day-to-day pressure Stout experiences comes from within. He’s always got something riding on each game he plays. He has two older sisters, both of whom used their track and field, and now push him to do his best. The rest of his family makes sure that he has the resources to make his big dreams a reality.

“Without my family, I couldn’t be doing this. I appreciate them so much. I mean, they’re paying for it and all, but they make so many other sacrifices too. They could be going on vacations or just doing stuff for themselves, but instead they pay for me to go to these showcases.” Stout said.

And Stout has to make several sacrifices of his own.

“I don’t really get to hang out with my friends anymore. They understand, because they know that it’s not easy,” Stout said, “Whenever I get free time, which isn’t a lot, I go to hang out with them. It’s not a lot, but at least it’s something.”

In addition to rarely getting the time to interact with his friends, he also has to cut out time in his school schedule so that he can focus on getting all of his homework done in school.

With such a high-pressure schedule, plenty of kids in the same situation would give up. But even for athletes like Stout, who decide to keep going to achieve their goals, the stress can become too much to handle.

“Just the other day, I kinda broke down. I kept telling my dad, you know, ‘Something is going to snap. My back or my brain.’” Stout said, “I’ve definitely had those moments where I’ve thought about quitting. There have been times where I’ve been doing horribly, or not playing at all. But in the end it’s always my family that picks me back up. And then I have my coaches that I know are there for me, and I thank them every day for that. But even with all of that support, it’s still tough. You’re always going to hit a low. One of those times where you keep asking yourself why you keep doing this.”

And even when those times come, Stout is ready to keep pushing himself along.

“It was the first tournament that I went to. I got an evaluation back that said I would never play any higher of a level than high school. I saw that, and after I had thought I’d play so well, they basically told me that I was garbage. I was absolutely ready to just drop it then and there,” Stout said, “But looking back, it’s such a huge confidence booster for me. I have improved so much since then.”

At every turn, Stout’s family has been there to support and encourage him through his trials and fuel his ambitions.

“[My siblings] have always been so supportive. They always tell me that it’s a grind doing this kind of stuff, and there’s a reason that they call it a grind. It is such a challenge. It’s more mental than it is physical.”

The mental grind is very evident on the baseball field, where Stout had to adapt his game in order to advance his career.

“On the baseball field, things are never going to go your way. That’s the game. That’s just the way things are. It’s taught me to be patient. To be calm. You have to learn to deal with adversity,” Kale said, “If you have an outburst now, coaches will ignore you, because they know you wouldn’t be able to handle better competition and more stressful situations than the ones you face now. That’s changed me so much as a person.”

Stout owes his success, in part, to his father, who has helped him in every way since day one. As a baseball player in high school, he helps Stout through the day to day problems an ambitious athlete faces.

“He always tells me that no matter how tough it gets now, when I look back later on down the road, I’m going to be glad that I kept moving. And I know that he’s right. I know I’m a stronger person because of all of this,” Stout said.

And their mutual love of the game has given Stout an even greater appreciation for what his father does.

“I look up to my dad. He’s the one that’s making all of this possible for me. Sometimes I rarely see him because he’s working so hard. But he’s provided everything for me. Without him, I couldn’t do any of this.”

And through each and every challenge, Stout continues to press on, never letting the pressure get him out, and always fighting to keep playing the game he grew up with.

“I love baseball, and I’m going to keep playing until someone forces me to stop.”

No, there’s no such thing as a “normal” teenager. And for Kale Stout, that’s a good thing. Because he doesn’t have the most normal life. What Kale does have is dedication. He has prowess. He has ups, he has downs, and he knows where he wants to go in his life. And he’ll love baseball until the day he dies.