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Baseball: Yeatman's cool demeanor awards him POY honors

Seth Yeatman was a statistical leader all year at the plate for the Wingers. He led the team in hits, RBI, home runs, batting average, slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging. He also only struck out three times in 87 at bats. Jake Pfeifer / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Seth Yeatman of Red Wing was named the 2018 Republican Eagle Baseball Player of the Year. Jake Pfeifer / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
Yeatman was no slouch in the field as he started the year at third base and due to team needs, was switched to shorstop midway through the season. He finished the year with a .897 fielding percentage. Jake Pfeifer / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

At 10 p.m. on June 5, in the second game of a doubleheader — the Section 1AAA baseball championship no less — Seth Yeatman was called upon to get Red Wing out of a bases-loaded jam with no one out while holding a two-run lead. Yeatman did exactly what he had all season for the Wingers, come up big in the game's biggest moments. He proceeded to get nine of the 10 batters he faced out and punched Red Wing's ticket to the state tournament.

In what was already a great season for Yeatman, he followed up the act by going 8-for-11 with two doubles, six RBI and three runs scored in the state tournament.

If there is one thing for certain, it's that no moment is too large for him and pressure situations may actually make him a better player — earning him recognition as the 2018 Republican Eagle Player of the Year.

Yeatman takes pride in his calm and collected demeanor on the field and it hasn't gone unnoticed by his coaches and teammates.

"I feel like every team needs somebody that isn't too hyped up in that big moment," said Yeatman. "I feel like I'm that person on our team to do that. When I go in the batter's box or on the mound, I just think to myself that I'm the best player on the field."

"One thing about Seth, he doesn't get too high or too low," said Red Wing head coach Paul Hartmann. "A lot of times with pressure situations guys can get too high or too low, but Seth's the kind of guy that just keeps that even-keeled mentality."

You'd think that with Yeatman's comfortability on the field that everything came naturally to him. And while he acknowledges that fielding has come naturally to him throughout years of practice, hitting was a major struggle early on in his varsity career.

"When I first started varsity in 10th grade, I couldn't hit the ball at all," said Yeatman. "Before then, I used to hit the crap out of the ball but right when I got to varsity, I couldn't hit."

While it was certainly frustrating for him in that first season, his mentality as a player and a person made it a short learning curve.

With one year under his belt, he started to get acclimated to the challenge of facing varsity pitching. He worked hard on his hitting during the summer and went to the batting cages to hone his craft.

By his junior season, he raised his batting average to .343 and drove in 12 runs. This year, he sported an impressive .379 average and hit .500 with runners in scoring position to lead the team with 22 RBI.

All-around talent

Once his hitting reached a high level to match his fielding abilities, Yeatman became the all-around player that baseball teams crave.

"He was our best two-way player," Hartmann said. "Seth could literally play any position on the field. There's not too many high school athletes that you could say that about."

Yeatman wasn't surprised by Hartmann's comments because of the pride he has in his defensive ability. While fielding has come more naturally to him, it's not as though he hasn't put the work in to improve. And with the effort has come the supreme confidence that he can perform at a high level no matter where he sets up on the field.

But it's not just the on-field talent Yeatman possesses that puts him ahead of the crop. It all comes back to the demeanor with which he composes himself, and the personality he displays in the dugout and during practices.

"I definitely think leadership-wise I've grown a lot," said Yeatman. "Having Hartmann, (Kyle) Blahnik and Guetzy (Chris Guetzlaff) as coaches has definitely influenced me to be a more vocal leader than just a guy to lead by example."

As Yeatman grew as a leader, the team's chemistry flourished as well. While team chemistry is nearly impossible to measure, it's difficult to ignore how much better a baseball team plays when the players are relaxed and having fun. Making two straight appearances to the state tournament, the Wingers couldn't have had much more fun on the field.

But the moments off the field or at practices are the ones that Yeatman said he will cherish the most. The same could be said for his teammates and coaches as well.

"He wore some questionable shorts often times to practice," Hartmann said. "We would have what we call 'State Fair practices,' where we'd go cut-offs and shorts. Seth would wear probably adult small and he should probably be wearing adult large or XL."

"They weren't really necessarily tight shorts," Yeatman responded laughing. "I wore normal shorts but rolled them up about 5-6 inches. It's just letting guys know that you got to have fun. You can't be afraid to be yourself and just have fun playing the game."

And that is where Hartmann can see the full culmination of Yeatman's growth. After coaching him in eighth-grade football and basketball, 10th-grade basketball, and now three years of varsity baseball, he's seen the highs and lows of Yeatman's athletic career.

"I honestly can't put into words how Hartmann has helped me through anything the last three years," Yeatman said. "We definitely have a different kind of bond and it's different than any other player/coach relationship that I've had."

"I've known Seth a long time. To see him have the type of senior year that he's had after what he's been through throughout his career in Red Wing is pretty rewarding as a coach," Hartmann added. "I'm just really proud of how he's grown off the field and the steps that he's taken in the classroom and as a person."

Jake Pfeifer

Jake Pfeifer is a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, which encompasses the Hastings Star Gazette, Farmington-Rosemount Independent Town Pages, South Washington County Bulletin and Woodbury Bulletin. He previously worked as a sports reporter and outdoors editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and as a multimedia artist/editor for Detroit Lakes Newspapers.

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