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Dan Ninham
Special to ICT

Vincent Walker’s love of baseball got him to the first-ever Native American All-Star Baseball Showcase in Atlanta this year as one of the top 50 Indigenous high school baseball players in the country.

But playing in a Major League Baseball stadium before an adoring crowd may keep him going.

“It was honestly a dream come true,” Walker, 18, a citizen of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma who is also of Arapaho and Tonkawa descent, told ICT. “Every day going to the stadium was mind blowing — how big it was and thinking of who all played on that field.”

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Walker, 2022 graduate of El Reno High School in El Reno, Oklahoma, who wore #22 as a shortstop for the red team in the showcase game, said he plans to continue his education and his baseball.

“This made me want to continue playing baseball even more and have more love for the game,” he said. “Being on that big of a field and having that big of a crowd would be cool to see and to play in front of.”

The first-ever Native American All-Star Baseball Showcase was hosted by the Atlanta Braves and the 7G Foundation on July 16-17, 2022, at Truist Park in Atlanta. Fifty Indigenous high school athletes participate in the showcase, which is aimed at top players who are looking to play at the next level. (Logo illustration courtesy of the Atlanta Braves)

The showcase was hosted July 16-17 by the Atlanta Braves at their home stadium, Truist Park, in partnership with the 7G Foundation. It was the first of its kind to allow Indigenous high school athletes to play in a major league stadium and work with major league personnel.

The showcase was also an opportunity for the Braves — whose lineup includes All-Star pitcher Ryan Helsley of the Cherokee Nation — to focus attention on up-and-coming Indigenous athletes. The team continues to draw controversy over its name and the so-called “tomahawk chop.”

The athletes represented more than 35 tribes from 13 states and from Canada who want to play the game at the next level.

Scouts from the Braves, the University of Tennessee, Georgia State University, Savannah State University, South Georgia State College, Mercer University, and Emory University attended the showcase, and former MLB players Marquis Grissom, Johnny Estrada, Marvin Freeman and Lou Collier coached the teams.

“7G greatly appreciates our partnership with the Atlanta Braves on the Native American All-Star Baseball Showcase,” said Bennae Calac, president and founder of the 7G Foundation, an organization of entrepreneurs, coaches and tribal leaders working to build the next seven generations of Native leaders.

“This is another opportunity to recognize young athletes throughout Indian Country and help them reach the next level,” Calac said in a press release prior to the event.

In addition to Walker, several other athletes who attended shared their thoughts with ICT about the showcase and their plans for the future.

Fifty Indigenous high school baseball players participated in the first-ever Native American All-Star Baseball Showcase on July 16-17, 2022 at Truist Park in Atlanta. The showcase, aimed at top players who are looking to play at the next level, was hosted by the Atlanta Braves and the 7G Foundation. (Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Braves)

Gage Lewis

Gage Lewis is a citizen of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians who will be a senior this fall at Choctaw Central High School in Choctaw, Mississippi.

He wore #16 to play center field for the red team, and had a stand-out game.

“My performance during this event was pretty amazing,” Lewis told ICT. “I played ball like it was just another day and the experience during this event was pretty outstanding. It felt like a dream. I couldn’t believe I was getting an opportunity to play on a Major League Baseball stadium in front of former MLB players along with them coaching.”

The showcase gave him the boost he needed to play baseball at a higher level, he said.

“I plan on attending college after high school and play baseball,” he said. “It influenced me that I need to work hard in everything I do because someone is always watching and I might not notice it.”

Braylon Smith

Braylon Smith, 17, is also a citizen of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and will also be a senior at Choctaw Central High School in Choctaw, Mississippi. He wore #14 and played infield for the red team in the showcase game.

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“The event was a wonderful time to be a part of,” Smith told ICT. “I got to meet some amazing new people and friends, had a fun time playing alongside and against some. It just felt like we were all one big family.”

He’s aiming for the big leagues but is also keeping his options open.

“The least I can say is that I played on a big league field,” he said. “I want to be in the major leagues but I also have a backup plan to become a physical therapist just to stay in being a part of the sports world.”

Kashton Grisham

Kashton Grisham, 18, is also a citizen of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and a graduate of Choctaw Central High School in Choctaw, Mississippi. He wore #17 and played right field for the red team in the showcase.

“This is a once-in-a-life opportunity,” Grisham told ICT. “Although I didn’t have my best of days on the diamond, I did enjoy the experience. Getting to know more people around the country and see what their background is [was] very cool.”

“My plans for the future have stayed the same. I have learned that even though I may not be still playing the game, doesn’t mean I have to leave the game, he said. “Hopefully one day I’ll come to work for a major league team on the business side.”

Fifty Indigenous high school baseball players participated in the first-ever Native American All-Star Baseball Showcase on July 16-17, 2022, at Truist Park in Atlanta. The showcase, aimed at top players who are looking to play at the next level, was hosted by the Atlanta Braves and the 7G Foundation. (Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Braves)

Corben House

Corben House, 16, a citizen of the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin, will be a senior at Dunseith Public High School in Dunseith, North Dakota. The high school is 10 miles west of the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota.

He wore #33 and played shortstop for the blue team in the showcase game.

“I feel confident that I did my best,” House told ICT. “This was a great and an awesome experience and I want to thank the 7G Foundation and the Atlanta Braves for this opportunity and welcoming us. I also want to thank everyone in my community who supported me and cheered me on from home.”

His parents, Corben and Jolene House, joined him at the showcase.

“I had a great time with my parents,” he said. “I also made some new friends, now new relatives from all over Indian Country. It was pretty cool being able to meet new people and learn about where they are from and how their reservation or where they live is different from where I live. It was great … especially to play inside a Major League baseball park. It was very exciting.”

He plans to attend school to become heating, ventilation and air conditioning technician, but he is also keeping his eye on baseball.

“I would be very grateful to receive an offer to play baseball, especially coming from the small town of Dunseith,” he said. “This showcase has motivated me to put more work in because there is always room for improvement. I want the best of my ability to shine through to play in the next level after high school. I am ready for whatever life has to offer me and I will take it graciously”

Dante Turgeon

Dante Turgeon, 18, is a citizen of the Rosebud Sioux. He is a graduate of Benjamin Franklin High School in Gilbert, Arizona, and wore #30 in the showcase and played third base for the blue team.

“I went 1 for 1 in the game,” Turgeon told ICT. “Was the only player to hit a home run during batting practice, and I hit two. It was a great experience for me to learn more about my tribe and people since I am in Arizona and not close to my tribes’ state in South Dakota.”

He already has an academic scholarship to Arizona State University and has been offered a roster spot for baseball. But he, too, is keeping his options open.

“I will be majoring in sports business,” he said. “This event influenced my future plans because it made my desire to play professional baseball grow even more. I would like to experience playing a major league game in Truist Park again someday.”

All-Star Showcase Roster
Here are the athletes, by state or nation, who participated in the Native American All-Star Baseball Showcase, held July 16-17 in Atlanta at Truist Park, home of the Atlanta Braves.
Alabama
*Mason Johnston, Berwick High School, Poarch Creek Indians, Alabama
Arizona
*Touron Dick, Winslow High School, Navajo, Arizona
*Caden Royer, Highland High School, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Arizona
*Zylen Silas-Antone, Sherman Indian High School, Ak-Chin Indian Community, Arizona
*Dante Turgeon, Benjamin Franklin High School, Sioux (Rosebud), Arizona
California
*William Eagleton, Great Oak High School, Pala Band of Mission Indians, California
*Manuel La Chappa III, Ramona High School, Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians, California
*Raymond Motas, Rancho Bernardo High School, Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians, California
*Evin Padilla, EL Capitan High School, Barona Band of Mission Indians, California
*Jaylin Padilla, EL Capitan High School, Barona Band of Mission Indians, California
*Baia-Ku RedHawk, Lower Lake High School, Elem Indian Colony, California
Mississippi
*Kethan Anderson, Choctaw Central High School, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Mississippi
*Dominic Bell, Newton Country High School, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Mississippi
*Cameron Farmer, Riverside Indian School, Choctaw, Mississippi
*Kashton Grisham, Choctaw Central High School, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Mississippi
*Andre'as Jim, Choctaw Central High School, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Mississippi
*Gage Lewis, Choctaw Central High School, Mississippi band of Choctaw Indians, Mississippi
*Teyton Nickey, Choctaw Central High School, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Mississippi
*Braylon Smith, Choctaw Central High School, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Mississippi
Montana
*Donovyn Headswift, Hellgate High School, Northern Cheyenne/ Lakota, Montana
Nevada
*Justin Jose, Basic Academy, Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians, Nevada
New Mexico
*Elijah Juanico, West Mesa High School, Acoma/Jemez/Santa Ana Pueblos, New Mexico
*Gabriel Lomayestewa, Santa Fe High School, Cochiti Pueblo/ Hopi, New Mexico
*Kyle Suina, Santa Fe Indian School, Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico
North Carolina
*Jacob Chavis, Purnell Swett High School, Lumbee, North Carolina
*Malachi Gales, Fairmont High School, Lumbee, North Carolina
*Bitiste Pepion, Cherokee Central Schools, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, North Carolina
*Cavan Reed, Cherokee High School, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, North Carolina
North Dakota
*Braeden Grant, Turtle Mountain High School, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, North Dakota
*Evan Grant, Turtle Mountain High School, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, North Dakota
*Corben House, Dunseith Public School, Oneida, North Dakota
*Louis Monette, Turtle Mountain High School, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, North Dakota
Oklahoma
*Madaxon Aunko, Collinsville High School, Choctaw/Kiowa, Oklahoma
*Hayden Barnett, Sequoyah-Tahlequah High School, Cherokee, Oklahoma
*Jay (Max) Bushyhead, Mannford High School, Cherokee, Oklahoma
*Daxton Hembree, Westville High School, Cherokee, Oklahoma
*Bryson Kelley, Drumright High School, Cherokee, Oklahoma
*Twine Palmer, Kiowa High School, Choctaw, Oklahoma
*Jaggar Smith, Broken Bow High School, Choctaw Nation, Oklahoma
*Logan Smith, Rattan High School, Choctaw, Oklahoma
*Vincent Walker, El Reno High School, Seminole Nation, Oklahoma
South Dakota
*Haedyn Haas, Red Cloud High School, Three Affiliated Tribes, South Dakota
*Davonte Ross, Lakota Tech High School, Oglala Lakota/Flandreau Santee/Oglala Sioux, South Dakota
Washington
*Nate Bailey, La Conner High School, Swinomish/MHA, Washington
Wisconsin
*George Bruette, Menominee Indian High School, Three Affiliated Tribes, Wisconsin
*Laliwa Delgado, Bay Port High School, Oneida Nation, Wisconsin
*Bryce Dixon, Menominee Indian High School, Menominee, Wisconsin
*Lyndon Greengrass, Black River Falls High School, Ho-Chunk Nation, Wisconsin
Canada
*Tyresse Eagletail, Many Horses High School, Tsuu Tina Nation, Calgary Alberta Canada

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