McALESTER — McAlester senior Jake Wheaton first started playing baseball when he was 4 years old. Soon after, his father Pat ran Wheaton’s coach-pitch OK Kids Baseball travel team — a team that also included future Buffs teammate Chad Meadows — and that team went 24-0.
With so much success early, it’s no wonder baseball became Wheaton’s major sport for the next 14 years.
“I’m pretty sure it was a really close game, and when we won it was really crazy,” Wheaton said Tuesday of that final OK Kids game. “I remember in the dugout all the kids were going crazy, all the dads, all the parents were going crazy.”
Wheaton was born in McAlester. He said he attended Savanna until midway through the second grade, when he transferred to McAlester Public Schools.
As he grew up, Wheaton played baseball for both Pittsburg County Little League and the Boys and Girls Club. When he had free time, he said, he’d go to Mike Deak Field to watch Tyler Crabtree, a family friend, who was a Buffs baseball star and is now a senior on the University of Central Oklahoma baseball team.
Wheaton said he still goes up to Edmond frequently to watch Crabtree play.
“He’s been a real inspiration in my life to do as best as I can,” Wheaton said of Crabtree.
“He’s pretty much re-done my hitting stance and showed me the mechanics and everything.”
Like Crabtree, Wheaton plays in the outfield. He said he switched from second base to left field as a junior, which was also his first season making varsity.
“I enjoy catching fly balls and hanging out with the outfielders,” Wheaton said. He added that he still misses second base sometimes.
Though he now plays baseball exclusively, Wheaton’s past includes several sports. He played football and wrestled as a freshman, but dropped wrestling after a brief back injury.