HANNIBAL, Mo. – Jered Wegner was like any other youth baseball player.
He and his friends from his hometown of Kearney, Neb., watched the Little League World Series every summer and hoped to one day play on national television on the famed fields at Williamsport, Penn.
"We had the video game, too, that we’d play," Wegner said. "We always said we’d play there someday."
Unlike any other youth baseball player, Wegner got to do just that.
As a 12-year-old, Wegner, an outfielder for the Hannibal Hoots, played on the team from his hometown that represented the Midwest Region in the 2012 Little League World Series. His team lost its first two games, losing to the United States champion from Goodlettsville, Tenn., and another team from Fairfield, Conn. The team played against the team from Germany, who also lost its first two games of the tournament.
The results didn’t really matter to Wegner. It was about the experiences.
In his team’s opening game, they were the primetime slot to play on national television at Lamade Stadium, the same stadium where the championship games are held.
"To play in front of 18,000 fans was incredible," Wegner said. "Just to have everyone cheering for you was pretty sweet."
There were also aspects of the tournament that the televisions didn’t show. All players in the Little League World Series were housed in the team barracks. Wegner’s team shared bathrooms with the team from Curacao, and the team from Mexico was one floor under them.
There was also a game room in building where players could interact with others. Wegner played ping pong against players from the team from Japan, who ended up winning the entire tournament.
"It was really cool to meet and speak through Google Translate with other people," Wegner said. "You got to meet a lot of people."
Wegner’s biggest takeaway was the opportunities baseball could bring him.
"It made me want to pursue baseball," Wegner said. "It showed me where it could take me. That made me want to work hard because I wanted to play college baseball. That started the grind of waking up early in the morning and working hard."
Soon after returning home to Kearney, those workouts started. It turned into getting looks from several college teams and he picked to stay in state at Crieghton University, where all home games are played at TD Ameritrade Park, the home of the College World Series.
Wegner made 38 starts as a freshman this past spring, hitting .264 with six doubles, a home run and 20 RBIs.
Creighton earned the No. 2 seed in the Corvallis Regional in the NCAA Tournament, and eliminated defending national champion Oregon State on its home field.
"That was something out of a book," Wegner said. "I just took that it because it was pretty sweet."
Creighton advanced to a winner-take-all regional championship game, but fell to Michigan. The Wolverines ended up finishing runner-up after losing to Vanderbilt in a three-game series.
This summer, Wegner has been the best hitter for the Hoots. He leads Hannibal in batting average (.328), hits (39), home runs (12) and RBIs (29).
Wegner has seen baseball played at its highest level every step he’s taken during his career. He traces that back to playing in Williamsport.
"Everyone in town was talking about us," Wegner said. "To this day it was still one of the coolest things I’ve ever done."