Nolan Horton has found a home in center field for Cheyenne Post 6

Apr. 13—CHEYENNE — Nolan Horton's bat bag is a little bit lighter this season.

"I used to carry around a first baseman's glove, an infield glove and an outfield glove," he said. "Now, I only have my outfield glove."

Horton grew up rotating between all four infield spots and didn't expect to play outfield during his first season on Cheyenne American Legion Post 6's varsity squad. However, the Sixers had a plethora of infielders and needs in the outfield while still wanting to get Horton's bat in the lineup.

"We saw his athletic ability and thought he could do well out there," Cheyenne manager Ty Lain said. "After a while, he was probably the best guy we had out there."

Horton will again be patrolling center field when the Sixers open their season against the Colorado Travelers at 3 p.m. today at Powers Field.

"It was a whole new thing when it came to reading how hard the ball was hit and balls moving completely differently than I was used to," Horton said. "Because of how windy it is in Cheyenne, some balls move a lot. It was a big change, but it was fun.

"You have to know how far it's going to go left or right and how deep it's going. It was a huge change and took some time for me to truly figure out. I eventually got it down."

The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder was part of an outfield rotation that expected to see Julian Romero playing center once he finished his freshman season at the University of Jamestown in North Dakota. Romero spent a few games there upon his return, but Cheyenne eventually settled on Romero in left, Horton in center and Corey Williams in right.

"As the season got going and (Horton) got more reps, he expanded his range with better jumps and breaks on balls and started covering more ground," Lain said. "By the end of the summer, I thought he was one of the best outfielders in the state, if not the best."

The speed that helps Horton make difficult catches look routine in the outfield also helped Post 6 reach the semifinals of last summer's American Legion World Series.

Horton drove home Cheyenne's first run of a win over reigning national champion Troy, Alabama, by beating out a potentially game-ending double play in the seventh inning. He moved to second when pinch hitter Braden Pearson was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Horton scored from second when Kaed Coates pushed a two-run single through the right side of the infield for a 3-2 lead. Horton slid headfirst and got his left hand across home plate just ahead of the tag from Troy's catcher.

The Sixers held on for the 3-2 win and advanced to the semifinals where they fell to eventual runner-up Lincoln (East), Nebraska, 2-1.

Horton finished the season batting .291 (55-of-189) with seven doubles and 38 RBI.

"For my first season seeing varsity pitching, I thought I did pretty well offensively," said Horton, who is finishing his junior year at Cheyenne East. "I was pretty good at the beginning of the season, had a slump in the middle of the season and figured it out by the end.

"I had to figure out what approach fit me and what worked best. I got too much into my own head. I started trying to be loose and relaxed when I got into the box. Once I start having more fun and stop thinking as much is when I usually do better."

Horton's even-keeled demeanor helped him consistently contribute for Cheyenne, Lain said. No matter how he was swinging the bat, the Sixers knew they could count on his glove.

Superstition meant that glove — and Horton's hat and sunglasses — had to be in a precise location in the dugout while Cheyenne was hitting during the postseason.

"I'm definitely superstitious. It's just part of my personality," Horton said with a smile. "When my slump started, I had just gotten a new leg guard and I thought that's why I wasn't hitting well. I started putting that leg guard on first and then putting my elbow guard on second, and that's when I started hitting again.

"I've kept putting on my leg guard and then my elbow guard ever since. I also sat in the same spot in the dugout because we seemed to do better when I was there. If someone was sitting there, I'd kick them out."

Lain has seen his fair share of superstitious players during a lifetime around baseball. There's a simple explanation for it, he said.

"The results of the game are so uncontrollable that it makes you want to control what you can control," the skipper said. "That's why you have guys so focused on processes and routines. Nolan is a guy that sticks to his routines, whether that's what he does to get ready offensively or where he puts his glove in the dugout.

"That's the mark of a baseball player, and he's stuck with his processes and turned himself into a great baseball player."

Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at or 307-633-3137. Follow him on X at @jjohnke.