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Outlaws' Carter Mize uses baseball to bond with 9-year-old player

Jun. 4—On Saturday at Joe Becker Stadium, many boys and girls were seen around the ballpark.

One of those was 9-year-old Jax Reed of St. Louis. Reed and his parents, Jeff and Michelle, came to Joplin because of a connection made with one of the Joplin Outlaws over the past year or so.

That Outlaw is first baseman Carter Mize, a 2022 graduate of Missouri Baptist University in Creve Coeur, a suburb of St. Louis. Prior to MBU, Mize attended St. Charles Community College of Cottleville, Missouri.

Since graduating, Mize has worked in the St. Louis area giving private hitting lessons to players — one of whom is Jax.

"Ever since he started giving me lessons, I've been really close to him, and he's been a good role model for me," Jax said. "He's making me better and better every lesson."

Mize didn't realize he'd have fans in town this past weekend.

"They surprised me and came down here. It was awesome," Mize said. "I'm glad they came down."

Even for Jax, it was a bit of a surprise. He competes during the summer and just happened to have a weekend off while the Outlaws were in Joplin and not playing even farther from St. Louis, in Arkansas or Texas.

So his father just asked: "Do you want to go watch Carter?"

Jeff Reed said Jax was "all smiles."

Mize grew up in Dardenne Prairie, Missouri, and this is his first summer with the Outlaws. He said he grew up loving the game of baseball, which is how he found his way to Joplin to be a part of this summer league. The love is so strong he doesn't even get away from the game when it comes to work.

"I give hitting lessons all throughout the winter. I like to call that my big boy job and this (Outlaws) is my summer fun job, I guess," he said.

That love is seen by others in the way he works at his job and on the field.

"He's just a great guy. And I like his work ethic. I think Jax getting to see his work ethic on the field aside from what he teaches him in the cage, is a big deal," Michelle Reed said.

Mize has produced during the early parts of the season for the 6-3 Outlaws. He is 7 for 24 with nine RBIs and 11 walks. He's currently slashing .292/.541/.542 through eight games played. Mize has hit two home runs and delivered one on Sunday evening at home. He's committed just two errors for a fielding percentage of .970 to this point.

Jax's dad is the head coach of the baseball team at Pacific High School in Pacific, Missouri, southwest of St. Louis. As a high school coach, Jeff Reed has to be confident in his own knowledge and ability to teach the game. So it isn't easy to choose someone else to teach his child the game he already teaches to others.

"Having someone to trust with your son to teach him the same things you would teach him" is the main thing, he said. "Carter definitely does that. Sometimes my son is a little hardheaded and doesn't want to listen to me, so I can trust Carter is teaching him what I would teach him and my son will listen to him a little better."

Jeff Reed added that he can see Carter relating to Jax "really well." He also notices how Jax walks away from lessons with a smile on his face.

Mize hasn't taken the role of being a teacher and role model lightly. Here's what he had to say about the connection he developed over the winter months that led to the Reed family driving four hours to Joplin to watch him play baseball: "It's cool. Shows me I'm making a difference in the kids' lives. Now that I'm a tick older, I realize it's not about me all the time. It's about influencing the next generation of baseball players. Getting kids out to the ballpark and giving them baseballs and making them love the game like I love the game. I want to be a role model for those kids as best I can."

Jax said he finds Carter's "summer fun job" to be cool.

"It's pretty neat because I've never seen anyone I know play in a college game before," Jax said.