FIRTH, Neb. (BVM) — Baseball players like Kale Fountain don’t come around too often.
Most of the time, eighth graders are hoping to become good enough to compete for a spot on the varsity team when they reach ninth grade. But this 14-year-old from Lincoln, Nebraska caught the attention of a powerhouse Division I college program before he’s even played an inning at the high school level.
Fountain, who will be a freshman at Norris High School in the fall, committed to Florida State University in early May, and in doing so became the first FSU player that has been offered and accepted a scholarship without even making a visit to campus.
The early decision not only helps paint a picture of how much potential Fountain possesses as a player, it also speaks to the strong relationship that he built with Seminoles recruiting coordinator and assistant coach Mike Metcalf.
“The more and more I kept talking to coach, the more I felt comfortable with it,” said Fountain, who took a three-hour virtual tour of the school and baseball program and plans to take a trip to Tallahassee once in-person recruiting restrictions are lifted. “It got to the point where if I got an offer, I’d be ready, and that’s what happened.”
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the 6-foot-3, 185-pound, two-way standout was ready to make the decision. According to his father, Mike Fountain, Kale has always been ahead of the game.
“He was always a bigger kid,” Mike said, “and had from a baseball standpoint he was always able to do things from an early age, so we always kind of thought he had the ability to be a really good baseball player.”
FSU projects Kale to be an impact player at the plate and on the mound. He swings a big bat as a corner infielder/outfielder who’s already launched over 40 home runs as a youth, and his fastball velocity already sits in the low-to-mid 80s. Kale said he put on 15-20 pounds last offseason and bumped that velocity up from the mid 70s.
“I think I’m just going to keep putting on weight,” Kale said, “so hopefully I can get into the upper 80s for freshman year.”
Norris head coach Sean Bartholomew will be happy to welcome that kind of power arm and bat to his team next season.
“Anytime you have a talent like that it’s great for your program,” Bartholomew said. “We’ve never had anything like this. I don’t know that Nebraska has ever had anybody commit in eighth grade so it’s going to be kind of uncharted territory, but we’re excited to have him in the program.”
While the Titans have never had as highly-touted of a player as Kale, they have had some talented players, like catcher Jakson Reetz, the 2013 and 2014 Gatorade Nebraska Baseball Player of the Year, who is now in the Washington Nationals’ minor-league system after being drafted in the third round of the 2014 MLB Draft.
Norris has also fared well as a team. The Titans have reached the state tournament every year for the past decade, claiming their only state title in 2013, and earning back-to-back state runner-up finishes in 2017 and 2018 before placing third in 2019.
“We’ve had some success,” Bartholomew said. “We just need to find a way to get over the hump and get a championship here so hopefully Kale can help us do that.”
Eventually, Kale will try to help the ‘Noles add to their history of success. FSU has never won a national title, but has appeared in the NCAA Tournament 57 times, including each of the past 42 years, and the Seminoles have advanced to the College World Series 23 times, including 2019.
But college is still well down the road for Kale, who’s first looking forward to proving himself in high school.
“I’m taking this whole thing step by step,” Kale said. “I can’t wait to get on the field at Norris. They’re an awesome program and hopefully we can win some state championships. That’s the next step.”
Kale will undoubtedly face some high expectations by entering high school as a top-tier prospect who’s already committed to a big-time college program, but his dad believes he’s ready for the added pressure.
“We’ve already seen some skepticism that people have shared, whether it’s through social media or reaching out directly, their thoughts on whether this is too soon and he’s handled it perfectly,” Mike said. “He knows this comes with some added pressure but he’s kind of already had that throughout his career. He’s always been in the spotlight just because he’s always been the bigger kid and one of the better kids on the team, so I think he’ll handle it perfectly fine.”
As a potential future star in high school, college and beyond, the spotlight is likely to shine even brighter on Kale, who hopes to someday shine as a major leaguer.
“I really want to get to that point,” Kale said. “It’s what I’ve always dreamed as a kid so I’ll just keep working hard for that.”