BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON

Now that  Arkansas baseball player Tyson Fourkiller is settled in Fayetteville, he is excited about the future and looking to follow the path of fellow Cherokee Nation citizen Ryan Helsley.

Heisley, the St. Louis Cardinals All-Star closer, is a former star at Tahlequah (Okla.) Sequoyah and very proud of his heritage as is Fourkiller, a former Stilwell three-sport athlete.

“I am very proud of being a Cherokee Nation citizen and I get help from them in terms of scholarship-wise and school-wise,” Fourkiller said of a sport in which only 11.7 scholarships are divided up. “There is not a whole lot of people that get the opportunity to do what I am doing right now. 

“It’s a blessing to be able to represent something bigger than myself.  Take Ryan Helsley, who is throwing for the Cardinals and represents the Nation so well.  

“I have been contact with him (Helsley) over the summer here and there and he gives me advice, just mental stuff about the game and what to expect and how to approach things. He has been a family friend for a long time and he is just a grat role model and somebody to look up, too.”

Fourkiller, which can play anywhere on infield or the outfield, is coming off a season at Warner (Okla.) Connors State in which he battled through a broken foot and still hit .448 with five home runs and 60 RBI . 

His on-base percentage was .551,  his slugging percentage was .686 and he drew 24 walks with only 7 strikeouts, was hit by a pitch a whopping 17 times, had 22 doubles and a pair of triples.

Fourkiller chose Arkansas over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and others and hopes to inspire other Cherokee athletes.

“Like Ryan, that’s the role I want to play as well for those younger than me, to inspire them they can make it here also,” Fourkiller said. “He played on the same fields as me growing up, from the same area and has achieved everyone’s goal – to reach the biggest stage. That’s what we ask want.”

Helsley, 7-1 with 12 saves and an 0.91 ERA for the Cardinals this season,  has touched 103 miles per hour with his fast ball and has fanned 72 batters in  49 2/3 innings.

“I have not batted against him yet, but I wouldn’t mind that at all,” Fourkiller said. “I sure hope I get the chance. That (103) is  a different league there.”

Arkansas was an easy choice for him.

“I moved in last Friday,” Fourkiller said. “It is a lot bigger than I am used to being a small-town guy. Bigger than Connors definitely. Its crazy, but I really like the atmosphere and there are a lot of nice people I have met so far. Really, I am still  kind of a loss for words over it. 

“It’s the best of the best and has everything you could want in a program and school.”

Fourkiller notes that Arkansas is supposed to start official practice on Sept. 8 and end with the Fall Ball World Series in mid-October.

The Razorbacks have some 30 new players from high school, junior college and the transfer portal all pointing toward opening the 2023 season with the College Baseball Showdown in Arlington, Texas.

Arkansas will join Texas, TCU, Vanderbilt, Oklahoma State and Missouri in the Feb. 17-19 event, which is played at the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Stadium. 

“Fall Ball is going to be a lot of new faces with a lot of new talent coming in,” Fourkiller said. “I am just going to get in where I fit in, show up every day and do my thing and to give myself the best chance to be on the field opening day the Globe Life.

“If not, I will keep the course and know that everything will work out.  I am ready for this platform and this level of baseball.”

Fourkiller believes his stop at Connors really helped develop him as a player and allowed him to make the move to an elite program.

“It is what we all work for,” Fourkiller said. “I think being in junior college just really improved me as a player, especially as far as the mental side of it and dealing with any obstacle that I will come across as a baseball player.

“I am very excited to the chance at something bigger now, a bigger platform I guess. You still have to perform and take care of yourself, but I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity.”

Fourkiller signed with Arkansas during the Razorbacks’ postseason run to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

“It was crazy,” Fourkiller said. “I think I came over here at the end of May and signed right before the Super Regional. You see them play these other top programs like Oklahoma and OSU and Ole Miss and really end up a couple of plays away from winning the whole thing.

“Now I’m coming over here and couldn’t ask for more. It’s baseball played a the highest level and now I have a chance to help a team that can win the whole dang thing.”

Fourkiller had a solid season at Crowder even though he played through a broken foot injury.

“I thought it was bone spurs and then two days before my surgery, I end up having a fracture in my foot and that happened probably mid-January,” Fourkiller said. “The rehab time was a little longer setback than I wanted it to be, but it is what it is. It’s not going to heal itself.

“So it’s been little longer process and journey than I expected or hoped for, but I would say that I am about two to three weeks from being full-blown healthy and being 100 percent. I am happy to be over here with the medical and training staff and so it shouldn’t be any problem with that at all.”

Fourkiller said he had to play through the pain for his future and ended up playing first base, which he had not previously played.

“It is one of those things where you just really didn’t have an option,” Fourkiller said. “It was my last year down there and it has always been a dream of mine to get somewhere like this. I felt that If I could just stay in there and get some at-bats, it would work out for me.”

“First base was new to me, but I felt like I picked up on it fairly quick and had help,” Fourkiller said. “It was just kind of my only option because if you are not on the field getting at bats, it is hard to get looks.”

Arkansas will use his versatility to its advantage this upcoming season.

“Coach Van Horn has mentioned second base and third base to me and the outfield is always a possibility due to my range of positions that I can play,” Fourkiller said. “I will be more than happy to play anywhere.”