BELOIT—Richard “Butters” Carlson stands out on a baseball diamond and not just because he towers over many of the other 12-year-olds.
“People who come to see us play notice how big he is and that might take the attention away from how unbelievable a ballplayer he is,” Carlson’s coach, Joe Bennie, says. “The thing I like most about him is that he is such an incredible competitor. You can’t teach that. He’s not great because he’s a big kid. He’s great because he has awesome ability and drive. His potential is limitless.
“I often go from a coach to a fan when I watch Butters. I’m always thinking, what is he going to do next?”
Over the past weekend, Carlson helped the 12U Bennie Elite capture the Travel Baseball Rankings World Series championship in Dayton, Ohio. In the title game against the second-ranked team in Michigan (49th in the nation), Bennie Elite blanked B45 Academy Michigan, 8-0, as Carlson threw a complete game shutout.
Bennie Elite went 7-0 in the tournament against the best teams in the Midwest and hiked their overall season to 35-6. They finished the season on a 12-game winning streak.
“I wasn’t expecting to do as well as we did in this tournament because there was some really good competition there,” Carlson said. “But we did really well, particularly our play in the outfield.”
The tournament Most Valuable Player award went to the South Beloit native who Bennie describes as a pre-teen Shohei Ohtani. When he isn’t playing first or serving as the designated hitter, he’s on the mound.
“His bat speed is insane,” Bennie said. “His concept of timing is terrific. His plate discipline, hand-to-eye coordination, bat control, they’re all remarkable. You could go on and on about his hitting tools. He has probably been our most dominant hitter since we started the program three years ago. You just never see him not on base or doing damage. It’s incredible to watch.”
In the seven games in the TBR World Series, the three-time captain went 12-for-16 (.750), drove in seven runs, scored nine runs and belted two home runs.
Carlson also had a terrific tournament on the mound. In 10 innings, he allowed only two earned runs and struck out 10.
“He has gotten better and better as a pitcher,” Bennie said. “He has a very clean arm action with an awesome fastball and off-speed stuff he has a great feel for that he can locate beautifully. He’s been my go-to championship arm for three years. I actually ask him which game he’d rather pitch, the championship or the game to get us into the championship.”
In Dayton, he pitched in both.
“We did so well in the semis that he pulled me early and saved me for the championship game,” Carlson said.
“Watching everything come together for him in the tournament was awesome,” Bennie said. “He just dominated. He was the best player on the field in a tournament that had 20 to 25