It’s every athletic kid’s dream to wind up on SportsCenter.
Aydin Jeffress did it with just one swing. The 12-year-old Gillette Little League star crushed a two-run home run over the left field fence earlier this month during the Mountain Region Tournament in San Bernardino, California.
Aydin’s home run catapulted him to instant internet fame. The slugger estimates the ball traveled 290 feet, but the distance wasn’t the only thing that stood out about the hit.
Aydin did it while wearing a pair of yellow ranching gloves.
All Little League World Series regional games were broadcasted on ESPN+. Aydin’s bomb circulated Twitter almost immediately for three reasons: The home run distance, the fact that he was from Wyoming and, of course, the yellow ranching gloves.
Barstool Sports posted Jeffress’ home run on Twitter with the caption, “A kid from Wyoming wearing work gloves and hitting bombs. Gritty.” The account has over four million followers on the social media platform.
The video spread around the internet like wildfire, reaching platforms like ESPN, MLB.com and USAToday, to name a few. It didn’t take long for friends and family to call Aydin’s mom, Jill, to share the news of her son’s exploding internet fame.
“It took 19 hours for him to go viral, that’s what we determined,” Jill said. “We got back to the Airbnb and someone called me and said, ‘Your son is all over the news here.'”
“It was a little weird,” Aydin said. “You usually see like a Hawaii kid or a Texas kid make the news, not a Wyoming kid.”
Aydin — nicknamed “The Horse” — played in roughly 80 games this summer between Little League, Little League all-stars, fall ball and the Gillette Bulldogs, a traveling team that eventually feeds into the American Legion Roughriders. This month’s LLWS regional tournament wasn’t the first time he broke out the yellow ranching gloves at the plate.
Aydin ripped through several pairs of traditional batting gloves during his strenuous 80-game baseball season. Finally, coach John Copping threw him a pair of work gloves in hopes of them withstanding the stress brought on by Aydin’s ferocious swing.
Aydin belted eight home runs between the Wyoming all-stars district and state tournament. Safe to say, the gloves stuck.
“They’re Wolverine, leather ranch gloves,” Aydin said. “They don’t rip.”
Aydin’s powerful swing earned him the first-place trophy in Wyoming’s home run derby at the state tournament last month. He hit 22 homers in the contest, with several finding their way into the junk yard beyond the fences at Dalbey Memorial Park.
“I’ve seen him hit so many that I can just hear it at this point,” Jill said. “I don’t even have to see it. When I hear it I just know.”
A local celebrity
It didn’t take long for the video to spread around Gillette. The video on Barstool Sport’s Twitter account has nearly six million views since being uploaded on Aug. 12.
Aydin returned from California with his teammates after Gillette was eliminated from the regional tournament. Despite not making it to the LLWS in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the 12-year-old was immediately celebrated for his new celebrity status.
“We couldn’t go through junior high orientation without being stopped about 30 times,” Jill said. “The funniest one was one of the coaches at Twin Spruce came up to him during orientation and said, ‘Are you that big son of a gun that hit that ball in California?’”
Aydin doesn’t think much about the two-run shot that made him Twitter famous. He just wanted to beat Utah and move on to the LLWS.
“I just wanted to make good contact with it,” Aydin said. “And I did.”
Aydin’s home run reached the phone of another standout athlete from the state of Wyoming. Brandon Nimmo, the starting center fielder for the New York Mets, immediately reached out to Aydin and his family after seeing the video.
Nimmo grew up in Cheyenne and played for the Cheyenne Sixers before being drafted in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft.
“He uses Bruce Bolts (batting) gloves in games and he sent me his model,” Aydin said. “Inside the packages you can open it and see that he signed all of them.”
Seeing Nimmo’s signature showing up in a package addressed to him was one of the highlights of becoming internet famous, Aydin said.
“I’ve been watching Brandon Nimmo play forever,” Aydin said.
“It was a huge compliment,” Jill said.
Plenty of baseball left
Aydin’s dream of playing at the LLWS in Williamsport ended when Gillette was eliminated at the regional tournament. This year was his last year of eligibility for all-stars and next year he will move up to the next level of the Roughriders’ travel program.
Regardless of what gloves he decides to wear going forward, Aydin has plenty of home runs left to hit. He’s looking forward to one day clearing the fences in a Roughriders’ uniform at Hladky Memorial Stadium.
Jill said the best part of her son’s internet fame has been seeing the encouraging messages from strangers on the internet. While Wyoming has its own stigmas and stereotypes when it comes to being in the national spotlight, Aydin’s home run was a true reflection of what hard work and mental toughness can do both on and off the field.
“I think it was one of those things that a lot of people could relate to,” Jill said. “It was the true definition of being working class.”
As far as his baseball career goes, Aydin expects to be hitting dingers at the major league level one day.
“I want to go to the MLB,” Aydin said.
“And we want him to play in college first,” Jill said.
The biggest lesson from the whole experience for Aydin is to remain humble and to keep his gritty mentality. While his home run made national news, Jill knows its up to her son to keep up the hard work even when the internet inevitably moves on to the next highlight.
“I keep telling him not to let it get to his head,” Jill said. “But it is really, really good encouragement and it’s a huge compliment. He needs to just keep doing what he’s doing.”