Jason Childers concedes when he decided to hit the ProRodeo trail full time, he wasn't sure if he would be a hit or a whiff.
That's because Childers had spent much of his time since junior high school focusing on baseball, not rodeo.
Childers proved adept enough at playing shortstop that he was named a junior college All-America while playing for Carl Albert Junior College in Poteau, Okla. He wasn't one of those all-field, no-hit infielders, either. Childers batted a respectable .312 in college.
Despite his success on the baseball diamond, Childers never lost his desire to be a rodeo cowboy. Finally, he gave in to his desire and opted to compete. At first, he stayed close to home and competed on a part-time basis. But this year, he decided to go all out.
His luck has been good and bad. But it was decidedly good at the Caldwell Night Rodeo (Aug. 11-14) where he captured the aggregate title and a nice paycheck.
As significant as those two prizes are, the real prize Childers took away from Caldwell was vindication.
The 27-year-old cowboy from Mead, Okla., proved to himself and everybody else that he could compete against big-time tie-down ropers
"I was a little bit hesitant to go down the road," Childers said. "I didn't know if I could compete with the big guys. It's pleasing to win a rodeo and know you can compete. It justified my decision to start rodeoing again."
Childers grew up in a rodeo family. His father competed in rodeo and so did Childers. But he gave up rodeo years ago to pursue baseball. But once Childers graduated from college, the void in his athletic life brought him back to rodeo.
"After about two years of getting out of college, I'm just getting to where I can rope competitively," Childers said.
He did more than that in Caldwell. Although he finished just out of the money in Rounds 1 and 2, Childers was consistent enough to earn a berth in the Wrangler Tour round, where his 8.8-second run finished second to four-time world champion tie-down roper Cody Ohl's 8.5. However, Childers beat Ohl for the aggregate title, posting a three-head time of 28.7 seconds to Ohl's 29.5.
The victory earned Childers $4,803 and 19 Wrangler Tour points.
"It feels great. It feels really, really good," Childers said. "This is my rookie year of rodeoing. This is my first year of coming here. I ended up winning fourth in Cheyenne [Wyo.], but this is my first big win on Tour."
If a cowboy is going to win a rodeo somewhere, Caldwell is about as good a place as any. The rodeo was the ninth of 12 stops on the Wrangler ProRodeo Tour, and the fans are arguably the best anywhere. They pack the stands each night and get into the rodeo action cheering cowboys on great runs and offering encouragement to the cowboys who fall short.
It's a special atmosphere that made quite an impression on Childers.
"They treat you good here. I'd like to thank everybody putting this rodeo on. I really appreciate it," Childers said.
The win in Caldwell produced a satisfying end to a frustrating week. Childers had failed to win a dime at any of his previous stops during the week. His outlook was bleak until he stopped in Caldwell.
"I had bad luck every place but here," Childers said. "But this is a good place to have good luck at."
Although there isn't much crossover between baseball and rodeo, Childers said baseball taught him a few lessons that he can apply to his new sport.
"Discipline is the big thing," Childers said. "You've got to have discipline when you tie and you've got to have discipline when you play baseball. If you draw one you can win money on, you can't mess him up."