Playing for Keaton

Pioneers outfielder present amid scary diagnosis

Posted 7/22/21

One would think everything in Keaton Rowton’s life was normal if they saw him at the Wyoming American Legion Baseball West District Tournament.

The Powell Pioneers outfielder’s smile …

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Playing for Keaton

Pioneers outfielder present amid scary diagnosis


One would think everything in Keaton Rowton’s life was normal if they saw him at the Wyoming American Legion Baseball West District Tournament.

The Powell Pioneers outfielder’s smile persisted through four games in blistering heat as he encouraged teammates and kept score from the dugout all weekend. It was as if he didn’t endure the scariest moment of his life just days before. 

“It is nice to be out here,” Rowton said. “It makes me forget about what happened.”

Days before the tournament, on July 7, Rowton was life-flighted to the University of Colorado hospital in Aurora after urgent care doctors discovered blood clots in one of his lungs and his right arm. He had thoracic outlet syndrome — a rare condition where certain blood vessels or nerves become compressed. 

Doctors believe the clots formed from Rowton’s repetitive throwing motion in baseball, along with muscle development and the size of his rib bone.


Quick detection

The condition came on suddenly. Just a day before his emergency trip to Colorado, Rowton played in Powell’s doubleheader against Cody. 

After the losses to the Cubs, he sat on his patio with his parents, Darwin and Kelly, discussing the games. Keaton and his parents noticed swelling on his arm but didn’t think much of it. He took ibuprofen and applied ice to neutralize the swelling before going to bed.

But when he woke up the next morning, his entire arm was swollen — down to his fingertips. Kelly took him to an urgent care clinic in Cody before medical professionals advised Rowton to go to an emergency room. 

There, doctors performed X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans and blood work to figure out what caused the swelling. Once they realized that it was thoracic outlet, they rushed Rowton to Worland, where he was life-flighted 50 minutes later, along with Kelly.

“As Keaton’s parents, we began to understand the seriousness of all of this when they called for a life flight,” Kelly said. “The first one was two hours away and the doctor said that wasn’t fast enough.”

As soon as Rowton and his mother landed in Denver, he went into surgery. Doctors removed a 10-inch clot — broken into three pieces — from his right tricep. The next morning, Rowton underwent a second surgery to remove 4 inches of rib bone. 

Rowton described the time after surgeries before going home as extremely painful. But he had support, both near and far. 

Darwin and Keaton’s older sister, Kourtney, made the road trip to Colorado. And across state lines, texts, calls and other messages from loved ones came pouring out to Keaton as he recovered.

“We all made sure to check up on him to see if he was doing all right,” Pioneers outfielder and pitcher Ryan Cordes said. “Keaton’s always been there to lift the mood on the field and in the dugout.”

Keaton acknowledged that it helped.

“It made me feel normal again,” he said.


Returning to Powell

Once the doctors removed negative-pressure drain from the surgeries from his body, Rowton returned home on Saturday, July 10. Two days later, the incoming Powell High School senior attended practice to see his teammates and coaches. Everyone there — teammates, coaches and parents — embraced him.

It was a joyful moment for Rowton after several tough days in a row.

“It was literally one of the first smiles I saw from that boy in four days,” Kelly said. “He puts his heart into every sport he plays.”

Just as the support was meaningful for Keaton, it was for his parents, too. They received countless positive messages and care packages from people around the community. 

But one thing was most meaningful to Kelly and Darwin.

“I believe I could literally feel people’s prayers,” Kelly said. “I became so assured through that, as we felt confident that Keaton was in the best possible place at the time of his care.”

Hours after Monday afternoon’s practice, Rowton sat near the bleachers in Cowley, watching his teammates face the Lovell Mustangs. The Pioneers swept Lovell to break a losing spell as they donned armbands with the number “3” — Keaton’s jersey number.

“I think it fired us up,” Pioneers manager Joe Cates said. “Everyone loves Keaton and his presence was something for the kids to fight for. To know that he’s OK and we’re going to have him around is awesome.”

And while Rowton wasn’t holding down left field like usual, he was still on hand to support his team days after being life-flighted — something he didn’t see as likely while lying in the hospital bed.

“I thought I was going to be out for a lot longer,” Rowton said. “I didn’t even miss a game or anything.”

Days later, Rowton’s role increased. He sat in the dugout with the team at the district tournament from July 16-18, keeping stats and cheering on the Pioneers. Other than maybe when his teammates committed errors or struck out, Rowton’s grin hardly ever disappeared.

Though not in the same role as before, seeing Keaton in his element so soon after the surgeries uplifted his parents.

“It also has been beneficial for us to go and watch such a great group of kids with some amazing talents,” Kelly said. “He is also so very fortunate to still have some activities, a purpose and some games still to look forward to.”


Supporting at state

After going 3-1 at district, the Pioneers are statebound. They enter as the West District’s No. 3 seed and take on Douglas at 10 a.m. Saturday for their first game at the Wyoming American Legion Baseball State Tournament in Cheyenne.

Rowton’s goal there won’t be to get on base. It won’t be to make dazzling plays in the outfield. His mission is to motivate his team and help spark a run.

“It is very inspiring to have Keaton there with us, and we love to have him around,” outfielder Landon Sessions said. “He is a great teammate, and we are all excited to bring him along.”

Rowton added, “I’m excited to go with them and encourage them.”

What lies ahead for Rowton is still unknown. 

He has an appointment in Denver in the coming days to ensure that the blood flow through his compressed veins is still running strong. Kelly is hopeful that Keaton will be able to stop taking blood thinners soon, and the entire family — as well as Keaton’s doctors — believes he may be able to play sports again one day.

But until they have more answers, the Rowtons plan to use baseball and the community’s love to keep them afloat.

“There is no way to effectively thank the town of Powell and our family, friends and our baseball family for all they have done for us,” Kelly said. “I still get goosebumps when I think of the love and support given from the baseball community.”