Lesniewics Turns A Kid’s Game Into Cash

If he plays his cards right, EHS teacher Kyle Lesniewics will be heading to London to compete in a Pokémon World Championship.


Jane Gatzemeyer, Staff Writer

I choose you!

Pokémon–a truncated version for Pocket Monsters–continues as a very popular trading card game that was created by designer Satoshi Tajiri  in 1996. It took the world by storm in October of the same year when the first generation of cards were released. The first-ever created Pokémon card was Charizard. Regardless of which card was designed first, Rhydon (the drill and ground/rock type Pokémon) was the first released, followed by Dialga (steel/dragon type). And, it all came about because Tajiri wanted to give kids the same joy that he felt when he collected bugs.

One of those “kids” is now a Graphic Novels teacher at EHS: Mr. Kyle Lesniewics. “I first started playing Pokémon video games, but soon lost interest throughout high school. In my senior year of high school,” he continues, “my friends and I found some old Pokémon cards and decided to figure out how they were played, since we didn’t have anything else to do. We had never played a competitive card game before,” Lesniewics admits, “but, it was surprisingly fun!”

Opening up the Pokémon fan base even more were the television shows. One year after the trading card game was released, the show I Choose You! came out in 1997. Airing first on April 1 in Japan, it didn’t reach the United States until Sept. 8 the following year. A fun fact about voice acting: When Pokémon was dubbed in English in the U.S., the voice actor wasn’t an actor; she was an actress. Ash was voiced by Sarah Natochenny and Veronica Taylor (a.k.a Kathleen McInerney). 

“The first-ever Pokémon show I watched was the original–back when I was younger,” Lesniewics explains. “I’ve seen maybe a half-a-dozen movies also. Yet,” he adds, “nowadays I stick to the games.”

Although this television show had an electrifying effect on fans, there was one episode that did the opposite. On Dec. 16, 1997, an episode titled “Dennō Senshi Porygon” shows Pikachu using a move to stop shooting missiles twenty minutes into the episode. When Pikachu uses this move, very bright flashing red and white lights blow up the screen, which caused around 700 children watching to have seizures in Japan. 

The first video game was Pocket Monsters Red and Green, played on Gameboy and Nintendo. Throughout the years, gamers moved from these platforms to Nintendo Switch and Pokémon Go for mobile phones. The fan base increased significiantly when Pokémon Go appeared, drawing former television fans back in. Even after 25 years, Pokémon strives to stay relevant.

Today, millions of people throughout the world participate in competitive Pokémon TCG gaming. They battle against competitors in other states and even other countries. In the Pokémon World Championships, the first place winner receives around $25,000; other prizes are also awarded. But, that is not the only way fans can cash in on the fun. At the Noblesville (Indiana) State Fair, for instance, $10,000 worth of Pokémon cards were hidden in the fairgrounds like a scavenger hunt!

Lesniewics jumped into this action in a big way–competing for high-stakes prizes for the past ten years. “Within that time, I’ve been named Indiana State Champion several times and competed in multiple World Championships. Once the pandemic subsides,” he modestly adds, “I’m currently on pace to earn my invitation to the London World Championship next summer.”

Who would have ever thought that what started as a lark would lead to London! Hopefully, Pokémon “chooses you,” Mr. Lesniewics.