You won’t see Wyatt Sparks pitching in a minor league baseball game until at least September, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t living out a dream a lifetime in the making.
A little more than a month after leading the Aurora Houn’ Dawg baseball team to its second consecutive Class 4 state championship, the standout pitcher is in Surprise, Arizona getting a feel for professional baseball after signing a pro contract with the Texas Rangers. Sparks was drafted by Texas in the 23rd round (689th overall) of the MLB draft in June, leaving him with one of the biggest decisions of his life in front of him: either go pro right out of high school or play for the Bears at Missouri State and see if there’s another shot at the pros somewhere down the road.
Sparks opted to start his professional career early, while fully healthy and coming off a statistically phenomenal senior season, but he says there were “countless factors” that went into the decision. One of the factors, no doubt, was the $125,000 signing bonus he received, according to MLB.com.
But for the life-long Aurora resident, going pro isn’t just about the money or the game -- it’s also about representing his hometown and inspiring the next generation.
“It means a lot to me [to be able to represent the town],” Sparks said. “I’ve lived in Aurora my whole life and have always looked up to high school athletes before me, so I’m hoping I can provide hope for those kids younger than me that this is possible.”
Sparks is proof that it is possible, even if his job for right now is just to watch and learn until the instructional league begins in September. The right-hander was put on a throwing program when he arrived in Arizona for the rookie ball summer league, and his days are now spent almost entirely at the ballfield or clubhouse. Sparks reported that he gets up around 9 a.m. every day and heads to the clubhouse after breakfast to start his day at about 11. The day of baseball doesn’t end until around 10 or 11 at night “depending on if the game is home or away.”
With an off day once a week, Sparks says his experience is pretty similar to his high school routine during baseball season, except that the time he would have spent in the classroom is now spent at the field.
Sparks eagerly admits that his high school experience had everything to do with his success as a player.
“Coach [James] Hoffman, [Austin] Lawrence and [Eric] Lenox didn’t only prepare us for the baseball side of life, they taught us so much more. That is the reason we had so much success,” said Sparks, who had to miss out on Wednesday evening’s baseball banquet back home. “My teammates are also a big factor of why I’m here today. They pushed me everyday to get better and they were always there for me.”
“To all my former teammates and fans,” he concluded, “I wouldn’t be here without the support and help from you guys. I’d like to thank you for always believing in me.”