BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. - Not many people want to be known for following in their brothers’ footsteps. Most want to branch out and leave a mark on society that they created. But when it comes to Kokomo High School senior Parker Sanburn, following big brother is not a bad thing.
On November 15, Parker Sanburn signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball for the University of Arkansas baseball team – the same school where older brother Nolan made a name for himself before being drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the second round of the 2012 Major League Baseball draft.
“I felt a sense of comfort since Nolan played there,” said Sanburn. “I know the coaches, I know the players, and I know the campus – so I just felt comfortable in making this choice.”
Sanburn said he has devoted his entire life to getting to where he is today, a college baseball signee. He said this is what he has dreamed since playing Cal Ripken Baseball at UCT.
“This has been the goal – going to college and hopefully going to the next level,” said Sanburn, who also plays tennis at Kokomo and was selected to the Academic All-North Central Conference team. “This is unexplainable on how excited I am with this gift that God has given me.”
Wildkat baseball coach Tim Weeks said Sanburn is more than deserving of earning a Division I baseball scholarship.
“He has some nasty stuff,” said Weeks. “Arkansas is recruiting him because of his physical tools. He throws an electric slider, probably one of the best I have ever seen in high school. The sky is the limit for his potential. I think he will be one of the top two or three pitchers in the state this year.”
But with all of the potential for dominance, Sanburn understands he still has some work to do – which his coach points out on a regular basis.
“He will need to cut down on walks and get a little better control,” said Weeks. “This is nothing I haven’t told him 100 times. He throws hard, but he threw a flat fastball last year. But he got a lot more movement on the ball during summer and I think he is going to have a really dominant year. And that slider, wow.”
Sanburn credits his time on the tennis courts with helping him on the baseball field. He said the concentration needed for pitching is much like the concentration needed to hit a tennis ball. As team captain, he helped lead the Kats to a 15-6 record and a sectional championship. The squad was 6-1 in the conference and finished second to Marion.
“It has really helped me with my mental game,” he said. “And it has helped me with arm strength in serving. Tennis is much more frustrating than baseball, and it has helped me to contain that (frustration) and concentrate. I really feel my mental growth from last year to this past fall has been exponential. Nothing shakes me as much. Last year, if someone got a home run off me, I was down and didn’t want to be out there. This year, I want to face them again. I give tennis credit for that mental aspect.”
Week’s agreed with Sanburn’s assessment of his mental game.
“From last year to this year, I have really seen him mature as a person,” said Weeks. “And I think a lot of that was that the pressure is off. This was a big step and something people wanted to know. And he has really matured in his confidence. He was his own worst enemy during his sophomore season. He doubted his ability even though everyone else could see it. This year will be a big year with his confidence.”
Following the Wildkat baseball season this spring, Sanburn will play summer baseball before reporting for duty in Fayetteville and Baum Stadium at George Cole Field. He said he is excited to play in the Southeastern Conference, which has produced three of the last four NCAA national champions (LSU in 2009 and South Carolina in 2010 and 2011). Last season, Arkansas – with Nolan Sanburn on the squad – traveled to Omaha, Neb., and finished third in the College World Series. The younger Sanburn hopes to lead the Razorbacks to a return trip to the CWS.
“I still have a lot of work to do before then,” he said. “First, I need to concentrate on our (Kokomo) season. But when I get on the (Arkansas) hill and face the cream of the crop, I can promise you this – I will be ready.”
And Kokomo will be ready to watch another Sanburn stand on the hill for the Arkansas Razorbacks – and hopefully on ESPN during the College World Series.