By John Byczek
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Everyday Mark Payton wakes up to a dream. The outfielder for the University of Texas sports his school colors with pride; he plays the game he loves daily; and on top of that, he has already signed a professional baseball contract.
Payton, currently a junior at the University of Texas, comes from a baseball family from Chicago, Ill. His father, David Payton, played college ball for the University of Illinois and had a professional stint with the St .Louis Cardinals’ minor league affiliates.
In high school, it became clear Mark Payton would follow in the footsteps of his father. While playing for Saint Rita’s High School in Chicago, he won a plethora of honors, including the Illinois Player of the Year award during his junior season. As a standout player in the state, Payton had options about where to spend his collegiate career.
“There are all of these great schools, but the tradition here at Texas and the chance to play on this kind of field, in this kind of environment is unbeatable,” Payton said. “It’s every kid’s dream to come here and play for Texas.”
Signing with Texas wasn’t the only dream fulfilled during his high school career, though. Before graduating from Saint Rita’s, Payton was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 31st round of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft.
“It’s another dream to get a chance to sign a professional baseball contract,” he said. “When my name got called, and I got the phone call from the Twins it was really exciting for my family and me.”
In his freshman year at Texas, Payton played and started in all 65 games of the season. He repeated that feat his sophomore year as well. Payton stands at 5-foot-8 and recognizes that he’s not the biggest, strongest or fastest player on the diamond. Therefore, he believes one aspect of his game has helped him standout the most.
“My instincts,” Payton said. “I kind of know what’s going to happen before it happens.”
In a game of situations, such as baseball, instincts can take you a long way and Payton has plans of going far. When he’s not on the diamond, he’s studying applied learning and development with a specialization in coaching.
“I want to play until somebody rips the jersey off of me,” he laughed. “When that happens, then I hope to come back and coach college baseball somewhere.”
But that’s way off in left field for now and Payton’s baseball career is just rounding first. He’s excited for the future and proud of all that he has done thus far, but for now, everyday is a blessing.
“My biggest accomplishment is just getting a chance to go out there and play everyday,” Payton said. “It’s every kid’s dream to have an opportunity to play. When you get a chance to play everyday, I think it’s pretty cool.”
And playing everyday presents its own opportunities – one of them being an outfielder’s favorite to seize.
“Getting the chance to run through a wall and having the chance to make a big play,” Payton grinned.
He’s had a few big plays already and has plenty more to come. Payton was born and raised into baseball and his true love for the game won’t let him leave the sport anytime soon.