Texas outfielder Mark Payton has been named one of 10 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award.
The award is presented annually to a NCAA Division I senior who has notable achievements in four areas of excellence -- community, classroom, character and competition.
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
Payton, who turned down professional baseball after being selected in the 16th round of the MLB Draft last summer to return for his senior season, owns the nation's longest reached-base streak, currently at 85 games, which is also the second longest in Big 12 history. He also leads the team with a .335 batting average.
A unanimous first team All-Big 12 selection in 2013 and a 2014 preseason All-American, Payton leads the Big 12 in on-base percentage (.474) and walks (40), and ranks third in triples (5).
Payton has helped Texas to a 33-13 record, leading the team in eight offensive categories. Playing his first collegiate season in center field, he has also played error-free defense and contributed two outfield assists. A career .323 hitter, his .393 average last season was the highest by a Longhorn since 2002.
As active as Payton has been on the field in his Texas career -- starting 213 games so far which is second in school history -- he has been almost equally as busy in the community. Payton has been especially active with youth, volunteering at Austin area elementary schools where he has helped children with their homework and assisted with school carnival fundraisers.
He has also volunteered with Marathon Kids, helping children develop a love and habit for fitness; at the Peace Festival, speaking to students about the negative impacts of bullying; at Longhorn Halloween, participating in booth activities and signing autographs for attendees; and at the Neighborhood Longhorns Banquet, a scholarship banquet recognizing local children for academic achievements. When he is back home in Chicago, Payton has also participated as an instructor in The Sparks Special Needs Baseball Clinic and Game.
Payton, who is majoring in Applied Learning & Development: Youth & Community Studies, was a 2012 Academic All-Big 12 second team selection and a member of the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll from 2010-2012. Payton plans to use his education to go into coaching following his baseball career.
Finalists were chosen by national media from the list of 30 candidates announced in March. Nationwide fan voting begins immediately to help select the winner. Fans are encouraged to vote on the Senior CLASS Award website through June 9 at this link: http://www.seniorclassaward.com/vote/baseball_2014/. Fan votes will be combined with media and Division I head coaches’ votes to determine the winner. The Senior CLASS Award winner will be announced during the 2014 College World Series® in June. For more information on all the finalists, visit SeniorCLASSaward.com.