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Making His Mark: Payton's Path to Texas
Updated: Wednesday, June 18 2014, 10:48 AM CDT
Texas All-American Mark Payton carries his bat around in a sock.
"There was a bunch of pine tar on my bat and it started getting all over my glove and spikes," explained Payton. "So I started carrying it and it was a pain -- so I put a sock on it."
But Payton, a two-time All Big 12 selection, was in a sticky situation long before pine tar began rubbing off on his shoes. During the summer of 2010, just after graduating from St. Rita High School in Illinois, Mark was without a place to play.
"I was a month away from not having a school to go to," Payton recalled.
After de-committing from Arizona State (his first choice), South Carolina (his next option) didn't offer Payton a scholarship. Mark was here in Omaha watching as ASU and the Gamecocks played each other in the College World Series and wondering if he'd ever get his shot.
"I was hoping some big school would come calling or come knocking with a spot open and say 'we have a scholarship," Payton said.
The University of Texas did just that. And four years later, Payton has two trips to Omaha and 274 career hits -- tied for the second most in UT history. His road to Texas was not easy, and once he got there -- he made it hard on opposing pitchers. But being tough has always been a major part of Payton's path.
"When you come out of the south side of Chicago, you're a tough guy," Texas head baseball coach Augie Garrido said smiling.
"I won't shy away from anything," Payton affirmed. "That's something I had to learn growing up on the south side."
Even though they're on the north side of Chicago, Payton grew-up cheering for the Cubs. Soon though, his loyalty will shift to the Yankees. New York selected the senior in the seventh round of the Major League Draft. But before he joins the franchise with 27 world titles, he wants national title number seven for Texas.
"I'm not worried about what the Yankees are doing right now," Payton admitted. "They'll be waiting when I'm done with this. Right now, I'm with Texas and I want to soak it all in for the next couple days and hopefully another week."
Whenever Payton's UT career comes to an end, it will go down as one of the most sock-cessful in Texas history.
"I don't want to remembered as a guy that was the best player," Payton said. "I just want to be remembered as a good guy who did things right."
By Adam Winkler