For the fourth straight season the AppleSox roster will feature players from UC Irvine baseball program. The Anteaters are sending infielder Taylor Sparks, outfielder Jeff Stephens, right-handed pitcher Sam Moore, and right-handed pitcher Kyle Davis to play for Wenatchee in 2012.
“We have a wonderful relationship with UC Irvine and every player that they have ever sent us has been so well coached,” said AppleSox head coach Ed Knaggs, who played for UC Irvine head coach Mike Gillespie at the College of the Canyons in Valencia, Calif. “Our approach to the game is very similar to their style. We both like to create a lot of action and keep the game in motion.”
Sparks, a freshman from Long Beach, Calif., is expected to make an immediate impact for the Anteaters. The 6-foot-4 third baseman was a 24th round draft pick by the Cleveland Indians in the 2011 MLB Draft. In addition to his work on the field, he was a two-time Athlete of the Year at St. John Bosco High School.
“He is one of the most highly touted players of their freshman class,” said Knaggs.“He is a strong kid that will provide a powerful bat to our lineup.”
The only upperclassman of the group, Stephens is in his first season at UC Irvine after transferring from Sierra College. The junior from Navato, Calif. was voted a preseason junior college All-American and hit .357 at Sierra College last season.
“As a junior college transfer they expect him to come in right away and compete for playing time,” said Knaggs. “Our roster tends to skew younger, so he will be one of the more veteran guys on our team.”
Both Moore and Davis are candidates to log innings as freshman. Moore, a native of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., was named the 2011 Bay City League Most Valuable Pitcher after going 9-1 with a 0.89 ERA at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School. Davis set a single season record for strikeouts with 67 at Great Oak High School in Temecula, Calif.
“Each year we tend to get young arms from UC Irvine and these guys seem to fit the mold,” said Knaggs. “They are both guys expect to come in and battle for innings out of the bullpen immediately as freshman.”
The AppleSox open the 2012 season on the road against the Bellingham Bells on June 1st. The team will return to Paul Thomas Sr. Field to start a six-game homestand beginning with the home opener on June 5th against the Bend Elks.
Attached photographs of Taylor Sparks, Jeff Stephens, Sam Moore, and Kyle Davis are courtesy of the UC Irvine Sports Information Department.