Senior signs with Maple Woods
Last spring, Mill Valley senior Daniel Wheat focused on putting together the type of baseball season that would allow him to earn a spot on a collegiate roster.
This year, however, he just wanted to make it official before his final high school season started.
On March 31, Wheat realized his goal when he inked a national latter of intent to play ball at Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City, Mo.
"I am glad I got it done," he said. "Now I don't have to think about it for two more years and I can focus on this season."
Wheat, a pitcher and infielder for the Jags, said there were two factors that clinched the crucial decision for him; Maple Wood's national reputation and the fact that he could continue his career close to his friends and family.
"They are really good," he said. "I went and threw for them a couple of times over the winter and knew that is where I wanted to go."
Wheat got the ball for the dealing rolling last fall when he began visiting with the coaching staff. From there, he followed up by throwing a couple of bullpen sessions in front of his new coaches and more meetings. By the time last month rolled around, all he left to do was talk the decision over with his parents before signing.
"I was trilled," he said. "I had gotten a bunch of letters from different schools but I knew Maple Woods was my choice."
This fall, Wheat is all set to join a Maple Woods program that is in the process of defending its 2003 Region XVI title and has recently helped develop the talent of one of the Major League's premier players. St. Louis Cardinals' first baseman Albert Pujols, the 2001 National League Rookie of the Year and reining National League batting champ played at Maple Woods during the 1999 season.
As for Wheat, he said he still has a few goals in mind before leaving the Jaguars this spring. Wheat hopes to post the lowest ERA on the team, see his batting average eclipse the .400 mark and help lead Coach Carl Garrett's squad to a regional and state title. While each of those goals is formidable, he is used to working hard and overcoming obstacles. Wheat has never let the fact that he was born without a left hand bring him down either on or off the field.
"Daniel is one of those players who has made baseball a top priority in life," Garrett said. "As a coach, it is very rewarding to see players like him attain their goals."
Although Wheat is unsure what he will be studying, he said he plans to see if he can find a major that will allow him to work with a professional baseball club, even if it is off of the field. He also knows that once his two years are finished at Maple Woods, he wants to be in a position to transfer to a four-year school and keep his baseball career moving.
"We always follow what our guys do in college," Garrett said. "Guys like him spend so much time making us a better program that we want to see them reach their fullest potential as well."
Both Garrett and him know that he will have to start proving himself all over again next year with his new club.
"He knows what he is up against," Garrett said. "He's going to be one of the young guys and will have to work hard."
Wheat, however, said he is up for the challenge.
"Next year will be a really big step for more," Wheat said. "I am just glad my family and friends will be close to support me."