July 31, 2014
After four successful years in high school, Wheelersburg softball player Abbi Sparks has decided to remain in the area for the next four years. After careful deliberation, Sparks has signed with Shawnee State University to continue her softball career.
Sparks wanted to stay relatively close to home and wants to major in Occupational Therapy. She contacted Ohio Christian University and SSU, and once she realized only Shawnee carried the program, the choice became easy.
“I wanted to study Occupational Therapy and Ohio Christian didn’t offer that program,” Sparks said.
She also chose the Bears because of her familiarity with the roster, something that Sparks has with many current players as well as an opportunity to contribute as a freshman.
“I like that I’ve played throughout the years with a bunch of girls there,” Sparks said. “One girl there was a senior my freshman year (in high school). And they said they needed a pitcher, and there is a possibility I could get some field time pretty early.”
The former Pirate pitcher brings a pedigree of winning and accomplishments with her to SSU’s campus, including an SOC I First-Team selection during her senior season.
While Sparks is eager to have the chance to see the field as soon as possible, she knows her hard work and dedication are going to be what gets her on the field, not her past accomplishments.
That’s one reason Sparks has always looked up to University of Tennessee softball player and Team USA player Monica Abbott, whose work ethic sets herself apart from most players.
“Each year she worked so hard and each year you could tell how much she has gained,” Sparks said. “She gained so much speed throughout college and when she played for team USA, you could tell she worked so hard to make it to the professional level.”
Another exciting aspect of Sparks signing — which didn’t happen until after she made her final decision — is her childhood teammate and friend, Taylor Dempsey, is also signing with the Bears’ softball program.
Sparks and Dempsey have been teammates since they were eight years old. Beginning in little league, Dempsey always called the pitches for Sparks from behind the plate.
Beginning at such a young age and having success, including two state championships in the little league level, the two girls developed a trust and friendship that has grown stronger over time.
“We just know what clicks with each other and she knows what I like throwing,” Sparks said. “She knows me awful well when it comes to pitching and on a personal level.”
While Sparks didn’t commit to SSU because of Dempsey, the outcome couldn’t have been better.
“When she told me, I was excited because we’ve been through so much together playing ball and she could have an opportunity to catch me three more years in college,” Sparks said.
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.