Gig Harbor High grad Mark Sluys had a summer business consulting internship all lined up in Seattle.
But the Brown University junior decided work could wait, at least for now. So he earned a spot on the Lafayette Aviators’ roster in the Prospect League in Lafayette, Indiana.
“I’m going to be able to work the rest of my life, but I only have so many years to play baseball,” Sluys said.
He played his way into a full contract as a catcher and third baseman. Then, two of the catchers went down with injuries, catapulting Sluys into a daily role as the team’s starting catcher, instead of splitting time and moving around the diamond. He’s flourished since, hitting .295 with two home runs, seven doubles and 25 RBIs in 35 games.
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He was named to the Prospect League All-Star team.
“I have so much confidence at the plate right now,” Sluys said.
Sluys, who is an excellent defensive player, hasn’t always been a good hitter. Up until his junior year of high school, he said he was actually pretty awful.
“I switched summer programs, moved to the Pierce County Diamondjacks,” Sluys said of his improvement during high school. “(Joey Swanson) is a great hitting coach. Everyone had already told me I was a solid baseball player. But he said, ‘We have to work to do, but you’re definitely a D-I player.’ No one had ever told me that. He gave me a lot of confidence. That made me want to work to become a better hitter.”
Sluys’ father, John Sluys, attended Purdue University in Indiana. Maybe there’s something special about Lafayette for the Sluys family, because Mark has been tearing the cover off the baseball this summer.
“I’m driving balls — I have quite a few doubles, hitting for extra base hits, driving in runs,” Sluys said. “It’s been a huge confidence builder, facing guys from schools like Ohio State, guys throwing 95-96 (miles per hour). Being able to succeed and have good at bats and be consistent, and just knowing I belong, has been big.”
The All-Star game ended up only lasting four innings due to inclement weather. Sluys was the starting catcher. He only had one at bat — a 12-pitch AB that ended in a strikeout. He said despite the game being cut short, everyone had a good time.
Sluys has two years remaining at Brown.
“I love it there,” he said. “I really love school. Baseball has been good.”
Playing time has been somewhat hard to come by, as Sluys has been stuck behind some talented upperclassmen. But going into his junior year, he expects to be an everyday player and show what he can do.
“I feel like, honestly, going into freshman year, there was a big change with the speed of the game,” Sluys said. “I wasn’t prepared for it. My sophomore year, I was ready to play — I just felt like I was stuck. I expect to play a lot this year.”
Brown finished last season with a 9-11 record in conference. Sluys is hoping the Bears can take the next step during his junior and senior seasons.
“The biggest goal is to win an Ivy League championship,” Sluys said. “I just think being able to win the Ivy League and go to a regional game would be huge. I want to play every day and help contribute to my team.”