Sparaco Striving to Help Valley Thrive on the Diamond
The Valley Regional baseball team is off to a solid start with a record of 2-0 in the 2022 season. One of the major reasons why the squad is playing quality baseball early on is the performance of junior Braeden Sparaco, a starting pitcher and middle infielder for the Warriors.
Braeden took the mound when Valley Regional hosted North Branford for its opener on April 2. Braeden pitched 5 strong innings for the Warriors, allowing just 2 runs on 5 hits as Valley came away with a 6-5 victory to begin its season on a positive note.
Braeden helped the Warriors earn a piece of the Shoreline Conference title as a sophomore last year. Valley and Coginchaug were slated to play in the Shoreline final, but the game was postponed several times due to rain, ultimately resulting in both clubs sharing the championship. This year, Braeden will settle for nothing less than helping the Warriors stake their claim to some postseason gold.
“As far as my expectations go for this year, I think I speak for everyone on my team when I say we expect to win a state championship, Shorelines at the bare minimum. We feel cheated out of an opportunity at a Shoreline final last year and are hungry and motivated to prove something to everyone this year,” says Braeden. “Our goal our whole careers have been to win a state championship and, with the team we have this year, that gives us a great opportunity to accomplish our goal. So far, we’ve started the season 2-0, and just look forward to getting out on the field and keeping it going.”
Braeden’s love for the game started at a young age. Braeden was always playing baseball with his brothers in the yard as a child and credits his older brother Colin for helping him become the player that he is today.
“I have been playing baseball as long as I can remember. I originally got into the sport because of my three brothers, who also played baseball throughout their sports careers,” Braeden says. “My oldest brother Colin has really pushed me throughout my career to not be content with the player I am and to always work to be better.”
Head Coach Brian Drinkard describes Braeden as one of the hardest-working players on Valley’s roster. Drinkard adds that the right-hander is a linchpin at the top of the Warriors’ rotation.
“Braeden is easily one of our top two pitchers. He has great command, and we feel confident we have a chance to win when he takes the mound. He is also a really good hitter when he is locked in at the plate,” says Drinkard. “Braeden won big games for us last year as a sophomore and was our choice for the opener this season. He is currently being recruited to pitch at the next level, and I have no doubt he will pitch in college if he wants to.”
Braeden appreciates how Coach Drinkard has helped him grow as both a ballplayer and a student. Drinkard has instilled a confidence in Braeden that will last far beyond the junior’s time on the high school diamond.
“My relationship with Coach Drinkard is very positive. He has 100-percent confidence in me going out on the mound against any team, as well as at the plate,” Braeden says. “One thing he told me that has stuck with me is that he believes I am going to get a hit every single time I am up to bat. That really boosted my confidence, knowing my coach believes in me and has my back.”
One outside factor that’s had a massive effect on Braeden is the COVID-19 pandemic. Braeden says that the pandemic altered his entire perspective on playing baseball.
“These last few years since COVID hit has been dedicated to making myself the best baseball player I can be. I stopped playing basketball to focus on baseball and, although I missed a few years of fun with my friends, it has completely changed the way I play baseball,” says Braeden. “I used to be more of a finesse pitcher because of my size, but now I can overpower kids since I got in the weight room and began working out. This offseason, I worked with my trainer Carolino Monteiro at MPower. I also began focusing on my hitting and pitching with my coach of seven years, Wendell Anderson.”
Braeden’s goal is to continue his baseball career in college, and he’s determined to make that goal come to fruition. Braeden knows that he’s going to receive plenty of support from both family and friends in his quest to get to the next level.
“My family has always pushed me to be as good as I can be. My parents put me into travel baseball at a young age, and I didn’t appreciate it as much at the time, but looking back, it has been some of the best moments of my life and led me to be the player I am today,” Braeden says. “My brothers have never let me get too confident, either, which has also helped me get better. They always reassured me there was somebody else out there better, which made me work harder, because I want to be the best.”