ASHBURN — One of the more remarkable streaks in sports is really no big deal to Mark Payton.
The Texas senior outfielder and former St. Rita High School star reached base safely in a Big 12-record 100 straight games after a two-run home run during Friday's Super Regional three-game series against Houston in Austin.
But Payton never discusses the streak unless it's brought up by others. His sole focus is getting Texas back to next week's College World Series in Omaha, Neb., a feat the Longhorns last accomplished during his freshman season.
"It's something I think other people think about way more than I do," said Payton, who was regional co-MVP after accruing four hits, four runs, five walks, four stolen bases and an RBI over four games.
Justin Breen introduces you to the Texas NCAA star who is going for #100 today:
"I just try to go out and do whatever I can to get the team to win," Payton said. "Looking back it’s a cool thing to have done, but at the same time I don’t think about the streak when I’m playing."
The NCAA does not keep track of consecutive games reaching base by either hit, walk, hit batsman or error, but when Payton earlier this season passed former Kansas State outfielder Nick Martini's mark of 93 games that ended in 2011, it likely became an all-time Division I record. The Major League streak is held by Ted Williams, with 84 in 1949.
Payton's streak, which began March 5, 2013, is a by-product of his hitting ability — he is the conference's active career leader in doubles (50) and triples (19) — and keen eye, which has led to a Big 12-best 144 walks and 375 total bases. It's no surprise Payton is also the Big 12's active career leader with a .425 on-base percentage.
St. Rita baseball coach Mike Zunica said Payton's outstanding college statistics are a direct result of the drive he exhibits off the field.
"Unbelievable work ethic, unbelievable passion for the game and great instruction his whole life," said Zunica, who watched Payton hit .440 with 47 RBIs and 10 home runs as a Mustangs senior. "Those three things, and he had a God-given ability to play the game."
Talent is in Payton's family bloodlines. His father, Dave, held the career record for RBIs and was second in runs scored when he finished his playing days at the University of Illinois.
Dave Payton said his son's aptitude to prepare for each plate appearance has been instrumental to his success in Texas' capital.
"I expect him to have as many good at-bats as he can have," Dave Payton said. "He has really worked hard at the game to sharpen his physical skills and his mental skills. He's had a vast amount of baseball knowledge to absorb."
But although he is now one of the best Big 12 players ever, he almost competed for Pac-12 squad Arizona State. Payton had committed to ASU but backed out after then-Sun Devils coach Pat Murphy was forced to resign following an NCAA investigation revealed major violations and led to the program being placed on probation. After decommitting, Payton quickly talked to Texas associate head coach Tommy Harmon, made a visit to the campus and signed.
Payton was the only non-Texan on the Longhorns' roster his freshman year and he's just one of three on this season's team. But Payton noted Texas has been a "perfect fit" for him.
"The way things worked out, I obviously found a real good option," Payton said. "I couldn't ask for a better situation."
He's been selected three times in the Major League Baseball draft: in 2010 by the Minnesota Twins in the 31st round and in 2013 by the Cleveland Indians in the 16th round. On Friday, the New York Yankees picked him with in the seventh round.
Whenever he's in Chicago, Payton makes time to stop at St. Rita. He said the Southwest Side Catholic school "put me in the right situations and always gave me the right opportunities to succeed."
"I still can't thank everyone there enough," Payton said. "It's like a family atmosphere."