By STEVE KRAH
Parker Sanburn looks into the future and makes a prediction for himself and his two brothers:
“Give us another 20 years and we’re going to change the world, that’s all I know.”
In the present, the siblings from Kokomo — Nolan (26), Parker (23) and Connor (19) — are having an impact on their little slices of the world.
Nolan and Parker are professional baseball pitchers and Connor is a college student. All three Kokomo High School graduates and sons of executive pastor Dick Sanburn and public relations coordinator Crystal Sanburn have curious minds and entrepreneurial ambition.
“We’re always bouncing ideas off each other,” says Nolan Sanburn of his brothers. “All three of us our dialed in on being better people everyday.”
Nolan owns real estate and is about to launch a baseball-related podcast — The Ballplayer Mindset.
Parker, who was on his way to medical or physician’s assistant school when pro baseball opportunity came knocking, is also interested in the mental side and keeps a notebook of ideas and inventions.
Connor is a talented videographer and pre-Telecommunications major and Urban Planning minor as a freshman at Ball State University. One of his projects is “How Baseball Has Impacted the Sanburn Family” and served as digital entertainment coordinator for the summer collegiate baseball Kokomo Jackrabbits.
Nolan Sanburn was selected in the 34th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Detroit Tigers and did not sign.
The right-hander pitched two seasons for the University of Arkansas, going 2-4 with eight saves, a 3.62 earned run average, 35 strikeouts and 15 walks in 32 1/3 innings and 24 appearances (all in relief) in 2011 and 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA, 49 strikeouts and 22 walks in 40 2/3 innings and 22 appearances (18 in relief) in 2012.
Nolan was chosen in the second round of the 2012 MLB draft by the Oakland Athletics. He worked in the A’s system 2012, 2013 and 2014 and was traded to the Chicago White Sox in 2014 and pitched with that organization in 2015 and 2016 — mostly at Double-A Birmingham.
He was released by White Sox in March 2017 and became a minor league free agent, landed with the Washington Nationals — going 4-3 with one save, an 4.87 ERA, 56 strikeouts and 27 walks in 64 2/3 innings and 17 appearances (nine in relief) at High Class-A Potomac — and was released by the Nats in August to again become a minor league free agent.
All but 23 of Nolan’s 141 pro games have been out of the bullpen.
“I’m going to wait and see if something shakes,” says Nolan. “If it doesn’t, I may just move on with my life.”
Parker Sanburn, a 2013 Kokomo graduate, also pitched at Arkansas (going 0-1 with a 15.58 ERA in 11 relief appearances in 2015 after red-shirting in 2014) and then Des Moines Area Community College in 2017 (going 5-3 with a 3.44 ERA, 72 strikeouts and 36 walks in 55 innings and 14 appearances) after attending Indiana University in Bloomington. The right-hander went un-drafted but was signed by the Texas Rangers in 2017. He began his pro career at short-season Class-A Spokane and finished the season at Low Class-A Hickory, combining to go 0-2 with a 2.40 ERA, 16 strikeouts and 12 walks in 15 1/3 innings and nine appearances (all in relief).
While they were never teammates until Nolan was a senior and Parker a freshman at Kokomo High, the two older Sanburn brothers both came up playing baseball in Kokomo’s UCT youth league. Then came Babe Ruth League. Nolan played for Kingsway and the Indiana Bulls. Parker was with Kingsway, the Indiana Chargers and then the Indiana Bulls.
Connor Sanburn earned a International Baccalaureate degree from KHS in 2017. He was involved in CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities), founded a film festival and made videos for teacher recruitment and how to add to the school’s legacy plus features from the City of Kokomo. His video production company is CCS Entertainment.
“I really loved Kokomo High School,” says Connor. “I just have this urge that I need to build something and create a brand. I know I want to do something in business someday. It just excites me.”
His baseball video on the Sanburns included interviews with his grandfather, brothers and parents.
Connor also produced fun music videos featuring his siblings.
More recently, Nolan has his youngest brother thinking about real estate and investing.
“He read that book, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” (by personal finance author and lecturer Robert Kyosaki). He realized early that baseball isn’t forever and needs to make a living. He’s had players approaching him on how to invest. He absolutely loves that.”
While Nolan is keeping active while waiting to see where his baseball career is headed, he does a lot of reading and business research in Birmingham, Ala.
“It’s a lot of fun to learn stuff you don’t know,” says Nolan. “Everyday I read it’s like drinking out of a firehose.
“It never gets old. It’s about never being complacent, always trying to learn and consistently staying focused.”
He is engaged to a Birmingham girl — loan officer Rachel Thornton. Her father is a commercial real estate investor.
A few business concepts have stuck with Nolan.
“Don’t trade hours for dollars,” says Nolan. “Make money work for you.”
His baseball signing bonus allowed Nolan to buy property for cash and he has employed managers to tend to his 13 properties around Kokomo.
“It makes things really smooth,” says Nolan. “The experience has been awesome.”
He has been working with angel investors and became interested in online sales through family friend Chris Beatty. Before becoming an internet entrepreneur, the left-hander pitched at Arizona State University in 2003.
For his podcast, Nolan has interviewed teammates, coaches and scouts to get insights into their mental approach to baseball.
“I’m just trying to pick their brain and give the listeners one or two tidbits,” says Nolan. “You can still win the game by being mentally stronger than the competition.
“You may not be a physically gifted, but you can still compete by having a mental edge.”
Nolan made himself into a student of the game.
“I’ve worked way too hard to be here and get beat because I was not mentally prepared,” says Nolan.
A kinesiology major at Arkansas, Nolan went into pro baseball as a draft-eligible sophomore before completing his college degree. His deal with the Athletics call for them to pay for the rest of his schooling.
Nolan learned baseball lessons at Kokomo High from head coach Steve Edwards (who is now principal at Frankfort High School).
“He would talk baseball and talk life,” says Nolan of Edwards. “He was such a great leader.
“He showed us that you need to learn to be a leader on and off the field. It’s OK to have fun, but you are a guy that people look up to (for leadership).
“It was his respect for the game and passion to be the best. He was a leader of men. He wanted us to be great individuals.”
At Arkansas, Nolan played for head coach Dave Van Horn.
“He was so ambitious and so passionate about being successful and winning,” says Nolan of Van Horn. “He drove everybody around him to be better.”
Van Horn was known to pull a batter for not getting a bunt down on the first pitch.
“Do things right the first time so you don’t have to go back and do it again,” says Nolan.
His first season as a Razorback, Nolan was a catcher, outfielder and pitcher. He was drafted in high school as a catcher. He eventually settled on pitching.
He was whizzing pitches at 98 mph and higher while playing with the Battle Creek (Mich.) Bombers in the summer collegiate Northwoods League in 2011 and as an Arkansas sophomore in 2012.
Last summer, he was sitting at 90 to 92 mph and looking to put movement on every delivery.
“I was blowing it by guys in college,” says Nolan. “In pro ball, 98 mph is going to get turned around.
“I’m cutting, sinking and throwing change-ups behind in the count,” says Nolan. “I’m always making the ball move.
“Nothing can ever be straight. It’s difficult for hitter to time it up, especially if it looks the same out of your hand.”
Parker had essentially three seasons in 2017. He started at Des Moines Area Community College, spent a month with the Grafton, Wis.-based Lakeshore Chinooks in the Northwoods League and then signed with the Rangers.
“I learned a lot,” says Parker. “I met a lot of good people.”
A person that he knew is one of the reasons he is still in the game.
Jason Van Skike was the pitching coach for the Kokomo Jackrabbits in 2016 and Parker was on the mound staff.
After leaving Arkansas and enrolling at IU, Parker was thinking about moving on from a baseball playing career. Then Van Skike reaches out as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at DMACC and Parker enrolled Jan. 5, 2017.
Right now, he is spending the off-season in Kokomo while preparing for spring training in Arizona. He gained 15 pounds and now carries 210 on his 6-foot-2 frame.
“I’m getting in the weight room, eating more and eating healthy,” says Parker. “I’m a lot bigger, stronger and smarter.
“It doesn’t hurt to be strong. I set myself up to maximize this upcoming season.”
Parker went into 2017 with a four-seam fastball and knuckle-curve ball and added a two-seam fastball and circle change-up to his repertoire.
In his final outing, he was able to throw all four pitches for strikes.
“I’m starting to learn to pitch as opposed to throw,” says Parker. “In the past, I had not been so proficient at throwing strikes. It was how hard can I throw this? Not where’s it going?
“It’s easier to get people out if you’re throwing it over the plate.”
He hit the radar gun at 92 or 93 mph in high school, got it up to 97 a few times in college and sat at 94 or 95 last season.
At Kokomo High, Parker was able to throw the ball past hitters. Now, he’s trying to dodge their bats.
Parker saw the differences and similarities of college and the minor leagues.
“College is more geared toward winning,” says Parker. “Pro ball is more geared to development until you get to The Show.
“In professional ball, you’re doing what makes you the best player you can be. You’re not doing what everybody else is doing. In pro ball, you’re at the ball park longer and not worrying about going to class and doing homework.
“But they’e still hitters (and you have to get them out).”
He’s also out there making his way in the online business world through WillowHead.com.
“I’m learning about customer service and price points,” says Parker. “I try to keep my hands in everything so I can make it all work out.”
After all, he is on a path to change the world.
Kokomo’s Sanburn brothers (from left): Nolan, Connor and Parker. (Sanburn Family Photo)