TOMBSTONE — Not only will Zeke Esparza be following his dreams after graduating from Tombstone High School in May, he is setting himself up for success off the baseball diamond.
On Jan. 12 Esparza signed his letter of intent to play baseball at Ottawa University Arizona in Surprise. This was his only offer for baseball but it was from his top choice in schools.
“It’s very structured and that’s the type of school I need,” Esparza said. “I wanted to stay in Arizona to be close to my family.”
Esparza said he was invited to attend the school’s tryout on Jan. 10 and two days later, while he was still in Surprise, they offered him a spot. He will either play second base or shortstop for the Spirit.
“It depended how I did at the camp and honestly that day at the camp I played the best I ever had,” Esparza said.
He said he officially signed on Jan. 12 while on campus but held an unofficial signing last weekend to share the experience with family, friends, old teammates and old coaches.
“(I’m thankful) for Coach Milligan. The structure they have (at Tombstone) is a student first and an athlete second,” Esparza said. “Coach Milligan put us in the right position to be successful.”
The Tombstone senior started playing baseball when he “first started walking” and enjoys being able to have a platform to perform in front of a crowd. Esparza said his favorite baseball moment was when he hit his first home run at Willcox High School his freshman year.
When he’s not on the baseball field for the Yellow Jackets or his travel team out of Sierra Vista, Esparza suits up for the Tombstone High School football and soccer teams. He said he puts most of his time and focus on baseball but used the other two sports to stay in shape and help improve his baseball skills. Esparza said football coach Jerry Rhoades’ motto of never giving up helped him become more aggressive on the field and diamond.
When asked what advice he would give to fellow Tombstone athletes who want to continue their athletic career in college, Esparza said he would suggest finding a school that fits them and not worry about the size or division level.
“I always wanted to go to the U of A and play for (them) ... but I realized it wasn’t the right fit for me coming from a small town,” Esparza said. “(Ottawa University) reminds me of Tombstone. Everything is walking distance and the coach is right there. I need someone in my ear to motivate me.”
Now that his future is set, Esparza is looking forward to this spring and playing his final season for the Yellow Jackets after missing his junior season.
“It’s going to be less stressful since I know my future,” he said. “I can enjoy my last season.”