South Waco student, a top MLB prospect, turning heads and attracting attention of baseball royalty

Central Texas prospect hoping to inspire South Waco youth to excel on and off the field
Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 5:42 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A University High School senior committed to the University of Texas, but open to a professional career after he graduates from high school, is turning the heads of baseball scouts and attracting the attention of baseball royalty like Ken Griffey Junior, Albert Pujols, Manny Machado, and CC Sabathia.

Nik Sanders, 17, is consistently ranked as a top 20 player in the US, and the number one catcher in his class in Texas. He says despite being a top prospect projected to go in the first or second round of the Major League Baseball draft, he’s keeping his focus on just playing the best baseball he can.

“To me, honestly, rankings don’t really mean anything,” Sanders said. “Yeah, it’s nice to have a number next to my name, but I don’t let it get to my head.”

Sanders said he’s dreamed of becoming a pro baseball player since he was four years old watching his father play.

As a young boy, Sanders played baseball at Lake Air Little League.

Sanders played his freshman year at University High School before transferring for most of his sophomore and junior year to La Vega High. He says returning to University to graduate was personal for him.

Sanders’ dream is to inspire other kids growing up in South Waco and he wants to be a bigger and a more visible star locally than University product and NFL Hall of Famer, LaDainian Tomlinson.

“I want to come back and be bigger than him and once I get fame and more money, I’m going to invest it back to where I came from,” Sanders said.

He says coming from a place like South Waco, not known for producing top baseball players, motivates him.

“It feels good because I take it as a target on my back,” he said. “A lot of people don’t like it but I know there are a lot of people that support me here, too. I remember all the times when I was young, all the people who supported me. Now, I have a big following base and I take it like I really want to set the right example and do right and be the right person that kids look up to and show them that there is a way out and show them there is a lot more to life that just what is here in Waco. "

“It’s pressure, but it’s good pressure. It helps me perform better each day.”

Sanders’ talent has been noticed by many and taken him from coast to coast.

Sanders plays for the Phillies Scout team based in Orlando, FL., which produced three of the top five MLB draft picks last year.

He’s the only Texan on the team made up of the best players nationwide.

This summer, the teenager was invited to participate in the Hank Aaron Invitational in Florida at Jackie Robinson Training Camp.

Sanders was chosen as one of the top 44 players at the camp and flown to Atlanta to play in a game at the Braves’ Stadium.

Ken Griffey Junior was Sander’s coach with Junior’s father also helping.

Nik with baseball legend Ken Griffey Jr.
Nik with baseball legend Ken Griffey Jr.(Courtesy Photo)

In July, Sanders was selected as one of only six high school All-Americans to participate in the High School Home Run Derby in LA during the MLB All-Star weekend.

The University product said he got to not only meet but spend time with superstars like Manny Machado, Albert Pujols and CC Sabathia.

“My experience in LA at the Home Run Derby was fun because I got to be around all the MLB guys. I got to take notes from them,” Sanders said. “Manny Machado and Albert Pujols took me under their wing, and I got to talk to them, and they just treated me like a little brother slash son, but it was fun.”

Sanders isn’t playing football at school for the first time this year. Instead, he’ll be focused on his classroom work, holding down a job at Cavender’s Boot City in Waco and, of course, baseball.

“Being a good teammate that’s what I’m known for,” Sanders said. “And knowing how to hit the ball really far.”

Despite the success and bright future ahead, the high school senior is already brainstorming ideas to start a non-profit to help kids in his district.

He hopes his legacy as a Trojan will always be about others and knows the big decisions in the coming months will fall into place.

“It’s up in the air,” he said. “I’m just trying to make it to my 18th birthday.”