Former QU pitcher Spraker set for World Baseball Classic with Great Britain
QUINCY (WGEM) - For Graham Spraker, it was like having a birthday on Christmas Day.
The gifts and excitement just keep on coming.
The former Quincy University pitcher won’t soon forget Feb. 9 when he:
- Was activated to Great Britain’s roster for the World Baseball Classic.
- Received a nonroster invitation to spring training with the Tampa Bay Rays.
“It was quite an honor to be selected to Great Britain’s team for the WBC,” said Spraker, who pitched from 2014-17 at Quincy University.
“It’s one heck of an opportunity and I’m excited to get rolling with the team. And yes, that was a pretty unbelievable day!”
Spraker, who was 22-11 with a 3.20 earned run average during his four-year QU career, flew from Tampa, Fla., on Monday to Great Britain’s training site in Phoenix, Ariz. The team had a workout on Tuesday, plays exhibition games against Milwaukee and Kansas City on Wednesday and Thursday before an off day Friday.
Then on Saturday, Great Britain opens pool play against the United States (8 p.m., FOX-TV). St. Louis pitcher Adam Wainwright will start for the Americans.
The U.S., Great Britain, Canada, Mexico and Colombia are in Pool C located in Phoenix.
After being chosen in the 31st round (the 939th pick overall) by Toronto, Spraker compiled a 15-15 record with a 3.05 earned run average between 2017-22 in the minor leagues. He was selected for the 2019 Florida State League All-Star Game.
But last season on Aug. 19, the Blue Jays released Spraker, who was 1-4 with a 4.82 earned run average in 29 games.
So Spraker entered the offseason looking for his next Major League opportunity. On a parallel track, Spraker began talks with Great Britain about possibly pitching in the WBC.
On Feb. 9, Spraker signed a minor league contract with Tampa Bay and was assigned to the Class AA Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits.
He reported to spring training several weeks ago to the Rays site in Orlando. On March 1, the team moved its spring training to Tropicana Field -- its home park -- in St. Petersburg, Fla. The team’s normal spring training site in Port Charlotte, Fla., is undergoing repairs after being badly damaged by Hurricane Ian last summer.
“I got to throw in Tropicana Field for the first time so that was really cool,” said Spraker, who made two spring training appearances for the Rays covering two innings in which he allowed one hit, one walk with three strikeouts.
“My velocity was up and I was confident with my offspeed pitches,” Spraker said.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-hander, though, is realistic about his chances of making the opening day Rays staff.
“Since I’m a nonroster invitee, they would have to drop somebody off the 40-man roster and that most likely won’t happen,” Spraker said.
Because he’d signed with Tampa Bay, Spraker had to get permission when he received the offer to join Great Britain for the WBC.
“Once I formally knew I was on the team, I had to talk with the Rays to get their permission to leave camp,” Spraker said. “They were really excited for me. I got three weeks in the big league camp to meet the coaches and staff.”
Meanwhile, Spraker’s quest to join Great Britain had multiple twists and turns since the late fall before coming to fruition.
After months of talks, Spraker said he finally got a call from Great Britain’s bullpen coach Conor Brooks saying they wanted him on the team and to send along his qualifying documentation.
A few days later, Spraker got approved. The connection was that his mother was born in Hong Kong and had a British passport, as Hong Kong was under British control until the 1997 shift to the People’s Republic of China.
Because his mother, born Mei Wong, had her original expired passport and additional documentation of her name change — to Mae Spraker — the Wisconsin native was approved under WBC rules covering lineage.
“I’ll be a reliever out of the bullpen,” Spraker said of his role. “There will be strict pitch limits for the WBC.”
During his time in Orlando, Spraker got the opportunity to see his former college team play.
“Saw QU win a game against Rollins College,” Spraker said. “Watched them hit three home runs in a row ... I can’t take credit for any of that! The Hawks looked pretty good.”
Copyright 2023 WGEM. All rights reserved.