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Q&A with Nevada's Owen Sharts as he embarks on start of a pro baseball career

Owen Sharts
Owen Sharts is off to a professional career after three years at Nevada. (Nevada athletics)

Owen Sharts' career at Nevada was an up-and-down ride. A top prospect in the 2018 MLB draft, Sharts opted to play college ball rather than sign with the Rangers, who drafted him in the 32nd round three years ago. The right-handed pitcher went 5-12 with a 5.55 ERA in his three-year Wolf Pack career. He had some electric starts and made the All-Mountain West team in 2020 when his breakout campaign that was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sharts got off to a strong start this season before requiring season-ending elbow surgery on his throwing arm (although it wasn't as severe as Tommy John Surgery and he should return to the mound shortly). Sharts was a 13th-round pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday and will forgo his final two college seasons to start his pro career.

As a result of Sharts being Nevada's lone MLB draft pick this week, he is Nevada Sports Net's Wolf Pack Athlete of the Month for July, an honor presented in partnership with Champion Chevrolet. You can watch our full interview with Sharts below, or check out our Q&A underneath that.

Nevada Sports Net: Where were you when you found out you were being selected in the MLB draft?

Owen Sharts: "I was on campus in our training room doing physical therapy with our trainer. Nothing crazy. I was actually doing stuff. I wasn't sitting down watching it. I was on campus. It picked up around 9 o'clock. I had a couple teams call before it started around 8:15. That was pretty crazy just trying to get something solid and sift through the noise. I was in the middle of doing something with our trainer and my phone rang and it was my advisor, now my agent, and he said, 'Hey, they're going to take you right here.' I said, 'Cool.' That was pretty much it. I got the phone with my family, who ironically they came up to be with me, but I wasn't with them. I was on campus."

NSN: You've been drafted before in 2018 in the 32nd round by the Texas Rangers. When you look back at that decision to go to college and where you are now, would you say it was worth the wait?

OS: "Yeah. Every decision I've made throughout my life has been the right decision. Even that one. Three years up here in Reno and with Nevada baseball and the relationships that you make, the coaches and stuff like that, you get to know people at a different level. Being immersed in the community and the community service and stuff like that, it's invaluable. You can't put a price tag on something like that. It was definitely worth it. There's nothing here that I won't take with me for the rest of my life. I think this is more than baseball. For anybody interesting in playing college sports, it's definitely an experience you can't buy."

NSN: What would you say is the biggest thing you've learned during your three years at Nevada?

OS: "If you've been around and know the program, there's a lot to learn and a lot to take away. One of the most important things is you can't ride the highs and can't ride the lows. You have to stay even keel with everything in your life. School, personal life, baseball. Once you get riding those highs, I promise you'll get knocked down. If you ride the lows, nobody is going to feel sorry for you. I just think what I'm going to take away from here is if you're not humble, something's going to humble you at some point. Staying humble and staying myself and staying consistent is one of the most important things you can take away from my three years here along with the relationships and stuff I've built. Those are things that are going to last forever. That's invaluable. There's nothing you can put on this place. There's no price tag, no dollar amount, nothing you can buy that will replace my experience here."

NSN: How are you feeling right now? Emotional? Sad to leave Reno?

OS: "It's kind of a mix. I am really happy that it is over, that the process is over, but I'm really happy to start this next chapter. I am sad to leave. I like it here. Reno is always going to be a home to me. I just think this place is awesome. Definitely kind of a bittersweet deal. But definitely really excited to move on and get excited."

NSN: What's the thing that most excites you about joining a professional organization and starting that next chapter of your life?

OS: "It's exactly that. It's no longer an amateur sport. It's professional stuff. That's exciting. I've been waiting to do this for a long time, and I think I'm just excited to be in a professional atmosphere and continue to build new relationships and go on this journey. Who knows where it's going to take me. I'm lucky that (former Nevada teammate) Grant (Ford) is already in the organization. He already reached out to me. I'm excited to reach out to him and stuff like that. I'm really just excited to be a professional at this point."

NSN: How is your injury progress going now and explain a little bit of what you've been going through.

OS: "It's great. It's going really well. I'm just past two months past surgery. I'm exceeding expectations in terms of timelines where I should be in terms of movement and stuff like that. I just had a follow-up with my surgeon last week. Now it's time to start getting a little stronger and start using it a little more and just get comfortable moving it around and get past that little voice in the back of your head that says, 'It's going to snap.' It's going really well. I'm excited for the Pirates to take this over and go through some professional rehab and get started."

NSN: How was the experience of seeing your team and organization win a Mountain West title and go to an NCAA Regional but not get to experience that as an active player?

OS: "There was a lot of emotions there. That was the first I've been sidelined with something like that. The COVID deal was different because everybody was sidelined. I was literally looking on from the stands, but I couldn't be happier. If they were losing, I would have been in a poor mood. But it's such a family environment, I was never kicked to the curb here. It was always, 'What can I do to help the program? What value am I going to bring today?' Yeah, I wanted to be out there, but there were guys who had been here a lot longer than me that earned it and went through a lot more than I have. Just to see them compete and come out on top is such an exhilarating feeling being on the field after we won the conference and just being at Stanford watching them play (in the NCAA Region), I got the chills watching them play. It's so awesome. The coaching staff, too. They deserved every bit of that."

NSN: You were the only Wolf Pack player drafted. What kind of words of encouragement have you given to your teammates who didn't get drafted to not give up on the dream?

OS: "We were all excited for each other leading into this. From an outsider's perspective, this process is different for everyone. It's crazy. Crazy stuff happens every year in this draft. We had a group text saying, 'Good luck. We're really rooting for you.' My phone has been blowing up with love. It puts things in perspective that I am lucky being in this position. This is something that's never going to end. The '21 team, the '20 team and the '19 team, you still connect with guys and they're still rooting for you and stuff like that. It's great."

NSN: You're one of two locals who got drafted. Jace Avina from Spanish Springs High was going to join Nevada (he was drafted in the 14th round by the Brewers). It will be interesting to see what decision he makes. What advice would you give him as he tries to sort through turning pro straight out of high school or going to college?

OS: "There's definitely the financial factor, which is a big deal for a high school kid. I would just saying you're making the decision for yourself and not for any other reason. Know what you want to do. I know I wanted to play a team game for another three years, and that's why I came to school. You can't put a price tag on that. It's a hard decision. Trust me. But if you think about what you want to do and the experience you want to have, money aside, you'll make a pretty good decision. Hopefully he makes a good decision. Hopefully he plays for the Pack and stays local. But if he chooses to go on, that's his decision and I wish him all the best. This place will root him on, too. I've never met him, but sounds like he's a really good kid and I'll hope for the best for him."

NSN: What will be your "pinch me" moment to make it really feel real?

OS: "I don't know, honestly. Maybe when I get on the plane over there, but probably once I show up and get started and throw some of the stuff on that doesn't say 'Nevada' anymore. It will trip me out a little bit. That's all I've worn the last three years. I'm cleaning out my closet and have so much Nevada stuff. At that point, I thought, 'This is starting to feel a little real.' I'm not playing here anymore. I don't think it will ever feel real, honestly. It will feel like a dream."

NSN: At least you weren't drafted by a team that wears red.

OS: "Yeah, that would have been weird. I don't think I look good in red. That just would have been bad."

NSN: There's a financial impact when you turn pro. Is there something you want to buy yourself? Something you want to splurge on?

OS: "I've been smart. I have a good support group, and I mentioned that today and said, 'I don't know what I'm going to do." I'm definitely not going to go spend it. I'm definitely not that kind of person. It's going to sit somewhere, and it's going to stay there."

For previous Wolf Pack Athletes of the Month Q&As, click here.

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