Mark Purser knew something wasn’t right when he felt excruciating pain in his arm after Mt. Spokane’s then-sophomore center fielder tried to throw out a runner at first base.
“I had pretty massive pain in my elbow, and it was not your typical pain,” Purser said.
But it wasn’t until his pitching start in mid-April of 2005 against University, that the gravity of the situation surfaced.
He was facing the second batter in the seventh inning when the stabbing pain returned. He pitched his way out of the inning, he said, using changeups.
“I had the mentality that I was invincible,” Purser said.
He discovered he wasn’t, although he wasn’t long out of the lineup. Purser wouldn’t pitch again for more than a year while undergoing rehabilitation following Tommy John surgery to replace a ulnar collateral ligament. He continued to contribute for the Wildcats both as designated hitter and outfielder.
Now a senior, Purcer has been cleared to pitch again and in limited duty has gone 1-0 with 11 strikeouts in 13 innings and a 1.08 ERA, although the outfield is his forte.
This is Purser’s fourth varsity season of a superb baseball career at Mt. Spokane. During that time he has been part of a team that has compiled a 50-16 four-year record, the best among GSL schools.
“He’s meant a lot to the program,” coach Alex Schuerman said. “He’s really gifted physically. He can run, field, throw, hit – he’s a five-tool guy. But his biggest asset is his maturity.”
That fact that Purser has played all four years that Schuerman has coached brings to his mind a couple of stories.
“It was my first year and I had heard about him as an incoming freshman,” Schuerman recalled. “At our first meeting I said that under no circumstances will we take a freshman on varsity … no matter how good he is.
“At a morning practice with the pitchers the first week he throws one pitch and I told an assistant, ‘I might have to re-think that rule.’ “
His second story about Purser came later in his first varsity game as a freshman. Schuerman said he led off with a ringing double over an outfielder’s head.
His second at-bat he overcame a two-strike deficit to battle for a single. In his third at-bat, he was walked intentionally. The fourth time at the plate, facing a pitcher who would become the league MVP, he hit a three-run triple.
The opposing coach told Schuerman, “I’m voting for that kid all-league already.”
Baseball captured Purser’s imagination early on from watching his father, Jeff, play.
“Watching him I always played the same way,” he said. “I couldn’t play easy. I always had to play 150 percent.”
He became immersed in Spokane’s select baseball culture with a variety of coaches since age 12, working year-round to improve and playing as many as 80 games in a year.
He originally played shortstop, but there were two on a summer team and he was asked to take a turn in center. He made a diving catch and the position stuck.
Purser batted .318 as a freshman, improved to .364 as a sophomore and hit .404 last season. This year, said Schuerman, “he’s off the charts.”
Purser, who is 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds, is 21 for 37, a .568 average, and has 20 runs batted in, which surpasses his previous career highs of 16 compiled in both his sophomore and junior years.
His on-base percentage has increased from .464 in 2004 to .673 this season. Over the course of four years he’s hit 23 doubles and eight home runs.
As a pitcher, Purser went 3-1 as a freshman, was 2-0 with a 0.78 ERA before he was injured as a sophomore and has 50 strikeouts in 52 innings during his career.
His dream is to play pro ball.
“Playing a game for a job, in my opinion, is the best thing in the world,” Purser said.