There never was much doubt that Jason Sweet's first love was baseball.
"I knew it was my favorite sport when I was 4 years old and my mom would pitch a whiffle ball to me," he said "I had a plastic bat and loved to hit with it."
Twelve years after his mother threw him that first pitch, Sweet -- now a Payson High School sophomore -- has his sights set on playing at the collegiate level, and eventually in the pro ranks.
"After graduation (from PHS), I want to go to a California college, like Cal State Fullerton, and then go pro," he said. "If I can't get a scholarship to a D-1 (university), I'd like to play at a junior college and then try to make it (in the pros)."
Sweet's ascension to the doorstop of baseball success continued after his mother introduced him to the game. As he grew older, his father took over the pitching chores hurling an assortment of backyard offerings to the youngster.
"I liked to hit, but I started throwing the ball too," Sweet said, "After a while, I found out I had a good arm."
Because the 8-year-old's confidence was growing in leaps and bounds, his parents, Maurice and Cheryl, enrolled him in a Little League baseball program in Niceville, Fla. where the family was then living.
Recognizing his talent, coaches quickly converted the youngster into a pitcher. Each year as he passed through the Little League ranks, coaches selected him to all-star teams.
"When I was 12-years old and on the Niceville Eagles, we were traveling around south Florida, even to Miami, for tournaments," Sweet said.
Although he enjoyed playing in the baseball hot bed of Florida, the teen's love of the game did not diminish when the family moved to the Rim country four years ago.
First on Sweet's Payson agenda was to join the local Little League. After only a season, he became an all-star player as both a pitcher and hitter.
Entering his eighth-grade year and searching for more opportunities, he urged his father to sponsor an inaugural Rim Country Middle School baseball team. Dad agreed and then-RCMS athletic director Tim Fruth accepted the offer.
On the team, which was coached by Maurice Sweet, the youngster became the No. 1 pitcher, and a leading hitter.
In addition to playing on the RCMS team, Sweet joined a Payson Little League senior division spring and summer team.
Last year, as a freshmen at PHS, then-coach Teddy Pettet called up Sweet to the varsity. Seeing spot duty as a relief player he finished three-for-eight at the plate. He also chalked up one pitching victory, had two losses and two saves.
"And I saw a lot of mop-up (duty)," he said.
With the spring baseball season almost upon us, Sweet is anxious to return to varsity play.
"I know we have Dustin (Hacker), but I hope to be one of the top two pitchers on the team," he said.
If the sophomore proves he can handle the rigors of varsity hurling, first year coach Jerry Daniels will have a strong 1-2 mound combo in Hacker and Sweet.
While Sweet is anxious for the prep season to get under way, he's not mulling around in anticipation. He just finished up a stint playing for the Arizona Monsoon 15-year-old club team and is now a member of the Arizona Pilots 07 squad.
The 07 designation means the team is comprised of high school players who will graduate in 2007.
With the Pilots, Sweet has compiled a 2-0 pitching record and is swinging a decent bat.
"Hitting is my second best attribute," he says.
He's also hoping the Pilots will be the stepping stone he needs to earn a college or university scholarship.
"The team kind of showcases us and gets our names out where scouts can hear of us and see us play," he said.
Playing on such a highly competitive level, Sweet said, is "great, I love it.
"The players and the coaches have so much pride in the program and I've got to meet a lot of people."
As much exposure as the Pilots can give, Sweet knows it's all for naught if his grades are not good enough for a scholarship.
"I'm trying to keep a 3.00 GPA," he said.
In addition to playing baseball, Sweet has been a member of the football programs at both RCMS and PHS.