John Sparks heads into his sixth full season as Calvin's head baseball coach. In his first year, Sparks led Calvin to a school record 32 victories, an MIAA title and a trip to the NCAA III Tournament. In his first year, eight of his players were named to either the All-MIAA first team or All-MIAA second team with Nate Pocock receiving MIAA Pitcher of the Year honors. In all four years as Calvin coach, his team has finished in in the top half of the final MIAA standings.
A native of Coldwater, Sparks spent six years as head baseball coach of Tabor College - an NAIA institution located in Hillsboro, Kansas. At Tabor, Sparks took a team that had won just five games in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference over the previous three years combined, and turned it into a respectable program.
Sparks earned his bachelor's degree in English and Religion from Grove City College, Grove City, PA, in 1995. From there, he went on to gain his master's degree in exercise physiology from Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, PA, graduating in 2000.
After playing college baseball at NCAA Division III member- Grove City College, Sparks then became assistant coach, and continued in that role from 1998 TO 2000. While he was there, Grove City College appeared in two consecutive conference championship games. Sparks also completed one year as head coach at Brookfield Area High School in Brookfield, Ohio, before accepting the head coaching position at Tabor College IN 2001.
His 2007 Tabor team finished 19-26 overall and 9-15 in the KCAC. "When I took over as head coach, there was a lot of rebuilding to do," said the 35-year old Sparks who was 27 when he became a collegiate head coach. "We never reached our goal of winning a conference championship while I was there but we did take several steps in the right direction. I've learned so much from my time at Tabor. It was an invaluable experience."
During his tenure at Tabor, Sparks consistently put together a schedule filled with nationally-ranked teams. "Each year we played 12-15 games against teams ranked in the (NAIA) Top-25," said Sparks. "I'm a believer in playing strong competition."
Sparks is also a believer in NCAA Division III athletics which led him to seek the head baseball coaching position at Calvin. "I've been looking to get back to the Division III level," said Sparks. "I have a strong appreciation for the balance that Division III offers between academics and athletics."
Sparks spent the first three years of his life living in Hillsdale, but then relocated with his family to Grove City, Pennsylvania. When looking for a college to attend, Sparks visited Calvin but instead chose to attend his home town college.
"When I came to Calvin for a visit, I was extremely impressed," said Sparks. "I'm even more impressed today. Calvin has a reputation for excellence in academics, athletics and its Christian commitment. I am thrilled to be a part of an outstanding Christian college."