SEDGWICK — The accomplishments of Sedgwick High School alumnus Brylie Ware, who was recently drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team after graduating from the University of Oklahoma, are well documented. Brylie's parents, Pat and Paulette Ware, are often at his games, watching and encouraging their son from the sidelines as they have for nearly 20 years.
"He loved it from the get-go. He still loves it," Paulette said. "He loves the strategy of the game, the camaraderie of the game, he loves that he's good at it and that God blessed him with some amazing hand-eye coordination."
Brylie comes from a family of athletes — Pat played tennis, football and college-level baseball while Paulette played basketball, soccer, softball and ran track, going to state in discus.
But the Wares' history did not dictate their children's paths.
"We had an agreement when we got married that we would not push our kids into sports — they had to ask," Paulette said.
For Brylie, that moment came when a member of their church told him her 3-year-old son was signed up for baseball.
"He said, 'Mom, I'm old enough to play baseball! Can we do that?' " Paulette said.
At that time, the Wares lived in west Wichita and signed Brylie up with Westurban Baseball. The team was comprised of a number of boys who were late to the signup process but fortunate to have a coach who had played baseball at Wichita State University.
The Wichita Cubs — so named thanks to Pat whispering the suggestion in his son's ear — would be Brylie's team for 10 years. Brylie was one of the youngest members of the team.
"He always played up, which I think gave him a huge advantage in skill level," Paulette said.
As he progressed, Pat and Paulette would check with the coaches to make sure Brylie was able to still have fun despite the challenge of playing against older kids.
"We were blessed with very honest coaches who told exactly what Brylie's level was," Paulette said. "It was very evident to most of the coaches that he could play."
Not only did Pat and Paulette attend games, they also went to every practice they could.
"We always wanted to see other players and how they were doing," Paulette said. "If you go to a practice and see how your son is doing, you shouldn't have any gripe about whether he's playing or he's on the bench because you can see his skill level."
Pat also volunteered to be an assistant coach and to keep statistics, passing the lessons he learned playing baseball on to his son. One valuable skill instilled in Brylie was how to block out the noise from the crowd — even the encouraging yells from his mother.
"He was trained from when he was young how to stay calm," Pat said. "We taught him to sing songs while he was pitching to get his rhythm and just think of that, not what was going on all around."
"He's a lot like his father. Things roll off his back," Paulette said. "Nothing really bothers him. He's very calm, very cool."
Letting Brylie play sports took a huge commitment of time and money, especially when it came to baseball tournaments. Each one took hundreds of dollars in travel expenses in addition to paying for team fees and equipment throughout the year.
"It adds up fast," Paulette said. "Every time we went to a tournament, there was a hotel we had to stay in and food that we had to buy."
The Wares said they felt the expenses were an investment they hoped would pay off when Brylie was ready for college. Before the scholarships came in, though, there were numerous weekend trips to baseball games in Kansas and surrounding states.
"We'd drive at night," Pat said. "When I got tired, (Paulette) would take over for 30 or 45 minutes and then I'd start driving again."
"We never took a family vacation anywhere — those were our vacations," Paulette said.
Brylie and his sister, Shae, would play typical car games, such as looking for license plates from different states and "I Spy." Paulette, a chemist, also taught them to look for UN numbers on trucks and determine what chemical was being transported.
"We would also sing church songs," Paulette said.
"And lots of John Denver," Pat added.
Having a captive audience in the car also gave the Wares the opportunity to have sincere conversations with their children.
"We would talk about being committed to a team and what that meant — what Jesus would want you to do when you're committed to a group of people," Paulette said. "We would talk about working hard. You're going to be on the mound in 110 degree heat — are you going to help the team to the best of your ability?"
On the occasion either of their children ended up with a bad team or had a bad coach, they were encouraged to persevere.
"In that situation, there was no quitting if you were a Ware," Paulette said. "If you were doing it God's way, you committed to this group and you were going to finish it out."
Pat and Paulette said through their years of being sports parents, they learned to let the kids talk to the coaches when they had an issue — and vice versa.
"We're advocates for our children, but we need to let the coach be the coach," Paulette said.
Watching other coaches gave Paulette ideas for when she coached Shae's softball team.
"I learned how to be a coach by going to Brylie's games and practices," Paulette said. "All the drills that he did, I would do those in my practices."
For others with kids in sports, the Wares offer advice from their experience.
"Don't push them into it, make sure the kids are ready and want to do it," Pat said.
Finding out what you can about the coaches ahead of time can aid in determining if your kid will have a good experience, Paulette advised.
With Brylie reaching the major leagues, Pat acknowledged he feels their efforts were well worth it — though it will be harder to get to games.
"Instead of going every weekend, we may get there twice every summer," Pat laughed.