DENVER -- The Rockies don't use a quarterback, being that they play baseball, but they nonetheless bolstered the position in the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft. The Rockies selected Clemson's Kyle Parker in the first round and North Carolina State's Russell Wilson in the fourth.
After a brief time in the Rockies' system and a return to college football at Wisconsin, Wilson panned out -- this football season for the Seattle Seahawks. Now Parker, having a more conventional winding road to the big time, hopes to eventually make the same impact in the Major Leagues as a corner outfielder with the Rockies.
Parker, ranked as the Rockies' No. 7 prospect
in 2012 by MLB.com, made forward strides last season at Class A Modesto, where he hit .308 with 23 home runs, 18 doubles, six triples and 73 RBIs in 102 games. Health was the biggest hiccup. He suffered a broken right hand when hit by a pitch in the season's second game and missed a little more than a month, and a strained ligament in his left thumb cost him the end of the season and the playoffs. But when healthy, Parker had a season he could enjoy, and it didn't bother him seeing Wilson take a quicker path to big-time success in another sport.
"I know Russell very well, and I was happy to see him succeed more than I was thinking about myself," Parker said. "I think I'm on the right path. My talents on the baseball field are good enough to make an impact in the Major Leagues, hopefully sooner than later. I knew I could play football, too, at the next level, but I put my mind to baseball. I feel that it's going to pay off, and my decision will be justified."
Parker will have a chance to show new Rockies manager Walt Weiss and the front office how far he has come during Major League camp. He plans to arrive in Scottsdale, Ariz., to complete his offseason preparation. Rockies pitchers and catchers are due to report Feb. 10 and begin workouts the next day, and position players aren't due until Feb. 16 and don't work out until Feb. 17. Parker plans to be ready.
Even with the injuries, Parker showed growth in key areas between his first pro season, 2011, and last year.
At low-A Asheville, Parker hit a respectable .285 and had strong power numbers -- 21 home runs, 23 doubles and 95 RBIs in 117 games. However, he struck out 133 times and finished with a .367 on-base percentage. In 2012, he trimmed his strikeouts to 88, increased his walks from 48 to 66 and posted a .415 on-base percentage. Additionally, his final two months of 2012 were as productive as those of any hitter in the California League.
"Basically, it was a matter of knowing which pitches that I hit best, and in big situations not swinging at pitches out of the zone," Parker said. "It was a matter of knowing my swing and using my strengths."
Parker lives in south Georgia during the offseason, but three or four times a week, he makes the one-hour trip to Jacksonville, Fla., where his father, Carl, owns a workout facility with batting cages. Parker said his father knows his swing as well as anyone. Parker also developed a connection with Lenn Sakata, who was his hitting coach in Asheville and his manager in Modesto. All have collaborated to keep Parker's swing in order, and Sakata will be in Arizona during big league camp.
From there, it'll be up to Parker to demonstrate that he is on his way to success in his chosen sport.
"It's going to be a great experience for me, one that I've been shooting for," Parker said. "I'm excited to see how this goes."