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Parra thrilled to be reunited with Young

Rockies' first-base coach helped Gold Glove winner early in career
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Gerardo Parra suited up for the Brewers in the opening series last season and saw a lot to like from their opponent, the Rockies -- on the field and in the first-base coaching box.

"They hit, like, 100 base hits and 12 homers, something like that," Parra said, smiling. And the Rockies rose in his eyes because of Rockies first-base coach and outfield instructor Eric Young.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Gerardo Parra suited up for the Brewers in the opening series last season and saw a lot to like from their opponent, the Rockies -- on the field and in the first-base coaching box.

"They hit, like, 100 base hits and 12 homers, something like that," Parra said, smiling. And the Rockies rose in his eyes because of Rockies first-base coach and outfield instructor Eric Young.

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Parra was a young and quiet prospect with the D-backs several years ago when Young -- who was Arizona's Minor League outfield coordinator before serving as first base coach in 2011-12 -- took an interest in helping him develop. Two Gold Glove Awards later, Parra never forgot what Young did for him.

It all figured into Parra's signing with the Rockies for three years and $27.5 million during the offseason. Parra joined an outfield already crowded with left-handed bats, but the Rockies later made room by trading Corey Dickerson to the Rays for lefty reliever Jake McGee and righty starter German Marquez

"I was surprised a little bit, but when I listened to Colorado, I was happy, because I know the organization, I knew the GM," said Parra, who batted a combined .291 with 14 home runs and 51 RBIs with the Brewers and the Orioles. "I knew a couple players here. I talked to my agent and said I want to try to sign here. This is going to be a great team. And also, when you play there, the fans come to the stadium -- a lot of them."

The relationship with Young helped make Parra's career.

Video: NYY@BAL: Parra goes 4-for-5 with three RBIs

As a prospect with Arizona, Parra was clearly behind Justin Upton and Chris Young on the Spring Training depth chart. And Young detected a wait-your-turn attitude. For Parra to develop into a two-time Gold Glove Award winner -- in left field in 2011 and right in '13 -- he needed to become bolder.

"He was a shy kid who wanted to stay in the background in individual drills," Young said. "I just gave him a look, and we made eye contact. I said, 'No. I want you in the front in every drill.'

"I'd watched film on him and heard good things about him. And as I saw him each and every day, I had to tell him as reinforcement -- whether he thought it or not -- 'Hey, you're probably my best defensive player out here, better than Justin, better than Chris. You can play.' He looked me in the eye like, 'You believe in me.'"

It wasn't all sweetness. Parra, with one of the Major Leagues' strongest throwing arms, at times would lay back in an attempt to fool opposing runners into going for the extra base. Young didn't want him risking a runner gaining 90 feet.

Video: KC@BAL: Parra makes great diving grab on line drive

"It's like my son -- there's that tone that I mean business, and that tone that we're going to have fun, and I was on him," Young said. "After a while, I could look at him and he was like, 'My bad, Papi.'

"I had to convince him that it looks just as good -- and you gain even more respect -- by charging and throwing a bullet to that cutoff man and holding him to second base. Word got around and fewer guys started running, because in scouting reports it said, 'This guy has a cannon, but more importantly he's very accurate.' You're more accurate when you charge, because you cut that distance.

"You know what was tremendous? When he won the Gold Glove [in 2011], he asked me to present it to him out there on the field. That was an honor. And he was adamant about this."

Parra said, "When I won my Gold Gloves it was, like, 50 percent to him. He helped me a lot, like how to catch a fly ball, how you throw it. He's got good points for big league outfielders. That's my best outfield coach.

"Right after I signed, he called me and said he was happy I signed, and I could help us win. I want to win another Gold Glove this year."

Parra said playing left in an outfield with two-time Gold Glove winner Carlos Gonzalez in right and 2014 All-Star Charlie Blackmon in center will make the Rockies' defensive outfield "the best in the National League." Maybe the Rockies will live up to last year's first impression, which faded into a 68-94 finish.

"I saw a really good team, really good players," Parra said. "I like the adrenaline when the guys played baseball. Everybody played happy."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page.

 

Colorado Rockies, Gerardo Parra