'I want to be like him': Parker Meadows' spring wows big bro
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Hard to believe it was just under a month ago that Parker Meadows was following his older brother Austin into Spring Training, bats clumsily in tow and walking toward the clubhouse.
Four weeks and four homers later, as Parker walked out of the Tigers' clubhouse on Tuesday, optioned to Triple-A Toledo in the latest round of roster cutdowns, he left with a very strong first impression, and a little brotherly pride.
“Shoot, I want to be like him,” Austin said Monday.
What began as a feel-good story of two brothers getting to play together as teammates for the first time in their lives soon transitioned into the story of a prospect enjoying a breakout camp. A year ago, the younger Meadows was working through a swing change and trying to advance out of High-A ball. A strong season at Double-A Erie helped him land a spot on Detroit’s 40-man roster, which brought him into Major League camp for the first time -- and alongside Austin, who's four years older than him.
Austin didn’t have much advice for him, just a simple message.
“I constantly drill into him to be himself,” Austin said. “He has his own path. I have my own path. And to build off his own path and do his own thing. It's hard, obviously, and they're going to compare us in this and that, but I think that was my biggest piece of advice to him through this whole camp. Honestly, I haven't said much, because I've kind of let him do his thing and let him figure it out. I stay away, let him be himself and tell him to keep it simple. It's worked for him.”
The Tigers opened their Grapefruit League schedule with both Meadows in their starting outfield, their first time playing together in an organized game. Parker batted at the bottom of the order, but made his mark with a home run. Austin, batting fifth, just missed joining him with a long drive foul.
Two weeks later, the Meadows brothers played in the same outfield again. This time, they batted back-to-back, Parker right after Austin. Parker stole the show with two homers -- one of them a tape-measure drive that hit off the Braves' administrative building beyond right field -- and an RBI single.
He left camp Tuesday morning tied for the Grapefruit League lead with four home runs.
“It's incredible seeing what he's doing,” Austin said Monday. “He fit right in, having really good at-bats, controlling the strike zone, just building off last year, really. Obviously he's facing some better pitching, better opposition now, but to be able to do what he's doing and fit right into the group, it's only a testament to the work that he did in the offseason to build off last year. It's impressive.”
While Parker went on a tear, Austin’s Spring Training has been more of a veteran progression after missing most of last season. He’s 7-for-31 with six RBIs this spring, but had a spat of ground balls before getting a solid line-drive double Monday against his old team, the Rays, at Tropicana Field.
“I’ve put a lot of work in the cage,” Austin said. “Just trying to be a little easy on myself, realize I missed a lot of time last year and just trying to get back to being me. I think the timing is basically there. It’s just continuing to have good at-bats and hit the ball hard.”
The Tigers had fun with it.
“We made a big deal out of Parker hitting a couple homers while his brother continued to hit ground balls,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “Tried to lighten the mood a little bit.”
Still, to see the work pay off for Parker has been rewarding for Austin, too.
“For him to kind of bounce back last year and build off of all the tough times he had early in his career, he's blossomed and developed into the potential that he's always had,” he said. “It's starting to come out, and it's exciting to see what he does going forward.”
For now, Austin will watch his younger brother from a distance, albeit just an hour or so drive between Detroit and Toledo. But if Parker can carry this momentum into Triple-A ball, it might not be long before he can dream of playing in the same outfield as his brother at Comerica Park.