Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

June 19, 2014

Runs in the Family

Kyle Parker, son of former NFL receiver and Lowndes standout Carl Parker, reaches the MLB

VALDOSTA — Carl Parker is a name known around the city of Valdosta after a standout career as a receiver at Lowndes in the 80's followed by a brief stint in the NFL, and on Monday Carl's son followed in his dad's footsteps as a professional athlete, albeit a different sport. The former Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker was promoted to the majors by the Colorado Rockies.

Kyle, who has spent the year with the Rockies AAA affiliate the Colorado Sky Sox, received the call he's been waiting for Monday afternoon when he least expected it, in the middle of a game.

"He was actually in the lineup in a day game in Colorado Springs, I was watching online in-between training some of my clients," said Carl. "It was the 1st inning and they said, 'well it looks like they pulled Kyle Parker,' that's kind of one of those things they do whenever they call somebody up, they're usually just trying to pull them out of the lineup and keep them from getting hurt.

"In Kyle's situation he was in the dugout packing his stuff and within an hour and a half he was on a plane headed to Los Angeles."

Since Monday, Kyle has appeared in two games, both pinch-hitting cameos late in the game, but despite striking out in both at-bats Carl doesn't think his son will have too much trouble adjusting to major league pitching.

"I don't know if it's a giant leap. Quite frankly there are so many factors," said Carl regarding the differences between AAA and the majors. "Funny thing about it is, you talk to Kyle and he knew the guy who struck him out last night was hitting 98-97 on the gun.

"(Kyle) said, 'Dad, we played New Orleans and New Orleans had four guys in the pen that were that way, so it ain't like I haven't seen it.' It's just all the factors that go into it. You just have to settle down and play the game."

Kyle's opinion may differ after Wednesday's game in which he made his first career start at as a first baseman against one of the best pitchers in the game, Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw.

The Rockies' contest against the Dodgers was not completed by press, but Carl best summed up his son's match-up in his first game.

"Welcome to the big leagues."

Kyle's call-up shouldn't be a surprise to anyone keeping an eye on his minor league production. Kyle has hit 74 home runs and driven in 280 runs in just under 1800 plate appearances, but Carl still wasn't ready to assume anything.

"I don't know if you really expect it," said Carl. "The fact of the matter is, it's a process. A lot of times situations and circumstances effect that process — (The Rockies) had a couple of outfielders that got hurt — so there was some anticipation Kyle might get an opportunity, but you just didn't know what that was going to look like."

After years in the outfield, the Rockies began playing Kyle at first base over the final 18 games of the 2013-2014 season before sending him to the fall league to continue learning the new position. With Kyle adding defense at first base to his repertoire he seemed like a lock to see time in the majors to begin the season, but Colorado eventually signed former MVP Justin Morneau in the offseason, adding another potential hurdle in Kyle's quest to make the team.

Since being drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft, Kyle has produced at the plate throughout his stint in the Rockies minor league system — slashing .293/.370/.504 in 409 career games. Even after proving his worth in the minors, Kyle has battled a numbers game in his journey to the majors up until this point.

A position looked to be forming in the outfield, but despite two regulars spending a stint on the disabled list, the Colorado Rockies' outfield has been the most productive in MLB this season. A deep stable of capable outfielders including: Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer, Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson, Drew Stubbs, and Brandon Barnes have combined to bat .298 with 39 home runs, 32 stolen bases, and 140 RBIs with 156 runs scored.

Even Morneau — initially viewed as a low-risk, high-reward signing — has paid off in spades for the Rockies as the first baseman has experienced a career renaissance in Colorado, hitting .297 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs through 68 games.

When healthy, Colorado likes to move Cuddyer between right fielder and first baseman, but after Cuddyer's second trip to the DL — and in the midst of a contract year — Kyle will get a crack at replacing the 2013-2014 batting champion in the field for the foreseeable future.

"This is starting his clock and his opportunity to prove he can play," said Parker. "I don't think Kyle's ever looked at it like being blocked, but there's some good talent there and in that league you've got to perform to be able to play.

"That's one of the things I think he's done such a great job of is knowing the breaks. He knows it's not a matter of when I get the chance, I'm going to get the chance, it's just a matter of being ready when that opportunity comes."

One advantage Kyle has over the countless players in a similar position — attempting to clutch onto a major league roster spot — is having a father that can provide insight into what it takes to be a professional athlete.

"I don't think it's any secret you look around and you see a lot of kids that come from families that are professional athletes and the experience itself really provides you the opportunity to shed some light in a way that kids can learn," said Parker.

Parker compared the families of professional athletes to those of famous musicians.

"Look at musicians, a lot of times their kids end up growing up to be musicians," said Parker. "I was talking to Rhett Atkins, or Thomas Rhett, who's a country music singer from there in Valdosta, we went to school. I know Rhett Atkins real well, he's one of the top country songwriters in the world, and then his son is one of the top county music artists. He was talking about how his son was able to learn from things he walked through when he was younger and I think it's the same way as an athlete.

"There are certain things you learn to walk through. From me, have been some things — worlds of wisdom — I think one of the things I try to do is reflect a level of professionalism. You really have to exhibit and you have to really learn how to go about it and that doesn't happen the day you get called up, it happens the day you start playing the game."

If Kyle heeds his father's words, the accomplishments of another Parker may be buzzing around the city of Valdosta.

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