Modesto Nuts outfielder Kyle Parker
has been preparing himself for big moments on the field for a long time. Parker excelled as a two-sport star at Clemson, playing quarterback and outfield for the Tigers. He is the only Division I athlete in history to throw 20 touchdown passes and hit 20 home runs in the same academic year.
Parker relied on a strong support network to get him through the tough task of balancing two high-level college sports.
"All the coaches there helped me," he said. "They let me pick which events I would go to. That made it easier on me."
Though Parker said he loves both football and baseball, the best choice for him was baseball. Colorado picked him 26th overall in the 2010 Draft, which was seen as a gamble at the time due to Parker's football success, even though he was already a proven hitter.
"I had a great opportunity being drafted in the first round," Parker said. "I've always wanted to play professional sports for a living. I took the opportunity I had to play baseball and it's worked out fine."
Parker had an early education in playing under pressure as a highly touted football and baseball prospect. His ability to excel in the ACC in both sports also showed he could hold his own among professional athletes.
The big-time atmosphere at Clemson has helped Parker the most in the California League this year.
"I had a lot of people depending on me [at Clemson]," he said. "I had to be able to perform under pressure, and it's good that I have that experience."
Last year with Class A Asheville, Parker put up good power numbers while getting on base at a reliable rate. He hit 21 home runs and had an on-base percentage of .367 in 445 at-bats. This year in Modesto, Parker is building on the success he had in his first professional season. He's hitting .313 with 13 homers, 47 RBIs and a league-high .421 OBP.
Parker said he's learned from the grind of last season, which took a toll on him as the longest baseball year for him to date.
"I was trying to get my mind ready for the level of competition I was going to face and for the adjustments I needed to make, like having better at-bats," he said.
Parker measures his success through growth as an all-around player, something he's been working on for himself and for the Colorado organization. He prefers to work on the parts of his game that can't be measured with statistics.
"The Rockies want me to improve defensively," he said. "I've made improvements all around. I think I'm getting better at running the bases and at playing the outfield."
Quickly rising: San Jose outfielder Brennan Metzger has made the most out of his promotion from short-season Salem-Keizer. He's had 10 at-bats since joining the Giants on July 11 and has collected four hits. Sunday against Inland Empire, Metzger hit his first career home run and scored twice. The Seal Beach, Calif., native was San Francisco's 22nd-round pick in this year's Draft.
Dominant force: High Desert, which nabbed the South Division first-half title, has a six-game lead over Lake Elsinore in the second-half standings with about a month left in the season. They've won nine of their last 11 games dating back to July 23, which was also the last time the Mavericks lost two in a row. That mini-skid broke up an eight-game winning streak. When the Mavs lost to the JetHawks on Aug. 4, it ended a six-game win streak. High Desert recovered to down Lancaster, 4-2, on Sunday.
A burst of fresh air: Bakersfield third baseman Travis Mattair hit well last week, going 10-for-26 with three doubles, a triple and six RBIs. Mattair is hitting .264 with 17 home runs and 68 RBIs, making him the leading power hitter and run producer in the Blaze lineup. Cincinnati claimed him from Philadelphia in the Triple-A phase of the 2011 Rule 5 Draft.