Had he remained at Clemson, Kyle Parker likely would be beginning his senior season as the Tigers quarterback on Saturday in Atlanta. And while his days on the gridiron are behind him, he's continued to put up big numbers on a different playing field.
The Rockies' No. 9 prospect continued his week-long assault on California League pitching Tuesday night, going 2-for-5 with a triple and four RBIs as Class A Advanced Modesto outslugged Stockton, 10-8.
Parker has driven in at least one run in five consecutive games, totaling 10 RBIs over that span.
"Obviously, there has to be guys on base and the situation has to arise," he said, "but honestly, I'm just going up there and trying to have a good at-bat every time I get to the plate and really focus and just execute what I've been working on."
The Nuts' cleanup hitter wasted no time keeping the streak going, delivering a bases-loaded triple in the first inning off Stockton starter Max Perlman. Parker said he was looking for a fastball from the right-hander.
"I knew early in the game that as a pitcher in the first inning, [Perlman] was going to try to get ahead and then throw fastballs," he explained. "He missed with a fastball down and then he threw me a fastball away. I didn't try to do too much, just tried to hit it hard, and luckily things worked out."
Parker also singled home Rafael Ortega in the second to extend Modesto's lead to 6-1.
The 22-year-old outfielder put together a solid debut season with Class A Asheville in 2011, batting .285 with 21 homers and 95 RBIs. He struck out 133 times, however, making pitch recognition one of his points of emphasis as he graduated to the California League.
"No one likes to strike out, obviously. Every player wants to cut down on those," Parker said. "I think it just comes with getting a lot of at-bats and knowing how pitchers are trying to get you out. And after a while, you start recognizing pitches better. I feel like I have and I know I can improve on it and I'm going to continue to work on it, but I'm just trying to go up there with a plan and stick to that plan for the whole at-bat."
That plan has paid dividends. He's decreased his strikeout total to 85 to go with 64 walks, already up 16 from last year's total.
At Clemson, Parker was a two-sport star, becoming the first player in Division I history to throw 20 touchdown passes and hit 20 homers in the same year. He departed after his sophomore year, signing a $1.4 million contract with the Rockies.
The former signal-caller has assumed a similar leadership role with the Nuts, a responsibility that he said comes with the territory.
"I think the situation of being a high [Draft] pick and having a lot of expectation automatically puts you in a position where people look to you," the Georgia native said. "I think it's tougher at the Minor League level because guys are always getting moved here or there and focus isn't always just on winning or development. But it's fun to go out there and compete hard.
"Like anyone else, I want to win, and I hope the other guys can see that and we can continue to keep winning and playing good baseball. That's what makes it fun."
Although it's been more than two years since he wore a Clemson uniform, Parker said he keeps in contact with many of his former teammates and certainly will be watching the Tigers open the season against Auburn.
"I actually just talked to [Clemson head] coach [Dabo] Sweeney the other day; he sent me a text message," Parker said. "He's a real good guy and I wish them the best of luck. You can't be from the southeast and not love to watch football, so I'll be checking them out."
Modesto trailed, 8-7, in the eighth before Ortega delivered an RBI single and Delta Cleary Jr. followed with a two-run double off reliever Jonathan Joseph (0-1).
Geoff Parker (1-0) retired the final six batters to earn his first Cal League win.