July 20, 2011
By Shawn Sell
For former UC standout Logan Parker, one clear goal is driving him during the 2011 baseball season; winning a championship. Now in his second season as a member of the Gateway Grizzlies of the independent Frontier League, Parker is one of the league's best players, but at the end of the day all he wants is a championship.
Parker's road to where he is today is not unlike that of many other ex-college stars. After getting selected in the 12th round of the 2006 MLB Draft by the Cincinnati Reds, his adopted hometown team, Parker enjoyed a steady climb through the ranks of the minor leagues. As a rookie, he batted .329 with nine home runs and 51 RBI at Billings, before moving on to Class A Dayton for the next two seasons, where he continued to shine. By 2009, Parker had reached Double A Carolina, but early in 2010 the Reds, fully stocked at first base with MVP in the making Joey Votto and top prospect Yonder Alonso, decided to cut Parker loose after a slow start at Carolina. Finally, he caught on with the Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier League, a rival of Cincinnati-area club, the Florence Freedom. Now in his second season with Grizzlies, Parker says he has enjoyed the experience, but sees lots of differences from the traditional minor league setting he got used to.
"Here, I play with some fresh guys right out of college," he says. "In the higher levels with the Reds, you don't have that so much. It's all about trying to develop and get to the next level. Here it's all about winning. You don't have a farm system you are playing for; you are playing for your team and that's it. You don't have anybody behind you coming to take your spot. You don't have to worry about prospects coming to steal your job. You don't have to worry about who they just drafted. That kind of stuff really takes the pressure off and lets you have fun playing the game again and that's what I enjoyed most about coming back here."
With the ability to just sit back and play the game he loves, Parker has excelled in a season and half with the Grizzlies. Last year, he hit .305 with 13 homers and 77 RBI in his first year with the St. Louis-based squad. Halfway through this year, his pace is just about the same as he is among the league leaders in hitting (5th,.335), runs (T-2nd, 42), hits (T-6th, 65), homers (T-9th, 9) and RBI (T-2nd, 46). His 2011 numbers were enough to earn the slugger his second straight All-Star Game selection, along with an invitation to participate in the home run derby, where he finished second.
"It's an honor to be selected by managers and radio guys and newspapers from all around the league," Parker says. "The home run derby was icing on the cake; I was trying to win that thing. I had nine in the first and was the sixth hitter out of 12. Then in the second round, I was the fourth hitter, so I sat for like an hour and half. All I had to do (in the semis) was hit one to get in, so I hit one and just stopped. Then I got in the finals and sat for another 15 minutes and just had nothing left."
As the second half of the season gets going, Parker is focused on helping his Grizzlies move into contention for a league title. After a slow start, Gateway has an uphill climb as it sits 15 games back in the Western Division. If Parker has his way, the Grizzlies will be a second half factor.
"The whole deal with coming back here was trying to win a ring," he says. "Personally, I am doing well and the team is starting to turn it around and we are hoping to make a little run at it. And that's all I really care about at this point in my career is trying to win something. My personal records don't really mean much, I just want a ring."
Despite turning just 27 years of age earlier this week, Parker's time as a competitive player may be winding down. Earlier this year, he got an invite to the Colorado Rockies' spring training, but ended up getting cut and headed back to Gateway. Unless his phone rings and another MLB club is on the other end sometime this summer, Parker says this year is probably it for his career.
"This will be my last year, I am sure of it," he says. "When I got picked up by the Rockies for spring training, that was like a dream, playing indy ball for a year and then getting picked up; (but) I don't want to be in indy ball forever. I tried to do that and got picked up and then released and it has got to the point where if I get picked up during this year, I'll go, but if it's another spring training invite, I am not going to do it."
Even though his playing career may be winding down, Parker does have an eye to the future that includes an already lined up high school coaching job back home in Texas and a September 2012 wedding to his longtime girlfriend, Mary. He also hopes to make it back to his home away from home in the Queen City.
"I am going back to Texas for a little bit, but my dream would be to back in Cincinnati coaching with (UC head coach) BC (Brian Cleary)," he says. "We will see how that works out, but it would be great."
As he works his way back towards Cincinnati on a more permanent basis, Parker will be in the area with his team to take on the Freedom for a three-game series starting on Thursday (July 21st). As always, he is looking forward to the trip and catching up with some fellow Bearcats.
"It's always a good time for me," he says. "I think Z (Brian Szarmach) is coming out and I am sure I will see Woody (Bryan Wood) and his parents; that's always a good time."
During his playing career, Logan Parker has set records and lived his dream of being a professional baseball player. Now as his career begins to wrap up, all he wants is a ring.
UC continues to be well-represented in the professional baseball ranks, including big leaguers Tony Campana
(Chicago Cubs), Josh Harrison
(Pittsburgh Pirates) and Kevin Youkilis (Boston Red Sox). Here is a capsule look at the rest of the UC pro baseball alumni:
Ryan Baker: A back-up catcher with the Double-A Trenton Thunder of the Eastern League, Baker has appeared in six games, collecting two RBI.
Tony Campana: Campana has remained on the Cubs' active roster since his first big league call-up on May 17th. In 46 games, Campana is hitting .259 and has stolen 10 bases in 11 attempts for the Cubs.
Lance Durham: Durham has played in 39 games for the Class A Lansing Lugnuts, where he has slugged a pair of home runs and 10 doubles, while driving in 22 runs.
Brian Garman: Garman has pitched in 28 games in relief for the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, earning a pair of wins and three saves. Covering 39 innings, Garman has a 2-2 record, along with 41 strikeouts and has worked his ERA down to 3.69 after seeing his ERA balloon above 10 early this season.
Josh Harrison: Harrison has been a contributor for the Pirates since his May 31st call-up, who have hovered around first place in the NL Central in recent weeks. In 30 games, Harrison has four doubles, five RBI and a pair of stolen bases, while hitting .263.
Jimmy Jacquot: In his second season with the Great Falls Voyagers of the Pioneer League, Jacquot is hitting .247 in 20 games. In addition, the catcher has five doubles, one triple, two home runs and 13 RBI.
Dan Jensen: Jensen's first professional season as a member of the Cincinnati Reds' farm system has been with the Billings Mustangs of the Pioneer League. In six outings, Jensen has pitched 11.2 innings, striking out 10.
Kevin Johnson: After starting the season with the Class A Hickory Crawdads, Johnson is now with the Texas Rangers' Arizona League squad. While in Arizona, Johnson has picked up one save in six outings, while striking out 20 in 14 innings of work.
Dan Osterbrock: Osterbrock continues to rehab from shoulder surgery performed in June with the hopes of returning before the end of the summer. Prior to his injury and a brief Double A call-up, Osterbrock was 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA in four starts for the Class A Fort Myers Miracle.
Chris Peters: Peters' rookie season has been spent with the GCL Blue Jays in the rookie Gulf Coast League. In 20 games, Peters has collected three doubles, three triples and seven RBI, while batting .254.
Mike Spina: Spina has continued to deliver for the Midland Rockhounds of the Double A Texas League. This year, Spina ranks among the league leaders in doubles (T-3rd, 24), RBI (9th, 58) and walks (T-3rd, 52) and is batting .274. In late June, Spina was selected as a starter for the Texas League All-Star Game, where he doubled twice and collected a walk.
Kevin Youkilis: Now in his eighth season with the Boston Red Sox, Youkilis has moved across the diamond from first base to third this year. In 89 games, Youkilis is hitting .281 with 27 doubles (tied for third in American League), one triple, 13 home runs and 68 RBI (tied for fourth).
NOTE: All statistics in this piece are reflective of games played through July 19, 2011.