Kyle Parker's family traveled thousands of miles to see him play sports last year. This weekend, the drive will be about 10 miles.
Parker, the former two-sport star at Clemson University who became the first NCAA Division I athlete to throw 20 touchdowns and hit 20 homers in the same academic year, found time last summer to sign as a first-round pick with the Colorado Rockies. He's expected to play four games in Augusta this weekend starting tonight when his Asheville Tourists, Colorado's Single-A affiliate, play the GreenJackets.
Parker's family, including parents Carl and Cathy Parker, have seen Kyle play professionally a few times this year when the team played in Greenville, S.C., but they won't need to travel far from their Evans home this weekend.
"I've always had the support of my parents and my family, and it's going to be nice for them to get to see me play again," Parker said. "I'm the best player in their eyes no matter what."
Though Parker didn't grow up in the Augusta area -- his parents moved here after he left for college -- he did say he's excited to play in Augusta just to see the familiar faces.
"It's not the place I grew up," he said. "But I'm going to stay at the house, and see the family."
It doesn't take a parents' perspective to see Parker's success as a pro player. The starting outfielder entered Wednesday's action tied for second in the South Atlantic League with 47 RBI. He went 3 for 5 with a home run and three RBI in his last game against Augusta on June 4 and, barring a call up, will play in next week's SAL All-Star game as the Southern Division's top right fielder with a .274 batting average.
Parker hit .344 his senior year at Clemson and the move to the professional level has been a transition for the whole family.
"Sports has it's ups and downs. You don't always win. So sometimes if he doesn't get a hit, he has to remind me that it's a long season," Cathy Parker said. "I'm very proud of him, not just because he's made it, but because he has a good head on his shoulders and because he knows his talents came from God and he gives back."
Parker donated part of his signing bonus to help fund Cathy's Athletes 2 Champions, a nonprofit organization set up, according to its mission statement, to "equip communities with the resources necessary to assist athletic programs, inspire coaches and leaders to become mentors of young athletes and develop character in young athletes, encouraging them to share their God-given talents."