As legions of young softball players work on their craft over the holiday break at The Dugout training facility in Independence, a booming sound comes from the back of the facility.
It sounds as if a canon is being fired – time, after time, after time.
But it isn’t a cannon ball – it’s a softball ball, being thrown by former Truman High School All-American and state champion pitcher Paige Parker – who went on to achieve a new form of greatness at the University of Oklahoma. She has pitched the Sooners to back-to-back NCAA softball championships.
He catcher is her father, who has coached Paige since she first picked up a glove and softball in third grade.
His name is Terry Parker, and he is a former coach and teacher at William Chrisman High School and coach and activities director at Oak Grove High School.
He sits on a bucket of balls while Parker works on her fastball.
Each time pitch is millimeters off the plate, Paige sighs, “Sorry Dad.”
It doesn’t happen that often.
She has a young fan watching her workout session. Kelsie Donaldson, 10, a fourth grader at Prairie Branch Elementary School is sporting her favorite University of Oklahoma T-shirt as she watches her favorite pitcher.
Kelsie’s dad, Nate, attended Chrisman and played baseball on a team coached by Terry Parker.
“Kelsie eats, sleeps and drinks softball,” Nate said. “For her to be able to come up here and watch Paige is really a big day for her.”
Because she was able to take many of her early finals online, Paige has been in town since Dec. 8.
“It’s so special to be back home and working out up here with my dad,” Paige said. “He’s been catching me and coaching me as long as I can remember, and now, it’s really neat to come back home and be able to work out with him.”
Terry Parker grins at the complement.
“It’s even more special for me,” said Terry, who now gives softball lessons to youngsters in Eastern Jackson County. “What’s so neat is to see all her hard work pay off. She is very talented, but she has put so many hours into becoming the pitcher she is today. That’s what I’m most proud of.”
As the session winds down, Paige and her father share a moment or two, talking about the session. They’re both smiling, so it must have been productive.
In a week, she heads back to Norman, Okla., where she will continue preparing for the upcoming season, and a possible three-peat as a national champion.
“Winning is always our goal,” Paige said. “It’s been an amazing journey, but you can’t let it be all consuming. There is a time to work out and prepare for the season and a time to just be a college kid. I have a pretty normal campus and I like it that way.”