Here we are in summer and the winter sports championships will continue until the middle of June.

I am one of the few people in Eastern Jackson County who even admits to watching the NBA and NHL championships. Both the Stanley Cup and NBA championships have a lot of interesting headlines. The problem is they are winter sports being played out in the summer.

I must admit the Stanley Cup battle between the Golden Knights and Capitals was very competitive. It was a huge story to have Vegas, an expansion team, participating in the Stanley Cup in its first year of existence.

On the other hand, the NBA is a whole different story. The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are playing in the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year. LeBron James has been nearly superhuman in his mission to keep his team alive for a championship. The guy is probably not only the greatest basketball player in the world, but also the greatest athlete in the world. However, Cleveland has more than an uphill battle to make the NBA finals competitive. As it plays out we will see which winter professional teams will come out on top during summer.

The real sports story in this area centers around homegrown Truman High School graduate and All-American pitcher from the University of Oklahoma, Paige Parker. This young lady is the real deal. She is probably the most dominant player in college Division I softball for the past four years.

I watch ESPN every time Oklahoma is on during the NCAA softball playoffs. This lady is one of the greatest pitchers in NCAA history. She has most likely not received as much credit as she deserves for her domination in the sport.

This year Parker was named one of four finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. Her talent as a pitcher is obvious, but even more impressive is her competitive attitude. This kid is a winner. I saw her pitch two elimination games last Saturday and, particularly in the game against Florida, she was totally in charge.

What makes Parker different from everyone else is that she grinds on every pitch. She has a purpose against every at-bat. Her experience has made her a confident winning machine. She has been named an All-American in all four years of college. She has been named Big 12 Pitcher of the Year for all four years. In her stats against opponents just this year, Parker held opponents to just a .154 batting average with an amazing 0.89 ERA. She was 28 -2 in the regular season. She averaged 8.02 strikeouts per seven inning games. She is a strikeout machine.

And this is just some of her athletic achievements. Even more impressive than her athletic achievements are her academic achievements. Paige Parker has done as well or better in the classroom than on the softball field. She was named to the 2016 and 2017 Academic All-Big 12 Softball team. She also received special recognition for her 4.00 grade point average. Parker is a three-time NFCA/Easton Scholar Athletic recipient and has been named to OU’s President’s Honor Roll 4.00 GPA 4 times.

This young lady has shown great leadership and character with her teammates and in the community in which she lives. She is a prime example of greatness in Independence as a Truman graduate. Role models do not just come in the form of professional athletic stars. We tend to put media names on a pedestal.

Sometimes we get to caught up in role models that are just professional stars. We only look to the big media names and put them on a pedestal. Although she does not get all the coverage of a football or basketball star, she shines just as bright. She is the total package and I would love to see residents of Eastern Jackson County recognize her for her accomplishments. This lady is a WINNER!

• I have been preaching all baseball season that if you are a loyal Royals fan you must bite the bullet and keep the faith. I attended the game last Friday night when the Royals lost to the Oakland A’s 16-0. Painful was an understatement. However, in the eighth inning I saw Whit Merrifield hustle into second base and stretch a single into a double when the team was down nine runs. That proved to me that some of the guys on the team still play the game the right way.

• The NBA has really hurt itself because there are only a handful of teams able to make a run at the championship. All the delays due to officials going to the replay machine have really hurt the game. Not sure I believe that instant replay has enhanced sports.

• My quote of the week comes from Hall of Fame tennis player Chris Evert: “Every time – all the time – I’m a perfectionist. I feel I should never lose.”

– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at t.crone@comcast.net.