KANSAS CITY, Kan. – For the past two days Paige Parker has been able to sleep in her own bed, join her family and friends at mealtimes and enjoy those special family moments that professional athletes rarely get to experience on the road.
The Truman High School graduate and four-time All-American for Oklahoma was on the mound for her new USSSA Pride National Pro Fastpitch team Tuesday night at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, the home of the Kansas City T-Bones.
While she wasn’t around to pick up the win, the four-time Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and two-time NCAA national champion Oklahoma Sooners star was all smiles after the Pride’s 3-2, come-from-behind win over the Aussie Spirit..
“It’s great to be home and get to sleep in my own bed and spend a lot of time with my family and friends,” said Parker, who allowed seven hits and two runs in 3 2/3 innings. “We won both our games here in Kansas City (winning 2-1 Monday), and I got to spend a lot of time with the people who mean the most to me – the people who are responsible for all my success.
“It was a good trip.”
And it continues today with a four-games-in-three-days set at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph with 7 p.m. games today and Thursday and a 4 p.m. doubleheader Friday against the Spirit.
“I’ll be at all of them,” said her father, Terry Parker, a former baseball coach at William Chrisman High School and activities director at Oak Grove High School. “I’ve been lucky enough to see Paige pitch at the high school and collegiate levels and this is my first time seeing her pitch in person for the Pride, although we have seen quite a few games on television.”
Parker and family members and friends sat behind home plate as they watched Paige struggle through the first inning. She allowed two hits – that both tipped off the gloves of left fielder Megan Wiggins and right fielder Nicole Pendley.
The former Truman High School state champion and Oklahoma national champion settled down and recorded two strikeouts and a groundout to get out of the inning.
“The Spirit have a lot of girls from the Australian national team, so they’re very good,” Parker said. “I didn’t pitch as well as I would have liked, but we won the game, and that is all that is important.”
It’s that approach to the game that makes her a favorite among her veteran teammates and first-year coach Mike Stith.
“First and foremost, Paige is a class act,” Stith said as a line of young autograph seekers wrapped its way around CommunityAmerica Ballpark. “She’s learning about being a pro, and is so coachable.
“When you have a player with her class, with work ethic and her talent, you feel very, very lucky. She came to our team with all the big-time credentials, but you could never tell is by the way she interacts with me, her teammates our the fans.
“She’s the type of player you want to succeed, and I am so thankful she is playing for the Pride.”
As Stith talks about one of the most honored players in Oklahoma history, she signs T-shirts, ticket stubs, popcorn boxes and the occasional softball.
“I want to help grow the game,” Parker explained. “I want every little girl who is here tonight to know that they have the opportunity to achieve what I have achieved. With hard work, you can accomplish anything you set out to do.”
Pride reliever Jessica Burroughs picked up the win as she recorded the final out of the fourth inning and did not allow a run the rest of the game.
Pride third baseman Jessie Warren hit a two-run, opposite field homer in the sixth inning to give Parker, her family and hometown friends something to cheer about.
“That was really special when Jessie hit that homer,” said Parker, who was one of the first players to greet her at home plate. “That was just the spark we needed.”