GREENVILLE -- Kyle Parker strode to the batter's box under a smattering of applause, sounding like he had sunk a par putt. A few calls of "Kyyyyyle!" echoed in a sparsely populated Fluor Field. The atmosphere of indifference accompanying most minor league ballparks is in striking contrast to his home games before 70,000 fans as Clemson's quarterback last fall.
The former two-sport star is now focused on just one, and he has no doubts about his choice.
Through his first 21 professional games, Parker is batting .346 with two homers and 21 RBIs for the Asheville Tourists of the South Atlantic League. The Tourists were in town this week to play the Greenville Drive.
"It's just good to be able to focus on one thing," said Parker, who was selected in the first round by the Colorado Rockies last June. "Just getting used to playing every day is probably the biggest (adjustment)."
Before arriving for the four-game series in Greenville, Parker's last performance in the Upstate was as quarterback in an ugly loss to South Carolina. In the game last November, Parker was benched by his coach and booed by the home crowd.
But perhaps Parker's disappointing 2010 football season, which marked major statistical regression from a 2009 campaign when some thought he had NFL potential, needs to be reevaluated.
Parker said Colorado Rockies doctors found evidence of broken ribs sustained earlier in the 2010 season, prior to the cracked ribs he suffered in the bowl loss to South Florida. The logical assumption is he suffered broken ribs against Auburn and was never again the same quarterback.
Was he playing at 80 percent? Seventy?
"It's tough to say," Parker said. "I did what I thought was necessary."
Parker said he wasn't completely healthy until a few months ago, and he attributes his fast start this baseball season to finally being at full health.
"Just getting some time off, just getting to heal," said Parker. "Obviously I couldn't do that during the (football) season, so I'm just having some time to get my body (healthy). … I can still feel it but it's not like I'm getting beat up every Saturday."
Parker has said he has no regrets about turning down a $2.2 million signing bonus and accepting a $1.4 million bonus that allowed him to play another year of football. If nothing else, he has a peace of mind about his choice.
Parker has not spoken much to Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney since leaving. He has kept in close contact with former Clemson coordinator Billy Napier, who was fired after the season and is now part of the support staff at Alabama.
"I've actually talked to him a lot," Parker said. "I hate to see what happened to him, but hopefully it will work out for him. He just calls to see how I am doing; he's working hard."
Parker has also had little communication with the Tigers' new starting quarterback, Tajh Boyd.
"There's no hard feelings between us," Parker said. "If he wants to call me up, that is OK. I did the best I could when I was there to let him know how to handle adversity … that is the biggest thing that is going to be on his plate and how to respond. Don't let the pressure get to you and keep a level head."
Good advice from a pro.
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