CLEMSON -- Kyle Parker resided in the Clemson dugout Wednesday morning, swarmed by reporters as is typically the scene. Perched next to Parker on top the dugout bench was freshman Richie Shaffer, receiving far less attention while observing life in the spotlight.
Soon, the freshman might occupy Parker's place.
Shaffer is expected to replace Parker as the team's top power threat in coming seasons. Shaffer might join Clemson greats like Khalil Greene and Jeff Baker as players who have made multiple College World Series appearances. And Shaffer might replace Parker as the face of the baseball program.
Though the jewel of Clemson's 2009 recruiting class is biding his time in relative anonymity, the circumstance does not mean Clemson's first baseman is precluded from becoming a difference maker in Omaha.
Three of Shaffer's seven home runs came in the Tigers' super regional victory over Alabama, and four have come in the postseason. Shaffer appears to be catching on at the right time as Clemson opens up play in the College World Series against Arizona State at 7 p.m. Sunday.
"If I could be the kind of player Kyle is, it would be incredible," Shaffer said. "If that ends up happening, I'm not going to push away from it." Clemson hitting coach Tom Riginos believes a late March hamstring injury slowed his transition to the college game, costing Shaffer 17 games.
"His pitch recognition just wasn't there," Riginos said. "It's a routine. Now he's on point. He's locked in. He's seeing the breaking ball and that's the whole key with him."
Riginos compare Shaffer -- Baseball America's 27th overall prep prospect last year -- to former Clemson star Jeff Baker. The early comparisons to Parker and Baker are not dressed in hyperbole.
As a freshman, Parker produced a .959 on-base plus slugging percentage. Baker posted an .886 OPS. Shaffer has a .936 OPS mark. Both Baker and Parker went on to record 20-homer seasons.
Like Baker, Shaffer is starting as a freshman on a College World Series team. Like Baker, Riginos projects Shaffer to have plus-power -- possibly more power than Parker.
Shaffer demonstrated his skills by blasting a key two-run homer in the seventh Monday off the left-center scoreboard at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. And Shaffer has more power potential, as he has yet to fill out his 6-2, 190-pound frame, 20 ponds shy of Baker.
While Riginos says Shaffer won't amaze in the weight room yet, he has natural hand strength, resulting in excellent bat speed. He also has long arms to create leverage.
The natural hitting ability jumped out at the Clemson staff when Shaffer was smacking balls out of Doug Kingsmore as a 15-year-old at a Clemson baseball camp.
"He can be another Jeff Baker," Riginos said. "He's got light tower power. He might have the most natural power, even more than KP (Parker). Richie is going to be a very (high) draft pick in two years."