After failing to catch a break for much of his high school career, Brandon Parker has finally broken through as a freshman at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
His high school head coach at West Harrison, David Marsland, can rattle off a long list of setbacks that Parker endured during his prep career.
After stepping in as the cleanup hitter as a high school freshman, it was one injury after another for Parker over his final two seasons. The first major hurdle came in the form of a shoulder injury as a junior. His senior year was even more of a struggle – hamstring, hand and shoulder.
“He was fighting through injury all year long, from the first game to the last game,” Marsland recalled. “The last game of the season, he broke his wrist.”
Parker also remembers going through a nasty bout of the flu as a senior that caused significant weight loss.
“My batting average dropped like a stone,” Parker said. “I knew I could do it. My parents and coaches believed in me. Everybody knew.”
Even through all the misfortune, Parker proved a solid piece of the West Harrison lineup. He hit .333 with four homers and 21 RBIs in 27 games as a junior. As a senior, he hit .337 with five homers and 29 RBIs.
It turns out those numbers were just a small indicator of what he was capable of.
Through the first 26 games of his career at MGCCC, Parker is hitting .458 with 13 homers and 47 RBIs.
To begin the season, there was no hotter junior college hitter in the nation, with 10 homers through the first 14 games. While Parker's home run clip has cooled off a touch, he's shown enough to grab the attention of top college baseball programs and major league scouts.
“(The pro scouts) have called,” MGCCC coach Rodney Batts said. “Those who saw him in high school felt like he was a secret. They've seen his numbers and they're getting back in to see him again. That will continue all year.”
It's appearing more and more likely that Parker will have a choice to make after just one season at MGCCC – sign with a four-year school or ink with a Major League squad.
The increased interest from pro scouts has been a welcome development.
“Oh, man, It's so awesome. That's a dream, you know,” Parker said. “Going through high school, that's all I ever wanted. When I was a kid, all I wanted was to go play pro baseball. It's all unfolding. I've just got to keep on working and putting up numbers.”
Parker, who plays right field, packs quite the punch in his 6-foot-1, 205-pound frame.
“Seeing Brandon in high school, you could always see the raw power,” Batts said. “We saw that, but I don't think you could predict the numbers he has put up early in his freshman year. But we always knew it was there, that he had a chance to be really good and put up big numbers.”
Parker has always had natural pop, thanks to a quick bat.
“He's stronger than what he looks,” Marsland said. “He's a good-sized kid, and he just generates so much bat speed. He has so much torque, and he kills it in the weight room. He's not afraid to put in the work.”
To all fields
Along with improved health, Parker credits his improved numbers to a better approach at the plate.
“I put in a lot of work in the offseason,” he said. “I wasn't really good at hitting the outside pitch. That was a weak point where everybody tried to get me out. I worked in the offseason and got really good at hitting that. I've had good plate coverage and hit the outside pitch.
“In high school, I was trying to hit homers. I worked on staying back and hitting line drives, and that's worked out for me.”
After mostly being a pull hitter at the high school level, Parker has shown power to all fields this year.
“I think of the 13 homers he's hit, six have gone out to right or right center,” Batts said. “It was just a matter of understanding the difference between college and high school.”
Parker is also good in the field. He's always covered plenty of ground, and his right arm is getting healthier and stronger by the week.
Parker is part of an MGCCC lineup that isn't lacking in youth or pop. Biloxi product Dylan Menhennett, a sophomore infielder, is hitting .398 with eight homers and 29 RBIs. Freshman third baseman Alden Davis, a Pascagoula product, is hitting .440 with three homers, 10 doubles and 27 RBIs.
MGCCC is 20-6 overall and 4-4 against MACJC competition, good enough to be ranked No. 18 in the nation.
Parker is enjoying the ride after a frustrating high school career.
“It's been so fun,” he said. “I love this team, love all the coaches. We have a chance to go pretty far.”
Parker is far from the lone baseball star in his family. His younger brother, Tate, is a senior at West Harrison, and he is batting .500 with eight homers and 26 RBIs. The younger Parker is also drawing college interest, with Southern Miss and UAB stopping by to talk to him.
With Tate sure to get his chance at college baseball, Marsland is relieved to see that Brandon Parker is finally in position to show what he can do.
“He's such a good person off the field,” Marsland said. “We had a special-needs student who texted or called him every morning asking him stuff. He'd always reply, go out of his way to recognize her. He's never been an issue. He's always done the right thing. It's great to see success come his way.”