Forrest's Parker: Country boy in national spotlight
After long-time Forrest baseball coach Babe Hardison retired last year, the search was on for a new leader and when FHS athletic director Scott Delk became aware of a familiar name interested in the job, he knew he had his man.
That man was Farmington native and 1992 Marshall County High School graduate Chris Parker, who had already become a respected coach with a winning past, and Delk knew Parker was a full-time baseball junkie, who loved to get his hands dirty.
Love for the game
"If you grew up in Farmington, there is not a whole lot around to do," said Parker. "I had a little brother and some cousins and what we did was play ball and it was something you fall in love with and it just came full circle for me and became a career choice and it has spring- boarded from there and it's just something I enjoy doing."
Since Parker's hiring, the Forrest baseball field's grass looks like Augusta National's first cut and the dirt is almost clean.
What Parker does best is eat, sleep, and dream about managing the game of baseball that he fell in love with as a child.
Parker started his high school managing career a decade ago, taking over for his cousin David Parker at Cascade, where he elevated the program to another level in capturing back-to-back District 9-A regular season and tournament titles in 2007 and 2008.
Parker's squad won the Region 5-A championship in 2008 and the Champions made their first-ever state tournament appearance in 2007.
Parker was courted to Blackmon after the 2008 season and he stayed in Murfreesboro for three years until the smells, sounds, and just the feel of the country began churning in Parker's heart.
When the Forrest job opened up, Parker called Delk and, as they say, the rest is history.
"I grew up right down the road, my father is a country guy, my family is country people and I enjoy coaching that type of kids more than any other," said Parker. "It's time to set some roots down and become a part of somewhere, get things going here and reel off win after win after win, but more importantly see these kids go on to college and continue their education and have a chance to play baseball."
Parker's passion and knowledge for the game has been showcased on the national level with the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association's elite sponsored travel squad, Team Tennessee.
College and high school coaches from throughout the state nominate 20 underclassmen for the squad.
"The junior year is a big year as far as recruiting for Division I prospects and that is when they pop up on peoples' radar," said Parker. "College coaches have told us that they really enjoy the tournament because it really puts the kids in the college-type grind."
Former Forrest great and current Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Mike Minor played for the 2005 Team Tennessee squad and one year later, MCHS great and 2008 Milwaukee Brewers' draftee Seth Lintz pitched on the team.
"Just about every one of them has a chance to go on to college for sure," said Parker. "These kids get scouted by over 50 Division I schools, a handful of pro teams, and there is always someone there from the major league scouting bureau."
Parker was an assistant coach with Team Tennessee under Dyer County's Preston Ozment for four years until taking the helm three ago.
Under Parker, Team Tennessee finished second in 2010 before winning back-to-back Sun Belt National Championship Tournament titles in McAlester, Okla., the last two seasons, while posting a 29-1 record during that time span.
"It gives you a lot of pride to have Tennessee across your jersey and to represent the state of Tennessee against the other states' best," said Parker. "We have been very fortunate to have kids with a lot of talent that come together and play as a team to represent our state and that was even more evident last year."
At their fall meeting, the TBCA honored Parker by naming him the permanent Team Tennessee manager.
Recently, Parker was invited to speak at the TBCA Awards Banquet in Franklin and he felt more pressure speaking to the men who have molded his career than at any time coaching on the diamond.
"I got to step up in front of some outstanding people, Hall of Famers, award winners from college and high school and I got to talk about my team and my experiences in Oklahoma and gave credit to all the high school coaches for making Tennessee baseball what it is," said Parker. "It was very humbling, it was great to be among my peers and if you have done this as long as I have, you know most of them," said Parker.
Besides coaching high school during the varsity season and Team Tennessee, Parker will manage a team of 24 Forrest Rockets called the Middle Tennessee Mudcats in the summer.
Parker talked about the Forrest baseball program, his plans to take the team to another level, help his players get to college, and what the future holds for himself.
"I want to give every kid here, if he has got what it takes, an opportunity," said Parker. "This community will get behind a winning sports program, I saw that from the outside looking in, now I see it from the inside looking out. I plan on retiring here."
Forrest has not advanced past the district tournament since their second-place finish at the Class-A state tournament in 2006.
"I have got a bunch of boys that have worked very hard since I got here and I think all that hard work will pay off, I really do," said Parker. "From what I can gather from talking to my friends and other people, this district is wide open, so if we can do the things we need to do we can get out of this district and get to the region where it gets really fun where anything can happen and, hopefully, we will get to Murfreesboro for the state tournament."