Former big league baseball scout speaks to local high school squadBy Stephen Dawkins Published 4:02pm Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Chilton County High School’s varsity baseball team was eliminated from the state playoffs last week, but the losses surely can’t be blamed on a lack of preparation.
Coach Josey Shannon and his staff give the Tigers the instruction they need, and leading up to the playoff series against Briarwood, the players were inspired by a visit from a baseball legend.
Kenneth “Squeaky” Parker, who spent 52 years in Major League Baseball, mostly as a scout, spoke to the team on April 17, the day of a practice game against Thorsby and two days before the Tigers hosted Briarwood at Jack Hayes Field in Clanton.
“My main point was the way they live their lives: stay away from drugs, steroids, alcohol and all that,” Parker said. “I talked to them about the importance of the Lord Jesus Christ in my life. We also talked about honoring thy mother and father, the importance of a hard work ethic and life after baseball. Regardless of what they do, there’s the importance of education. I thought it went well.”
Shannon describes Parker, 77, as a long-time friend. The two met in 2001, when Shannon was a junior at the University of West Florida in Pensacola and Parker was a scout for the area for the Pittsburgh Pirates–and a benefactor for the local college program.
“He was like our pawpaw,” Shannon said. “He had a big heart. He didn’t take for granted the opportunity that was given to him. He’s a special man to me.”
Shannon later played for Parker on the 2003 league champion Baton Rouge River Bats minor league team.
Several years after the two parted ways, Shannon reconnected with Parker through a mutual friend.
“He was just ecstatic about me looking him up and contacting him,” Shannon said.
In addition to the Pirates, Parker has worked as a scout for the Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles, San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds, and for MLB’s scouting bureau.
Parker signed big-league stars including Will Clark, Matt Williams, Charlie Hayes, Jeff Brantley, Robby Thompson and Mike Remlinger before his retirement in 2008.
Despite his history with the sport, Shannon said Parker doesn’t spend too much time around baseball anymore, which is one of the reasons he was willing to visit with the CCHS squad.
Parker said he enjoyed seeing the team’s support and city-owned facilities.
“I was really impressed with the number of parents and team followers that were there,” Parker said about the practice game. “In my experience, especially at the high school level, it’s very important for parents to support. It just gives the player a better perspective to look up and see his father there. I didn’t have that in my life, and I think it was a void that wasn’t filled.
“I think that they have done a great job on the ballpark. That clubhouse, you just don’t find those type of facilities at a high school ballpark.”
Parker and his caregiver, Reda Pittman, traveled to Clanton from his home in Ellisville, in east Mississippi.
Shannon said he thinks the CCHS players benefitted from Parker’s advice.
“He gave good advice about how to handle this game, how it’s meant to be played,” Shannon said. “This has been a great experience for our kids.”