It took a long time, but Stacy Parker has finally realized that a little bit of Kirk Gibson goes a long way. Parker has never met the Dodger slugger, but he’s well acquainted with all-encompassing intensity and its effect on baseball.
Parker, a serious, soft-spoken senior, is the center fielder on UC Irvine’s baseball team. He’s got a Wally Joyner face and a Gibsonesque approach to the game.
But what works for Gibson didn’t always work for Parker.
“He was always trying to be perfect in a game where there are no perfectionists,” Irvine Coach Mike Gerakos said. “Sometimes, he got so intense, it got in his way.”
Parker, the Anteaters’ leadoff hitter, has a .278 career batting average. Over the summer, he decided he was going to relax--well maybe tone down the intensity level a couple of notches, anyway--and the results have been remarkable. This season, he’s hitting .325.
“I always wanted to do so well that I put a lot of pressure on myself,” Parker said. “I would get frustrated too easily and it would get me in trouble. I guess I finally realized I’m not going to get a hit every time up.”
The new, improved Stacy Parker has come close a couple of times, though. He already has had a six-game, multiple-hit hitting streak this season.
“There were times he definitely demanded too much of himself,” Gerakos said. “He expected so much of himself, and, to be honest, some of those expectations weren’t realistic.”
Speaking of great expectations. . .
Parker, who played baseball, basketball and football at Foothill High School, said he plans to “pursue baseball as far as I can take it.” He followed Brady Anderson as Irvine’s center fielder, so he figures he can follow Anderson into professional baseball, maybe even the big leagues.
“That’s my goal,” Parker said. “I think I have some skills that are valuable. I have good speed, the ability to get on base and a fairly good arm. The only thing I lack is power.”
The team’s co-captain has a .413 on-base percentage and has stolen 12 of 14 bases already in this, the season of the Great Relaxation.
Granted, the change of attitude has helped him realize some of his goals, but don’t expect to find a laid-back Parker lounging around center field at Anteater Field.
He’s the one running to first after a walk.
“Stacy still wears his game face and goes hard all the time,” Gerakos said, smiling.
He’s just not as hard on himself.
There are only two seniors on this year’s basketball team, but 6-foot-9 center Mike Doktorczyk is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder and 6-5 guard Kevin Floyd is the No. 2 scorer and leads the team in assists and steals.
Still, Coach Bill Mulligan feels pretty good about next year’s team, with one exception: He’d like to recruit a point guard who can step in and play.
The nucleus of a balanced and potentially explosive offense is there. Six players who had high games of 14 or more points will return.
Guard Rod Palmer, who averaged 15 points a game this season, and defensive specialist Mike Labat (eight points) will be back for their senior seasons. Power forward Ricky Butler (11 points) and three-point specialists Jeff Herdman (nine) and Justin Anderson (three) will be juniors.
Post players Elgin Rogers and Brian McCloskey have showed flashes of great potential as freshmen. And recruits Dylan Rigdon, a guard from Mater Dei High School, and Khari Johnson, a swing player from El Toro High, are both accurate outside shooters.
But Mulligan doesn’t have anyone to run the show. As recently as two weeks ago, he said Palmer would be the point guard next season. Freshman Brett Pagett scored six points in 13 games this year and shot just 15% from the floor. Pagett makes better decisions than Palmer, but defenses will sag and dare him to shoot.
“I’d like to get one more player,” Mulligan said, smiling. “Yes, a point guard. I don’t think Palmer will be the point guard.”
Junior Mike Morales won three events as the Irvine men’s track and field team took second in a triangular meet at Arizona State. Morales won the hammer throw (197 feet 7 inches), discus (167-10) and shot put (51-9 1/4). . . . The Anteater golf team finished fourth in a field of 20 at the Southern California Intercollegiates last weekend. Steve Puck shot 78 73-151 to tie for fifth place. USC won the meet. . . . Irvine divers Tom Jordan, Trishna Coleman and Kirsten Wolf qualified to compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. regional diving championships Saturday and Sunday in Tempe, Ariz. . . . The Irvine crew opens the season Saturday in the Parker Cup competition at Marina del Rey. The Anteaters won the varsity and junior varsity races in the meet last year.
Ron Adams, Fresno State men’s basketball coach, on Irvine’s season-ending flop: “Momentum is important, especially in a tournament situation, but momentum can end abruptly in this conference. When Irvine came in here (Feb. 18) and beat us, I thought they were playing very well. Then they went home and lost four in a row.”. . . Professional football scouts from a dozen teams will be in attendance at the sixth annual Nationwide Pro Football Search tryout at Irvine Saturday. Registration is 8 a.m. There is a registration fee of $70 (cash or money order only) to cover insurance, field, staff, equipment and computer printout of individual results to all professional teams. The camp will be under the direction of NFL Hall of Famer Tom Fears and Warren Anderson, a former assistant coach under George Allen.