Baseball choice weighs on Parker's future

Clemson baseball standout could pick the diamond over college football

pstrelow@thestate.comDecember 22, 2009 

Clemson outfielder Kyle Parker waits for a pitch at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson on Tuesday during their game against Michigan State. Parker is also a member of the Clemson football team as a quarterback.

NATHAN GRAY

  • TIGERS VS. WILDCATS

    WHO: Clemson (8-5) vs. Kentucky (7-5)

    WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Sunday

    WHERE: LP Field, Nashville, Tenn. TV: ESPN

    TV: ESPN

    RADIO: ESPN Radio 93.1 FM

    LINE: Clemson by 7

CLEMSON - The irony in Kyle Parker's new dilemma is that he considered backing out of his commitment to Clemson football because he might not see the field soon enough.

Parker had pledged in February of his high school junior year and intended to enroll before signing day.

But the more heralded Willy Korn wound up redshirting that season, meaning the two would be separated by one year of eligibility - not two as Parker originally thought.

So by mid-December, Parker was contemplating a switch to Mississippi, where new coach Houston Nutt sought to groom him as Jevan Snead's eventual replacement.

"Ultimately this is where I wanted to go," Parker said after enrolling at Clemson. "You never know what's going to happen."

Indeed.

Snead might return for another season after a disappointing junior year at Ole Miss.

After this weekend, Parker might never play college football again.

Parker's rookie football campaign comes to an end with Sunday's Music City Bowl against Kentucky, but in one month, Parker is set to return for his third season with Clemson's baseball team - making the former first-team All-ACC baseball pick eligible for the pro draft in June.

Parker is ranked as the preseason No. 71 college prospect by Baseball America.

He said his favorable experience as the Tigers' starting quarterback this season will influence whether he pursues pro baseball next summer. But there are too many variables to consider right now.

"I still have a lot of things to figure out and a lot of decisions I have to make soon," Parker said. "But the biggest thing was I enjoyed being out here (playing football). I'm not going to be able to do both forever, so right now I'm enjoying having the opportunity."

While it might be hard to fathom Parker leaving football, Parker likely will decide soon because he stands to have his peak leverage in baseball negotiations next summer.

Among his issues - Parker's marketability in pro football might be handicapped by his height. Beyond Drew Brees, there are few successful NFL quarterbacks around 6-feet tall.

Then there is a gamble on whether he can progress as a quarterback, continue fending off the redshirting freshman Tajh Boyd and produce a career meriting an NFL look, height withstanding.

That isn't to suggest baseball is the easy pick. Parker has been a slugging corner outfielder for Clemson but likely would be moved to the infield in the pros.

Does Parker's baseball play convince a pro team he has the tools worthy of a substantial enough signing bonus to lure him from football?

Baseball practice begins Jan. 29, and Parker said he hasn't been to the batting cage since June.

A year ago, Clemson weaved its spring football practices and quarterback meetings around Parker's schedule so he would be given every opportunity to learn the offense.

Coach Dabo Swinney said he probably would be more lenient in that regard this spring because of Parker's experience.

Spring football practices will overlap March 8 until April 10, but there appear to be fewer conflicts this year, with Parker perhaps only missing a few road games at Duke because of Clemson's spring game.

Swinney said Parker's baseball prospects will not affect how the staff grooms either Parker or Boyd during the offseason.

"I expect Kyle to be back," Swinney said. "But if not, we'll go to the next guy."

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