April 5, 2001
By The Associated Press (originating report, 3/29/01)
Rookie Christian Parker earned more than a roster spot on the New York Yankees. He carved out a slot in the rotation.
Manager Joe Torre told the 25-year-old right-hander-who pitched at Notre Dame during the 1995 and ’96 seasons-the good news after the Yankees’ game against Pittsburgh was rained out Thursday night (March 29).
“The first thing I said to him: ‘When you came to camp, I didn’t know your name. You made us, in essence, know who you are. And not by doing anything crazy other than going out there and pitching,'” Torre said.
Parker entered the fifth starter race as a longshot, well behind front-runners Randy Keisler and Adrian Hernandez. In five outings, including three starts, Parker went 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA.
“There was a big smile on his face when I told him,” Torre said. “That’s the fun part of this job when it comes to this time of year.”
Parker is scheduled to make his major league debut on April 6 against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. [Notre Dame head coach Paul Mainieri and other members of the Irish baseball coaching and support staff will be on hand to see Parker’s Major League debut, with Notre Dame then set to play a crucial BIG EAST Confernce series on April 7-8 at nearby Rutgers.]
“I didn’t say a whole lot in there, I listened for the most part,” said Parker, whose voice occasionally cracked while talking with reporters. “I told him I would be ready to go when it’s my turn.”
“It’s a huge relief, along with the obvious excitement. Unavoidable excitement. I’m ready to get the season going, that’s the bottom line.”
[Parker is the first player from the seven-year Mainieri era at Notre Dame to reach the Major Leagues and is one of three former Irish players currently in the Majors. Lefthander Chris Michalak (’90-’93) ironically will start for Toronto versus the Yankees on Saturday and nearly combined with Parker for an ND-vs.-ND matchup. Michalak had a brief late-season stint in 1998 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, whose current roster includes another former Notre Dame player-infielder Craig Counsell (’89-’92).]
[Six other former Notre Dame players are active in professional baseball, including two-righthander Brad Lidge (Houston) and catcher Mike Amrhein (Chiacgo Cubs)-who were invited to big league spring training (Lidge was a part of the Astros’ 40-man roster, Amrhein an non-roster invitee).]
Parker [a fourth-round draft pick of the Montral Expos in 1996] went 14-6 at Double-A Norwich last season. He was one of three pitchers New York acquired from Montreal for Hideki Irabu in December 1999.
Parker joins a rotation that includes five-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina and Orlando Hernandez.
“It takes pressure off,” Parker said of pitching with the four established starters. “You’re talking about the premiere pitching staff as far as the four guys go in the league. I don’t have to be the ace. We have four aces. It’s an honor to be with those four.”
[Parker joins a Yankees roster that includes 13 other players who are products of college baseball, including Stanford’s Mussina, Clemens (Texas) and Texas A&M’s Chuck Knoblauch. Four other Yankees starters-Scott Brosius (Linfield), Tino Martinez (Univ. of Tampa), Paul O’Neill (Otterbein) and David Justice (Thomas More)-likewise played college baseball before pursuing their pro careers.
Pitching at Yankee Stadium crossed his mind when Parker made his only visit to the storied ballpark last December. While visiting friends, the Albuquerque, N.M., resident walked around the outside of the ballpark.
“I knew someday … I had the idea someday,” Parker said. “This is what I wanted to do. It’s been my goal, really a dream I’ve had ever since I was as young as I can remember.”
Soon after completing his session with the media, Parker was off to call his mother, Sandy.
“They’ll be some tears, that’s for sure,” he said.
(Check back to www.und.com for updates on Notre Dame’s players in pro baseball.)