Sumner pitcher lugs big heat in small package

Sumner pitcher Christian Parsons’ 5-foot-6, 130-pound frame belies a high-octane fastball and the stats to match

todd.milles@thenewstribune.comMay 10, 2013 

The room was full of hotshot, big-framed high school pitchers, slick-fielding infielders and fleet-footed outfielders, making up some of the best NCAA Division I baseball prospects in the Puget Sound area.

Christian Parsons barely had enough room to breathe, let alone rub elbows with his peers, when he walked through the door he hoped would be the first step toward making the roster of prestigious Taylor Baseball, which captured the 2011 United States Amateur Baseball Federation World Series championship.

Pitching coach Sean Donlin, who played at Washington State University, noticed Parsons walk in.

Donlin glanced down at an advanced scouting report on the pitcher from Sumner High School.

Small frame, it read. That was obvious to see.

Big arm, it also stated. That was left to be determined.

But as Parsons later loosened up in the Dempsey Center on the campus of the University of Washington, long-tossing from 120 feet, it did not take Donlin long to see the truth.

“I had heard some good things, but you never really know,”

Donlin said. “His arm … was pretty loose. The ball had good, late life to it. There was just no real effort behind what he was doing.”

When the time came to make cuts, Parsons earned one of the last roster spots at Taylor Baseball – all 5-foot-6, 130 pounds of him.

As one South Puget Sound League 2A coach put it, Parsons – now a junior – is the type who looks like he rolls up to a baseball field on a skateboard, grabs a mitt, runs to the mound and is ready to rock ’n’ roll.

Whether batters can ever grasp that the diminutive pitcher is actually a right-handed fireballer with pinpoint control – well, that’s another matter. But the statistics give a pretty clear indication.

This season, his record is 9-2 with a 0.95 earned-run average. In 66-plus innings, he has given up 29 hits, struck out 114 batters and walked just 17.

On Wednesday, Parsons threw a complete game in a 5-0 win over Bremerton that sent the Spartans to their fifth consecutive Class 2A regional tournament appearance.

“He looks like the kid in my PE class that could not bench the bar,” White River coach Michael Williams said. “But he is good. He shoved it on us this season.

“Because he is 5-6 and 130 pounds and throws in the high 80s (mph), you think (of) Tim Lincecum (former UW star and San Francisco Giants pitcher). I saw Lincecum pitch against Yelm and strike out 15 guys in high school. Christian is not on that level, but that is who he reminds me of.”

Yet, if you get to know Parsons, you would immediately sense his underlying seriousness about being great in baseball.

Everything he first learned about pitching came from his father, Dave. That side of the family hails from Okinawa prefecture, Japan.

Dave Parsons is also not big, never played baseball but has long studied the sport.

“When I was a little kid, my dad would yell at me to throw a baseball as hard as I could,” Christian Parsons said. “He has been real tight on me my whole life. He is never impressed unless I am on point.”

His father, who gets Parsons up at 5:30 a.m. on summer days to jog, has a simple saying: “Another day passed is another day lost.”

“I stay in pretty good shape,” Parsons said.

He has to with the torque he generates in his pitching motion. On his windup, his left leg lifts and his knee crashes into his chest.

Then he displays a long, exaggerated yet free-flowing stride off the mound – the measured stride of the average 6-foot-2 pitcher – as he sets up to deliver the pitch. After the baseball leaves his hand, his back leg lifts well over his head.

The pitch gets to home plate quickly with a lot of movement.

“Yeah, it obviously surprises you,” Sumner coach Casey Adcox said. “His mechanics are really, really rock-solid, and he has been working on them for a long time. He is a good athlete with very good control of his body, even when it is violent (in a pitching motion).

“That is what you want out of a baseball player – a pitcher who is violent but also in control.”

Parsons started out at Bonney Lake High School and mainly played on the junior varsity most of last season. He then transferred to Sumner with six weeks remaining and became a valuable piece in the bullpen as the Spartans advanced to the 2A semifinals, losing to Lynden.

“His fastball was 82 mph last year, but his arm was not in the right condition,” Adcox said. “He was only a sophomore, and had only pitched a little bit on varsity.”

These days, as the Sumner ace, Parsons’ fastball ranges from 85-88 mph. He has a slider that is 81-82 mph. And he also has a curveball in the arsenal.

When he faces a team for the first time, he often hears the same sentiment from hitters.

“I always hear people say, ‘He’s 5-6, he can’t be that good?’ And when I am in there in the first inning, they yell, ‘There’s the small guy on the mound.’ ” Parsons said.

By the second inning?

“It gets pretty quiet,” he said.

After his outing, he never ices his arm. Usually he will get in a short run, then go home and do push-ups as part of a brief workout.

Parsons is vigilant about his daily long-toss program.

“When you get to know him, you see how much he loves to pitch,” Adcox said. “I am not going to lie to you – the way he goes out and competes, it is special.

“A lot of his (effectiveness) is his pure stuff. But on his off days, he is able to still strike out guys because he finds weaknesses. He gets the ball where he wants to put it. He is more major league like that in his control.”

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/preps

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