Derek Parks had kicked around the idea that all this talk about scouts and contracts and draft picks may actually turn into something big. But it wasn't until an April recruiting visit to the University of Texas, when an assistant coach there told him he could command a $100,000 signing bonus from the pros, that he genuinely realized he could play professional baseball.
And with that arose a more consuming question: What would he do with that bundle of money? It was certainly an envious position for someone who was yet to graduate high school.
"I was shocked when I first heard about it," Parks said. "I've never really thought about what I would do with $100,000. There's not much I can say about it--except that it's a lot of money."
But not so much that he won't ask for it. So if the team that drafts him in the first week of June wants him to skip college and go straight to the minor leagues, it'll have to pay that lofty sum. If the money isn't there, he will accept a scholarship from either Texas or USC.
Parks, a 17-year-old senior at Montclair High School, is rated as the fifth-best prep player in the country by Baseball America. He has an 11-1 record as a pitcher, and can play catcher.
But unlike former Glendora catcher Kurt Brown--the No. 5 overall pick in the draft last year--Parks (6 foot, 190 pounds) doesn't figure to be the first high school player taken, or even the top choice from California. Ryan Bowen, a pitcher from Hanford High in Fresno, is expected to go higher. But, according to Montclair Coach Tom McFadden, all indications say Parks will be among the first 10 players taken.
"Something like this could put us (Montclair) on the map, and it could mean a lot to the school," McFadden said. "But he (Parks) is taking it all in stride. I don't think all the talk of money has ruffled his feathers at all. He's not only a good player, but he has the mental game figured out, too.
"We all know the money is coming, but it's like a baseball game. Until the final out is recorded, you can't put up the W."
Parks' ability to produce in pressure situations, plus his natural ability and .507 regular-season batting average, make him a good prospect. He prefers going straight into the pros, but the plan is to sign a letter of intent with a college in the next few weeks, then wait for the draft.
"The draft has got to beat what the colleges offer," he said. "If not, then it's simple: I go to college."
USC has a slight edge over Texas if that option presents itself. The Longhorns have impressive facilities, he said, but the Trojans have the locale.
As a 14-year-old freshman he hit about .300 for the varsity. He then climbed to .350 as a sophomore and .444 as a junior, earning all-league honors both seasons.
In the summer before his senior year, Parks moved from third base to catcher. After talking with McFadden, his American Legion coach, Hank Merenda, asked Parks to switch positions. Although bothered by a hamstring and groin pull in the first half of the season and more recently a hyper-extended right knee, Parks has made their decision look good ever since.