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He Hopes to Be a Regular, and Not Just in the Spring

March 05, 1987|STEVE DOLAN | Times Staff Writer

YUMA, Ariz. — He is playing for his fifth manager in eight spring training camps with the Padres. He is one of four players on the major-league roster who preceded the arrival of General Manager Jack McKeon late in 1980.

He isn't Tim Flannery or Andy Hawkins or Eric Show. He's Mark Parent, and you're not alone if you have never heard of him. Because when the Padres return to San Diego each April, Parent returns to catching at such outposts as Walla Walla, Wash.; Beaumont, Tex. and Las Vegas.

"In high school, you have school, summer vacation and go back to school," said Parent, 25, who is from Anderson, Calif. in Shasta County. "Now I play winter ball every year, go to Yuma and whatever."

"Whatever" included a stopover in San Diego last September. In 14 at-bats with the Padres, Parent had two hits. Otherwise, Yuma is the extent of his experience with a major league team, though he hasn't given up hope of making it to the regular season day.

In eight years, Parent has encountered a succession of Padre managers.

The first was Jerry Coleman in 1980.

"His camp was very loose," Parent recalled. "The veterans just came out to get in shape. There was no discipline, other than what the trainers had us do."

Then there was Frank Howard in 1981.

"Frank was a little intimidating because of his size (6-feet 7-inches, 255 pounds)," Parent said. "Everyone felt intimidated when he talked. His volume kept getting higher and higher and higher. I'm 6-5 and I felt like a shrimp around him."

Next came Dick Williams from 1982 to 1985.

"I'd heard rumors how he'd go after you if you messed up," Parent said. "That was true if you made mental mistakes."

But, he added, if a player tried hard "and made a physical mistake, he wouldn't jump on you. That's the way it should be."

Then there was Steve Boros in 1986.

"At first, it seemed like he tried to be nice getting along with veterans and welcoming the young guys," Parent said. "I think he went overboard getting to know players and trying to be popular. That doesn't always cut it."

Now there's Larry Bowa, who managed Parent last season at Las Vegas.

"Larry's a lot like Dick Williams," Parent said. "Larry is the same as Dick about physical and mental mistakes. If you do well, Larry will pat you on the back. That might be the only difference between Larry and Dick."

Bowa was a rookie manager last season at Las Vegas, and Parent was a second-year veteran in the Pacific Coast League. Parent batted .288, his highest professional average. He was a backup catcher to Benito Santiago, as well as a part-time first baseman and part-time designated hitter.

At Las Vegas, Parent spent much of his time talking about catching with Santiago. Now Santiago will catch for the Padres, but Parent is expected to spend more time in Las Vegas.

Six years ago, Terry Kennedy was the Padre catcher of the future. Parent waited his turn. Now Santiago is the catcher of the present and future. Parent's still on the waiting list.

"Any player needs patience, not just him," Bowa said. "There are some good catchers in this organization. (Coach) Sandy Alomar's kid (Sandy Jr.) is a pretty good catcher, too. San Diego must think Mark is a good catcher or he wouldn't still be here."

Parent never dreamed that, in his eighth camp, he would still be a minor leaguer.

"There's nothing stopping me from being a Terry Kennedy or Benito Santiago," Parent said. "You could say I was a victim when Terry came here. I wasn't ready then. With Benito, my job in Las Vegas was to help him as much as I could. I backed him up, but I still got a championship ring from Las Vegas last season that I like."

Parent would like to help a major league team, and he would like that team to be the Padres.

"I try to impress whoever is watching me," he said. "If San Diego makes a trade, another team may need me. I'll tell you, I'd like to play in San Diego. It's a beautiful city. If I don't make their big league club, I'd like to be traded. I feel I can play for someone."

The Padres still have two options left on Parent, so they can send him to the minors the next two seasons without losing him.

McKeon has dealt with numerous situations similar to Parent's in his years with the Padres.

"Mark's a good prospect," McKeon said. "He'll get a chance to play in the big leagues. The questions are when and with who. He's 25 now. A lot of catchers don't get their break until that age."

Some players never get that break. Some reach an age when it's time to forget baseball and move on to another profession. Otherwise, they become career Triple-A players.

"Even though (Parent) has caught a couple years at Triple A, I don't think he's at that stage," McKeon said. "If the time comes when he no longer fits in our plans, we could trade him. He's like a salesman who has to sell himself so that other clubs will want him. If Santiago gets hurt, he'd be in the picture here. Some guys get their break, and some never do."

Parent is not discouraged.

"I'm going to stay with it," Parent said. "I enjoy playing baseball. I don't think I'll be in Triple A for another three or four years."

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