There is an old adage in baseball that “chicks dig the long ball.” If a player hits home runs — and lots of them — they are instantly a fan favorite. Who doesn’t like watching a ball get cranked out of the park 400 feet from home plate?
But every once in a while there is a player that does things a little differently — like Mallards shortstop Josh Parr. Standing at six feet and weighing 170 pounds, he has never been known to hit for power, but that hasn’t stopped him from being both successful and a favorite among fans and players. Earlier this week his teammates named him the leader of the team.
Parr was born in Chillicothe, Ill., where he played high school ball for Illinois Valley Central High School. He was named to the 2007 and 2008 All-State Teams as a shortstop, and finished his senior season ranked as the 34th best prospect in the state of Illinois.
After high school, Parr decided to attend the University of Illinois. Often, freshmen tend to struggle adjusting to the college game, but for Parr that was not the case. The shortstop started 51 of 52 games, finishing in the top five on the Illini in steals (13), batting average (.337) and multi-hit games (18). As a sophomore, Parr started all 52 games, finishing second on the team in steals (21) and tied for first in triples (6).
“It’s a lot of fun playing for Illinois,” Parr said. “Our assistant coach Eric Snider is great with teaching hitting and I think that’s the biggest part of my game that has improved since coming to Illinois.”
Joining Parr on the Mallards is Illinois teammate and former roommate Adam Davis, who is fourth in the Northwoods League with a .370 batting average. Both were just recently voted to the Northwoods League All-Star team. This marks Parr’s second consecutive all-star appearance, as he was voted to last year’s Prospects League All-Star Game as a member of the Springfield Sliders.
“It’s awesome to be able to play with Adam,” Parr said. “We have a very close relationship. We’re great friends. We were fishing today and he caught a six-pound bass. Those are the types of moments I enjoy the most with him. I’m happy he’s going up to the All-Star game with me.”
While Parr and Davis are close friends on and off the field, it is their competitive nature that drives them.
“Adam and I really push each other to get better,” Parr said. “There is definitely a little competition involved.”
When asked who the better player is, “I’ll always say Adam is the better player, but in a foot race I think I would have the edge,” Parr admitted.
If there is one thing Parr can do, it’s run. It’s no coincidence that he consistently ranks among the team leaders in steals wherever he goes. While most players tend to steal more bases playing at home, Parr is just the opposite. Thirteen of the 20 bases Parr has stolen this summer have been on the road.
“Coach always talks about how we need to be a little better on the road,” Parr said. “I tend to get more comfortable when I play at home, so when I’m on the road I feel a sense of urgency to steal a few more bases.”
Although Parr may not have the power that makes major league scouts drool, he has just about everything else:; his blazing speed, tremendous hustle and quick bat are rivaled by few in the Northwoods League. Most young players struggle with discipline at the plate, but not Parr. He has an uncanny patience, which was evident Thursday night when Parr took a four-pitch walk in the bottom of the second inning. What separates Parr from others is not only his ability to be a leader for his team, but also the ability to do so with modesty.
When asked where he sees himself in ten years, Parr was humble.
“I have no idea, probably watching (Mallards outfielder) Kyle Gaedele on TV,” he said.
That’s not to say the guy doesn’t have ambitions. Growing up in Illinois, it has always been Parr’s dream to play for the Chicago Cubs someday.
“I’ve been a Cubs fan my entire life,” Parr said. “I realize they may never win a championship, but if the major league is in my future that’d be pretty cool to play there.”