Like many of you, I've always wanted to know what it was like to suit up for Opening Day at Camden Yards. The screaming fans, the loud "O" during the anthem, the nervous excitement. It is a shock to no one who knows me that I never achieved this dream. However I was able to recently meet up with someone who has, John Parrish.
John Parrish was a childhood hero of mine. You may remember him as a member of the Orioles bullpen from 2000-2007. He ended up being traded in 2007 and spent time in Seattle, Toronto, and Kansas City before his career ended in 2010. He often fought through injuries (he counted seven surgeries when we talked) which stunted his career. His strongest season was in 2004 when he pitched 78 innings of 3.46 ERA ball in a bullpen with B.J. Ryan, Jason Grimsley, and Jorge Julio.
What made John a hero for me was that he was from my hometown of Lancaster, and I remember watching his major league debut with my eyes fixed to the screen. His debut couldn't have gone much better than it did. How did he start his first inning against the hated Yankees? He struck out Chuck Knoblauch, Derek Jeter, and Bernie Williams in order. He went on to strike out nine in seven frames while taking a hard luck loss against some guy named Roger Clemens. Later that year I dragged my parents to the York Galleria Mall to get his autograph. I still remember the team issued photo I had signed which sat with my other Orioles memorabilia in my room.
John was kind enough to meet me for lunch at a local restaurant on St. Patrick's Day. I was reminded of this fact when listening to the interview later, trying to discern why Irish jigs were playing in the background. We chatted about the Orioles, Lancaster, and his recent work in youth baseball. He is an incredibly nice guy and extremely humble about his accomplishments. A special thanks to John for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat with me.
Photo Credit: PonsonPwn
What was your experience like on opening day as a player and what was the feeling leading up to that game compared to a regular season game?
Well, sometimes I couldn't wait for it to get over so we could start playing. You know them calling out your name and doing all the festivities and seeing all the fans there. It wouldn't have been nothing, it wouldn't have been anything without fans there. Can you imagine just being called out over the intercom with nobody there?
Kinda like the game last year [after the Baltimore unrest].
Right, if you're getting your name called out and your teammates are clapping but there's no fans there it doesn't make it worth it.
I remember as a kid watching you major league debut. To see a kid from Lancaster make it to the Majors was inspiring. How do you prepare for a game like that and what was the experience like for you?
I still remember it, I still remember walking off after the first inning. Taking a deep breath, I still did it til the end of my career is I didn't breathe enough. Yeah it was always exciting, I think the first time was just as good as the last. You get the same feelings running in from the bullpen when you get called out of the bullpen.There's a lot more jitters as a starter especially when you first come up. Trying to find those guys that'll give you the good advice and you try to just cope with it. You know, I get nervous every time I go out there, that's one way of knowing I still love the game.
What are your thoughts on the recent Orioles success, especially with how integral the bullpen has been with Darren O'Day and Britton?
Yeah, you look at just those two guys. There's two very different looks out of the bullpen, you go back and look and they are very consistent. That's one thing I searched my whole career for is trying to consistently throw strikes and get it down. It was to where I took some back just to throw across the plate and locate, sometimes better than others, trying to figure out how you feel that day. That bullpen, man, that was pretty nice to see that they're able to keep together and stay healthy. That's a big part of a bullpen. If you can consistently go out and do what they did? That bullpen gives you so many looks, so many strong arms, I think at their age they have a while to stay together if they chose to do.
Did you grow up as an Orioles fan since you were from the Central PA area?
I knew of players, I didn't watch too much baseball. When I did it was at someone else's house I'd say let's go out and play instead of watch. I'd watch, when I was 6,7 years old, the Boggs-Mattingly showdowns. I enjoyed watching them swing. I bought a sticker book with all left-handed hitters and pitchers and one day I just covered my whole door back and front with everything left handed. But that was later on when I found out I was left handed and I was just like "I'm gonna run with it". I think lefties give such a different look. Watching them on TV, yeah we are a little quirky but it's all the same and you don't learn just by watching, you've got to go out and play it.
You last played in 2010 in the majors. How would you say the game has changed since then?
In the major league level, I don't know, everybody sees what the competition does. There's a lot of video now, there even was so when I was there, some of things I picked up was from Roy Halladay. It was how to analyze a video and working the video room like it was a tool for your job. And I'm sure that's become even more intricate than just watching a video and saying "Oh yeah I got it". You can absolutely dissect every little movement on every count and just give yourself that time to do it. Yeah, he wasn't very overpowering but he threw strikes and knew where to throw it. So i mean, there's things you can pick up throughout the game and hopefully the young guys will have something like that to latch onto to teach them the game even though you're at the best level you can be at in the world. You can still learn there.
Some former Orioles players have gone on to different businesses. Boog Powell obviously at the ballpark, and Chris Ray has a brewery in Virginia. Could you talk a bit about Rock Sports and what you do there?
We are an indoor training facility. The warehouse is 12,400 square feet. We have crossfit, we have trainers, we have a head sports performance trainer. I think after coming back and sitting here a few years and thinking about a lot of the things I wish I had coming up in high school. The workouts, it's a big key to getting stronger and staying healthy to outlive injury. You know I had my fair share of them. To try to pinpoint why all that happens is irrelevant so you try to see where you can pick up the slack.
If you consistently work out this, this this, this, and this you can get stronger and you will get better. And it's just not for baseball, our facility' is for all sports and we recommend playing all sports we don't sit there and just do baseball. We have open field, field hockey, soccer, volleyball, getting basketball, and obviously baseball, and seasons come and go. I don't want to see kids playing year round, I don't think that's going to be healthy. But you can work out year round for it.
The stories presented as part of the 2016 Camden Chat Opening Day Marathon are written by members of our community. To add your voice to the site please consider writing a FanPost.