My name is Mark Parker and I am beginning a blog that will be about my work covering the Hickory Crawdads. To understand my mindset about baseball, you probably need to know a little about my background in baseball. I have none.
I am a church musician. I love my work in the church and making music. It is what I live for. I am likely the only official scorekeeper in the U.S. that has a scorebook and a hymnal in the same briefcase.
But everyone needs a hobby, and mine is the great game of baseball. There was something that connected with me when at seven-years-old in 1970 I opened my first pack of baseball cards. The first card was Tom Grieve of the Washington Senators.
Since that fateful day, I grew to love the game. I played whatever pickup game what was going on in the neighborhood on the street or a backyard. On many summer evening growing up in my Riverdale, Ga. home, I turned on the radio in my bedroom and listened to voices such as Milo Hamilton, Ernie Johnson, Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren call Atlanta Braves baseball. When the Braves weren’t on, or were losing – which was often in the 70s – I tuned in to KMOX in St. Louis to catch Jack Buck and Mike Shannon. or to KDKA in Pittsburgh, or to Ernie Harwell in Detroit, or Marty Brennaman in Cincinnati. Through that magical box, the voices took me to cathedrals of the game I could envision in my mind.
When I finally attended by first game live at Fulton County Stadium in 1978 against the Cincinnati Reds – yes the great Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, George Foster (he homered in the game) and more were there. I walked into the seating area and it was as if the heavens descended to my sports earth. My first act as an “adult” – what I thought I was at 17 – was to drive MY car to Atlanta and buy my own dugout -evel ticket ($8 at the time) and see Phil Niekro pitch a Sunday afternoon against the San Francisco Giants. Yep, just me and about 2,000 fans in the hot, late, spring sun.
Out of high school, I moved west to Orange County, California in the early 80s. What joy to know they had TWO baseball teams – one American League (Angels) and one National League (Dodgers) team! And two hours south were the Padres… and eight hours north, the Giants and the A’s! There it was. The voices of Vin Scully and Bob Starr and Jerry Coleman. Nirvana!
From those formative years, baseball went deep into the blood stream. And then, I attended a “baseball” school- Cal State Fullerton.
I married a girl who puts up with my baseball fanaticism (on our honeymoon, we went to Candlestick Park for a day game in June… and nearly froze to death!). My family moved back to the South, away from a major league park. It was in Southwest Ga. that I discovered the minor leagues for the first time in the mid 90s– the old Albany Polecats. I remember one player in particular with that team because of the peculiar name: Vladimir Guerrero.
Fast forward to 2002 and a chance to move to Hickory, NC or Troy, Mo. and take a job in one of the towns. I chose Hickory in large part because they had a baseball team. I loved the hometown community feel of sitting in the stands watching the Crawdads. I called my wife from the stands and said this will be our home.
The job didn’t work out as well as I had hoped, but after a period of being unemployed, I signed on to work in sales for the Crawdads. They were patient with me and I learned a lot. I worked the press box for five seasons, sold groups and billboards, pulled tarp, slept over during scout nights, mopped suites, ran press box music, got two of my kids to be mascots, etc. etc.
After five seasons, I realized it was a young man’s game to do that full time and so I went back into my music world. But, here’s the cool thing– I stayed on as the official scorer and I cover the team for the Hickory Daily Record! I.. get paid… to watch baseball!
I don’t pretend to know everything about the game, but I watch and I learn and I think I have a better understanding of what happens on and off the field. But then, I see something new and I further my education in this great game. I talk to scouts, players, coaches, rovers, managers, etc, etc. and I become more fascinated about baseball and how it works. And I’d like to share what I learn.
I’ve covered the Crawdads for the Hickory Daily Record for six seasons writing game stories, weekly notebook columns, and a couple of features a month. But I’ve want to do more than what print space often allows. So, the blog.
What I hope to do with this is still being fleshed out. Sometimes my work schedule will allow more time than others, so occasionally, postings will be spotty. There are things that happen in the course of a low-A season that I think will be of interest to fans (I hope!). Occasionally, I may write about a player (home or away), and I want to look in to writing about some of the past players. But, what I hope to do most is to share with the baseball world a part of what goes on in a small town in the Western Piedmont of North Carolina at a place called L.P. Frans Stadium.