Jarrod Parker discovered a new outlet for his unrelenting athletic drive. As usual, he's attacking his passion full-speed ahead.
Parker, a former Major League Baseball pitcher out of Norwell High School, will open Parker Sports Performance, a 7,000-square foot training facility in Nashville, Tennessee, this Sunday.
After injuries ended his career, Parker took time to figure out his next step. He considered real estate but ultimately gravitated back to baseball and began studying athletic training through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
The idea of opening and running his own facility excited him and drove him to action.
“I don't like to tell everyone I'm coming up on 30, but I've kind of faced a little bit of everything and being able to do that has made me a stronger person,” Parker said. “And it's kind of pushed me out of my comfort zone to get in the business and be able to interact with people more and just give back.”
Parker, drafted ninth overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks as a senior at Norwell in the 2007 MLB draft, reached the top of the baseball world for the Oakland A's in 2012 and 2013. He compiled a 25-16 career record with a 3.68 ERA and 275 strikeouts. He set a franchise record with 19 consecutive starts without a loss and won a game in the 2013 American League Division Series against Detroit.
Parker underwent his second Tommy John surgery in 2014, then suffered a fractured elbow upon returning to the mound in 2015 and another fractured elbow in 2016. He retired from the game this year.
“When you're done, you're supposed to flip the switch and jump into the real world,” Parker said. “It's a slow period. I took a good two years off to come to the realization I'm done playing baseball. I took some time away from the game to better myself mentally and bounce back from some of the things and get ready to move forward with my life.
“My wife and I are here in Nashville, set up to grow a family here, I'm in my home now and ready to start Chapter 2. Or Chapter 3, 4, 5 or 6, whatever chapter I'm on.”
Parker met his wife, Lauren, during a spring training in Arizona and they married last October. Because he had spent rehab time in Nashville and enjoyed the city, he suggested looking into moving there. Lauren, a dentist, fell in love with Nashville and the couple moved.
Parker's training facility, which is on Nashville's southeast side at 516 Ligon Drive, will be for youth and adults of all skill levels. Parker has been hands-on in the project, including helping install about 15 turf rolls, at 450 pounds apiece, in the indoor facility, where the temperature reaches 80 degrees.
Not surprisingly, Parker Sports Performance will put substantial focus on baseball training, but that's not its only purpose. He plans to hire softball and strength coaches. Other athletic-training classes for adults will eventually be included, Parker said. Parker will give personal pitching and hitting instruction and also wants to provide guidance in the mental side of the game. He offers special attention for players recovering from injury.
One of Parker's primary traits as an athlete was his single-minded focus to the task at hand. That was evident when he led Norwell to a 35-0 record and a Class 3A state title as a senior in 2007. He carried that trait with him to the big leagues, where he pitched briefly with Arizona before he was traded to Oakland.
He hopes to carry his sports focus into the next phase of his career.
“I don't ever want to get out of that mindset,” Parker said. “It's who I am, and the effort and ambition helped me be successful. It's about not putting too much into competition, not looking at somebody on TV and being bitter, wishing woulda, coulda, shoulda. There was a grieving period for me because of the trials and tribulations of sports injuries and success.”
With time and acceptance of the end of his pitching career, Parker said he has gradually come to appreciate the good times.
“Sometimes I'm the hardest one on myself,” he said. “I overlook that. 'There's so much bad, look at this scar.' I won 25 games in two years and I'm reminded of that. To say it out loud is kind of weird to me, but I take it for what it is.”
Parker remains friends with another former A's pitcher, Barry Zito, who also lives in Nashville and is forging a second career as a musician.
Parker said he understands pro athletes rarely get the chance to decide for themselves when their playing days end.
“The good terms don't happen to too many,” he said. “I had that decision taken out of my hands. I feel fortunate in that I didn't have to make the decision to hang around and grind until it was obvious.”
As Parker puts the finishing touches on his new facility, he talks with enthusiasm about his next phase.
“I searched for five months and walked into this place and I kind of knew,” he said. “I thought it'd be sweet to have cages here, I walked around the place and visualized it.
“It's coming together almost exactly how I pictured it. I'm excited about the whole thing.”