The Sentinel-Record

Parker’s dreams come true as he signs with NPC


Hot Springs senior Xavier Parker had a dream to play college baseball.

On Thursday, Parker’s dream became a reality, when he signed his letter of intent to play baseball for the National Park Nighthawks in a ceremony at the Hot Springs indoor football facility.

“I have always dreamt of playing baseball after high school,” Parker said. “Taking it to the next level has always been an extremely big goal of mine. It feels really, really good. I almost feel completed in a way.”

“When I first came to Hot Springs the first person I saw with a Trojan baseball hat on was him,” Hot Springs baseball coach Trevor Durham said. “I did not know much about him, but he must like baseball because he was playing catch in his backyard with his dad like I used to do. I could tell he had a good arm.”

Parker is a pitcher who can touch the high 80s with his twoand four-seam fastballs.

“We moved here from California,” Parker’s mother, Jeri Maghoney, said. “As a teacher, I understand what it takes individual­ly that we put into children every day. When I see all of the people here and the investment they put in, to have them show up in the sunset of his time as a Trojan is so meaningful. I am incredibly proud of him.”

“I think my mom cried,” Parker joked. “She definitely will cry. She has cried many times, even with the thought of graduation coming up she will cry.”

Last season, Parker collected a 1.8 earned run average, pitching a 6-4 record on the mound.

“I know he will do wonderful things at National Park,” Rodney Echols, Hot Springs athletic director, said. “It is well deserved. It has been a joy to watch him grow into the man he is.”

“When you are talking about Xavier the word leader comes to mind,” Durham said. “There are certain people who are born to lead. That young man right there is a born leader. That guy right there has an attitude that anyone should envy. He is what we want in a Trojan.”

Parker had a 118-17 strikeoutt­o-walk ratio in the 10 games he pitched in 2022.

“He has changed his body from playing on the offensive line in football,” Durham said. “He has trimmed up a little bit to be in more baseball shape. He has worked his butt off.”

As a sophomore pitcher, he could throw 79 mph.

“Parker did velocity training with baseball,” Durham said. “Now he is clocked in at 86 mph. It did not surprise me because he has worked so hard. He does the right things in the weight room and our weighted ball program.”

Parker can throw secondary pitches like a slider, curve and is working on a change-up.

“He has very good control with the fastball and the slider,” Durham said. “If his slider is off a little bit he will switch to the 12-6 curveball.”

Parker plays summer ball with the Sticks Baseball Academy and has attended college baseball camps.

“I think he gets nervous he just does not show it,” Durham said. “He has tons of poise. He grew up playing baseball and it shows.”

National Park is a National Junior College Athletic Associatio­n Division II level school and competes in the Region II conference.

“I wanted to stay local,” Parker said. “NPC is a great school to go to and they have great benefits for kids. I go to vocational school there already for auto mechanics. It is literally everything I ever wanted.”

“Xavier is really, really going to help us,” Nighthawks coach Rich Thompson said. “Almost all of our guys are at 90 mph these days. Xavier is right there, if I can start with a kid that is mid-80s already then usually there is 5-8 mph I can get out of them.”

“Coach Thompson is a former big league pitcher,” Durham said. “I am excited he is going to play for Thompson because I know he can develop him as a pitcher. What he has done with National Park’s program baseball-wise has been phenomenal.”

“I think coach Thompson is amazing,” Parker said. “I have never been so close to an Australian dude. So, hearing his accent is really cool. He has been super charismati­c and welcoming.”

National Park hosted tryouts for local baseball players.

“My coach just said they have a tryout at Majestic ballpark,” Parker said. “I had been to showcases before. This one was not too much different. We ran a 60 time and stretched. I felt a little nervous because this was something I really wanted. I was comfortabl­e still because I knew I was still at home.”

“Mate, his tryout was excellent,” Thompson said. “Meeting him for the first time at the tryouts was exceptiona­l. Parker was a young man that was so polite and respectful. Then he sat there and threw 86 about eight times in a row. I said, ‘Yeah, we will have you, mate.’ I

have been hearing about him for a few years.”

“Once I started pitching I got really comfortabl­e,” Parker said. “Especially when I saw everyone was liking how fast I was throwing. I was pitching well and I got to be myself and have fun.”

His bat came alive last season as Parker crushed three of his five career home runs.

“I reached out to all the local coaches,” Thompson said. “I told them to send me their best few guys for me to see them at the same time. I have no qualms about him winning a lot of baseball games for Hot Springs this year.”

“I plan on hitting in college, too,” Parker said. “My junior year I hit three home runs. I do hope to still hit and I feel confident in my bat. My swing is getting stronger and faster. I want to be like Shohei Ohtani.”

Ironically, Durham and Parker told the same highlight story about a defining moment on the field for him.

Last year against Pine Bluff, Parker was in a pitching duel with 6-foot, 4-inch senior William Howell. Howell is committed to the University of Memphis and can throw 90 mph.

“It was an absolute duel,” Durham said. “Howell is a DI kid and Xavier at the time was not committed. It was a complete pitchers’ duel and both of them could hit. He was going DI and Xavier was going toe to toe with him.”

Howell and Parker exchanged home runs off each other.

“Howell is a great pitcher,” Parker said. “He led off an inning and my first pitch to him, he smacked it over the fence. At that point, I knew this was a competitio­n. I was hyped up and ready to go. I led off the next inning and I knew the breaking ball was coming. He threw a slider and I hit it opposite field for a home run. So, I took him deep and from that point, I was like ‘I love baseball.’ It changed the game completely for me.”

Parker was a .387 hitter for the Trojans last season.

“Parker’s bat is good,” Durham said. “I keep telling coach Thompson do not give up on him swinging. Right now, he is definitely our most powerful hitter and our best all-around hitter. I expect his home run number to go way up. His bat speed has gotten a lot better. He can crush a baseball.”

“Coach Durham has done a great foundation with him,” Thompson said. “We will build on that and get him on to the next level and beyond us.”

Parker signed away with his parents Adam Parker and Maghoney by his side as his friends cheered for him becoming a Nighthawk.

“If you want somebody to represent Hot Springs I cannot find a better example than him,” Durham said. “He is just a natural leader. The great thing about today is we get to watch him sign and then watch him play 30 more games in a Trojan jersey.”

 ?? The Sentinel-Record/Donald Cross ?? ■ Senior Xavier Parker is shown in the Hot Springs Trojan indoor football facility on Thursday. Parker signed his letter of intent to play college baseball for National Park College.
The Sentinel-Record/Donald Cross ■ Senior Xavier Parker is shown in the Hot Springs Trojan indoor football facility on Thursday. Parker signed his letter of intent to play college baseball for National Park College.

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