Parada joins Classic parade

Photo: Kevin Parada (Perfect Game)

Jeff Dahn
Published: Friday, July 26, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Here in the heat of a late July morning in Phoenix’s East Valley, Kevin Parada could be excused if he found himself doing a little California dreamin’.

Not that Parada wasn’t focused in on the job at hand, which on Friday morning was trying to help GBG Marucci 2020 Navy win its second pool-play game at the 17u Perfect Game World Series, being played at the Salt River Fields-Talking Stick Diamondbacks/Rockies spring training complex.

It was more because when the calendar flips to August next week he’ll be back home in Pasadena, awaiting his next big PG adventure as a participant at this year’s Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego.

The Classic, with its fund-raising efforts that benefit Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, is more than just a baseball game for Parada, although that nationally televised event from Petco Park on Aug. 11 is a pretty darn big deal. It’s just not the only pretty darn big deal.

“I’m super excited to be able to play in the Classic because of the huge (partnership) it has with Rady Children’s Hospital; that hits pretty close to home to me,” Parada told PG Friday, speaking from the Diamondbacks’ side of the Salt River Fields complex.

“I have some friends who have (battled) pediatric cancer so being able to raise money for Rady’s, that just adds something a little more to it.”

Young people these days are often criticized for being self-centered but more often than not they can find their own unique way to provide perspective, and Parada is certainly doing that with his outlook on the Classic.

But, then again, there are a lot of things Parada – just a month shy of his 18th birthday – is really good at, not the least of which is playing baseball, as his invitation to the PGAAC attests. He is a 6-foot-2, 192-pound catcher and right-handed hitter who PG ranks as the No. 41 overall prospect and No. 3 catching prospect in the country, and Nos. 9/1 in California.

There’s a lot to like about this kid, who is playing in only his sixth PG tournament since 2017 but has been named to the all-tournament team at the previous five, including at last year’s 17u PGWS; he also has two Most Valuable Player awards from those tournaments on his bookshelf back home in Pasadena.

Parada shines in showcase environments, as well, having garnered Top Prospect List recognition at the 2018 PG Underclass All-American Games in San Diego and at January’s PG National Underclass West Showcase held in Peoria, Ariz. His invitation to the PG All-American Classic makes him one of 52 prospects named to the TPL at June’s PG National Showcase, held at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix.

“He’s just one of those guys … who wants to be on the big stage,” GBG founder/owner and Marucci 2020 Navy head coach Michael Garciaparra told PG Friday morning. “He’ll get upset at himself, and rightfully so, when he strikes out or makes a mistake, but he takes a deep breath, kind of gathers himself and then he’s like, OK, let’s go get the next one. He’s got that kind of motor in him and that drive, and I think that’s what makes him a really, really special player.”

It was in September and October of last year when Parada very loudly announced his presence on the PG showcase and tournament scene, although he hadn’t necessarily been all that quiet before. He was, after all, an all-tournament selection playing for GBG Marucci 2020 at the PG WWBA 16u National Championship in Georgia in mid-July.

The shouting really kind of started In mid-August when Parada earned Top Prospect List recognition at the PG Underclass All-American Games showcase, held at the University of San Diego during the two days right after the All-American Classic. The train had left the station.

His next stop was on the PG fall tournament circuit where he joined GBG Marucci 2020 at the Underclass Fall National Championship Protected by G-Form, played in Surprise, Ariz. There he went 8-for-17 (.471) with two doubles, two home runs, five RBI, five runs scored and a 1.467 OPS to lead GBG to the championship and was named the Most Valuable Player.

After playing in three games at the Ways to Play West Powered by MLB & PG event in Compton, Calif., Parada then joined a primarily upperclass GBG Marucci team at the blockbuster PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla.

This was a very good GBG team that won its first six games at the mega-event before dropping a 2-1 decision to Canes National in the semifinals. Parada was 11-for-23 (.478) at the plate, with four doubles, two home runs, 13 RBI, eight runs scored and a 1.433 OPS, and was named the co-MVP along with the champion Florida Burn Platinum’s Josh Rivera.

It was one of the few times in the event’s history that an MVP, even a co-MVP, came from a team that was not the champion or runner-up.

“It kind of felt like a video game. Honestly, I’ve never hit that well in my life,” Parada said of his time in Jupiter. “I’ve always been known as a good hitter but during that experience, it honestly felt like I was hitting a beach ball. It was so much fun and everybody was so supportive. We just had so much fun, and that made that tournament 100 percent better than me just doing well.”

Garciaparra kind of felt like he was watching someone play a video game, too.

“Going into our seventh year as a program, those were two of the best months I’ve seen a player ever have as far as being so consistent,” he said. “Behind the dish, he got so much better defensively throwing out runners and always being in the game. …

“And then with the bat, he was hitting oppo home runs, making two-strike adjustments,” Garciaparra continued, slightly shaking his head. “He was just really locked-in and didn’t give any at-bats away; it was one of the more special falls I’ve ever seen a player in our program have, for sure.”

And the beat goes on for the GBG Marucci 2020 Navy as they finish up their summer at the exclusive, 32-team 17u PG World Series. This team is a very tight-knit group, according to Parada, simply because many of the players have been competing together for more than five years now.

They’re close not only with one another but with each other’s families, and that feeling of family and trust in one another has led to almost unprecedented success on the field.

Parada is not alone among the talented prospects that populate this GBG Marucci 2020 Navy roster. He is joined by 13 other 2020s ranked as a top-500 or better and 11 of those rising seniors have committed to NCAA D-I programs.

Lucas Gordon (No. 150-ranked), Daylen Reyes (No. 156, UCLA commit), Josh Swales (No. 158, Arizona), Eli Paton (No. 198, UCLA), Devan Ornelas (No. 201, TCU), Jadon Bercovich (No. 252, San Diego St.), Brett McCauley (No. 369, Oregon) and Carter Graham (No. 434, Stanford) are among the other highly regarded 2020s rostered with the 2020 Navy; Matthew Polk (No. 215, UCLA) is the only 2021 on the roster.

Garciaparra likes the intimacy of the 17u PGWS, which brings together 32 of the best 17u travel ball teams from coast-to-coast. Every game is a “brawl” (his word) because you know that every team is bringing its best every time out.

“This is a must-go-to event for us, the kids want to come to it and it obviously draws colleges and tons of pro scouts left and right,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do with these kids. Put them in the best environment to play against the best players and to show off in front of the scouts.”

The GBG Marucci 2020 Navy won their opener against the St. Louis Pirates on Thursday, 8-0, and then tied the NorCal Baseball Prime, 3-3, on Friday; Parada went 4-for-6 (.667) with a double and four RBI in the two games.

Parada is the son of Jason and Darlene Parada of Pasadena, and his parents both have athletic backgrounds: Jason played club lacrosse at Stanford and Darlene was a softball player at Woodbury University. He’s dabbled in a lot of sports, including lacrosse, and continued to play football up until last year. In fact, football was his sport of choice as a youngster.

“He brings a lot of energy,” Garciaparra said of his PG All-American. “He plays the game hard and plays it the right way, and he’s got a football mentality – he was a football player so that’s to be expected. … We’ve loved him since we got him at 14, 15 years old. He was a little raw because football was kind of his thing, and to see him really focus on baseball and elevate his game … has been really fun to watch.”

There were probably a lot of recruiting coordinators from West Coast schools caught scratching their heads when Parada announced his commitment to Georgia Tech from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

He explained that he had long been interested in attending a college in another part of the country, and after playing in PG WWBA national championship tournaments in the Atlanta-area the last two years, Parada discovered Georgia Tech.

“I just loved the academics at Georgia Tech along with how the baseball program is being handled, and I loved the big-city feel because I’m from L.A.,” he said. “It’s just a great opportunity for me to gain knowledge and hopefully continue my (baseball) career.”

For now, that career will take him first to San Diego for the PGAAC, and then immediately back home to Los Angeles where he is one of 40 prospects who will be taking part in the USA Baseball 18u National Team Trials Aug. 13-17.

“Being able to represent my country is a huge honor, so just getting the opportunity to get a shot at that, I don’t really know how to explain it,” Parada said. “It’s one thing to represent yourself and your family and your school, but to represent your actual country, that’s a whole other level.”

It would be easy for these top guys to view the four days at the Classic and the five days at the Trials through two different pairs of glasses, and that’s understandable.

The Classic provides a much-needed respite from the grind of every-day baseball most of them have endured throughout the summer, a few days to really relax, kick back with their buddies, be feted for their accomplishments and maybe even catered to, to a certain extent. The Trials, on the other hand, can be, well, trying. That’s not necessarily the way Parada approaches it, however.

“Honestly, both are business trips,” he said. “At the Classic, you need to have fun but you still need to be serious about it. You have to realize that there are going to be hundreds of scouts there watching and everything you do, how you act on and off the field, it matters.

“It’s the same thing at the National Trials,” he continued. “Everybody is always going to be watching you and evaluating you so you just have to be who you are and be a good person and enjoy the game of baseball.”

While in San Diego for the Underclass AA Games last August, Parada was able to attend the Classic in person at Petco and called the experience “super surreal.” As a California kid, he was both awe-struck and appreciative of the support the large crowd showed for the Cali players, of which there were eight last year.

Parada will enthusiastically take part in the Rady Children’s Hospital visit and enjoy the time he gets to spend at Hall-of-Famer Trevor Hoffman’s oceanfront beach house and all the other trappings. On the night of Aug. 11, he’ll take the field at Petco Field, play in a game he’s often dreamed about playing in, and the next morning he’ll head to L.A. to see if he can make the USA 18u National Team. It promises to be quite a ride.

“I’m looking forward to everything that lies ahead, just trying to (make the most) of each experience and remember everything – I’m never going to get these experiences back,” Parada concluded. “I’m trying to soak everything in and just enjoy it while it lasts.”

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