Paige Parker had already moved from her Independence, Missouri home and started her collegiate softball career at Oklahoma when the Royals made their 2014 and 2015 World Series appearances, but she remembers those games vividly.
The late nights up in her apartment. FaceTiming her family. Watching her lifetime fandom reach the best kind of peak.
Parker may not be from Kansas City, not exactly anyway, but the roots are there.
While a person familiar with the situation confirmed to The Star that she was traded from the USSSA Pride to the Cleveland Comets on Friday, preventing her scheduled return to Kansas City, Kansas, on Monday to take on the Chicago Bandits, she still feels them as strongly as ever.
“Growing up in Kansas City was awesome for me,” Parker said via phone interview. “I love the community, I love the people that live there. I’m a big Chiefs fan. I’m a big Royals fan. So being able to come back in your own community is a lot of fun, and getting to see a lot of the people that I grew up with and have that support is a lot of fun for me.”
Parker, a lefty pitcher, was in her second season with the Pride, which operates out of Viera, Florida. The Pride took her sixth overall in last year’s National Pro Fastpitch draft in large part because they hadn’t won the Cowles Cup (a championship) in three years.
That doesn’t sound like much of a drought until you learn that the league consists of just six teams. Last season, they were: The USSSA Pride, the Aussie Peppers, the Beijing Eagles, the Canadian Wild, the Chicago Bandits and the Cleveland Comets.
The distinction in years is important because not every season includes the same teams. For example, the 2017 champion was the Houston Scrap Yard Dawgs, who no longer compete in NPF. They are now independent.
The league was formerly the Women’s Pro Softball League, which lasted just four years, from 1997 to 2001. NPF revived the league in 2004. Since then, teams have come, gone and changed names.
Team membership has hovered around six as the league enters its 16th year, dipping as low as four and peaking as high as seven.
As such, inconsistency has dogged the league — not that this deterred Parker. When she completed her illustrious four-year career at Oklahoma, which included two national titles, four Big 12 Pitcher of the Year honors and two selections to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s first team, it was set: she was going pro.
“Softball means a lot to me, and I love the sport,” said Parker, a 2014 Truman High graduate who helped the Pride win the 2018 Cowles Cup. “I want to continue to help and grow and build the sport. So transitioning into the NPF was something that I wanted to do to be able to continue to play the game that I love, and to help to continue to grow the game.”
In her sophomore campaign so far, Parker has produced a mixed bag of results. In 7 2/3 innings across seven appearances, she’s 1-1 with a 5.48 ERA. She’s permitted six earned runs on seven hits, issued seven walks and struck out four.
Regardless, spreading awareness, especially in the professional ranks, remains important to Parker.
“Sports in general, for girls, is so important because it gives them a voice, and it helps to build confidence,” Parker said. “It’s an outlet. So for me, the opportunity that I have to show girls that sports can be a future for them and that softball can be a future for them is really important for me.”
She’s done so in a few ways. For one, last August, she launched Paige Parker Pitching, an organization geared toward “helping young pitchers learn the proper mechanics and become students of the game,” per its website.
During last season’s September-May offseason, she coupled holding a number of youth camps and clinics — helping Kansas City area youth players learn Parker’s mechanics, techniques and approaches — with an assistant coaching gig at William Jewell in Liberty.
Parker was set to get the chance to do more of that next week. The World Fastpitch Championships, for ages 14 and under, are slated for July 15-20 in Kansas City.
For that reason, Parker had planned to travel with a few teammates to a conference center in Lenexa on Sunday for an event called “Night of Champions,” which will feature a panel discussion, Q&A, breakout sessions and autographs with the players, set to discuss “raising Champions, being champions (and) developing/coaching champions.” She was also set to help out with a camp Monday.
For Parker, the Star’s All-Metro Player of the Year in both 2011 and 2013, it’s all for the same reason: She wants to get people’s attention. Fandom is growing for college softball. Now, Parker wants to be a liaison for exposure to the professional game.
She’ll take the next step in doing so next week.
“I think the amount of support that I received growing up, I want to give that back to the community,” Parker said. “A lot of people still mean a lot to me there. So being able to give back to the community that gave me a lot growing up is important for me.”
Note: An earlier version of this story indicated that Parker would be playing in KCK Monday. As noted above, now she won’t be with the Pride when they play here because she has been traded.