Monday, April 22

He’s small in stature, large on fastball

He’s small in stature, large on fastball

At 5 feet, 10 inches and 150 pounds, Bruin pitcher Jim Parque
intimidates batters with his heater, not his size.

By Ruben Gutierrez

A UCLA freshman southpaw is given the call to start against
perennial Six-Pac power Stanford. Friday night, the lights on at
Jackie Robinson Stadium, a host of talented hitters for the
Cardinal. It is Jim Parque’s first conference game ever.

No sweat.

Parque, an unimposing 5 feet, 10 inches and 150 pounds, steps
onto the mound and stays there until the first out of the ninth
inning, holding a decisive 5-2 advantage. The relief pitchers
encounter some trouble and load the bases. Stanford’s Steve Carver
steps to the plate and whacks a grand slam. UCLA loses, 6-5.

No sweat.

"I wasn’t upset; I was a little in shock maybe," Parque said.
"It was like we were winning, then all of a sudden, we’re losing
with one swing of the bat. I was more upset with our team losing
than with saying ‘oh no, now I’m 0-1.’ I was disappointed to see
that the team lost our first game, not me, it wasn’t a selfish

Though he is a pitcher and can single-handedly control the tempo
of the game, Parque is the consummate team player. Although he was
a star pitcher at Crescenta Valley High School, breaking the school
strikeout record, he finds the camaraderie of the UCLA baseball
team infinitely more satisfying.

"My high school team wasn’t really a true team," Parque said.
"This team is getting there as a true team, together. I don’t think
there are any ‘I’s’ on our team. That’s a big adjustment, to be a
team player. As a true team player, you have to forget about
yourself. I think our team is pulling around to that."

Parque was recruited by baseball powers including Miami and USC.
He decided on UCLA because of the school’s proximity to home and
because of the coaching philosophies of the UCLA staff.

"I think the biggest thing was that it was close to home,"
Parque said. "If I was down in the dumps or something, I could just
drive home and say ‘hey what’s up, mom,’ talk to her and she’d make
me some food or whatever. I like the coaching because it’s my type
of coaching where they just let you play. It’s not like ‘SC where
the coaches dictate every move."

Parque became interested in playing ball in his youth, at the
age of 9 or 10. Parque’s father had been a baseball player himself,
unbeknownst to the youngster. It didn’t take Parque long to find
out how seriously his father took the game and Jim’s education in
it. By the time Parque was a freshman in high school, he and his
father threw three hours per day in the off-season.

"It was just my dad and I. Rain or shine, we’d always be out
there pitching," Parque said. "I remember days when it was so windy
that I’d go into my wind-up and almost fall over. I started by
throwing a bucket of about 40 balls at a box to get my control
down. Then we’d do drills to improve my speed and my mechanics.
He’d just sit there like a drill instructor."

The early workouts with dad fostered an intense competitive
spirit within Parque. Parque not only gives everything he has every
time he steps on the mound, he draws inspiration from his teammates
and occasionally competes with them. He uses this competition as a
yardstick to gauge his own progress.

"I pitched against Eric Byrnes in fall ball and he’s the
toughest guy on the whole team to strike out," Parque said. "He and
I had this little thing going to see how many hits he could get off
me and how many times I could strike him out. It just built the
competition between us and intensified things."

At only 150 pounds soaking wet, Parque is small, especially for
a college pitcher. But instead of allowing critical jeers to make
him hang up the cleats, they have imparted the spirit of a lion in
his diminutive frame.

"I’ve heard it all," Parque said. "In high school, I was about
5-foot-1-inch, maybe 110 pounds. They couldn’t even find a jersey
small enough to fit me. I’ve heard it all, ‘get out of the hole,
stand up,’ and they’d call me Tatoo or whatever. It’s funny,
because I used to thrive on that. They’d say that at the beginning
of the game and after the first warm-up pitch, they’d be like
‘wait, that doesn’t seem right, someone that small throwing gas
like that."

Despite his size, Parque’s "stuff," especially the fastball,
quickly earned him the respect of his fellow Bruins. Parque was a
member of maybe the most heralded freshman recruiting class in
recent UCLA baseball history. Both pitchers, Parque and Tom
Jacquez, have seen considerable action. First baseman Pete Zamora,
second baseman Brett Nista, shortstop Troy Glaus and rightfielder
Eric Byrnes all start or have started for the Bruins. According to
them, the sky is the limit for this talented lefty.

"Parque is an awesome pitcher," shortstop Troy Glaus said. "He’s
got great stuff and throws really hard for being not-so-big. He’s
going to be a great pitcher in the future. If he puts on a little
weight, that’ll make him throw even harder and last longer."

A dollar says that would send chills down the spine of every
batter and coach in the Six-Pac. Guess they won’t be calling him
Tatoo then.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.