SCOTTSDALE — In many ways, Jarrett Parker’s fall was like that of any mid-20’s male. You know, if you take out the fact that he did a decent Babe Ruth impersonation for a couple of weeks in September.
Once the season ended, Parker traded the thunderous bat for a backpack. The 27-year-old started an October vacation by meeting up with a friend in Istanbul, then visited Mykonos (an island in the Aegean Sea), Interlaken (a lakeside town in Switzerland) and Amsterdam. A year ago, Parker and fellow Giants outfielder Ryan Lollis did a whirlwind hostel-and-Airbnb tour through Europe that included stops in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Rome, Barcelona and Dublin. A few years back, Parker visited a Maasai tribe in Tanzania.
“I learn a lot about myself and life by going somewhere that makes me uncomfortable," he said. "I go somewhere where I’m the foreigner and don’t speak the language, and I learn a lot about myself by doing that. And also it’s just to experience different places, beautiful places.”
Parker’s passport stamps are in part the result of an inability to travel much in college. Baseball kept him from going abroad at the University of Virginia and his summers were locked down by summer ball. Parker has made a point of pushing his boundaries now that he has chunks of free time in the offseason, but he hasn’t run into any trouble.
“Everything has gone really smooth,” he said. “There’s never been any scary moments. I can tell at times I haven’t been completely welcomed in places but there’s never been a time where I’ve been in danger or too out of place. It’s always gone really smooth.”
Parker tagged Barcelona and Istanbul as his favorite spots. He chose a much more familiar big city for an offseason training program that could help put him on an Opening Day roster for the first time. Parker trained in Philadelphia throughout the winter and then came to Scottsdale intent on winning the fifth outfielder job. Manager Bruce Bochy has said that Parker and Mac Williamson might be best served by playing every day in Triple-A, but that always comes with the same caveat: It’s impossible to ignore what Parker provided last September. Parker was 16 for 40 after a Sept. 11 promotion, smacking six homers and driving in 14 runs in 17 games. He had five homers in nine at-bats at one point and hit three in one game on Sept. 26 in Oakland.
“It just laid it out that I belong here and I can help this team out,” Parker said. “I can really help this team out and I realize that now and I want to do that. Doing that last year, helping us bring it down to a week until (the Dodgers) clinched, I’m proud of that. I’m proud of playing with these guys and I want to keep that going. I have that itch.”
Parker hit the team’s only pinch-hit homer of the season, a moment that resonated with a manager who knows he needs more power off the bench in 2016. Asked about Parker early in camp, Bochy smiled and pointed out that it would be nice to have a player who is always able to wipe out a deficit with one swing off the bench. Parker would certainly bring a bit of a different vibe to the clubhouse, too.
“I had (Barry) Zito who was like that,” Bochy said of Parker’s offseason hobbies. “We’re all different, but that’s the beauty of this game. You have 25 guys and they’re all different. Some guys may fish or hunt, and then you have Parker who likes to backpack. They’re all different, but I enjoy the differences.”