Two former Cobras taken in MLB Draft
Published: Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 00:06
The tradition of success associated with Parkland baseball was once again realized this month. Two of the Cobras’ recent stars were chosen by Major League teams in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
Class of 2010 pitcher Nick Wittgren was the first to be selected. He was chosen at pick No. 287 in the ninth round by the Miami Marlins. Later on in the draft the Los Angeles Dodgers chose class of 2011 infielder Jordan Parr with the No. 806 pick during the 26th round.
Wittgren and Parr each spent one season as Cobras during their baseball careers.
Wittgren was the first to join head coach Matt Kennedy and the Cobras in the fall of 2009.
“Everything attracted me to Nick,” Kennedy said. “He was a big athletic kid that threw mid to upper 80's (in high school) and his arm was very whippy which told me he would eventually throw harder as he matured physically.”
Despite wanting to go straight to a Division 1 school he ultimately decided Parkland was a good fit and it turned out to be.
The spring of 2010 was really good to Wittgren as he went 10-0 with 54 strikeouts on the way to a fifth place national finish.
“Nick was very good for us but that year was such a developmental year for him,” Kennedy said. “Basically he threw his fastball at about 87-88mph and then a curveball.”
He admits that Wittgren was also working on a change-up while at Parkland but it had not been perfected yet.
Nonetheless, Wittgren’s experience at Parkland was impactful even though it was for just the one year.
“It was quality competition that would get you ready for any level you were going to play at,” Wittgren explained.
Eventually that success allowed him to advance to Division 1. His hometown school, Purdue University, offered him a scholarship during his fall season with the Cobras.
However, his career took a slight turn before he ever played a game at Purdue. In August of 2010 he dealt with an Ulnar-Nerve Transfer in his right elbow.
This caused him to miss all of his first fall with the Boilers, and changed his role on the pitching staff completely.
The coaching staff at Purdue was unsure as to how his arm would bounce back, so he was thrust into the back half of the bullpen where he eventually flourished.
After winning the closer job, he amassed 22 saves in two years and was an All-Big Ten performer both seasons while leading Purdue to one of its greatest seasons ever in 2012.
What the Marlins are getting in Wittgren is an above average fastball at 90mph and above with a hard breaking curve in the low 80’s and that ever improving changeup he began working on at Parkland.
“My change up is really coming along,” he said. “I've been working on it a lot and have seen improvement on it already.”
Jordan Parr’s time at Parkland began the following year in the fall of 2010.
He first went to Illinois State in the fall of 2009. After he tore the labrum in his left shoulder, he was never truly able to find his rhythm and decided to transfer.
“It just wasn’t a good fit for me,” Parr said. “The players and coaches were great but I just was never able to get comfortable.”
It all worked out perfectly for Kennedy and the Cobras.
“Cam Parr (Jordan’s dad) approached me and let me know that Jordan was leaving Illinois State and asked if we had interest,” he said. “Obviously we did and the rest is history.”
And an interesting history it was, as his collegiate career got off to a great start. Jordan went on to hit .355 with 6 homeruns and 32 RBI in his only year with Parkland.
“I can’t express in words how much coach Kennedy meant to me and to my career,” Parr said.
After an assist from his brother Josh, who played shortstop for U of I at the time, Illini coaches noticed him and brought him on in the fall of 2011.
His first year at Illinois was as good as Parkland after they watched him hit .348 with 5 hrs and 45 RBI.
Kennedy saw the talent he possessed while at Parkland and knew it would translate well.
“Jordan obviously is a big, strong, athletic kid that can play all over the field,” he said. “At the plate he possessed a tremendous amount of bat speed and ran extremely well and could hit anywhere in the lineup as he handled the bat well.”
Even though both had the distinct opportunity of being drafted, it does not mean that they must turn pro like in a football or basketball draft. Wittgren (junior) and Parr (redshirt sophomore) still have college eligibility remaining and have the option of coming back to continue their college careers.
“I couldn't be happier for them and I wish them the best of luck in their pro careers, if they choose to do that,” said Kennedy.
All draft picks are required to make a decision to sign by July 13 or else they must return to school to play the following year. Nick Wittgren didn’t need that long.