By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
Baseball is a game most players are nearly born into.
Daniel Parker, recently announced as the new head coach for the Liberal Bee Jays, is one of those people.
“I had two older brothers, and they both played, so I was always at the at the baseball diamonds somewhere or another if they had a baseball game, so I just started playing,” Parker said. “I skipped T-ball and went right to playing baseball, and it was just something I got drawn to. Then that turned into my friends and I going off and playing on our own. It started at a young age and I never stopped.”
Parker grew up in Lawrence, and later played for the University of Illinois. After playing, Parker moved on to coaching, and coached at Coffeyville Community College for one year, Dodge City Community College for two years, and this is his first year at Baker University.
After finishing his playing career, however, Parker admitted he was in a bit of a limbo for a little while.
“When I got done playing at Illinois, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, so I worked a few jobs that had nothing to do with baseball or any other sports, did that for about two and a half years, but I wasn’t very happy with what I was doing, it just built up over time,” Parker said. “Then I finally got to the point where I was just like ‘I need to get back in the game some way or another.’ I knew my whole life had been baseball-related up to that point, and if I wasn’t playing, I’d rather be coaching, so it just came to that.”
Having coached at Coffeyville, which sends many players to the Bee Jays, and then eventually with Derby, which is in the same league as the Bee Jays, Parker became familiar with the Bee Jays program. That familiarity was what inspired his applying for the Bee Jays head coach position.
“I was actually sitting in the office with the coach here at Baker, and he was kind of scanning the Internet and told me the Bee Jays job was available, so I immediately sent in my résumé and applied for it,” Parker said. “From my time at Dodge City, I knew Roy Allen, so I sent him an e-mail telling him I was interested in the job, and I knew a bit about the Bee Jays because we’d sent players from Coffeyville to play there, and I coached in Derby in that league one summer, so I was familiar with the organization. Everyone I talked to had great things to say about the organization, so I knew it was something I wanted to go after. I wasn’t 100 percent sure if I was going to get the job, but I knew it was something I needed to at least think about.”
Parker received the phone call confirming his being hired last Friday, and he officially accepted the position Sunday. With this being his first head coaching job, Parker said he has some big goals for the Bee Jays players.
“I want to put a team out there who will play hard every night and give the community something to be proud of, that’s my biggest thing,” Parker said. “You’re not going to win every game, but you can go out there, compete hard ever game, and give the fans something to appreciate. Something I’m going to stress to the players is to come out, play hard for the games that happen during league play, leave it all out there and live with the results. Obviously I want to also go to the NBC Tournament and win it, but that’s a long process and the way you get there is how you do during the regular season. I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves and think the only part that matters is the NBC Tournament, but if we don’t handle the regular season, we won’t be in the position to even play in the NBC Tournament.”
Parker said he is overall excited to begin working with the Bee Jays team.
“I’m excited to work with them. I’ve heard great things about all the support the Bee Jays get from the community, so I’m excited to get myself in the community, meet some new people, and do the best we can. I’m excited to work with the people who run the team and start relationships with the people I’ll work with,” Parker said. “I just want the people to know I’m excited for the job. It’s not something I’ll take lightly, and I’m very humbled they gave me the opportunity since this is my first head coaching job. When I started coaching at Coffeyville, I just wanted the opportunity to lead a team, and the Bee Jays have given me that opportunity, and it’s something I’m very grateful for.”